Some Upcoming Roster Predictions, Based on September Trends

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.

Analysis

  • I don’t really see the 40-man roster crunch that everyone else here sees. My 40-man for the winter meetings would be:

    Pitchers (17) – Caminero, Cole, Glasnow, Holdzkom, Holmes, Hughes, Kingham, LaFramboise, Liriano, Locke, Melancon, Morton, Sadler, Scahill, Taillon, Watson, Worley

    Catchers (3) – Cervelli, Diaz, Stewart

    Infielders (9) – Alvarez, Bell, Hanson, Harrison, Kang, Mercer, Moroff, Morse, Walker

    Outfielders (9) – Barnes, Broxton, Decker, Garcia, Marte, McCutchen, Polanco, Ramirez, Snider

    That leaves 2 spots – and there are other guys I wouldn’t shed a tear to lose such as LaFramboise, Decker, or Snider. There’s a case for protecting Lambo, Ngoepe, or Jose Osuna. And the FO can always try to trade Snider for a couple of pitching prospects. 🙂

  • Mat Latos is out there for free… no one cared enough to claim him from the Dodgers. He’d be on the reclamation project short list, IMO. His 4.95 ERA obscured a 3.54 FIP, better than last year’s.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    September 23, 2015 8:55 pm

    I would advocate trying to re-sign Happ, if the price is right. Yes, he has had a great run after joining the Pirates – but is that a temporary aberration or a sign of things to come? His price needs to fall somewhere between those two perspectives.

    I think we can do much better than Morton and Locke – I’d like to see some combination of Taillon, Glasnow, Holmes, Kingham, etc replace this two.

    Blanton is another guy who could be brought back, if the price is right. He is versatile in his role. I’d say good-bye to the rest of the free agents.

    I’d like to see Walker come back, but as a first baseman (unless the Pirates think Bell is ready to start the 2016 season in Pittsburgh) – we need to make room for Hanson at second base and there by improve the defense at both positions.

    Alvarez – I’d trade him, before he hits free agency. But, his market is very limited (AL teams in need of a DH) and I doubt we get a lot for him unless we package 1-2 others in a bigger deal. Maybe Morton, Alvarez, and a prospect could net us a younger, power arm with upside in the bullpen?

    I think they need to trade or release Sanchez – he needs a change of scenery and a fresh start elsewhere. I’d like to then see the team let Stewart go, or trade him, to open up a spot for Diaz. Stewart’s defense is sub-par – especially his throwing.

    • What is the basis of the widely held conclusion that Walker is a negative defensively? He is smart, sure handed and dependable. Very good with relays and good on the turn. Is it all about lack of range and is there hard statistical evidence to back it up? Where should I go to see the analysis of fielding “range?”

    • Why does everyone always say “Just move Walker to first base. He’ll be a huge upgrade.”? He’s never played first base. It’s not a video game where you can just move players from position to position and expect them to be great. There’s no way of knowing if Walker at first base could be an improvement over Alvarez (Even though it can’t be hard with as bad as Alvarez has played there this season)

      • Go ahead and find me a middle infielder who couldn’t pick up a mitt and play first base.

        I’ll be waiting.

        • What makes you think any middle infielder could just play first base?

          • Because the ones that try it literally always succeed. Again, find me one that hasn’t.

            If you have the skills to play a MI position, you also have the skills to play first base. This is a fact.

    • Stewart is a fine backup catcher, but I still don’t think it would be an awful idea to go with Diaz. I’m not comfortable at all just handing the starting role over to Diaz in 2017 without any Major League experience, and I dont have any doubt he’d be as good as Stewart.

  • Corey Hart is one of those 60-day DL spots. He ain’t coming back.

    • Well, they could see a need for Lambo in AAA regardless of Snider since Lambo actually plays 1B. Lambo splits time between OF and 1B early on, Bell gets promoted, Lambo becomes depth in AAA.

      Lambo may very well be gone, but it wont be because of what happens to Snider.

      • Lambo really has been a sad story. I would hate to see him get healthy and become productive elsewhere so a plan that keeps control of him for a look in spring makes sense.

        • If I am Snider and want to stay with the Pirates I would go to Hurdle and tell him I am buying a first base mitt to get ready for next year. I am a Walker to first activist, but I can’t see that happening now. This could be a way for Snider to stay in the show here or elsewhere

        • I’ve said it before. Limbo will become another Brandon Moss. He will bounce around a couple of organizations after the Pirates. He’ll finally figure it out a bit and hit 30 homers at age 31 or so, to late for him to make any real money that his raw talent seemed to indicate he would.

  • Jose Osuna? What is his chances to be added? He looks like he has some promise.

    • Typically first basemen aren’t at risk of being selected in the Rule 5 draft, so I’d put his chances of being protected at almost zero percent, since there are small odds they’d lose him.

  • 46 men currently on roster. Lose Ramirez, Burnett, Happ, Bastardo, Soria, Blanton, Sean Rodriguez, Hart. That’s 38.

    Add Glasnow, Bell, Ramirez, Moroff, Barnes, and Holmes. Back to 44.

    Non-tender Pedro. DFA Cumpton, Guerra, and Florimon. That leaves 40.

    That’s how I’d roll into the offseason. As free agents are added, there are plenty of options. Non-tendering Ishikawa, Snider, and Worley are certainly options. DFAing Decker, Broxton, LaFromboise, Scahill, T Sanchez, Sadler, and Lambo are possible too.

    As Chuck Noll said, it’s not hard cutting players, the hard part is stopping!

    • Why would they have made the move they did with Broxton, to DFA him later ?

      • It is possible they just brought him up as a pinch runner with no long-term focus. But with several outfielders leaving the system next year, it would make sense to try and keep him around.

        • That seems more likely to me. It looked to me like they wanted to protect him from the draft as your column at the time alluded to.

        • I think they have to give him a full shot next spring-if he can hit at all he is an almost ideal 4th outfielder – especially with Harrison available as #5 and Morse able to survive in left if need be. He gives you nice speed and as I understand it good defense at all three positions.

  • I think a monkey could have drafted someone way better than Sanchez.

    • That draft had a lot of dumber than monkey teams. BAL and SD both whiffed right where we picked while most of 11-15 was a bummer.

    • And damn, u weren’t available !

    • I would guess it was just a signability pick. I doubt that they thought even at the time that Sanchez was the best player available. I think they wanted to save money and bet on over-slot mid-round preps.

      • You’re right, but the application of that strategy was the real failure of judgement. Fine strategy in and of itself, but they strongly overestimated what it would take to sign most of the picks rated better than Sanchez. Only three guys – Wheeler, Turner, and Matzek – ended up getting bonuses more than a quarter million over what the Pirates gave Sanchez.

        They picked a guy they thought would save them money, except he didn’t really.

  • Hindsight. That 2009 draft had Zack Wheeler, Mike Leake, Shelby Miller, AJ Pollock, Nolan Arenado (2nd Rd), Jason Kipnis (2nd), Kyle Seager (3rd), Brandon Belt (5th), Dallas Keuchel (7th), Paul Goldschmidt (8th), Brian Dozier (8th), Matt Carpenter (13th), JD Martinez (20th), Trevor Rosenthal (21st), Mike Fiers (22nd), Matt Adams (23rd), and of course, MIKE TROUT drafted after Sanchez. The Cardinals also drafted Joe Kelly that year. They drafted 2 starting pitchers, a closer, a starting 3B, and a starting 1B all in the same year. That’s ridiculous. The Pirates best pic that year was Brock Holt.

    • Of course, at the time the talk was that Zack Wheeler, Jacob Turner, Tyler Matzek, Matt Purke, Chad James, and Shelby Miller were all on the same level, but that none really stood out above the rest. Then the big college pitchers (Aaron Crow, Alex White, Kyle Gibson) all had either injury concerns or signability concerns. Guys like Leake and Minor were seen to be “safe” picks.

      From the Pirates’ perspective, it was a bad draft not just because of the first round, but because they missed on all of their prep pitchers in the later rounds. They did get some trade value out of this draft, and some MLB production, but it was easily the worst draft under Huntington. That said, the first round was a mess on draft day, and was far from clear cut.

      • Shows how much of a crapshoot the draft can be. On lighter note, 2011, 2013, & 2014 all look like excellent drafts. Obviously, the verdict is out on both ’13 & ’14 but the performances and ages in relation to leagues played in is excellent. 2014 may not produce any stars but it has alot of depth. The Bucs have a 32nd Rounder in Montana DuRapau that’s looking like he might get a cup of coffee in the next year. How often does a 32nd rounder make it to the bigs in that short period of time…

    • And the Angels actually had a better draft than the Cardinals; Grichuk>Trout>Skaggs>Richards>Corbin was insane.

      • I guess I was looking at benefits currently being reaped by the organization. Grichuk is with the Cards and Corbin is with the D-Backs. Trout alone makes that draft. I bet some teams would give up their entire 40 picks for Mike Trout.

      • And have since fired the guy in charge of that draft NMR !

    • Who did the Pirates draft in the second road. Thats the round that seemed to have a lot of good players make it.

      • Victor Black. 4 of the 6 guys to make it to the majors from that draft for the Pirates made it with different teams.

        • Insane how much better Pirate amateur scouting has gotten from those first few years. Not only completely whiffing on overslot pitchers, but also drafting early round college arms with no real shot at starting, i.e. Scheppers, Wilson, Black.

  • Travis Snider seems like a candidate to lose his 40 man roster spot.

  • A lot of potential turnover! I hope they re-sign Happ. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, and given the recent injury history there are still a lot of questions to be answered about Taillon and Kingham before even considering Glasnow.

    Given Kang’s injury keeping Walker around for his last year is prudent. Pedro should be traded if possible, DFA’d if necessary, which hurts to see his power go. But his defensive lapses overshadow any remaining offensive potential.

    Any word on Lambo’s recovery? In any case I am happy playing Morse at 1B until Bell is ready.

    Tony Sanchez is a sad case of self destruction. Who can really understand where his throwing yips came from? He has talent, but just can’t seem to get out of his own way.

    • I don’t know if I would use the term self destruction when speaking of Sanchez. To me it looks like he just isn’t good enough. Nothing more nothing less. Self Destruction is more in line to what Josh Hamilton did or some other abusers. As for the roster crunch based on all the mediocre players on that list I really don’t see much of a crunch. It looked to me like we had about 10 players we would never miss if we removed them from the 40.

      • There seem to have been hints of alcohol abuse over the years. I am not at all close enough to his situation to know how serious this is/was or how it effects his throwing issues, if at all. But he seems to live under a cloud. His bat showed promise, until his demotion to AAA this year when it disappeared. Why was that? Who knows, maybe you are right and the talent was never really there.

        • Ask yourself if anyone would really be questioning his development, or lack thereof, if he was selected in the 25-35 range where his talent alone belonged.

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