First Pitch: The Moves the Pirates Will Have to Make This Week

The Pittsburgh Pirates will get a boost this week, seeing two of their top players returning. Neil Walker has been a hot hitter this year, and is expected back on Tuesday. Gerrit Cole is expected to re-join the rotation this weekend. That combination means the Pirates will have to make a few moves this week. Those moves could include a decision on Travis Snider or Jose Tabata, and the demotion of one of three starting pitchers who are performing well. Here is a look at each situation, and the move that I would make to clear space on the roster for the returning players.

Neil Walker

Walker is expected to return on Tuesday, and will almost certainly take over as the starting second baseman. The return of Walker will create two issues. The first issue revolves around the playing time for Josh Harrison. That’s a subject for a totally different article. There will also be the issue of who moves off the roster to create room for Walker.

Currently the top options are Travis Snider or Jose Tabata. It would seem that Tabata is making a stronger case to stick around. He has a .733 OPS this month, which isn’t great, but is slightly better than the .693 from Snider. Furthermore, Tabata is under contract beyond the 2014 season. I doubt the Pirates keep him for the duration of his deal, but I could see them keeping him around to try and unload him and some of that salary in a trade.

If I’m making the call, Snider would be the one gone when Walker returns. I was going to suggest Clint Barmes as a possibility, but his OPS is only 17 points lower than Snider’s, and Barmes brings more value with his defense. The fact that Snider is only barely out-hitting Barmes says a lot about why he should be the odd man out.

Gerrit Cole

The decision with Cole is going to be slightly more difficult than the decision with Walker. The Pirates will have three options to send down in order to make room for their future ace. Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke, and Vance Worley are all in the majors as depth options, and one will have to go down when Cole returns.

The easiest call here is to remove Worley from the discussion. He’s out of options, and would have to be designated for assignment in order to be sent down. With the way he has pitched in his first two starts, plus his time in Triple-A, and the fact that he has previous MLB success, there would be no reason to cut him.

That leaves a battle between Cumpton and Locke. Cumpton is coming off a great start today, and his overall numbers are heavily inflated by one horrible outing on May 31st, when he gave up ten earned runs in 3.2 innings. Outside of that start, Cumpton has a 3.85 ERA in 35 innings of work. Meanwhile, Locke has made three starts since coming back up, and has looked fantastic in those outings. He has a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings, and the most impressive thing is that he’s only allowed two walks. The biggest issue for Locke last year during his poor second half was that he was giving up too many walks. The fact that he’s performing this well so far makes you think that his results might be legit, and doesn’t even have you thinking about the word “regression”.

I’d keep Worley and Locke in the rotation, sending Cumpton down. I still like Cumpton as a starter, and he should be the top option to be called up if anyone else goes down.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Harold Ramirez Extends Hit Streak, Neil Walker Joins Bradenton on Rehab

**Minor Moves: Altoona Roster Changes, JaCoby Jones Listed Day-to-Day, Pitcher Released

**Prospect Report: Jaff Decker Sees Success on Both Sides

**DSL Pirates Report: More Praise For Adrian Valerio’s Defense, Scouting Report on a New Pitcher

**Prospect Highlights: In the Batting Cage With Reese McGuire

**Minor League Schedule: A.J. Morris Looks to Continue Strong Season

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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Ron Loreski

For those of you who want to DFA Clint Barmes, I assume you think Josh Harrison is capable of being the backup shortstop. All well and good, and I can’t really disagree with you. But what if something happens to Jordy Mercer? The Pirates will be without a major league starting shortstop while trying to contend. That would be an absolute disaster. You think the Pirates are going to the playoffs with Robert Andino, Michael Martinez, or Chase d’Arnaud getting crucial AB’s?

Monsoon Harvard

Volquez’s Monday start probably seals the deal. Looks like Cumpton will be sent down to activate Cole. It’s more & more looking Clint Barmes will be the odd man out for Walker’s activation unless someone else comes down with an injury.

Monsoon Harvard

Volquez’s Monday start probably seals the deal. Looks like Cumpton will be sent down to activate Cole. It’s more & more looking Clint Barmes will be the odd man out for Walker’s activation unless someone else comes down with an injury.


NH goes to great lengths to not DFA guys he thinks have value or ad depth to the MLB team.

I think we’ll see one of two things. The first is Cumpton being optioned and a decision on which position player goes is delayed a few days until Cole returns. Maybe even Pimentel spot starts to delay it until next week.

The other is Polanco gets optioned for 10 days.

I’ll be very surprised if a decision regarding Tabata or Snider is made tomorrow.


I will add to this that it’s obvious NH wasn’t ready to call Polanco up for super 2 reasons when Walker got ill. Another 10 days would end all doubt on the super 2 issue.

Pie Rat

Looking at Loney’s numbers tonight I can say I’m glad we didn’t get him. If you look at the numbers Ike Davis has a higher OBP than Loney. As it is, the extra hits Loney has are mostly singles. In the long run Davis forces pitchers to throw more pitches and he also has power.


While Snider does seem to be the odd-man out; personally, I’d like to see the Bucs also cutting Barmes and letting J-Hay be the back-up SS. This would free up that bench spot for Tony Sanchez, who could give Martin some more rest through the summer and allow either to pinch-hit with Stewart still there. I’d also like some desperate team to offer anything for Jose Tabata before tomorrow’s roster move…


I would like to see a Morton, Alvarez package for a quality player/pitcher.

Joel Davis


Wouldn’t DFA’ing Tabata be similar to when they DFA’d Mazzaro? No one will claim his contract and they will get to send him to AAA? Worst case scenario, someone does claim him and you save 10 million. It seems that everyone assumes that DFA’ing Tabata would result in the Pirates having to pay all that money now, but that’s not the way I see it. Any insight???


It’s certainly possible he clears waivers. I actually think he’s more likely to clear waivers than Snider, just because of the contract. Although the contract is cheap and he’s hitting .290+, which he’s proven he can do before. So there might be takers.

I like keeping Snider because of interleague and power off the bench. I think he’s the better option for DH. And he’s accepted his role off the bench. He could well become the next Matt Stairs for all we know.

I think when you’re looking at pinch hitters, it’s not all about OBP or OPS. It’s more about the ability to win a game in late innings with your bat. I think Snider offers more in that regard.

If Tabby was showing more pop, I’d be more reluctant to let him go. But he’s been mostly singles – and bloops at that. Some team might find him useful. He is a good hit & run guy as a regular player if you can afford to keep an OF w/o power.


I don’t think anyone cares of letting Tabata or Snider go – they just don’t want to let them go for nothing. LOL.
We have plenty of OF depth with Rojas Jr just waiting for a chance, along with a decent bench guys like Dickerson and Decker too.


The ideal choice would be to trade Snider or Tabata and let the deciding factor be who gets you more. If a trade is not possible the Snider is the one that should be DFA’d. Snider has done well pinch hitting but is only a pinch hitting option against righties. Tabata has better overall numbers and can be used against a righty or lefty. Tabata also has more value as a pinchrunner than Snider.

Cole it is being said is coming back June 28 which is when Volquez would be next scheduled to pitch. No matter how he pitches tonight I’s look to see if someone would take him off the Bucs hands. If not DFA him. Volquez is not anyone they would miss this year and is not under contract next year. Worley, Cumpton, and Locke are 3 guys who most likely will pitch as good as or better than Volquez. They all could be part of the rotation in 2015 and beyond so they should remain in the Majors. Cumpton and Locke have nothing more to prove in AAA and Worley will never make it through waivers.

When Liriano comes back a similar decision will need to be made unless injury makes it for them.


Put Volquez in the bullpen for long relief. Send Pimentel back down. I think Volquez has some value in short bursts.


Pimentel is out of options, you have DFA him.


I just saw that. Thank you. Would we really miss Jared Hughes, or his he out of options too? 😉


100% strand rate for Hughes. I think we’d miss him.

I would be open to sending Wilson down but I believe he’s out of options too.


If you go by which pitcher was/is pitching the worst, Liriano should go, but if you go by options available, it is between Cumpton and Locke. Cumpton would be the choice if you do it now because he won’t have a start for 5 days and probably would only miss one start if they needed to bring him back soon. Lockes turn is coming up and he is left handed, Cumpton can be sent down tomorrow and they would not have to make a move on the position player for a week or so. I would send Cumpton down tomorrow.


But IS Liriano pitching the worst? Just some early-season homeritis, which tends to level out over the course of a season.

I’d be worried about homeritis if it was from like… a 5 mph decrease in FB velocity. But he still averages almost 93 mph on his fastball.

It appears that it’s been just some bad luck. I guess time will tell. But i know i’m buying Liriano stock when he comes back from injury.


It’s not early season anymore. And the last QS by Liriano was May 14. He’s been awful in the 1st inning and terrible 2nd time through a lineup.

Volquez’s good starts have been better than Liriano’s good starts. Volquez’s bad starts have been worse than Liriano’s bad starts, but not by much. Eddie has shown better ability to get later into games this year. Neither has been a bargain, but even Volquez’s beatings are efficient relative to Liriano’s.


aside from a little worse control, Liriano is the same pitcher he was last year.

Same fastball. Same filthy slider. Same high GB%.

The only thing that’s drastically different is the HR/FB %. 2014 = 15%. Career = 10.7%. 2013 = 8.3%.

I just don’t buy that his stuff has fallen to the point where he deserves a rate so out of line from his career. Maybe you see something I don’t. I believe in Liriano. You don’t have to.

However, i AM worried that he won’t come back from injury gracefully. It’s entirely possible that his stuff will decrease when he comes back and will continue to give up dingers.


He’s also up one walk and half a K over last year. He’s less efficient. Only got to 6th inning once in past nine starts. Pushing 4 pitches per batter, which is not good.

Last year he had 7 starts with a Game Score under 50 all year. He’s already accomplished that in less than half a season. He had 12 games over 70 GSc in 2013. This year… one.

Whatever is going on with him, it’s not good.


Liriano has a FIP/xFIP or 3.98 and 3.48, Volquez same numbers are 4.77 and 4.23 and Volquez has lasted only a out later/start than Liriano.

Also I would not make too much of inning splits based on 66 batters faced.

Sean Epstein

The Harrison discussion is overblown IMO. Even with everyone back he is still likely to see 3-4 starts a week. If he keeps swinging the bat the way he has been then you won’t feel bad about sitting anyone (even Cutch) for a day here or there because the offensive drop off would be small. Pedro will sit v. lefties, Walker is gonna need some days off and the outfielders will as well. Further injuries will happen. This is a great problem to have and with Harrison’s attitude there is no worries of him pouting. Snider is likely the odd man out but I would not be surprised to see Barmes go if JHAY shows he can handle SS in an average fashion. Barmes is a luxary that is really not needed because of the strong defense Mercer has shown this year.


Agreed on Harrison. They are never going to sit Cutch, but I can see situations against a tough left hander, where Josh starts in right, and you still have Polanco’s bat and plate discipline for a late in the game pinch hit situation and defensive replacement in right.

Sean Epstein

The idea of Volquez in the pen is intriguing. He has a live arm with a plus breaking ball. What is lacking is consistent command. I have thought for awhile that he would make a pretty good late inning guy. He has ramped it up as high as 98 at times this season and no doubt he could hold that velocity if he pitched in shorter stints. You just can’t DFA a guy with that stuff. These things usually work themselves out but if Liarano comes back and Worley and Locke/Cumpton are still pitching well I would consider using Volques out of the pen in some high leverage situations. The guy clearly has the stuff to be a closer. Question is whether he would accept such a role.


My thoughts as well. I think his stuff would play up extremely well if used in the short bursts of relief. They still don’t quite have the depth to get rid of a stretched-out starter though.

but if/when a good starter is traded for, i think that Volquez-to-the-pen would work well.


I like that idea. But the choices to go down then are Hughes, Gomez or Pimental. I think Gomez and Pimental are out of options. So you choice is Volquez for Hughes. Does Volquez give you more confidence than Hughes?


Regarding what to do with Harrison, I would start by platooning him with Pedro at 3rd for half time at bats and get him more at bats by backing up Walker at 2nd and occasional stints in the outfield as well as PH. Pedro is too complacent and needs a kick in the ass. Maybe a demotion to platoon status would do the trick. It’s not just his recent dearth of home runs and .230ish average, but his lack of 2Bs is troubling for a power hitter. He isn’t driving any balls to the gaps.

This lack of 2Bs is also an odd anomaly for the whole team. The Pirates are next to last in MLB in 2Bs yet are average or above in offense (mostly due to high OBP due to walks). What is up with that? We particularly need 2Bs for positions 4, 5, 6 to drive in positions 1, 2, 3 who are doing a decent job of getting on base.


Pedro hit .250 in May and is at .292 in June. His Ks are down, his plate discipline has improved. What’s down is his HR/FB ratio. He’s obviously been working on better zone management, but for the moment at the expense of his power.

That indicates to me that you pretty much have to keep playing him full time vs. RHs, and ideally more often than that until he works out the balance that enables him to control his zone AND hit for power. And if the Bucs aren’t willing to do that, then they really should trade him, and commit to Walker at 3b, Hanson at 2b and Josh as IF backup for 2015.

Pedro as a p/t player makes little to no sense, IMO.


And he hasn’t hit a homer or driven in a run since Iraq was a stable country.


I missed the news, is Iraq stable this morning?


If the Pirates could package Pedro and a few others for a number 1 starter I wouldn’t be at all upset. This is a pivotal season for Pedro. To be an impact player he was projected to be he needs to be at the .275/.350/.500/.850 level. So far he isn’t close. It seems like he’s slowed his bat to place it on the ball. That can’t be his answer.


“It seems like he’s slowed his bat to place it on the ball.”

Indeed. Thought I was the only one that noticed.


The guiding principle for making these decisions should be: what best prepares the 2015 team? I think that Liriano, Volquez, Tabata and Snider have played themselves off of the 2015 team by their performances so far this year.

I want to keep Locke, Cumpton and Worley in the rotation because they all have decent chances to be contributors in 2015 and they need the MLB training this year to make them more effective next year. The Pirates need to either trade or DFA first Volquez when Cole is ready to return and then Liriano after he has completed rehab (for trade value), If you gain some prospects great, but even if you lose them through the DFA process you lose the salary, as esavage suggested earlier.

Neither Tabata or Snider should be on the team. There is a good chance that the 4th outfielder next year will be Rojas, but he hasn’t had enough time in AAA yet. Dickerson has been playing well and deserves a promotion. Let’s see what he can do as a 4th outfielder and see if he can establish some trade value. So I would either trade or DFA both Tabata and Snider when Walker is ready to return and promote Chris Dickerson from AAA to take the 4th outfielder spot for the balance of 2014. This sets up a competition for the 4th outfielder spot next Spring between Dickerson and Rojas.

S Brooks

Liriano and Volquez are free agents, so they’re not really “on” the 2015 team to play themselves off in the first place.

Otherwise, I think your principal is sound, but premature. The Pirates are still very much in contention for the wildcard. 10 games upcoming against the last-in-the-AL Rays, the Mets at home and the last in the NL D-Backs, while St. Louis just lost Wacha and Garcia, and Atlanta is still trying to score runs. Things could look very different by next weekend. I don’t think now is the time to start focusing on 2015. If they crap the bed and go 3-7 over the next ten and find themselves behind the Mets and Phillies…well, maybe then you focus on the second set of moves that maybe brings in a C prospect or two.

For the record, I would outright Tabata. Nobody’s taking that contract, and Snider does provide the extra lefty off the bench.


I should have been more specific and said that Liriano’s and Volquez’s play to date doesn’t provide any motivation to sign them for 2015 from the FA market. I haven’t given up on 2014 yet. I just think that the moves to make with 2015 in mind will play out better in 2014 as well. I think that a rotation of Cole/Morton/Locke/Worley/Cumpton will outperform a Cole/Morton/Liriano/Volquez/(one of Locke/Worley/Cumpton) rotation in 2H2014. I also think Dickerson will also outplay whoever remains of Tabata/Snider after Walkers return.

S Brooks

Well, as long as we’re still playing for today, then it makes sense to me to keep as much SP depth as possible for the second half of the season. As long as Frankie and Volquez are able to keep the team in games, the Pirates are better off keeping them on the squad and turning to Locke & Cumpton for depth when they’re needed (and history suggests they’ll be needed). Let’s not forget that Volquez carried a sub-4 ERA into the game against Cincy last week and is 3rd on the team in QS. And Frankie’s upside is greater than anyone else’s on the staff not named Cole, notwithstanding the disappointing first half.


I guess it depends on who you think will perform better in 2H2014, Liriano/Volquez or Locke/Cumpton (given that you can’t risk losing Worley who is out of options by sending him down. My thought is that Locke/Cumpton will perform as least as well and probably better than the other two, and that you can get some trade value now for Liriano/Volquez which otherwise expires at the end of the season. I pull the trigger now and trade Liriano/Volquez thinking I will do better with Locke/Cumpton anyway.


I should have added that emergency depth at AAA is Sadler and Kingham.

S Brooks

Whether I think they’re better or not, I don’t think there’s enough difference between Liriano+Volquez vs. Locke+Cumpton to justify selling off the latter two with half a season to go, reducing our depth to Sadler – who was knocked around in his first cup of coffee – and Kingham, who is just a year removed from pitching in Bradenton. Among Cole’s shoulder (which for all we know could be a chronic thing this year), Morton’s never having started 30 games in a season before and Locke’s H2 fade, the chances are pretty good that the Bucs will be calling on that depth for a handful of starts.

Frankly, Volquez shouldn’t even be a candidate to be dealt. In 10 of his 14 starts he’s given the Bucs a legitimate shot to win.


Chris Dickerson is 32. Not exactly full of potential. It would be foolish to dump both Tabata and Snider to bring up a veteran who’s having a nice AAA season. He’s there for injury depth. And Rojas definitely needs a full season in AAA.

Plus, Josh Harrison is the 4th OF right now. Tabata/Snider/Dickerson would see very few starts no matter who you keep, so might as well not dump all your depth.


Keeping guys with consistently under .700 OPS on your roster isn’t a good idea. Dickerson is hitting .305/.401/.462/.862 at AAA this season. It would be reasonable to project MLB stats of .275/.350/.420/.790 which is a lot better than Tabata (.289/.327/.331/.658) or Snider (.235/.322/.356/.678). I don’t care if he is relatively old. He’s just a candidate for a backup position this year and maybe next. After that the 4th outfielder is Rojas’ position for a few years. Jaff Decker, or in a month, Andrew Lambo could provide emergency depth if necessary.


Can’t argue with any of the assumptions here, although Cumpton/Locke is reasonably close to a coin flip, but it is certainly time to give snider his Jeff Clement Memorial Draft Bust wristwatch and send him on his way.


Snider has a 0.0 WAR since 2011 so I feel like he makes the decision easy even though he has played ok lately.

Zoltan McBurgher

I’m not sure anything is cut-and-dried. The obvious move is to send Cumpton down when Cole gets back and Locke down when Frankie returns simply because of options.

But those aren’t the only possible moves.

It’s possible Pimintel is the one sent down and Volquez slides into relief. Eddie’s best innings are the 1st and 5th. He doesn’t walk anyone in the 1st inning of starts. Logic suggests you could trust him for an inning in relief. I think Neal would seriously consider doing this rather than eat more salary with a DFA. Then again, they could trade Volquez I suppose. He’s made enough of a comeback to have at least some value.

I don’t know who came up with the “Liriano is good every other year” meme. Yes, he was good in 06 and 08. But he missed all of 07. And yes, he had a good 2010. Then he was awful for two years. I see no reason to think he’ll be very good again anytime this season or next.

Unlike Eddie, Frankie is a 1st inning disaster (untouchable in 2nd inning though, which is weird). Thus, no projected value as reliever.

If Neal does decide to DFA someone, they’ll owe Liriano about $3 mil and Volquez $2.5 mil. So does it really matter? The overall stats would indicate Liriano is the better pitcher this year. Higher K rate, lower xFIP, higher WAR, etc. But Volquez has 5 QS to Liriano’s 3. And Frankie has only had 2 decent outings since beginning of May.

IMO, the sum of all that indicates you let Frankie go and keep Eddie, if you’re going to DFA someone. And maybe Liriano has more perceived value in the market.

As far as Snider v. Tabata, IMO, Snider can win you games off the bench. Tabby is probably the better all around OF/player, but as a bench piece, he’s not all that valuable. And how much playing time will either see in the OF – especially if Josh is going to get every available AB. I think you keep Snider for that reason – plus he’s the only LH bat off the bench when Pedro/Ike start. Snider already understands his role is to be a PH. Tabby would likely find more opportunities elsewhere as he’s more versatile and more a classic 4th OF than a pure bench guy.

Then again, one of the hosts on 93.7 suggested this weekend that there is discontent on Federal St. over Pedro. So maybe he’s being shopped. We know Hurdle loves the flexibility Harrison provides. So who knows what might happen there.

DG Lewis

Pimentel is out of options, so can’t be sent down without clearing waivers.


Well, that was an important detail to miss. I’m usually on top of contracts/options details. So let’s take Eddie going to the BP off the table, since that would require Hughes to go down.

If it comes down to a DFA, I still keep Eddie over Liriano. And I still take Snider over Tabata for the aforementioned reasons.


Where’s my post now?

Lee Young

right here


Why not DFA Tabata. He might not get claimed because of his contract. Mazzaro didn’t get claimed. And if he does get claimed, the contract is off the books of the Pirates. Snider is a lefthander, has become a valuable pinch-hitter, and has more power.


I think that if tabata goes unclaimed, he would become an unrestricted free agent. That would mean any team could sign him for the minimum and the pirates would be responsible for the rest.

I could be wrong, but that’s my understanding.


That’s true. Could be a win-win. Then the Pirates could eve work out a deal where they eat a few mil of Tabta’s contract and maybe add a minor leaguer with some potential.

Lee Young

interesting thought…that might work.

Monsoon Harvard

I would take Cumpton out since he has options, but if Volquez gets
knocked around again in his start Monday, I would rather they DFA him, even though they’d have to eat salary. Even when Volquez is good he still scares the heck out of me because I know he can fall apart at any moment. Cole, Morton, Locke, Cumpton & Worley are all safer bets and I’m comfortable with them.

I would rather see them move Tabata
than Snider because Snider is their best pinch hitter. His role as a
pinch hitter is a needed role on the team, and he’s filled it better
than anyone else. Plus they might be able to get a prospect for Tabata from some desperate team.


Sorry, basing a roster decision on performance in 37 PAs is just dumb,


If no one else agrees with you Monsoon, you have my vote of . In my eyes there is no comparison when it comes to Snider and Tabata, or Volquez vs the other pitchers you mention.


I’m torn as to which one I’d cut – but I wouldn’t base my decision at all on their pinch hitting. Yes, Snyder has an pinch-hitting OPS this year that is 100 points higher than Tabata – but it is in a sample size of 32 AB’s. Meaningless. Last year Tabata’s pinch-hitting OPS was 50 points higher than Snyder. Also meaningless.

If someone would give up a prospect for either, then that would be my tiebreaker. To trade Tabata, however, will require the Bucs to eat some of his salary.


Who is ” Snyder ” Steave ?


Snider misspelled slightly less than “Pimental” but slightly more than when “Cedano” was with the Bucs playing SS.

Alex Henry

complete agree in fact it is hard to see it any other way really. I never have been a Barmes fan but he is more to the team then Snider. The only time Barmes could become expendable is if they make Josh Harrison a shortstop during Jordy’s off days. I find that unlikely so therefore he will be with the club for the foreseeable future.

Ron Loreski

And what happens if Jordy Mercer goes down with an injury?

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