First Pitch: What Should the Pirates Do This Off-Season?

It’s time to put on the General Manager hats. Over the last few weeks I’ve been recapping the 2013 season, providing a look ahead at each position for 2014, and looking at possible free agents for certain positions. What we know is that the Pirates will have question marks at first base, right field, and starting pitcher. There are other concerns, such as the backup middle infield spot, and which catcher will take the backup role next year, but those are minor.

At first base, the Pirates have Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez eligible for arbitration. Justin Morneau is a free agent, and they don’t look like they’ll be bringing him back. Andrew Lambo hit 33 home runs last year, with 32 in the minors, and has played a few games at first, so he could be a platoon option with Sanchez if they’re desperate.

As I said when reviewing the first base free agent options, I think James Loney makes the most sense for the Pirates at first base. He hits right-handers, and can platoon with Gaby Sanchez. He is left-handed, so he’d fit well in PNC Park, and does well on the road in his career. He also had good defense, which has been a key for the Pirates. I’d take that platoon over trading pitching for Mark Trumbo, who hits homers, but has a lower overall value than what Loney/Sanchez could provide.

Marlon Byrd coming back on a multi-year deal wouldn't be bad, as long as the Pirates cleared space for Gregory Polanco after the 2014 season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Marlon Byrd coming back on a multi-year deal wouldn’t be bad, as long as the Pirates cleared space for Gregory Polanco after the 2014 season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

In right field the Pirates have Marlon Byrd as a pending free agent. They have Jose Tabata under contract, with Tabata finishing off the 2013 season on a hot streak in the final two months. Travis Snider looks like a non-tender candidate. Lambo is primarily an outfielder, and would be an option here. The future is top prospect Gregory Polanco, and he could arrive as early as mid-season 2014.

I would try to sign Marlon Byrd or Carlos Beltran to a two-year deal, giving Polanco an entire season to work in the minors, or using him as an injury replacement in the second half. If that happened, I’d look to trade Byrd or Beltran after the 2014 season. Byrd would be the priority since he would cost less, wouldn’t require a draft pick, and could come with the same value. If the Pirates can’t land one of those two, a Tabata/Lambo platoon wouldn’t be a bad idea, with both players splitting time until one player took over the starting role.

In the starting rotation the big question is whether A.J. Burnett will return. The Pirates could offer him a qualifying offer to bring him back. If Burnett returns, then the rotation would look like: Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Burnett, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez. Jeff Locke would likely be bumped to Triple-A as the sixth starter, unless Rodriguez wasn’t healthy.

If Burnett returns, there are two moves I’d try to make. First, I’d try to extend Charlie Morton on a three year deal, paying at most $25-30 M. It’s possible he could come cheaper than that, in the $18-21 M range. Then, I’d shop Francisco Liriano for a huge return. He could land a key long-term piece at a position of need. Out of all of the moves I’ve mentioned, I think this would be the least likely. But if the Pirates went this route, they could try to find the next Liriano, signing someone like Josh Johnson as a free agent.

As for miscellaneous moves, I don’t think going after Jhonny Peralta would be a bad idea, since it’s possible he could continue his overall success the last few years, even after his PED suspension. But if that doesn’t happen, I think a Jordy Mercer/Clint Barmes combo would work, with Mercer getting most of the starts, and Barmes taking over as a late inning defensive replacement, or starting when extreme ground ball pitchers like Charlie Morton or A.J. Burnett are on the mound. I also wouldn’t mind seeing one of Mark Melancon or Jason Grilli shopped for a huge return, since that approach works well for the Pirates.

So that’s what I’d go for. Loney/Sanchez at first. Byrd or Beltran in right field, with Tabata/Lambo as a backup. Burnett hopefully returning. Morton extended. Peralta or Mercer/Barmes at shortstop. Shop Melancon and Grilli. Shop Liriano with Josh Johnson as a replacement. And if the Pirates get a huge return in one of those deals, it could change everything.

Of course there are tons of possibilities that we’re leaving out, whether it’s trade options, non-tender candidates, or anyone else we’re overlooking. But this is all in fun, and we can only go with the information we know, so no harm with the current approach. Now it’s time to hear your plan. Leave your thoughts in the comments below with what you would do at each position.

Links and Notes

**2013-2014 Off Season Primer

**Pirates Eager to Sign A. J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, and Clint Barmes

**Pirates Currently Unlikely to Offer Justin Morneau a Contract

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap: Catcher

Winter Leagues

**AFL: Alen Hanson’s Fielding Improves As Team Loses Again

**Winter Leagues: Gregory Polanco’s Grand Slam Helps Team to Victory

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Bob Smith

Two relatively cheap chances of often injured guys that I could see us trying are johan Santana who is a lefty and was great early this year andthrowing again. And guiterrez (probably spelled wrong) from Seattle. Both could be bounce back canidates cheap and off the radar

Scott Skink

Yeah, I could see taking a flyer on Santana, especially in consideration that two of our three lefties are question marks and our main competition for the division can’t hit lefties. He’s probably looking for a one-year deal to re-establish himself and then go after big money again next year. TBOMK nobody’s had two shoulder surgeries like he has, so it’s uncharted territory. Would need to be a small salary and a lot of incentives, I’d think.


Trusting in the Pirates’ ability to develop the next Liriano is likely buying a stock in the stock market that has been going up expecting that it will always continue to go up. Good luck with that! I hope that the Pirates can continue their string of reclamation successes, but I won’t count on it. There will be as many Jonathon Sanchezes as Francisco Lirianos. Starting pitching is like gold in baseball. If you have found a nugget you hang on to it, use it until it expires. It’s unlikely that AJ will be productive for 2015/2016. Why not save the money otherwise spent on AJ for 2014 and invest it in Liriano for 2015 / 2016? Assuming they did bring back AJ in 2014 I would rank the pitchers as:

1 – Cole
2 – Liriano
3 – Morton
4 – AJ
5 – Wandy / Locke

Why do you pay $14MM for a #4 pitcher? You could argue that AJ based on 2013 performance should be a # 2 or #3 , but the man is 37. Sooner rather than later his performance will tank! He knows this. Why do you think he is considering retiring.? The family rationale makes no sense. I have never met a wife who wouldn’t prefer another $14MM to having her husband around the house six months early. Immediate alternatives: Stretch Wilson out, Pimentel. Cumpton. Taillon in 2nd half. Kingham in 2nd half.

2015 starting lineup:

1- Cole
2 – Liriano
3 – Morton
4 – Taillon
5 – Wilson

Waiting in the wings: Kingham, Pimental


Also, Nobody is mentioning Billy Butler who IS available for 1b. Is there a big reason for this that I am missing or is he not as good as the other options being discussed?


If the Pirates were to land Peralta then moving Mercer to 2nd base, Walker back to 3rd in a platoon (with Harrison possibly) and Pedro to first base kills multiple birds with one stone. Barmes would have much value as a backup and defensive replacement still in this situation.


The Dodgers have extra outfielders. Does acquiring someone like Eithier make sense for the Pirates?


Why trade Liriano over Morton??? Morton s the one I would trade, in a second. I don’t trust Morton at all to repeat and his value is at it’s highest peak. Liriano is our ace who came up huge. I would try to extend him and If not, then offer him a qualifying offer or trade him at the trade deadline if we happen to fall out of the race.

I also don’t understand the thinking on trading the backend of our bullpen.

I would sign Byrd to a 2 year deal with the understanding he will play RF and 1B. I would sign Loney or Morneau to play 1B against RHP. I would dump Jones and Sanchez.

I would try to trade Lambo while he has value with the 33 HR season. Someone will give something, maybe a team like Houston. Maybe Morton and Lambo in a package trade for Aybar.

I would sign Burnett for 1 year and hope Wandy is healthy at least early in the year.

My lineup
Marte LF
Aybar SS
Cutch CF
Alvarez 3B
Byrd RF
Loney 1B
Walker 2B
Martin C

Bench – T. Sanchez, Mercer, Tabata, Harrison, Snider


Marte LF
Aybar SS
Cutch CF
Byrd 1B
Alvarez 3B
Martin C
Mercer 2B
Tabata RF

This all changes when Polonco arrives in June, then possibly trade Loney or


Liriano, Cole, Burnett, Wandy, Locke – Hopefully this holds up until June and the Taillon takes over for Wandy or Locke.


Grilli, Melancon, Wilson, Watson, Pimentel, Mazzaro, Gomez – trade Morris or send him to AAA


This, but replace the bottom line with “Find the Next Liriano.”

I mean I like the idea overall, but you’re really acting like it’s a sure thing that they’ll succeed in a reclamation project, let alone pick the right guy.


Good point. Hope they can reel one in. If they get.. you know… Josh Johnson or Ubaldo or whatever, then I’d be okay letting him go. Worthy risk. I’d mostly just like to see if they sign one before trading him away instead of trading him then everyone signing elsewhere.


I have an under the radar player whom I feel would help the Pirates in 2014. Yesterday the LA Dodgers bought out 2B Mark Ellis’s contract, making him a free agent.

Yes Ellis is entering his age 37 season, and no he doesn’t do anything spectacular, however:

Ellis career against LHP: .276/.348/.429/.777 would be great improvement over Neil Walker vs. LHP.

Ellis has played some 3b/SS/1b in the past and could assume Harrison’s role on the bench, providing a positive defensive value, as he’s an excellent 2b…it could allow you to play a strong offensive/defensive infield of 1b Sanchez, 2b Ellis, SS Barmes, and 3b Mercer against LHP. (Assuming we resign Barmes and tender Sanchez)


Addendum to last post: with regards to the Rangers they’ve been knocked out 2 years in a row by the A’s. Garza is gonna walk and they should let him. Unless they get David Price which would require a huge offer they’re still the second fiddle in the West. F. Liriano could give them a significant advantage in that department to go along with Yu darvish and Martin Perez. That would be my line of attack to get them to think about the Profar deal. I would even throw in Jordy Mercer in the deal. That way they move Kinsler to the OF, Andrus stays at SS and Mercer could become an everyday 2B.


Exciting times for sure….For me this all starts with AJ Burnett. If he decides to resign for say 2 years at 20M then I make the deal which starts my thinking cap rolling.

1. What to do with Liriano and Wandy?
2. Who is the real Jeff Locke?
3. Can I and should I extend Charlie Morton?
4. When will Taillon be ready?
5. When will Kingham be ready?
6. What do we have with Pimentel, Cumpton, MacPherson, Irwin or Johnson?
7. Can Justin Wilson convert back to a starter?

With AJ Burnett resigning, I would say good bye to Morneau, GI Jones, Travis Snyder and Gaby Sanchez

1. I go straight to Texas and offer F. Liriano for Jurickson Profar and see what they say. Think Shields for Myers, Garza for Olt, Dickey for D’Arnaud. If it works out, offer Josh Johnson a 2 year reclamation deal kinda like Liriano’s with the 2nd year being a club option.
2. Offer Morton a deal around 3 years for 21 million.
3. Offer Byrd a 1 year deal. if he declines, move forward with Tabata/Lambo platoon. Get ready for Polanco.
4. Offer James Loney a 3 year deal to play 1st base. Someone made the point that we have power what we really need is high OBP guys. Too many solo home runs and K’s. Not enough people on base.
5. Personally, I’d shop Melancon and try and sell high. His hiccups at the end of the year make me really nervous. He made no adjustments.

My lineup..

LF Marte
SS Profar
CF McCutchen
1B Loney
RF Byrd
3B Alvarez
2B Walker
C Martin

Starting Rotation:
Cole, Wandy, Burnett, Morton and Johnson/Locke

Johnson/Locke, Pimentel, Cumpton, Kris Johnson and Taillon and Kingham when they are ready.

Josh Harrison, Tony Sanchez, Jordy Mercer (2B and SS backup), Lambo/Tabata


Grilli, Watson, Mazzarro, Wilson, Pimentel, Gomez

Bucco in St. Louis

Trade Liriano? No! He was your starting pitcher in a one-game playoff. What message does that send to the rest of the team? The Cards, the best team in your division, struggle to hit left-handers and you are going to trade the one pitcher that absolutely owned the Cards this year? No. No. No! The return on a Liriano trade would need to be weighed against having Liriano lead our pitching staff this year and a possible compensation pick next year (assuming QO and Liriano signs somewhere else). That type of trade return would need to be something along the lines of Lindor (Indians), Russell (A’s), Sano (Twins), for it to be worth it. I don’t see other teams giving up one of their future key assets for a pitcher who hadn’t had recent sucess beyond last year’s awesome performance. I get the fact that Liriano was a HUGE question mark before last year, but just because we were able to turn coal into a diamond doesn’t mean we will be able to so easily repeat said feat with Johnson, Hughes, or some other reclamation project.

Cato the Elder

We will see how aggressive Neal is this offseason. The free agent market is weak, which suggests to me that the smart moves will be the ones we don’t make, i.e. internal options at RF/1B, resign our own backups/platoons (e.g. Barmes and Sanchez). If we are to be active, I would like to see us be sellers, not buyers. I would love to see us to try to move Liriano, Grilli, Melancon (in that order), for pieces/prospects, but I won’t hold my breath.

Scott Skink


Craig probably goes to RF while Adams stays at 1b. They trade for Bourjos, giving them not only a defensive boost in CF but an excellent 1-2 at top of order for the RBI guys. Don’t know if they’ll give up on Kozma, a 1st round pick, but they will likely add a better utility option. Seems their BP is set.

How do the Bucs keep up with that?

If AJ retires, assuming Wandy is done and Locke continues to stink, there’s a plausible argument for the Bucs to not do very much and take their lumps playing all their young guys while preparing for 2015 with Taillon, Polanco and whomever else may come up.

Otherwise it’s going to get expensive. And IMO, either you spend the money and be serious about winning it all, or don’t and position yourself for 2015. I don’t think you take half measures with questionable contracts that may hurt the club long term.

Stephen Brooks

Actually I think the Cards are going to move Craig back to 3B, replace Beltran with Oscar Taveras. That makes Freese available in a trade. They also have six quality starters going into next year – Miller, Kelly, Garcia, Wacha, Lynn and Wainright. Any of those assets could get them the middle infielder they need (Lance Lynn to the Angels for Erick Aybar and a grade B prospect?)

St. Louis is a damn good organization but remember the Bucs did win the season series. It’s a team built around contact hitting and fastball pitchers, with not a lot of power. As long as the Bucs continue to field a ground ball pitching staff with good infield defense and a fastball hitting team with power, they’ll be evenly matched on the field.


SP: I would see if Liriano is willing to be extended for two years. Pay him more than what he is due next year as a carrot. LHSP has real value versus the Reds and Cardinals, and at PNC. See if Morton can be extended two years.

Catcher: See if Martin is interested in a two year extension, with the proviso that he splits time between catcher and 3B (or can Martin play 1B?) as time marches on. This works Tony Sanchez into more starting opportunities, primarily against LHSP, and gives Alvarez more of a chance to sit against LHSP without losing power at 3B. I think this would be attractive to Martin as he plays the same starting AB without the wear and tear of extensive catching as he gets older. This will extend his career.

RF: Tabata/Lambo until Polanco is ready. Abreu was my first choice, obviously N/A. Byrd for one year if he would do it would be good also. But some other team will likely offer him two years. If so let him go. He is too old to commit to multiple years in a position which requires you to run.

1B: Lambo/Sanchez until Dickerson, or a high value FA, is obtained in 2015.

SS: Mercer. Barmes is too expensive as a backup fielder who doesn’t hit.

I don’t think the Pirates should spend serous money for the 2014 team. It will be competitive without making serious changes. But in 2015 and 2016 the same cast could be available (except AJ) with the additions of Polanco, Taillon, Kingham, Hanson and whatever high value free agents they sign at the time. 2014 doesn’t matter. 2015 and 2016 the Pirates can seriously contend for the World Series. They should save and bank money this year to spend it for 2015 and 2016 (or possibly to extend Alvarez or McCutchen). The implication of this philosophy is that I wouldn’t sign AJ, even though I love him as a pitcher, and would root for him on the mound in 2014. AJ had a good year, but statistically Brandon Cumpton was better (at the league minimum). Not suggesting that Cumpton could necessarily do what AJ could over a whole season. But my point is that if you look at W/L records you might get AJ’s equivalent at a much more affordable price.


Huntington has lots of toys to play with, a couple of simple moves would be the way that I would go, no more than 4-5 moves for the 25 man roster over the off season.
1. They will sign Burnette, count on it and he will block nobody.
2. They might sign Byrd and that will solve the RF problem and block nobody.
3. My money says they have talked with the Angels about Trumbo, he would be the perfect compliment to Pedro and won’t need platooned, saving the Pirates a player on the 25 man roster.
4. I would bring in one solid veteran starting pitcher and one solid left handed relief pitcher, IMO, they are at the point that they might be able to bring in a left handed specialist, especially if they get a two way first basemen of a two way right fielder.
The more two way players you have the more can stack the roster with specialists, like a left hand reliever or a power bat off of the bench, two players the Pirates have not had. Anytime you can stay away from platoons you do it, they take up roster space.


I think there will be one giant platoon type move that comes out of the blue. Like a GOOD RHH MIF is signed or traded for (Altuve?) to spell Walker and Alvarez against LHPs.

I also think that we could see a LHH MIF signed to push Walker to 1B against some RHP’s.

Neal is going to do something weird.

Also, don’t be surprised to see Martin playing the field more against LHP’s since Sanchez has shown that he could be a LHP masher.


Jason Kubel just became a FA. wonder if he’d be willing to play some first to reestablish his value as a hitter (and could play some RF till Greg is ready). No idea how he’d actually do. but another traditionally sweet lefty swing, 2013 not included.

Hidden Vigorish

The need for this team to platoon is vastly overrated. NL Central had so few starting LH pitchers that platooning doesn’t provide nearly as much value as people believe. If the Bucs were to sign Loney they should ditch the platoon and say goodbye to Sanchez.

Richard Ya'Zhynka

Sanchez took 41% of the Pirates at-bats at 1B because Jones and Morneau could not hit lefties.

If they acquire Loney, they will still need a platoon. He has hit .256 with a .669 OPS against lefties in his career.

Sanchez’s career numbers against lefties are .300/.895.

Hidden Vigorish

He only took 41% of the Pirates 1B ABs because Hurdle used him too much against right handers. The majority of Sanchez’s ABs were against right handers. Only 20% of the Pirates ABs were against left handed pitchers. That is way below league avg. Most teams see 30% of ABs against lefties.


Gaby Sanchez has been one of the biggest steals of NH’s tenure. We traded a AAAA defense-only outfielder and a Supplemental Pick in the 2013 Draft and he has been perfect for us against lefties and he puts the ball in play against righties. Great defensive player that we got for peanuts for 2012 and 2013 – this is the first year we are paying a decent amount. And, a team leader and popular in the clubhouse and in the community. Sanchez and Morneau were the best in the league on Defense, and I can put up with some downside at the plate if I can save some runs in the field – ask the pitchers what they think of those two.

Cato the Elder

Well, even if there were no lefty starting pitchers in the division…what about relievers?…even if there were no lefty pitchers in division…you would still have the other 86 non-division games.

Hidden Vigorish

The Pirates faced a left handed starter only 31 times last year. Pretty expensive to carry a player at $3.5 million to start so few games. Especially if he can’t provide value as a late game defensive upgrade which he wouldn’t be over James Loney.

Richard Ya'Zhynka

Gaby Sanchez was 1.3 Wins Above Replacement level in his 194 plate appearances against lefties last year, covering 96 games – including his pinch-hitting appearances.

If James Loney’s career numbers vs. lefties are plugged into those 194 plate appearances and 96 games, they result in 0.2 wins Below replacement.

The 1.5 win difference between Sanchez and Loney against LHP, is worth about $6.75 million per year.

If Sanchez’s career numbers vs. LHP are used in those 194 plate appearances (.300/.895 OPS), it still results in a 0.9 win advantage; a $4 million value.

Gaby Sanchez is worth the possible $3.5 million he might get through the arbitration process.

Hidden Vigorish

Sanchez only had 126 PA against left handed pitching last year. So the spread isn’t nearly as high as your calculations show. And you are completely disregarding the fact that Sanchez will get some ABs against right handers. You can’t completely shield the right hand part of a platoon from right handed pitching the way you can the left side against southpaws. So Sanchez will surely steal some ABs against right handers from his left handed platoon mate.

Richard Ya'Zhynka

Even at only 126 PA, Sanchez is still 0.7 wins better than Loney against lefties. That’s a $3.2 million value.

The PA that Sanchez may get against RHP are irrelevant to this discussion. If Loney isn’t taking those at-bats, some right-handed hitting 1B – who has bad numbers against RHP – will have to take them, unless the Pirates carry a second left-handed 1B.

If that right-handed 1B has good numbers against RHP, then they won’t need Loney or Sanchez. But I don’t see the Pirates acquiring anybody like that.

Gaby Sanchez is going to be platooning at 1B for the Pirates next year.


1. Take care of business with AJ Burnett because he is a key to our ability to wheel and deal others
2. Spend the next 3 days with Justin Morneau and see if he is willing to accept a reasonable contract offer – 2 or 3 yrs
3. If he is willing put the balls in the air to find a young, LH hitting 1B who can hit for average, power, good eye, plus fielder – my suggestion is Dan Vogelbach, 20, who played 2013 at Lo A with the Cubs and will be about 2 or 3 years away.
4. If AJ is back, start to look for a trading partner (Yankees) for Liriano. Could possibly be a three way involving the Yankees & Cubs. The Yankees need a LHSP, and the Cubs need a young MLB quality Catcher, of which the Yankees have 3, and the Cubs also need some young, talented OF’s. The Pirates need to get Vogelbach, and Ian Clarkin, LHSP that the Yankees drafted in the first round last year; do we need more? – How about Rafael DePaula, RHSP Yankees.
5. Sign Clint Barmes for 2 years/$5 or $6 mil.
6. DO NOT PUT A ROADBLOCK UP IN FRONT OF GREGORY POLANCO – Tabata (if not traded)/Lambo could be a reasonable experiment.
7. Go to Arb with Gaby Sanchez, Walker, Alvarez, McKenry, Morton, Melancon; Coin flip on Garrett Jones
8. DO NOT PUT ROADBLOCKS UP IN FRONT OF JAMESON TAILLON and NICK KINGHAM. No long term or short term contract for Ground Chuck. Would love to see a Rotation of Burnett, Cole, Taillon, by mid-season, and then Kingham either at the end of the season or in June of 2015. We will still have Morton, Rodriguez, Locke, Cumpton, Gomez, McPherson, and Oliver.

Mike Rosati

I like some of your thinking, but my problems is that none of that solves the issues at RF and 1B. By going with Tabata/Lambo in RF, your basically banking on Polanco being ready by the AS break, what if he’s not? What if he gets injured? That’s a big risk, especially for a team that is ready to contend.

Also, bringing Morneau does nothing for me, I didn’t even want to trade for him. I like the idea of bringing back Byrd, I don’t suscribe to the ideas of prospects being “blocked”. If Polanco is banging down the doors then you either move Byrd to 1B, or trade him, or, if he’s playing like he did last year, then you keep him in RF for the year and just keep Polanco in AAA, what’s the harm in that?

Hidden Vigorish

I can’t see Byrd at 1B. I could see Polanco doing it as temporary thing if you had to find a place to get his bat in the lineup and all the OF positions were filled. Maybe they could work with him a little in spring training and at Indy to get just a little positional flexibility. If they have a hole at 1B in the middle of the season and Polanco is the best bat in the system and ready for major league pitching that could be a short term solution.


You cannot invent a First Baseman just by buying him a bigger glove. This is Baseball at the highest level on earth and players cannot be plugged into different positions and be expected to know how to produce at a position they have either never played or have been proven to be incompetent at that position.

Is there someone out there that we should be looking at for 1B in 2014? I do not see anyone better than Morneau, and I think he still has a lot of play left in him – this is a guy who averaged a WAR of 4.00 over 5 straight years winning the AL MVP and being voted an All Star each year. He is a defensive stalwart and a great chemistry add for this team and the community.

Hidden Vigorish

First base is the easiest position in baseball to play. Gifted athletic outfielders can easily do it. Ask Darin Erstad. Same situation. Elite plus defensive OF. Came to the bigs in a crowded OF. Moved to first base as a rookie to get his bat in the lineup. Ended up winning gold gloves in both the OF and 1B. You can make a firstbagger from other positions. It isn’t that difficult.


I agree that there might be a logjam in the outfield if someone is signed to “roadblock” Polanco, but there really is no such thing as too much pitching. Taillon will get his chance in due time no matter who the Buccos sign or trade for.

The trade that you propose is pretty well thought out, but the Yankees don’t have one good catcher, let alone three. Also, I don’t think you are allowed to trade a draft pick until a full year after they sign or are drafted or something along those lines.


I like just about everything you suggest Tim. I would never consider trading Liriano no matter what I could get in return. I’d be more inclined to try to extend him for 3 years 36 mm +/-. He’s a perfect fit for PNC (among best SP at home in MLB), and Ray Searge looks like the perfect pitching coach for him.

I wouldn’t trade any of our SP’s, well I’d trade Wandy, but for what? A bag of balls? But if NH deems we have too much quality SP (insert laugh track), I’d trade Morton and pitch that he’s younger than Liriano and ground balls play well in every park to maximize his trade value. But again, I wouldn’t trade SP! SP is like Google stock, you don’t dump it. Ever!

Wilbert Matthews

I like your idea of trading high on Lariano. I think you under value Trumbo. Personally, i would prefer Encarnacion. I think you are out of your mind to keep Gabby Sanchez. Splits be damn, he looked like Rod Barajas this year. I dont want him back.

Richard Ya'Zhynka

Can the Pirates acquire another 1B who hit .333 with a .987 OPS against left-handed pitchers?


Lee Grounds?
If so, This is Bill. I’ve got fond memories of our ballgames at Walker’s field.


you can’t just damn the splits. Gaby was the perfect compliment to Jones (or at least what jones should’ve been).

If they find a 1b that can hit both lefties and righties, then go ahead and dump him. he wouldnt be needed.

But with guys like Morneau and Loney (or a trade target such LaRoche or Ike Davis) seeming like the most likely options, Gaby once again becomes a good compliment because all of those guys are much better vs righties.

Gaby has a career OBP of about .400 against lefties. Don’t “damn” that. Embrace it if it makes sense. And it most likely will.

Stephen Brooks

1. Sign Loney. The Pirates have issues with contact and hit 20 points lower against righties than they did vs. lefties. Loney addresses both of those weaknesses. You can keep Gaby around, but make sure he brings his 3B mitt to Bradenton.

2. Re-sign Barmes to a cheap one-year deal. He should play whenever Morton is pitching and vs. lefties (with Mercer moving to 2B to spell Walker).

3. Try to re-sign Burnett. The Pirates actually scored fewer runs than in 2012 – it was the pitching that turned the Pirates from a 79-win team into a 94-win team. And specifically, improvements in GB rate (#1 in MLB), HR rate (#1 in NL), and K rate (#5 in NL). Burnett excelled at all of these. If AJ decides to retire, pick up Tim Hudson (low K rate, but excellent at the other two) or Josh Johnson (lower GB rate, but his HR/FB was way out of his career norms and is otherwise very good).

4. Talk to John Daniels about a trade for Mitch Moreland. He’ll be making somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.75M in arbitration and the Rangers are looking to upgrade. Moreland played RF as recently as 2 years ago, though he’s not great defensively, and his platoon splits suggest he’s playable against righties. He’s also a minor bounceback candidate. Because he’s under team control, you can take him year to year – if he flames out, Polanco takes over when he’s ready. If he bounces back, you’ve got the option of moving him to 1B.

5. Trade Melancon for prospects. He’s at the height of his value, and there are a lot of teams with closers who are about to – or already have – become too expensive (Cleveland, Baltimore, Texas). Pimentel would join the bullpen, and the 8th inning role could go to any of Watson, Wilson or Mazzaro. Well, maybe not Morris.

For about $80 million, you have this team:

C Martin, T Sanchez
1B Loney, G Sanchez
2B Walker
3B Alvarez
SS Mercer, Barmes
UT Harrison
LF Marte
CF McCutchen
RF Moreland, Tabata
SP Liriano, Cole, Morton, Wandy, Burnett/Hudson/J Johnson
RP Grilli, Watson, Wilson, Morris, Gomez, Mazzaro, Pimentel

Polanco and Lambo get additional seasoning at AAA. Locke and McKenry are at the ready in case of injury.


I’m on board with these plans. Except I’d rather just play Moreland at 1st and ditch Loney.

Richard Ya'Zhynka

Looks like a playoff team to me.

Matt Armagost

In my perfect situation:

At 1B – Kendrys Morales/G. Sanchez… Morales is a switch hitting first basemen with power and a good average from both sides of the plate. I would also keep G. Sanchez as the backup and late inning defensive replacement. I like that the Pirates gave Morneau a chance. This was a smart move by Huntington by not giving up much with the chance to score big in return. It did not pan out to well, but it was fun to watch the big name try and help out as much as possible. I would give Morneau a second chance for the right price. Declining numbers the past couple of years is a scare.

At RF – Carlos Beltran… I would give this a slim chance, and would only look at this as an option if Burnett did not return. Beltran would provide another switch hitting bat with pop and another veteran presence in the clubhouse. I don’t think the Pirates could afford both Burnett and Beltran; therefore, slim chance… I would not be disappointed with the return of Byrd as the starter until Polanco was ready. Tabata is not the answer in RF. Even though he came off his most productive season (103 games), there is not enough power in right field and is a defensive liability. Also, I would remove Garrett Jones as a first basemen and move him to solely RF. Assuming Beltran is not a Pirate, Byrd would be my starter with Jones as a LH backup.

At SS – Mercer/Barmes… I did not have a problem with the Mercer/Barmes platoon. Obviously, Barmes provides close to no offensive production. However, it is nice to have him as a late inning, reliable defensive replacement in a close game. Whenever a ball is hit Barmes’ way, I feel confident. As with Mercer, he is only going to become better with more ABs. So, Mercer would be my starting SS. My hopes would be for Alan Hanson to have a huge year in the minors to end the year in AAA and be ready by the start of the 2015 season.

At SP – The question here is Burnett. My ideal rotation would be the same as yours. Therefore, I believe the rotation is a strong point going into next year if Burnett returns. If Burnett does not return, I would look at Josh Johnson as a replacement or look for an inning eater pitcher to put in the back end of the rotation (maybe Arroyo). Besides his age, Arroyo would be a huge addition if he were to pitch around 190+ innings again. As for trades, I would not trade Liriano unless the Pirates are out of it come the end of July (insert Taillon). Liriano was flat out dominant. Besides his couple of starts where he let up A LOT of runs (MIL, COL), Liriano looked unhittable with the movement on his 2SFB and provided a good sense that we were going to win that game he started.

At RP – I agree that the Pirates should shop their relievers. However, only one. I do not think it would be a good idea to shop both Grilli and Melancon. If they were to shop both, then who would be their closer? Wilson? Watson? I don’t think that Morris would be a valid option. Keeping either Grilli or Melancon would provide stability to the late innings. Unless they can pull off another trade that brings in another reliever.

Pirates Prospects Daily

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