Pending Free Agents Happ, Rodriguez, and Bastardo Open to Returning to the Pirates

PITTSBURGH — The 2015-16 off-season is barely 12 hours old for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it’s looking like it will be a busy time. Apart from losing A.J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez to retirement, the Pirates will see a lot of free agents depart their team. Antonio Bastardo and Sean Rodriguez are two players who the Pirates acquired last off-season for one-year help in the bullpen and on the bench. J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria, and Joe Blanton were three more free agents added at the trade deadline. You could add Corey Hart to the pending free agent list, but the reality is that the Pirates have basically already parted ways with him.

Typically, the Pirates don’t spend big on right-handed relievers in the off-season, which is why I’d be surprised if they tried to bring back Soria or Blanton. But the other three free agents play at a position of need for the Pirates, and it would make sense for the Pirates to bring any of them back, depending on the terms of course.

Fortunately for the Pirates, all three said they were open to returning after last night’s Wild Card game loss. That’s not a big surprise, since the Pirates had the second best record in baseball, and they’re going to be an attractive place for any free agent. You’re also not going to get any free agent limiting his market by shutting out a team that potentially wants to sign him. But beyond just expressing a desire to return, all three spoke highly of the organization.

The biggest need for the Pirates will be starting pitching, as they will need someone to replace Burnett in the rotation, and fill a spot until Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon are ready. They traded for Happ at the deadline in order to replace Burnett in the short-term, and adding him again this off-season to replace Burnett again would make sense after the success he had in Pittsburgh.

“[I felt] all good things about being a Pittsburgh Pirate,” Happ said, when describing his time and whether he’d want to return. “I had good experiences here with the front office so far. Obviously the Pirates have been great. It was nice to come over here, and within a few days, felt pretty comfortable. So we’ll see what the future holds. But all good things coming from here.”

Happ noted that he’d have to see where the interest is, talk with his family, and do all the typical things a free agent does. There’s also the interesting factor of how his two month stretch will be valued. He was one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball down the stretch, which probably isn’t sustainable going forward. But it’s not out of the question that he could be a good starting pitcher in the future. My prediction has been that he receives an Edinson Volquez-like two-year, $20 M offer, which would be affordable for the Pirates. This all depends on how teams value his turnaround this year.

“The market will play out the way it’s going to,” Happ said. “But I certainly feel good, where I was at, with the way I felt up there on the mound, that I know that I can help a lot of teams. So we’ll see what happens there.”

One factor going in Pittsburgh’s favor is Ray Searage, who helped Happ with an adjustment to keep him more in line to the plate, which led to better command. By sticking with Searage, Happ could not only get paid, but also ensure that he stays on track to continue pitching well. His comments about Searage last night were very encouraging in terms of whether he might consider returning.

“Ray’s been great,” Happ said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with him. Sad to just have to say bye to him here tonight. But maybe I won’t have to.”

There was a great article written by Matthew Trueblood at Baseball Prospectus last week, detailing Happ’s turnaround, and noting that the change started last season for Happ. Last night I talked with Happ about those early changes, and how that work, plus his work with Searage, ended up combining to lead to his second half results.

“The physical work is always going to be there,” Happ said of the need to make adjustments. “Taking care of myself and trying to get the mechanics right. And then I think the mental side of it was huge. When you have some success, you get some more confidence, and those things play off each other. That’s how I felt. I feel confident out there, being able to throw the ball. Nobody is perfect, but for the most part [if you can throw the ball] where you’re trying to put it, it’s a good feeling, and that’s kind of where I was at. And I had lost that for a short period of the season, and was glad to regain it.”

The fact that Happ’s turnaround wasn’t just an overnight change, but an ongoing process that finally clicked gives hope that he will be a strong pitcher going forward. It’s hard to see how the market shapes out, and the Pirates have certainly gotten a ton of value with starting pitchers and don’t need to chain themselves to one particular starter. But Happ makes a lot of sense for this team. He fits their philosophy of pitching off the fastball to both sides of the plate. He’s a lefty at PNC Park. He’s open to coaching and has worked well with Searage. And he might just be a value if it turns out that the 2015 numbers with the Pirates were legit.

As for Bastardo and Rodriguez, they’re both in situations where they fill easy to replace roles. Rodriguez is a bench player who played a big role with the Pirates this year, serving as a super utility player and a defensive replacement in the late innings. He wasn’t a favorite among Pirates fans, mostly due to disagreements about the priority of defense over offense, and that came to a head yesterday when he started over Pedro Alvarez (in a move that didn’t matter, because he was removed after three innings of defense and no at-bats, and then Alvarez struck out the entire night). Rodriguez gave more of a canned answer, but was open to returning.

If the Pirates want me back, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be an option,” Rodriguez said. “I just want to win.”

Rodriguez would make sense to return on a smaller deal, similar to his one-year deal through arbitration in 2015, just to provide that versatile option off the bench. Of course, this all depends on the makeup of the team. If the Pirates keep Pedro Alvarez around, it would make sense to have that defensive replacement. If they find a better defender at first base, then the biggest role for Rodriguez would be gone, lowering his value to the team.

The Pirates will once again need a second left-hander in the bullpen once Bastardo leaves. That’s the situation they were in last off-season when they traded for Bastardo, who replaced Justin Wilson after the Pirates traded Wilson for Francisco Cervelli. Bastardo praised the team, but ultimately said he’s going with the team who makes the best offer, which isn’t groundbreaking.

“I’m open to every team. It’s how it is,” Bastardo said. “Whoever has the best offer, I’m going to be choosing them. I like it here. I like this team, I like this clubhouse. Everything is good here, so I’ll never say no.”

The Pirates got great results from Bastardo, especially in the second half. But this is a team that hasn’t struggled to find bullpen help at a low price. I’d be surprised if they went with Bastardo, who should get a multi-year deal, over someone they can get on a one-year deal, or someone they can get via trade like last off-season.

The free agents are only part of an interesting off-season that is coming up for the Pirates. Happ looks to be the best option if the Pirates want to bring him back, and would fill the biggest need. The Pirates would have needs for the bench and bullpen that Rodriguez and Bastardo could fill, although those spots are easier to fill on the open market than a starting role. All three players are open to returning, and in due time we’ll find out whether the Pirates would also be open to bringing them back.

  • The offense needs a whole new identity and mindset. The approach frustrates me beyond belief. Arrieta is a stud no doubt. but the only way to win a championship is to score runs off of guys like that. To do that you must make the proper adjustments. This team get’s into a 0-2 or 1-2 count and they don’t change the approach. they try to do to much with pitches in pitchers counts. Perfect example of how you approach Arrieta was Michael Morse’s AB he swung the bat with a controlled stroke and drove it into CF for a base hit. This team is not an instinctive team. Talented but not instinctive.. Not at the plate ,not in the field and not on the bases. I think this is why NH is drafting guys like Kevin Newman. Less talented but mre instinctive. Hurdle needs to either make this a smarter ball club or they need to find someone who will. The Cardinals have a lot less talent but they are a very smart club . Much more instinctive players They are taught the right way all the way up through the minor leagues..

  • Trade cutch for sonny gray

  • If the Pirates start next season with Morton or Locke in the rotation then they aren’t really serious about winning the division. Despite winning 98 games , the slow start was a big reason why they couldn’t get past STL and played in yet another wild card game. With the Cards being a threat to win the division every year and the rise of the Cubs you need solid SP 1-5 to win this division. Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke were awful this year. Right now we have 2 acceptable SP that is Liriano and Cole. Glasnow and Taillon might be too but you can’t count on that happening next year. Happ would be acceptable and we need to go out and spend some money this off season and a couple top 3 SP .I could deal with Morton OR Locke as the 5th starter until we get Glasnow or Taillon but not both. Time to give up on that tradethat brought both of them here.

    • Sorry to say but I think if you expect to see the Pirates spend the type of money needed to get 2 frontline pitchers, you are going to be disappointed.
      Payroll for arb guys is going to be in the neighbor hood of $50MM, the 7 players locked in will be getting $52.5MM, resigning Srod, Blanton, Happ and Bastardo as FAs should run in the neighborhood of another $20MM and raises for the non-arb guys should be $5-$6MM. That total bumps up nearly $130MM, a tidy amount over the final figure for the 2015 season.

      It would be nice if another team wanted Morton and his $8MM salary, Pedro’s expected $8.1 MM, Melancon’s $10MM (expected) or Walker’s expected $10.7MM. That is almost $37MM for 4 players. Can’t say I envy the F.O.

      • Nah man they don’t need 2 “frontline” starters. They need to resign Happ and another one of their brilliant reclamation projects. They have found one every year. They know what they are doing. Also, I don’t think re-signing S-Rod,Bastardo,and Blanton are anywhere near the top of their agenda. They will find a cheaper route to replace most of those guys. they can sure as heck go out and spend enough to get Happ and another guy like him

        • Not to quibble but you did say a couple top 3 SP. I took that to mean frontline. Is there a difference?
          I started to say resigning the 4 FAs was an example for salary purposes. Guess that would have been clearer, although I did use Happ and Bastardo as 2 of them, guys I think they would like to resign.

  • They should have signed Volquez last year, then they would have won the division and would still be playing now. Short sighted, thinking they could get something better at a much cheaper cost. Team is still to dam cheap. Picking next to last in the draft next year will give them very little value and at a reduced cost. So they should go crazy on the international front, sign at least 5-8 high end prospects and take the penalty, which they impose on themselves seemingly every year by not paying allot for international talent.

  • Happ would certainly be welcomed back, the one caveat or concern (which could keep his price down), is he is not an innings eater. He lacks any good secondary offerings, and will always struggle to turn the order over throwing the fastball so exclusively. So count on some extra innings for your bullpen.

    The Pirates definitely need at least two outside starting pitching options counting on significant quality innings from Tallion, Kingham, and Glasnow is suspect at this point.

    If Sean Rodriguez’s swing change that occurred around the middle of the year are real and he wouldn’t be used as platoon 1B he would also be welcomed back.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see J.A. get something like $30/3 or $24/2. Really hope we sign him.

    Blanton would be my 2nd priority because of his potential to be a swingman should we get hit with injuries before Taillon or Glasnow is ready.

    And I like Rodriguez but whether we bring him back should depend on Kang’s health and what we decide to do with Walker.

  • I want to see them sign Byung Ho Park. Cubs had 7 hits, Pirates had 4. Difference, 2 of their 7 were home runs. This team is seriously lacking power and if they trade Pedro, they need to supplant that somehow.

  • I can’t help but see BIG roster churn this offseason. Not because the payroll will be too high (which it would as detailed excellently by cmat below) but because players need to move on.

    Alvarez was benched in a 1 game playoff for SRod. Nuff’said. Morse is a better option anyway. He will be traded as I expect AL teams to see him as the next Big Poppy. Return will have value but not a lot.

    Walker will have value and will probably bring in some youngsters who can help right away especially in the bullpen and bench. Harrison and Kang might already be better.

    Melancon will never be worth more and I don’t see us resigning him after 2017 so why not now? Even stripped of FA’s we still have talent in this pen and he could net a starter we will really need in 2017 and beyond.

    SRod, Bastardo et al are fungible benchers who can easily be replaced by secondary players from the above 3 trades.

    If Happ will do 2/$20M I’d sign him tomorrow but I don’t go Liriano money.

    Trade away NH, I trust you.

    • I mostly agree.

      I would like to see Happ if the contract is 2/22 or 3/30 or less.

      Though it’s unpopular, I think Melancon should go. He has no value to club after next season, and, unless, the team is will to say ‘the heck with it’ and pull out all the stops and go for a title, he should be dealt…the same goes for Walker and Pedro, though I think Alvarez could be the most likely to stay. After all, he’s going to be the cheapest of the three and will bring the least return.

      I’d disagree about Bastardo, though. If Melancon, Blanton, and Soria are not members of the team coming out of ST, I really don’t know that you want to complicate matters by jettisoning yet another reliever. Although the Pirates have had success in the past loading up their bullpen, with seven slots…does the team really want to start the season with: Watson, Hughes, Caminero, ?, ?, ?, and ?…? I’m thinking that’s a petty dangerous roll of the dice.

      If any of Bastardo/Soria/Blanton is available for for 3/12ish or less, I think those should definitely be considered.

      As well, I’m all for stretching out Liz and having him compete with Morton/Locke.

      • I actually totally agree w you regarding the relievers. If melancon goes I happily sign any of those three if they come at a reasonable cost. Soria could b just the replacement we would need but his price tag is already high.

  • It really is a shame that we have this issue with Super Two and years of control. I’d love to see Bell, Hanson, and Taillon head north with the team right out of spring training. I understand Hanson may need more time though… Cutch and NW spent at least a full year and a half in AAA before coming up. I have no idea where Taillon is at right now. As far as Bell, his bat is ML ready but his glove needs work unfortunately. Anywho, I’d love to see Happ, Blanton, and Bastardo back. Bastardo was sick in his inning of work last night in a big situation. I can’t see Locke doing that.

  • Happ and Bastardo make sense. They probably have targeted who they want. I also think the KBL 1st bagger is on their radar.

    • Bastardo makes sense, but if he really wants to go to who will pay the most, I don’t think he will be with the Pirates next year. We have enough depth in the pen that we don’t need to overpay a reliever, even a good LH reliever

      An out-of-the-box move, though, would be to trade Watson and sign Bastardo to take over Watson’s role. It would be a risk–I always feel very confident when Watson is in the game. But he might be our best realistic trade chip–after our “untouchables” who could bring back a better package?

  • I would like Happ and Blanton back…and, sadly, I think we need Rodriguez back since he can play everywhere with pretty good defense. I hate to say that though. I loved what Blanton brought and was upset he didn’t get to pitch last night. Happ, Blanton, and maybe Rodriguez plus some extras….

  • Happ, Blanton and Bastardo – yes.
    Soria – no.
    Rodriguez – hell no.
    I’d like Walker to be back but doubt he will be – I hope Alvarez, Morton and Locke are gone.
    Burnett and Ramirez – retired.

    So in my GM world that leaves 8 spots open heading into 2016. That’s a lot of spots but this “core” has to be changed up because they’re not getting it done… At least the whole “it”.

    Also, their needs to be some serious changing of the coaching staff. Hurdle and Searage stay of course, I’d be fine with all of the rest disappearing.

    GO BUCS 2016.

    • Good points – disagree with keeping Bastardo, and Rodriguez is a “value” decision. AJ/ARAM retired, and Walker, Alvarez, and Morton are all probably gone after 2016 for sure so if NH can get the right deals during the off-season, then all 3 could go. For 2016 Morton has a contract for $8 mil, Walker will get at least $9.5 mil in his last year of arbitration, and Pedro will get at least $8.5 mil in his last year of arbitration – $26 mil! Right now, Pedro’s stock is high, so he should be worth more now than during 2016.

      We have to find a new, dynamic hitting coach who would be on the same level as Ray Searage or Jim Benedict have been to pitchers, and assure that the same methods and strategies are taught throughout every level of the minors. That is the only coaching change I think is justified.

  • Bastardo turned out to be a valuable piece – .448 OPS against LH batters is kind of hard to come by. Add in Watson and Melancon, and you have 3 bullpen arms that held lefties to below .500 OPS. Unreal.

    Apart from the #3 SP, which I think is the #1 priority, the thing that concerns me the most about the 2016 team is the relative lack of power. For as much swing and miss as this team has (not to mention the middling plate discipline), it needs that many more XBH when it does put balls in play. 12th in the NL in ISO, and about to lose Pedro (and FWIW ARam had the 4th highest ISO on the team during the 1/3 of the season he was in Pittsburgh, so him too).

    Otherwise, it’s going to take some serious improvements in plate discipline, contact rate and/or base running to get back to 700 runs.

    • Great point about the power. I like the Andrew Lane tangents on it.

      I think Polanco will increase his XBHs next year. Marte? I don’t know. Like Cutch if he played anywhere else at home, across the board his numbers would be better.

      I like PNCs LF. Having Marte out there with some good pitching saves a ton of runs. But like a lot of guys have pointed out to me on here, that thing creates some long outs for our RH sticks.

    • Couldn’t have said it better, Stephen. All around.

      My only critique would be that you didn’t add Neil Walker to the list of possible departures, only making the problem worse.

      Look, this club will not be the Kansas City Royals. Even with the departure of Alvarez and Walker, they’re still likely to strike out at league average rate. That sort of “contact oriented” lineup isn’t really oriented on contact, it just lacks power.

      Looking ahead, this really drives the point home of how important it is to get Josh Bell, and to a lesser extent Austin Meadows, tapped into their raw power. Replace Alvarez/Walker/McCutchen with current profiles for Bell/Hanson/Meadows and that future club won’t break .100 ISO.

      • You think they make a run at this Byung Ho Park? Kang had to have driven up the price, but he’s probably still in their price range as opposed to what else will be available. I would be more in favor of it, if was a lefty. But he’s RH. Numbers say he’s a little bigger than Kang.

        • Not a chance in hell.

          They’ve made their play in Korea.

          Next foreign player they sign will be the first phenom out of Cambodia.

          • Yea, I would agree. Bell obviously. As I said price will certainly be higher. I think Mozeliak will put in a bid. They need a 1st baseman.

            • I think *something* needs done at 1B.

              You’d be silly to trust Morse to be both productive and healthy, together, for any length of time. You’d also be putting a lot of eggs in one very sketchy basket banking on Josh Bell; if he has even half of the problems adjusting to big league pitching as we’ve seen with Polanco while inevitably providing negative value in the field and bases you’re talking about a significantly below replacement level player.

              My safety net is tendering Alvarez and trading him at 50 cents on the dollar for James Loney. Rays need to shed money and Loney was a bad signing for them from the start. They need a DH, and at $4m Alvarez is better than anything else they can put there while also testing him for signs of life at 1B.

          • Unless they can get Park at less than what Alvarez makes….

            • Maybe teams largely remain unsure of Korean players, but if they look at Kang and see that level of potential (in a different player with slightly different skill set) in Park he’ll get a ton more than Kang.

              Hell, he should pay Kang a bonus for paving the way for more Korean guys to actually get paid big money. Wouldnt shock me to see a team go 3-4 years at 10-12 million per year. Thats not a huge deal at all and Park would still feel like he’s getting a big payday. All after whatever the stupid posting fee will be.

              • Really will be fascinating to watch this play out.

                Kang was obviously a steal, and Jose Abreu is even considered a fleecing albeit of lesser severity. If 36 yo Adam Freaking LaRoche can get 2/$24m and Mike Morse can get 2/$16m, it feels like the contract you suggested should be a minimum for a team with enough cash to take chances.

                • It does seem like thats a small amount, and that it could get scary if 1 team buys into Kang and the talent being able to convert quickly from that league.

                  Posting fee might be rather stupid high.

    • Number 1 priority to ms is a cleanup hitter at first base. They’ll get peices for the rotation from AAA next year.

    • If Kang fully recovers his batting stroke, we’ll be okay with power. Marte and Polanco should take a step forward and Kang was showing great power prior to getting taken out.

      I definitely agree that we need a quality #3 going into the season.

      • They were 12th in the NL WITH a healthy Kang, for all but 3 weeks. Polanco will likely show some more pop, but I wouldn’t bet the house that Marte takes another step forward. I see no other power upside on this team, unless you think Mercer can rediscover his stroke from ’14.

        If they’re going to stand pat and plug Morse/LH 1B/Bell in at first, then Walker, Mercer and Harrison need to get on base a lot more to get the same run production.

        • It was disappointing to see Marte regress so much from the second half of last year, where he showed real sign of sustainable power gain by decreasing his ground ball percentage to around 40%. This year saw him shoot way up over 50% again, and his massive power drop in the second half shows why it’s so difficult to be a power hitter with that batted ball profile. There may be three or four guys in baseball with enough raw power to maintain ~30% HR/FB rates, which is what propped up Marte in the first half. He’s not one of them, and his home run rate predictably dropped.

          Really makes you appreciate The Bull’s insane power.

        • I’m not sure that the lack of power in the Pirates lineup is such a crisis. (And if I’m being uncharitable seems like a thinly veiled argument that Alvarez should be retained.) On-base is much more correlated with run scoring than isolated power.

          The Pirates play half their games in an utter graveyard for right handed power, added in some poor hitting performances at hitters parks in 2015 and the overall numbers will look relatively poor.

          Year: ISO Home / ISO Away
          2015: .135 / .136
          2014: .134 / .156
          2013: .138 / .163
          2012: .141 / .162

          Years like 2013 where the Pirates paced the NL in ISO require a career year from Alvarez, significant plate appearances from another lefty slugger, Jones, and Martin still selling out for pulled power. Is it a concern? Maybe but I’d put it way down the list.

          • Except you glossed over Stephen’s actual, legitimate reason for concern and instead decided for yourself that he was thinly veiling a plea for Alvarez:

            “For as much swing and miss as this team has (not to mention the middling plate discipline)…Otherwise, it’s going to take some serious improvements in plate discipline, contact rate and/or base running to get back to 700 runs.”

            Ramirez’s sub-.300 OBP was obviously bad, but both Alvarez and Walker were right around team and league average. It won’t be “easy” to replace that OBP alone, before even getting to the power aspect.

            Considering Cervelli isn’t close to a true talent .370 OBP hitter and Josh Bell’s projection will likely be around league-average to start, I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned that the club’s OBP will drop. Add a power drop to that, and well, I don’t have to tell you the rest.

            • With Alvarez and Walker gone, and Ramirez retired, the Pirates would need to replace 1308 plate appearances of 108 wRC+ hitting, a significant task but not a daunting one considering they would have near 20% of the 2015 payroll to accomplish it.

  • “…fill a spot until Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon are ready.”
    By that we mean all of 2016. Happ is an option, but I would favor spending the money on Samardzija first, then see what happens with Happ.

    Bastardo can go where he likes IMO. Just please go. SR is nice to have, but wouldn’t tie up a lot of money there, and would lose no sleep if he went elsewhere.

    Soria is interesting depending on what you do with Melancon. I can easily see the Pirate’s trading Melancon at his peak right now and avoiding the hefty pay increase he will get. Then again, Soria could be right up there as well. I like Blanton if we can get him at the right price. I have more faith in him then I do some of the other members of the pen, and really like him as a long reliever.

  • Bringing back Happ would give Hurdle his two lefty starters, allowing Huntington to find a reclamation righty to pair with Morton in the back of the rotation until the kids are ready. That would push Locke into the 6th starter/long man role early on while also providing time to try him out as the 2nd lefty in the pen, eliminating the need to pay a guy like Bastardo $3m right out of the gate.

    Rodriguez will be a 31 year old whose value lies in defensive versatility but not necessarily defensive proficiency and has had his offensive game crater to the point of barely being usable. League-minimum guys can be found with that profile.

    WAR is far from exact when evaluating these roles, but the club spent somewhere around $10m for combined replacement level performance from Bastardo, Ramirez, Hart, and Rodriguez. As their core players get more expensive, it would be smart to pay these marginals roles something less than 10% of the entire payroll.

    • 1 PH and 5 BBs for Rodriguez. And he played nearly everyday. Look, I know they got defensive problems but any good he did was undone by his stick. I’m really interested in this one, because everybody in that clubhouse that matters, loves him.

    • Well said, I would like to see them resign Happ bit not Rodriguez and would also try Locke as the 2nd left hander in the bullpen.

    • I think I saw Locke’s projected arbitration salary for 2016 being around $3M. If that is the case, then it takes a closer examination whether he should be tendered. On one hand, he is rotation depth and $3M isn’t expensive for that. On the other hand, if he’s a 2nd left in the bullpen experiment, better candidates can be had for that $.

      Happ (for all the clamoring when he was acquired) is pretty close to a must at this point I think. A rotation of Cole/Liriano/Happ/reclamation/Morton probably makes the most sense. That said, if the Pirates really looked at the gaps to truly contending for a WS, bundling $ for a stronger rotation option might be a good thing. I haven’t analyzed the $ for next year, but if Pedro AND Walker were jettisoned, that’s about $19M in cost avoidance that can be combined with AJ’s $8.5M to allow for some spending, though I know some will go for raises to existing players.

      • OK, did some quick math. IF the Pirates re-sign Happ at $10M AND retain Locke, Walker, Pedro, Melancon, Snider, Stewart, Hughes, Watson, Cervelli at their ARB projections on; and sign a utility guy for $2M (Srod or other), the total 25-man payroll would be $117M. I can’t see it going that high personally. *This does not include any salary relief for Morse’s $8M, which I think the Dodgers were providing at least some for.

        Ways to take that number down: Release Pedro (reduces by 8M), don’t re-sign Locke or SRod, replace Stewart with Diaz and that number is 103M. A bigger play might be moving Walker, and replacing with either Hanson or a cheaper vet for 1 year, that would reduce 2b from 10.7M to say 5M or even down to 500K if Hanson. Another possibility though I don’t like it is moving Melancon, installing Watson as closer and saving some of his $10M.

        • cmat! Have you always been around or are you a new subscriber?

          Yeah, I think it was Stephen Brooks who ran some numbers a couple weeks ago and convinced me that the club doesn’t actually have much money to work with, at least considering the limitations Nutting will likely put on Huntington.

          I don’t think the Alvarez choice, as a purely baseball decision, is an easy one. But if there’s actually a payroll crunch, he’s clearly the low hanging fruit.

          • NMR! I’m leveraging and enjoying the FREE access but most likely will subscribe also… yes, I was surprised in running the #s that 117M was the # without any major additions outside of Happ at 10M. To me, that’s why Neal has to decide if at this point he wants to keep this basic group together for one more run or if it’s time to churn the roster a bit more dramatically. For the former, they will likely need to trim down and therefore there goes Pedro; for the latter, it would involve Walker and Melancon perhaps also going but only for major acquisitions at 1B and starting pitching most likely. Given Neal’s DNA, I think the former is the likely path, but it may be a consideration to go for more change.

            • Hope you stick around, well worth the pennies. Do me a favor and say hello to DK and the boys for me.

              I think you bring up really good points. Maybe it’s the hangover from the loss last night, but I could see a Beane-esque type of offseason playing out. Not anything insane like trading the MVP for a collection of mediocre players, but shaking up the core of this type by trading the aging, expensive guys.

              Bank the prospects received and put the money back into one or two short duration, high value additions to the rotation/bullpen and/or backfill the infield.

      • You tender Locke. Whether you keep or trade Locke is the real question. He had a 3.94 xFIP last year, and 1.6 war. He has a career 4.20 xfip and 3.0 war, or roughly 1 per year. He’s under control until 2019. Market price is about 6 mil per war; Locke is a half price bargain. Count me among the unenthused when it comes to Locke but there’s value to be realized in that contract.

    • I’d rather not bring Locke back personally. I’ve heard that they don’t like him in a relief role anyway.

      • There’s a fair argument to be made here.

        His pre-arb starting experience means that even if he’s only a marginal reliever, he’ll still be rather expensive. Most likely ends up non-tendered next winter, unless he’s completely lights out, in which case he’ll be even more expensive.

        As for what role they “like” him in, I wouldn’t get terribly caught up in that without context. My memory of those discussions was usually centered around justifying him in the rotation as opposed to Worley. They may very well have been honest, but I can’t really see much reason not to try.

    • Yes…I want Happ back as well to push Locke out of the rotation.

  • I would love to see what Happ could do if he had more than a few months to work with Searage and Benedict. And I would most certainly overpay a bit to see what they can do

    • I would like to see Happ back for a few years at a reasonable price. But I know we saw him at the best he will ever be the last few months. Still,I think in the Pirates system and today’s offensive environment he could be a 3.50-3.75 era pitcher the next few years.