First Pitch: Have the Pirates Filled All of Their Needs Already?

Today might have wrapped up one of the most busy Winter Meetings I can remember. Normally on a Thursday, things have died down, the Rule 5 draft takes place, and it’s all over. This morning there were a wave of transactions that almost made you think the general managers wouldn’t make it for the draft.

The Pirates didn’t have an active day. They didn’t select anyone at all in the draft, and lost three players. None of the players they lost will be a big blow to the system. Andy Oliver and Tyler Waldron have a shot at the majors, but at best they are middle relievers. The Pirates didn’t do anything today, but they were active this week, and may have left the Winter Meetings with all of their off-season needs filled.

On Sunday I wrote about how the Pirates had one big need heading into the meetings, and that was a top of the rotation starter. They filled that need on Tuesday, bringing back Francisco Liriano on a three-year deal. With the earlier off-season addition of A.J. Burnett, the Pirates now have their rotation set. Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Burnett will top the rotation. Charlie Morton will take the fourth spot when he’s healthy. Until then, Jeff Locke and Vance Worley will fill out the final two spots.

The depth behind those starters include Brandon Cumpton, Clayton Richard, and Casey Sadler early in the season. The top prospects who could join the team by mid-season include Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Adrian Sampson. Overall, that’s 12 starters the Pirates have at the moment who can pitch in the majors at various times throughout the year.

The other big need the Pirates had to fill this off-season was at catcher. They filled that earlier by trading for Francisco Cervelli. Some might not like the move, but Cervelli provides a ton of defense, which is something the Pirates prioritize. There’s also a slight hope that he can hit, in addition to providing that strong defense. He has an .822 OPS in a very small sample size of 223 plate appearances the last two years, and a .729 OPS in 785 plate appearances in his career. The big question is whether he can stay healthy enough to put up those numbers over an entire season.

Last week the Pirates upgraded their bench by adding Sean Rodriguez. Eventually that trade will be completed, most likely with a Rule 5 guy. However, the player to be named later has not been named just yet. Rodriguez is on the team, and is a lock to make the squad as a utility infielder. The Pirates have added a lot of cheap infielders through waiver claims and minor league free agency, and could fill the second infield role through that route.

The bullpen was a problem last year, and was dealt a small blow this off-season when the Pirates sent out Justin Wilson for Cervelli. That created a need for a second left-hander, which they filled on Wednesday by trading Joely Rodriguez for Antonio Bastardo. They could also use relief pitching depth and options to fill out the bullpen, and they’ve been working on that in the form of waiver claims and minor league free agents. They added another option earlier this week when they claimed Josh Lindblom.

So what is left?

There were rumors today that the Marlins were looking at Pedro Alvarez. If the Pirates did eventually trade Alvarez, it would create a hole at first base. They’d also be selling low on Alvarez, coming off his worst season in the last three years. It looks like first base will be the spot to watch going forward, although I don’t know if that means they’ll do anything at the position.

I could see them continuing to make minor moves for the bullpen and bench, with waiver claims and minor league free agents adding depth.

The Francisco Liriano and Radhames Liz deals need to become official, which should happen in the next week. There is currently an open spot on the 40-man roster, which means only one more spot will need to be opened for those two pitchers.

The annual Neil Walker extension rumors have started, which reminds us that extensions are also a possibility for the remainder of the off-season.

Then there’s the possibility that the Pirates could get creative in the next two months, trying to find ways to upgrade the team in creative ways (like dealing Alvarez for an upgrade, then replacing him with a good first base option, assuming that’s even possible).

At the end of the Winter Meetings, the Pirates find themselves in a good position. They could pack it in now, and pretty much be done for the off-season, with just a few small moves for depth needed, and maybe some specific moves like a platoon option for first base. That wouldn’t be a bad approach, since this is a team that looks like it can contend. Or, they could get creative, and try to upgrade the team even more. It’s easy to say that’s the way they should go, and they definitely can go that route knowing that this roster provides a safety net.

I don’t know if the Pirates are done for the off-season, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to see where they go from here.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide will be sent to the publisher soon, and will hopefully be released in the next week. All of that depends on how quickly I get the book back from the publisher. You can pre-order your copy here.

**Pedro Alvarez Mentioned as a First Base Possibility For the Marlins

**Pirates Lose Andy Oliver and Two Others in the Rule 5 Draft

**Winter Leagues: Elias Diaz Homers, Alen Hanson Takes Batting Practice

First Pitch

  • Neal made an interesting point on Bastardo on radio yesterday, noting that their data shows many of Bastardo’s walks were with 1b open, leading the FO to believe he was pitching around a number of batters due to Phillie’s park and defense, and that PNC/Bucs defense would allow him to go more aggressively after hitters.

    Made some sense and makes me feel a little better that Bastardo could be an improvement over Hughes.

  • Who projects as our right handed bench bat since losing Gaby. (Assuming we don’t resign him)

  • I suppose that I am in the minority, but I don’t see that this teams is any better now then it was last year, and may have taken a step backward. I love AJ, but I don’t know how much he has left at his age, and at best, he would equal Volquez. Resigning Liriano is a push. While I doubt Martin can continue to hit like he did last year, we probably took a step back at catcher. First base is still a mess. I don’t think Alvarez is the answer there, and I am of the opinion that he doesn’t want to be there, and that will be a problem. Taillon may need the whole year in AAA to recover from his surgery. So as I see it, we are still a proven starter and first baseman short of having a team that can make a STRONG run to the WS.

    • No more Wandy, bad Grilli, bad Frieri, and they shouldn’t have the bad starts to the season by Cole and Liriano this year. This is the biggest improvement that they will make this year.

      the team had 88 wins. how much can you reasonably think they can improve that?

      Sure… i’m up for trading for a guy like Jordan Zimmermann… a great pitcher with 1 yr left on his deal… but this team really doesn’t have any obvious hole to fill and bump this up to a 100 win team.

    • There is no way to tell whether this team is better or worse at this time of year, you could go point/counter point all day with that one. You pointed out a couple of places where they could be worse, but in the end, how much depth they have is what will carry the day and determine how far they go. The NL
      Central looks tougher than it was last year and it was tough last year and there are so many if’s on every team. They could win 85 games next year and be a better team than they were last year, the tougher competition equates to less wins IMO.

  • Another pitcher would be a luxury, they have enough starting pitching talent for now. The only position that is not filled is 1st base, since I am not a proponent of musical chairs just to get someone on the field, I don’t see them having any 1st basemen on this team right now. They could make Walker, Alvarez, Lambo, Mercer or Snider into a first basemen, but none are a 1st basemen at this time, with a team that can compete for a title, patching up a hole with an unknown is a bad idea and not necessary to me.

    • I actually wouldn’t mind seeing them dump Alvarez in a proverbial salary dump and sign up Michael Morse. Can hit righties and lefties, so no need for a platoon partner.

      • I would not want to see them dump Alvarez for the sake of getting rid of him, I would like to see them fix the 1st base issue, however that could be done, Alvarez is a gamble right now that I don’t think they have to take, they can trade for a 1st basemen, if that takes Alvarez and a player or two more, so be it.

  • Fun to speculate on hammels so here goes my trade, taillon, mcguire, pedro, kingham with a fifth guy being probable. Never happen imo but hey it’s fun to look at. On another note the pirates should have traded pedro last off season to maximize his value, with no criticism of nh intended I think this is a case of a gm being to close with his guy. With pedros poor play last season and his inconsistent hitting since joining the big club I do not see a big return for pedro whenever it is that he is traded, best case scenario is as part of a package deal.

    • Cole Hamels has no where near that much trade value, he is due $94 million over four years, he will not command three organizational top 10 guys, let alone three from the Pirates system.

      • Truth. When player is paid what he is worth, he becomes no different than a free agent… which you get… for free

  • lonleylibertarian
    December 12, 2014 9:19 am

    Right hand bat for the bench – Scott Van Slyke is not going to get more playing time with the Dogers apparently committing to Jock Pederson as their center fielder. Pirates could use him at 1st in a Pedro platoon or the corner outfield spots to spell those guys.

    • I would love to see it!

    • Given that they really like his versatility along with his contract, I would guess that it would be pretty difficult to pry him away from the Dodgers now. And that’s ” Joc ” lonely !

    • Van Slyke would be an excellent addition, but like Walter points out, Dodger value him highly. He isn’t young but has a lot of years of control left and what would it cost for someone who is going to get 250 plate appearances?

    • Nitpicking part of the post that hasnt aleady been commented on, but the notion that we need a guy to spell the OFers is flawed for me for 2 reasons. 1, and most obvious, Travis Snider. More importantly, i dont want Cutch getting spelled more than 3-5 games all year. Same goes for Marte, though one can speculate he may miss time with injury.

      • One could speculate that about anyone. That’s the breaks. It’s pretty safe to say though that Polanco, Marte, and Cutch are not all going to play 140 games. Playing time for Snider will be there; just maybe not right away.

        • I can pretty well speculate that Cutch will play over 150 games since he has each year he has started from OD. Every year Marte has been good from OD he has played over 130 games. And lastly, Polanco has no legit history of injury, so i can expect as he plays well he plays over 140 games. Thus, i dont want any OF on this team missing more than 20 games without a damn good reason.

  • Not about the Bucs, but a great interview with A’s exec on how Oakland approached this offseason. Very interesting read: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/qa-david-forst-assistant-general-manager-oakland-athletics/

  • IMO I think they need another starting pitcher.

  • William Wallace
    December 12, 2014 8:14 am

    I would go after EV with a two year deal. Let the guys in AAA develop another year. Morton, Worley and Locke are big if’s. Make the NL Central an arms race.

    • Volquez is about as big an “if” as Morton, Worley, and Locke.

      • He was before last season ..Sometimes pitchers just need to have someone identify a problem that no one else sees and fix it. They have turned so many pitchers careers around. This is what worries me about Morton. Even the Genius combo of Ray Searage and Jim Benedict can’t get anu sort of consistency from him. It’s because he chokes under pressure. and folds in the face of adversity.

        • That’s the perception of Morton. I have yet to see anybody put up any kind of analysis that suggests it’s reality.

  • The Pirates were a finalist to sign McCarthy before he signed with the Dodgers. So it seems they still have a chunk of money they are still willing to spend in the right situation. I would not be surprised to see them add another quality starter.

  • Well, they did fill all their holes. But I keep feeling like they did it with Phil Swift’s Flex Seal instead of recommended OEM parts.

  • Other than the questions at 1st, the team has no glaring holes. When was the last time we could say that?
    Another SP and RP would be nice, as well as a RHB. And of course a 1st base full time starter. But so far I am happy with the team. Also can’t forget this team has better depth than years past.
    One can better than the team by signing high war player or add depth so we have no negative war guys. (We’re ranked pretty low in fan graphs in games played by negative war players). I think that’s what NH is doing now and I say smart for him.

  • RH 1B is a need, and I still think Kyle Blanks is an excellent option. Right now the pen shapes up as Melanin-Watson-Bastardo-Hughes-Holdzkom-Liz-Pimentel, and Locke booting someone when Morton comes back (assuming no other injuries). The last 3 scare me – whole lotta high beta guys right there. I’d sure like to go into the season feeling this pen was solid at least 5 deep and take my chances with the last 2.

    • Pimentel should be on a very short leash. He’s gonna have to put it together or its time to move on. We can’t have another season basically with a Rule 5 player in the bullpen. Especially because we don’t know what we’re gonna get out of Liz.

    • How many bullpens realistically have 5 solid guys? That isnt really a thing for 90% of teams. Nearly every bullpen sees about 4 good to great options, with 2-3 that are either very situational (LOOGY or guy that cant ever throw against a certain type of hitter) or have similar beta issues are ours. STL had guys like Choate and Siegrist that those fans dreaded at times.

  • I’m definitely thinking the Pirates will try t get Volquez or something similar

  • Yes, they’ve filled their needs.

    Liriano, Cole, Burnett, Worley, (Morton, Kingham, Locke, Taillon, Cumpton) is a good rotation.

    The bullpen is solid.

    The OF is very good….whether Polanco steps up or Snider fills in.

    I like C, 2B, and SS. Hopefully Harrison will continue his tear and Pedro steps up. If not…that leaves only two question marks out of eight positions…and that’s not too shabby.

  • We heard yesterday that the Pirates are done looking at Starting pitching but they were one of the final teams trying to sign McCarthy. If this is true this would have added another 10-12 miliion a year on our payroll which would have put us near 100 million dollars on opening day. A place most believed they wouldn’t go to this year. He signed with LA for 12 a year, so the Pirates had to be in that ball park. I think this says a lot and the off season is far from over. I definitely see them getting another starter and going for it hard this year. I think they might be going all in so to speak because they will probably loo to trade Alvarez and Walker at the end of 2015 if they can’t or don’t want to try to extend them. This to me is the biggest eye opener if it’s true because it says an awful lot

  • There is no way in the world that the Marlins would take Pedro for Eovaldi straight up. I would like to see Huntington bring in another arm for the bullpen. It was such a huge strength two seasons ago.

    • They just overpaid to get Dee Gordon. Who really knows what they’d do to make Stanton happy.

  • Volquez is still sitting there. One service I monitor has him ranked as the 4th best unsigned free agent starting pitcher behind Scherzer, Shields and Kuroda, and the 9th best free agent starting pitcher overall. After Volquez, you have to go very far down the free agent list to find the next highest ranked available starters – 36 year old Aaron Harang and 37 year old Ryan Vogelsong.

    Volquez might just be a good pickup to really give the team a lot of flexibility coming into the start of the season.

    The service had Liriano ranked as the 5th best free agent pitcher overall, behind only Scherzer, Lester, Shields and Santana.

    • I would take Liriano over Santana every day of the week and twice on Sunday!

      • Agreed. Honestly, I’m not even sure that Lester and Shields are going to turn out to be good signings long-term for their new teams. I think the Cubs are over-paying for the recent Lester hype. Who would have paid that kind of money for Lester 2 years ago when he was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA? Even if he pitches the best of his career, he still won’t be close to the numbers that Kershaw and Cueto put up last season.

      • Personally, I think the main reason I don’t like Santana is that every time I look at him I hear Milli Vanilli.

  • The Pirates were 15-5 vrs the Cubs. Last year. we’ll have to make up some of those games some where else. They were also 7-12 against the Reds. They’ll need to do much better against the Reds and the Central in 2015

    • They’ll have winning records against both teams next year, no worries. The cubs are still a year or two away and the reds traded away two of their best pitchers, they don’t think they can win. It will be Pirates vs Cardinals again

    • there were also teams that they did oddly terrible against. Simple luck should regain them some wins elsewhere.

    • William Wallace
      December 12, 2014 8:11 am

      Could not agree with you more. Need to flip the w/l against the Reds. NL Central will not have any patsies.

    • Reds figure to be worse going forward, and 1 year stats against a team dont always mean much since its super variable.

  • This is the year! My friends balked when I said this team would be back in the playoffs last year, calling 2013 a fluke. This is the year though where we get those breaks. A scary outfield, a good infield, and if Pedro can hit just a little bit like 2013… this team might be one of the best offensive teams in the league. Cervelli is a sneaky move that I hope people realize will be one of NH best moves, ever (If he stays healthy). I believe that we will win the division this year!

    • Cervelli was a great move. I was reading about him before the trade. In 2 years he might be better than Martin.

      • Cervelli has monster tools. All he needs to do is stay healthy and we will be in great shape. Remember when St Louis traded for Jim Edmonds? He was an overrated, overpaid stiff who could never stay out of the trainers tub until he exchanged Angels red for Cardinals red. Then he became a perennial allstar. Cervelli has that upside.

    • We got breaks last year. Pirates missed the fewest games due to injury of any team in MLB – by a wide margin.

      Last year, Locke and Cumpton stepped up early to steady the rotation. As Locke is already planned to be in the rotation, if anyone goes down early, it’s probably Cumpton and Sadler. And if the Bucs have to start Sadler, we’re doomed.

      Cervelli will be a quality backstop. The question I have is whether that’s this year. The guy hasn’t caught more than 50 games since 2010. Even if he stays off the DL, can his body hold up and be productive for a full season?

      I have my fingers crossed.

      • that first stat about games missed to injury is shocking. it seems like everyone was DL’d at least once.

        I guess the lack of tommy johns and torn ACLs was kept to a minimum, so there were very few long stays on the DL.

      • BS, we had tons of injuries! Marte missed 30 games, Cutch hit the DL, Walker was hurt twice. Cole missed over a month, I’ll keep going. Martin hit the DL, Liriano was hurt the whole first half and finally hit the DL – Morton missed over a month, , Pedro missed September, we lost Taillon for a year in Spring Training. Yes he was expected to contribute in the 2nd half. Yes every team gets injuries but the Bucs had a lot of key injuries!

        • But fewer days on DL than any other team in MLB.

          • Maybe fewer but they were KEY injuries

            • Not going to argue you there. Obviously Cutch missing two weeks is much worse than Snider missing same. But it’s still a break overall. Nobody lost for the season (Pedro and Morton in Sept), no TJs, broken bones, etc. More than 100 fewer days on DL than next best team. It could’ve been much, much worse.
              http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2222445-inside-the-2014-numbers-of-each-mlb-teams-regular-season-injury-impact

              The importance of that stat is the Bucs were never put into a situation where they had to make an unfavorable trade costing prospects/money to get a replacement for a long-term injury.

              • Hopefully this year the main guys can stay healthy. I know Cervelli will hit the DL, most likely Walker at some point, good chance on Liriano. Marte probably will hit the DL or miss a week at some point. I thnk the Taillon injury was a big blow last year. I had really high hopes for him in the 2nd half last year. I am hoping he can do it this year but not as high coming off TJ.

                • The other thing is that Bucs know that if they nail someone’s star player, that team is probably coming after Cutch. So not only was Frieri a dumpster fire as a reliever, he cost us our MVP for a couple of weeks. Basically a self-inflicted injury, regardless what one thinks of AZ’s retaliation tactics.

                  • Yeah Frieri did nothing but hurt the team. I still don’t believe he threw at Goldschmidt intentionally though. He just sucked and had no control!

              • I wonder if this has anything to do with how young we are? I have no idea, just a thought.

                • Young pitchers are more likely to get TJs than older ones. And Bucs aren’t really that young anymore.

                  • The bucs aren’t that old either. I don’t have time to really dig into it today, but just a quick look at the rangers and padres’ injuries tells me that 30+ year old players were the ones that missed significant time. I think Russell Martin was the only offensive player over 30 years old.

                    I’m not trying to argue with you, just found that bleacher report article interesting and I’m wondering if there were some other factors at play besides just luck.

                    • No argument. Just noting that we do have a lot of guys already into their “prime”. Average age was 28.3 last year, 19th in MLB Subtract Martin/Volquez,add AJ plus another year on the regulars, probably looking at middle of the pack age-wise this year.

      • Noticed how you failed to mention that it is realistic that an early season injury to Locke does entertain the chance of Kingham pitching until Locke is healthy, as he wont play enough to ruin his service time unless its a long term injury, and even then they may not mind Super 2 for Kingham as much. The bucs in now way “have” to start Sadler if Locke goes down.

        To say we got “breaks” last year is to credit the depth (which has gotten better) because its odd to call Liriano and Cole getting injured and the staff keeping the team useful along with managing to be .500 with Cutch down a week.

  • The main difference between 2014 and 2015 will be Cervelli instead of Martin and Burnett instead of Volquez. The Pirates will also be without Wilson, but replaced him with Bastardo. Do the Pirates believe Holdskom will continue to be on option as a reliever? Pedro will need to bat .270 and hit 35 homers to say this team is an upgrade over the 2014 version.

    • Pedro needs to hit for sure, but I don’t think we can say that right now, this team is better or worse than last years team. Martin had a great year, but Pedro had a great year prior to that when Martin had a poor offensive year. I believe this team will be just as good, if not better when next year is all said and done. I am more excited to hopefully see Kingham and Taillon in the Majors. That would be very awesome. We need a right handed 1B to platoon with Alvarez but I can say, this is probably the offseason where I have been so happy to be a Pirate fan.

      We might have one of the best outfields in baseball, our SP are good, and our infield seems to be set for a couple years! I am so freaking excited!!!!!! Lets go Bucs!

      • I think they will be better. Here’s why. With Burnett you have a guy that doesn’t need to be “fixed” by Searage. It took Volquez a while to get fixed and learn to repeat those fixes. So your ahead there. Marte finally figured it out after the ASG. You can reasonably expect that trend to continue, making him a major contributor this year. Again your getting that production all year. Polanco will be better, if not Snider seems to have found his game. Better there. Mercer got used to paying in the ML’s every day after a slow start.
        they replaced an ineffective Wilson with an effective Bastardo. 1st is a big unknown but I think they will do something.
        Finally” KNOWING you can win. Last year was a much harder drive to the play offs, they had to chase the entire year to get in. Something they didn’t have to do the year before. But they overcame a slow start and played very well for an extended period of time and ran down the competition. Now they’re certain they can do whatever it takes to win games and get to the playoffs. That type of confidence goes a long way.

    • Depth is why they will be better. The bench IMO is already greatly improved, you won’t see a Jayson Nix or Michael Martinez this year. Also pitching depth, Taillon and Kingham are going to probably be major league ready by June or July, those are top arms that have now matured and can be plugged in, same goes for other prospects like Alen Hanson and so on. The Pirates have more premiere talent on the cusp of the majors this year then they did last year, that’s a huge difference IMO.

      • you are forgetting that Harrison was our “SUPER” sub..filling in the OF, SS,2B and 3B..Rodriquez is not going to put up those numbers.so bench is actually worse..

        • I completely agree. We had our former starting SS as our backup MIF last year too. Now it’s Pedro Florimon or one of those fungible signees. And I’m at the top of the list of people happy that Brent Morel won’t be on the ML roster this year. But who comes up if Harrison gets hurt. Rodriguez would start, but who takes that bench spot. I don’t have a clue who will play 3B in Indy this year. I do know it. Won’t be a prospect.

          • Guessing it will be Debinson Romero, who they just signed. Fangraphs had him as the highest projected value minor league free agent at the time, estimating a 1.9 WAR over a full season, mainly by his glove. Not going to be thrilled if we see him, but there’s worse depth. Also, there’s the chance Pedro learns to throw, but not counting on it.

            • The issue for me with Romero is if he is good why couldn’t he even get to the mlb for a cup of coffee with the lowly Twins? He is 28 and still hasn’t gotten a chance yet…and the fielding thing I am not sure…he must have great range because he made a lot of errors at 3B last year and a fair amount at 1B for his career. Nothing in his past implies he is even close to as good as Rodriguez.

          • In a situation like that, they likely entertain the idea of moving Pedro to 3B and having a guy like Lambo take over part time at 1B before just giving Rodriguez full time starting duties. Particularly if Pedro were hitting well at the time.

          • Florimon shows the ability to be a really good fielding SS. He also has some nice tools offensively that haven’t evolved because of his terrible patience and contact.

        • Harrison really wasnt a bench player after a month or so, he was playing about 75% of the time. Yes, he was part of the bench but was seeing more playing time than any “bench” player in baseball. For most of last year, the bench was awful with Morel and Martinez types thanks to Barmes being hurt. A full year bench of Snider/Stewart/Rodriguez/Florimon or defensive first SS/1B backup is pretty decent in comparison with other benches. Not a lot of difference quality wise with that and the STL bench.

        • …but hopefully Harrison reaches 85% of what he did last year and Pedro is a plus defensive 1B and at least hits decently vs righties…this would counteract not having Harrison as a super-Util. S-Rod has been a plus WAR player for 5 years, but it has also declined every year so he could very well be close to a 0 WAR guy. I hope he isn’t but I am hoping for Hanson at some point…although he has no OF experience.

    • The main difference has to be continued development of Marte and Polanco. Marte gave the team All-Star caliber play the last couple months. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think he won’t do it for the entire season. And Polanco must adjust back to what the league did to him in the 2nd half of the season. I’m sure the Pirates are expecting big things from Polanco this year.

      Pitching will be a big part of the success, or lack there of, next season, but for me the big improvement of the team will be from Marte and Polanco.

    • 270 for pedro? Hahahahahaha…

      • If Pedro can stay in the .240-250 range and hit 30+ HR, I think most of us will be happy. Only way Pedro hits .270 is if he has a hot April and then has a season ending injury

    • You are pretty much talking about aggregates here, but 1B produced a .689 OPS for the Pirates last year. Pedro will improve on that fairly easily. But to make up the difference between Cervelli and Martin ’14, it will take a lot. Then again, there’s also the .674 OPS from right field, which should also improve.

      • I don’t even think bringing Martin himself back would make up for the OPS drop we’ll see behind the plate. He had a great year, supported by a pretty high BABIP. I hate saying he was lucky, but well, the ball probably will veer a little more direclty at fielders next year.

    • Cervelli instead of Martin. The only way one thinks that is a HUGE step down is if they project Martin to have another career year hitting. Say he hits like his first year in PIT, .227/.326/.377/.703 with a 100 OPS+ and a 100 wRC+. Numbers at that level, which he saw mostly from 2009-2013, arent shockingly tough to replicate. We likely arent going to see a huge difference between our C offense and Martin’s next year. So its mostly defense, where Cervelli actually rates as good at framing as Martin, and is a very solid game manager and blocker. For me, the only sizable difference will be caught stealing, since Martin was tops and Cervilli has been league average.

      As for Burnett vs. Volquez, if Burnett is healthy and our defense continues to be much better than the Phils defense, thats a wash for me. This offense will still be top 5, imo, unless 3+ guys see serious regression and Polanco doesnt improve at all. Pitching staff seems deeper than last year to start.

    • they also won’t have Pedro throwing souvenirs to fans every other game, Wandy Rodriguez, the bad version of Grilli that we saw when he was still here, the bad version of Frieri that we saw here, Jeanmar, and they WILL have a possible broken-out Snider… and yes… i would say that they have high hopes for Holdzkom… and why wouldn’t you?

  • Would involving Pedro Alvarez in a deal that is rumored to be for Nathan Eovaldi be considered selling low? A few weeks ago in one of your threads suggested this very trade. Alvarez for Nathan Evovaldi. I see Eovaldi as a very solid 2 or 3 starter if he performs to his upside. He ranked among the tops I baseball in average fastball velocity. I believe if we landed him or something like him we would have the best rotation in the central aND one of the best in mlb. It would however concern me with the hole it would leabe at 1st

    • Chris: Good point. Phillies have Hamels and are supposedly looking for lesser MLB guys – possibly 3’s who are already successful MLB guys and under control for a long period of time. Hamels had 31 starts last year and an ERA just under 3.00. How about Worley and Locke who combined for 38 starts and just over a 3.00 ERA? May need more, but Hamels, Cole, and Liriano for at least the next 3 years would be a real nice situation. Add Burnett and Morton and the Pirates become the best Rotation in the NL Central.

      • One problem with that. Bucs would still have to pay Hamels $23.5 million/year.

        • Actually that is $22.5 mil for his ages 31, 32, 33, and 34, and there is also a $20 mil option for a 5th year which will be his age 35 season. The Cardinals have Wainwright, the Cubs have Lester, and the Reds have Cueto. The money should not be an issue. We no longer have the $7.5 mil from Wandy, $8.5 mil of Martin, $5 mil of Volquez for a total of $21 mil. Liriano will cost us $5 mil more than last year, AJ is $8.5 mil, and the Pirates stated at the beginning of the off-season that they could increase the team payroll by $20 mil for 2015. Pay that $22.5 mil and we would still be under that overall increase, and have a Rotation starting with at least 2 and possibly 3 No. 1’s.

          • I might be a few days behind on this, but I believe Bucs were around $71 mill for 2015 before Liriano. So it’s now $84 mill if I have my #s correct. So you want to shoot right past the $90s into the $105 zip code.

            The 2014 final payroll was $82-ish. I don’t recall any statement of “$20 mill over last year”, but I have heard Bucs would be willing to go low-to-mid-90s.

            And then there’s that study Neal did that showed no team has ever won a WS with one guy making more than 18%.

            I think it’s a pipe dream unless the Bucs were able to offer a package that would entice the Phils to eat 1/3 or so of that contract.

          • I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but that type of deal really WOULD hamstring them for the next few years. With Liriano in the fold they pretty much know what they are going to be doing, rotation wise for the next 3 years. That also would limit how much they may be able to offer Walker if they choose to extend him. And they would still need to fix 1st base. I like Hamels a lot. But if they do that they would have to skimp elsewhere. And you better hope they have no major injuries that need to be addressed.

          • Money isnt an issue for us sitting spending others money, but its a huge issue for a team already at near 90 million in payroll. Its absurd to say “money isnt an issue” when its THE issue. The entire second half of that post is void of the fact that we signed AJ, signed Liriano, and half the team got raises in arb. With 20 additional million, this team has a payroll of over 110 million. That deal would guarantee we cant make any moves for at least this entire year, and likely make Gerrit Cole’s decision to walk super easy. Along with Cutch.

          • don’t forget the ‘extra shared revenue from the new media contracts (at least 15 mill to 20 mill) extra..if the bucs could afford 57 mill in 2001 when revenues were 3.6 b that would translate about 110 mill in current pay/revenue dollars..bucs profit was 13% of revenues in 2013 ..and still the owners are not happy with that..price increases..damm greedy owners..love my Bucs tho..

      • Hamels is a jerk. He even looked like a jerk in his own commercial, where they were no doubt trying to not make him look like a jerk. It was impossible.

    • it’s only selling low if they believe he’ll get better someday soon.

    • There is no way the Pirates would want Eovaldi. You said “if he performs up to his upside”. Okay, IF he performed to his upside he would be… Vance Worley. By every metric of production he is less than Locke or Worley or Morton. He is just a name a writer threw out there. The only way I see Alvarez moved is to move UP. I have heard it mentioned that Arizona might be interested in moving Goldschmidt to fill a lot of holes. They could have Alvarez to man 1B for the next two years and then Bell to take over. Meanwhile they could also benefit from a potential dominant starter, Glasnow, and maybe one more good arm, lets say Kingham.

      That deal is realistic. Trading for a 7th starter is not.

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