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.

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29 COMMENTS

    • I think that’s more than likely true.

      But I also think there’s a chance that Lambo *could* be *much* better than Tabby. Essentially the exact same bet they made when they chose Snider over Tabby last summer.

      When you build as much team depth as the Pirates have, you can roll the dice like this.

    • This one has been cracking me up this winter, considering literally the same exact thing was said about Travis Snider since the day he put on a Pirate jersey.

  1. I am a former pedro supporter who became disillusioned by the inconsistent play and am now definitley not a pedro fan. That said, he better pull head from backside and get the job done, if for no other reason than to establish some trade value this of season.

  2. I heard a anchor on the 93.7 the fan, adamantly say he has a source inside the organization that told him Hurdle liked Travis snider and NH liked LAMBO better, so he traded him to give Lambo the spot. I don’t know if that’s true or not

    • That would be Pablo Sandoval. You can tell him apart from Pedro by the type of glove they’re using. 😉 I kid, I kid.

  3. Why is someone like Decker listed as a candidate for a roster spot, and not a guy like Rojas? Rojas is faster, is a switch-hitter, and offers more upside all around.

    • He’s not on the active roster, and that’s usually where the first wave of injury or bad performance replacements come from.

      Second (and more importantly), Rojas is a pretty decent prospect. I don’t really want him just being a bench player. I’d rather find out if he can be a starter. For that, he needs at bats and playing time, neither of which will he find much of on the MLB team.

      • I don’t think anyone sees Rojas as a MLB starter, not saying he couldn’t be a huge surprise (if Harrison can anything is possible), but that expectation is pretty far out of line with reality. I do like him as a switch-hitting bench OF potentially.

        • Some others may see him as a starter though, especially if he produces at AAA. He could be a very valuable trade chip and with all the other outfield depth the Pirates have he could bring back a potential starter at a position of need. Who knows

          • What would *you* be happy with the Pirates giving up for Mel Rojas Jr., if he were in another organization and the Pirates had a need?

            Sure as heck wouldn’t be a starting big leaguer.

            • Not unless Rojas is included with someone more interesting. The Pirates did trade Presley for rental player Morneau and Robbie Grossman was traded along with Cain and Owens for Wandy.

            • Not necessarily a starting big leaguer, but maybe someone who is a C+/B- prospect at 3rd base, or maybe a rental bullpen arm at the trade deadline. Just saying he has some value, and who knows what the other teams see in him

    • R: I also see Rojas as our best 4th OF possibility. Between AA and AAA in 2014 he hit around .290 combined with a nice amount of Extra Base Hits, and can play all 3 OF positions. He has really raised his value over the off season, and, although the OF in Pittsburgh is out of the question, I think the Pirates will have some teams with lesser OF talent calling them before the end of ST. Only entering his age 25 season with 250 AB’s (.277 avg) in AAA in 2014.

      • I agree…if the Pirates are going to give more opportunities to non-prospects like Decker, over Rojas, I hope Rojas gets traded elsewhere where he can get a real chance to play. As much as the farm system has improved, the Pirates still seem to first choose outside options over inhouse options……I just don’t get it sometimes.

  4. I really hope it’s not florimon. He would be useful as a defensive replacement, but he will wind up being a useless pinch hitter enough to negate any value his defense could bring. Please let it be Lambo and not florimon.

    • I second that. Florimon on the bench would be virtually useless assuming Kang and Rodriguez aren’t suddenly completely inept at short. I’m tired of the Pirates having no bat defensive shortstops that hardly ever play on the bench only to come in as a pinch hitter in extra innings and swing bunt into a double play. Count me among those that will be shaking my head in disgust if Florimon is kept over Lambo.
      .
      I can only hope that Florimon was just an initial plan that has been replaced by Kang/Rodriguez and now Florimon is just a insurance policy in case one of the shortstops get hurt in ST. Maybe the Pirates will trade Florimon to a team that needs a SS at the end of spring training.

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