A Trade Seems Likely in the Next Two Weeks to Settle the Bullpen

As it stands right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates have eight contenders for seven bullpen spots. Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Justin Wilson are locks for the bullpen due to their performances in 2013. That leaves four more players for three spots.

Complicating the matter is that those four players — Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris, and Stolmy Pimentel — are all out of options. All four bring a lot to the table as far as their potential value to the Major League club.

Gomez and Mazzaro had strong numbers in 2013 with the Pirates, with Gomez making a few key starts for the team throughout the year. Morris also had good results, although his advanced metrics suggest that he won’t repeat that if he continues pitching like he did without adding strikeouts. He’s leaning on a two-seam fastball this year, which he didn’t use much of last year, and which has made him look nasty in Spring Training. Then there’s Stolmy Pimentel, who might have the best stuff of the group, and could be a starting option in the long-term and a better version of Jeanmar Gomez in the short-term.

“It made it tougher for us to sign some guys this off-season, because they saw the depth and numbers in our bullpen,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “Not only in the guys that pitched and pitched well for us last year, but the guys that we had on the Major League roster with options. So it made it a challenge to bring guys in this off-season. We’ve had a great competition here in camp.”

If everyone stays healthy, that’s going to lead to a situation where the Pirates need to make a difficult decision. They’ll have to designate one of the players for assignment, and considering the quality of the four players, there seems to be zero chance that any of them clear waivers. It’s also possible that the team could make a trade before designating anyone for assignment, or before placing anyone on waivers.

“We feel like we’re going to have depth, and if at the end of Spring Training if everybody stays healthy we’re going to have a challenging decision or two to make with some of the guys, due to being out of options,” Huntington said. “Maybe it’s a chance to move a guy that can go help someone else for another piece that adds depth to our system, or maybe adds depth to our major league club. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Huntington has been on the opposite end of this situation. In 2008, the Atlanta Braves were in a similar situation where they had too many hard throwing relievers, and not enough bullpen spots. Huntington sent minor league starter Todd Redmond to the Braves to get hard throwing right-handed reliever Tyler Yates. Yates had a 4.66 ERA in 73.1 innings with the Pirates that year. Redmond didn’t make the majors for the Braves, but was eventually traded for Paul Janish, and later was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays heading into the 2013 season. Last year he had a 4.32 ERA in 77 innings with Toronto, along with an 8.9 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9 ratio.

One of these four relievers could be dealt in the next two weeks if everyone in the bullpen stays healthy. Photo Credits: David Hague (Mazzaro, Gomez, Morris), Tim Williams (Pimentel)
One of these four relievers could be dealt in the next two weeks if everyone in the bullpen stays healthy. Photo Credits: David Hague (Mazzaro, Gomez, Morris), Tim Williams (Pimentel)

With the quality of the four guys available, there seems to be a good chance that one of them will have value to another team. Huntington talked about his experience on the other side of this, and what other teams look for in a situation where you know a team needs to move a guy.

“It comes down to perceived competition,” Huntington said. “And if they perceive they have a competition and they perceive they have a need, they’re willing to give up a little bit more. If they don’t perceive they have that big of a need, or you don’t have the right player to fill their need, or they perceive there’s not competition, that they’re not going to be willing to give up that much. Ultimately it’s driven by the player, and how well the player performs and we’ve got some guys that are doing a nice job for us right now. Does it continue throughout camp? For their sake, hopefully, because it puts them in a better position to make the club, whether it’s ours or someone else’s.”

If there is an injury to the bullpen, then this whole topic becomes moot, as the Pirates would no longer have eight guys for seven bullpen spots. If everyone stays healthy, then I could see a trade happening. If it was up to me, Vin Mazzaro would be the guy dealt. That’s not saying Mazzaro is a bad option. He’s a good pitcher who would have a lot of value to many teams. He’s also the guy who makes the least sense to the Pirates.

Mazzaro is already in his arbitration years, while the other guys are in their league minimum years. He can start if needed, but so can Gomez or Pimentel. You don’t want to give up Pimentel because of his stuff and upside. You might be able to put Bryan Morris in that category as well, since his stuff is looking better so far this year. Thus, it comes down to Gomez or Mazzaro. Gomez is cheaper, and showed the ability to serve as a “utility pitcher” last year, giving him the edge.

I think there would be a team that would find value in Mazzaro, especially based off his numbers last year and his history of being a starter. I don’t know if this is the route the Pirates will take. I do know that they have four guys for three bullpen spots, and if everyone stays healthy they will need to deal one of those guys away. And I believe that all four players have enough value that some team will be willing to trade for one of those pitchers, rather than letting them hit waivers.

  • Sorry i didn’t reply to this….

    Wilson has an option which means he doesn’t have to clear waivers. No team would be able to pick him up.

  • BallHeadWonder
    March 17, 2014 1:44 pm

    If we go on pure production alone….Morris is the one for me!! He is not clutch at all….Last season I was pissed when Clint went to him. Vinny was money last season. Everytime his number got called, he delivered!! Not only am I a Vinny fan, Vinny came through for us on paper and looked very confident to get the tough out!! I don’t know if he will do it again this year, but he has earned another chance!! TRADE MORRIS!!!!

  • For those who are saying the Pirates will be forced to trade from a position of weakness, I disagree. NH should be on the phone right now, talking to multiple teams, seeing what he can get for one of these RPs and a minor leaguer tossed in. If nothing works outs, then one of them has an “injury” and goes on the DH until you get what you want.

  • Why don’t we just send Wilson to AAA? Is he THAT much better than Gomez, Morris, Stolmy against RHPs?

  • Trade for Mike Carp, because Andrew Lambo is terrible. .065 average in ST baby!!

  • pittsburgh412
    March 16, 2014 5:26 pm

    Exactly why the Edison volquez signing was stupid. We have plenty in house depth for starting. I would have been totally comfortable with jeanmar Gomez as the fifth starter until Tallion came up in June. Instead we are going to lose a good solid reliever, because we don’t have the roster spot.

    • The point here is the Pirates have depth in the bullpen, whereas they do not have any established first baseman who can hit right handers. If you can trade a fungible asset–and a middle-inning guy is the very definition of fungible–to fill a hole in your lineup, you do that every day and twice on Sundays.

  • lonleylibertarian
    March 16, 2014 5:07 pm

    Waive Volquez – problem solved

    • meatygettingsaucy
      March 16, 2014 5:26 pm

      So we don’t get to see what Volquez is capable as a Pirate and are out $5 mil? Brilliant!

      • Brilliant was the idiotic mistake of signing JS II. I love the Pirates – but Bob Nutting and Neal Huntington ARE NOT THE PIRATES. Imagine how different this spring would be if they had not been such cheap s#%t$ and given AJ the QO he deserved. Things will get very ugly if this team does not compete this year – win and they are smart – end up 10 games behind the Cards in August they are just cheap. The loss in attendance will cost them more than AJ would have.

        Ever hear of throwing good money after bad?

        • Bruce go away with your crying cheap BS. We are all tired of you whining posts about being cheap. They will spend money in a smart way.

          • Like the $5 M they spent on Volquez – very smart move that one was. Third lowest payroll in baseball – great if they contend – lots of empty seats in September if things do no go well.

            • If they don’t spend to keep there own young talent, then I will say the same. I have confidence they will be extending the young talent when it’s needed. If I am wrong, I will be complaining too. You are already calling the Volquez signing a horrid move based on spring but in your post above you still support Lambo who is 0 for whatever every day and looks terrible. That’s quite a contradiction is it not?

              • We’re comparing the signing of Volquez ($5 mill) to the signing of Burnett ($16 mill) ? You see the difference, right? 5 vs. 16? Pirates should not and cannot commit 16 million to a 37-yr-old pitcher. Simple economics. If Volquez works out, they look like geniuses. If not, they look to their massive SP depth – Cumpton, Locke, Taillon, etc.

      • I have seen what Volquez is capable of and it ain’t pretty

    • You told me spring training stats don’t mean anything so why waive him as long as he’s making adjustments its okay

      • lonleylibertarian
        March 17, 2014 11:13 am

        They don’t – but the last two years of regular season tell a similar tale – and if Saturday was any indication the adjustments aren’t working – sounded like batting practice.

        Signing this guy is/was a bad idea. Keeping him around risks being competitive in September.

  • The plan all along was to move a reliever for a LH 1B. This needs to happen. Hopefully this is still possible, if not, they need to up the ante as far as quantity or quality of RP they offer. They’ve got the depth.

    • lonleylibertarian
      March 16, 2014 5:10 pm

      I wish you Ike Davis lovers would get Over it – turn snider into a first baseman if none of the three amigos work out.

      And don’t tell me he is too short – same height as Jeff Bagwell

      • I watch Snider play on Root, and I see Lassie–a damn dog on my TV.

      • I like the Snider idea! I know everyone on this site think spring training means nothing but if Lambo can’t do a thing against mostly mediocre pitchers right now, what makes anyone think he will when the lights come on? I’m not seeing it!!

        • Watched the game via the Phillies feed – Mike Schmidt told the story about the season where he had an awful spring – no homeruns – first regular season at bat he hits one…

          The pirates have very little to lose if they go with Lambo in April…

          1. He continues to struggle and after 50 to 60 at bats they send him to Indy – throw him in to a trade later this year and hope isn’t the second coming of Jose Bautista.

          2. He gets his act together and the Sanchez – Lambo platoon delivers a total WAR of 3+

  • If I’m the Bucs I have to be talking to the Mets. With Ike Davis hobbled they have zero leverage. They also need help in the pen and the rotation. If I’m Alderson, I see Gomez as the best match. He’s cheap, young, talented and put together a great season in ’13 pitching both long relief and starting. Davis can be stashed on the DL until he is 100%, then take a long stint in Bradenton, getting this bat pitch perfect. If Lambo has a nice April, we have a depth bat with value in Davis but IF Lambo isn’t ready for primetime you will have a very good option waiting in extended spring training. I don’t think the Mess would have done that deal three weeks ago but now… they might just do it and I would certainly do it. Despite Stolmy’s upside, I think I would part with him in that scenario as well.

  • @BuccoSharkTank
    March 16, 2014 2:21 pm

    Jason, Morris is a righty.

  • I almost wonder if Mazzaro makes more sense to keep. Maybe the young cheap guys are what they should trade since they’d bring back more in a trade. The young guys are so valuable since they’re cheap, but since NH finds relievers so easily, maybe it’d be best to just keep mazzaro for another year and find more cheap relievers later. I think the pirates have to keep their controllable young position players and SP. But i think relievers might be different, as long as other teams’ offers are actually bigger for the young relievers than for Mazzaro.

  • If the front office has any interest in someday turning Justin Wilson back into a starter, perhaps a solution is to stretch him out in the minors and let Morris and Watson be the bullpen lefties. It’s hard to commit to that idea because Wilson has been so good in the pen, but it’s an option.

    • You are probably right. I too think Wilson could be a great starting pitcher and we need more lefty starters. What about Schlereth? Can they send him to AAA for a depth option? With Jason’s suggestion they could have the two lefties being Watson and Schlereth with Wilson being sent down to stretch out. Of course they could be grooming Wilson to be the closer of the future too. Neal will target a farm system or a MLB player he wants and see which reliever can get him the most value.

    • I don’t think Morris can make it as a lefty. He’s probably thrown right handed his whole life and he’d struggle with the switch!

      • Dangit. You are right! Morris is a righty, and I carelessly posted without thinking twice. Good correction.