First Pitch: You Might Be Surprised How Good the Current Pirates Project to Be in 2016

For the last few years, when the ZiPS projections come out, I do an article using those projections to figure out an overall projection for the upcoming season. This isn’t a simple projection where the entire team WAR is added up (which isn’t advised in the projection write-ups), but instead a method of projecting the current roster, and using ZiPS to determine the projected playing time and the WAR that each player will receive.

Compared to other projections, this one usually runs high. That said, it has been much closer to projecting the team results, since it has always come in at or under the actual team results. In 2013, the exercise projected 83 wins, and they won 94. It was right on with an 88 win projection in 2014. Last year the projection was 90 wins. The Pirates tend to have a lot of high upside guys on their roster, and impact prospects coming up during the year. They also have things that can’t easily be quantified, such as the impact from Ray Searage, defensive shifts, and a focus on ground ball pitchers and infield defense. I believe this is why they have been exceeding their projections in recent years.

The 2016 ZiPS projections were released today, which is a bit of a change from previous years. The projections for the Pirates in previous years came out later in the off-season, when the roster was pretty much set. This gave a somewhat complete picture for the projection. This time around, the projections came early, when the Pirates don’t even have a complete team. I know that the normal off-season impatience has kicked in, and the assumption is that the Pirates are finished making moves on December 15th. But the reality is that they’ll still add a starting pitcher, a first base option, a left-handed reliever, bench and bullpen options, and they could possibly trade Mark Melancon.

It might seem foolish to do a projection at this stage in the off-season, with so many things up in the air. But I wanted to see where the Pirates stood right now, before any of those moves, and see how much ground they need to make up. The results were very surprising, and run counter to the current narrative that the Pirates are headed for a rebuilding year. The Pirates, with this current roster, are projected for one more win than the 2015 team in last year’s projection. You can see how I got there with the work below, or skip to the bottom for the summary of the analysis, along with how the rest of the off-season could change the current projection.

Before we begin, I will point out again that the disclaimer in ZiPS is that you shouldn’t total all the WAR on the depth charts to get a team WAR. I’ve had that mentioned in the past in regards to this article, but I don’t think that applies. I believe that disclaimer is for all of the projections on the ZiPS page, which would result in a WAR that would be impossible to obtain, due to the unrealistic amount of playing time projected for each team. The approach I’m taking is much more calculated and more accurate. It’s also an approach that you could use with any projection system, since the main focus is figuring out playing time, then applying a projection to that playing time. There’s also the disclaimer to add that this is just for entertainment.

Now, here are the projections.

Baseline

Generally the accepted baseline for a team of replacement level players is anywhere from 45-50 wins. The average usually falls around 48. So we’ll start with that figure before we look at any individual players.

WAR: +48.0 (48.0)

Catcher

The Pirates will once again go with a combination of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart behind the plate. Cervelli had a big breakout year last year, but ZiPS isn’t projecting as much playing time for him this time around, with a 2.5 WAR over 326 plate appearances. In most cases, I’d adjust the playing time up to what I expected the player to play. However, in this case, I don’t want to adjust Cervelli, since that would be banking too much on his 2015 health, and assuming the previous health issues are gone. We’ll just go with the disclaimer that if he can prove he’s as healthy as last year, he’d be a 4+ WAR player.

Chris Stewart is projected for 201 plate appearances and an 0.6 WAR. Last year the Pirates had 668 plate appearances behind the plate. The current projections leave them 141 shy. Giving those to Elias Diaz, and prorating his playing time and 0.6 WAR gives us another 0.2 WAR for the catcher total. Once again, this projection goes up if Cervelli stays healthy.

WAR: +3.3 (51.3)

First Base

This is one of those areas where it is early. Let’s assume for the moment that Michael Morse is the regular starter. He’s projected for an 0.2 WAR and 355 plate appearances. That leaves 326 plate appearances remaining, and those would go to Josh Bell in this projection. He’s projected for 0.7 WAR over 582 plate appearances, and a prorated portion of that has him at 0.4 WAR for half a season. That gives them a combined 0.6 WAR.

This would go up if I use Jake Goebbert (projected 1.1 WAR), but I’m trying to keep it accurate at the moment as far as the depth chart goes. The truth is that the Pirates will add a guy here for the first half, and that person will have a good shot of upgrading the position over the Morse projections.

WAR: +0.6 (51.9)

Second Base

This one gets a bit tricky, as second base will be manned by Josh Harrison, but could go to someone like Alen Hanson if Jung-ho Kang isn’t available at the start of the year. Harrison is projected for 480 plate appearances, after receiving 449 last year. We’ll go with that projection, but it will leave 235 plate appearances remaining. I’m going to save those and apply them at third base. For now, Harrison would be projected for his full 2.4 WAR.

WAR: +2.4 (54.3)

Shortstop

Jordy Mercer will be the starting shortstop, and is projected for 472 plate appearances and a 1.4 WAR. I think that’s fair for playing time, but I’m not sure how to handle the other 253 plate appearances left over from last year’s playing time at shortstop. I’d give them to Jung-ho Kang, but I’m not sure if he can play shortstop after his injury, and his playing time is already being accounted for at third base. I’d go with Alen Hanson, but he’s not exactly a great option at shortstop these days, looking better at second or third. Josh Harrison also isn’t a good option, but could fill in here.

It’s very possible the Pirates go with a strong defensive backup for the shortstop position. The best guy on the list would be Pedro Florimon. But instead of giving all of the remaining playing time to him, I’m going to roll this over to third base. The shortstop section will only account for Mercer’s production.

WAR: +1.4 (55.7)

Third Base/Infield Bench

Harrison is being counted for at second base, but could start the season here, with Hanson playing second to start the year. Kang will eventually start at third, and is projected for a 2.7 WAR and 494 plate appearances. That seems fair, since he’s projected to return in April, and will probably get priority playing time once again when he returns. But this leaves 161 plate appearances remaining from the position.

We also have leftovers from second and short, which when combined with third base, add up to a total of 649 plate appearances. I think Alen Hanson could play a big role this year off the bench from the start of the season. He’s a candidate to start the year in Pittsburgh to replace Kang, and his best role to break in to the majors would be as a utility player. He’s projected for 1.9 WAR and 547 plate appearances. That leaves 102 plate appearances for Pedro Florimon as the backup shortstop, which amounts to about 0.1 WAR.

For this section we have Kang’s full amount at third, plus an extra 2.0 WAR off the bench from Hanson and Florimon.

WAR: +4.7 (60.4)

Left Field

Starling Marte is projected for 620 plate appearances and a 4.0 WAR. The Pirates had 723 plate appearances last year in left field. The extra playing time in the outfield will be addressed in the right field position.

Marte’s projection in ZiPS tends to be lower than his actual results. That’s not the case when you compare this year’s projection and his results last year (3.6 WAR). But if you look at the previous two years (4.6 WAR average), then there is room for improvement here.

WAR: +4.0 (64.4)

Center Field

Andrew McCutchen is projected for 651 plate appearances and a 6.0 WAR.  This is another area with possible bonus potential. Last year was McCutchen’s worst year since 2011, and he had a 5.8 WAR. He had a 6.8 WAR in 2012 and 2014, and an 8.2 WAR in 2013. The 6.0 projection looks like the floor for McCutchen. You don’t want to project an MVP season like 2013, but it’s very possible you could see an extra 0.8 WAR or more here.

Once again, extra playing time will be factored into the right field mix.

WAR: +6.0 (70.4)

Right Field/Bench

Gregory Polanco is projected for 627 plate appearances and a 2.4 WAR. Polanco actually had a 2.3 WAR last year, and has some breakout potential, so this could be a huge area of improvement.

The outfield had 2,186 plate appearances last year, and the current trio is 288 plate appearances shy. There are also 315 plate appearances remaining from pinch-hitting and the DH. That gives 603 plate appearances remaining off the bench, and the bench currently has Hanson, Florimon, and Stewart.

I think one of Keon Broxton or Jake Goebbert could make the bench as an extra outfielder. It’s also possible that both could make it in this scenario, especially since Goebbert has experience at first base. This would obviously change when another first baseman is added. For now, let’s go with Broxton’s full projection at 495 plate appearances and 1.2 WAR. He’s about the same value as Goebbert, so we could go with the assumption that they’d split this time.

This leaves about 108 plate appearances remaining for the other player, which would add an extra 0.3 prorated WAR off the bench. I think the bench will be something that will see a lot of changes the rest of the off-season, so this projection might change for better or worse.

For now, this section includes 2.4 WAR from Polanco, plus 1.5 WAR from the bench. There’s room for a lot of improvement if Polanco breaks out, and the bench picture could largely change.

WAR: +3.9 (74.3)

Starting Pitching

ZiPS has had an interesting recent history with the Pirates’ rotation. I got an 8.1 WAR with this article three years ago, and the rotation actually put up a 12.3 WAR. Two years ago I got a 9.3 WAR in this article, which seemed low when you consider the previous year’s actual results. They ended up with a 7.4 WAR. Last year the rotation projections were a bit more optimistic at a 10.4 WAR, and the rotation had a 16.9 WAR.

Here are the projected Opening Day starters, and their inning and WAR totals. The rotation currently isn’t complete, so there will be a big change when they add a starter. There’s also the factor of adding in the prospects, which I’ll get to in a bit.

SP: Gerrit Cole (190.0 IP, 4.2 WAR)

SP: Francisco Liriano (166.3 IP, 3.5 WAR)

SP: Jon Niese (157.7 IP, 1.3 WAR)

SP: Jeff Locke (162.7 IP, 1.2 WAR)

SP: Juan Nicasio (101.7 IP, 0.7 WAR)

That gives us 778.1 innings and a combined 10.9 WAR, which is already higher than last year’s projection, even without the real fifth starter. From there we need to fill 189 innings to get to the 2015 starting pitching total of 967.1 innings.

Before we get to the extra innings, I want to point out that I used Nicasio due to Neal Huntington’s comments over the weekend about how he could compete for a starter or reliever job. But either way, it doesn’t matter, since the Pirates will add another starter.

I usually include a disclaimer here about adjusting playing time for pitchers. Sometimes a guy will have low innings, and sometimes his innings will look high. I don’t adjust innings up, as injuries happen. Looking at the current group, I can’t see any massive increases that would be needed. Francisco Liriano’s projection is lower than his 2015 total. The same goes for Jon Niese, who could easily end up in the 180-190 inning range. In these cases, the Pirates would obviously see a big value boost if they got the extra innings.

There is also the issue of Jeff Locke. I don’t see him getting 162.2 innings, as the Pirates will have prospects arriving by mid-season. But this falls along the same category. Pitching is unpredictable. On paper, you can imagine Locke staying in the rotation until June 15th, and then being replaced by Glasnow the rest of the season. But in reality, Locke could get some extra starts if the above guys actually fall short from their career best innings totals. So we’ll also keep Locke’s totals the same.

The extra 189 innings will go to the prospects for now. Tyler Glasnow will be the top guy, arriving by mid-season. He’s projected for a 1.5 WAR over 116 innings. I think that’s possible over about four months of the year. That leaves 73 innings remaining. We’ll give all of that to Jameson Taillon, who has lower ratings than other options, but is the more realistic choice. That adds an extra 0.1 WAR, and plenty of room for improvement if Taillon exceeds his ZiPS projections.

Taillon and Glasnow add an extra 1.6 WAR to the rotation, giving a total of 12.5 WAR. Once again, this will probably change when the Pirates add another starter.

WAR: +12.5 (86.8)

Bullpen

I took the 522.1 innings pitched by the bullpen in 2015, and used that for the playing time here. For the main relievers, I kept their actual playing time, with the exception of Webster, who i adjusted down. In Locke’s case, he gets a total of 120 innings between the rotation and bullpen.

CL: Mark Melancon (68.0 IP, 1.3 WAR)

RP: Tony Watson (70.0 IP, 1.1 WAR)

RP: Allen Webster (65.0 IP, 0.3 WAR)

RP: Arquimedes Caminero (73.3 IP, 0.5 WAR)

RP: Jared Hughes (62.7 IP, 0.3 WAR)

RP: Bobby LaFromboise (65.3 IP, -0.2 WAR)

RP: Jorge Rondon (67.3 IP, 0.2 WAR)

There were 50.2 innings remaining. I always have a hard time deciding who to give the extra innings to, since this is a hard area to predict. Since so many relievers are in the 0.2-0.4 WAR range, I ended up just going with an extra 0.3 WAR. I figure that when the rotation changes, Nicasio will head to the bullpen, and Rondon will be the extra guy.

This year’s projection is at 3.8 WAR, which is 0.1 shy of last year’s projection. This could see some big changes, especially if Mark Melancon is traded. There could be some positive changes too if they add extra help. I think they’ll at least add another left-handed reliever. As an example, if you give LaFromboise’s innings to Antonio Bastardo, you increase the projections by almost a full win. For now, we’ll go with the low projections for a second lefty, and the high projections that include Melancon.

WAR: +3.8 (90.6)

Early 2016 Projection

Rounding up the figure, the Pirates are projected for a 91-71 record, which is actually one win higher than their projection last year, and that projection came when the team was set.

This figure will probably cause one of two reactions:

1. 91 wins won’t be enough. They will need much more than that to win the division. Except the problem with this reaction is that no projection will ever have a team winning 98+ games. As noted above, there are so many things that can change for better or worse with the projection. 91 wins is a good starting point.

2. There’s no way they are this good. This is actually the reaction I’m expecting, because this off-season has been filled with nothing but doom and gloom. The Pirates haven’t made any big additions, outside of adding Jon Niese, who is mostly regarded as a pitcher with very little value, even though that same thought was flawed when applied to Edinson Volquez and J.A. Happ in previous years. They’ve gotten rid of Charlie Morton, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker in the process. And we’re very early in the off-season, which means there are still moves to come, a lot of mystery surrounding those moves, and the natural pessimistic approach that seems to come with the off-season.

You look at the roster, and they really haven’t lost much. They’re largely returning the same team that won 98 games last year. They lost A.J. Burnett, and will need to replace him with someone. They basically swapped out Morton for Niese, which didn’t change the overall projection much. They traded Walker, but Josh Harrison is projected for a big year, putting up a WAR figure that Walker comes close to in his normal seasons. Alen Hanson is projected to have a big year, and if that plays out, they won’t miss Harrison’s production off the bench.

Then there are the potential moves to come, and all of the areas where they could improve. On the downside, if they trade Mark Melancon, that would probably see a decline to their numbers. And there’s no guarantee the guys they add would see an overall increase to the projections. But here are the areas that could improve, as a quick recap:

**Francisco Cervelli could add value if he stays healthy all year again.

**They need a first baseman, and should be able to improve over Morse’s 0.2 WAR projection.

**Starling Marte could add an extra half win if he performs closer to his 2013-14 numbers.

**Andrew McCutchen could add about 0.8 WAR if he performs to his numbers in previous years, with a huge increase if he sees an MVP season.

**Gregory Polanco is projected for his 2015 totals, and would really improve the team if he breaks out this year.

**The rotation will see the addition of one more starter.

**Jon Niese has been a 2.0+ WAR player in four of the last five years, and I could see room for improvement here due to the Searage impact.

**The bullpen could see an extra win if they add a good left-handed reliever behind Watson, and will also see a slight value boost when Juan Nicasio replaces Jorge Rondon.

**There’s also the team impact of having upgraded defense, defensive shifts, and Ray Searage. All of this could play a positive impact that is difficult to quantify here.

The Pirates are returning a lot of guys from a great team. They’re not seeing the expected drop off from the guys they lost. They’ve got a lot of top prospects who will add value throughout the year. And they still have three big holes to fill via free agency or trades (1B, SP, LHRP), plus a lot of room for upside over the current projections.

There aren’t flashy moves being made here, like spending over $200 M to bring in proven players like the Cubs are doing. But the Pirates are projected for a good team, have some upgrades coming in the form of young prospects, and will likely see several more additions this coming off-season. The idea that they can’t contend in 2016 seems very premature.

  • This looks like a rebuilding year that is for 1-2 years in duration. I am not saying they won’t be competitive as the core of good players are still in tact. But these pitchers are a bridge till pitchers like Taillon, Glasnow, and maybe Tarpley are promoted to Pittsburgh. I may have missed 1-2 others. Stewart should be traded and Diaz has proven his stay at AAA. As soon as Hanson and McGuire are ready they they are promoted to Pittsburgh and Cervelli can be traded. Yes, Cutch will leave Pittsburgh in several years and his replacement is already in the system, Austin Meadows. When the new players become productive the Pirates will be a tough out.

  • I may have missed it, but I wonder where the Cards Fall. It seems like they have lost some players to free agency. I expect the Cards to fall to 3rd this year, but I guess we’ll have to let the Cards fall where they may.

  • I always though Charlie Morton was the Bucs pitcher most likely to toss a no-no over the past three years. Now, with the Pirates having only one major league LH bat (Polanco), I’m thinking Morton might finally get that no-no… versus the Pirates.

  • Why are many in the Pittsburgh media calling this a reset year?

  • Outstanding explanation of our current status. We have the best outfield in baseball, two great young pitching prospects in Glasnow and Tailion, along with Cole, and a great one-two punch in the bullpen with Melancon and Watson. Add in Cervelli and Harrison and you have a good start. I feel better after reading this.

  • Nice article Tim, I have actually been saying this all along. I don’t think we are going to take much of a step back, if any. I used a different methodology, I just stacked the Pirates roster next to the Cubs roster, and looked for glaring differences. the Cubs have areas where they are far superior, but so do we. the difference between the two, the Cubs will be relying on their youngsters to perform in order to compete. if our youngsters perform, it is a bonus.

  • Outside our pitching, my to do list this offseason would have been to first add a backup SS and then backup 1B. For a team with playoff aspirations, we need an MLB caliber back up at all positions. Right now we only have C covered.

    If we got a SS, Mercer would have an actual back up (as opposed to Florimon/Ngoepe). Mercer could also cover 2B and 3B if that was the need. Mercer could also free up Harrison to cover OF, if that was the need. We would still need a backup 1B but at least we have a reasonable mid-year option in Bell. There is no such SS on our horizon

    • “We need MLB caliber back up at all positions.”

      That really doesnt happen, because once we agree we cant have starters as backups magically the options get marginal enough to make half of fans upset. You choose between great defense with crap offense, or offensive upside with marginal defense or worse.

      Give me a list of backups that provide value in different ways. A defensive SS, an offensive 1Bbmen, a utility option who gets on base well. All likely not called “ML caliber” great options but with value.

      • Last year the Pirates had MLB caliber backups at every position other than First base. Arguably they didn’t have a MLB quality first baseman on the roster. Just saying.

  • It’s very telling that players that profile like Carter and Alvarez haven’t been picked up. Then another like Trumbo is traded as a mere give away. Those masher days are continuing to slowly go away when the DEF is seen as such a negative and/or the OBP is almost as good as if you’d just stand there and keep your bat on your shoulder for every AB.
    Just like the days of the true center and big man game in basketball are slowly (or quickly) dying…so is the big man with the round belly playing 1B who can’t play DEF at a high level.

    Rise up little people! The 2000’s are our time to see the super UTIL win an MVP. lol

    • Guys like that also arent high on anyone’s offseason want list, so it takes time for them to get into serious talks. Since they both only officially became open a few weeks ago, its not shocking no one ran to them asking for a deal.

  • Cubs 110 wins Cards 96 wins Pirates 84 wins

    • So all of the sudden the cubs go from 3rd place to the 1927 Yankees?

    • Nah, I think if the season started today, the Cards place third in the division…but the Pirates, most likely, miss the playoffs.

    • Umm…OK! I get the low(er) win projection for the Pirates, but the huge disparity between the Pirates and Cards is interesting, if not completely off base. The Cards, as we sit here today, may have better pitching than the Pirates but overall I am not sure they are more talented and I lean on them being less talented at present. And predicting a 110 win season for any team is just asinine.

    • Can we bet on that Cubs prediction?

    • And you, are the winner ! Dumbest post of the discussion.

  • Interesting projection but not good enough. Feel like 2016 is a punt. They will dumpster dive with Masterson, live with Morse/Goebbert at 1B, while enjoying their “financial flexibility” and waiting for Taillon, Glasnow, and Bell to arrive mid-season. Of course, we’ll be out of it by them, which will means they’ll dump Liriano and Melancon for even more financial flexibility. 2017 will ride on Taillon, Glasnow, Bell and whatever Melancon and Liriano bring back.

  • Great article Tim, I love the breakdown. This is probably the most accurate way to truly predict a season that I’ve seen, and I enjoy it each year

  • On Cervelli and Stewart, does ZIPS include framing? Or is that another potential upside?

    • Infinite.

    • I think the technical term is a “shit load.”

      Gotta give up one of the top 2 for sure.

      • Anyone know a good calculator for doing projected arb costs? I’m curious what reasonable arb for Cole in 2017 and 2018 will be if he stays 4 WAR pitcher. I’m assuming no way in hell he is here in 2019

        • *Insert picture of Brinks truck*

        • Price went $5m, $10m, $14m, $20m as a Super 2 guy, for comparison.

          If you use 40%/60%/80% of free agent value as a guideline and assume Cole is at least a $25m/yr pitcher on the open market, you’re talking about roughly $10m his *first* year of arb. Probably won’t be that high, but expect to spend more than $20m over his first two years of arb.

      • Quite honestly, if I’m GM, I want both (as a starting point)!

        We certainly don’t need to trade Cole, but if the Dodgers are desperate (and they may be), maybe the Pirates could get an overpay for Cole.

        I would ONLY trade Cole for a significant overpay.

        • Oh without a doubt, in a practical discussion of that trade id push for both of their top 2 prospects. Which is why it’ll never get done and is a theoretical discussion.

          But yeah, that cheap top 10 arm in baseball only leaves for all your prospects LAD.

          • They’ve loaded up on so much uber-toolsy LA talent that you could end up with a truly historic haul if you were willing to take chances on kids 4 years from the show.

            Not for Cole, of course, but Cutch next winter?

            • Talk about least popular move of the NH era that could maker uber sense.

            • So many folks think Cutch is off the table. Obviously, no one should be if the return is adequate. And, if Cutch isn’t traded before opening day 2018, Huntington should not only be fired, he should be publicly whipped and stoned.

              There are some folks holding out for an extension. It better not happen. If Cutch were to sign a ‘team friendly’ deal tomorrow…it would have to be friendlier than a prostitute on Ecstasy.

              Even if he were to kind enough, today, to go for seven years at AAV of $22M, that would negate the 3/42 he has…which means, realistically, the Bucs would be paying $28M/year for his age 32-35 seasons. That is not how a team spends wisely.

              So, the question is…when to trade him? Heck, if the right deal came along today, the Pirates shouldn’t shy away. After all, the longer he’s on the team, the closer he gets to free agency…so the less his trade value becomes.

              In my eyes, what would a good deal be? Heck, for some reason I keep looking at the Rangers…Delino DeShields Jr., Profar, and Nomar Mazara would be the starting point. Cutch would replace DeShields, Profar is blocked, so Mazara would be the big loss for them…but, just to be spiteful, I’d demand Moreland, as well.

              After this season? Heck, if Meadows spends half at AA and the rest at Indy and continues to stud it up, the Pirates may be able to move Cutch without seeking a replacement outfielder in return and can grab the best hitting and pitching prospect from just about any organization…plus a few spare parts or projectable guys.

              This team is always going to have budget constraints not faced by better financed teams…they’d be foolish not to capitalize on the assets they develop by using them to deplete other organizations’ talent and adding low cost high performers to their own.

              • I think the competitive nature of the roster heading into 2017 does make keeping him for that season enticing enough to do. Thats a legit team (likely) who would be headlined by a true MVP talent.

                And then the following offseason you shop him like he’s going out of style for a haul. With less time on his contract the deal is lesser, but still massive. Meadows would be plenty seasoned in the minors, the return likely nets1-2 near ready guys, saves money, etc.

                • Nobody, even 32 yo old Cutch, brings back huge packages anymore for just one year of service time.

                  Blaine makes a great point.

                  I think you either trade Cutch after this year and truly give yourself a chance at altering the franchise for the better moving forward, or take his last two years of production and the QO draft pick that follows him on his way elsewhere.

                  Nobody makes a habit of trading guys in their last year of control anymore.

                  • Nobody? You, obviously, aren’t familiar with a guy named Huntington.

                    By the way, if all the Pirates get for Cutch is a compensation pick…holy shit, that would be bad.

                  • Meadows won’t be ready until 2018 or 19. Willy Garcia may never be ready. Moving Cur H after this year leaves a huge hole in 2017.

                • I agree. Cutch (probably) shouldn’t be traded right now.

                  However, the realistic(?) deal I tossed out there, I think, would make it a tough decision. It would represent an upgrade at two positions and the bench and bring a promising prospect into the system. Yes, CF would be downgraded, by a bit, but would it, plus actual savings be enough to justify it?

                  I don’t know…maybe. I wouldn’t argue the team should, while contending, gut their chances…but in this scenario? Hmmm…

                  • I think the progression of Meadows will be a huge factor in how early the team gets serious about moving Cutch.

                    Meadows making a mockery of AA this year and ending it in AAA makes moving Cutch intriguing.

              • As an alternative, if I were Nutting I would offer Cutch a minority ownership share held in trust until after he retires that compensated for a below market salary and in addition offer him a position within the organization for life. It makes no sense to let go the equivalent of a Clemente regardless of the return in trade. Cutch may not take it, but I would make the offer.

                • That’s just not going to supply talent to the organization. We can reasonably sure the Pirates aren’t going to be realistic bidders on impact free agents. And, if they continue to be a winning team, the draft position is going to be outside of the top 20. So, how best to add talent in the future and maintain success if they hold on to players for the sake of nostalgia?

          • Well, yes, purely theoretical but interesting discussion to pass the offseason time.

      • Gotta give up one of the top 2 for sure.

        More, much more. Recall the haul the Pirates were alleged to have offered the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton. Cole is the safer and better bet than Stanton.

        • I didnt really mean for that to be the entire deal, but a “so to start this discussion, Seager is ours or im not wasting the rest of my time.”

          NH doesnt waste time discussing it if its not clear one of the top 2 is clearly and firmly involved.

          • Both would need to be in the trade, and more besides. LA would be trading for a young, inexpensive, accomplished, uninjured pitcher, a pitcher with a high ceiling and who has not yet peaked.

            LA does not need to make this trade. They underachieved last season when Grienke had a historic year. The Dodgers need to get younger and better. The Dodgers need their prospects.

            • As was pointed out, this really isnt a serious discussion as much as a theoretical one. No one really think LAD and PGH both want this deal to happen.

    • “Give me all the prospects that you have.”

      “Stop. I worry what you heard was ‘Give me a lot of prospects.’ What I actually said was ‘Give me ALL the prospects you have.'”

    • Since you asked: Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Grant Holmes, Alex Wood, and Zach Lee. Yes…3 of their top 5 prospects, an established MLB arm, and another top 20 prospect. And I might still want more.

    • Start with what Florida was asking for Fernandez, which I think was Urias, Seagar, and Deleon, plus a bunch of other stuff.

  • Tim good article. My concerns would be the bullish figures on the rookies specifically hanson, as much as we assume they will add a sp Huntingtons comments in regards to nocasio suggest he may be open to I’m in rotation, and think it is almost a guarantee melancon is gone.
    We all assume they will bring on a sp and 1b but that isn’t a guarantee as constructed especially with the comment “I’m comfortable going into the season with a short term hole in rotation with Jameson and Tyler on horizon”
    And could just add holdzkom to pen.
    Unless they improve 1st and sp I don’t see how a team with a backend with neise locke nicasio with at many. Young guys typically don’t have the big impact imediately to get to where I personally think they will need
    This will be the year barring a big change they fall below exectations based on fangraphs

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 15, 2015 9:49 am

    We need to get Kazmir or Latos, a quality left handed reliever, and someone to either platoon with Morse and/or Bell at first base…
    Please say no to Sean Rodriguez…he was versatile and always gave his all, but his hitting really weakens the bench, when you consider you also have Stewart there most of the time. I think a guy like Gamache could be a poor man’s Rodriguez, but younger, cheaper, and with more upside with the bat.

    • While im all for using young guys to fill the bench, if the worry is you cant have 2 light bats on the bench…..using Gamache was an odd guy since we just got projections and the Dan man is projected to hit….basically exactly like S Rod without the power.

    • I don’t mind SRod on the bench. He’s got good defense nearly everywhere, and he is below average, but not terrible at the plate. But, I would like to see a better bat on the bench ahead of Rodriguez.

      • Particularly a bench bat that can play average 1B, allowing S Rod to not be thrown into 1B the majority of his time.

        Let S Rod rover 2B and the OF a bit and some 1B, as opposed to being our go to backup 1Bmen.

      • What are your thoughts about Morse on the bench? If they find another 1B man is Morse tradable?

  • But the reality is that they’ll still add a starting pitcher, a first base option, a left-handed reliever, bench and bullpen options,

    But will they be any good? That is reality, too?

    • They don’t have to be that good to upgrade over what they have right now.

      Also, two of them are pitchers and this is the Pirates, so I’m guessing they will be good.

  • Bullpen looks high to me. Mark(if he stays) and Tony may hit those projections but keep in mind the bullpen only achieved 1.8 WAR beyond Mark and Tony last year. And 2.0 of that came from Soria, Blanton and Bastardo. So in aggregate the rest of the pen was negative. In 2014 Mark and Tony contributed 3.5 and the rest of the pen a -2.0. Almost every year you have a few guys who will contribute negative WAR, sometimes in large #s whether that be 2015 Liz or 2014 Jeanmar,Bryan Morris.

    I don’t see this bullpen doing 1.6 WAR after Mark and Tony next year. Even in 2013 they only did 1.4 WAR beyond Mark and Tony and 1.6 of that came from Grilli. So after those top 3 guys the rest of pen had negative WAR.

    Last year got a huge bump because Soria gave us .8 WAR in 2 months.

    • Is it so much to ask for Blanton and Bastardo back?

      • works for me.

      • I’d be shocked if they brought Bastardo back. IIRC he was looking for something like 2/7. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like him back but don’t think we can afford him.

        • That’s crazy John. Not saying that you’re “wrong” necessarily…but if the team really thinks they cant afford Bastardo then they are wrong and crazy. They will pay $3.5M for potentially the same job as Bastardo (with likely lesser results) if they can find another two competent starters.

      • One thing to remember about the bullpen WAR is for the most part the recent WAR has come from established, relatively well paid guys. Even Bastardo was a guy they picked up in his last year of arb via a trade and paid 2M to. Not a huge bundle but by Pittsburgh standards an investment in their bullpen. Soria, largest contributor after Mark and Tony had a pretty steep salary for 2 months of work. Yes Blanton added as well on the cheap. But the bulk of the bullpen contributors the last 2 years have not been waiver, minor league free agent sorts.

    • Completely fair comment, but I actually think the bullpen is just about the only part of the team with upside.

      Assuming Nicasio gets bumped to the pen, as he should, you’re looking at a guy who already was worth a win in that role last year. He’s not even accounted for in Tim’s pen projection above. Marginal improvement from Caminero wouldn’t surprise anyone, and Allen Webster’s the wild card.

      This pen could be really, really good.

      • I really hope you are right. My fear is this is season we see some sort of regression from Mark or Tony or just an off year. They have been basicaly perfect for 3 years in a row. I do like the Nicasio signing. Webster is a wild card for sure. At this point I would probably take the under on .3 WAR from him though.

        • Oh you’re very much correct to be worried about Mark and Tony.

          Objectively speaking, Melancon has already started a steady decline phase from his peak in 2013. Still just about automatic in the save category, which you cannot take away from him, but I think we know enough about that statistic not to hang our hats on this last forever as his true talent continues declining. Tony also saw a pretty drastic drop in strikeouts last year.

          • I think you both are right to be concerned about Tony and Mark (and that is why I would be really concerned if we didnt add another piece and traded Melancon and went into the season with Tony as the back-end option). However, I agree with you NMR if the Pirates can get even marginal improvements in Webster and Nicasio (and remember Holdzkom could still be an option)…I do think this pen could be pretty darn good (and deep) even without Melancon.

            (By the way…is anyone at all, NMR, saying you were right and taking back all the crap you–and I to a smaller degree–received over the discussion of Mark Melancon and his limited trade value?)

            • Yeah, I hear you, but I’ll always expect fans to overvalue their own. It’s good when fans like their own players, just maybe not for logical internet conversations.

              And who knows, maybe Melancon is the guy left standing in February when Chapman is toxic and Team X decides they need a closer.

  • Eno Sarris just wrote an interesting article on Fangraphs stating that the Pirates should pick up Justin Morneau. It’s not a bad idea.
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/finding-the-pirates-another-first-baseman/

    • Said this last time someone brought this up, but the upside outside of Coors doesnt seem to warrant rostering a guy one random head shot away from being finished.

      His projected offense is poor at 1B from a pure performance standpoint, and then factoring in how close he is to retired and having headaches the rest of his life. Meh

      • He provides solid defense and I am of the opinion that Josh Bell should be manning 1B by June anyways.

        • Even if Bell does come up in June…I just get the sense that he will have a Polanco-like first half season. Hot out of the gate, but then will struggle. I dont know if you can count on him being a break out star immediately as soon he comes up.

          Moreland would be my top choice, second choice would be Dae Ho Lee. Morneau would be my 3rd choice, but his concussion history is concerning. Also he wont offer much power and frankly they need somebody who is going to hit home runs in place of Alvarez and Walker.

          • That may happen to Bell nomatter when he comes up. He’s got a tighter swing, better hand/eye, and better pitch recognition than Polanco. Polanco has higher ceiling but Bell has a higher floor. Eventually we just need to decide to sink or swim with Bell.

            • Ceiling/Floor based on what? Total value, or just offense?

              Bell will struggle to be more than replacement level since he’ll almost certainly be giving back runs on defense and *might* be a wash on the bases.

              • I’m talking strictly offense. I don’t think Bell is nearly as raw with the bat. My expectations for him are below average defense but a .340-.350 OBP with a at least a decent amount of doubles.

              • His bat (high average and OBP) would certainly be welcomed though.

        • Lotta money for solid defense and “please dont get hit in the head” health.

    • Except for the part where he was actually advocating for John Jaso.

    • He doesn’t say that they should pick up Morneau. He reviews the pros and cons of many options, including Morneau, before concluding that Jaso would be their best option.

  • 2.0 for Hanson/Florimon? LMAO

    • If you read the projections of Hanson’s offense, its really really not that absurd. They are basically saying with enough playing time, his defense+baserunning allow him quality WAR.

      Not all that unlike Polanco last year. Average offense, good defense and good speed. If his power isnt as high as they project, it’d drop to around 1.5 WAR.

      But Hanson playing 500 at bats worth will have to suddenly suck at 2B to not trip into 1 WAR. Any average level offense=mid 1 WAR.

      Its really not that pie in the sky as far as projection goes, unless we default assume all rookies will suck until they throw out fine production.

      • That’s fine, but Hanson is not getting 500 AB. Which is why projecting him to add 2 wins with Florimon is highly optimistic.

        • Totally agree with that. But i will say that he can easily get 300-400 at bats. With a void left by Harrison now starting, there are plenty of at bats for the utility IFer.

          I’ll throw 1 WAR out for him.

          • That’s over a half season worth of ABs. Again, if he has to play that much, they had an issue somewhere else, which throws off this calculation.

            Plus, Tim himself has stated Hanson struggles on initial advancement. No where in baseball is the jump wider from AAA to the show.

            Again, all opinion, but you need to reign in your expectations for Hanson. Especially year 1.

            • Not really. Acting like 300 at bats means someone else got hurt ignores how they get guys playing time. They’ll rest guys enough to allow Hanson to get decent at bats. He’s not gonna sit and get 100 at bats while the entire team starts 155 games.

              They got Harrison 400 at bats while being a utility player and losing a month due to injury. Sean Rodriguez got middle 200s at bats. While questioning if its the best strategy is fair, the team values spreading at bats around to keep guys fresh. Your bench player can and will get 200-300 at bats.

              You are being absurd about others expecting anything from rookies. I have to reign in my expectations of Hanson being 1 WAR and playing normal bench levels for at bats? C’mon. 250-300 at bats is normal for a bench player and 1 WAR is extremely modest for a rookie. If im being extreme, it means anything over 0 WAR is too much for you.

              • Hanson has nowhere near the position flexibility that Harrison and Rodriguez have. Playing him at 3rd or SS in anything other than an emergency would be a mistake.

                • He can play 3B without being Pedro. And thats not even my point, my point is that you always respond to anyone discussing projection next year with disdain at any rookie being moderately useful.

                  Its fair to think rookies wont be productive, but taking a reasoned look at Hanson says he can provide 1 WAR value. Maybe less, maybe more, but his defense + speed=good enough to overcome “meh” offense for okay value.

                • And you know this by your extensive amount of time spent watching him play those positions? By all accounts, his issues are mental on the routine plays. If he has to play 3B or SS a few times a week he will be fine.

                  • If Hanson has to play 3B or SS a few times a week, the Pirates are in a lot of trouble.

                  • Id argue against SS. No need to play him at SS more than a few times a month at most. Just go grab a backup SS type rather than force him into that.

                    • When I say a few times a week, I’m meaning a game at each spot a week, with most of his PT coming at 2B. If the situation arises where he has to step into a role like that, he should do just fine. I’d rather have his potential with the bat at SS 4 times a month than stick a guy with no bat there, especially when the SP isn’t a ground ball heavy guy. Let the glove man handle those games where worms are ducking for cover.

                    • PGH wont ever agree with the logic that you go offensive upside over glove first at SS. Agree or not, they have shown no desire to risk defense for maybe good offense unless you play average defense and mash at SS.

                      Hanson isnt mashing as a rookie, and thus shouldnt be put at SS much since he’s very up and down there.

                • Hanson is a better third baseman and MUCH better SS than Sean Rodriguez

                  • Guess you didn’t see him play SS up there in Altoona?

                    But I think you’re a better hitter than SRod, leo.

      • It will be interesting how they handle him, Luke. If he has to play everyday at some point, something else went horribly wrong.

      • Which makes sense when you see Polanco and his WAR from last year

        • I could see similar end results, with less at bats. Peg Hanson at 200-300 at bats, 1 WAR-ish with a light bat. Fine bench option that at least offers upside that S Rod and others really didnt on offense.

        • No way no how does Hanson possess the same abilities with the bat as Polanco. Especially Year 1.

          • His defense at 2B and his ability on the basepaths, even with a .240 average, will get him 1 WAR in 250-300 ABs.

          • At his position, its similar. He will play better than average defense, and has speed enough to steal 25+ bases.

            You play above average defense and steal 25 bases and thats value. Thats without any type of “upside” evaluation considered. Its not giving, since 25+ SBs is what he churns out in the minors.

            The kid can hit like a typical bench hitter, and his natural ability on defense and speed allow him value without really showing his upside. He’s a bench player right now.

            • And when have you know the Pirates to put a rookie on the bench?

              • They havent, ive been vocal about hating their approach to the bench. But i also see the team in a different spot than they were 2 years ago. If they dont start using rookies off the bench, they dont have a spot to play people in AAA/AA.

                Hanson is primed for the Harrison-treatment. A guy with good tools and enough versatility to come off the bench to start his career and hopefully force the team to start him. I dont see why PGH will ignore him all year, other than “since they havent done it, they wont” which is flawed.

                • Again I just find it hard to believe that if Marte and Polanco had struggles as rookies, getting every day ABs and playing time in the field, that Hanson can get part time ABs and partial playing time and somehow be and above replacement level player.

                  In my book, thats flawed.

                  • Marte is basically my point. He had issues in his offensive profile, was a free swinger, didnt hit his upside, was still raw in LF at times, annnnnddddd 1 WAR. In 200 at bats 1 WAR.

                    Thats my expectation of Hanson. Good defense, good speed, somewhere below average offense for 2B. You are acting like 200 at bats to your backup who isnt good is shocking. Its what many a team does.

                    Every team has a backup IFer who is flawed that is expected to give you 200-300 at bats. Hanson will be flawed, and wont hit his upside likely. But he can provide good defense, good speed, and a non Florimon like bat. Thats 1 WAR, flawed and all.

                    He’s got the profile to throw out near 1 WAR without exceeding expectations. He doesnt have to hit great, just avoid being a black hole while playing the defense+speed he has consistently at 2B.

                    • Except… No one is projecting Hanson to be the player Marte is.

                      In AAA Marte played in 99 games, had 388 ABs, batted .286, had a .343 OBP and hit 12 HRs.

                      In contrast in AAA Hanson has played 117 games, had 497 ABs, batted .263, has a .313 OBP and hit 6 HRs.

                      It’s exceedingly optimistic to project Hanson to have a WAR of 1 next year.

                    • You discussed projections and then discussed past performance. A =/= B there.

                      No, its not optimistic to make that projection because AAA stats arent the end all of a future projection and a player with good defense+speed can find 1 WAR with below average offense.

                      Its not logical to go “well he’s not doing well in AAA, so that means any good projection is stupid”. Thats not what projections are about, and 1 WAR isnt crazy. He can be that level of “meh” on offense and be 1 WAR. You throwing out his offensive limitations doesnt change that, i’ve been saying he’ll not hit great the entire time. Above average defense+25 SBs nets 1 WAR over 200-300 at bats unless he is Florimon on offense.

                    • For whatever reason it’s been rare for a Pirates rookie to achieve a WAR of 1 in their first season. There are 3 Pirates position players who did: Cutch (3.4) Marte (1) and Kang (3.6).

                      Players of note who didn’t include Cervelli, Walker, Harrison, Mercer, Polonco, Alvarez and Aramis Ramirez. Of those Pedro, Aramis Ramierez and Walker posted negative WAR numbers their rookie years. The others poster a WAR of .5 or under. With the exception of Cervelli all were better in AAA than Hanson

                      Project whatever you want to project. I would be very surprised if Hanson posts a WAR of 1 his rookie year

                    • I didnt project it, people who do projections as a job did.

                      Its within reason for him to not do that, along with within reason for him to exceed that. Plenty of rookie fall short. His skill set allows him to not be great on offense and still do so.

                      Something guys like Walker+Pedro+A Ram couldnt really say.

                    • Steamer projects him as a ,2 WAR player. Fan graphs projects him as a 1.9 WAR player.

                      Suffice it to say that there is room for differences in opinion I haven’t read anyone projecting him to be a future superstar, I’d expect him to be closer to .2 player in 2016. Then again, what do I know? Personally, I hope he plays at a 5 WAR level. I just wouldn’t bank on it

                    • .2 in 150 at bats. So if he gets 200-300 in a semi normal bench role it appears most systems have him .5-1 WAR in that role. Which is basically what im saying since WAR isnt really meant to delve into .1 or .2 differences.

      • In 111 games in AAA, Hansen had 475 ABs batting .263 with 6 HRs. In comparison Polonco played 67 games in AAA, had 277 ABs batted .328 and hit 7 HRs.

        Hansen was not nearly the player in AAA that Polonco was. Polonco’s WAR was .3 year one in the majors with 312 plate appearances. I would be surprised if Hansen matched that.

      • Don’t spoil his narrative Luke. He can judge all players by reading about them.

  • With the Cubs, Dbacks, Giants, Mets, and Nationals have all improved, I’ll be curious to see how simulations play out. It could be there are several teams projected with around 90 wins and we won’t be projected in the top 5. OTOH, I’d expect that the three strong West teams will prevent any one of those teams racking up big win totals, even though that didn’t happen in the strong Central last year.

    • The Mets infield defense is terrible, their leadoff hitter is is a corner outfielder, and Cespedis is gone.

      • But they’ll have that pitching staff together for the entire season, not just the second half. And then will get Wheeler back midseason. When you can start a #1 or #2 every night, that’s tough to beat.

        • No doubt their pitching is excellent. But you do have to score and play defense. And Lagares full time in CF ? Good luck with that . And, the Nats will not suffer through the injuries and bullpen mismanagement they did last season.

    • I still say 88-92 wins grabs the NL Central

      • I think 100 wins might be needed to win the Central.

        • If it does again, it’ll be the best division over a two year period in awhile. Great teams, in great divisions, dont win 100 back to back.

          All the talent in the Central could result in a 93 win division winner, and that wouldnt make them “worse” per se.

          • I think the Cards could regress, Molina wasn’t great last year and is aging. The Cubs though could simply run away with this thing…and I dont think 100 wins is a stretch for them.

            • They could win 100, but winning 100 takes as much luck as anything.

              WSH easily could have won 100 with the talent they had. Other teams that won 94 could have won 100 on talent.

              CHC has the ability to win 100, but actually doing so requires many things going right even for a highly talented team.

            • If one or more of the Cubs’ starters go down for any length of time, which one or more will, who steps in ? Heyward a CFr ? Don’t think so, and who is the leadoff hitter, Heyward or Zobrist ? If it is Heyward, a $ 23 million per year leadoff guy, and in CF ? A joke.

    • I do not see how the National have improved when all they’ve done is subtract Escobar and Zimmerman, and added a couple bullpen arms, including our old friend Ollie. Color me jaded at this point in regards to that team.

      • I like what they’re doing with their bullpen. And they have enough quality starters that they can afford the loss of Zimmerman without missing a beat. I’m not a fan of Dusty, but I also doubt the dysfunction they had last year will return. I am assuming, though, that they’ll make a big signing (Upton?) so perhaps it’s too soon to say they’re better.

      • Isn’t Desmond gone too?

    • Besides Kershaw and Janson, please explain to me how the Dodgers are ” strong “.

  • The Bucs should make a solid offer to Soo Kim. He’s a corner outfielder with an incredible OBP which could slot into the 2 hole, and he’s played 1b and he’s left handed. The perfect fit as a 1b/OF who can still have value once Bell is ready. Also a long term trade candidate at some point when Meadows is ready… unless Bell or Meadows fail to perform. And affordable? O’s offer of $4 mil is similar to Kang…. Age is good too, easily a 5 for $20-$25 guy as he’d be a good value piece long term.
    Also no posting fee, he’s a free agent!

  • Thanks to Eno Sarris, I am now in the John Jaso for first base corner. He wouldn’t help the projection much, but the dude gets on base. He’d be a good bat to have in the lineup.

    • He’s called all the bullpen moves so far this winter, so why not? #ENOisNH

      • But deal god…Jason Jaso? Please tell me that this Eno guy projects us to actually spend some money to acquire a good pitcher for the 3rd rotation spot.

        I really want Kazmir and Masterson…bump Locke to BP (expensive bullpen arm though).

        • If Jaso is strictly a 1B option and doesnt play C, its a decent move.

          So long as they have his type of production at 1B, who cares what they spend. Id take Latos+Jaso over just Kazmir.

          • His type of production? I remember when everyone was saying Walker would have made a poor option at 1B because of his poor offensive transition to the position. How is Jaso a better option? At this point I agree with you that for the likely money involved I would take Jaso’s average and his OBP in this lineup…but I do not see why this team couldn’t have done the same thing from NW.

            • Jaso is a better option because Neil Walker has posted Jaso level wRC+ once in his career.

              In his last 4 seasons, Jaso has been 121 wRC+ or above in each year. Walker has done that once in his career, coming it around 110-112 mostly.

              Jaso is a better offensive player than Walker, and would actually be middle of the pack on offense as opposed to below average.

              • Not only that, but Walker would have been playing a weak offensive first base for the salary of a better offensive second baseman. Made no sense financially or performance wise

        • You want a good pitcher, then suggest Masterson?

          • No, I want a good pitcher and mention Kazmir…and would replace Locke in the rotation with Masterson as a bounce-back candidate.

            • The problem is, in order to be a bounce back candidate, you must have at one point been good. Masterson’s been a fairly steady 4+ ERA pitcher for most of his career.

    • Good points, he is reasonably priced, and with the years he has logged as both a 1B and Catcher, he would be very valuable to the Pirates now and in the future.

      • I believe Jaso is done with catching due to multiple concussions. I think we can do better.

  • I am not surprised, but I appreciate the work you did on this all the same. Thanks!

  • I believe the 2016 season will be a transition period because the team will have a new core. That claim does not mean the Pirates will flounder, especially if most of the prospects hit the ground running. The 2017 season could see them win more than 100 games; that would be an improvement over what we can reasonably expect from the 2016 team.

    One step back — 98 to 90 wins — and two steps forward — 90 to 100 or more wins.

    • You beat me to the punch in that we both see 2016 as a transition year rather than a rebuilding year. Some of the faces will change, and hopefully the contributions of the newbies will be equal to or exceed the contributions of the folks leaving.

      The average age of the club will come down as younger position players and pitchers are added to replace those leaving. For that reason this will be an exciting year, and one of the most important developmental years going forward.

      • … this will be an exciting year, and one of the most important developmental years going forward.

        Yep. This will be the year when Huntington, his staff and Hurdle will earn their money. The right trade. (for a starting pitcher) and sensible promotions could have the Pirates end the season as the best team in the NL.

        The rotation
        Cole
        Liriano
        Glasnow
        Taillon
        ??????

        The starting position players
        C) Cervelli (Diaz)
        3B) Kang
        2B) Harrison (Hanson)
        1B) Bell
        SS) Mercer
        LF) Marte
        CF) McCutchen
        RF) Polanco

        Assuming no prospect becomes a bust, that’s a lineup that can hang with the Cubs, Dodgers and Mets. The potential gotcha: The Dodgers and Cubs have money to spend. The Pirates, on the other hand, need to be clever and lucky.

      • This is exactly why I want Kazmir signed. You add another strong lefty to the team and replace Niese and Locke next year with a full year of Taillon and Glasnow and now you have huge righty upside in Cole, Taillon, Glasnow and strong lefties in Liriano and Kazmir.

        Speaking of Liriano…when his contract runs out and he’s, what, 33 or 34…can you imagine what he’ll get on the open market if he keeps performing?

        • I imagine it’ll be a headache for whoever does sign him to a 3 year deal into his mid 30s. Eeek

          • You say that, but look at the market now. You dont think he’ll get HUGE money? I would guess he’ll get $20M a year on a 3 year deal at 33/34.

            • No i meant whoever does ink him will regret it.

              As in, he will get 18-20 and likely spend 1 year hurt and thus useless.

    • I agree that this season will likely lead us to another wild card birth- hopefully we win this one. I also agree that our ability to get our kids some experience this year will lead to a 2016 and 2017 that could easily get us 100 wins and potentially a world series. If health cooperates of course. one of those hit batsman breaking the hand of Cutch or Marte would probably kill our chances any of those years of accomplishing that

      • “easily get us 100 wins”

        Almost no teams can be expected to win 100 games. It takes a loaded, experienced line-up to expect anything like that. The only teams from my memory that might qualify for such as expectation were the 1970-71 Orioles, 1976 Reds, 1986 Mets, and maybe 1998 Yankees. A lot has to go right for even the most talented teams to reach 100 victories.

        • I’m sorry that somehow you read “could easily get us to 100 wins” as if I was saying the same as expecting them to win 100 games, it is not. Could easily means the same as quite possible or within reason.

  • Excellent post Tim! (Even though I haven’t even read all of it yet!)

    Watching from Australia it seems to me that there has been way too much moaning and groaning about what the Pirates have and haven’t done yet in the off-season, the same old same old about “Nutting is cheap” (boring and wrong!) and whining that the Pirates will never compete with the Cubs.

    To which I say three things Get real, the Pirates won 98 games last year and have had 3 strong seasons in a row. They have prospects that are nearly ready who are exciting: Glasnow, Bell, Hanson, Diaz, Taillon (and I am making a small bet that Brault may turn out to be a big time surprise!). Not even mentioning the obvious: Meadows & McGuire, Harold Ramirez, Max Moroff, Keon Broxton, Willy Garcia,, Stephen Tarpley, etc.

    To quote Yogi: ‘It ain’t over until it’s over”! The off-season is still young! It is very very likely that the Pirates have cleared salary so they can add another starter, a 1st base option and more.

    They simply had no place to play Pedro – no one else in the NL does either.

    Neal, as wonderful as he was, simply was not going to stay after this year.

    And CM, although talented, was also inconsistent.

    So let’s just be thankful for the last 3 great years and have some patience and faith that the FO will add to what is already a very strong core!

    • Well said.

    • Well stated, but it is that time of year. Your sleeper pick is Steven Brault and mine is another SP from that Altoona team and that is Chad Kuhl. Let’s hope one of them gets the chance.

      I am surprised that Alvarez has not been scooped up as yet, but since the teams are now dealing with Scott Boras over Alvarez as a Free Agent, the difficulty factor has probably been raised greatly. I still think the kid has it inside of him, but he will have to go to the right team – I wonder if the Angels could use a LH DH? I think a guy like Albert Pujols could help him a lot, if Pedro is willing.

      • Well it tells a lot about what MLB thinks of Pedro and why the Buccos couldn’t get a deal that they were happy with.

        • The Pirates could have got something for Pedro and no one can convince me differently…we got something for Charlie friggin Morton and power is down in the game today. Maybe we couldn’t get what we wanted but you can’t tell me we couldn’t get something.

          • Once again, nobody is trading for a player they know is getting non-tendered.

            • That’s right. That was a terrible strategy from the beginning. Devaluing Pedro was such an idiotic thing for the franchise to do. They were able to get “something” for Morton…they could have received something for Pedro. But they violated the first rule of negotiation…you have to have a bargaining position and they eroded that.

      • I have a feeling that Pedro’s new team and offer will surprise us.

      • I’m not too surprised. Teams generally seem to work from the high end options toward the lower end options. Since Pedro probably won’t get a long term deal or a real high salary, teams can fit him in later after they do their bigger spending.

      • I hope neither one of them NEEDS to get the chance this year. If that happens..we may be in quite a pinch this season.

    • Very well said, the whining and hand wringing gets very old. Very sorry to see NW go, but as you stated above, wasn’t here after this year. Not sure why Niese getting such a bad wrap? Numbers are better than Leake, Happ of Volquez, at less money than the first two.
      I love to read the comments of the real Bucco fans, good or bad, on these subjects. But the continued ignorant complaining gets old. Last year Boston and San Diego won the offseason. Anybody want Hanley, Pablo or Matt Kemp now? Give up a bunch of prospects for Justin Upton? (Who runs hotter and colder than Pedro) Just don’t get it.

    • Not to mention that the Pirates have two of the three best position players in the NLCentral.

  • Well done Tim. I hope Mark Melancon will stay and contribute.

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