I hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Year! I’m finding that the older you get, the less eventful it becomes. Last year, I was out drinking until 3 AM. This year my brother was in town, so we went out for sushi at 8, played some Mario Kart 64 until 11, and then struggled to stay up past midnight, calling it a night shortly after the ball dropped.

I guess you could say the night was kind of like the offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates so far. It hasn’t been overly exciting, but so far they’ve achieved their biggest goals. Those goals were adding to their rotation and bullpen, as opposed to eating a lot of sushi and playing a lot of video games. But in this case, the New Year rolled around, and it doesn’t seem like they’re ready to just go to bed, waking up when Spring Training rolls around.

The offseason has been pretty slow across baseball, so the Pirates aren’t alone in their approach of making a few moves, but still having a lot left to do after the New Year. I could see them making a few more moves, whether it be small trades and depth additions, or possibly some big moves that make this offseason seem very exciting.

With the calendar flipping over to January, let’s take a look at what we can expect from the Pirates as far as future moves over the next two months.

The Rotation

We’ll start here, because this is where the biggest move could possibly happen. I wrote last week about how the Pirates needed at least one starter heading into the offseason. They added that starter in Ivan Nova. It would be great if they added a second starter, and it would be even better if that starter was Jose Quintana. But if they don’t make that move, they still have the makings of a good rotation, just with different types of question marks at every spot.

If they did add another starter, whether it was a trade for Quintana or another move, you could probably expect a chain reaction where they made some moves in other areas to balance the payroll.

The Bullpen

I’m not entirely sure that the Pirates will add another starting pitcher, but I think it’s a guarantee that they will make some moves in the bullpen. I’ve written before that the first place to look will be the left-handed relief group. Currently, there are five lefty relievers who need to be in the majors. They could probably outright Wade LeBlanc to Indianapolis and keep him as depth. They also don’t necessarily have to keep Rule 5 pick Tyler Webb, although it would have just been a waste of $50,000 to draft him if they didn’t intend to make room for him. Felipe Rivero has his spot locked down due to his performance last year, and the fact that he’s a big part of the long-term bullpen plans.

That leaves Tony Watson and Antonio Bastardo, with rumors that the Pirates have been shopping both this offseason. I’d say Bastardo has the best chance of being moved. The Pirates added him last year in a trade with the Mets. They sent Jon Niese the other way, saving about $3.6 M in his future salary. They took on Bastardo’s remaining $1.8 M in 2016, plus his $6.5 M in 2017, with the Mets sending an undisclosed amount of cash in the deal.

Without knowing the details on the cash received, the Pirates could pay $1.8 M to another team and still break even on the deal, essentially just eating the salary they would have owed Niese. When you add in the money received, they might end up ahead in the deal. And you could make an argument that they’d be better off using Bastardo’s money elsewhere on the team, since they have so many left-handed options who can provide similar value to Bastardo.

The big question is whether they would trade Watson. I think they could get a nice return, similar to the return they saw last year with Mark Melancon. That trade saw them land Rivero for 5+ years, plus lefty pitching prospect Taylor Hearn. If they did trade Watson, they would probably need an additional reliever to pair with Daniel Hudson, Rivero, and Juan Nicasio in the late innings.

The Lineup

The lineup is pretty much set. The Pirates did try to bring back Sean Rodriguez with the hope of trading Josh Harrison and using Rodriguez as the replacement at second base. But with no replacement options (Adam Frazier and Alen Hanson don’t look to be options to start right now), I don’t see Harrison moving anywhere.

There are some potential moves that could take place if some trades go down. The obvious one would be Andrew McCutchen being moved. Teams are still asking about him, although nothing has come as close as the rumored talks with the Washington Nationals. If the Pirates traded McCutchen, they would need a stopgap outfielder until Austin Meadows was ready to arrive this summer. Fortunately, this seems to be a really good year to need a one-year outfielder, since there are still a lot of good options on the market, which could lead to some nice one-year values.

The only other player I could see moving would be Josh Bell, and only if he would be required in a deal for someone like Jose Quintana. But I think the Pirates would have their replacements ready in David Freese and John Jaso.

I should also mention Jung Ho Kang, since I know it’s inevitable that someone will ask about his legal issues. In this case, I’d rather just wait and see what happens, and react to actual news when/if it comes out, rather than speculating on scenarios that we don’t even know will happen.

The Bench

The Pirates are always looking to add depth, and that approach worked well for them last year with David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, and Matt Joyce. With the way the market is shaping up, they could be in line to find more value this year. The bench currently has Frazier, Jaso, Freese, and Chris Stewart in the backup catcher’s spot. Alen Hanson has the inside track for the final spot, considering he’s out of options.

For that reason, any bench additions will probably be of the Matt Joyce variety, where the Pirates add a previously productive player as a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal. That said, if Freese moves into a starting role for some reason, I could see the Pirates going the Freese/Rodriguez route and adding a guy on a guaranteed MLB contract. Either way, I see the Pirates adding to their bench. I just think the level of addition depends on what they do in other areas, specifically the starting pitching market.

Site Update: I won’t be posting any “First Pitch” articles this week, unless a major move happens. I’m moving this week, while also working to complete the Prospect Guide. We will also have daily articles, and full coverage on any news that comes out. Mini-camp starts a week from today, so I need to take a bit of a break so I can work on those other two things before next week’s coverage.

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  1. I would be surprised if any team took a swipe at Bastardo…we would have to pay a team plus keep his salary to move him….if you can’t tell, I think he is miserable.

  2. I wrote last week about how the Pirates needed at least one starter heading into the offseason. They added that starter in Ivan Nova. It would be great if they added a second starter, and it would be even better if that starter was Jose Quintana. But if they don’t make that move, they still have the makings of a good rotation, just with different types of question marks at every spot.

    You’re aiming too low.

    Adding Nova pretty much only means Bucs have a good chance of finishing over .500.

    Whether it’s Quintana or someone else, Bucs have to do better than Kuhl and ? as the 4/5 if they plan on competing for a WC spot.

  3. Tim- who are the bench players you think would be either: a) a previously productive player non-roster invitee, or b) the guaranteed contract type?

    • I wish they would make a move toward acquiring Jae-Gyun Hwang as a bench player. It would add a bit more flexibility to the bench. Also, what are the chances of trading Jaso?

  4. I have a strong suspicion they will use the same strategy as last year and take a bull pen option and try to convert him into a srarter…look for Felipe Rivero to get a shot at the rotation.

    • Rivero last topped 100 innings in A-ball.

      No…he’s staying in the pen.

      Off the top of my head, if there’s any pitcher who fits that mold, it’s Travis Wood…though he was horrendous as a starter.

      If there’s any under the radar guy the Pirates should be targeting, it’s Jason Hammel.

      For a bounce-back guy…

      Henderson Alvarez

      Reliever turned starter…

      Gavin Flyod

      What does he have in the tank lottery ticket?:

      Bud Norris

      Guy I want to see locked up now for ’18:

      Nathan Eovaldi

      What the hell signing:

      Jarrod Parker

      • Let’s stay away from Bud Norris. I don’t think there’s anything left in that tank, and there wasn’t much there to begin with.

        • Norris is the right-handed Jeff Locke.

          Just when you’re ready to give up on him, he goes on a tear.

          Just when you’re ready to believe in him, he implodes.

          April 2016:
          22.2 IP
          8.74 ERA
          .978 OPS


          53.2 IP
          1.84 ERA
          .516 OPS


          36.2 IP
          7.61 ERA
          .916 OPS

          He’s always been a maddening pitcher…like Locke…it seems if he could ever put it all together, he still wouldn’t be a star, but he’d be reliable.

          I wouldn’t grab him to be in the rotation, but that would be a nice depth arm to have and, when he’s eventually needed, you’d hope you caught him during his annual hot streak.

  5. As far as Kang’s status is concerned, there has to be a precedent for getting caught drunk driving isn’t there? I would imagine MLB would go slightly harder on him because it wasn’t his first time.

    • Since MLB is not a court, I would imagine that they will wait until the courts have their say. However, it can’t be looked at as a third offense by MLB, this is his first offense as a member of the MLBPA.

      I think the bigger issue might be wether he is able to get a visa to travel to America. I don’t see the Trump administration being very lenient toward criminals, especially those trying to get authorization to travel around the country.

      • Did you just suggest President elect Trump is going to prevent Jung Ho Kang from playing MLB because of a DUI in South Korea? Seriously!

        • I simply stated that it is a possibility. People from foreign countries do need a visa to enter the US. Are you saying it is not a possibility?

          • I suppose it’s possible, but I can’t imagine the US DHS or whichever agency oversees dispensing visas to foreign ballplayers would rescind his visa based on being “charged” with a vehicular crime which had no injuries. If he is convicted before start of ST, I think it is much more possible South Korea would restrict him from leaving the country.

      • Typically, sports (not necessarily MLB) tend to judge a player even if the court doesn’t find them guilty – relating to the proper conduct clauses.

        • True, however, since he was not in MLB for his first 2 DUI’s, I don’t believe that the MLBPA will allow MLB to use those against him.
          On a side note, I could really care less about wether Kang is on the team next year or not. I do see that he is a very good baseball player, but he is at the point where he is more trouble than he is worth.

  6. I feel we could get a Melancon type return for Watson, I’d deal him tomorrow.

    MLB ready reliever with upside and a 97 mph lefty in A ball.

    I’d do that all day.

    • If this deal is there I do it immediately. I would even take a AA starter or OFer if not a MLB ready reliever. The $ can help make the Quintana deal palatable, and the addition of a prospect helps to replenish the system that is sure to be depleted if we make a good deal.

      Ultiimately if we are going to really go for it and bring in a guy like quintana I don’t want Cutch to be dealt. If we are competing for the series this year then he needs to be a part of it.

  7. DFA Stewart….and see what we can get for some combination of Bastardo, Jaso, and Hanson – which is probably not much…..

    I don’t see a Quintana or Cutch trade happening….

      • Stewart is not worth wasting a roster spot on. He might have been a serviceable backup as recently as two years ago, but he was virtually unavailable last year and I don’t see his health improving as he ages. I’d rather see Jacob Stallings and hope Cervelli stays healthy. And if he does not, then let Diaz see if he can play.

        • They must have at least preferred him to Eric Fryer and as they released him. It also seems to point NH thinking that Stewart is healthy.

  8. Tim’s article got me thinking about what fangraphs (prior to their ZiPs projections) would currently say about our team at this point. During our 3-year Wild Card run, we averaged a WAR of 41 (26.7 for the hitters and 14.3 for the pitchers).
    – Pitchers: 16.9 WAR
    Rotation: 12.1 (Cole, Taillon, Nova, Kuhl, Glasnow)
    BP-Swing: 1.9 (Hutchison, Brault, Williams)
    BP-Late: 1.7 (Watson, Rivero, Hudson)
    BP-Mid: 1.2 (Nicasio/Bastardo/Hughes/Schugel/Webb)
    – Hitters: 17.9 WAR
    OF 9.9 (Cutch, Marte, Polanco, Bell)
    IF 5.8 (JHay/Mercer/Kang/Freese/Frazier/Hanson)
    C 2.2 (Cervelli, Stewart, Diaz)
    If fangraphs’ steamers estimates prove to accurate accurate, this team would win about 83 games. Which seems about right. What is surprising is that the issue would be with the hitters/fielders not the pitchers. As a matter of fact (or projection), this pitching staff would be the second best of the revival era. The hitters would be by far (5 WAR) the worst.

    • Exactly why meadows/bell have to be untouchable. If there is any one reason why we were terrible last year it is because the main cog in our engine, Mccutchen, was messed up. We can trade for all the number one starters we want, we need Cutch at his best to win. We need meadows and Bell to be there after he is gone. Trading them for a third starter is borderline insane

      • I would add Newman to the untouchable list – unless we trade him for a major league SS.

        I would like this team to find a better middle infielder, particularly SS that could bump Mercer and his respectable 1.0 WAR onto the bench. He is getting older and there is no one behind him until Newman is ready – optimistically in late-2017. (I’d hate to have to count on Newman to step into an MLB role and produce next year.)

        • I agree with Newman being untouchable.

          I didn’t like the pick when the Pirates made it, but he has definitely impressed.

          However, I would look at this differently then you. His hit tool seems to be legit…the only way he makes the opening day roster is if that tool holds up in AA/AAA/September cup of coffee.

          If he’s on the team in April of ’18, I think it will be because he’s proven he can contribute.

          • I could see him either starting this season in AAA or being promoted to that level quickly, and with a solid AAA showing, I could see him up in July or August, even, unless our middle infield is performing well enough to keep him out of the lineup.

            If either Mercer or Jay-Hay is struggling, though, he could be a regular by the end of 2017.

            • My gut says he starts at AA and, so long his hitting fundamentals are sound, is promoted no later than 6/1.

              I don’t think a down year by Harrison gets him promoted, because the Pirates have Frazier/Hanson on the depth chart ahead of him. But, if Mercer is imploding in mid-July AND Newman is playing well at AAA AND the Pirates look to be out of contention, I can see Newman getting the shot.

              If the Pirates are in contention, meh, it’s the trading deadline and I can see them going for a known quantity over a rookie.

              As well, the bar for Mercer imploding is set pretty high…or low…depending on how you view it. Jordy’s a fine player…you plug him in and he’s not going to win you much…he’s not going to lose you much. He’s steady and solid at a crucial position…but he’s also totally forgettable.

              I don’t see the Pirates going to Newman until rosters expand. Unless the bottom falls out of the season, he gets 50/60 PAs in September, then might not see the majors full-time until May of ’18 (service time).

              I don’t think he’ll be anything legendary, but SS is a tough position to fill. I’m seeing both his bat and glove to be halfway between Prime Jack Wilson and Prime Jordy Mercer.

    • Sure would be nice to upgrade 2nd base. Bumping that 2.8 to 4.8/4.0 and then pushing our SP up by 2/3 by adding Quintana would have us right in the thick of it.

    • The extra 4-5 wins needed to reach postseason needs to come from the Outfield. 8.8 WAR from Cutch, Marte, Polanco, et al means another crappy year for Pirates to me.

      • I’d say they’re about a win light on Marte, but it’ll take a serious breakout from Polanco to push much past 9 WAR from the outfield.

        • One win from Marte pushes it almost to 10, though, on its own. I see about 1.5 WAR upside to each McCutchen and Polanco, though. I think about 10 WAR is a safe bet for the outfield, with 13 as the ceiling. The floor is pretty low, though, if Cutch actually just isn’t the same player anymore, about 6 or 7.

          • Good point, Scott.

            The difference in positional adjustment is 9.5 runs, which should end up prorated to about +7 based on Marte’s typical playing time of around 1100 innings. Not quite a win in and of itself, but you won’t see me argue with a bit of optimism for his skills shining at the new position.

  9. Thanks Tim and happy new year.

    I wonder what value Watson has. I would hate to deal him, but the salary savings, plus the prospects could make it worth it, and NH has shown a propensity to build a bullpen. I would be happy to move Bastardo and Watson if it helped us get Quintana (either through savings or prospects for the trade).

  10. Not sure why we would move Bastardo, little trade value. His trade value would be much higher at deadline. Our BullPen struggled last year because we refused to get extra help like keeping either Blanton or Bastardo.
    Quintana would be great and I think Dozier, power hitting second basemen, would be a coup. I think J-Hay should either be traded or utility guy.

    • All your ideas are great, but how do we add $15 million to our payroll without subtracting from it to fit our perceived budget?

      By moving Bastardo or Watson it would give us the financial flexibility to add Quintana. But to add Dozier, we would need to move Cutch, and that just creates another hole.

      • Bill: The Pirates cannot afford to go into the future hoping that guys like Bastardo, Harrison, and Jaso are worthwhile. The 3 of them total $18 mil in salary for 2017. Can that amount of money be used by the Pirates more effectively elsewhere?

        Bastardo and Jaso will go away after 2017, but JHay has another $10.5 mil hanging for next year. He has become the Pirates version of Cincy’s Brandon Phillips – both very good defensive guys whose offensive numbers have been on the decline. They not only take big chunks out of the budget, but they retard the advancement of talented prospects.

        The Pirates have guys like Bell, Hanson, Newman, and Meadows in the near future, and each of them can be parlayed into 3 or 4 years of minimum MLB salaries. Need money for ‘Cutch or others? This is the way it happens.

        • Yes it can, but at what cost? Even if you could trade all 3, if you wanted any return at all, then the Pirates would either have to eat salary, which negates the point of trading them, or they could add prospects, which makes no sense since you would be trading a better prospect than you would be getting in return, see Fransisco Liriano trade. All 3 that you mention, while seemingly being a hindrance to this year’s club financially, should all be expected to perform up to, i not outperform their respective contracts.

    • I posted the other day and did not get an answer. Would Watson, Frazier and one of the AAA+ pitchers not named Glasnow get Dozier with
      Harrison being our top flex/bench player and 4th outfielder?
      What do you think? Would we be giving up too much or not enough?

      • No, Minnesota is looking to rebuild and would likely want prospects back in any Dozier deal. For me, if I were talking with Minnesota about anyone it would be Ervin Santana, not Brian Dozier.

      • I doubt it- if I look at this from Twins’ eyes- this is very lopsided… and they want to rebuild and have no use for a 1 year setup/closer.

      • Dozier is a lifetime .246 batting average with his high being last year at .268. He also only has 2 years more of control. He is not worth the prospects.

          • Sometimes a player can look alot better when you are on a bad team. I feel our efforts and money should be more concentrated on pitching. I just don’t see the need for this particular player.

            • I didn’t say they needed him. But he would be a nice fit. But he’s gonna be an overpay for someone. He almost certainly had his career year last year.

        • Batting average is a bad evaluation tool in general, but it especially misses the mark on Dozier. He has very real power, an above-average eye, and is a good defender and baserunner. Starting in his first full Major League season, his WARs have been 2.5 (average), 4.7 (really good), 3.3 (good), and 5.9 (excellent). True talent, he’s probably about a 3.5-4 WAR player at worst, and that’s a pretty good starting second baseman.

  11. Personally if we have Bell at first. I would rather keep Hanson, trade Jaso and look for an excellent 4th outfielder to keep everyone fresh.

    • My feelings exactly. I thought JHay had turned the corner, but the past two years have been far less than expected after the Pirates gave him that 4 yr/$27 mil contract in 2014. He had a 5 WAR season in 2014 and has followed that with 1.3 WAR in 2015 and 1.5 WAR in 2016. His offensive WAR in 2016 was – 5.0, and he is owed $18 mil over the next two years – nobody that knows baseball can see that as a positive.

      Time to start playing the prospects, enduring the pain as they learn, and getting better over the long term. I am hopeful that by Jun 2017 we can see an infield of Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, Kevin Newman, and Jung Ho Kang.

  12. Thanks for the 2017 articles that start the new year. I also notice some progress with the app too. I got alot of back articles and then it stopped again 2 days ago. Best of luck getting the app fixed too. Let’s hope for a great 2017. And looking forward to the Prospect Guide and alot of great articles.

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