For most of the off-season, it looked like the Pittsburgh Pirates had every spot on their bench locked up. Then came the trade of Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles, which put one of the spots in question, and gave us one semi-real roster battle for Spring Training on the position player side of things (the disclaimer is that it might not be much of a battle, as I’ll outline below).
Overall, the bench looks very much upgraded compared to last year. paying at least $8.125 M to the four players who have spots locked down. That amount doesn’t seem like much by MLB standards, but represents over ten percent of the year-end payroll in 2014, and approaches ten percent of the projected 2015 payroll. I can’t recall a time when the Pirates put so many financial resources toward the bench.
The Pirates added several guys who could end up as starters by the end of the year if all goes right. A few of them have been quality starters in the past. This has led to a strong collection of depth, which I highlighted through eight flow charts on Monday night.
Heading into Spring Training, the main focus is everyone staying healthy, and that final spot being sorted out. Here is a quick rundown of how the bench looks and what we can expect heading into camp, along with who would step up if an injury were to occur.
Guaranteed Roster Spots
Chris Stewart – He will be the backup catcher to Francisco Cervelli, and could get plenty of starts behind the plate due to his defense and pitch framing skills.
Jung-ho Kang – If he makes the successful jump to the majors, then he will be the top bench option for every spot around the infield, excluding first base.
Corey Hart – He’s going to be the platoon option against left-handers, and could also get some time as a backup in the outfield.
Sean Rodriguez – The Pirates didn’t trade Buddy Borden and commit $1.9 M to Rodriguez just to cut him. He will be a utility player, possibly replacing Josh Harrison as the super utility guy who can play everywhere.
The Travis Snider Replacement
Most Likely Candidate – Andrew Lambo
Interesting Candidate Because He’s Out of Options – Pedro Florimon
Other Candidates – Jose Tabata, Jaff Decker
Analysis – It seems like Lambo has the inside track here, and it’s borderline a lock. I’d count Tabata out, since he is right-handed, and the Pirates could really use a left-handed outfield bat off the bench to replace Snider. Decker would qualify there, but Lambo is ahead of him on the depth charts. I listed Pedro Florimon for this final spot because he’s out of options. The Pirates could try to keep him around by giving him this spot, although that would require Corey Hart to play more in the outfield. It seems more likely that they’ll just go with Lambo.
If an Injury Occurs During Camp
Catcher – Tony Sanchez would be the guy to take over, and could possibly jump over Chris Stewart to be the starter.
First Base – Andrew Lambo would be a lock for the roster, giving the Pirates an additional option to play first base.
Middle Infield – Pedro Florimon would be a lock for the roster, and the odds of Justin Sellers making the team would increase.
Third Base – The Pirates don’t have good depth here, so I would guess that an injury at third base would increase the odds of Florimon or Sellers making the roster.
Outfield – If an injury occurs in the outfield, then you could see two of the Lambo, Tabata, Decker group on the bench. Or just one, if they decide to hold on to Florimon.