The Pirates will play a two game series against the Blue Jays this weekend in Montreal, wrapping up their Spring Training schedule. They still have a few roster decisions to make before Opening Day, with five more cuts remaining in camp. Some of those cuts are obvious, such as Danny Ortiz or Jackson Williams. Others might depend on outside moves, or tougher decisions between similar ranked players. Here is the breakdown of what to expect this weekend, with the final roster expected after the Pirates leave Montreal.
The final rotation battle is down to Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams. They both have starts remaining this weekend, although Neal Huntington said that the decision for the final spot will come down to the body of work, along with the final start. So don’t think that the better stat line this weekend impacts the decision.
The debate between these two is a bit tricky, due to the nature of prospects. In terms of future upside, Glasnow wins hands down. In terms of where they both are right now, it might be closer than a lot of people believe, although I’d give the edge to Glasnow due to pure stuff. While he has a big upside in the future, he isn’t quite there just yet, and still has things to work on. Williams is a bit more polished in terms of reaching his upside, although that upside is lower. Basically, they’re close to the same level right now, but Glasnow can go much further with his development.
My prediction here is that Glasnow will get the final spot. He’s working on the right things, and seems to be in a much better place with his development path than last year, realizing what he needs to work on to succeed in the majors. As for Williams, I think he still has a shot to make the majors as a reliever, but that would be tricky.
The Pirates optioned A.J. Schugel to Triple-A this morning, which means they have one more cut to make from the pitching staff. We know that Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Daniel Hudson, and Juan Nicasio all have spots. Antonio Bastardo has a spot as well, although there have been rumors all offseason that the Pirates have been trying to deal him.
With Bastardo on the team, two spots would be open for Wade LeBlanc, Tyler Webb, and Williams. The Pirates risk losing one of LeBlanc or Webb if they don’t make the team. LeBlanc is due $850 K guaranteed, which means he might be able to make it through waivers and be stashed in Triple-A, just like they did with Vin Mazzaro a few years ago. Webb is a Rule 5 pick, so they could work out a deal with the Yankees to keep him. However, this requires that he clears waivers and that the Yankees want to move him.
In both cases, the lefty market around baseball might be thin enough to make it a big risk putting either player on waivers, especially after what they each showed this spring. On that same note, the Pirates might be able to find a taker for Bastardo, even if it’s only to unload the money they still owe him, minus what the Mets are paying.
I think the best move would be to unload Bastardo and go with LeBlanc, Webb, and Williams for the final spots. You get the same type of upside with LeBlanc and Webb as lefty relievers, plus you have them under control for a longer period of time. You also help to relieve some of the minor league starting pitching log jam by moving Williams to the bullpen, and add another long-relief option in the majors.
This might be where the only true battle on the team remains. The bench has a few guys locked in, and we’ll start with the backup catching role, since that’s a question mark. Chris Stewart has been banged up, and the Pirates still have Jacob Stallings and Jackson Williams in camp. If Stewart can’t play on Opening Day, I’d expect Stallings to start the year in Pittsburgh.
The other bench spots would be held by John Jaso and Adam Frazier, with two more spots remaining. Alen Hanson is out of options, while Phil Gosselin and Jose Osuna have both looked impressive this spring, although so did Hanson. Danny Ortiz is still on the roster, but is unlikely to make the majors. The Pirates could preserve all of their depth by sending down either Gosselin or Osuna and seeing what they have in Hanson. They could also try to trade one of these three, although I’m not sure if the return they’d get would be as valuable as having one of these three in the minors as depth throughout the year.
I think sending Gosselin down would be the best move. If Hanson doesn’t show he can be a productive bench player, then you can make the switch later in the season. I just think it would be foolish to cut Hanson loose or trade him without ever giving him a chance to show what he can do.