I was going to write yesterday about the decision for the Pirates to outright Drew Hutchison off the 40-man roster, although there really wasn’t any news there. The Pirates didn’t call Hutchison up in September, despite paying him $2.3 M this year, and despite him being on the 40-man roster. That said all that needed to be said about Hutchison’s future with the team, and outrighting him just sped up the process of cutting ties (although he won’t be a free agent until the end of the season).

The Pirates didn’t get anything from Hutchison, outside of some bad starts last year, and a failed experiment during Spring Training. He produced in Triple-A, and looked like a depth option, but was never called up. I’m not going to rehash the Francisco Liriano trade for the ten millionth time in the last year, because it’s not new right now that Hutchison hasn’t provided value in return, and that the only value the Pirates got was shedding salary.

Instead, I want to look at the reason the Pirates didn’t give Hutchison a chance this year. My original thought was that this was another case where they added a player and just never gave him a real chance to see what he could do. That’s not completely true, as Hutchison did have a chance last year, and had another shot in Spring Training. But he put up good numbers in Triple-A this year, and that wasn’t enough for a call-up.

But when you look at the Pirates’ season, there really weren’t any opportunities for Hutchison to get called up. The Pirates didn’t have a lot of good fortune across the board this year, but one area where they were helped was with the health of the rotation.

Heading into September, the Pirates had only used six starters the entire season. They did have one “injury” of sorts, although I’m not sure if that’s the term to describe Jameson Taillon’s cancer. This led to Trevor Williams entering the rotation, and Williams stuck around when Tyler Glasnow left the rotation due to performance issues.

The rest of the season was Gerrit Cole, Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, and Williams. The Pirates didn’t get top of the rotation results from any of those players, but they also didn’t see anyone pitching their way out of the rotation. They did have some struggles in the second half, and have been giving guys like Ivan Nova some rest, with Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow getting those extra starts in September. Going back to Hutchison, I don’t think I’d be starting him over Brault and Glasnow for the additional starts needed.

The Pirates don’t really need Hutchison going forward. All five of the current starters are under control for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, as is the case with Brault and Glasnow. They also have additional rotation depth in Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes, and Tyler Eppler. That provides ten rotation options going into the 2018 season, with eight of them under control beyond 2019.

There is no issue of depth for the rotation heading into the 2018 season. That’s a good thing, because they will need depth going forward, not being able to count on the good fortune they’ve seen this year. Most years they use at least eight starters in a good year, and double-digit starters in a normal year. That’s what they need to plan for in 2018, and they have that, even without Hutchison.

The issue going forward for the Pirates will be the quality of the rotation. Their overall rotation wasn’t bad this year. They rank about middle of the pack in ERA, and rank just outside the top ten in xFIP and WAR. They didn’t have anyone pitching bad enough to leave the rotation, which is why they didn’t need the depth. But they also didn’t have anyone pitching like a top of the rotation guy, which is why they didn’t have a top ten rotation.

They’ve got top of the rotation candidates for 2018 in Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow as a long shot at this point. They also have Nova as a candidate for more than league-average performance. But I’m not sure that the rotation issues next year are as simple as going with those four guys and expecting everyone to improve on their 2017 production. That will be a big thing to focus on for the Pirates this offseason, as I’m not sure this team can contend going forward with middle of the pack results from their rotation.

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  1. “But I’m not sure that the rotation issues next year are as simple as going with those four guys and expecting everyone to improve on their 2017 production.”

    I 100% agree. Even though starting pitching is a strength, as it exists currently the Pirates pitching staff isn’t good enough to overcome their shortcomings everywhere else. They need at least one top of the rotation sort of guy, probably two and they might not have one on the roster or even in the system. Taillon might become one. Cole hasn’t pitched like a top of the rotation guy for two years. Glass is looks to me like he’s at least a year away and maybe never amounts to much.

    Historically NH has done much better building with trades and free agent signings. I’m hoping he makes a ton of smart moves this offseason. I just wouldn’t bet on it

  2. The Pirates are now playing rookies regularly: Osuna, Frazier, Diaz, Ludlow, Bell and pitchers Williams, Kuhl, Glasnow, and even Taillon is basically a rookie.

    Their losing is part of the learning curve with younger players. This year’s experience will hopefully pay dividends in 2018, especially with the pitchers and Frazier and Bell.

    IMHO, expecting them to win in 2017 with these guys is more absurd than their actually losing with them.

  3. While I guess I agree with the statement that none of the pitchers pitched themselves out of the rotation, I would also say that none, and I do mean none, of them have a rotation spot locked down for next season. You can tell me all you want about the potential of each individual pitcher, the only one that has continually pitched up to their potential is Trevor Williams. Cole, Taillon and Nova have all put up #3 starter type numbers, and Cole may actually be closer to a #4 if his HR propensity doesn’t improve.

  4. Is it possible that Glasnow threw the ball at Indy the way he did the other night, but AAA hitters swing at a lot of those balls?

  5. I am hoping Cole is traded personally. For everyone who says that they won’t get max return for him are out of their minds. Teams would flock to grab Cole and would pay a steep price. We need to go into Houston Astros mode, strip it and sell it. That is literally the only way we will get better. We don’t draft very well, our international strategy is not producing and we don’t supplement areas of weakness with skilled free agents (we are a small market that is why in case you haven’t heard but I think that thriving metropolis Cleveland just won like 22 straight games). We have two or three guys on this team worth trading and at this point I would have zero problem waiving good bye to Cole. They are absolutely fast tracking Mitch Keller (He will spend two weeks in Altoona next year tops) and, we will see him next year at PNC. And, we should, he is the real thing. Keller, Meadows (if he grows obliques and hamstrings) and Tucker (if he can avoid braking or tearing anything else) are the best we got coming. Maybe Kramer can be added to that list but I honestly would rather have JHay play second right now than him. Mercer has to go that is an absolute certainty. We need a third baseman, Cole is talented yet inconsistent and a capable GM should be able to parlay that talent into a top flight third baseman plus “insert top prospects here” from someone. It is crazy how fast the wheels fell off this wagon. You can’t look at me with a straight face and tell me we are not absolutely playing for a high draft pick and to finish in the cellar of the central to do so. Sad thing is, we will draft yet another prep player who will take 10 years to develop.

    • It is just a situation that doesn’t offer a lot of hope. – With the exception of Marte, the veterans seemed to have peaked at a not very high level: Cutch, Mercer, Harrison, Cervelli, Cole, Nova
      – The next wave of superstars are a mixed bag: Hanson (bust), Glasnow (very bad), Polanco (bad), Taillon (uncertain), Bell (good?)
      – AAA doesn’t seem healthy or as talented: Meadows, Newman, Kingham, Holmes, …
      – The next wave won’t help in 2018

  6. With all of this rotation depth, I think the Buccos can afford to trade some of it to shore up their weaknesses. For starters, I think I’d deal Cole if the price is right. Based on his performance this season and looking at their other starting pitching options, I don’t they’d miss him too greatly. Not sure why he has struggled so much with pitch location the past two seasons, but that can be fixed. Teams will overpay for him based on his potential. With two more years of control, the time to trade him is now.

    • Cole is the only guy with any realistic shot at popping a true #1 SP type season. if they want to be good, they can’t deal him.

      if they deal him, they might as well tear it all down. They aren’t going to win the division with a strong 3 and a bunch of 4s.

      Getting Cole near 2015 form gives them a shot. Glasnow breaking out tips the scale.

      • I think Taillon could evolve into a #1, and possibly Keller also. Cole would bring the biggest return, and this team needs multiple pieces. Look what Sale fetched for the White Sox. Just my opinion though.

        • Sure, but one of those pieces is #1 SP.

          maybe trading Cole and something for a better/more dependable “ace” than Cole is a compromise that we can both agree on 😛

  7. What I find odd about Hutchinson’s impending release is that the Pirates basically got what they should have expected from him. What has changed about his performance or their evaluation of him since his acquisition that would lead them to release him? I propose that the sole reason for letting him go is that they don’t want to go to arbitration for him and spend money on the guy. I think his release is 100% a money saving move by the Pirates and nothing else. Sure he has starters ahead of him but he does provide depth which they profess to value. Hutchinson has logged time in the bigs. Surely he’d be called up for a spot start ahead of Eppler and Holmes. He can’t be a bullpen arm? Why not? His release might also ratify that his acquisition was mostly about balancing money in the Toronto deal.

    • remember that they did give him every shot to make the team out of spring training. i think they at least kinda liked him when they dealt for him. It’s easy to look at his AAA track record and think there’s a #4 pitcher in there somewhere. Hell, i still believe that.

      but once he failed in spring training and other prospects either overtook him are knocking on the AAA door, i guess he just became redundant for too much money. I’d rather them just pay the 2-3 million and keep him, but it’s splitting hairs at this point.

      • I agree with you that he’s no great shakes. The fact that he made it around the horn w/o being claimed might reinforce that. They are trying to save dollars wherever they can.

    • “What has changed about his performance or their evaluation of him since his acquisition that would lead them to release him?”

      This is a Jon Niese situation. It’s not so much what has changed, but what *hasn’t*. The promise both pitchers provided was not of *current* ability but old statistics. They never had a specific plan for how to return Niese to previous performance, and it doesn’t appear they had one with Hutch either.

      When it became clear that both pitchers were bad and would be bad, the only reasonable choice remaining is to part ways.

    • I dont think his performance or their assessment of it changed. I think more guys from AAA passed him than they anticipated. In addition, it seems that injuries to SP were pretty light this year, so his experience was not a factor as much when call ups were needed. There have been years where we have exceeded using 10 SP. Until recently we had only used 6.

    • They kept him in a feeble attempt to limit the firestorm that would have come had they released him last year (it was worth a couple of million to not expose completely what that trade was)

  8. whoa. if you asked most fans which of Bell and Freese had 0.7 and 1.7 WAR, they would not guess correctly.

    gotta give Freese credit. he’s pretty underappreciated.

      • i mean he’s had 470 PA this year. althought i guess he did have a dip in the middle of the season when he was hardly allowed to rest.

  9. Just for fun: my offseason checklist…

    – Cutch, Freese, Brault for Donaldson and the best prospect they can get.
    – Harrison for prospect(s), preferably including promising good AA Pitching (Moroff and SeanRod take over)
    – use Harrison money for the best FA RP they can get. Say, Neshek.
    – If kang comes back, play him at SS and sal dump Mercer, and live with the bad range. It’s not like Mercer has any range anyway.
    -Commit to Polanco/Luplow platoon. Marte to CF. Frazier in LF, which is the only position he grades well at, by UZR. (keeping him the hell away from 2b probably *improves* his WAR)
    -Turn Bell into a better 1b, dammit. *

    * – denotes as “super important”

    • You lost me on the Donaldson part. In what universe would Toronto trade Donaldson for Cutch and a bunch of trash. Why would Toronto not wait for us to give Cutch away for nothing (that is our our MO)?

  10. I just looked at some stats for a post on BD. This year’s Bucs are tied for 3rd highest GB% in MLB while ranking 28th in BABIP (.285).

    The problem isn’t the pitching.

    I’ve said it before, you can win with pitching and defense. As a long time Mets fan before moving to Pgh, the Mets did that in 69 & 73 WS runs. Unfortunately, Bucs pitching currently isn’t quite good enough for that, but it’s close. However, the defense is definitely not good enough for that.

    • Huntington’s decision to turn away from power and toward contact has been nothing less than an abject failure and has set the entire organization back at least half a decade.

        • They neutered him in the name of closing the “holes” in his swing. Not all together different than how they spent years trying to turn Pedro in to a contact-heavy all-fields hitter.

          Don’t sleep on Marte, either, who’s also drastically cut his K-rate and correspondingly has seen his power suffer.

          • At least Bell has sort of gone in opposite direction. More Ks but at least some pull power. Although really in terms of WAR Bell’s year is mediocre.

            Still hoping he takes bigger step forward next near. Need him to be a 125-30 WRC+ hitter. I think he can get there.

            • Absolutely true. He took it upon himself to alter his swing and approach for more loft. He did so at the expense of his contact/patience profile, but he’s one guy I’m confident that has the ability to eventually merge both together.

          • This is why my favorite stat is OPS. If you’ve got power…let the SLG% raise the OPS…if you can’t hit them over or off the wall, be more selective and let increased contact and walks raise the OBP.

          • You say they neutered Polanco. I think the same could be said about Glasnow. I’m no expert, but I think over- coaching is where the “deer in the headlights” look comes from. Baseball is hard to begin with. When you pile so much analysis and coaching on top of it, it can get overwhelming for some young guys . . .not all. Maybe we should add a good, strong head to the traditional five tools.

            • You’ll certainly find a receptive audience with me for that Glasnow take.

              I still argue his entire first year and a half at Indy under Treanor was not just wasted development, but regressive.

              • Agree. Wow! Do you think maybe that’s a big reason why Treanor is no longer with the organization? That would be some accountability.

                • I certainly don’t have any inside information, but I know I’ve personally credited them plenty for “parting ways” with Treanor and promoting both Meccage and Mitchell into higher-level development roles with Glasnow as a focus.

                  TG came up with Justin Meccage through Altoona, which was undoubtedly the peak of his development, before regressing to what he was early this year.

                  • I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s shown signs this year of moving back to being that pitcher again, back under Meccage’s instruction. There’s a lot of harm to be undone, though. It may take some more time.

      • you bring this up frequently. what, specifically are the moves that
        you’re talking about? I’m open to agreeing with you. My memory is just

        is this just about signing Jaso to replace Alvarez?

        I don’t see this group of position players as some dogmatic rejection of power for OBP. But you clearly seem to. i’m just interested in seeing how you’re thinking about this.

        • This was an explicitly-stated strategy of Huntington’s from around the 2014 Draft – which targeted bats like Tucker, Luplow, and Connor Joe – through the 2015 Draft of Newman/Hayes/Kramer, and 2016 roster makeover ditching Alvarez and Walker.

          The Kansas City Royals were in vogue and certain groups still thought the key to beating shifts was to hit against them, not over them. Search back through Tim’s First Pitch articles around that time.

          • my memory of those drafts was him being asked about targeting contact guys, and him *declining* some focus on a contact philosophy. Maybe we’re both right and he said both things. wouldnt be shocking haha.

            I thought you were mostly talking about major league acquisitions. Replacing 1 yr of Alvarez and 1 yr of Walker with what they replaced them with didnt set anybody back a decade.

            but the conversation about the draft picks will be 10x more interesting than a Alvarez v Jaso debate.

            i guess my personal philosophy is that i dont care what kind of players they produce from the pipeline as long as they produce them. if Newman, Hayes, Kramer, Luplow, and Tucker are each 3 WAR players, i couldnt care less if that is because of a .380 OBP and 0 HR or because of a .320 OBP with 25 HR. Take whatever trait that crew is missing and acquire a guy that has that trait, if you have to. You obviously don’t want a .400 OBP, 0 HR, low slg guy in your 4-5 spots. i’m not *thaaaat* much of a slave to… say… WAR.

            if they did indeed decide that they thought they could produce MLB players at a higher rate by focusing on little guys that could put barrel to ball, then i say do what you have to do.

            regardless… Luplow, Moroff, Bell, Kramer seem to be examples of contact guys who put some beef into their swing this year. maybe next year we see Hayes do the same thing. Maybe drafting contact guys and worrying about power later is the strategy?

        • And since it seems the baseball gods also have to smite him for some reason at every turn lately, even his 2016 R1 pick ended up having his power drastically inflated by his home park.

          Also, Kang.

  11. Tim … You have posted articles in the past categorizing starters (I don’t have the stats handy) but I think you might be getting a little optimistic about these guys. I would say:
    1. I don’t think anyone would argue that we have any #1s for 2018
    2. In an optimistic view, one could argue that Taillon will bounce back to his rookie form (maybe the shocking cancer diagnosis took a toll on him) and/or Cole will return to his early years. That could give them co-#2s but neither are safe bets right now.
    3. I see no reason to conclude that Nova, Kuhl, or Williams can be more than #3s
    4. Brault could join them or more safely be considered a #4
    5. Glasnow and maybe a rookie or two (Kingham and Holmes) would slot in at #5s if needed

      • Over the last two years:
        Nova – 3.89 (just the Pirates)
        Cole – 4.03
        Taillon – 4.12
        Kuhl – 4.28
        Williams – 4.56
        Brault – 4.66
        Glasnow – 6.83

        That’s three #3s, three #4s, and a bad #5

        • Those are league averages. The Cards, Brewers, and Nationals all have their fiifth starter at 4.90 and above. The Rockies have four of their six starters with ERAs between 4.40 and 5.40

  12. Ok, the Pirates are in the middle of another lousy September.
    Only good thing that has been good has been the weather in Pittsburgh.

    On the other hand, there is no accountability of anyone in the
    Pirates system for what seems to be this almost yearly

    To me, its time for some accountability top to bottom.
    The one thing that is evident in all other Nutting enterprises
    is accountability of the employees. The Pirates???

    • I feel your pain…but, as frustrating as this season has been, how many teams could withstand:

      Their best player losing their best player for half a season…
      Losing their second best player for the entire season…
      Losing C and RF for 1/3 of the season to injuries…
      Their best pitcher getting cancer…

      Sure, there were plenty of moves that should have been made even without hindsight…but the team did have a lot of things drop in its lap this season that go far beyond: “this happens to every team and the good ones pull through it”.

      • My opinion is we have overated our offensive players. Polonco is not the answer. Marte’s ability dropping fast. There is a reason we do not score runs. Our players do not hit.

      • Thank you for a very thoughtful comment.

        I’d just like to see someone in the Pirates
        administration say, “this performance is
        not acceptable.”

  13. I hope NH is doing more than crossing his fingers and hoping Kang will receive a visa next season. This offense is painful. A full season from Marte and Kang will do wonders to jumpstart the offense. The visa decision looms large in our offseason, IMO. The comfort level or lack thereof of Kang’s return should dictate player moves beause we cannot have Freese manning the hot corner again or a prominent place in the batting order on a regular basis.

  14. Glasnow has shown no indication whatsover that he is a major league calibre starter, he had been hammered and he looks like a deer in the headlights. Cole has been very uneven and erratic for the last 2 years, not the production you would hope to see from a No. 1 overall draft pick. Taillon and Keller have best chance to be TOR. This may be unrealistic but I would be checking with Yankees for a Cole – Gleyber Torres trade. The bigger issue is overall lack of talent and direction. Would never have extended Huntington or Hurdle, they have been playing like they don’t care at all and are headed for another collapse and last place finish. They need a comprehensive rethink and rebuild! With power at a premium what makes them think that drafting players whose ceiling is hitting doubles is the answer. NH has had plenty of time to build this organisation and it hasn’t happened. Time to move on!!!

  15. Most frustrating part of the year for me is how little actual improvement they’ve seen out of their young arms.

    I’m least concerned about Taillon. Despite the craziest half of baseball I’ve seen from a guy in quite some time, he’s still a guy that looks like a good #2/#3 (3-4 WAR) starter. The changeup still lags, however, and he’s no closer to figuring out lefties. Tough to see him taking a step forward without an out-pitch against them.

    Trevor Williams has been the biggest surprise, but even his success has been fully dependent on suppressing homers, as indicated by his 4.58 xFIP. Is anyone confident that *any* pitcher can continue to suppress homers in this crazy environment?

    Chad Kuhl has all kinds of regression packed into his performance, with his second half performance buoyed by crazy strand rates (80% LOB) and HR/FB rates half of league average before his 4 dinger barrage a couple nights ago. Even his performance against lefties has arguably gotten no better, with higher WHIP (1.64) and wOBA against (.366) than last year.

    This isn’t to say that none of these guys have improved and grown as starters, there’s positives to list for each. But going into ’18, none can claim to have truly solidified and improved their standing. They remain works in progress.

    • I agree with you about Taillon…I think he’ll eventually settle down and get his game back on track. I’m a little higher on Kuhl and Williams, though…the peripherals may not be great, but if they show a little progress, they can both, justifiably, be solid back-of-the-rotation arms.

      As far as the young arms go, of course there’s the ‘elephant in the room’, “He Who Shall Not Be Named”…he’s gotta be the biggest disappointment/question mark going into ’18.

      With the other youngsters, I still like Brault….but don’t know that he’ll ever get the chance with the number of more experienced arms above him. Ditto that on Kingham.

      Eppler and Holmes missed a wonderful opportunity to get their names in the mix. Now their looking like emergency arms, at best…and that’s for a team that already has a lot more, and better, emergency arms ahead of them.

      • I’m not that concerned about Brault and Holmes. In this era, the difference in value and importance between a marginal #5 and a good bullpen arm is very little. I don’t see how Brault’s stuff will be able to turn a lineup of righties over three times, but I think he’ll be an absolute asset in the pen where his stuff and delivery can play up against lefties and get enough righties out to be viable as a non-loogy. Holmes still doesn’t have starter command, but I’m even higher on him in the pen. Guys who miss bats and keep the ball on the ground can get away with high walk rates in the pen. He’s gonna be a good one.

        Eppler hasn’t shown me enough to say he’s anything more than an extreme depth arm in either role. A Casey Sadler type.

        Kingham is the one for me that could slip through the cracks, unfortunately. He’s the only one, maybe even including Williams and Kuhl, that has three legit average or better big league pitches and his pre-TJS command was good enough to project average or better there as well. Put those pieces together and you’re looking at an easy 2-3 WAR (#3/#4) starter. I just don’t know if he gets the opportunity with this club.

        • I think they need to use him (or Kuhl or Williams) as a trade piece if they want to get the most out of their assets.

    • I have to say I’m a believer in Williams being a solid back of the rotation guy. Kuhl gives me hope in that he’s willing to tweak his game to improve, and he has some nice tangeables. Taillon I believe was worn out from the cancer. I like his stuff and I like his approach. That said, you touched on it perfectly. This staff isn’t as awful as some fans think, but it’s not one you’d bank on to compete for a playoff spot. This year they appeared to have a staff full of legit major league pitchers, it’s just that too often they’ve performed like middle or back-end major league pitchers. A playoff team needs a few guys to be top end performers. And as you referenced that they’re works in progress, all the points I listed above about Taillon, Kuhn and Williams is based on hopeful projection, and we learned in 2016 how bad of an idea that can be.

      • Yeah I tried to be careful with my wording as not to limit the upside of those guys, but to relay my frustration that after two “bridge years” that so many pieces still have yet to settle.

        Like, Chad Kuhl is a strikeout pitcher now? Chad Kuhl is a strikeout pitcher now! He’s just also got the second worst walk rate of any starter in baseball. When did *that* happen? There’s a goldilocks development path for him where he adds some groundballs back and reduces the walks while keeping the Ks. That’s a really damn good starter. But the immediate reality shows a guy who’s probably gonna give up a lot more runs than he has if he keeps pitching this way.

        Williams still feels to me like a guy five years too late. I still don’t know how much to make of the changes in this offensive environment, but for what it is right now, groundballing pitch-to-contact guys have become a dying breed. I like him, but I’m not sure if it’s because I like him on a staff in 2013 or a staff in 2018.

    • It is too soon to day that we know the ceiling for Williams, Kuhl or even Taillon. Cole is a candidate for positive regression to his mean. Novs is an innings eating 4. Glasnow needs to work in the pen for a few years to let him mentally adjust to MLB. Good long man for next year. Same for Brault and Kingham. If I was choosing a staff for 2018 it would be:
      Cole, Taillon,Williams, Nova and Kuhl to start.
      Rivero, Kontos, Never, Schugel, Brault, Kingham and Glasnow to relieve.

  16. Serious question. Why not piggy back starters? With no clear cut ace, it would help everyone stay fresh and less chance of injury. First starter goes 4, next guy goes 4, then you have your closer. I know its heresay, but if there was ever a time to do it itd be now

    • I have liked the idea for quite awhile. It would help some of the young guys who have trouble going through the order the third time.

    • i think most analytical baseball “fans” would agree with you, stats-wise. it really *should* work. But when even the *Astros* try that in the minors and then abandon that for human reasons, it must reallllyyy mess with the pitchers.

    • So don’t.

      I’m as big a fan as their is of the Pirates… I’ll be damned if I’m gonna waste three hours a night/day watching this. Hopefully I’ll be tuned in to see Cutch’s final Pirates at bat when it happens – other than him, Bell, Rivero and a couple other youngins, this team can screw off.

    • I don’t know if it’s so much that they quit as they’re turning the team over to their rookies, which means growing pains. But that’s a good thing. I’d rather deal with growing pains at the end of a lost season than at the start of one with promise.

  17. wow, pirates gonna finish with 90+ losses as the backslide continues…could reds overtake and put the pirates where they truly belong? i hated to think of the bucs sans mccutcheon, but, now i hope we trade him cause it’s not fair to him to endure another 5 year shamble…its hilarious how Tim and company think this team is going to compete next year – fuckin hilarious!

    • In what reality did you think Cutch was ever going to be here for another 5 years? About your other comment: if memory serves, I seem to recall Tim saying they weren’t far from competing again IF they make a few key moves in the offseason. That’s far different from the way you present it.

      • What “key moves” can the Pirates realistically make with their expected payroll this offseason?

        And what happened to 2017? This team isn’t even sniffing 500 with a full year of Marte and Kang. I was told this was going to be a good team this year.

        • We don’t know yet what the payroll will be, but obviously if they don’t spend some money they won’t compete. They need to add a bat obviously, and definitely a bullpen arm. The rotation is a question mark. Does Cole pitch consistently? Does Taillon get back to where he was pre-cancer? Can Nova be consistent? Obviously we can never predict performance; and if it’s fair to say that the top of the rotation underperformed this season, it’s also fair to ask if it’s wise for the Pirates to realistically expect it to rebound next season. I don’t envy Huntington’s task this offseason, but let’s give the man a chance to improve this team. The caveat here being that if he does nothing or next to nothing this offseason, then we’ve surely earned the right to bitch

          • I think NH should be selling every valuable asset he has. This team is the definition of mediocrity as far as I’m concerned.

            • I’d be ok with that, also. The one thing I’m not good with is doing nothing and maintaining the plan from the last two seasons. I get what they were trying to do, but it didn’t work. So let’s try something different.

                • God I hope you’re wrong. This team certainly has some talent, and I like some of the prospects in the minors, but hopefully Huntington has learned that relying soley on prospects to make the club contenders is not a wise path. It is highly unlikely they’ll contend without bringing in outside help.

            • *Every* valuable asset? Really? I fail to see how trading Marte or Polanco at low points in value or guys like Taillon with five years of control move the needle forward in the future for this franchise.

              They should absolutely be dealing anything that’s not under control past 2019; Cutch and Cole should both bring back value, maybe even Harrison despite his awful second half. Other than that, what would trading the rest of the guys actually get them? For better or worse, their future is dependent on the Martes, Polancos, Taillons, Kuhls returning to prominence and/or getting better. The only difficult decision should be with Felipe Rivero, who may be their most valuable asset. Even if 2019 is targeted for contention, as I think it should be, how confident can we be in *any* closer going four+ years with elite performance and health?

              This is not a what club in need of a total teardown looks like. Doing so would put them in no better position three or four years from now.

              • I wasn’t very clear. Polanco and Marte probably don’t have much value right now so I would hold onto them. But yes, I would consider trading Cole and Rivero.

                It’s all academic though. There’s a 90% chance they don’t do much of anything. Maybe trade to free up 10M dealing Nova or even Jhay.

                I don’t know man, my head hurts even talking about his team right now. Who the hell knows.

                I think they make a feeble run at things in 2018 and hope that they luck into a wild card.

                • I was thinking the exact same thing about trading Cole and Rivera and maybe J-Hay. I think Cole and Rivera could fetch a ton, maybe a young top of the line rotation guy and a potential position player star. We seem to have a lot of solid players, utility guys, who don’t have lots of power. We need to change the composition of the team a bit or expect similar results next year.

                • Conventional wisdom says that a closer is only of real value to a contender, so why not trade Rivero. The reason not to is years of control. Rivero is available for several years in a row. The 2019 and 3020 Bucs should be really good.

              • Everything that was messed up this year, Cutch and Cole never played up to level that is expected from the stars of team. They are the leaders of this team, time to move on from Cutch and trade Cole also. This 2 years in row cutch didn,t show up for the team,

                • Cutch showed up fine in June, July and to some extent September. His April, May and August were awful. Elite performance ability is still there. He does know how to consistently access it.

              • Agreed. The burning question that I’m sure may get answered soon is: How much trade value does Cutch have? Obviously when we thought about this juncture a few years back we were salivating at tge return. Fingers crossed we’d get something decent now. And how nice it would be for the club to pick up his option, trade him for a promising prospect, then take that 14+ million they’d have paid him and add 4 or 5 more and sign an elite bat? That would certainly add some buzz to this club. Aaaaa to dream…

                • Meadows isn’t ready, Polanco hasn’t been above mediocre. The best move is to keep Cutch for the year as Luplow and Meadows develop.

              • I don’t get all the dread here. If we aren’t in contention why wouldn’t we want a higher draft pick. The goal shouldn’t be finish 500. that sucks and leads to mediocrity. With all the negative stuff this year… Kang, Marte, Tallion, Cutch 1/2 season, Polanco injuries… we should have sold at the deadline and targeted top 3 pick as success metrics.

                • The “dread” is based on the fact this team is truly a HORRIBLE baseball team whether you look at Pythag or other measures the teams is objectively WORSE than it’s horrific record.

                  This narrative that it’s a pretty good team with a full year of Marte and Kang is complete nonsense. Marte can’t get his WRC+ above 80 so far this year. Yes Kang would have helped. But in terms of true talent this team would be on pace to finish somewhere in between 76-78 wins with a full year of Marte and Kang.

                  • Come on man. They weren’t a horrible team until they fell out of contention. Can’t believe people don’t understand how a team takes a hit when two of their biggest stars are out of the blue OUT. The biggest star struggles for the first two months. Their savior rookie pitcher ends up with Cancer and the other more highly touted pitcher can’t throw strikes… have you ever been on a team before? Personally i cannot believe they stayed close or within striking distance for so long. Love all the young kids getting opportunities. Hate seeing Hurdle still throw out there Jaso, S-Rod and Stewart.

                    • I respect your optimism Eric but I don’t think it’s the least bit of hyperbole to think this is a very bad team. Baseruns has us as one of worst teams in the league and 2-3 games worse than our actual record. Think about that. At best this team is 5 games better with Kang, Marte and JT not having their issues. This 2017 was a really bad team.

            • I’d be willing to wager the John W on Royals Prospects made the exact same comment in 2013.

              NH would be better served to figure out why the organizations top talent isn’t meeting expectations and make changes accordingly. If not, they run the risk of having new young talent underperform just as this group has.

            • I think the four year contracts reflect the security demanded by both the manager and the GM before they tear this thing up and start over.

          • I think we should all be prepared for next year’s team to be basically the same as this year’s team with the exception of a few nibbles around the edges in the bullpen. I would be so surprised if the the front office isn’t absolutely convinced that they had this season “right” but for Kang and Marte. They’ll ride with this year’s plan next year. They’ve lost money from serious declines in attendance. No one should expect any unusual spending next year. The lost money might just cause them to decline Cutch’s option. And I wouldn’t expect them to spend the money elsewhere to get a legit bat. I hope that’s not the case but I have so lost faith in management, that I believe that to be a realistic possibility.

        • As for 2017, my goodness where do we start? I touched on the rotation underperforming. Cutch was bad more than good, Polonco seems to have taken a step back actually, Kang and Marte. The guys that were supposed to carry the offense surely did not for various reasons. I also thought this team was at least a .500 team. This season was a major letdown in many ways, Trevor Williams being an exception. And for some reason, the Hudson deal pisses me off way more than it should…

          • Don’t get me wrong Randy. I thought this team was probably near 500 as well. It’s a lot worse than I though. I’ve come to believe we just lack talent at too many key position. I’m guessing projection say about 80 win next year and that is probably realistic.

            • You bring up a valid point. What reason would we have to project any higher? (Unless, of course they make some impactful off-season moves)

        • any path to competing next year will involve dealing some rotation and/or prospect depth for position player help.

          Marte and Polanco getting back to normal, getting kang back, and dealing Mercer and say Brault for a SS upgrade probably gets the offense to about average.

          Glasnow turning AAA results into MLB results turns the rotation from average to above average.

          Signing a Pat Neshek to help Rivero would go a long way.

            • I’d say that normal would be getting him back to OPSing ~.800 vs righties, and platooning him with Luplow would be reasonable and productive and fun.

            • Let’s not bother getting him back to “normal.” Let’s just get him and keep him healthy for a season. Every time he heats up, it seems, he gets derailed by an injury. We still haven’t seen how long he can carry strong hitting, because he keeps getting himself hurt a week or two after he gets his timing.

      • Ill take my chances with cutch for 5 more years than i would for NH and hurdle for another 4….I mean seriously, if anyone is even still watching this pathetic team, how in hell could you see it being better next year without cutch? i havent actually pulled the stats yet, however, i am pretty positive that they had a better record with marte off the team this year than they have since his return and if you look at this team’s W/L record when he doesnt play? forgeddaboutit! lemme guess, randy, youre another one of the geniuses that believe the ownership will use the money from losing cutch to help the big league club? LMAO – mebbe they could use it to have nothing but fireworks and bobbleheads for 81 games/year…it is sad and ridiculous – i am now positive that i will never live long enough to see a world championship in pittsburgh – it is NEVER going to happen – i wll add to that ….never see a number retired (unless they really lower the standards) and never have a reason to goto the hall of fame again (never will i pirate go in)…..please tell me im wrong, i beg of you to show me any damn path where any of the above happens? of course, you are going to take the world series winning as it is the ONLY one that has any chance of happening….i think the stargell curse lives on (almost 40 years of failure and another 60+ to go)

        • Your rant is unnecessary, as I was only making a point that there was never a chance in hell that Cutch was here beyond 2018, even if they’d been a playoff team these past two seasons. It would be an unwise decision for a team with the Bucs’ finances to extend Cutch at his age, so no matter what path this team would have taken in ’16 and ’17, it was almost a certainty that the team’s plan all along was to either trade him or let him walk. As for me being a genius believing the Bucs would use the money they save on Cutch to better the big league club…well of course they would. Yes I know they don’t spend tons of money, but to say they’d just not spend the money that would have went to Cutch is just stupid.

          • Why do you say its stupid? They didn’t use the money save on Kang and Marte for anything this year. They have already made hints that payroll is going to drop because of the bad product they put out on the field and the lower attendance that comes with that.

          • ‘with the Bucs’ finances’ = what the hell does that mean? Do you mean the payroll/profit SPECULATION for mlb or the fact that the Nuttings are the 9th wealthiest franchise owner’s in ALL OF SPORTS? You, my friend, are a SLAVE to the narrative

        • The path by which they will win the World Series will be Nutting selling the team to an ownership group committed to winning, a tear down comparable to the Cubs with a few more years of last place finishes, a complete clean out of the scouting operation; a totally different approach to the draft and signing international talent. The likelihood of any of the above happening is zero, and collectively of all of it happening is less than zero. So you are right, the chances that the Pirates will get anywhere near the Series with this ownership and FO is negligible, and very small likelihood that we’ll see another Hall of Famer (Cutch not likely unless he is re-signed (would be astonishing) and if he can start putting together complete seasons again…Dismal!

          • Nah, regression to the mean indicates that Marte, Cutch will be better. C will be better with Diaz. They do need a 3Bman. But you are overly pessimistic.

            • Catching will be better only if Cervelli can start 125-130 games. Diaz is insignificant, and maybe a negative unless he learns how to quiet his glove and steal some strikes.

                  • I’ve seen a multitude of overhyped prospects over the years but Diaz might take the cake. Looks every bit as bad as a 60-65 WRC+ hitter and gives away more runs with his framing than any Pirates catcher I can remember in quite a while(no he’s not Doumit level) but Diaz is a bad framer.

                    As ridiculous as the crush many had on Alen Hanson was, at least Hanson had a decent ceiling.

                    • Diaz is the embodiment of regurgitated scouting reports.

                      2015 Elias Diaz was a legit prospect. Carried 2014’s offensive breakout into a perfectly reasonable AAA showing, was athletic behind the plate and carried a cannon of an arm.

                      Thing is, it seems folks continue to assume the current version is that same guy when I cannot imagine how that would be the case were one to scout him with a fresh set of eyes. The current version has lost any shred of plate discipline and never developed the power or hard contact in general that left upside to spare in 2015. The current version is about 20 lbs heavier and moves poorly around the plate. The current version frames poorly by the eye test and metrics.

                      27 yo Elias Diaz is not the same as 24/25 yo Elias Diaz. Update your prospect reports accordingly.

          • The draft and develop strategy, and very possibly the existing scouting and development organization looks like they’ve taken the Pirates as far as they can. The major league roster is full of guys that don’t hit when it’s important and 3-5 starters. When the guy who’s been touted as a can’t miss TOR starter performs as he has so far, what does that tell us. So, I’m pretty much agreeing with what you said, except I don’t see the Nutting family ever selling this team. Why should they, other than to make a large part of the fan base happy? That’s not why they are in this business. BTW, Nutting is a smart guy. He knows pretty much everything we’ve just said; yet he just gave NH and Clint four-year extensions. What is he telling us? The Pirates organization is going to keep doing pretty much what they’ve been doing with no major changes of strategy and no big spending.

      • If Cutch is smart, he would refuse any offer from the Pirates….He is a great player and person and i hope that he gets to win a world championship before he retires (and he NEVER will with the Succos)

    • About as hilarious as “it’s not fair to him( McCutchen ) to endure another 5 year shamble…” Have you ever noticed that he is part of the problem the past 2 seasons ? The season is actually 6 months, not the 2 he manages to ht well.

      • EVERY player goes through ups and downs in a 6 month season, however, i will take final line of .280 with 28 bombs EVERY DAY

      • Hard to even follow now that the Steelers have begun play and the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins are playing pre-season. Cole has given up 30 dingers Joe – a Top 10 in that category.

        I started to think of guys the Pirates need to waive immediately, but, after looking at the box score from yesterday, 3 of them were in the starting lineup. $7 mil to get Sean Rodriguez back?

        BTW, Alen Hanson has 14 EBH (9 doub/1 trip/4 HR), 10 RBI, 10 Walks, and 8 SB in 149 AB’s for the CWS, while playing 5 different defensive positions (LF, CF, RF, 2B, 3B). Still only 24.

        • Couldn’t agree more. Season was done before it started with Marte suspension, Kang no Visa, Tallion Cancer and Cutch suck April/May. That is why i was so frustrated we didn’t sell at the deadline thinking we were still contenders.

          S-Rod sucks and should have never been brought back. Would have rather had Hanson and given him a chance. Still seeing Stewy, Jaso and Freese get shots is killing me. Why not put Osuna at 3rd?

          • Osuna would have to move all the way over to the other side of the infield and catch ground balls the same way he does at 1B. Please folks I know the difference, but to not even try is just stupid.

            Another guy I would like to see get a chance over there is Jordan Luplow who actually played 3B in HS, and played 86 games at 3B at Lo A a few years ago.

            • Right on Emjay. That is my biggest gripe that management keeps using the old guys and bringing in/back old guys.

          • SRod provided value last year, and he’s getting back to game share after the car wreck in mid winter. I expect him to regain value next year

          • You are likely in the minority here. The same reasons that Pirates did not give him that contract before certainly exist now more than ever after what some describe as a potential career ending auto accident. There was absolutely no need to trade of SRod, he probably would have been available to the Pirates later this year after the braves released him.

            • Couldn’t agree more. No need for S-Rod on this team… can’t even hit 200. Was going to be free but nooooo… they needed S-Rod lipstick to put on this pig. Just call it a pig for all the reasons the season has been difficult and move forward.

  18. still, i feel like its nice to have an older guy in AAA who you can jerk around and not really worry about screwing with his development. i wouldnt want an AAA rotation of only prospects. but this is just splitting hairs.

    the depth without Hutchison is fine. the depth with hutchison and maybe one more guy wouldve been flat out good, and wouldve allowed them to trade a Brault or Kuhl for bullpen or position player help. i guess a lot can still happen.

  19. I’m also interested to see what they do with Kingham. Out of options, no real bullpen experience, but doesn’t seem to have a spot in the rotation, and didnt get a September callup

  20. Rotation actually looks decent IF they stay relatively healthy. Told to expect something like 32 starts outside your top 5 starters. But depth looks OK. It’s the offense that will sink the 2018 Pirates.

    • John, rotation was incredibly healthy this year and that did us alot of good :p Glad to see Jaso playing some outfield with 90 losses coming….4 more years of the greatest front office/management in sports!

      • It’s sad they decided to reward this mediocrity with 4 more years. Will be interesting to see what attendance ends up being in 2018.

        • The Pirates have the fifth most wins in baseball over the last 5 years, that’s a little better than mediocre, and when you consider they did it with a payroll around 25th as an average, then I would say it’s a ton better than mediocre.

          • This always makes me laugh. The scope is 5 years now? 2 years ago, it was last 3 years? I wonder why we aren’t using 3 years as yardstick now?

            Next year I’m guessing it with be something like “7th most wins in last 6 years- that’s better than average”

            • I personally don’t give a crap about 5 years ago or even one year ago. How do they look at present and going forward?

              • Not only do they look like one of worst teams in MLB in 2017, they ARE one of worst teams based on run differential etc.

                They won’t project to be this bad in 2018. But they won’t project to be good either.

                • i tend to be among the bigger defenders of the Front Office, but yeah. I can’t stand when others bust out the “98 wins” stuff and “3 years of playoffs stuff.”

                  i’m optimistic because i like the current crop of young players and prospects. not because they figured out shifting and xFIPs before everyone else did 5 years ago.

                    • The FO has put their eggs in the organizations homegrown talent the last couple years. Which to me was a sound strategy for the most part, considering they were coming off 98 wins and universally recognized as having a top notch farm system.

                      The problem is both the best vets and top prospects have underperformed. Cutch, Marte, Cole, Polanco, Glasnow, Taillon & Meadows, all have failed to meet expectations.

                      The question that needs to be answered is why? Is it a coaching issue, a physical/mental preparation issue, or does the organization have a trust issue w their players causing them to be unable to perform up to their capabilities?

                      I don’t think any of us on the outside can say for sure why basically all of the top talented players have failed the last two years, but I do expect BN, FC, NH, CH & other key organization members to do an honest self-assessment and make necessary changes to prepare for a successful 2018.

                    • The FO has put their eggs in the organizations homegrown talent the last couple years. Which to me was a sound strategy for the most part, considering they were coming off 98 wins and universally recognized as having a top notch farm system.

                      Please remind us, what exactly was “sound” about a strategy that opted for Niese and Vogelsong over Happ and any warm body at AAA?

                      If you ask me, I think a significant part of the decline of the vets is simple demotivation to play hard when the FO won’t support you by adding viable assets when you’ve shown you can be competitive.

                      And that’s why a house cleaning is in order. You’re unlikely to turn those guys around unless there’s a spending spree on good FAs. Which obviously ain’t happening.

                    • They were counting on Glasnow to workout by midyear and replace Voglesong.They expected Niese to be Wandy R. Neither worked out, so sue them.

                    • We both know Vogie was a placeholder for JT/TG. That’s not the reason for the fall off in production from vets and failure of talented prospects to meet expectations.

        • the pirates have literally disappeared from the radar…i think pre-season ticket sales are going to be the worst ever since PNC opened (and that is saying something) and I truly think that this team is closer to another 20 year streak of sub .500 baseball than they are to a world championship…oh wait, now we only need 18 more sub .500 years…if you think only about our division alone, the cards and cubs are going to probably substantially upgrade this offseason, the brewers have passed us by and how really far are the reds from doing the same?

          • Just my opinion OTD but I don’t think we have to worry about another 20 year losing streak. But I do think we have to be worried about being mired in mediocre 78-82 win seasons. And what’s really concerning is that management seems to be perfectly content with this sort of work and NH and co will be sticking around regardless of how things shake out the next few years.

            • i respect your opinion John…..i pray that such a thing would not repeat, however, i am reminded that the red sox and cubs each had stretches of almost 100 years without a world championship to their name and than i think of the sad state that this franchise is in and I cannot help but feel helpless that we may never see a WS championship again in our lifetimes and it is almost a guarantee under the Nutting ownership…..

    • Agreed. The biggest thing is probably hitting. Our Starters multiple times had pitched good games and the offense could only muster up 1 or 2 runs. Need to improve our hitting ….whether it’s replacing our hitting instructor or replacing some players Idk.

      Secondarily, the bullpen needs to be upgraded aside from Kontos, Rivero. Unfortunately we still have Hudson, so he’ll be in the mix unless we cut him and hope someone else picks him up a la Hughes.

      • I have several questions about the hitting in general: Is this bad awful hitting a result of an organizational approach; or the hitting coach; or the players individually? Does the GM(organization) need different evaluation criteria in recognizing good hitters? Other organizations seem to find good young hitting. Has GM emphasized pitching too much to the detrement of hitting. Personally I’d rather watch 8-7 and 9-8 games versus turning on the TV in the 6th inning and seeing the score 1-0 and knowing we have no chance.

  21. Concur.

    I’d bank on two of Cole/Taillon/Glasnow to be the 1-2. Sign a FA to be the 3. Nova/Williams the 4. Kuhl the 5.

    Brault (and probably Glasnow) to AAA as Eppler isn’t a ML starter and no one from Altoona will be ready to step up in case of injury.

    • Eppler is a depth guy. He doesn’t look like a guy who will have a career as a starter in the majors, but could make some starts in the event of an injury. Think a step below Trevor Williams.

      • Tim would like to see your analysis on why this team has evidently thrown in the towel and what realistic steps they could take to dig out of this mess. Do you think Yanks would trade Gleyber Torres for Cole? I think they need to consider anything to upgrade every day line up. Mercer really isn’t the problem, though. Outside of Bell and Rivero, it’s everyone else!

    • i bet Brubaker and Waddell could come up and not embarrass themselves. obvi they probably wouldnt want to break the glass on Keller unless the whole rotation got the flu on Sept 15th next year and they were scratching for a playoff spot. but he probably wouldnt embarrass himself either

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