Breaking Down the Pirates’ Remaining Off-Season Needs and Potential Moves

In the week leading up to Christmas, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a few moves that were mostly on the small-scale. Several of these moves involved the bullpen, but two of the moves shored up the first base position.

The Pirates traded for Jason Rogers, adding an interesting right-handed hitting option who had success in a small sample size in the majors last year. They capped off the first base position by adding John Jaso, a converted catcher who has played all of 20 innings at first base in his career, but whose numbers against right-handers rank up there with fellow left-handers like Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Carpenter, and Anthony Rizzo.

The combination of Jaso and either Rogers or Michael Morse should give the Pirates a strong offensive pair at first base, and Jaso should be an upgrade over Pedro Alvarez from the left side of that platoon. Defensively, there are some questions, but it would be almost impossible to be worse than Alvarez, and easy to upgrade over his performance last year.

The Pirates are currently sitting at $94.5 M with their projected payroll for the 2016 season. They also still have a few needs remaining as we approach the new year. In most years, the fact that they still have needs at this point in the off-season might be cause for concern. However, the problem this year seems to be spread across baseball. Ken Rosenthal pointed this out a week ago, noting how a lot of big free agents haven’t signed yet. A few of those guys have since signed deals, but the market is still stalled across the league, and across many positions.

With that in mind, let’s look at what could still be in store for the Pirates in the final two months of the off-season.

Starting Pitching

I’m putting this first, because it’s the biggest one. The Pirates added Jon Niese in the Neil Walker trade, and they signed Ryan Vogelsong to a $2 M deal with an additional $3 M in incentives. They’ve also added Kyle Lobstein and Juan Nicasio as potential depth options. But right now the rotation looks a bit thin.

At the moment, the rotation would include Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Niese, Jeff Locke, and Vogelsong. Nicasio isn’t much of a starting option at the moment, but could be used as a spot starter if needed. Lobstein looks like deep depth out of the bullpen.

The Pirates appear to be missing two things: a good number three starter, and more depth.

They have still been connected to other pitchers, even after the Vogelsong deal. That’s good, because while their track record of turning around starting pitchers has been strong, Vogelsong doesn’t look like a guy who should be in this rotation. I don’t see him returning to his 2.1-2.5 WAR days from 2011-12 at his current age, and even if he put up a similar season to 2014, the rotation would still lack upside, with three guys expected to put up numbers slightly below the league average in their best case scenarios. An ERA around 4.00 isn’t a bad thing at all, but it’s not something you want from your number three starter. At this point, the upside for Niese, Vogelsong, and Locke looks to be that mark.

It would be better if Vogelsong was bumped to the bullpen as the long reliever, pitching in the Vance Worley role. He’d be a good guy to step in as the number six starter, and might have better luck bouncing back as a long reliever. Meanwhile, you could upgrade the rotation with a higher upside arm, even if that arm is also a bounce back candidate like Mat Latos.

If the Pirates add an additional starter, and that bumps Vogelsong to the bullpen (or Locke, but I’ll get to that later), then it would give them eight starting options on Opening Day, with the prospects set to arrive by mid-season. I’d expect them to add at least one more guy, possibly a veteran for the Triple-A rotation. Last year they started the season with ten starting options who could pitch on Opening Day, and that wasn’t including the expected mid-season additions of Nick Kingham or Jameson Taillon. It also didn’t include the possible mid-season addition of Adrian Sampson. None of those three options ended up working out.

This year the Pirates have Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon as their top prospects expected to make the jump. They also have Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, and Steven Brault as possibilities who aren’t top-tier starters. But don’t expect them to rely on just seven starting pitching options until those guys arrive, especially when two of the starting options are Nicasio and Lobstein. They will make a few moves for the rotation, and hopefully one of those moves will upgrade the number three spot.

Left-Handed Relief

Bobby LaFromboise was lost on waivers this past week, and while he wasn’t a strong option to be the second lefty out of the bullpen, he was pretty much the only option they had. Currently the Pirates have just two guys behind Tony Watson. There’s Kyle Lobstein, who I think will pitch out of Triple-A as rotation depth. They also have non-roster invitee Robert Zarate, who has interesting numbers and good stuff, but seems better as a number three option out of Indianapolis.

The Pirates need a left-handed reliever, and this might be their second biggest remaining need behind a starter. Last year they filled this need via trade, sending Joely Rodriguez to Philadelphia to get Antonio Bastardo. That was a good move, and Bastardo would be a good option to return to the team and fill that need for a second lefty. However, he’s currently looking for a deal similar to the three years, $18 M that Tony Sipp received, and it would be difficult to imagine the Pirates paying that with their track record.

They’ve got plenty of mid-tier starting pitchers in Altoona and Bradenton, and could pull off a similar move as last year in trading for a lefty relief option. I don’t have any names to throw out there, since there would be a ton of possibilities, and no word on who is available. That would be the affordable route to take, and the Pirates could deal a starter from those levels without really feeling the impact in the system. Bastardo would be the safe route to take, but would put the payroll at just over $100 M, and that’s without adding another starter or making any other moves.

One possibility here is Jeff Locke. I mentioned Vogelsong above as a guy who could move to the bullpen if another starter is signed. But what if the Pirates moved Locke instead? Long-term, Locke has no place in the rotation. By the end of the 2016 season, the hope would be that the rotation would include Cole, Liriano, Glasnow, Taillon, and Jon Niese at his pre-2015 numbers. So beyond the 2016 season, and maybe beyond June 2016, the Pirates won’t have a spot for Locke in the rotation.

Locke seems like a good candidate to be a strong reliever. His biggest issue has been control, and that tends to be reduced in a relief role. He also has good stuff for a lefty, and that could play up as a reliever. He hit 94.7 MPH last year with his fastball, with an average velocity of 91.2. You could imagine where his velocity would be if he only had to focus on one inning.

There are also signs that Locke could be a really good reliever. He has two trends that have really stuck out in his career. The first is his success early in games. In his first plate appearance in a game against an opponent, he gives up just a .686 OPS. That number goes up to a .742 OPS in the second plate appearance, and .741 in the third.

Locke also has struggled in the second half each year. In 2013 he had an xFIP of 4.21 in the first half, but an ERA of 2.15. That was expected to regress, and did just that, although he went to the other extreme in the second half, when he had an ERA much higher than his xFIP. He had another strong first half in 2014, with a 2.89 ERA/3.32 xFIP. He struggled again in the second half with a 4.66 ERA/4.34 xFIP. The trend continued in 2015 with a 4.03 ERA/3.96 xFIP in the first half, and a 5.10/3.92 in the second half.

There is no explaining this trend with Locke, since he’s had years where he’s expected to regress in the second half, and years where he looks totally legit in the first half, only for the second half to fall apart. As a reliever, you’d think Locke would take advantage of the first half numbers more, since his workload would be cut down. If it’s an issue of tiring at the end of the year, then perhaps that would disappear in a role that doesn’t require him to pitch more than 70 innings.

Locke seems like an interesting option for the second lefty in the bullpen, although that would require the addition of an upgrade in the rotation. Either way, the Pirates also need a second lefty, and maybe an additional depth option out of Triple-A.

The Fallout at First Base

The first base position looks set from the left side with the addition of John Jaso. From the right side, Michael Morse and Jason Rogers will battle it out for the other half of the platoon. Jake Goebbert is also in the mix as a depth option out of Triple-A. Morse was added last year in a trade that sent Jose Tabata away, and the Pirates owe him about $4.5 M this year after money coming from the Dodgers. That’s essentially what they would have paid Tabata, although they might actually get a useful player out of Morse.

That said, they didn’t trade two prospects for Jason Rogers just to send him to Triple-A to ride the bench behind Josh Bell. He’ll factor into the mix somehow, and the fact that he’s not strong defensively at third or the outfield suggests that his primary position would be first base. And that means one of Morse or Rogers are expendable. Morse seems like the obvious guy to go, since he was already on the roster when they traded for Rogers. If they were going with Morse from the right side, then they probably wouldn’t have dealt for Rogers at all, unless they’re planning on sacrificing defense on the bench in favor of Rogers’ bat.

If that’s the case, then they could keep Morse and Rogers, and they’d probably be in trouble if a middle infielder went down. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Morse goes on the move.

The Utility Spot on the Bench

The Pirates added Sean Rodriguez as a bench option, and while he provides good defense, his offensive value isn’t great. Rodriguez did have strong numbers down the stretch, posting a .379 wOBA and a 146 wRC+ from August 1st to the end of the year. Just to put those numbers in perspective, Andrew McCutchen had a .379 wOBA and a 146 wRC+ in the second half. But expecting these numbers from Rodriguez going forward is not advised, since they came in just 79 plate appearances, and were a result of a massive spike in BABIP and just a 2.5% walk rate.

The hope for Rodriguez would be that he could return to his pre-2014 performance. The reality is that you should expect an all-defense, no bat utility infielder. And that’s not a big problem, since the Pirates had the same thing at the start of the 2015 season. They also had Jung-ho Kang at the start of the year as another utility option. Kang later became a starter, which pushed Josh Harrison back to the utility role. The point is that the Pirates had two utility infielders the entire season. So don’t expect them to be set with just Rodriguez.

I’m not entirely convinced that they’ll made an additional move here. There are plenty of internal options who can take this role. Alen Hanson would be the top option, and putting him in that role would make a lot of sense. He could fill in for Kang at the start of the year. He’s a guy who has started slow at each level in the past, so having him as a utility guy to start his MLB career would be the best approach until he showed that he could be a starter (similar to how Kang was handled last year). The Pirates also have so many middle infield options in their system that they don’t need to worry about Super Two status with Hanson, since they’ll probably have a few options to replace him five years from now when that matters.

Behind Hanson, they’ve got a few defense-only options like Pedro Florimon and Gift Ngoepe, although those guys would be excess with Rodriguez already on the team. They could go with Jason Rogers and keep Michael Morse at first if they want to sacrifice defense in favor of a bat. Cole Figueroa is also an option as a non-roster invitee. If the Pirates go with an in-house option here, then expect a few more NRI guys to be signed, just to add a bit more competition during the Spring.

Mark Melancon Trade

The final thing to bring up would be the possibility of a Mark Melancon trade. This has been discussed as a foregone conclusion all off-season, to the point where Tony Watson was repeatedly asked about being a closer at PirateFest, with the assumption that Melancon was as good as gone.

The Pirates don’t necessarily need to deal Melancon. If they add a starter for around $8-10 M, move Jeff Locke to the bullpen, deal Morse and his salary, and stick with Alen Hanson or one of the other internal options as a utility guy, then the payroll would be around $100-105 M, even with Melancon. So they could deal Melancon, but it would only make sense if they needed the money for other moves (like going with someone else instead of Locke as a lefty reliever, or keeping Morse and making Rogers a bench player). It would also make sense if they could get a big return for their closer. But other than that, it might make sense to keep the best relief combo in baseball together if they can.

If the Pirates did trade Melancon, they’d have to use some of the payroll space to replace him. Even if they moved Locke to the bullpen, they’d need one more lefty reliever, since Tony Watson would move to the closer’s role. And I doubt they’d go for two question marks at lefty relief, so it’s possible they’d add someone like Bastardo in this situation.

They’d also need additional bullpen depth to help make up for the loss of Melancon. The current bullpen looks strong. They’ve got Melancon and Watson in the late innings. The middle innings would currently feature Jared Hughes as a ground ball specialist, and the hard throwing Arquimedes Caminero following his strong 2015 season. I think Juan Nicasio is a guarantee to make the team due to his salary, and he seems like the best bet to be this year’s version of Caminero. Add in a second lefty reliever, and that leaves one final spot.

The Pirates have plenty of hard throwing options competing for that final spot. Yoervis Medina, John Holdzkom, Rob Scahill, and non-roster invitee Curtis Partch have all hit 97 MPH in the past. That group makes someone like Guido Knudson — who has only hit 94 — seem like a soft tosser. One of these guys would be a great option as the final piece in the bullpen (assuming they don’t move Vogelsong AND add a second lefty from the outside, at which point they wouldn’t have that final spot).

The point here is that the current bullpen looks great. You’ve got the best relief combo in baseball in Melancon and Watson. You’ve got two guys in Hughes and Caminero who you can count on at middle relief, with the obvious disclaimer that you can’t really count on any middle reliever. Then there are a lot of high upside arms, led by Nicasio. The hope would be that someone steps up as a future closer option, ready to take over for Melancon in the future, or maybe ready to take over for Watson in the future.

If you trade Melancon, and assuming his replacement wouldn’t come back in the deal, then you’ve got a great closer in Watson, and a big question mark as the setup man. Maybe that question mark is answered by signing someone like Bastardo, and going with a lefty/lefty combo in the late innings. But the result here is that you’re only saving $4 M total in this scenario, and the right-handed relief becomes a big question mark, albeit with a lot of upside.

The Pirates don’t necessarily need the $10 M that they’d get by dealing Melancon, and they’d probably have to use over half of that amount to replace him, and to add a replacement lefty with Watson becoming the closer. If they dealt Michael Morse and the $4.5 M they owed him, then they’d have about $10-15 M to spend on a starter and any other need, putting their payroll in the $100-105 M range on Opening Day. And that figure would include Melancon and a strong bullpen.

The remaining off-season seems pretty straight forward at this point: add another starter, a lefty reliever, address the utility infield spot, and make some additional minor depth moves at every position. But if Melancon gets dealt, then we’re in for a very interesting final two months heading into Spring Training.

  • Latos is coming off the board very soon. Expect the PBC are trying to get him at 3/36 but he wants a 1/10 so he can get Leake money next offseason. Signing somewhere by new year.

  • I feel like they should keep melancon so I agree with that I also agree that we need better starters

  • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
    December 28, 2015 6:31 pm

    Tim, Now with the Chapman trade, do we get a better feel for what trading Melancon would bring back? Also will that makes teams needing a closer or late inning relief pitching revisit a trade for Melancon, such as Dodgers, Nationals, or Tigers.

  • Yung-Han Chang
    December 28, 2015 1:42 pm

    what is really perplexing is how much the pirates paid to basically have a 1B platoon with all same question marks as last year. We drop pedro, paid tabata for morse, 2 prospects for a RH 27 year old 1st baseman that has only played 1/2 a season, and paid john jaso a 2 year contract. if we didnt get jaso at a discount (because he is moving to first for the first time in his career), this sequence would look even worse. It seems we basically took all of alvarez’s problems and spread them over 3 players. This doesn’t make sense short or long term.

    • Valid criticism in the abstract; once again, this platoon is neither particularly cheap, safe, or high upside and the club’s utter lack of success putting together platoons since, well, ever earns them no “trust” points.

      However, once the decision was made to put all their eggs in Josh Bell’s basket – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what they’ve done – they really had no choice *but* to put together a platoon and the one they came up with, on paper, looks to be about as good as could be expected.

      This could easily turn out to be another penny wise, pound foolish decision at the position but for now gives them a fighting chance at respectability.

    • Totally. Since Laroche flamed out, they’ve done a version of this, year in and year out.

  • My fiance bought me a 24 game season pack for christmas. Last year I would have been ecstatic, I can honestly say I’m certainly happy, but definitely not ecstatic and little concerned I am gonna see mediocre baseball.

  • The Pirates need to do something positive with the rotation. I only see two legit starters now and a lot of hope. Maybe Niese is better than I saw with the mets last year but lets be real, the cubs and cards will eat the remaining starters alive. Why didn’t they keep the then cheap volquez? Not sure what they will do when Taillion and Glasnow are ready if they ever are. Baseball is rich but the Pirates still remain a penny pinching organization. Why? Attendance is up and the payroll must follow. The rest of baseball is spending but the Bucs can not exceed a $100million payroll. Enough already, spend some money and bring in some help.

  • i wonder if the salary dump of morton was more to keep melancon rather than to find a 3rd starter. Basically the pirates looked at the options and felt that keeping Melancon for another year was more important than keeping Charlie.

    • That’s a false choice – they easily could’ve done both – but also about as logical as one could spin that process.

      • Doesn’t it seem like the Pirates will pay more to replace Morton than what they got in a trade for him.

        • Basically why I never believed from the start that another starter would be brought in after Morton was traded. I take that back…I held out some hope right after Morton was traded, but that quickly left once they pitifully signed Vogelsong, since it’s frowned upon to literally forfeit every 5th game.

          They’re essentially keeping a rotation slot open for whichever of Glasnow or Taillon can fill it the fastest.

  • I agree. I’d feel much better with Locke in the bullpen. As a starter he usually starts getting hit hard by the 4th or 5th inning and you can’t have that in your rotation if you expect to compete.

  • What clearly sticks out most is the shocking lack of depth on this team, but that is to be expected in a retooling year when opportunities for prospects will be needed.

    As we sit today, the only backup outfielder happens to be your starting second baseman and if there’s a more worthless use of resources than a no-bat utility infielder who can’t play shortstop I’d love to know what it is. The bullpen is *two* men short and the rotation has the obvious hole in the back end.

    This isn’t a roster built to contend for a division title, but you’re always going to be in wild card contention in this current format with a rotation anchored by Cole/Liriano, lineup held down by Cutch/Marte, and bullpen closed out by Melancon/Watson.

    Us Pirate fans will get plenty of opportunities to watch prospects and with a little luck, also see October baseball once again.

    • Don’t sleep on perennial MVP candidate Jason #%@#ing Rogers.

      • The corner utility guy that can only actually play 1B. New market inefficiency.

        • How quickly we forget Matt Hague around here.

          • This idea going around here that good minor league production from marginal old “prospects” somehow portends Major League success is one of the stranger narratives in a while. I won’t fault a fan for a second if he/she prefers to look at the bright side of things, but Pirate fans of all people absolutely know just how unlikely it is for these situations to actually work out. We’ve seen this play out too many times over the years.

          • Just read on another Pirate fan blog that Rogers “at some point” projects to be a starting big league first baseman.

            At some point? The man is practically already in his decline phase, for christ sake.

          • I don’t think Hague got a real chance to prove he was more than AAAA.

            • Are you totally positive that 28 year old Jason Rogers isnt the same type of player?

              • No, of course not. We will have to see what happens over a season of AB. He wasn’t highly regarded when he was drafted, probably has fought perceptions about his weight. However he has hit decently at every level, including SSS at MLW. That is encouraging. Everyone seems to scoff at his ability at 3B. But I see that as why they got him, to hold the fort until Kang is recovered from his injuries. Then as a bench bat or a platoon at 1B. The reason the Pirates did this is that they want JHAY fully focused on 2B through all of ST, working the turn on the double play etc. They don’t want him splitting time when he is tuning up for the starting 2B job.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          December 28, 2015 11:33 am

          and we think he can play third base, at 6’1″ 255

          • Yea, that one’s floored me too. But around this last time last year, people thought they could get away with Corey Hart as a 4th OF occasionally. That was over by April.

            • They forgot to check if he still had cartridge in his knees. The physical didn’t include running I suppose. Should have fired the examining doctor over that one.

          • Maybe he is the second coming of Kung Fu Panda.

        • Bet that he keeps 3B warm until Kang returns.

  • An excellent read and I particularly liked the paragraph about Alen Hanson, and the fact that he can be an immediate help to the Pirates and that it is probably unnecessary to be concerned with Super 2. I do disagree with a line about him in the Prospect Guide that states he came up as a SS. He was actually a very fine fielding 2B in the DSL in 2010 and also played some 3B. When he got to the GCL the Pirates decided to move him to SS.

    The bullpen is aces because the Pirates have taken the time to develop guys like Watson, Hughes, and Caminero, I was probably one of the few who under-appreciated the work of Bastardo, and I would think that Jeff Locke would be a solid SP/RP candidate. He had a lot of games where he would flash 93/94 mph, and his changeup would probably even play better in relief. The curve would be something to throw 58 feet and out of the zone as just a show pitch.

    • Hanson was actually signed as a shortstop. He played 2B that year because they had another big bonus shortstop at the level.

      • I can buy that, and they had 2 big bonus Shortstops (Carvajal was one and I cannot remember the other) that must have underperformed because Hanson emerged as the SS in the GCL. Why any team would move a kid who fielded .980 at 2B is beyond me, but I am glad he has returned to 2B. After another year at 2B, I think he will have the confidence and maturity to be able to help the team at SS, if needed.

  • Great summary!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 27, 2015 11:20 pm

    In my opinion, the combination of Pirates off season moves to date do not seem to fit into some overall plan, but mostly come off as reactionary moves. As of today, this team is weaker than the one that lost in the one game playoff to the Cubs. We still need a legitimate #3 starter, a good LH reliever, and the infield defense is still average on a good day, and poor on a bad day. We could improve the team’s defense, if the FO would actually give Diaz, Gift, and Hanson real chances at making the 25 man roster in the Spring.
    Given the FO tendency to keep sub-par performing players with guaranteed contracts and their reluctance to promote prospects, I don’t see much help coming from the farm system in 2016 – barring injuries. The team has effectively blocked Diaz, Gamache, Glasnow, Bell, Garcia, and Hanson. Broxton was fortunate, he got traded to a team that may actually give him a legitimate shot.

    • ” In my opinion …..” hilarious. You actually think you know more than the people running the organization ? Get real.

    • Who is blocking Glasnow? Hanson? You have to be kidding with Diaz, guess we should trade Polanco so he can have a chance….Is Gamache ready to be a legit MLB performer? Broxton is a poor man’s Billy Hamilton.

      • *Garcia, not Diaz.

      • Honestly, I think Broxton is a better hitter than Hamilton. Hamilton’s entire value lies in his baserunning ability. He hits for no power and can’t get on base.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        December 28, 2015 11:29 am

        Stewart is blocking Diaz – Stewart may have been the worst defensive catcher in baseball last year…look at his stats.
        Hanson, Gamache – are blocked by Rodriguez (another stiff with the bat), we wasted $2.5 or $3.5M on him
        Bell – blocked by the combination of Rogers, Morse, Jaso
        Glasnow – blocked by the broken down Vogelsong….who we wasted $2M+ on

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        December 28, 2015 11:35 am

        Broxton is a lot bigger and stronger and overall more athletic than Hamilton, although Hamilton may be faster….Hamilton is a singles hitter, Broxton can hit for extra bases and with 10-15 HR power….

    • Yeah that lucky Broxton, he’ll love MIL. Nothing like getting to show off that bench OF-like upside he has while losing 90 games.

      I am upset you didnt mention how we have a #3 starter but they wont promote Glasnow out of ST and let him show how he is currently a #3 pitcher. Missed chances my friend.

      • Everybody loves to play for a winner, but you also want to get the chance to play. Being stuck in Mil is less than ideal, but stuck in Pitt on the bench with an occasional day filling in or pinch hitting or pinch running is not ideal either.
        Guess it’s how you look at Broxton’s “luck”.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        December 28, 2015 11:26 am

        Obviously, you have never played the game to have made such a silly comment…I am sure Broxton would rather be in Milwaukee playing, than stuck in Indy for another year….any player would…

        • Ah yes, the foolproof argument that having played means you speak for all players.

          Played from age 6-22, and I don’t think all players think in a group way.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD
            December 28, 2015 2:30 pm

            An even sillier response. just don’t get it

            • Im happy to not get why you act like your experience is somehow proof that you know baseball better than others.

              Not only are you ignorant about me having no experience playing baseball, its asinine to act like you or i playing baseball up to and through college means we get to look down on someone who didnt play.

  • Strasburg and Andrew Cashner are really the only two guys worth buying a year early and hard to say what it would take to get them, but surely you wouldn’t get a cent for their contracts.
    Jake Arrieta in the year following wet your whistle? lol obviously not going anywhere.

  • Would the Pirates go for another deal where the would trade for a pitcher and have the other team pay part of the salary the same way they did with A.J. Burnett and Wandy. Pitchers such as Danks (White Sox), C.J. Wilson (Angels), Garza (Brewers), Nolasco (Twins), Shields (Padres) or Peavy (Giants). Some may not look that good and there could be others. But Burnett didn’t look that good when he came from the Yankees. Just an idea.

    • Jeffrey Bruner
      December 27, 2015 6:15 pm

      I had the same thought — there may be a pitcher in the last year of a contract the Bucs could acquire rather than fighting for what’s left of the free agent market at this point. Grab Wilson or Peavy. Unless cash is coming in the deal, that probably requires dealing Melancon but I’m okay with trading closers at their peak value.

      • I’m wondering if Morse could b e traded to the Padres, who need a first baseman, in a package for Andrew. Cashner. Cashner would be a rotation upgrade which would allow Locke or RV to be moved to the bullpen. Thoughts anyone?

        • Morse is going nowhere, except for a similarly expensive/damaged player. Think Tabata. Neal realizes he isn’t good enough anymore, that’s why we have Rogers.

          I think he’s more valuable than Tabata, but probably not by much.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          December 28, 2015 11:31 am

          No one is going to be dumb enough to take Morse, unless we waive him and they can sign him as a free agent on the cheap. We were foolish to accept him in the trade last Summer, given his contract – now. we’re stuck with him.

          • I’m glad we acquired him, he certainly was more
            valuable for us that Tabata, and it was a wash salary wise.

            I think they did a good job using him appropriately but maybe had he started the playin game rather than SRod maybe we’d had had a bit more offense.

          • I don’t think he`s that bad. His numbers with the Pirates were decent and Tim has written about his power displays in batting practice. So perhaps something is left in his tank. Plus, I said ‘in a package’, meaning Morse plus others to get back Cashner.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 27, 2015 11:22 pm

      None of those starters are appealing – either broken down or well past their prime.

  • Good synopsis. I’m not sure how much value Locke would bring to the pen, he has reserve splits and his best secondary pitch is his change up. Lefties bat .329 and .471 slugging against his curve. Would he be another Justin Wilson having fastballs fouled off until he walks batters.

    • The way Hurdle uses bullpen lefties, it isn’t as big of a concern as it normally would be. Based on stats, Lobstein is more of a LOOGY, but Hurdle would never use him right.

    • I could buy Locke as the theoretical 2 IP every other day bullpen arm that everyone seems to think is the next advancement in pen/starter usage. Seems like he’d have a reasonable shot to be a 1 win pitcher over 100 IP or so in that role, optimistically assuming his stuff plays up a bit and that sort of usage is practical.

  • Don’t count out Nicasio. I spent 2005-2015 in Denver and there were times when he looked dominant. Most of those, oddly enough, were at home. But I agree, he could be a scary good reliever.

  • Surprised no mention of a 4th outfielder. I’m not really sure I see one of those on the roster at the moment.

    • With our durable (knock on wood) OFers and the IF on the roster (Rogers, Harrison, maybe Hanson) who can fake it out there, I don’t think it’s a concern. I think Goebbert is our guy.

  • I agree with your assessment on Locke, but the plan should be to move him to the bullpen at the All Star break.

    • That being said, if he’s posting a 8-4 record with a 3.10 ERA at the break, you can’t move him to the bullpen without a revolt

  • Good read Tim, and I’m wondering if this is mostly an opinion and data article or one that has some inside information behind it?
    I only ask because I think there are some pretty different outcomes, and a few more questions about roles.
    For instance, I posted before that Locke, a former all-star, has posted career numbers very similar to Wei-Yin Chen with a .406 xfip and Chen is about to get big bucks. So I see Locke as a key starting pitcher still developing upside with already solid MLB credentials.
    So I see one of the aging veterans Liriano and Neise actually either being traded and/or finding a bullpen role – one that Neise actually played, and well this past year in NY.
    The Rodgers trade is the big question for me that hasn’t been asked – or perhaps anwered to my satisfaction this off-season. NH has been somewhat reluctant to part with any prospects unless he was getting a piece for a reason. JA Happ, Morneau, Bird, etc. So in this case he deals two of them, one a very high rated player – for a guy with no clear role other than – possible decent bat with upside. It just doesn’t add up – Is there some secret weapon capability with this kid to justify trading away Supak.
    NH has said all off-season the goal was to make the team better. Nobody has asked if this year is not a little more important than future years. Why not? He’s also got to admit that it would be quite a task to find a closer who ‘Makes the team better’ than Melancon. The guy earned my respect last year, by increasing his velocity as the year wore on, and proved without question he’s the right guy to close out a playoff game for a victory. As little doubt as any closer in the game. You have to go with Melancon one more year, regardless the cost – if you are serious about winning THIS year.

    • Brian I don’t think Locke has shown the stamIna to be a full year starter. He might flourish in the bullpen.

      • I agree 100% which is why I say there is upside. No question he’s got to put in the work to get stronger stamina wise. His pitching ability though when with stamina has been at a level of performance that gets pitchers paid at a premium.

        • We can wish that his stamina will improve, but I have my doubts. He is 28, and , while we might expect his skill level to improve, it is hard to be optimistic that his stamina will increase.

    • Easy way to answer that is to look at the category. Anything filed under “Analysis” is exactly that. It’s opinion, although I try to make it as informed as possible.

      If it’s filed under “News and Rumors”, then it’s usually fully backed by some inside info. That’s not to say the analysis isn’t backed by some inside info. Just that this is the category where I’ll add my own personal thoughts mixed in to the article (in news, rumors, and transactions, I clearly separate that out from the article content).

  • The Rogers trade makes little sense at present. They didn’t need him, unless of course they had a deal where they could trade Morse and save more money (that seems like the theme of the offseason). The Pirates NEED another starter and another (I think) couple bullpen pieces. I would spend the money and bring back Bastardo…he was really solid through most of the year (after the initial start to the season) and gives us another reliable arm not just against lefties. I would still love to see us sign Kazmir…but it seems more and more unlikely at this point. Adding another high quality lefty to this rotation, especially with our depth at AAA being mostly of the right-handed variety…and with our divisional opponents difficulty with lefties. I am not sure that the Pirates are a better team today than when they ended the season…there is still plenty left to achieve this offseason.

    • You can always use decent hitting options on the bench, so i question why we suddenly are okay saying we dont need a guy like Rogers. He can play non terrible OF work, 1B, and has a decent bat. Thats a profile we do need on the bench, rather than another defense first option.

      We just let Morse walk for free, and we then have a need for a bat on the bench.

      • The hilarious part is, up until a week ago you probably didn’t know who the #% @& Rodgers was.

        • Its hilarious you assume so much without actually knowing.

          We played him, we saw him, hell he was a legit story out of MIL when they had no stories this year. The only thing 2 weeks ago i didnt know was that MIL was considering moving him. Rogers isnt some unknown yahoo.

        • Are you that short on information ? Some people aren’t.

          • He is a 27 year old non-prospect, traded by a team that is considering Pedro Alvarez at 1st.

            No. I don’t believe for a minute that 95% of Pirate fans knew who the guy was until they got him. Certainly didn’t see guys like you and Luke, pushing for NH to get him.

            • The following is a complete list of people who would’ve considered high upside, overslot high school RHP Trey Supak equal in prospect value to a 250 lb 28 yo first baseman at the start of the off season:

        • It’s hilarious that you can’t spell Rogers!

        • Rogers looked great when we played him. The hilarious part is that you are in the one that looks like a casual fan

          • No, a casual fan thinks he’s a solution at 1st. He most certainly is not.

          • Since clearly a sophisticated fan of superior intelligence would gain anything of value in a single series September sample size and the casual fan would question how much value that look would really provide.


    • Bastardo doesn’t seem to me to have been a particularly important piece last year, but maybe I overlooked him. Kasmir seems like another version of Locke – not great but decent and inconsistent.
      I’d like another move with a starting pitcher as well, but isn’t there a more consistent guy out there? Is Maeda that guy? Two straight Cy Youngs in Japan to me says the guy is a bulldog, regardless of stuff. I think he may be the guy worth pursuing.
      Does $80 mil get it done over 4 years with an opt out after two for both the club and player?

      • You have to pay $20M to negotiate with him first….

        • Here is the thing though Jared, every team is going to pay that $20 million because if you don’t sign him you get it back – so no loss to negotiate.
          The question is what will it take to sign him, and will he be what you want for that price?
          If the price is $80 mil for 4 years (20 mil per year, he should be performing like a #2 at minimum just based on contracts alone as #1 starters are now getting $23-33 million. Can he be better than Frankie?

    • I think Rogers is the Jaso contingency, and long-term Bell platoon option if he proves to be subpar from his right side. Morse is gone after this year and his career has shown (much larger sample size than Rogers who has also been the same) that he doesn’t profile as a platoon guy (splits better vs. RHP). I’m hoping/suspecting he’s got a better bat than most give him credit for.

      • Keep in Mind Morse is pretty even over his career and has no splits- If Morse hits you don’t need Jaso or Rogers

        • Morse is here for one year, has an injury history, and is likely not that good.

          An effective platoon is a far superior option to a RH hitter playing both ways unless he is really, really good (Cutch, Marte, Kang etc.)

          • There is no way anyone can actually tell Morse is “likely” anything.

            One reason many dont like him is his uncertainty. He might get injured, might underperform, and might be solid with similar degrees of likelihood due to his past. He’s not clearly unable to throw out solid numbers, nor is he clearly a great option to trust without a backup plan. Thus Rogers, a guy who is a fine insurance policy to Morse being awful or hurt a month in.

            With no good options, PGH has at least given itself depth with semi good upside options. Jaso and Morse, and a struggle from one of those names allows Rogers more playing time.

            • Well much of his past success was associated with steroid usage. So there’s that…

            • Morse is 34 and has been below replacement level in three of the past four seasons.

              The odds of him being good are *considerably* less than those of him being bad.

          • That is a very assumptive and overly general statement. If you actually look at every year Morse has played significantly, his splits show differently. His career splits are better than any platoon we’ve put out there since we’ve tried the platoon thing (since laroche i think)- IF he stays healthy and doesn’t have one of the very few bad years he’s had in his career-which is still quite possible……an effective platoon is completely unnecessary and really wastes a roster spot. Quite honestly Morse has had a year which was better than anything Kang or Marte is likely to put up in their MLB careers offensively speaking, even if it was 4 years ago

            • …and even if it were accomplished with the aid or steroids, which he likely no longer uses. And was 4 years ago…

              • His splits weren’t just 4 years ago, they were also the year before last, 3 years ago and 5 years ago. It’s funny how everyone seems to think this guy only had one good year in 2011. He isn’t 4 years removed from a good season, he is 1 year removed from a good season and 3 years removed from another good season, and 4 years away from a great season. If you haven’t seen the guy, he’s the size of a hill giant…..steroid comments just make me laugh, the dude is 6’5 and has always been that big, and still IS that big. He had 2 bad seasons….2015, and 2013.

  • Thank you for bringing up Locke! I’ve always thought that was and is the plan. I have a feeling he will make a fine reliever, and that Vogelsong will be fine for half a season as the #5. They obviously need a #3/4.

    Also, Goedert is a LH bat. The article makes it seem as you are listing him as a possible short end of the platoon.