Last week, as part of our new weekly Q&A feature on the site, I received the following question.
Elliot Hicks: Charlie Wilmoth at Bucs Dugout posted a good article on Jeff Locke being a possible trade candidate. What would you think about a Locke trade if Worley wins the 5th starter spot?
I linked the referenced article in the question above. I haven’t had a chance to fully read it, since my Spring Training schedule pretty much prevents me from reading anything. I did get a chance to scan through it, and also received other questions like the one above, which gives me a good idea of what the article is about.
My answer to this question was going to come on Friday. I was going to answer that I wouldn’t trade Jeff Locke, since he provides early season starting depth if someone goes down in the first month. I’d say that the odds are someone will go down in the first month, but the truth is that you don’t know. You don’t know if the Pirates will need Locke in April, just like you don’t know if the Pirates will go the entire season without needing Locke in the rotation, and instead opting for prospects mid-season. And that’s exactly why I’d keep him.
Depth is fleeting. You can never predict when you’ll need depth. And the smart approach would be to keep as much as possible. If Locke is in the bullpen, then there’s a good chance that he won’t be stretched out after a month or two. But what if he is needed in that first month? I’d think a trade would only make sense once you’ve reached the point where Locke is absolutely no longer an option for the rotation. Trading him at the end of Spring Training is basically saying that the Pirates won’t need him in April, and there’s no way that can be predicted.
Today provided a perfect example of how depth can be totally unpredictable, especially with pitchers. Brandon Cumpton will visit Dr. James Andrews next week, and that’s never a good sign. Most of the time, this type of visit leads to Tommy John surgery, which means Cumpton will be out until next Spring, and possibly a little later if the Pirates take the same conservative approach they’re currently taking with Jameson Taillon.
Cumpton was one of the early season options for the rotation if an injury came up. The other early season options were Casey Sadler, who hasn’t really been proven at the Major League level, and Clayton Richard, who is a bounce-back candidate working on getting back to his old mechanics before his recent string of injuries. Aside from Locke (assuming he loses the fifth starter job to Vance Worley), Cumpton was the top option for early season depth. The alternative would be calling up Nick Kingham or Adrian Sampson early, assuming that both will need more time in Triple-A.
The set-back for Cumpton isn’t specific to him. It can happen to any one of the pitchers in the system, even the five guys who are projected for the rotation. It could happen this Spring. It could happen in April. Or maybe it won’t happen at all. But the idea of having too much depth can quickly lead to a situation that leaves you wondering where all the depth went.
It would now be more difficult to trade Locke away, since that means the Pirates would be banking on Sadler making a big jump to the majors and having success right away, and/or Richard bouncing back to his former self. There’s the idea that he could be traded for another pitcher who has options remaining, but the reality is that this pitcher would be a downgrade from Locke, since no one would deal a similarly valued pitcher who has options, all to get the same type of pitcher with no options.
If there comes a point where Locke can no longer be a starting option, due to his time spent in the bullpen, then that’s when the Pirates might consider a trade. Whoever adds Locke would have to stretch him out, although the team adding him would probably be a team that isn’t contending, and would be looking toward the future, which means stretching him out in-season wouldn’t be a big deal. Until then, he looks like the top depth option in April if Worley wins the starting role, and that placement on the depth charts becomes even more secure if Cumpton is out for the year.
**We have about 100 hard copy books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the most recent shipment. We’ve already sold more than last year’s total, and I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the hard copy version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Every day I upload content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the video features on YouTube. Be sure that you’re subscribed to all of those sites to follow everything we upload throughout Spring Training (there is different content for each social media site).
**What Is The Difference Between Mel Rojas And Keon Broxton? My video feature today looks at what Mel Rojas did to improve his power and walks in 2014, leading to the best season of his career. It’s a similar story to Keon Broxton, but I point out how they’re very different players.
**Pirate City Notes: Heredia In Good Shape, Surgery For Castro, Nevarez Bringing Heat. I spent the day at Pirate City, and have some great features coming up this week. I’ll be back tomorrow, watching the morning workouts before the 1:00 PM game at McKechnie.
**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Minor League Spring Training Roster. This is always good to have when you’re at Pirate City. The roster also gives an idea of who will make the jump from the DSL to the US in 2015. John Dreker profiled all of the players making that jump for Spring Training. Wilbur Miller added player pages for all of the players, which can be found below.
- Sandy Santos
- Victor Fernandez
- Edison Lantigua
- Adrian Valerio
- Luis Perez
- Raul Siri
- Nestor Oronel
- Delvin Hiciano
- Edgar Santana
- Mister Luciano
- Alex Martinez
- Francis Rodriguez
- Luis Escobar
- Richard Mitchell
- Yeudy Garcia