Neal Huntington was on The Fan this morning, discussing the off-season plans. As you’d expect, he didn’t really reveal much, and gave the typical answers to the typical questions.

For example, the first two questions asked if the Pirates could afford to keep guys like Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, and Mark Melancon in 2016 and whether Tyler Glasnow and/or Josh Bell would be up on Opening Day. Huntington said that they could afford to keep everyone if that’s what they determined would be the best team. He didn’t exactly say no to Glasnow and Bell, but you can guarantee that they’ll both start in Triple-A, for reasons Huntington mentioned (mechanics for Glasnow, defense and in-game power for Bell). Of course, subscribers to this site would already know those two reasons, since we’ve been repeating them constantly in the off-season previews for each player.

Huntington did say that Kang is “doing everything in his power to get back as quickly as possible”, but that they’re still a ways away from Kang returning. The next step for him is full weight-bearing on the knee. Huntington did say that the recovery has gone as well as they could have hoped. He was asked if Walker and Kang are related, in the sense that they might not be able to trade Walker if Kang isn’t ready, and said that Kang’s status won’t impact what they do with Walker.

He talked about the first base position, and said they’re still evaluating whether Pedro Alvarez is the best option for the dollars he will make. He referenced the Joel Hanrahan trade a few years ago, where they traded a player, and then put his money to better use elsewhere. The Pirates dealt Hanrahan and ended up signing Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano that off-season. In Alvarez’s case, you can see why the Pirates would be looking at a similar approach. He was replacement level last year, and will make about $8 M in 2016. You could imagine they could land a better option for less money, while using the money saved to upgrade other areas.

Huntington didn’t reveal anything specific for the first base position, including when asked if Michael Morse could be the everyday first baseman. He did throw out a few scenarios, including an Alvarez/Morse combo, Morse paired with a left-handed hitter, or Morse alone among those. That said, when asked about whether there was anyone who didn’t meet expectations, he immediately mentioned Alvarez. A fair translation would be that you shouldn’t expect Alvarez back next year, which isn’t a surprise.

On the subject of J.A. Happ, he said that they are interested in bringing the lefty back, which is something he’s been saying since I asked him about the subject at the end of the regular season. Happ also told me after the Wild Card game that he’s open to returning to the Pirates, so there is mutual interest there.

Probably the most interesting takeaway from this interview was at the end, when Huntington was asked whether it takes something special to close out games. In his response, he said that they felt comfortable with Tony Watson as the closer if they dealt Mark Melancon this off-season.

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144 COMMENTS

  1. i think it’s great that Happ is “open to returning”, because it’s better than the alternative, but when have you ever heard a pending free agent say “I’ll go anywhere except back to “? And how often have you heard player X say something just like Happ said and then sign somewhere else?

    He’s saying what he should say as a FA keeping his options open, but I don’t think we should put any stock in it.

    • In the article I linked, he went a bit beyond the “Sure, I’d sign anywhere” response. I got that type of response from Bastardo, but Happ really seemed to enjoy his time in Pittsburgh, and working with Searage.

      • “Whoever has the best offer, I’m going to be choosing them.” This was Bastardo’s quote. I actually went back and looked and I’m proud of myself. From what I read I do get the impression Happ would consider some other factors and feels maybe some slightly loyalty for the work Jim and Ray put in. Bastardo doesn’t really give me that feeling from what I’ve read and that’s fine. He certainly has that right.

  2. I am continually disappointed and perplexed by the Pirates unwillingness to trust and play their own prospects. Okay, so Glasnow and Bell aren’t perfect players yet and have things to improve on – but, they are both better than the other inhouse alternatives. The Cubs are going to leave us in the dust – because they are not afraid to play their top prospects and accept the ups and downs that go with it.
    If Alvarez returns as the primary first baseman, Huntington will have proven that finances trump baseball in his decision making.
    If Kris Bryant, Correia, and DeGrom were in the Pirates organization, they’d all still be in AAA – Bryant would need to cut down on his K’s, Correia would need to learn how to better hit a breaking pitch, and DeGrom would need work on his consistency.

    • Don’t forget they probably did bring polanci up too soon in hindsight due to injury. I have no doubt bryant would have been up last year as a buc as soon as super 2 passed. He woukdnt have been in triple a all year.

    • “Okay, so Glasnow and Bell aren’t perfect players yet and have things to improve on – but, they are both better than the other inhouse alternatives”

      They will be, but they aren’t right now.

    • “If Kris Bryant, Correia, and DeGrom were in the Pirates organization, they’d all still be in AAA – Bryant would need to cut down on his K’s”

      The Pirates promoted Alvarez in 2011, when in 148 PA he had 42 K’s & 5 HRs. 28.4% K/PA rate, 30 PA/HR
      Bryant had 272 AB at AAA, with 94 Ks & 24 HR. That’s a 28.5% K/PA and 11 PA/HR. If they promoted Pedro with the same K rate and less power, why would you think they would keep a better hitting Bryant down at AAA?

      Your assertion doesn’t fit the facts and was invented to suit the narrative you want to be true.

      • Jacob deGrom debuted as a 26 year old.

        I’m convinced this guy just throws names out there without actually knowing who these players are.

  3. I would like to see Walker moved and here’s my reason – I am absolutely convinced he will take the QO when it gets offered end of this season.

    I also think Pedro will improve his defense, if he’s still with us. I’m penciling him in for 1.5-1.8 WAR.

    And if Pedro isn’t here, keep a watch out for Aubrey Huff – this year’s potential Corey Hart.

    Why is always “Happ and a reclamation project”? Why can’t people ever just say, “two decent pitchers”?

    • “Why is always “Happ and a reclamation project”? Why can’t people ever just say, “two decent pitchers”?”

      Because we’re Pirate fans.

  4. A question for professionals and amateurs…. We know no one will ever be completely
    happy with the team that we take north in the spring, but how much confidence to you
    have that NH can put together another team in 2016 that will compete for a central title
    down to the last week of the season?

    • I think the answer depends on if you think that this team was a legit 98 win team. If so, it will be easy for Neil – bring back Happ and the lefty reliever, the three arb guys, and wait for Glasnow, Bell, and Taillon. (I think this is Neil’s stance.)

      I feel that this was not really even a 90-win team. So the above moves, would result in a good but not certain playoff team. Which means – sign Happ and another starter, two bullpen pieces, address SS, improve 1B.

  5. Pedro – wasn’t worth $1,000,000 last year but everyone is saying to sign him for $8,000,000 as a starter or an insurance policy. That is just paying for hope. Trade or cut by Friday

    Neil – the 1B ship has sailed. He won’t want to do it. He wants to stay (in pgh and at 2B). Moving opens the door for his replacements at 2B and knowingly makes him expendable at 1B when Bell is ready. If his replacements (Harrison, Hanson, or Moroff) are ready, trade him at the deadline

    Melancon – even with our proven track record of finding relievers, we would like to into the season with at least 2 proven late inning types. Melancon seems to be heading downward based on metrics but who would be the second guy after Watson – Caminiero or Hughes? Replace him with a proven guy or pay/keep him.

        • Idk if its a given. Pedro wont want a multi year deal unless its max value, so he’d be looking at a 1 year deal to boost value.

          At that point, im not sure he cares exactly where he spends a year. Maybe he like a certain coach or a ballpark, but its not like PNC to dead right field is a hitters nightmare. Whoever offered 5-6 million likely nabs him.

          • If Bucs non tender him, I guestion whether they would want him at any price. He can’t play 1b or 3b…that’s why they are looking to move him off roster.

        • Hard to waive goodbye to a small town with nothing but a broken GPS and unending desert in front of you. Boras might be challenging and greedy, but he wants to get paid just like everyone else.

  6. One thing that I cant wrap my head around is NH not wanting to move NW off 2b, the explanation of not wanting to damage his earning power on his walk year is rubbish. Look at D. Murphy, bad 2b, rumored at a solution to play 3b (Angels) 1b (Rockies) and of course 2b……in other words, more options have opened up for him. Add to that how weak the 1b market is and seems like it will be for years to come why not move NW there. Seamheads don’t waste to much time writing about value at 2b v 1b, A infield that has Kang at 3b, JayHay at 2b and NW at 1b is more productive and better defensively than our current options!!!

    • You’d want Walker at 1B to start the year, meaning needing a month of 3B from someone else. Its just not likely to be Hanson for obvious reasons, so we’d be looking for a backup IFer good enough to play and play well as a starter for extended periods but not good enough to cost a ton or be upset with being a bench player after the first month. Maybe we roll with a Uribe type, and that has merit, but it does potentially leave our offense somewhat punchless. Uribe-Mercer-Harrison is not bad, but also could be rather average across the board.

      Unless we assume Kang is good to go from day 1, in which case we should just all be happy.

      • I am a Mercer supporter, but i think 2016 is the last time he will have the opportunity to play himself out of a .150 batting average in mid may- and only based on necessity at that

        • I doubt the early season struggles are near the top of the teams worries about Mercer. Fans make more about situational SSS stats than need be. At one point, some worried Cutch tired due to 2 years of late season hitting issues.

          Mercer needs to prove his true talent area on offense in back around 90+ wRC+, because another sub 90 year (early season struggle or no) is what’ll make me think we need a different option no matter what.

          If Mercer comes back with a, say 93, wRC+ offensive year and his usual good defense, im content with that spot. We could upgrade to be sure, but 2-5 million for Mercer production of 2 WAR aint awful. Interestingly, Streamer is shockingly low on his projected defense value. Mid 6 overall 2 years running and they project under 2.

          • Even getting to 86 Wrc+ projected would be big improvement over 68 last year but low to mid 90s what I hope to see. Looking at these projections it is hard to believe how far segura has fallen. His swing really looked legitimate to me first half 2013 and then he just went into absolute tailspin.

            • Yeah it was a joke, we should totally be mostly looking at Mercer’s early season struggles as the big reason he’s on the hot seat. 2 years in a row with slow starts? Big signs of trouble.

              My point was its his overall offense thats far more an issue than just “he cant hit in May, i know because he hasnt 2 years in a row”. Its far from great correlation and doesnt have a logical causation, so i dont see why its smart to point to that as reason for doubting him. Reason for doubting his offense is his overall offensive output all of last year.

              • Your characterizations are so laughably optimistic, and then you talk down to other fans as if they’re idiots all for an academic point?

                Mercer’s “early season struggles” last two months. 1/3 of the season. That’s a big f*cking deal. And posting wRC+’s of 61 and 75 don’t exactly make one confident that those months were fluky. Neither does his career 73 wRC+ against RHP.

                • Obviously not predictive but Mercer’s WPA the first 2 months of the season in 2014-2015 was about -3. He’s been flat out horrendous the last 2 years early in the season and has been a big reason we dug such a large damn hole to start things out.

                • Thats fine, but the same could have and was said about Cutch early in his career after back to back oddly poor late season results. Maybe it is a direct causation and he’ll always struggle during that period, or maybe its very much not more than him being overall flawed on offense and having bad come then rather than in July.

                  Its really really early to assume he’s always crap early on. He just forgot after a great early season a few years ago apparently.

          • Well I just don’t think he would keep his job if he struggled that much through the first few months again, long enough to get back to a 90 wRC throughout the course of the season.

            • If we had a better alternative i’d absolutely agree. But i dont see much logic in replacing him no matter what, because right now you are replacing a struggling Mercer with a guy like Gift….a guaranteed poor hitter.

              Unless we pick up a hit first backup SS, i dont think we will have a clearly better option at SS than Mercer. He’s plenty fine on defense, and his offensive struggles are helped from a starting standpoint by the fact we dont have a SS able to hit at a 90 wRC+ clip and play average defense. That was Kang, but im not sure the team is still considering Kang at SS.

              • Oh I agree- the replacement is Kang once Kang is healthy, moving Harrison full time at 3rd. They would definitely do it if Mercer is hitting .170 and Walker is still on the team when Kang is healthy (assuming the injury hasn’t further decreased his range which i hadn’t considered)

      • I honestly think the reason the Pirates don’t want to put Neil at first is because they have no intention of him playing for them at all next season. I don’t think he’s in their plans for second base, let alone first base.

        The impression I had after listening to that interview the other day is that all three players are gone. I don’t believe they will even take Pedro to arbitration. I do think they will take the other two to arbitration if they cannot get value for them beforehand, but in my opinion, all three will be will be gone soon, probably before spring training.

        • Eh, i dont see it as likely they lose all 3. That’d maybe be what they are wanting, but that takes a lot going right. Gotta find a trade partner+appropriate return for Melancon, gotta find a trade and decent return for Walker, and means they gotta feel fine about whatever option that isnt Pedro even after losing Walker.

          Seems like 2 of 3 could happen with ease.

  7. It’s tough to sit and watch other teams appear to be aggressive going after some players and watch your team not appear to be… even though they may be being aggressive without the results!
    I’d still go with Pedro once more round the dance floor as it were as 8 mil for 20 homers seems about right as I see it. Defense should be slightly better this year, and bat may improve or not, still worth 8.
    It would be different if they can trade him for something – I wouldn’t let him go for nothing. That would upset me as I think he’s clearly as good as some other power types around the league. Gattis, Napoli, etc – while still having some limited upside with power output. IE he can hit more out, the rest of his game is clearly what he is, but I could see 30 without a stretch.

    • Truthfully I could care less about being aggressive. But I would like to see Pedro around for one more year. I know there are arguments the other way and I get that. But really we’re just asking for a buffer until Bell comes up and I’m not comfortable with Morse. Is Pedro worth 8 million? That’s debatable. But I don’t think 8 million cripples you for just one more year.

      • It’ll be fun to hear them spin their justification for getting rid of Alvarez for “not meeting expectations” and going with Mike Morse, who was the *third* string first baseman while with the Pirates, and that’s not including Sean Rodriguez.

        • I guess the argument would be they could survive with Morse until June. But even then you’re saying Bell is going to hit the ground running and his defense will be just fine. My argument, put as plainly as possible is Alvarez is worth 8 million as an insurance policy. Kind of switching gears here Melancon’s situation is completely different. You could argue that he is or isn’t worth 10 million (many will say he’s not). But he’s got one year left, like Pedro, but has a lot of trade value. So you could move him for parts that have 6 plus years.
          Pedro doesn’t appear to any trade value or he’d be gone. So if it’s non-tender and go with Morse or tender and suck it up for one more year and cross your fingers about his defense I’ll take the later.

          • “But even then you’re saying Bell is going to hit the ground running and his defense will be just fine.”

            *AND* that Morse himself will be both productive and healthy at the same time, something that has been exceedingly rare across his career.

            I’ll take the latter as well, FWIW. Best case is that Pedro’s defense improves like other equally futile defenders he’s been compared to. Worst case is you dump his salary once Bell arrives.

        • Even with really bad defense Steamer projecting Pedro for 1.1 WAR next year. Granted there is a gap between really bad and flat out horrendous. It’s a tough call at 1b next year.

        • The pecking order last year seemed to be…

          1. Alvarez
          2. Rodriguez
          3. Ramirez
          4. Morse

          I just don’t see them starting the year with Morse as the primary 1bmen. I would think they would explore bringing in Adam Lind for a year and if Bell is ready by June, trade Lind to an AL team that needs a 1b/DH.

    • Pedro will have plenty of incentive to put together a great season as he hits the FA market…he might just be worth it if Hurdle will play him

      • I don’t buy that argument. If he can turn his talent on and off, he’s cost himself millions in the arbitration process by accomplishing slightly more than nothing over the past two seasons.

        • Pedro’s batting performance in day games is strikingly better. Is there anything out there that tracks fielding in day vs night games. You have to wonder if the club has had him in front an eye specialist.
          What is the market for a day game DH? The management criticism of him is so overt now that there must be zero trade interest. It is not normal to have the GM and manager openly critical of an asset they are trying to move.

    • Yeah, I don’t want to see Pedro given away to save payroll, we need the power. We can’t replace his power at his cost, and his defense cannot literally get worse. Just like his offense in 2014 couldn’t have been worse. Problem is- his offense may pull back as his defense gets better, that’s really the risk

    • Last season I plotted the free agent signings by week (2011-2013), with week 1 defined as the week starting Oct 1. Jpg is below. We are currently in week 8. Historically more than 80% of the moves come after week 8.

      Which leads me to my second jpg.

  8. “You could imagine they could land a better option for less money…”

    No I couldn’t. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of a first baseman they could acquire for less money and/or prospects, and I can’t think of anyone. Which isn’t to say Pedro doesn’t have flaws. It’s just a fact that even flawed players these days are expensive.

    • Depends on what you mean. Better on offense? Likely not, assuming we think he’s good for another 110-115 wRC+ type season. Thats not terrible for 8-ish million. But on an NL team, his entire value could be had for less.

      Which isnt a plus to whatever guy we find, but a realization that Pedro’s overall value really does suck thanks to his defense. He needs to fine a home in the AL on a team needing an average DH. We could find 0-1 WAR at 1B for less than 8 million.

      • Since I respect your opinion greatly I’m going to run through a bunch of hypotheticals for fun. Pedro goes .230, 25 HRs, .780ish OPS, K/BB rate stay about the same and his defense at first is bad but not “I have to put my drink down because there’s no way he just dropped that f-ing ball” bad. You don’t think that’s worth 8 million? If there’s no takers on the trade market?

        • Worth it for his price? No. Worth it for the team? Maybe. It’d give 2 options at 1B until Bell rather than Morse+a FA backup type.

          I think there is an argument to be made that Pedro wont be worth 8 million 8 million (or would be bad value at least) but still fits into the teams needs due to needing a warm body who can hit for half a season.

          • That’s kind of what I’m getting at. I would be willing to overpay a little for Alvarez, for just one year, hope his D is a little better. Again, there is no long term commitment, he seems to have no trade value and I’m not comfortable with the situation at first.

            • Depends on what PGH did with his money if they got rid of him. If it was Pedro or Happ+a better than pure reclamation project i take the two SPs.

              I struggle seeing Pedro return+2 SPs show up.

              • I’ll agree with you there. I think they need Happ plus one reclamation pitcher. I’m big on Taillon and Glasnow but you’d be foolish to say you can pencil in one or both June 15th and never have to worry about them again. And if you’re going to say we need Pedro’s money to get two starters and we think Morse can bridge us to Bell then I would understand this. But if they get rid of Walker and Melancon and still say they couldn’t pay Pedro for one year then I won’t be that happy because I don’t see them signing anyone for say more than Happ will get which is around maybe 11 million a year.

                • Regardless of the GM speak that happens, ill be shocked if they move Walker. Makes too much sense to keep him around now that Kang’s status is at best murky early on.

                  • I’ll take that a step farther actually Luke- To say that Kang’s situation in no way has an effect on Walker would actually him being bad at his job, because it is a direct impact on the depth and quality of the team. Anyone who believes that is an idiot-every GM in the league laughed and rolled their eyes when they saw that statement.

                    • I dont agree with that extreme position myself.

                      I also dont agree with the black and white “you are an idiot if you believe that” tone. Doesnt really do anyone any good to act like that, but to each their own.

                    • You’ve been extreme before- i’ll be extreme this time. It’s a dumb statement for him to make, it’s littlefieldish

                • Not 1-1, but saving 8 million absolutely makes us getting Happ far more likely. Rather than 8 to Pedro and 12 to Happ, its 0 to Pedro and 12 to Happ. Finding 4 million is easier than 12.

                  • assuming you don’t replace Pedro with anyone at first base- I see your point. Either way, you aren’t saving 8 million because Pedro didn’t make 8 million this year. The difference is between paying Happ in 2016 vs. what you paid Pedro in 2015 in terms of payroll obligations- how much pedro would make in 2016 if kept is irrelevant if they aren’t going to keep him to save money

      • What you’re really saying is that they can roll the dice on a guy off the scrap heap who will be free and hope he doesn’t turn out to be a negative value player.

        • Well yeah, its as much a risk as paying Pedro 10 million and hoping his defense progresses enough to make him a 1 WAR player.

          I dont want them to do that, im content with Morse+FA who can hit LHP until Bell. Im just saying from an overall value standpoint, I cant see Pedro being more than 1 WAR unless he remembers how to play defense.

            • Napoli might still have enough in him for that, still hitting LHP okay.
              Moss in a true platoon role might have good value, hits LHP better than most. In division trades are rare, but idk if STL has a spot for Moss if they roll with Adams and sign Heyward.

              And a few guys in AAA/Rule 5 eligible that could pass against LHP.

              • Right, so since Napoli and Moss aren’t happening, we’re back to “…a guy off the scrap heap who will be free and hope he doesn’t turn out to be a negative value player.”

                I’m not even completely opposed to that. Just thinks its a stretch to assume improving the position – or even holding serve – will be easy for less money.

                • You just dismissed 2 options without even trying to pretend to give a reason. Sorry if thats not something i respect a ton. Mike Napoli could absolutely happen. I see no reason to dismiss that without any reason.

                  It is a stretch, much like the assumption that Pedro will progress on defense and be worth anywhere near 8 million is a stretch. Its all poor options.

                  • For what money, Luke?

                    Trust me, it’s there, you don’t have to convince me. But both players are likely to be more expensive than Alvarez, and there’s this idea that money is tight.

                    That’s why I dismissed both guys.

          • Napoli could be an OK gamble at 2/18 but I’d rather take a chance on Pearce at 2/12 if he came in that low. Pearce projects for 2 WAR next year, Napoli 1.6

            Projections don’t mean everything but Pearce is the sort of gamble I’d take

              • 2 year deal and it’d fit PGH’s needs well. He’d start this year, give Bell time to work (with Bell as insurance if Pearce sucks/gets hurt) and Pearce slides into a backup role if Bell is ready.

              • Napoli has fallen off sharply vs. RHP, and I think it would be a waste of money to pay $9M for a short-side platoon guy.

                Based on age and recent performance, Pearce should outperform Napoli, and will likely cost less.

            • Id take the Pearce gamble, ill just be shocked if he only gets 6 per year. Poor year, but someone will overpay thanks to a truly awful market at his spot.

              Id still do it at 2/16.

              • Yeah I think FG crowdsourced him at 2/12 but that does seem low even after bad year. It’s going to be interesting to see how the market values guys like Napoli and Pearce.

              • I’d be surprised if Pearce gets $6 mil for two years. He’s only played two real seasons, he’s out of his prime at 33, and has had one year with WAR greater than .5

                • But that year isnt all that long ago, and he’s entering a market that currently has about -2 good options.

                  6 million is nothing, in a world where James Loney as a FA makes more than that, teams wont totally lowball Pearce. There’s a middle ground 1 WAR guy in there, and thats 8 million. Someone banks on a bit of upside and he’s given 8 million with ease in this market.

            • I’d gladly take Pearce back- but i don’t think he’d have much value in PNC. His swing hits lofty fly balls in that left center gap, and they all go to die. Pearce hit about 15 balls in his short pirate career at PNC that would have been out of of Oriole park

          • Morse is a RHB, so I think you meant to say “FA who can hit RHP” but either way, if you believe Morse can hit LHP than you have to believe he can also hit RHP, and vice versa. His career OPS splits are .787 and .806 vs. RHP/LHP.

        • Either a platoon of guys as presented above or a guy like Mark Canha. Not gonna wow with power, wow with average, or wow with OBP, but does throw out plenty more value at less cost.

          Or i guess OAK maybe wants to keep Canha over Valencia for some reason and Valencia would also be a guy able to do 1B well at less cost.

    • Wow Pedro a first baseman? I thought he was a ball girl. Wow that explains him getting to bat. Please let’s have a first baseman who can field the position. I know it’s foreign to Pirate fans but just once please.

    • All Pedro really has to do is get to a -1 WAR defensively to have enough total value to be worth his contract. Pedro is a hard worker, so my thoughts are, if he is that bad at 1st base, it’s probably partially the coaches fault whom are teaching him to play the position

      • You did watch the plays he messed up, right? Some of that might be coaching if you really like Pedro, but he made mistakes that absolutely are on him. He never took to the spot well, and started making mistakes that he never made at 3B.

        I like Pedro, but his issues arent with coaching. He seems totally unconfident and has lost shocking amounts of defensive ability. He magically lost his arm at 3B, then became unable to catch and totally poor at judgement plays (something he didnt struggle with at 3B).

        • I hate the idea that fans believe they simply observe a player on the field and in interviews and diagnose whether he’s “confident” or not, or “smart” or not, or “wants it bad enough” or not. So let’s put aside those things we aren’t in a position to judge.

          Based on his pattern of errors — flubbing easy plays and making tough ones — it seems to me his problems are with concentration, not ability. Missing a throw from the pitcher is not lack of ability — everyone playing ball from age 12 up has that ability.

          In 2014 his fielding errors at 3B dropped from about 12 per year to 1. Unfortunately his throwing got way worse, especially on routine plays. The point is that he has demonstrated fielding ability, and 1B don’t have to throw very often, and when they do, it’s usually not a routine play. So it is not far-fetched that he could have a much better year defensively. I wouldn’t count on it, but I might take the gamble given the cost.

          • He might, be all of that was true a year ago. He had demonstrated fielding ability, didnt have as many throws, still had range and ability. And he went total flub on us. I dont see why its clear he’ll get over that in a huge way, since his issues are rather unexplainable.

            Pedro showed all the ability of being an average 1Bmen at 3B, and once he moved he forgot how to make quick decisions and catch the ball.

            • Clear? Not even close.

              But possible? Absolutely.

              This is all about risk. If you can’t risk a 1yr/$8m contract in 2016, boy, that really says something about organizational leadership.

              • Or it says they have little faith in that guy in that area. They absolutely could take that risk, but at that point its what risk do they feel is better overall. Pedro at 8 million and hope his defense isnt well below average? Morse+FA filler until Bell arrives?

                Not sure its poor organizational leadership to decide Pedro isnt the better risk.

                • What sort of hubris is required to believe Morse, the third string 1B last season on the same team as the dastardly disappointing Alvarez, and a yet-to-be-named 1B is actually an improvement given Huntington’s laundry list of failed platoon 1B?

                  • An improvement over Pedro? Mostly because that means any positive WAR. You either assume Pedro gets better on defense and is around 1 WAR (if we project him to get more than 1 WAR better on defense, seems pretty best case scenario) or he gets slightly better and Pedro is between 0-1 WAR.

                    I dont think its hubris to think Morse and a platoon type could get to 1 WAR. Morse’s biggest issue has been health. He’s not without years, and recent years, of having plenty of ability to get to 1-2 WAR.

                    • Except 2012, 2013, and the first part of 2015 when he was healthy and below replacement level. Again, laughably optimistic to think it’s only about health with him. Guy simply has not been a consistent performer. Being extremely injury prone only exacerbates the issue, given absolutely zero depth before Bell.

                      And again, if Huntington had literally any success actually putting together a 1 WAR platoon you’d have a point.

                    • Conspicuous by being the only year, 2012 had Jones, McGeehe, Sanchez combine for > 2 WAR (1.6, 0.3, 0.4). Your point is correct even if your exaggeration isn’t.

                      Historically NH has gone the ultra-cheap* route at 1B and it hasn’t really worked out.

                      * I don’t intend cheap as a criticism, merely an adjective.

        • You don’t magically lose your ability to catch a baseball. If they need to hire a psychologist, hire a psychologist. The team’s job is to figure out how to get the most out of their player, and at least a small to moderate amount of it is on them. Not most, but enough to make a difference.

          • How would you suggest getting Pedro to remember how to catch the ball though? The positioning and “stop going after things to your right” is coaching, but his absolute shocking catching issues arent just coaching. He lost either his confidence or his ability for no reason.

            The teams job is to give him all the help he needs, but at some point basic errors and basic fundamental parts of the game are on the player. You can help him and positively reinforce his confidence all day, but he’s gotta trust himself and make plays. Players have absolutely magically lost the ability to do things they knew how to do before, and its always befuddling.

            • How did Kevin Young go from 8 errors in ’98 to 23 in ’99 and back to 7 in ’01?

              How did George Scott go from 13 errors in ’76 to 24 in ’77 and back down to 10 in ’78?

              You act like there’s a magic bullet solution and explanation to everything in baseball. You’re wrong.

              • Actually, im acting like we dont have any explanation for Pedro’s overall defensive issues, and thats why i find it high risk to assume he’ll get a ton better. If most of his issues were with getting to balls and snap decisions, id feel way better.

                My entire argument is based around the fact that Pedro’s issues are rather tough to explain, and thus largely risky to assume will go any which way. He could look like himself 2 years ago, could get somewhat better, could continue befuddling us all. There’s no explanation to why he had the issues he had on defense since he’d never seen that level of issue with catching/range/decision making.

            • That part is a problem and I’d rather view it as an anomaly. His dropping balls comes from pickoff attempts mostly, and that is something he never really did before. I actually had trouble catching pickoff attempts at times at first base, and i was an excellent defender, it can be hard to pick up the ball sometimes and its such a short distance. Every major league baseball can catch a baseball, every division 1 and 2 player can catch a baseball. Most 70 year olds who played professional baseball can still catch the baseball. This isn’t a skill that goes away or erodes, its psychological, and its up to the coaches to figure out how to fix it, because its’ unlikely that Pedro would be able to find the root himself

        • and NMR is right- a lot of the mistakes made were based on his lack of comfort with his positioning, getting too far off the base, going after balls that would be handled by 2nd base, etc. again, not most- but enough to make a difference. That, my friend, is coaching.

          • Actually, a good deal of his errors had nothing to do with where he was positioned or on decision plays. He made plenty of “hey catch the ball” errors that have 0 to do with a coach telling him what to do.

            He made plenty of errors that has little to do with a coach getting him comfortable, and he also made a ton of errors late in the year. He wasnt seemingly better in September, so either we run with the assumption that our coaches suck so bad they cant get a player familiar with what to do in a year of coaching, or Pedro just never took well to the position himself. If his issues came due to poor coaching, i think he’d fall into better production late in the year just out of being familiar with the spot.

              • Alright, my point is simple and not meant to say Pedro cant improve: I dont think its a great bet that Pedro magically improves a ton on defense in a large enough way to make him a good risk.

                Where we disagree is mostly with Morse, and his chances of being non replacement level. I think he’s a risk, but on the same level risk as Pedro and with sunk money/less money. You throw a cheap but not totally useless backup 1Bmen with him for half a year, im relatively not pissed.

                In a year where 1B market is totally crap, the better defensive option with more risky offense is (for me) better than a more consistent offensive option with ‘hey maybe” defense. And i do think Pedro’s defense is mostly a maybe at this point.

            • I’ll admit that a good % of errors did have nothing to do with positioning, but i’m not just talking about errors, i’m talking about everything that contributed to him being a horrible defender. It isn’t just the errors that contributed to that god awful DWAR, it’s reasonable to expect that better coaching and another year of familiarity would cut the errors in half, and also the mental indecision and out of position issues

      • And if you look at Kevin Young and the other guys who were equally futile at the position in their first year, they all improved moving forward. Some significantly.

        Some, or even most, of the errors were certainly on him but the judgement plays were partial coaching failures, if you ask me. Watch how they broke Ramirez into the position compared to Pedro. Essentially had him standing in one spot, not shifting around. I can imagine, as a fan, that judging range at a completely new position would be a hell of a lot harder when you’re never in one spot at the same time.

        • I agree- Pedro can catch a baseball- but I think he was thinking too much most of the time to just focus on those simple things, just like he was thinking too much about throwing at 3rd. I think there is a pretty reasonable chance that he will only be 1/2 as bad at first base this year, the problem is- he might also only be half as good at the plate, which we’ve seen before……

          • Agreed. All I can figure at this point. And it’s not like folks didn’t think he had the skills to succeed at the position.

            http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=26077

            “Although the caveats about sample size apply—no defender faces every fielding scenario over a two-series stretch—the Pirates have to be content with what they’ve seen from Alvarez. His footwork remains a work in progress and his throwing is a question mark, but there’s reason to think he can develop into an average or better defender with additional reps due to his athleticism and hands.”

          • At the expense of going full-on fanboy, I’ll argue your point about offense a bit…

            I think the Pirates broke Alvarez in ’14 trying to make him a hitter he simply isn’t. The contact/all-fields approach neutered him of his best skill, and I truly think at the deadline last year when it seemed certain he was losing his job he basically said “F this”.

            From 2012-2013, he was a 8.8% BB, 30.5 % K, .232 ISO hitter with a 25.7% HR/FB rate and 20.4% opposite field distribution.

            From 2014 through the first half of 2015, those same categories changed to 9.6%BB, 24.7%K, .180 ISO, 18.8% HR/FB, 27.2% oppo.

            Second Half of 2015, his most productive stretch of baseball since early 2013, those categories again changed to 11.3%BB, 30.9%K, .274 ISO, 44.1%(!!!) HR/FB, 18% oppo for a very respectable 137 wRC+. Only Kang and Cutch were better.

            No you should certainly regress those numbers down a bit, but I think there’s plenty of evidence that he went back to doing what he does best, and while that’s far from a complete hitter, it’s also pretty damn valuable in today’s offensive environment. If a club with a decent hitting coach got him to put the ball in the air even a little bit more, you’re talking about a 40HR hitter with a >.330 OBP.

            • Last year I was sure he’d have a big second half because his contact was good, he was hitting the ball hard, and his FB distance was good. But his FB% was low.

              He did have a good second half, but it didn’t include keeping his contact rate. His FB% did rebound finally ticked up again in Sept/Oct. With the strong FB rate and how hard he hits the ball, he should be good for 30 HR.

              Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever been able to keep his contact rate up while also keeping the fly ball rate up.

              • I think the question you have to ask is if it really matters?

                Pedro Alvarez “improved” for a season and a half, and was a worse hitter of baseballs. It might not be intuitive, but not every player succeeds the same way.

            • Yeah, i completely agree with the fly ball thing- had they ruined him in 2014 working on a swing change, he might have hit 40 homers in 2015 to go with his 40 misplays at first base haha.

  9. Is Evan Gattis good enough to be a backup catcher? He should be cheap ($3.4MM est.) and would be an upgrade in power. Should be somewhat okay in RF?

  10. I’m a wait and see guy in general. And I do feel that Neal deserves the benefit of the doubt for building a team on a limited budget. But everything about this article would seem to say it’s going to be an uncomfortable offseason and we’re going to have to go on faith. That being said I trust their judgment. So if Walker, Alvarez and Melancon go and the unknown come in I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    • If they get rid of those 3, with about 28 million in savings, I would hope they make a move for Todd Frazier with whatever prospects they get for Shark plus….just Happ and scrap is not a good offseason if they she’d that much. Either that or get in the market for a real top player. If they drop 28 million, I don’t think just fill ins will do,imo

      • It’s not 28 million dollar in savings because they have never paid this trio 28 million. All it would be saving is the amount that they directly paid last year, which is 18.5 million. That’s the savings folks- people whom are using their projected 2016 salary as *savings* if we deal them are looking at this with the wrong lens. If they made 28 million last year, we wouldn’t have had them all in 2015 either, so the difference here is shedding 18 million from last year, so only DROPPING, 18.5 million. so that’s probably about the most payroll flexibility you’d pick up by trading all 3

        • Thats not in any way logical. They are absolutely saving it, because they are otherwise obligated to pay it. If they kept the exact same team apart from guys that had contracts end, they’d pay near 30 million. Its at best splitting hairs for no logical reason to act like they arent saving what Melancon would actually make.

          We have already paid them their salary, and if we dont move them are obligated to pay what is likely to be around 28 million. Anyone who trade from that group is bringing us a savings from their actual pay, not what we already paid them. We dont get anything back from last year, we already paid it.

          • Actually it’s totally logical. The savings is 18.5 mil and the balance to get to 28 mil is cost avoidance, NOT savings.

            • You guys are talking past each other. You’re both right and you’re both wrong. If Luke is starting from the 2016 payroll table on this page, then he’s right, trading those guys (or non tendering) would reduce that number. If Geoffrey is comparing to last year, then he’s right, they are saving $18M from last year. Technically, they are also saving the $10M they paid Burnett, too, and whatever they paid Ramirez.

              But last year’s numbers are irrelevant. And the arbitration guys don’t count until they are tendered. What matters are the payroll budget, what’s committed already, and what spots are left to fill.

            • My apologies, they are avoiding that cost. But they still arent actually saving that 18 million, because its already been paid for their production last year. They paid 18.5 for what they got, and going forward the new money they could pay them can be avoided.

            • One point your missing though is NH stated the team could afford to keep all three if they felt that was best for the 2016 team. Keeping that in mind it’s logical to assume that by trading all three that would leave the 28 mil available in whatever budget is being discussed.

          • It’s all about payroll flexibility. Putting together a competitive roster during the off-season while retaining as much payroll flexibility to add talent based on injury/performance is what NH job is about.

          • I just explained why it’s logical. If you disagree, fine. Then disagree. If they are not planning on paying it, they are not saving it. Example:
            A supermarket marking down an item I wasn’t planning on buying at $10 to $7, doesn’t save me $10 by me not buying it and spending $10 on something else I want instead. In fact, it doesn’t even save me $7 because I had no interest in even paying $7 for that item. Likewise if I previously bought an item before which cost $7, and I decided I didn’t like it, it doesn’t save me $10 by not buying it again when it rises to $10 the next time I go to the store. It is YOUR position which is illogical.

          • I think the difference is actually just perspective. I’m taking the position that savings can only be savings based off what you are saving VS. what your payroll obligations were last year. Most people say, we finished last year at 110 million, and by getting rid of these 3 players we will subtract 28 million from the books, and that’s completely false since those players did not represent 28 million from the payroll in 2015. You can’t really predict payroll obligations for 2016 because we don’t have a full roster, so there is no other way to standardize other than subtracting what they made last year to get to the same standard point to determine where you can add salary and still be within budget

          • So by dropping all 3 players, you are only “freeing up” 18.5 million dollars in resources to use elsewhere, because that is all the resources that were assigned to them last season.

    • If all 3 get traded I’d be surprised, but okay with it only under 1 circumstance, and that is: one of those positions is DIRECTLY filled by the return they receive. I don’t care which one. If walker and Alvarez go somewhere for a closer and Melancon goes for a prospect, fine. If Melancon and Walker get traded for an upgrade at first, awesome. I don’t suppose we really NEED walker, and he could get a good return – but only if you are comfortable with Hanson at 2nd to open the season, and no real depth until Kang comes back (risky)

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