The Pirates had an interesting roster decision over the weekend when they added Keon Broxton to the active roster, thus avoiding losing the outfielder as a minor league free agent over the off-season. That’s just one of many interesting decisions they will have to make in the upcoming months. The writing is on the wall for some of their moves, while others are still a bit of a mystery. It’s still early for this, but here is a quick rundown of what you can expect from the off-season roster moves, based on what we know in September.
Minor League Free Agents
If the team wants to keep any pending minor league free agents, they will need to do so by adding them in the same fashion that they added Broxton. My guess is that Broxton is the only one who will be added, otherwise we would have seen a few other players joining the team. There aren’t many other options who need to be protected. There are some situations where it would make sense to bring back guys, but those players can be brought back on minor league deals, making it pointless to add them to the 40-man roster.
The only other minor league free agent who might have been worth protecting was Yhonathan Barrios, who was traded in July for Aramis Ramirez. Milwaukee just brought Barrios up, avoiding the same free agent situation that the Pirates avoided with Broxton.
Rule 5 Crunch
The Pirates have a lot of interesting Rule 5 eligible players, which I broke down back in July. At that time, it looked like they had an excess of players to protect, with room to deal some guys away if needed. They ended up trading Adrian Sampson and Barrios, thus shortening the list of guys they need to protect.
The must-protect guys are Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, Harold Ramirez, and Max Moroff. You could throw Barrett Barnes and Clay Holmes in that list as well, especially with all of the guys coming off the 40-man roster. The Pirates will be losing Aramis Ramirez and A.J. Burnett to retirement, along with Joakim Soria, J.A. Happ, Antonio Bastardo, Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez, and Joe Blanton to free agency. That will clear eight roster spots, although they currently have six players on the 60-day DL, so that would take the 40-man down to just 38, leaving a need for more spots for the Rule 5 guys. Those spots could be created in the sections below, but while on the subject of pending free agents…
The Need for a Starter
The Pirates will be losing A.J. Burnett, which means their rotation at the start of 2016 will have Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke. There would be a need for at least one starting pitcher (or two or three, depending on how you feel about Morton and Locke). It will be interesting to see if the Pirates try to bring back J.A. Happ to fill that role.
Happ has been the best Pirates starter since being acquired at the deadline, and while he’s probably not as good as his ERA indicates, the advanced metrics still have him as a solid starter. The Pirates were also interested in him many times prior to adding him, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to want him back beyond 2015. Whether they bring him back could largely depend on price, as his second half breakout puts a question mark about how much he’ll earn next year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him getting an Edinson Volquez type deal, which was two years and $20 M guaranteed.
Keep in mind that the Pirates would need about six roster spots for the Rule 5 guys above, but they’d need more roster spots created for free agents like an additional starting pitcher. So there would probably be a need for plenty of spots created from this next group.
The Writing is on the Wall For Some 40-Man Players
As I mentioned above, the Pirates will have a roster crunch, although that could be solved by getting rid of a few guys on their current roster. In some cases, the writing already appears to be on the wall.
The prime case is Tony Sanchez. The catcher is on the 40-man roster, but didn’t get a call to the majors in September, even after the Indianapolis season ended. He’s out of options next year, meaning he has to be on the Pirates’ roster or be designated for assignment. All signs currently point to the fact that he’s not in the plans for the Pirates right now.
Travis Ishikawa and Pedro Florimon are two guys who have been used as depth, and not much else. They’re also out of options, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them going.
Jaff Decker and Bobby LaFromboise have played depth roles, but both will be out of options next year. In these cases, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates try and keep them around until Spring Training, just based on their usage this year.
As for DFA candidates who aren’t out of options, I think Brandon Cumpton has become a prime candidate. His most recent surgery will put him out for the 2016 season, and there’s no need to use a roster spot on him when the team can outright him to Triple-A and let him rehab off the 40-man roster.
Andrew Lambo and Deolis Guerra would be two other candidates to go. Guerra was already designated for assignment earlier this year, but was pulled off waivers when it was discovered he was injured. So you could expect him to go off the roster at the end of the year. Lambo missed the entire season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He’s got options remaining, but will be entering his age 27 season, and hasn’t established himself in the majors yet. With Michael Morse now holding his role, it would be easy to see him being DFAd off the roster.
As I wrote last night, it’s also possible that Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker could be out of the plans, although it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Walker stuck around for one more year. In either case, I’m guessing their vacated 40-man spot would be filled by their replacements.