First Pitch: Previewing the 2015 Winter Meetings For the Pirates

The MLB Winter Meetings start tomorrow and run through Thursday. This is the biggest event of the off-season in terms of potential moves, and in terms of kicking off the action around the league. That already started this past week with the signings of some of the top pitchers on the market, and the action should continue from there.

The Pirates have plenty of moves to make this off-season, from adding a starting pitcher, to upgrading first base, and then potentially trading Mark Melancon and Neil Walker and finding replacements for those guys. They currently have an estimated payroll of $93 M, so it’s going to end up a balancing act to see how they can add upgrades while still maintaining a manageable payroll.

Here is the rundown of all of the stories to watch for the Pirates this week, with their biggest needs and the rumors we know about so far. We will be keeping track of every credible rumor out there all week, along with analysis of each move or rumor.

The Potential For Trades

The Pirates have two players who could be traded during the meetings, with Mark Melancon looking like the biggest candidate, and Neil Walker also a possibility. Both are projected to make $10 M or more in their final years of arbitration, and the Pirates might opt to spend that in a better way.

Trades don’t always go down during the winter meetings. A few years ago the Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan after Christmas, even though it was apparent they were set on moving him that off-season. There were rumors last year that the Pirates were engaging in trade talks with the Orioles about Travis Snider, but that didn’t get resolved until the end of January, when Snider was traded for Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley.

It’s not a guarantee that Melancon and/or Walker will be dealt this week. But if they are, it could lead to a very busy week, with a chain reaction of moves set off.

Trades Work Both Ways

The Pirates will need an upgrade at first base, and if they trade Neil Walker, they will need a replacement at second. There aren’t many good options in free agency, which means they will need to find an option via trade at either position in order to see an upgrade.

We don’t always hear about who the Pirates are going after, especially since they’re so secretive with their moves. Last year they added Francisco Cervelli to replace Russell Martin, and the move came out of nowhere. There has been one rumor this year, which came this weekend when Mitch Moreland was linked to the Pirates.

Moreland is an interesting case. He was a 2.1 WAR player in 2015, but has never been higher than 0.8 WAR in previous years, even as a starter. He has good defense, and the bat is decent for first base, but it hasn’t quite been consistent. The Pirates could use better defense at first than they received from Pedro Alvarez last year, and if they get the 2015 version of Moreland, they would get a huge upgrade at the position.

The trade value here is hard to peg. If you go with his 2015 WAR, and his projected $5.6 M arbitration salary, you get a value just over $7 M. That would be a Grade B hitting prospect and a Grade C pitching prospect. But if you factor in his struggles in previous years, and give him a 1.5 WAR, he drops down to the $4 M range, which is below a Grade B hitter, but about two Grade C pitchers. Based on the lack of talent on the first base market, I’d say it’s likely Moreland gets closer to the high-end of his value, with teams paying for the career year, and hoping it’s not a one time deal.

The free agent market has Ike Davis and Chris Carter, although neither would be a big upgrade. Moreland would represent the biggest known chance at an upgrade right now.

As for second base, that’s largely unknown, similar to the catching situation last year. I’ve pointed out that it makes sense to keep Walker, since he’s going to be fairly cheap for his level of production, compared to what similar players could receive on the open market.

Starting Pitching Needed

One area where the Pirates probably won’t pursue a trade is in the rotation. So far they have been connected to Trevor Cahill and Justin Masterson, who both fit the reclamation project checklist perfectly.

The Pirates need at least one starter, and it wouldn’t be bad if they could find a second guy who could double as a strong bullpen option if he doesn’t beat out Jeff Locke or Charlie Morton for the final rotation spot.

Most of the success the Pirates have found in the off-season with starters has come via free agency. There’s a chance they could go the trade route, but that really doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider the amount of options available on the market, and their track record.

Last year they signed Francisco Liriano during the meetings. The year before they signed Edinson Volquez at the end of the meetings. So you might be able to expect a move this week, or at least a lot of discussion about arguably their biggest need of the off-season.


Bench and Bullpen

Last year the Pirates made some minor trades to upgrade their bench and bullpen. They acquired Sean Rodriguez before the meetings for Buddy Borden. During the meetings they added Antonio Bastardo for Joely Rodriguez.

They’ll need bench and bullpen help this year, and if they go beyond waiver claims, minor league free agents, and a Rule 5 pick, then I think a trade like Rodriguez or Bastardo would be the extent of it. In each case, they traded from their mid-level pitching depth, getting a guy in his final year of arbitration.

They would need some bullpen and bench help, especially in the bullpen if they end up dealing Melancon. But don’t expect this to yield a lot of big moves like the other categories could.

  • Wade Miley just went for a ML reliever and a Minor league reliever no prospect status

  • Texas is thinking of asking Kuhl and Diaz for Moreland. Do you do it?

    • Laugh and walk away for lunch. Diaz for 1 year of a good-not-great 1Bmen isnt something PGH should do.

      • agreed not with Bell on the way. The other player they are interested in is Tucker

        • Link? Because that sounds really made up to me.

          And not even close to a serious discussion of what PGH will move for Moreland. This guy is not so valuable you throw out a ton to get him. If they overpay, it still should be more of a B prospect.

          • I’ll try to get it I’m on anther site and these are the players the Rangers are said t have interest in. First it was a starting pitcher but we don’t have one to give since we are so high on Morton and Locke 🙂

          • He did have a pretty good year this year and 23 Hrs and a good BA don’t come cheap your not going to get away with giving them like Gage Hinsz

            • Id love to discuss his worth beyond “So HRs and BA”. Its a lazy way to discuss a players overall offensive ability.

              He had a good year last year, and 2-3 awful ones prior. If you wanna overpay you can, but he’s not a great bet to suddenly be a 115-110 wRC+ guy. Lotta risk.

              • It’s not a lazy way. Not everyone buy’s into over analyzed statistics I refuse to subject my myself to your arrogance Luke Skywalker Your most likely just another computer geek that probably never played an inning of baseball in your life other than tee-ball Later

                • Im not trying to be arrogant, im trying to say that those are two shitty ways to discuss the value of a player. It’d mean we should have kept Pedro since he hits dingers and doesnt hit .220.

                  Im not even going “you must saber” at all. But if you act like throwing out BA and HRs is gonna get you a ton of friendly discussion, thats your bad not mine.

                  The end of your post sums up about all it needs to.

                  • I’m here to talk baseball not talk to arrogant know-it-alls ..Moreland is a big upgrade to Pedro defensively and you can’t make upgrades if you aren’t willing to give up something. Which I agree shoudn’t be Tucker or Diaz

  • Texas is talking with the Red Sox about pitchers. Right there is a team that matches up well with the Pirates . The Red Sox They have guys like Miley and Kelly and Bucholz.Guys with upside that the Pirates could afford that Searage could turn into solid ML starters…This team has never really hit all that much with the exception of a little bit in 2014 but pitching has made us successful the last 3 years

    • Never really hit all that much other than if you look at the stats.

      Top 5 offense in the league last year and 2014.

      • 2015 MLB 21st inSLG 18th in OPS 9th in both BA and OBP . and I mentioned 2014. Pitching has always been key for the Pirates

        • In the NL, they are a top 5 offense.

          4th in OBP, 5th in AVG, 3rd in wRC+. Pitching leads the way, but its false to act like we just kinda dont do offense well. wRC+ is designed to attempt to combine all of offense to show where a team is at.

          Now tell me how you dont trust that stat.

  • MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that Trevor Cahill is nearing agreement with an unknown club. Could it be the Pirates?

  • C-Cervelli will start Stewart is probably the backup but Diaz is ready and they could save some money by inserting the defensively gifted Diaz as the backup
    1B- Morse He is capable of 20+ hr .275 year (though unlikely) but the Pirates would most likely need a platoon partner if they are serious about winning
    2B- Harrison I sill see him as a bench player he swings at everything within a mile of the Zone there is also a possibility of Walker being there still and Hansen by mid season
    SS -Mercer I see this as an upgrade-able position where there isn’t a prospect close to the big leagues who could be blocked
    3B- Kang. We’re set here
    LF-Marte We’re set
    CF- McCutchen-obviously set
    RF- Polanco-We’re set here as well, there’s a lot of upside to be had as he showed it in the second half
    Starting Pitching:
    #1 Cole -true ace in the making
    #2 Liriano-If he has a good year he’s a solid #2 but really needs to be pushed back into the #3 spot but we’re still waiting on our #2
    #3 Morton- He is a #5 which is why barring a trade we are in trouble out of ST
    #4 Locke- He is a #5 which is why barring a trade we are in trouble out of ST
    Bullpen options- Watson,Hughes,Caminero,Scahill,Webster,Holdzkom We need some more depth here.
    This roster needs a lot of help which is why I think they may hold onto their parts and load up for 2017 There is a lot of concern for me whether they can put enough band-ids on to contend this coming season being in the best division in baseball.

    • Is Frankie new name #2? :>}

    • PiratesFan1975
      December 7, 2015 12:58 pm

      Your starting pitching rankings are not based in reality or stats. There were 140 SPs with 90 IP or more last year. Here are the stats with rankings via Fangraphs:
      Cole 8 3 17 9
      Liriano 34 23 16 23
      Locke 106 68 67 85
      Morton 121 91 55 110

      Cole: true #1.
      Liriano: lower level #1.
      Locke: FIP/xFIP upper #3, WAR lower #3
      Morton: upper #4.

      I’m assuming you haven’t analyzed the current MLB pitching landscape or other rosters based on your rankings. They just aren’t based in reality.

      In all actuality Locke and Morton’s biggest problems were the defense behind them.

      • No I don’t take “fangraphs” into account much at all ..Jeff Locke is in no way a #3 starter especially when you take into account what other #3 starters on contending teams look like. Sure Jeff Locke could be the #3 on the average ML team but don’t we want the Pirates to contend? Teams in our division murder Jeff Locke. Searching for ways to justify Locke as a #3 starter doesn’t mean it’s the right route to go. Keep trying

        • PiratesFan1975
          December 7, 2015 1:42 pm

          Uhhh….. The stats (other than WAR) are the same no matter where they come from. So what are your rankings based on? Just your opinion? I’m not justifying anything. I’m giving you the reality of what’s out there in MLB today and what Locke and Morton actually are, not what you perceive them to be. You can ignore it if you want. I guess nobody could win a World Series with the Pirates rotation….. wait….except for the Royals who just did with a worse rotation.

          • LOL seriously? You did watch them in the playoffs right?

            • PiratesFan1975
              December 7, 2015 3:03 pm

              “LOL”? Really? That’s your response. That’s basically you waving the white flag for a real discussion.

              Yes, I actually watch baseball. More than just the Pirates. The Royals rotation was not good at all last year. The playoffs are a crap shoot. That’s why you just have to get there consistently. There is no guarnteed formula for winning the World Series. Its more of a matter of who gets hotter.

              You clearly have no proof of your SP rankings. You can’t back your position up.

              • Dude your argument speaks for itself it’s laughable your calling Locke a #3 starter because of some stat. Watch a F’ing game he pitches in give me a break. I don’t care what the overall staff ERA is Jeff Locke is no Chris Young who is the Royals #3 He’s no Syndergaard who was the Mets #3 he is no Lackey who is the Cubs #3 he is no Martinez who is the Cardinals #3 . Locke woudnt even be the #3 on the Brewers staff. Get real FFS

                • PiratesFan1975
                  December 7, 2015 4:12 pm

                  You have no argument. You think where a team slots a pitcher is their true value? Based on your reasoning Grienke is a number #2 because Kershaw pitched in front of him. It’s not one stat genius. That’s why I showed ERA, FIP, xFIP and WAR. Four different stats. It’s not my problem you can’t understand them or the differences. You’re telling me to watch? You clearly need to watch more baseball. You think Chris Young is a clear #3 and Locke is a #5. That’s ridiculous. If you think Locke is a #5 then I assume you think half of MLB starters were #5’s last year?

        • Locke had 10 quality starts out of 30. If that’s a no. 3 your team is in serious trouble

  • This is a very seminal moment for the PBC. I believe that this off-season is the most challenging of current management. 1) They have lost a number of front office personal 2) They are now more constrained by salary than at any time during their charge. The MLB salary structure for talent has exploded. 3) Their so called previous strength regarding a solid bullpen is now being shaken by losing solid candidates and the potential trade of their top reliever. 4) They have released one of their top draft picks due to money and performance. 5) They are shopping to trade a franchise leader 6) Their starting pitching depth has been shaken by retirement and lack of performance and 7) they do not at present have any readily available candidates from their minor league system TO BEGIN THE YEAR on the MLB roster. I am not saying that they are not up to meet these challenges what I am saying is that this off-season is the most challenging in terms of remaining relevant in the NL Central and the NL.

    • Agreed for the most part. I think being to aggressive this year might cost them long term. They should be in much better position a year from now..

      • how so? A year older for Cutch. Youre holding out alot of hope that every one of our prospects will produce. And I think thats probably not realistic to expect. 2016-2018 are the years to go for it frankly. I think they’ll be competitive post-Cutch era, but I question whether they’ll ever be as good as they are right now.

        • If you read my posts you’ll see that I agree with a lot of what you said but you have to think as a small market.They aren’t going to pay the going price for an upgrade in the rotation and they aren’t going to pay Melancon 10 million for one season besides the fact they have proven they don’t need to spend on bullpen to be successful.. There are not a lot upgrades out there that the Pirates can afford, Also using prospects is how the Pirates became contenders again and that’s how they will continue to do it. Bell is the #1 ranked 1st base prospect in the game and Glasnow and Taillon are both current or former top 10 prospects in the game and both have the #1 or #2 upsides and prospects are cheap options for a very long time. What would you do to keep up with the Cardinals and Cubs this year?

          • There’s a lot of other small markets whove extended themselves more than the Pirates have of late. Including the WS champs. I accept that there are financial limitations that they have. Even teams like the Cubs frankly are not shopping aggressively, they operate on a budget as well. But I do think the Pirates operate and budget about as conservatively as you can get. That’s by choice. They can afford to spend probably in the range of 10-15 million more than they have. Teams like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Kansas City all have spent more than them in recent years. Winning a WS would elevate this team’s revenues and valuation to new heights, but you have to invest on the front end to achieve it.

            I think they will be just as good as they were last year if they keep Walker, Melancon…sign a pitcher like Kazmir…at worst somebody like Fister and provide a fill in for a 1B platoon…somebody like Moreland. Then yes, they will keep up in my opinion for next year.

            • I just don’t see it. Even if they hold onto Walker this team is basically the same without Pedro’s offense and his poor defense. We lost two very valuable starters to last seasons success losing Burnett and Happ and if they would not commit 12 million to Happ they aren’t going to commit to the 15 +mil to Kazmir.. Fister,Cahill and Masterson are not the caliber of reclamation projects of Burnett,Liriano,and Volquez, None of them average over 90 MPH I know velocity isn’t everything but.. I can’t imagine putting that rotation vs the Cubs dynamic young offense which is only going to get better or the Cardinals who will definitely get better after they make their moves. I feel the same as you about NH being too conservative I feel like they need to make a bold move .Like offering up a big package of prospects to ATL for Freeman and Teheran. Something roster changing.

    • Salary constraints probably aren’t as bad as the early years. Plus, salary will free up a bit w/o Melancon and Walker.
      Nice write up.

      • Bobby:
        The concern is we know what Walker and Melancon provided. I’m not sure what will show up on opening day. I am a big fan of Melancon not so much Walker. But I do not see much of a return if these guys are traded. We let a big home run guy walk for zero return. That type of move is applauded but looking at the asset and no return makes me think our management needs to reassess their strategy.

  • I could be wrong and this week in Nashville could change my mind but I think 2016 is a transition year. I think they are going to get as much as they can for Walker and Melancon, hold onto their pieces and transition Glasnow,Taillon,Bell,and Hansen to the big leagues and load up for 2017 and beyond. I don’t think they think they can afford to spend what it will take to get the players they would need to compete with the Cubs and Cards this year. Besides investing too heavily in our positions of need might not be smart considering they can fill those spots with the prospects listed above. I don’t think they are punting 2016 I just think they will pretty much stand pat

  • Not sure what’s gonna happen with Walker, Melancon, Moreland and the SPs. But I’d like Neal to walk out of Nashville with a legit reliever for the 7th or 8th. Jim Johnson would have been nice. I’m sure there are a few others.

  • Are the only fanbases and local media that know Joe Blanton had a great year the Royals and the Pirates? I haven’t heard his name mentioned one time yet and felt he’d be as hot, if not more so, of a name for a bullpen spot as some of these other non-closers that have already signed.

    • I’ve read a few places he’s not entirely sure he wants to keep pitching. He may get scooped up after Xmas. I could be wrong.

      • I’ll gladly take him back…what a safe bet he was when we saw him come in last year from the pen.

        • I would too. I really feel if they are going to move Melanin and bump Watson to the 9th they need something 7th,8th other than what’s already in place. Hedge your bets, so to speak.

  • MLBTR reported the Bucs have interest in Kazmir. I think that would be a great move for the right price.

    • If they are going to make a move for a QO guy among what is left, thats likely the best option (as i see it). And if they are going to give up a pick, this does seem like a fine year to do it.

      Having said that, i aint putting any money on them giving up that pick until they do. They technically did in bringing back Liriano, but that is slightly different.

      • I think he’d be a good fit. He’s a lefty, he’s still young and pretty much all of the Pirates top pitching prospects are righties. A 2017 rotation Cole, Liriano, Kazmir, Glasnow, and Taillon looks sick.

      • No QO attached due to the mid-season trade, which simultaneously makes him the only remaining mid-tier free agent the Pirates would pursue *and* too expensive for them to actually sign.

  • Dodgers pull off the trade for Chapman. Dodger bullpen wont be fun to face in the 8th and 9th innings.

    • Very interested in the chapman return. Appears to be two top prospects and melancon wouldn’t probably net as much but pirates have benefit that they don’t historically ask for prospecty returns. All the return for Hanrahan could be characterized as AAAA but it really ended up Brock Holt for Mark Melancon. 2 AllStars. Who’da thunk?!

    • That’s a nice move too from Great American to Chavez Ravine. No more cheap HRs. Not like there were a lot anyway.

  • Also, just to note, I think the pressure on the Pirates is higher than ever with the Royals winning. The Royals winning gives hope to small market teams, but they were also a small market team that went for it. They gave prospects. They spent I think around 120 mil last year. They just spent 3/25 on Soria. They are operating with some swagger and aggressiveness. Pirates FA needs to find that next gear also if they realistically want to get beyond just being a wild card team.

    • At this point, you really have to wonder if Huntington even has that in him.

      Not even necessarily calling that a character flaw, for what it’s worth; it takes no amount of intelligence or intestinal fortitude to mindlessly throw around prospects/money and declare yourself “all in” as if that means anything.

      But yes, at some point pulling the trigger on a move that almost certainly wouldn’t make Huntington comfortable may be what it takes to put the Pirates over the top.

      • I dislike the notion some people on here float that this year is a re-tooling season. Really? If ever there was a year to go for it, its now. Its 2016-2017…maybe 2018. I feel confident that they’re going to have a team above 81 wins for the foreseeable future with the level of prospects they have in their pipeline, but if they want to actually win a WS, which at this point should be the goal, the time is now for Huntington to extend himself and be decisive.

        • Coming off all that was said after losing the WC game, again, I very much thought they’d have an aggressive, if not risky plan to upgrade this winter in hopes of actually winning the Division, but that seems to be the opposite of what is playing out. Disappointing.

          • I’m holding out hope, I’m an eternal optimist I suppose…if they keep Walker and add a legitimate pitcher to the rotation (I’d prefer Kazmir, but frankly I’d even take Fister as a legitimate option) and either sign somebody like Lee or acquire Moreland. It will be sub optimal, but If they do those things I’ll feel good that at least they will be holding their own.

            I’d also like to see them take a chance on Cahill, not as a #3 starter, but as a #5 over Locke. They need to dump Locke.

        • What exactly are you suggesting by him being decisive? I give him credit for being decisive when he sees an opportunity to improve the organization. His job is to help the team be better today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. This whole “all in” notion is fun for fans to talk about, but it is what gets GM’s fired.

          • Decisive would’ve been making a play for Byung-ho Park. Decisive would’ve been resigning JA Happ.

            Acting like there’s nothing Huntington could’ve done up til now is a bit silly. Doesn’t mean those moves would’ve been perfect, but they’d have signaled that they went out and got their targets at positions of highest need. Decisively.

      • So, in other words, you are suggesting NH make a lopsided trade on paper which benefits the other team in hopes it doesn’t turn out that way? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, NMR.

  • a dark horse name nobody has mentioned much yet is Lee Dae Ho. He’s a Korean first baseman who is coming from Japan as an FA and wants to play in majors. He’s a bit older at 33, but could be affordable. He has solid home run power. Had 31 in Japan last year. He said he wants to be on a contender. If I were Neal I’d be pushing hard to sign this guy. To me, this would be a no cost alternative to a Moreland trade. Might end up getting a similar amount of production, without giving up any prospects.

  • terrygordon30
    December 7, 2015 9:50 am

    How about attempting to sign Bastardo and Rodriguez and keeping Walker with the possibility of trading him later in the year or giving him a qualifying offer at the end of the year?

    As far as starting pitching is concerned, I am not interested in plunking down 8 million or so for a one year reclamation project. We might have to be patient and let the market settle down.

  • Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but John Perrotto looks to be the only one actually claiming that the Pirates would go 4 years with their “top target”, Scott Kazmir. Given that Perrotto couldn’t correctly scoop ice cream if he worked at Baskin Robbins, I’ll believe that hot take when I see it.

    If the club wants a #3 starter, it’ll have to come through Searage Magic or trade. Once the Dodgers land Chapman, I’d love to see Huntington goat Boston into keeping up with the Joneses by convincing Dombrowski to trade Clay Bucholtz for Melancon straight up.

    Keeping Walker and bringing in Moreland would leave less than $5m to fill out the pen on a $100m payroll, but that would be a pretty damn competitive team.

    • Given that Perrotto couldn’t correctly scoop ice cream if he worked at Baskin Robbins,

      I’d go with that! 🙂

    • PiratesFan1975
      December 7, 2015 11:23 am

      I was thinking about that exact same thing. Getting Dombrowski to give up Bucholtz for Melancon. I could see that actually happening. Seems like a Dombrowski move.

    • The scoop comment is one to remember.

  • Will the Pirates sign any of their Free Agents?

  • I don’t see any big names coming over. this is the year for our vaunted farm system to graduate some players. specifically I’m thinking Glasnow and Hanson and Bell.

    That means a couple journeyman stop gaps such as Moreland and Cahill. Love to see the medical report on Cliff Lee too.

    Don’t see a need to buffer Hanson, his glove is ready but Hurdle likes Florimon too. Of course when Kang is ready we go back to infielders aplenty. That, not money is why Walker will go for sure.

    Melancon goes because that is what NH does with closers.

    • The only way Walker should be going anywhere is if there is an upgrade somewhere to make up for his production. otherwise pay him . We need to get better not worse. getting Cahill or Masterson to replace Burnett,and Happ isn’t near good enough

    • Starting to question whether or not they’ll actually be able to get enough value for Walker to move him, but I don’t disagree with your post in general. Setting up to be a “retooling” year, but that does not mean the team won’t be good enough to contend for a wild card spot. They will.

      • It does seem like everything about the Walker situation is pointing towards him returning. Other teams rumored to be more warm than hot on him, Pirates having an IFer returning from injury in a not sure timespan, etc.

        Id put money on Walker in PGH next year as it stands now.

      • Honestly I like Kangs’ glove and bat at the position better this year and I really think we can ink polanco and cervelli to extensions so I want the purse.

        Return for walker is a tough question but looking at the signings already both he and melancon are looking almost inexpensive at $10m

  • Okay…… These things Tim wrote about are not good enough to continue to contend in 2016 in my opinion. This year a reclamation project of Cahill or Masterson is no where good enough. Look around the Pirates. The Cardinals haven’t made any real moves yet but they will. the Cubs have already added a true #3 starter and they are looking t do a lot more. They are already better than the Pirates before this off season. This teams payroll needs to go up and it needs t go up now or it’s going to be a transition year waiting for guys like Bell,Glasnow and Taillon to establish themselves as major leaguers . Status quo is not good enough. A rotation of Cole,Liriano,Morton,Locke,Cahill makes me sick. It’s not good enough.

    • As things stand right now the Pirates look to be third best in the division. The Cardinals are always Cardinals, and now have more money to spend; the Cubs loaded with hitting him pitching and with a ton of money to spend. The Cubs and Cardinals are solid and are improving. On another hand, the Pirates misjudged the pitching market and lost Happ as a result; apparently will not even make a run at Leake or Kazimir; instead wll look only at reclamation projects as the core, not the additional, strategy to bolster the rotation in hope any retread they bring in can hold the fort until Taillon, Glasnow, etc eventually are called up and perform according to hopes held out for them; apparently hope they can find a viable platoon at first until Bell is ready in the hopes he can develop into an adequate defensive first baseman and that his power develops as anticipated; hope that Kang will recover well and anchor third-base and Harrison proves to be an adequate everyday second basemen if Walker is dealt and hope to find an adequate bullpen help.

      Prospects are just that, prospects – – not proven performers. Reclamation projects I Just that, projects. Pirates are relying far too heavily on hopes that prospects and projects will fulfill the team’s hopes. I know that the team that supposedly “wins the winter” with big free agent or trade splashes does not necessarily win in the summer, but the contrast between the Pirates’ plan predicated on “hope” and luck with what the Cubs are doing and Cardinals appear willing to do (and with the teams they already have in place) indicates there is a ample reason to doubt that the Pirates can make a meaningful run at the division.

      • Barring injury, I expect to see at least 2 SP’s promoted in 2016 by mid-season. This is not the year to sign guys that are less capable than what we expect from our prospects coming out of AAA. This will be a transition year that the Pirates have to endure in 2016. By 2017 we will have about 6 MLB-ready pitchers still at AAA. All we have to do in 2016 is get Bell installed at 1B, and then have at least 2 SP’s come up in June.

        Hanson may not make the trip North – he has it all right in front of him right now, and he has the talent. We will have to see if he seizes the opportunity to take that next step – few do, and many do not.

        • Ok If that is what this is (a transition year)then ok I can deal with that and understand it. but I don’twant t be told they are serious about contending

          • You can absolutely both transition and contend at the same time.

            Acting like this team cant contend while also undergoing a transition year to players like Taillon-Glasnow-Bell is silly.

            You are going to be told they are contenders no matter what, so really its just giving yourself a reason to complain.

            • If you think those prospects are going to come right in mid season and make us contenders your delusional . How long did it take most of our core players to become what they are which is impact ML’ers. Poor starts have cost us the division almost every year regardless of what the overall record was. Giving ,Volquez 20 million dollars for 2 seasons would have given us the division last year and put us in much better shape this year and the same could happen with Happ.

              • You win, the team kinda suck no matter what.

                Cutch+Marte+Polanco+Cole+Liriano+Kang+Cervelli couldnt possibly carry a team to a solid record while young players have modest rookie years. no way they win 85-90, no core talent producing at high levels..

      • I agree that on paper the Cardinals and Cubs will probably be ahead of the Pirates when next season starts. Things don’t always work out that way though (e.g. Nationals). I don’t really expect any of the 3 teams to reach 97 wins again – that was very unusual. The Cardinals pitching might not be as good and some of the Cubs young hitters might regress. An awful lot has to go right for any team to win 97 or more games.

      • The Pirates won’t win 98 games next year. But, the Cubs(97) and the Cards(100) won’t repete either. 88-92 wins for division title.

    • I would say John Lackey was overpaid and will underperform. I’m glad the Cubs signed him

      • I will be glad to at the end of the contract but the way he pitched this year he is a worthy #3 or #4 start which is what he will be depending if they go get another starter through a trade which they are trying to do… We have McCutchen for 2 more years maybe 3 but they will have to deal him before that last year most likely. The time for winning is now. We can get prospects back when we trade these guys.

      • Agreed. Could see him having some nightmare outings when the wind us blowing out at Wrigley.

      • He would replace Locke or Morton in a heart beat.

    • First, take a breath, it’s December 7th, not March 7th. Second, 98 wins is better than 97 wins, so no the Cubs weren’t better than Pirates last year. Last, you nor I, or anyone else, can possibly know if Pirates SP will consist of this 5 guys today, but I can tell you it won’t be the rotation for the bulk of the season even if it is the Opening Day rotation.

      • Did you see them in the WC game? the playoffs where they eliminated the Cardinals? Which is something we have never been able to do?. The Cubs outplayed the Pirates down the stretch. SO yes they were better and they stand today the better team with Arrieta ,Lester,and Lackey at the top of their rotation and probably a better all around offense.

    • Unless you trade guys like Bell, Taillon, Glasnow, etc., this is going to be a transition year no matter what. It will take the latter part of 2016 and probably much of 2017 to transition these guys into pretty consistent, effective MLB players. And that assumes they actually work out.

    • $120m payroll if done the NH way would conpete with Cards and Cubs. With all the money coming in and the Pirates getting new TV contract, it could be done.

      • New TV deal is years away, thats not something they’ll rely on in order to boost revenue until its actually close to happening.

        • theyll probably start negotiations on that deal in late 2017, early 2018. Not that far away anymore.

          • Even if that is true, they wont get anywhere near being able to see their expected revenue until close to 2019, and they arent going to run their business by ramping up costs without knowing a range of their revenue.

            To assume they’ll increase things with the TV deal in mind is assuming they’ll run at 120 million 2-3 years before knowing their revenue in 2020.

  • Moreland is a solid player, but what is the cost?
    Is Sean Rodriquez still on the roster, or considered for a spot… poor man’s Zobrist.
    No trading of Taillion or Glasnow for anything.
    Signing Cole to an extension is getting to be more and more of a priority before the cost for a SP hits $40 mil/yr. Rediculous.
    By the way, I’m not crying for any minor leaguers they’re all in the same sport … negotiate for themselves – I will however cry for fans who through TV costs and local costs and stadium costs will have to fork over the money to pay for these guys. I won’t be one of them unless the tickets are a freebie. Sorry – it’s out of control and MLB needs to cap it for the sake of the fans IMO>

    • you can give up on extending Cole right now. Enjoy him while he’s here

    • “Im not crying for minor leaguers”

      And thats why they get paid what they do. Fans will never care enough about the random guy in A ball for 3 years. He should just tell the team he wants more money, that’ll work.

    • Would Steward be enough to get Moreland?

      • Wow. Not even close

        • piraterican21
          December 7, 2015 3:55 pm

          I don’t see Moreland that different from Trumbo, and that’s all he fetched plus Rangers looking for catcher, so maybe more than Stew, but not even close????

          • Moreland will get the boost of coming off a career year on offense.

            So he’s worth more than Trumbo, but i dont see a team offering a ton more. No one blindly pays for 2 WAR if he’s as likely to be 1 WAR for you.

          • Stewart has little to no value. With his age + having a bad year throwing not to mention can barely hit the ball out of the infield.

  • Expect to be underwhelmed by Pirates moves, and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

    • but that’s why Tim wrote about trust, last year, AJ coming off a lousy season, Cervelli????, Bastardo???????? at years end they were great to outstanding pick ups!

      • I’m of the opinion NH is smarter than all of us, so until proven wrong, I will trust in his judgment. Except for 1B that is.

      • AJ was a bad move if it came down to him for 1 year or Volquez for 3 years. Eddie would look fantastic in the rotation this year.

  • Tim: Good setup article. Cahill fits the Pirates, Masterson not so much. Joe Blanton, who will turn 35 in a few days, would be the guy I would get right now and try to sign him for 2 years. I think he is still available, and he can be a spot SP, and he also did very well in the BP for the Bucs in 2015. With somebody like him in place, NH will be free to wheel and deal.

    • The only news I have heard on Blanton was that he was considering retirement. I’d like to see him back in the fold. Anybody got any news on him?

  • Tim, what estimate are you using for $/WAR? Because based on the first few signings of free agency, it really looks like wins are going for $7.5-$8M. That would change a bit of the calculus – both in terms of Moreland’s surplus and the value of prospects.

    • For Pirate analysis, I think it makes sense for Tim should be using lower $/WAR estimates.

      No team values wins the same, and the Pirates most certainly end up on the lower end of that spectrum.

      • That approach would seemingly limit their trade market to teams who have roughly the same valuation, effectively eliminating anyone who has acquired or will acquire a top free agent this winter at the market price. It does take two to tango.

        • Remember how many times Huntington has spoken about *their* valuations of a given player, mostly in defense of a move not taking place? There’s your sign.

  • Darn it, looks like Soria is off the market…had halfway hoped the team would resign him @ 3/25 if they were going to trade Melancon. Well, I guess my dark horse candidate is still out there…

    Here’s hoping a certain Nationals pitcher, who doesn’t like Bryce Harper’s lack of hustle, might be so hated he’s traded with money for not much in return.

    • No, please.

      • C’mon now…outside of Paps…any other cheap game changing bullpen arms on the market?

        …just have to be sure he doesn’t strangle anyone…

        • He’s relatively expensive and I wouldn’t make him the sole closer unless he dominated, but would Cishek work?

          • Cishek seems nice…and I wouldn’t object.

            Curious how the Pirates feel about him. I’d view Soria as a better option, but it seems the team let him leave for the same money, so I don’t know that they’re ready to jump on Cishek.

            I like Paps and, yes, he’s expensive…hoping his ‘cancerous’ tag has Washington ready to do anything to get rid of him…especially since he’s now filed a grievance with the team.

            If Cishek, Soria, and Paps are available for the same price, I think Papelbon is the better of the three.

            • Cishek at 7m +. I’d rather just keep Melancin and pay the extra 3m

              • But will Cishek actually cost that much since he was pretty lousy last year? He might get less this year and hope he can rebuild value.

    • Blaine: At this point in time, after 3 straight winning years, the effect or impact on the clubhouse has to be a major consideration. The Pirates have a solid clubhouse – maybe a little out there, but I just cannot picture Papelbon blending into the Pirates way of conducting themselves.

    • NFW X Infinity = Chances Papelbon is ever a Pirate!

  • I’m in the boat of hating to give up top in prospects, but with that said a Polanco, Bell, Taillon, Brault…. for Freeman & Miller deal wouldn’t upset me to much

    • Normally, when folks through up trade proposals, they’re of the variety of: Broxton, Rojas, and Heredia for Harper and Strasburg….and they can be dismissed out-of-hand.

      But that package made me wince a little…an established and progressing right fielder, an up-and-coming lefty starter, and the organization’s #2 and #3 prospect? Ouch…it still might be a tad light, but it’s definitely in the ballpark. Toss in someone like Diaz and it could happen…but I’m not sure if it should.

      But, with your scenario…who would play right field? Just curious…

      • Give Broxton a shot

        • I love Broxton…not enough to start him though. But, if the Pirates are going to go with a true OF’er as their 4th…I do hope it’s him…just don’t think he has what it takes to hold down the position full time.

      • You might as well go all in and try to get CarGo from Colorado, payroll will be shit, but if you are trading those prospects you might as well go all in.

    • Certainly food for thought! Near term, it’d be a temptation. Two years or so down the road, it might not look too good. Plus, you’d have to pull a RF in from somewhere.

      Congrats on some out of the box thinking.

    • I don’t know about Polanco. But the others amen. Preach on brother! What people on this site don’t understand is that the ratio of prospect success is very low. Bell has warning signs with defense and lack of power for his position(s). Taillon has real injury concerns. Brault is ceiling challenged.

      • I think the Pirates screwed up Bell by moving him to first. They should have kept him in RF. If he forces his way into the big club, then trade one of the current OF. Get a 1b or more SP that way. It wont surprise me if the soonest Bell arrives is September .

      • PiratesFan1975
        December 7, 2015 11:14 am

        The problem is the Pirates success rate in the current MLB landscape will be 0% without young controllable talent. I like the chances of Taillon, Bell, Polanco and Brault providing value for the next 6+ years than I do Miller and Freeman providing value at what they’ll be making.

        The team with more money on the planet than anyone to spend, the Dodgers won’t part with their top 3 prospects. Propects have that kind of value to the Dodgers. Imagine how much the Pirates should value them. The only way the Pirates EVER will be able to afford star players is developing them. That’s the reality. The more top prospects you have the better your chances are. What you are suggesting is the quickest way to return to the Littlefield days.

        • You, and I, and NH seem to understand this better than most people who comment on this site.

    • Freeman has $120 mil remaining on his contract, and Miller, possibly a #2/3 in his first year of Arb, and for that privilege we give up possibly two future AS position players and two future Rotation pieces with Taillon possibly being a #1/2 or at least as good as Miller, and Brault possibly a #3/4. Polanco has 5 years remaining under control and all the others have 6 years.

      This is the way the Pirates used to do business. The PLAN when this Management Team took charge is just starting to return benefits with all of these young kids starting to move into the majors – now is not the time to second guess ourselves. The OF is Top 3, the pitching is excellent, the Catching is excellent, and we have more than enough in the IF to be as strong as last year. We need one SP who could be a #3/4.

    • It does answer the question who hits clean up. The Pirates have had that hole for years. I’m not a Miller fan though. Not my money, but I’d rather see them sign Davis and figure out the payroll later. Trade Melancon and/or Walker to free up money for Davis. Keep the prospects.

      • I think we can assume Kang will be given every chance to hit cleanup when he arrives.

        He’s a fine answer to who hits 4th right now.

        • Kang is not a legit clean up hitter. Another 5 or 6 hole hitter masquerading as a clean up hitter. I agree with you that he is the best answer right now. this line up is one player away. And that player is a Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder type first baseman. A LH thumper at first.

  • Here we go…can’t imagine the next week is going to be a quiet affair!

    Will the Pirates replace Pedro? If so, with a signing or a trade?

    Melancon and Walker? Ditch them while they can, or hold on to them for a run in ’16?

    Starting pitcher(s)? Do they do something sexy like spend more than they ever have on a free agent, or be quiet and pick up a reclamation project or two?

    Bullpen? With Blanton, Bastardo, and Soria on the way out…and, perhaps, Melancon too…what’s gonna happen? Are the Pirates going to end this week with a BP of just Watson, Hughes, and Caminero?

    Depth? S. Rod is gone…who’s the new supersub? And, note, I didn’t bother to ask if he’ll be better than S. Rod.

    Rule 5? Which guy(s) who’ll never stick in the majors do the Pirates lose? Do they take anyone? Is there another Delino DeShields Jr. out there?

    Prospects? Who’s on the block? Hansen, Osuna, Rameriz? Or some of the untouchables like McGuire, Bell (gasp), or even Meadows (incredible super gasp)?

    From mid-October through mid-March, this is as fun as it gets…can’t wait to see the craziness!

    • For the bullpen, IMO the following non tenders could help in ’16;
      Yusmeiro Petit (RH) expected arb cost=$2.4
      Craig Stammen (RH) $2.4
      Cesar Ramos (LH), age 31 $1.7
      The righties have past SP experience, but profile better in the BP. Given that the #4 & #5 SP throw about 5 innings and are back to back, having 2 long relievers might save CH burning his BP so much. Total for 3, about $6.5
      Is Aaron Crow worth looking at? Once highly regarded (as a SP) he is available at approximately $2.0
      Steve Cishek (expected $7.1) as closer, alternating with Watson?

    • Starting pitching:
      Starts with Henderson Alvarez. Coming off injury, mid rotation guy, ground ball pitcher, not much in the way of Ks. Won’t be ready till at least May. Shouldn’t be too high priced. Non tendered.
      Hector Santiago. Young, LH who would need to be traded for. Predicted arb salary of slightly above $5.0. Question recently on MLTR was Walker for Santiago.
      My out of left field name is James Shields. Padres would have to eat salary ($5MM?) but Shields has an opt clause after the ’16 season. A Melancon trade here, perhaps?

    • A run in 16????? The Chubs passed up the Pirates in the playoff game and started 3 rookies in the game and have added John Lackey. The Pirates are staring at 3rd. place without some changes in the infield and in starting pitching.
      Looks like Baltimore passed on Walker as NHs asking price was just like Pedro’s, way too high. I hope Milwaukee does not get their chit togather.

    • How about Meloncon to the Cubs for Javier Baez, it might not be a perfect trade in terms of value…Im surprise no one ever talks about our below hitting SS.