First Pitch: The Internal Options For the Pirates’ 2017 Rotation

I’ve said many times that I think the Pirates need to add a proven starter for the 2017 season. Their current rotation has a lot of young options, but with that comes a lot of question marks. They were in a similar situation heading into the 2016 season, and they went for low-upside options to fill out the rotation, relying too much on the prospects, which backfired when not all of the prospects were ready by mid-season, and when the guys they were relying on the most (Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano) struggled.

They can’t make the same mistake again this off-season. They’ve got two guys who seem like locks for the rotation, and a few others who have a good shot at a rotation spot. But they could definitely use at least one established starter, even if it’s a guy like Ivan Nova who is only really established for half a season, with the gamble that this half season tells the story of what to expect going forward.

I’ve talked enough about adding an outside starter this off-season, and there’s really not much else to write until the off-season actually arrives (although it will be at least two months until a player would be reasonably expected to sign, so I’m sure the topic will come up again). For tonight, I want to take a look at the other possible starters in 2017, seeing what the Pirates have for the rest of their rotation.

The Guarantees

Gerrit Cole – Cole will definitely be in the rotation next year. The hope is that he is healthy heading into the season. He had a down year this year, which also came with three trips to the disabled list. The 2013-2015 version of Gerrit Cole was a number one starter. The 2016 version was a drop off from that. The Pirates need a leader in their rotation on the field, and Cole is the best bet to do that at this stage.

Jameson Taillon – Taillon’s MLB debut has been amazing, but I’d hesitate to call him the ace of the staff, or pencil in top of the rotation production just yet. The best approach here would be cautious optimism, as young pitchers in their first full season can run into struggles as the league adjusts to them, and as they try to adjust back. You hope that this won’t be the case for Taillon, or that he would adjust quickly. Between his inexperience, and Cole’s injury concerns, I think the Pirates need to add a proven guy to the rotation this off-season. Best case? The concerns for Cole/Taillon aren’t big concerns, and the Pirates have two solid homegrown pitchers leading the rotation with a good number three from the outside. But if those concerns turn out to be legit, it would be nice to have a backup plan, and not rely solely on Cole/Taillon to lead the rotation.

The Inside Track

Chad Kuhl – Kuhl has received the sixth most starts on the team after tonight’s outing, and while that wasn’t a good one, his MLB debut has been pretty solid. He had a few rough starts at first, then made a key adjustment in mid-July. Since that adjustment, he has a 3.10 ERA, 3.97 xFIP, 6.75 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, and a 51.1% ground ball rate in 49.1 innings. That doesn’t include tonight’s outing. The Pirates have favored him as a starter for a long time, and obviously trust him as an MLB starter, since he has a job locked down right now. At this point, I think the only thing pushing him out of an Opening Day rotation spot would be adding multiple proven pitchers this off-season, and even that might not do it.

Drew Hutchison – It always brings up complaints when I list Hutchison as having an inside track, but the truth is that the Pirates traded for him and said that he would be part of their rotation in 2016. His numbers so far haven’t been great, but he also hasn’t really had much work with Ray Searage, and hasn’t made any changes yet to his game. He looks like next year’s reclamation project, only the Pirates are getting a head start with him by getting some looks at him this year, rather than their normal wait until mini-camp and Spring Training with most reclamation projects. If he’s still struggling at the end of Spring Training, he might find himself back in Triple-A. But I think he’ll have an inside track until then.

Fighting For a Spot

Tyler Glasnow – His talent and upside should have him in the “inside track” section of this article, but the truth is that Glasnow hasn’t developed this year as you’d hope he would. It has been a lost season for him, as he hasn’t improved his changeup, and rarely uses the pitch, while also showing no improvements with his control, and struggling to command his curveball for strikes. Unless he shows some massive improvements before the start of next season, I could see him starting back in Triple-A next year, with the hope that he finally develops to the point where he can start to approach his upside as a top of the rotation starter.

Steven Brault – I think Brault has a better shot at being a bullpen option for the Pirates next year, rather than a starter. If he is a starter, he’d probably be a spot start option, and I don’t think that’s mutually exclusive from a potential bullpen role. I’d expect him to start off in the Triple-A rotation at the start of the year, and move to the bullpen later if the rest of the rotation depth is looking good.

Trevor Williams – This is the same situation as Brault. I could see Williams being rotation depth, and I think it’s more likely that he helps the Pirates out of the bullpen next year, while being a spot start option for the rotation.

Second Half Options

Nick Kingham – Out of this group, I think he’s the most likely to get a start for the Pirates next year. I could definitely see him making the majors at some point, especially since he will be out of options in 2018 and will have to be in the majors by that point. Kingham’s upside is higher than Brault and Williams, so if it gets to the second half and he’s pitching well, he could emerge as a better option for a spot start.

Clay Holmes/Tyler Eppler/Brandon Waddell – Now we get to the 2016 Altoona starters, who should all be moving up to Indianapolis at some point during the 2017 season. I think Clay Holmes separates himself from this group as the most likely to reach the majors in 2017, and as the guy with the highest upside. Eppler and Waddell project as back of the rotation starters or relief options, and they both have things to work on to get to that point. Holmes also has some development left, but is further along than the other two. Either way, we’re talking about second half options here, and Holmes would be the ninth best option at that point, without counting any outside additions or any other back of the rotation/reliever options like Frank Duncan or minor league free agent types like Wilfredo Boscan. So it seems very unlikely that these three will make the jump to the majors in 2017, unless things go horribly wrong.

**Is Nick Kingham a Rotation Option For the Pirates in 2017? Neal Huntington discusses Kingham’s rehab, and whether he could be on the same path as Jameson Taillon.

**Zach Phillips Making the Most of His Audition With the Pirates. Alan Saunders looks at the progress from Zach Phillips in his limited role with the big league club, along with Steven Brault’s progress in his move to the bullpen tonight.

**Pirates Notes on Felipe Rivero, Chad Kuhl, and Injury Updates. Some pre-game notes before one of the worst Pirates games of the year.

**Pirates Acquire Chris Bostick for Taylor Gushue and Cash. The Pirates didn’t really lose a guy who could help them in the future, and got a guy who will add to their depth next year as a utility player.

  • Hard to really tell about Nova, given the recency of his TJ. He only threw 94 MLB innings last year (came back in June) and flopped in September, losing all but one start.

    He’s up at 156 innings this year and last 2-3 starts have been duds. Could simply be tired arm, could be something else. Makes him a very challenging gamble for the 5/$70 he’s reportedly asking – for pretty much any team, not just the Bucs.

  • Now that Vogelsong has a 5.00 era, I hope that ends any serious consideration of bringing him back.

  • Sabathia is intriguing to me

  • No prospects on baseball Americas gcl or Appalachian league top 20. Very top heavy system

  • i don’t see Jeff Locke’s name. Unfortunately, I’m serious.

    • lonleylibertarian
      September 27, 2016 6:12 pm

      Jeff will be non-tendered – which means he can sign with anyone…
      I suspect he will find a home as a #4/5 starter with someone like Oakland – or maybe Miami if his old coach things he can undo the damage done trying to change his mechanics this year.

  • An interesting article – but it is silly until you have some feel for what the Bucs budget for next season is…
    It SHOULD be around $120M if they want to compete and get a decent new TV deal.

    It WILLL probably be nearer to $100M – and that might work – but it leaves very little margin of error – Cole having TJ surgery, or something similar should it happen, essentially blows up your year…

    • How is it silly to list and talk about the pitchers who are already in the system? That has nothing to do with the budget, since almost all of these guys are prospects or league minimum guys.

      • lonleylibertarian
        September 27, 2016 7:08 pm

        Because if you are spending at the $120M level and have used some prospects to add a Corey Kluber then the needs are different…

        If you are at the $100M level landing a TOR option with years of control is not as easy – and if you do it has a different scenario….

        • Finding teams who are willing to part with top of rotation arms is hard – period. Chris Archer is probably one of the only ones feasibly available as that team isn’t competitive. You need to trade a Tyler Glasnow, plus an established valuable hitter for him and a flyer or someone like Austin Meadows as well. Its going to be a steep price (one I happen to think could work in the right way, but highly unlikely).

          Honestly – I’d rather OVERPAY for a 1 year deal on Rich Hill. Pay him $20m for a 1 year deal with a 1 year option (No such thing as a bad 1 year deal)

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    September 27, 2016 4:44 pm

    If Hutchison does indeed have an inside track on a starting rotation spot in 2017, over Glasnow, that is all you need to know about NH and the front office in general.

    • lonleylibertarian
      September 27, 2016 7:12 pm

      God – your are an idiot – how does the fact the Glasnow has not heart reflect on the FO – is there a test for “balls” that we can use to find guys with little talent but a lot heart like Kuhl and know that regardless of his talent Glasnow is destined to be our Ryan Leaf/Jamarcus Russell….

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        September 27, 2016 9:53 pm

        Ignoring your child-like name calling, which should get you banned from this site if those who run it follow their own policies….how do you conclude that Glasnow has no heart? I’m dying to know.

        Now, compare Glasnow’s numbers in AAA this year with Hutchison’s – and tell me who performed better (by a huge margin) and should have the inside track for a starting rotation spot in 2017?

      • Profanity and name calling. That was classy.

  • Reading this article I have specific question for Tim Williams. When you argue the future is “bright” how do you define that? Do we make playoffs next year? How many times do we make playoffs next 3 years?

    When you say the team is just getting started what does that mean?

    Even after a potential acquisition of a #3 pitcher I see a team that will be hardpressed to win 85 games and that is with some good fortune. That isn’t exceptionally bright imo and I highly doubt this team gets back to being as good as it was from 2013-2015.

    Just because it won’t return to the depths of the streak years does not mean things are bright imo.

    • I had to re-read Tim’s article. Did he say the future looked bright or was just getting started? (I didn’t see it.)

      Regardless, I believe this Cubs team changed everything this year. Best team in baseball, no holes (now with Chapman), and plenty of money and prospects to fill any surprise holes. I don’t see a future in which the Pirates top this in our current (say 4-year) window. With our starting pitching issues, hitting inconsistencies, and the inevitable return to the norm for the bench, I am not sure we are even in a window as this could be 2 back to back (barely) sub-500 teams…

    • “Even after a potential acquisition of a #3 pitcher I see a team that will be hardpressed to win 85 games and that is with some good fortune. That isn’t exceptionally bright imo and I highly doubt this team gets back to being as good as it was from 2013-2015.”

      This was the same argument prior to those years as well. Everything needs to go perfect, and they need extra players, and no one can slump, and even if all goes well, they’ll struggle to just fall short of contending.

      There’s really nothing I can say to counter that line of thinking, except to point out things like the current rotation ranking in the bottom third of baseball, and that the Pirates are still a team hovering around .500 all year. You’re telling me that if they had the normal version of Gerrit Cole, plus Jameson Taillon and let’s say Ivan Nova all year, that they’d be hardpressed to improve a few wins over where they’ve been this year? I don’t buy that.

      • This is pretty much a horrible team. Don’t forget they are a 72-84 per baseruns. A lot of luck, they should be 5 games worse. They also got another 2-3 games with Srod and Joyce outperformance. So that basically wipes out all the underperformance you are talking about from Cole, Cutch etc.

        Finally, don’t forget those 2013-15 teams on average stole about 6 games a year based on bullpen WPA. For the most part that WPA came from Melancon and Watson. You think that will be happening in the future with the ghost of Tony Watson and Rivero or whoever else we sign?

        So I will ask you again? Do you think this team makes playoffs next year? How many times does it make playoffs next 3 years.

        • I think they’ll be contenders for the playoffs in each of those years.

          • Sure, I could see them being a second tier team competing for last WC spot. But I don’t see them as something similar to 2013-15 even if 2014 was sort of a bizarre year for them.

            I don’t see this as a team “just getting started” as if they are rising to new heights. And that’s what I mean when I say I don’t see an exceptionally bright future.

      • Last year they were starting with a 98 win team. AT BEST this year they will be starting with an 83 win team, and more likely will be starting with a sub .500 team. I’m not super confident in NHs ability to turn the ship around.

        Not all things will be equal. Next year they will also have to rebuild the bench and bullpen in addition to the starting rotation. With Cutch’s bad year, is it a given that he is back? Is it a given that Kang’s back? I’m not so sure.

        We will see. It’s very hard for me to be optimistic at this point.

        • They weren’t starting with a 98 win team last year, and they aren’t starting with an 83 win team this year. Those were just the win totals in 2015 and 2016. The fact is that you can have the same team two years in a row, and have completely different results. The 2016 team has underperformed in a lot of areas, and received late boosts that they didn’t have the first several months of the year. So unless everything just goes wrong again next year, I don’t think this is an 83-win max team that they’re upgrading on.

          • One thing I did is look at the 2013-15 teams and compare this year and foreseeable future years to that group. In general, I think it is fair to say the current group even with the new wave is weaker.

            Some guys on that team were underappreciated. Take for example a guy like Walker. He was basically a steady 2.8 fWAR guy each year. With all they hype surrounding Josh Bell’s bat does anyone think he will match that in the next year or 2 given how much value he gives back with his defense. (I realize we are comparing different positions) but he could have a great year with the bat and not even put up 1.5 WAR at 1b.

            As I said before, the Pirates had the good fortune of having the best setup, closer duo in MLB. Almost 20 WPA between Melancon and Watson from 2013-15. Think about that for a second. This team has basically flat WPA without Melancon this year and Rivero has negative WPA. For all Rivero’s stuff people assuming he will be that productive and consistent are taking a lot of funny pills.

            Other issues I don’t have time to get into right now.

            • lonleylibertarian
              September 27, 2016 8:17 pm

              Another Neal Walker fan boy shows up…
              When will you folks get over it and move on…
              Neal could be here and starting at second base – but he wanted the big f’n payday and the Bucs would only pay
              him what he was worth – sorry – I think the Bucs were right on this one.

              On the Melancon front – having him stay in Pittsburgh was going to cost $45M for the next three years. I WANT the
              Pirates to spend more – I really do – but paying a closer that kind of money is not a good use of a $100M budget!

              • I see you either didn’t read what I wrote or didn’t major in reading comprehension. I never said anything about resigning Walker. I did make a comparison between the 2013-15 Pirates and what our next wave of players is/will be. I did point out that Walker averaged about 2.8 fWAR from 2013-15. I also pointed out that when I look at Josh Bell I find it hard to see him matching such production given the value he surrenders with his defense. This is the part I where I expect you to tell me the play different positions which I already acknowledged.

                Mark Melancon… um I never said we should resign Melancon. I did say from 2013-15 he…

          • You are what your record says you are. That said, you are right. The 2016 Pirates aren’t and 83 win team. I’d say they are a 78 win team. Will know by next week

    • Comparing 2017 to our 2013-2015 teams:
      – lineup (Cutch, Marte, and Mercer remain) Kang, Polanco, Bell, Cervelli, and Harrison appear to me to be better than Walker, Martin, Alvarez, Snider, and some random 1B guy.
      – bench was always bad and while it was unmaintainably successful in 2016, it won’t be worse than the playoff years
      – bullpen: If we get another 8-9 guy this pen could be close. If we go for a fixer upper, it will be worse
      – SP: We will be hard pressed to replace the Cole/Liriano/ Burnett triumvirate. Even Cole/Taillon/Nova won’t be as good. Kuhl and somebody should be able to match Morton/Locke.
      – AAA is much better with a set of pitchers like Glasnow, Kingham, Holmes and others that Tim mentions. And even Meadows, Osuna, Moroff, Barnes, Newman, Wood, etc

  • So basically they need to add two veteran starting pitchers for next year.

  • One fools opinion. Forget Nova he is a 4/5 starter, nothing to get excited about. HIs last two starts show his true value, which isn’t much
    Cole at best is a 2 but will probably be a good 3
    JT is at best a 2 but will probably be a good 3 until he gets his feet wet more.
    Hutchinson is a 5, potential 6, maybe they fix him and he stays a 5
    Kuhl is a 4 at best
    Barult is a 5 at best
    Kingham a potential 3 but more likely a 4
    Waddel, Holmes and Eppler more likely 5.
    Is this a competitive staff capable of winning 90 plus games, if everything breaks in their favor possibly. Otherwise it will be a repeat of this year and lets not forget the pirates now have at least 4 options for utility player (not counting Rodriguez), that will sure push the team win total up. Good bless NH he seems to have messed up what was once a good situation with all his trades and signings this year. Hope I am wrong and they are all better then I suggest their ceiling to be.

    • Statistically, Cole has been one of the 25 best over his first three years. So by definition at his best he has been a #1

    • yea you lost all credibility when you say Cole isn’t even a #2. I bet you think Big Ben isn’t elite either and Crosby should be traded.

      • I root for the Chiefs and NY Rangers but if you want to trade them to those teams I am all in. Who said I had any credibility any way? I just call them as I see them.

        • “who said I had any credibility any way?” Great line, probably applies to almost everyone here.

  • Go after Greinke no fiddling with Nova or Hellickson they will not move the needle.

  • This team showed in the Liriano trade that it’s willing to spend prospects to save money. Money is it’s most precious resource — clearly. Spending a few extra bucks to get Nova should make sense for a team that needs to rely upon development from the minors. It doesn’t cost them any talent. But my concern is that the Pirates are so opposed to “overspending” for Nova (read overspending money) that they will opt to trade for a SP and, in doing so, “overspend” on talent in order to avoid spending money.

    • If they would’ve used Supak, Broxton, McGuire, Ramirez, Tarpley, and Polo around this time a year ago they could’ve received the pitching they’re *still* searching for, use Walker to restock some of that lost talent, and be in no worse shape financially.

      Just an awful use of resources over the last twelve months.

      • Yeah, because teams are lining up to trade their high-quality starting pitching for package built around Supak/Broxton/McGuire/Ramirez/ and Tarpley … come on…

        • You’re kidding, right?

          This time last year McGuire and Ramirez – both Top 100 prospects – alone could’ve easily gotten a #3.

      • 100% spot on. And this can’t be said enough how poorly NH managed his assets this year. This would be a great topic for First Pitch.

        How NH Pissed Away Assets in 2016,

        • I’ll add that this is all relative; to a team with actual financial resources at their disposal, this would barely be a blip.

          But this is the job, and Huntington or whoever occupies it simply has to be better. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

      • I agree that they’ve wasted resources, but packaging all of those guys for one pitcher wouldn’t have gotten them a pitcher that would solve their issues. They would have had to include a Meadows, or Glasnow, or Bell, or one of the other elite prospects.

        • For a #3? A ~3-WAR starter?

          *Maybe* if you’re talking a pre-arb guy with a ton of team control, but giving up a package Glasnow/Meadows/Bell plus McGuire and Ramirez last winter for a #3 with a couple years of control would’ve been a worse trade than what the D’Backs gave up for Shelby Miller.

        • Sorry, if you meant solve their issues as in fix the putrid state of the rotation this year in hindsight then I agree.

          • I wasn’t sure what you were talking about, whether it was just a guy for this year (we agree that one guy wouldn’t help), or a long-term option who could help this year and the next few years (I think it would take a lot to get a guy with years of control).

  • Here comes your standard Hutchison quip: I don’t think the term “Reclamation” applies to Hutchison. The word itself implies that there was a former, better state. There was no former better version of Hutchison. He is no AJ or Liriano where those guys had some amazing seasons prior to being “Reclaimed” by the Pirates. Call me a pessimist but this has Jeff Locke written all over it.

  • Reading or hearing someone say this year has been a lost year for glasnow developmentally just reminds me of how often taillon refused to say his two years of rehab weren’t lost years. Kinda ironic that rehab made taillon a better pitcher when actually pitching this year made glasnows flaws in his game come front and center.

  • The Pirates search for SP should start with a #1. There are several #4 and #5 types currently auditioning or elsewhere in the system. Cole, if injury free, and Taillon would slide to a #2 or #3. It’s a risk, but it’s worth it.

    • Who’s vault are you raiding for this money/ entire system of prospects that we’d need to land this miracle pitcher?

      • Pirates payroll will be about $80 million if they take their arb eligible players to arb and don’t add anyone. Payroll was $103 million at the beginning of 2016. It’s absolutely conceivable they could pick up a $20 million dollar per year sort of pitcher this offseason and still be very profitable in 2017. Hell, there is probably $40 million or so they could spend if they wanted to. There’d be long term risk, and I don’t think they care enough about winning to ever do it, but don’t kid yourself. There’s enough money.

        • Problem is, there is no #1 pitcher on the market, so you’d have to make a trade and give up huge prospects PLUS pay the guy…….and 2017 isn’t the point, 2018-2020 is- when our payroll begins to balloon organically.

        • Their payroll will be NOWHERE near 80 million if you include arb and increases for rookies that are under team control. I have no idea where you get that data. Their ability to exceed 100 million for the year is small. so we have even if your numbers are right, 20 million to spread out on numerous players/positions unless you plan on having 7 rookies in the 25 man next year

  • If this article was written last year we would all be salivating with the arms touted for the rotation. Now 12 months later this IMO is a pretty bleak scenario. JT is the only one I would think is a lock. GC scares me with the elbow and the other young arms just can’t impress MLB hitters.

  • Hopefully NH surprises all of us this offseason and actually makes a move for a decent veteran pitching. I’m not holding my breath though. I’m optimistic though that Cutch returns to a 5 WAR player and Kang explodes with a full season and a clear head. The core of Cutch, Bell, Kang, Marte, and Polanco is reason enough to make anyone optimistic.

    • If Cutch becomes a 5 WAR player, Cole will probably have TJ surgery to offset that beam of amazing luck

  • Tim, is there a way to look at WHO (if any) had success against the Cubs that will be a free agent in the off season. I feel that we do need to go outside to get an arm, but even more importantly, an arm that can get through that Cubs lineup 3 times!! Every last one of our pitchers were horrible against the Cubs this season!!

  • Gerrit Cole is NOT a guarantee. His elbow issues have me concerned.

    All in all, our rotation doesn’t look good, even IF Nova is added.

    If NH thought that the last off season was rough, this one will be worse, imo.

  • LOL- so let’s assume NH opens piggy bank for Ivan Nova who has been a very mediocre pitcher for much of his career and commits 48M to him over 4( I can’t envision us spending this much and it probably wouldn’t be enough for Nova anyway but…)

    Cole
    Taillon
    Nova
    Hutch
    Brault or Williams

    That is your likely rotation. Yeah, it will get better as year goes on(where have I heard that before). Compare that to the Cubs and Cards not to mention Giants, Dodger, Nats

    That’s if we break our piggybank for Nova and Cole’s health isnt an issue

    12-13 AAV doesn’t buy you much of anything in this pitching market and that’s what I was saying at time of Liriano trade

    • Technically, Tim said it would, as of now, be:
      – Cole
      – Taillon
      – Nova
      – Kuhl
      – Hutchison

      • Yes sorry, my mistake. Still looks pretty bad. Not sure they can or should sign Nova. They are between rock and a hard place as far as getting #3 pitcher.

        • Yes then Nova has three bad months and NH must trade him in a salary dump with the WV Power roster.

          • Exactly. Just maybe they should have ridden out that 13M for one more year with a guy who has multiple comeback player of the year awards instead of most likely having to commit multiple years at similar AAV to someone with less of a track record?

        • A trade for a #3 would be more likely.

      • sounds like 95+ wins to me. 🙂 🙂

        [sarcasm font]

      • You could do a lot worse than a pitching staff fronted by Cole, Taillon, and Nova. I think Kuhl ends up being a better version of Charlie Morton so I’m not worried about him. What the Bucs need is a reliable 5th starter. I’m hoping that ends up being Glasnow but with the way he’s pitching right now, I’m worried he may not even become Jeff Samardzija, let alone Randy Johnson.

        • Kozy….I keep thinking of Bobby Witt when I look at TG.

          They need to deal him while he has value?

          • Think the D-Backs would do Glasnow and Meadows with another complimentary piece or 2 for Goldy… Move Cutch for pitching. Put Bell in right, El Coffee in left, and Marte in center.

            • Glasnow and Meadows is enough for Goldy considering his salary and his lackluster year. I’m on board with this

        • Samardizja? Sign me up right now. The reality is it’s unlikely he has career of Jeff S. Not so much of knock on Glasnow as it is a universal truth about the bust rate of even the top prospects.

          • Well, a few years back we were comparing him to a young right-handed Big Unit. He still has amazing talent. It took Johnson til about 27 or 28 to finally harness his talent. I hope it doesn’t take Glasnow that long but I’m hopeful he still becomes a solid ML pitcher. I still think Kingham becomes a rotation mainstay before Glasnow even though I hate to feel that way.

            • I know people were comparing him to Big Unit. Even then the chances of him approaching that comp were absurdly low. If you don’t think so pull out Baseball America books going back 10-15 years and look at the number of pitcher in top 10 or top 25 on top 100 lists and how many amounted to nothing or just had a cup of coffee in MLB.

              • Oh, no doubt. I think the fact that Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon have both looked so good is fantastic. I mean, look at the Orioles with Gausman and Bundy. Gausman is just now finally starting to look like a solid pitcher and he’s been bouncing around for 4 years. The Mariners with James Paxton and Taijaun Walker. It’s amazing the amount of pitchers that don’t pan out. It’s also equally amazing to see pitchers who are late bloomers like DeGrom and Arrieta.

        • Please please refrain from comparing any pitcher to CM. I get sick just thinking about him. We have guys in the Gulf Coast League that are better versions of CM

          • Chuck wasn’t a bad pitcher. He was just inconsistent and would have 5 run innings that wouldn’t involve a hard hit ball out of the infield. Kuhl has similar sinking with a better fastball and more consistency. I think Kuhl can be the Ground Chuck best case scenario.

            • I agree overall but think they get to it differently. Chucks sinker is objectively better than Kuhl’s, which doesn’t particularly have noteworthy sink in terms of sinkerballers. Most similar to Jeff Locke’s from the right side, as a shape comp.

              Kuhl has better control and command, though.

              They both suffer from the same fatal flaw, which is their inability to control lefties. Kuhl’s wOBA split is just .05 off Morton’s career average and his FIP against lefties is actually worse. He’s generated only two whiffs on his change in sixty some recorded offerings.

    • Which is why you are better off just keeping Liriano and hoping for the best, since you can’t replace someone with his upside for his money anyways

  • This is precisely why I can’t get tremendously excited about our future. This is a very weak rotation even with a #3 added. And does one really think NH is going to want to commit something like 4/48 or 4/52 to someone like Ivan Nova after Liriano? Or should he? What happens if the next contract goes wrong after 1 year if they were that desperate to get out of paying Liriano 13M for 1 year.

  • “Taillon’s MLB debut has been amazing”….wow…really….

  • Are either Cumpton or Stadler options for 2017?

  • After reading Tim’s assessment of the Pirate starting prospects for 2017, it only reinforces my opinion that the Pirates MUST come up with a #2 or #3 proven starter from somewhere else, that being through a free agent signing, trade or a near certain success with another reclamation project such as Liriano, Volquez, etc.

    Nova would be a good place to start. But overall I have some serious doubts that the Pirates will spring loose for the money needed to sign a starting pitcher, such as the Cubs have done with their entire starting five this season. That overpriced but stellar pitching staff is the difference between 100 wins for the Cubs and the Pirates regressing from 98 wins to a ho-hum .500 season.

    • The Cubs Rotation has only one pitcher making $20 mil (Lester) and the guy who handcuffed the Pirates last night (Hendricks) is making the MLB minimum this year with 16 wins and a 1.99 ERA. The other 3 guys – Lackey $12.5 mil, Arrieta $10.7 mil, and Hammel $12 mil.

      A few can dominate, but most of the time they pitch well enough to stay in games while their position players carry the day. They hit and defend very well, and I doubt we have one Pirate in 2016 who could break into their starting lineup.

      Unfortunately, another SP will not change that going forward. It will help, but we need to hit better, field better, and change the personality of this team with youth. We have a team held together by bubble gum and baling wire, and they are trotting talented kids out onto the field every night. They struggled last year getting those kids up to game speed, but those kids are now paying huge dividends. It does not come easy. Maddon is a master communicator.

      • Those 4 pitchers cost $86 million this year – since Lester received a $30 million signing bonus on top of his $20 million salary.

        So, with our $105 million budget, we could have fielded a team with those four pitchers, kept say Marte and Harrison ($8 million), traded every veteran, and replaced them with 19 league minimum players for ~$104 million.

        • Off the top of my head, I think $15 mil of his bonus was paid to him in 2015, and the other $15 mil will not be due until 2018 ($2.5), 2019 ($2.5) and then I think he gets a big bump in 2020 ($10). So, no bonus in 2016, but averaged out over the length of the contract, it comes to about $5 mil per year which would put them at around $60 mil for their 5 SP’s – not real expensive these days.

          • I didn’t realize the breakdown. But 2015 payment would be for the 2016 “fiscal” year since they signed him after the season.

      • Anyone from our outfield would start over anyone from their outfield. And Cervelli is better than Montero.

    • Nova is as good as the other free agent options – but not for anywhere near the money that has been suggested. At best he is an average #3 SP, and at worst he might not be much better than Locke.

  • Is stretching out Rivero a viable option?

    • No!! Not an option!!! He will be our closer!!!!

      • Let’s hope he gets a lot more consistent by next year if he is going to be the closer! And no, I don’t want Watson ever closing for us again.

      • What? He isn’t even good in the 7th inning. He seems pretty good if no one is on base but as soon as he gets someone on watch out.

      • If Rivero is our closer next year we are doomed. Even in a down year like he had this year, Watson is way better than Rivero.

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