Williams: The Pirates Really Aren’t Far From Being Strong Contenders Again

The Pirates are almost guaranteed a losing season this year. Unless they go on an incredible run down the stretch, they will end up with their second losing season in a row.

When you mention a losing streak — even a streak of two seasons — it brings up horrible memories in Pittsburgh. It also brings up fears of another prolonged losing streak, with no end in sight. This year already the feeling is there, with many fans in Pittsburgh wondering if the team’s two-year streak is the start of a decline, rather than just two years off from winning and making the playoffs.

That feeling isn’t shared outside of Pittsburgh. The two years of losing are viewed as just that — two years off from winning, with a team that can make it back to winning in 2018. In fact, that sentiment was expressed by Joe Sheehan on Friday evening.

I agree with that sentiment. Agreeing with that is going to lead to a massive argument in the comments, no matter how much justification I give for my opinion. I’ll keep it short by saying that the Pirates had an offseason plan of Jung Ho Kang, Starling Marte, and Jameson Taillon playing big roles for them. A DUI, suspension, and cancer later changed that. You can’t expect perfect health or production from every player, but that combo is extreme. There are other factors that led to the Pirates losing, such as poor moves or poor performances. But this is a team that wasn’t far off from being a contender this year, even with their original plan totally ruined. (I will now wish for a hurricane to hit me so I can avoid the comments of this article.)

That doesn’t mean the Pirates can just show up with the same team next year and contend. I think that would put them on pace for the same type of result as this year — on the verge of being a top contender, but being just far enough out that you don’t want to make a big splash or commit fully one way or the other in the buy/sell debate. In other words: No Man’s Land.

I’ve likened this year to the 2012 season many times, and one reason is because I think with a few key moves in the offseason, the Pirates could get back to being a top contender. They added Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Mark Melancon that offseason, which definitely led to their emergence. However, those three additions didn’t buy a 94-win team. They needed a strong core in place, which they had, and needed improvements from some of the younger players, which they received.

I see the same story this offseason. They need to have a good offseason with a few key moves to help put them back near the top. But it might be a challenge, due to their roster getting up there in age and cost. In 2012, they managed this by trading Joel Hanrahan and his contract away, getting Melancon back, and using the savings on Liriano.

I think they’re going to need to do the same thing this offseason, shedding some salary in one area, adding a replacement in that spot, and using the savings to upgrade the rest of the team.

They have a few candidates for this spot. They could deal Andrew McCutchen, hope that Jordan Luplow is a starter, and add a replacement for McCutchen until Austin Meadows is ready. They could deal Josh Harrison and let Sean Rodriguez and/or Max Moroff take over at second base (although Harrison could be an option at third, where they are weak). They could trade Francisco Cervelli and let Elias Diaz take over as the starter. I’d suggest trading a starting pitcher, although that requires a dig into their starting depth.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Pirates. I agree with Sheehan that they have a good core group. That group kept them in contention through late July, and is still showing some positive signs in September. They also have plenty of young players who can still improve their games going forward.

But it’s going to take some effort to get them back to being top contenders. I think they have some money left over from Starling Marte, Jung Ho Kang, and other savings this year, but even with those savings, I feel they will need to get creative like they did in 2012, trying to find a way to shed some salary at a position, keeping the same production at that position, while using the savings to upgrade elsewhere.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

199 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
OTDLOT18

Tim,
Terribly irresponsible journalism here. Why is it that your justifications are in the “bubble”…we are in the NL central….the Cubs are already better than us (in a down year no-less), the Cards are better than us (probably will get even better in the off-season), the Brewers are better than us (could get better in the off-season)…and the Reds, the Reds have made major strides with their pitching staff and their offense could be the best in the division besides the Cubs….You are foolish to think that the Pirates minus McCutcheon will even finish at .500 or better next year – no, 2018 is going to be the REAL backslide….i figure 68-94….when this team sheds salary, it does not distribute that salary in the payroll, plain and simple…they lied to us this year and they will continue to lie to us until the last pirate fan simply has enough and stops going. I know people get tired of the narrative about Bob Nutting being the cheapest prick in all major sports, however, it is a truthful analysis. One does not need to look any further than the other businesses that he runs like the Scrooge McDuck character he truly is….Seriously, Tim, name one thing that the Pirates do better than any other NL team? Actually, i challenge you to name 3 things – your lack of response will go a long way in demonstrating that you dont even believe your own article….

John W

Correct. There is not objective data to support this notion. This is a team of position players who will come into 2018 without one single player projecting for 4 WAR and probably at least half the starting lineup projected for near 2 WAR or below.

This team has a run differential of worse than 60 runs in 2018.

The plan for massive improvement in 2018 is simply called HOPE.

OTDLOT18

Thank you, John, for adding some actual data to my contentions. Some will disagree with me, however, i think they are actually closer to another 20 year run of sub .500 baseball than winning a world championship. It is really shameful how this ownership completely wasted a genuine opportunity to capture this city’s hearts. People will look back at that pivotal off-season after 2015 as the decisions that completely ruined this franchise. It was when light was shed on these dirty rat ownership which sent them scampering back into the dark hole from which they came…I would have rather lost this team to another city than see what has become of them….they whine about why the steelers and (to a lesser effect) the penguins have captured the hearts and entertainment dollars of this city and its because BOTH of those franchises value winning above dollars…..and i dont want to hear about the small market bullshit – we are not that, plain and simple! Plus, in this golden age of MLB network, streaming any game from any device, it simply doesnt exist anymore (market size)….you either are a popular team or you are not….this market absolutely supports 81+ sellouts at PNC park, so please tell me again what you think ‘market’ actually means? I ask you fellow PP brethren…

John W

Well, personally I don’t think we are destined for a 20 year losing streak but I do fear we will be a team that straddles near 500 for the foreseeable future. There can be no doubt that the 2015 offseason was disastrous.

Arik Florimonte

To get better (to get out of no man’s land), they will have to risk getting worse. They will have to move on from some decent players and try to get some good or great players. Their core is solid — there aren’t major holes. But there isn’t major upside either. This version of the pirates (offense at least) has peaked.

buccobil

Moooose!

jimmyz

Simply focusing on free agents because trades are impossible to predict but here are a few off-season targets I hope the Pirates make a good push to acquire…

Eduardo Nunez- would handle regular 3b duties, be our backup SS and can fill in at corner outfield spots as needed due to injuries

JD Martinez- pipe dream, just seems like he hits a homer every 5 at bats since moving to Arizona and that would be nice

Pat Neshek/Joe Smith/Brandon Kintzler- need at least two bullpen arms and these guys are solid arms that probably won’t get too outrageously expensive

Tyler Chatwood- give him a 2 or 3 year deal early in free agency then shop Cole or Nova a bit more aggressively the rest of the offseason

jimmyz

Simply focusing on free agents because trades are impossible to predict but here are a few off-season targets I hope the Pirates make a good push to acquire…

Eduardo Nunez- would handle regular 3b duties, be our backup SS and can fill in at corner outfield spots as needed due to injuries

JD Martinez- pipe dream, just seems like he hits a homer every 5 at bats since moving to Arizona and that would be nice

Pat Neshek/Joe Smith/Brandon Kintzler- need at least two bullpen arms and these guys are solid arms that probably won’t get too outrageously expensive

Tyler Chatwood- give him a 2 or 3 year deal early in free agency then shop Cole or Nova a bit more aggressively the rest of the offseason

John W

I don’t how anyone seriously takes a plan that suggests making Elias Diaz your starting catcher to free up 10M. I mean… are they following Elias Diaz this year or his past couple in Indy?

A Srod/Moroff platoon at 2b isn’t much more inspiring.

If these are the potential solutions to our problems… our problems are much deeper than I realized.

Arik Florimonte

If only they’d had a chance to see what he can do at MLB!

Oh wait, they did and they chose to play a washed up 35 year old with a wRC+ of 18.

AttyMike

They’ve not done much to prepare Diaz to be a starting catcher next year if that’s their plan. Moreover, a rookie catcher, who will be 27 next spring, doesn’t say “playoff contender” to me. Maybe they can afford to take a step back offensively at the catcher position but if they move Cervelli, the move is motivated purely by money and not confidence in Diaz as an adequate replacement. Don’t expect them to go spend the savings elsewhere.

jaygray007

Huntington has no incentive to not spend what he’s allowed to spend.

The ending payroll will be the approx the same whether it’s with cervelli and less help elsewhere or without cervelli and more help elsewhere. Huntington has no reason to operate in any other fashion.

he’s not going to just trade Cervelli and have an $85 million payroll if ownership gives him the permission to spend $95 million in payroll.

AttyMike

I don’t think the starting budget is static throughout the year. They probably look at the finances during the year — like any business would. If they have room in the initial budget that’s eaten up later by other factors that develop during the season, such as revenue shortfalls, the room that was in the budget initially goes away. That may have been the real reason they didn’t add players down the stretch. We’ll never know for sure.

NMR

“I don’t how anyone seriously takes a plan that suggests making Elias Diaz your starting catcher to free up 10M.”

See I think that type of move is about the *only* serious way you plan for 90 wins. Doesn’t mean it’s likely to succeed, quite the opposite in fact, but they simply don’t have the resources to play by the book and make up for this lack of talent. They’ve gotta take chances. They’ve gotta get far more bang for their buck than should be expected.

If that takes putting in a guy like Diaz to free up necessary money, then that’s a move that needs to be made. It at least gives them a chance.

John W

You’re right in a sense. I think it’s unlikely Diaz even approaches average as a fulltime starter at C but IF they would take that 10M and some other money and put it towards something like the Dodgers 2017 Justin Turner signing in theory. I mean if there was someone who profiled as a big improvement at 16-17 AAV on the free agent market I could see this route making sense in theory.(Obviously there is no guarantee there is someone available similar to Turner or any guarantee he works out)

But I think NH is far too risk averse for such a move and they would most likely spend the savings on much smaller lottery tickets.

jaygray007

i just see the gap between Cervelli and Diaz (and diaz and his backups) being a lot bigger than the gap between Mercer and his backups (and the further depth) and the gap between Harrison and his backups (and the further depth).

of course, they could always deal all 3 of those
veterans and *really* mix things up. i just would think that the downside to dealing Cervelli is a lot higher than the downside to dealing literally any other moderately-priced solid player on this team.

maybe they can deal Cervelli and get someone like Lucroy on a 1 yr low cost bounceback deal? That’s the kind of thing i’d applaud.

NMR

A *healthy* Cervelli, yes. That’s the rub…

jaygray007

just sayin. it’s better to have to go through two injuries to get to “Jacob Stallings: starting catcher” or “Chris Stewart: starting catcher” than just one.

but of course they could acquire a good AAA prospect to replace Diaz in the “up-and-down” role and make my view on this issue moot.

NMR

And that’s exactly how he succeeded in 2013.

John W

Just Russ alone at 2/17 was a big investment by us. I don’t know what 8.5M per year translates into 2017-18 dollars but it is considerably more

jaygray007

i do think SRod/ Moroff has a lot more upside than you give it credit for

but i couldnt agree more on the Diaz thing. if you have to deal a few current players, at least deal them at positions where you have real MLB-ready depth.

like… deal polanco and let Luplow take over and you still have Meadows in the wings. or deal Mercer and Sean-Rod take over and let Newman take over when *he* is ready. or deal JHay and let Moroff/SeanRod take over and Kramer is in the wings.

dealing Cervelli would make no sense unless they made another deal to get a catcher better than Cervelli.

AttyMike

I agree that they aren’t far off. Next year they will still be w/o Kang in all likelihood. I don’t see how they are improved by moving Cutch. That would seem to put them right back where they found themselves this year when Marte went out. I can see a move at 2B, although it’ll weaken the team. I thought the plan was to have Rodriguez take a lot of starts at 3B. Maybe they move Harrison to 3B full time and allow Freese to be more of a backup and bench player as he was intended. That would be a better plan IMO. If not, they need to find a 3B and a bullpen. Maybe Luplow can be their 4th outfielder. They don’t seem to have much confidence in Diaz. Otherwise they would have dumped Stewart’s salary as well at the end of the season. If Cervelli is that expendable, who will take him and his salary anyway? I’m simply not optimistic at all that they will spend what is necessary to shore up their holes. If history is any guide, they will spend marginally and rely upon their internal options.

AttyMike

Money matters in the analysis. Why do you think they have any money left over? They lost a boatload of money due to decreases in attendance this year. I suspect the “money saved” is just gone. I wouldn’t expect the salary savings to come into play next year. it’s just used to balance out the losses from this year, along with the Nicasio salary dump.

John W

Exactly. The money they saved on kang/marte is a pittance and they are probably down 30m in revenues vs 2015 attendance.

jaygray007

i feel like we can put together a hypothetical offseason plan with at least… i dunno… a $95 million 2018 payroll in mind, right?

Scott K

My two cents worth:

1.) As Cutch goes, so goes the offense. It’s no coincidence in my mind the only two months this team showed any life at the plate are the two months Cutch looked like himself.

2.) This team is sorely missing veteran players with a mean streak. The moment AJ (STFD) Burnett rode off into the sunset, the team lost its edge. Need to find someone this winter with his kick ass and take names style.

3.) Nova needs to be dealt (preferable) or moved to pen.

4.) Speaking of bullpen, Hudson needs to be a dependable 7th or 8th inning guy for this team to succeed next year. Looking for Lithuanian Lightening to really take on a big late inning role with team next season.

piraddict

Hudson is a candidate for the “Liriano solution”.

piraddict

Regarding Cutch ” looking like himself” it is past time to acknowledge that Cutch is schizophrenic. Good Cutch is patient at the plate and drives the ball to right center field. Bad Cutch is anxious at the plate, swings early, rolls over and grounds the ball to the left side of the infield. Which Cutch shows up on any given night?

AttyMike

I suspect that by now, what you see is what you should expect of Hudson. Up and down, but mostly down.

Scott K

Maybe, but they need him to be better since they’re stuck with him.

NMR

Ignoring the appeal to tweeted authority, which has somehow become a thing we have to deal with in this country, it’s worth honing in on that 2012-2013 comparison.

The 2012 team finished with an actual record of 79-83, one game better than their pythag record. What *did* it take to get the 2013 team to 94 wins (88 pythag)?

Well, a lot.

In a career-defining performance, Huntington added 9.9 WAR at just $8m total through the acquisitions of Russ Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Mark Melancon. Read that sentence again. ~10 WAR at the less $1m per. And all but about 1 WAR of that was *net*, meaning addidtive to the 2012 team. Only Martin replaced a positive performer from 2012 (Mckenry). That’s an almost unfathomably good performance for one offseason. A spectacular effort.

On top of that, it took career years from Cutch (8 WAR), Alvarez (3 WAR), and Marte (5 WAR) plus of course the most inspired deadline of the Huntington era with the Marlon Byrd trade.

That’s what it took. Without a shred of opinion, that’s what it took to turn the 2012 club into a strong contender. A 90-game winner.

NorCal Buc

The 2013 starting pitcher was AJ, an improvement over Eric Bedard, who started ’12 season. The fan base of naysayers were united in their complaints about the additions of Martin, Liriano, Melancon and Burnett. All were viewed as ‘dumpster dives’. How wrong they were.

2013 also saw the maturation of the young core at the time: Cole, McCutchen, Pedro, Marte and Neil Walker.

In a similar vein, I’d like to see a maturation in talent of a few of the following in 2018: Polanco, Frazier, Luplow, Taillon, Williams, Kuhl and Glasnow. I’m not seeking All-Star talent, but at least major league average talent for their position. Can Taillon be a legitimate number 2 starter? Will Williams and Kuhl continue their success this year, and be solid millde-of-rotation pieces? Will Polanco mature into an everyday starter in RF who hits .280 with 20HRs?

I felt the talent is here for the pieces to be greater than the sum; Cutch cannot feel the entire pressure to be the sole power hitter. Were Marte, Polanco, Cutch, Cole and Josh Bell to simply play up to their capability, then the younger talent may be able to help push this team to another playoff push.

John W

Correct. As you say, in addition to the incredible additions the 2013 received (more payroll room that offseason)they were a considerably better team than the 2017 Pirates in terms of run differential. And Cutch was peak, 8 WAR Cutch in 2013. Cutch will probably project for about 3.5 WAR in 2018.

This team has a -71 run differential and probably finishes worse than that. But yeah besides that, this is just like 2012. (If I recall correctly, I thought Tim said the offseason last year year was like 2012 but maybe I thinking of someone else).

piraddict

Do you remember Cutch’s 2012 season? One of his worst. Did it foreshadow 2013?

John W

Um what are you talking about. Cutch was 25 years old in 2012 and put up 5.8 fWAR. He came into 2013 projected somewhere between 5.3-5.5.

Coming into 2018 31 years old(on downside of aging curve) probably projected somewhere near 3.5 WAR.

piraddict

My guess is that the projections for next year under predict what he will do. Too bad I can’t buy a call on Cutch’s WAR exceeding predictions.

NMR

Remind us how old Cutch was in 2012?

piraddict

Yes Cutch was younger, but my point was that a mediocre year can be followed by a better one.

jaygray007

it’ll definitely take a few bouncebacks and some creativity…

they probably have to deal one solid starter (Mercer or Harrison) and hope that his replacement (SeanRod/Newman, or Moroff) is as good, and spend those savings on something like a really good RP.

It might take, god forbid, dealing two decent prospects for an underpaid but good player with only 1-2 years of control. Like… the Soler for Wade Davis trade is something i hope they can replicate.

all it’ll take is a little bit of damn urgency and a few existing players just getting back to career norms. Urgency that we haven’t seen for a while.

oh yeah, and Glasnow popping a 4+ WAR season would sure be welcome too 🙂

NMR

As a fan, I can get into the *feeling* of this club being close to turning it around. I absolutely can. It *feels* like the pieces are close to being there, with kids we’ve been talking about for what feels forever joining a few stalwart vets for one last run.

It’s when I get into the numbers that this thing becomes so damn depressing. I mean, this offense is *terrible*. Awful. All the feel goods we’ve been having about Moroff and Luplow showing legitimate signs of improvement belies the fact that they’ve been the second worst team in the league over the second half. They’re getting lapped in the power department, and don’t even have the OBP skills to come close to making that up. There’s a ton of room for improvement, it’s just basically gotta happen across the board.

The bullpen has one reliably good arm going into next year. No pen in the league has had as much inequality as the Bucs’. No pen has gotten a higher percentage of production from one arm. The Pirates have shown that strong and deep pens can allow a club to play above its talent, and this simply has to be an area where they excel next year. At least two more high-end performers are needed, a la the Melancon-Grilli-Watson pens.

And even all *that* is predicated on the rotation playing up over a full season as they have the talent to do. The lone area on the roster that actually has the talent of a strong contender performing like it and staying healthy.

jaygray007

agreed on the ‘pen and rotation. I definitely advocate getting a “proven” guy to help Rivero. Like i said, just doing something like what the Cubs did to get Wade Davis would go a long way.

the offense is so damn confusing. I guess first order of business is getting Marte and Polanco to be Marte and Polanco again. Kang certainly wouldnt hurt. those three things alone could make them at least average, right?

NMR

“those three things alone could make them at least average, right?”

That’s a really interesting question!

Feel free to dive into a more rigorous analysis, but just ballparking it…

The Mets are conveniently the definition of “average” in the NL with the median (8th) rank of runs created (668) that also works out to an even 100 wRC+. They’re a good proxy for the Pirates’ situation given park factors and league, so we can guestimate how much additional offense the Pirates would need to be average by looking at the current difference in runs created, which sits at 78.

Polanco unfortunately doesn’t really add much help, considering his average offensive output isn’t actually much better than what the club has gotten from Frazier/Jaso/Osuna. Maybe add tens runs with a full, healthy season.

Kang would obviously be a bigger help, but even he has a similar situation where you’re taking away at bats from a productive hitter (Freese). Rough difference in added runs between Kang and Freese is probably 15 to 20 runs.

Marte looks like he’s clearly the biggest “winner” here. A full season of ~120 wRC+ performance from him is a marked improved over his replacements and his 2017 self, but you’re looking at needing roughly a 40 run improvement. Maybe that’s possible, but it seems like a longshot from this angle.

jaygray007

Thanks for doing that.

hmm. i guess adding a star at SS or C would be the easiest levers to pull.

i guess what i’m getting at is… 1 yr of Jordy plus what kind of crop of prospects gets you 1 yr of a Manny Machado

NMR

All of them? 😉

Seriously though, I think you’re dead on with the positions to be most improved. Jordy has quietly struggled severely for the last three months and provides almost zero upside. Cervelli may or may not be a full-time catcher moving forward, let alone revive above average offense, and Diaz little upside in his bat.

Those may unfortunately be the two most difficult positions to upgrade in the game, but they’re where the Pirates could see the most impact.

piraddict

Cole Tucker will be an upgrade in two years. Valerio two years after that. In 2018 the Bucs will stick with Mercer and look for better WAR from other positions.

jaygray007

do you have any recent memory of stars with 1 year of control who make ~$15 million through arbitration, getting traded?

i think wondering what the ~4 WAR upgrade of Mercer to Machado, and extra ~$10 mill in salary would be worth to us as fans is probably a worthwhile exercise.

is that Mercer and Meadows? is that Mercer and Newman? is that Mercer and Newman and Kuhl and Brault and Nova for Machado and Britton and some salary coverage? i havent thought about it enough.

NMR

I really don’t think a comp exists. It would take an incredible amount to pull him away from a non-rebuilding team, even for just a year.

jaygray007

maybe if the pirates reeeeallly like Luplow/Meadows next year, maybe they could build a Machado deal around Cutch too.

i dont usually give this much thought to hypothetical deals, but i think Machado could literally be one of the few acquireable stars at SS/C. and by acquireable, i basically just mean 1-2 years of control. There’s no acquiring Correa, Lindor, etc.

maybe get really weird and trade Cutch and something for Donaldson, and throw Kang at SS (if he is allowed to come back) / just keep mercer?

NMR

See I think a Cutch-Donaldson deal would have much more legs than anything touching Machado or a current-value stud shortstop. Blue jays have squat for corner outfielders and the Bucs could throw in Freese to cover 3B in JD’s absence.

Otherwise, you’re not gonna be looking at a trade or signing that gets the current value the Bucs. The gap between where they are now and where they need to be is simply far too wide for the resources they have to work with. You’re gonna be looking at something like moving JHay to 3B and betting on Ian Kinsler’s bat bouncing back to a 5 WAR 2B. Like grabbing Yandy Diaz from Cleveland and teaching him to lift the ball. A veteran bounceback or a high-beta prospect breaking out.

piraddict

How many HR could a full time Moroff be expected to hit?

NMR

In this current era? 15-20 should be expected if you gave him 600 PA.

piraddict

So, acceptable power at 2B if the OBP is high enough. His path to kigh OBP may be through lots of walks. Billy Beane would be happy.

Bruce G

I agree the Pirates are not that far from contending next year. I think the bullpen is in better shape now than it was at the beginning of the year, especially adding Kontos into the mix.

The rotation looks to be a potential strength. Cole needs to become more consistent and correct the HR’s allowed problem he’s had. Taillon should be better. Williams was a pleasant surprise this year. There are several options to fill out the remainder of the rotation. If Glasnow has figured things out, then that makes another high-upside arm. It would be nice to get a lefty in there somehow.

The front office needs to plan as if Kang will not be available. I also think the lineup needs another 25+ HR bat. Another need is a high average / OBP hitter. The Pirates don’t have one regular hitter over 0.280.

terrygordon30

Face it, Tim Williams is a well meaning ignorant homer who knows basically nothing about baseball. He is actually a ballet dancer and part time writer of fictional baseball novels.

Hey winers who know so much more than Tim about baseball. How many of you predicted on THIS site that the Pirates were going to be to turn it around after the 2012 season? And when did you predict it would happen? After the fact?

Growing up in Pittsburgh, the city of expert winers, people complained year after year. Complain, complain, complain. And true to form the Pirates won in 1970, 1971, and 1972. It was not until 1973 after Roberto’s death that it should have become obvious to the complainers that we really had something during that period of time.

Back then, we had too many foreigners, and two many players with dark skin. Fans complained that there were not enough white players. Like that worked in the 50s.

Pittsburgh has always had its complainers who could not appreciate what they had, but it had also had a minority of fans who actually knew baseball.

Keep up the good work Tim. We need more ignorant people like you!

BuccosFanStuckinMD

One more thing….the Pirates need to start trusting their own prospects – and give guys like Moroff, Weiss, Luplow, Osuna, Kingham, etc. all legitimate shots to have significant roles with the team in 2018. Let them sink or swim. Weiss, for example, is highly underrated. I’ve seen him play several times over the years – the kid can play 2-3 positions adequately – and the kid can hit. He just needs a chance.

terrygordon30

Thank you. Give them a chance!!!

BuccosFanStuckinMD

I would like to sit here and say I agree, that the Pirates could be contenders next year (2018), but a lot would need to go right and a lot of positive changes would need to take place between now and April. Quite frankly, I don’t have a lot of confidence in NH or the FO to make quality trades, signings, and other personnel decisions. Their track record the past 2-3 years is not a strong one – the decisions to keep guys like Stewart, SRod, and Jaso in the starting lineup over young players and the Nicasio debacle just erodes even more trust and faith in their competence. To dismiss that reality is to be blind.

If this management will stop wasting precious payroll on reclamation projects that have shown to have very low probability of success – and stop blocking their own prospects with mediocre veterans – then maybe they will have a shot next year. Jaso, SRod, Stewart, Hudson, Nova – all need to go, even if they have to just be released outright. Only Nova would have any trade value, and his cannot be very high. They may have to consider moving some combination of Cervelli, Mercer, and/or Harrison to improve positions of weakness – namely third base and right field. They won’t get established major leaguers, but maybe a young player who is currently blocked in someone else’s system.

The Cubs will be as good, if not better next year – because they will spend the money. The Cards will likely add and the Brewers and Reds are on the rise and both have better lineups them the Pirates. It will not be easy. The Pirates would need Cole, Polanco, and Marte to all step up and be the players they were/are expected to be. They would need Cutch to at least match 2017. They would need Glasnow to live up to his previous prospect status, while Kuhl to improve on his 2017 season. They have to get more production from third base – I am not counting on Kang, but his return would be a huge boost.

terrygordon30

The Pirates are at a stage where they have so many pitching prospect who are highly rated that signing reclamation projects who make 5 or more million a year does not make sense anymore. Start trusting the highly rated prospects who are cheaper and often have a higher ceiling.

dr dng

Five needs I see:
1) 3rd base… Need a power hitter who can play defense and stay out of trouble.
(Is anyone available by free agency or trade?)
2)Right Field-Sorry, I’m not sold on Polonco. I hope we have internal options there.
3) At least one quality BP arm
4) Change of philosophy on how to use players and bullpen. Also, can we lay down a bunt once in a while?
5) Someone who will hold players accountable for their performance.
(But remember, I am new to this.)

Brian Z

1) Osuna maybe?
2) Meadows maybe?
3) agreed, something from free agency or a trade
4) Bunts are illegal in baseball….I presume
5) that ain’t happening

Darkstone42

They have to be aggressive in the off-season, in the trade and free agent markets, and with a payroll increase. They have to spend at least $110 million next year, I think, to make the quality additions the team needs without costing themselves talent and depth elsewhere. They might need to even push $120 million.

If they intend to contend next season, they have to sell out on it. There’s talent here, but not enough, not yet. They need another good bat, maybe two. They need a more reliable bullpen. They could use a steady, trustworthy starting pitcher (though I think if they’re prioritizing, this is more of a luxury than a need).

Marte, McCutchen, and Bell are a good start for a lineup. Harrison, Polanco, and Cervelli/Diaz are nice pieces. But they need to upgrade on the left side of the infield. I like Freese, Moroff, and Frazier, but none of them are everyday caliber players. You can get by with Mercer at short if you upgrade at third (or vice-versa, if there’s an impact shortstop out there, though I think there’s more help internally at short close to the Majors than at third).

Chris C

I think people are pretty rashly dismissing Moroff. He has great plate discipline and his power has spiked. We hardly know yet what kind of player we have in him. He very well could be a good, everyday 2b basemen. If Kang does not return-this could allow JHay to slide over to 3b.

Darkstone42

I don’t know that he has the contact skill to hit consistently enough for his power and discipline to play up. He’s very slick with the glove, though, I’ll grant. I just don’t see him being any better than average, and we need more than that somewhere on the infield, because right now we’re going into 2018 with at best three average and one below-average infielders.

Scott K

Bell is not average. Bell is going to be a stud 1B who will hit 30+ HR with 100+ RBI’s for years to come.

As for rest of your comment, unfortunately spot on.

Darkstone42

Bell posted 0.8 fWAR this season, 23rd among qualified first basemen, and well below average. If you want to argue that’s because of a terrible start defensively, let’s instead look at him as a hitter, where his 111 wRC+ was 18th, and also below average.

Just to be average, Bell has to be an elite hitter. He’s taken big steps forward defensively, but he’s still pretty bad with the glove. To be a “stud” 1B, he’ll need to post a wRC+ upwards of 150. That’s a big jump from where he is.

Unless he can figure out how to regain the contact skill he had in the minors without sacrificing the power which he found in the Majors, he’s not going to make that jump. And that’s a big if.

I think best case for Bell next season is 2.5 WAR and a 125 wRC+, which would be average.

piraddict

How many of those other IB men were rookies? Next to Bellinger Bell is arguably the best rookie in the League. Factor that into your calculations.

jaygray007

i’m afraid that Bell has become the most overrated pirate 🙁

which hurts cuz i really really like him.

defense is really really important 🙁

NMR

Man is he in a tough spot…I feel like the expectations placed on him are enormous, and offense around the league is sky-high right now.

Even during Bell’s very good second half, he’s still been the 17th most valuable 1B. Lucas Freaking Duda was basically handed to Tampa, and is outhitting Bell. Everybody mashes now, it seems.

piraddict

Juiced ball?

NMR

It’s not hurting, but Bell gets to hit with that ball as well.

I think it’s just one of those cyclical things more than anything. You’ve got a handful of excellent, natural 1B right now (Votto, Rizzo, Goldy) plus an influx of guys filtering down from other positions like Belinger, Santana, Gallo, Zimmerman, Carpenter. And an offensive environment that’s rewarding jacking fly balls leading to breakouts from guys like Smoak, Lomo, Alonso.

Hell, there’s even some huge names struggling this year (Miggy, Myers, Davis).

piraddict

Good point. Bell is young. 2020 should be his ” year of the beast”.

Arik Florimonte

Not a bad debut, really. His defense has gotten so much better in just one year, and he has a clue at the plate. It’s not hard to imagine continued growth in both.

NMR

Not a bad “debut” at all! You can see the progression coming; last year was cutting his teeth with a contact-heavy, conservative approach. This year clearly focused more on tapping into his raw power. I have little doubt he’ll eventually be able to combine the two, only to what degree I’m not sure.

Defensively, the arm is atrocious but he’s gotten noticeably more comfortable fielding the position. He’s not a liability.

Roberrto21

The totally listless play, who cares if we have a losing season, let’s play Jaso and Stewie because….?….Marte no power and no plate discipline, Cutch slipping back again, Polanco and Meadows constantly injured, no indication that Polanco will ever reach what was thought to be his ceiling, no indication that Nova, Kuhl and Williams any better than No. 4s, no indication Glasnow will ever be MLB ready, gaping hole at 3b, mediocre bullpen aside from Rivero, a clueless GM prone to foolish giveaways (Hanson, McGuire, Nicasio, etc) and an owner who won’t spend what is needed to compete and aside from Keller and Meadows no impact players on horizon. So Bell, Cole, Taillon, Rivero and Jhay…that is close to strong contender with Cubs, Dodgers, Nats, D-backs? They cannot even beat a team in tear down like the Reds. No, they are not contenders next year or the year after….

Nicholas P

Can I agree and disagree . With a couple moves they can be really good ! They will NOT make those moves .

rickmontgomery

Tim, I own a set of genuine Hara-Kiri blades you can borrow. It’s the honorable thing to do in light of your egregiously ludicrous suggestion that the Pirates might be able to contend next season!

rickmontgomery

I guess you’re too young to remember Belushi’s Samurai Chef. Yep. They’d work great on any meat.

Darkstone42

Please Tim.

Slicing brisket is reason enough to own anything.

(Seriously, as a barbecuer myself, I am devastated every time I have to trim some of the fat off a brisket with a blunt knife. It’s so much sweatier.)

rich

First, I am assuming that Kang won’t play in 2018. So starting with a 48 WAR wins and assuming no trades or free agents, we get to about 84 wins. And it would cost us about $97 million:

– Projected starting lineup adds about 18 wins at a cost $60 mil (Marte-5, Cutch-2.5, Polanco-1, Harrison-2.5, Mercer-1.4, S-Rod-1, Bell-3, and Cervelli-1.5)
– Bench about 4 @ $7 mil (Diaz-.5, Freeze-1.5, Frazier-1.5, Osuna-0, Moroff-0.5)
– Starting Pitching about 10 @ $18 mil (Cole-2.5, Nova-2, Taillon-2.5, Kuhl-1.5, Williams-1.5)
– Bullpen about 3.5 @ $12 mil (Rivero-2.5, Kontos-1, Hudson-0, Neverauskas-.5, Glasnow-.5, Brault-0, Schugel-1)

Due to inexperience, there is a lot of uncertainty in those projections. If we have about $10 million in the budget, we could probably shore up a spot in the bullpen and the bench. But that Nicasio waiver and decreased attendance has me worried about our budget.

I’d love to trade Cervelli and Hudson but we won’t have many takers and trading Cutch and/or Cole opens other needs.

Bill W

Disagree I have lost faith in the GM and I never did have faith in the manager. Joe Sheehan is just tweeting an opinion that really does not make sense. We need more than a couple hundred utility players and over hyped pitchers.

joe s

I think you nailed it.

Michael Sankovich

I, too, agree (lost faith in the GM). The magic touch he had those 3 years has vanished. I’m a fan, so now that he’s going to be around awhile, I hope he can get it back. But with the budget he’s given by ownership, it’s gonna be hard.

Blaine Huff

I disagree.

The problem the Pirates have is that almost all of their roster spots are filled by ML competent, but unspectacular players.

During that brief time the Pirates were winning, there was a core of high-talent surrounded by a supporting cast…now it’s just a supporting cast.

Fun fact: Jeff Locke’s 2015 FIP is better than all qualified starters in the 2017 rotation.

piraddict

It is a true trueism that stars win championships. This year the Pirates stars didn’t play with their normal mojo. That doesn’t mean that it is gone for good.

AttyMike

I agree with much of this. Most of the internal replacements coming up are jacks of all trades, masters of none. Ain’t gonna get you to strong playoff contender.

Thomas H

Exactly. Every player on this team has serious flaws in his game, whether it’s incompetent fielding, horrible plate discipline, lack of power, or inexperience. There’s not one “complete” player on the team.

Blaine Huff

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think the Pirates have (m)any bad players.

A guy like Mercer is a good example. He’s competent, but not spectacular. He dependable. And, he makes about $4M. If you want something more than him…a guy that’s a notch or two above, it would probably cost about $15M/year.

The Pirates are in a ridiculous position, because they’ve got a team full of players like that…good enough to be in the majors and starting…but getting a better player would cost a lot more. Even if the Pirates upgraded half of their guys…you’d be looking at a payroll increase in the $30-50M range.

It’s like their stuck with a tad above average in so many positions.

Thomas H

I 100% agree with what you’re saying. To compare them to the 2012 team, no one on the Pirates currently is as bad as Clint Barmes or Rod Barajas were then. But no one is as good as the 2012 version of Andrew McCutchen, Neal Walker or even Pedro Alvarez was either. Other than addressing third, the moves that need to be made this offseason aren’t obvious now like they were then. But they need to upgrade 3-4 every day players to be “serious contenders.” Not sure they can possibly do that when their expected payroll is 2/3 of the average MLB payroll.

NMR

The thing about “addressing third” is that every position but CF and 2B has been worse.

Which is not to say that they *shouldn’t* be trying to address 3B but that your point very much stands; lots of areas need improvement, few of which are easily done.

piraddict

The play in LF, CF, RF, 1B and C will better if the Pirates stand pat with what they have. Only 3B needs an upgrade, and that is badly needed. Of course SS needs upgrading, but I’ll wait for Cole Tucker. Mercer/Newman will be enough for 2018.

NMR

Very, very good point. The Pirates are stuck in the mediocrity trap. Only the bullpen contains “easy” spots to fix, and there’s a ton of them there.

piraddict

Yet consider this: was it not just a year ago that the outfield of Marte, Cutch and Polanco was universally considered to be “the dream outfield”. Was everybody just stupid and those ballplayers were really chumps and had everyone fooled? Or did a Black Swan happen with a combination of drug suspensions and injuries, “one off”, do them in?

piraddict

You have been fooled by a mirage caused by the juxtaposition of a number of negative events. The top five players underperformed. That is rare. Some of those ” mediocre” players: Cutch, Marte, Polanco, Cole, Taillon, are going to perform really well next year. You will look like a nabob of negativity in retrospect.

NMR

I genuinely cannot tell how much of this is sarcasm. 😉

John W

Another small discrepancy with this lazy “it’s like 2012 all over again argument” is that as poor as the 2012 team played down the stretch is was a considerably better ballclub than the 2017 Pirates.

The 2012 team finished the year with a -23 run differential. This 2017 squad sits at -64 and probably finishes even lower.

joe s

This seems like more wishful thinking. The pirates will tinker around the edges trading more value then they get back and low and behold they are a 90+ win team. I don’t get it or believe it.

John W

Well that is because you are logical. I will guarantee that when the Pirates 2018 projections come out on Fangraphs they won’t be anywhere near 90 wins.

Somewhere between 79-82 wins. Probably closer to 79.

leowalter

You call this ” logical thinking ” ?
” The pirates will tinker around the edges trading more value then they get back and low and behold they are a 90+ win team. I don’t get it or believe it.” What is the logic in that quote ?

Scott K

Listening to you one would think Fangraphs is the Devine word of God for baseball fans.

John W

You’re right Scott, projection systems are not nearly as meaningful as opinions from Joe Sheehan or Tim Williams as far as an estimation of a team’s true talent.

Scott K

Then why do we even need to play out the season? Let Fangraphs just tell us who will play in October every March.

I’m sure Fangraphs were spot on about Rockies, Dbacks, Mets, Brewers, and Twins just to name a few, this season.

NMR

Because that’s not how baseball works.

That’s also not what we’re talking about here, in this conversation. We’re talking about *expected* performances, which is exactly what projection systems objectively judge. That’s why they’re pertinent to this conversation.

What’s the sense of having a debate about tail-end probabilities? Nobody can predict large over or under performances. Doing so is guessing. I don’t pay a subscription fee for one man’s guess.

Projections provide an objective baseline for everything we discuss here.

Scott K

Objective baseline? Who gets to decide this? The problem with this limited way to view the sport is its limited to a linear baseline.

Baseball like all human endeavors is unpredictable and prone to cycles of ups and downs that change at a moments notice for no apparent reason.

Just look at Dodgers as a recent example. How can a team predicted at start of year to be strong, who has exceeded these expectations for 4.5 months, turn into one of the worst teams in MLB for last 3 weeks?

Analytics has a role, but it’s not the be all, end all, divine word on baseball that some protray it to be.

NMR

This game is relative, Scott.

The Pirates aren’t playing themselves, they’re playing the rest of baseball. If we don’t use an independent, objective system to provide a baseline projection of performance and record then we’re left without means of honest debate.

We’re left with the Scott K. of the Mets saying they’re close to 90 wins if only all their starters get healthy and perform next year. We’re left with the Scott K. of the Giants they’re close to 90 wins if half they’re starters return to peak performance. Half a baseball has an argument for being a potential 90-win club in this manner.

I, personally, feel this is an antiquated way to analyze the game. That’s why I use projection systems as a baseline. That’s why literally every organization in baseball uses projection systems in some manner or another as a baseline.

NMR

“Objective baseline? Who gets to decide this?”

Multiple independent, unbiased computer systems performing uniform and consistent calculations across baseball?

If your argument boils down to “shit happens!” then why are you spending your time here? Why do you care at all about baseball analysis?

NMR

The faux-analytic slant of this site is one of its stranger characteristics, IMO.

John W

Agreed. Projection system = “yinzers” but a Joe Sheehan tweet is is a true revelation.

NMR

#objective

John W

#well deserved

Kerry Writtenhouse

Bet you’re fun at parties!

John W

I don’t know, never had much fun at a party serving koolaid.

Kerry Writtenhouse

Touche

beaverjp

I like the idea of this article, the Pirates have some chess pieces to work with and some holes to fill. I’d like to see them get creative again. But part of me believes mgmt is taking the stance that the team’s fortunes rest on the 3 starters, the OF, Bell JHay and Cervelli – and the team will sink or swim accordingly at least thru ’18. In my way of thinking my question is if they can get back to scoring 4.5 a game unless everything goes 100% to plan I’m not sure how that happens. I am more inclined to believe pitching as a unit may be able to get under 4 era as a unit starters need to be their best selves for the better part of the year- I think the best developments have been in the pen and hope they add more. But if the offense falls to 4.0 /gm next year they’ll be living on the edge every night even if the pitching squad is lights out.

Jnwilson

You’re a brave man Tim. I don’t disagree but I also do not have faith that the FO will get creative or aggressive.

Scott K

Not sure creativity or aggressivensee is needed. Addition by subtraction by saying bye bye to Nova, and using this money to bring in a true middle of the order 3B and a FU type reliever or SP to help team regain the edginess lost when Burnett retired.

john fluharty

To trade Nova they would have to find someone that actually wanted him. That didn’t happen this past off-season and he has not exactly done anything to improve his stock.

John W

Who are you going to bring in as true middle of order 3b for the approximately 9M you say you will be saving on Nova by trading him?

Scott K

I didn’t say $9mm. But even if that is the figure, I believe that player is out there. Just last year Brewers found such a player for a whole lot less.

leefoo

Trade Cutch? Well, he had two good months last year and two good months this year.

Other than that, he has been, as Tomlin would say “Below the line”.

I can’t see us getting a lot for him. I would rather that we pick up his option and keep him, even IF all we get are two monster months a year.

Bill W

FOO if NH AND CH performed as well as Cutch I would be very happy! Plus Cutch is a professional who does not pontificate and tell me how smart he is!!! OH FIRE HURDLE!

leefoo

until Austin Meadows is ready.

until Austin Meadows is ready. healthy.

I fixed that for you, Tim. 🙂

John W

LOL my favorite part of this article:

“That doesn’t mean the Pirates can just show up with the same team next year and contend. I think that would put them on pace for the same type of result as this year — on the verge of being a top contender”

BaseRuns record of 63-80 = “verge of being top contender” Let’s say we are exceedingly generous and give the Pirates 5 more wins for a full year of Marte and Kang that gets all the way to 68-75.

I’ll sit back and wait for Tim’s “justification” that this 2017 team wasn’t “far off” from being a contender.

Roberrto21

Show up with this same team and they will lose more than 90 next year!

Michael

Front office will let us down again so I am not sure where Tim’s logic you are referencing is either

thecrow124

Watson and Hudson alone blew 15 games, if they only lose half of those, that is 7 more wins. That is 70-73, then give the combo of Kang and Marte 4 wins, and the Pirates are at 74-69. Glasnow made 13 starts that gave the team almost no chance to win. With 1/3 of this going the other way, that gives you a 78-65 record. Granted, that is a LOT of ifs, but not inconceivable to see a contending team, even with the starting pitching the Pirates have seen out of the rest of their staff.

AttyMike

I agree with this post to the extent that it reaffirms the truth that the Pirates can be successful if and only if everything goes right for them. Of course it never does. They don’t have the depth of talent or managerial willingness (or creativity) to get over the inevitable problems that occur every season. If the initial plan doesn’t work, they seem to be willing to suffer along with whatever the consequences, sitting on their hands. The division slumped for them this year — they really missed a great opportunity to invest some money to address their problems and get to the playoffs. That investment would have been like buying stock low. They really missed a great chance to overcome their biggest challenge — the other teams in their division who are better managed and more financially advantaged. The coaches do work hard to help guys through slumps, etc. but that’s about it. This season was a great example of this truth about this management team. I bet the division rebounds next year. Even if the Pirates do get creative to contend (which I firmly doubt they’ll do), they may finish even further back than they ended up this year.

John W

Not even close- that’s not the way it works. You just don’t handpick the things or plays that went wrong. BaseRuns and run differential give you a much better glimpse at true talent. And both of them have us considerably worse than our overall record.

thecrow124

I wasn’t trying to suggest that events could be cherry picked to change a season. I was simply trying to point out that had less than half of the things that had gone wrong, simply didn’t go wrong, the Pirates season could have been completely different. You argue that the talent isn’t there to win, and in reality, it probably isn’t, but this Pirates literally gave away 15 or more games that they were winning in the 8th inning or later. That may reflect the talent level, but it is definitely not normal.

As for run differential, it is a good caliber for the current talent level, and predicting the rest of the current season, it doesn’t really have much bearing on next season.

To be honest, I don’t think the talent level on this team can really compete, but saying they have no chance to compete is just wrong.

John W

Crow I agree with what you say. There’s a “chance” they could compete for a 2nd WC or even the division but those odds are well, well below 50%. And you could probably say that for all but a handful of teams in 2018. I mean a lot of teams could win 86-90 games if a multitude of things break their way but most times they don’t and most time those teams win between 77-83 games. I think that is the most likely outcome for the 2018 Pirates but I certainly hope they exceed that.

Catch22

Argue with Sheehan, he has a twitter account…

John W

Tim is the one that views this 2017 season as being “on the verge of being a top contender”.

Catch22

So does Sheehan….He’s a national guy saying the talent is here to win 90. 90 wins = top contender.

John W

I don’t care what Sheehan says. I’m much more interested in what an objective projection system will project this team to do in 2018 because that carries a lot more weight than what someone like Sheehan says in a tweet.

And this team won’t project to win anywhere near 90 games. Probably be lucky to project to win 81.

Doesn’t mean it’s impossible they win 90. Just that it is highly unlikely.

Roberrto21

They don’t pass the eye test and they are playing this September like it’s early March and they don’t care if they lose. That shows they are nowhere close to being a strong contender.

Catch22

I kinda care what outsiders think, rather than listen to a bunch of yinzer’s saying the sky is falling.

John W

Yeah my man, you want to put your money where your mouth is about the 2018 fangraphs projection. LMAO- yinzers!!

If this article is convincing to you as far as being logical and well argued you have more problems than I realize.

Chris C

It is not a question of “logic” which only deals with strict necessity. You may not find it “reasonable” which is clearly open to debate. I can completely see how the Pirates are close to a 90 win team but that doesn’t mean it will be easy getting there-there are a lot of important question marks and different decisions to be made. Pitching is the most important area to upgrade in my mind: what kind of step forward do Kuhl and Williams take next year, if any? Does Glasnow take a big step forward and become a reliable MLB starter? What of Nova? Trade him? Can NH build a better bullpen next year? This was a signature for NH for years but not in ’17. Strengthen those 2 areas and the offense becomes less of a issue.

leowalter

Exactly Chris.

Catch22

What did fangraphs project for the Buccos in 2015?

John W

If your argument is projections can be wrong well then congrats. That doesn’t change the fact that they will present a more objective view of the Pirates true talent in 2018 than anything Tim or Sheehan has to say.

I don’t remember what they said in 2015 but I’m guessing something like 86 wins off top of my head. Could be wrong.

Catch22

Yeah you’re wrong, but I won’t bring it up to you multiple times per day…

Steelers time, enjoy your day, your projections, trolling Tim and winning the award for being the most negative *fan* on PP.

John W

I hate football but thanks.

Catch22

Also, for what it’s worth – those projection systems were dead wrong on the Pirates during the 3 year run.

dcbuccofan

Not too mention the Royals. I think they were projected ro finish last in their division the year they went to the series.

John W

Let Elias Diaz take over as starter… you mean the guy who has a WRC+ near 60 and is one of the worst framing catchers in MLB this year? That guy?

leowalter

You mean the Elias Diaz who has appeared in the grand total of 42 MLB games ? Who was voted the best defensive catcher in every minor league he has played in ? Who won the Captain’s award as the best defensive catcher in MiLB after the 2015 season ? Who missed all but 32 games last season, and has had 138 MLB ABs so far this season to show whether he is a player who can be a regular ? You are close to moron land right now.

John W

You mean the Elias Diaz who rates as one of the worst framers in MLB this year losing over 1.5 calls a game or almost a full win at -7 runs.

The guy who who has a WRC+ of this the last few years

2015Indy 106
2016 Indy 66
2017 Indy 76
2017 MLB 59

The guy who projections say “should” have a 66 WRC+.

A guy who is less than 3 months away from turning 27.

I know math is a difficult subject for you but if Diaz framed the same he has this year and caught 100 games he would cost this team 20 runs or 2 wins

Arik Florimonte

Diaz’ minor league framing has been roughly between about average and +1%. Premature to judge him based on a short MLB dataset.

NMR

I’m not getting between you two here, but one thing that really surprised me about Diaz’s defense was how relatively poorly it graded out per BP and Davenport metrics in the minor leagues.

I don’t know how much anyone wants to vouch for minor league defensive metrics, but they didn’t come close to backing the eye test honors he received.

Diaz is also about 20 lbs heavier than his 2015 playing weight, when he generally peaked in prospect status. The arm strength is obvious, but he hasn’t looked terribly athletic to me.

beaverjp

One thing to consider is that $10m savings may have a better use somewhere else but it’s debatable

John W

If Elias Diaz framed the way he has in 2017 and caught about 100 games in 2018 he would cost this team probably somewhere near 25-30 runs or 2.5-3 wins.

Not even getting into the fact he probably projects to have a WRC+ in high 60s or low 70s

beaverjp

Definitely. They’d have to get that much war with the switch.

John W

Total nonsense. This team was projected between 81-83 wins with a full season of Kang and Marte. That likely would not have happened. This team would not have been a contender with a full season of Kang and Marte. And it’s highly unlikely Kang is back next year.

No objective projection system projected this team to be a playoff worthy even with a full season of Kang and Marte.

Is anyone aware that Marte would be on pace for less than 2 WAR this year over full season?

Scott K

You should write an article on why Pirates will suck for the next 4 years under NH. I’m sure it would be a big hit with all the doom and gloom chicken little types like you John.

John W

You should brush up on your reading comprehension. Simply because I don’t subscribe to the theory that this is close to a 90 win team, does not mean I’m declaring they “suck”. Or they are going back to the Littlefield days as Tim likes to insinuate about anyone who thinks the Pirates window has closed for the foreseeable future. I’m saying the same thing I was saying more than a year ago- this is a middling team for the foreseeable future. Not horrible, but certainly not good without a lot of 80th percentile outcomes or better. I actually said a year ago this 2017 team was probably a 500 team at best(clearly I was wrong- we are much worse) and I had you and Tim saying the same thing a year ago about how I was a doom and gloomer and worst case scenario… etc etc

I wasn’t predicting the Pirates to be middling team in 2014, 2015 or even 2016. But the course changed dramatically in 2016 as far as NH’s moves and anyone who denies that is simply not being honest.

leowalter

Give me your analysis of the Cardinals and why you do/don’t think they are a strong team. Only then will I judge your ability to analyze teams

John W

I’m not sure you are up to this Leo but first I will ask you to define “strong”.

If you are asking me if they project to be better than the Pirates in 2018- yes, most definitely.

Scott K

Just keep telling yourself you’re the voice of reason if it makes you feel better.

What joy it must be for you to watch the Pirates. They lose and you feel vindication for being right. They win and you feel happy your team won. Or do you?

rareglass

This team a contender next year? In your dreams!

piraddict

Not this team today, this team next year.
Who will likely play better?
Cutch, option year
Marte, mind focused
Polanco, realizes Luplow can take his job
Bell, rookie year over
3B, if Kang can’t play Bucs upgrade position over Freeze by winter fA or trade.
C Diaz replaces Stewart
SP, Each of Cole, Taillon, Williams, Kuhl, Glasnow improve.
BP, Rivero, Kontos, Never…,Schugel, Kingham and two others will be a significant upgrade to the 2017 BP.
So, it is easy to see upside to 2018.

bucsws2014

Upside to >.500, sure that’s possible and maybe likely due to pitching. Upside to 90 wins… dubious. Still light on offense and pitching only wins over the course of a season when the defense is solid. It’s not.

piraddict

Depends on their upgrade at 3B, and how the catchers Cervelli and Diaz play.

piraddict

Depends on how far certain players bounce back. Resist recency bias!

gashuffer

yeah can’t wait for supernova for 2 more years

piraddict

Nova is the pitcher I would trade this winter if there is a decent market. Bucs need to go younger:
Cole
Taillon
Williams
Kuhl
Glasnow

Nuke Laloosh

Brault needs to be in there. Want to get even younger? Trade Cole while his value is high. Certainly wouldn’t be a popular move but he won’t be resigned and the return could be outstanding. One spot the Pirates have depth is in pitching. Take advantage of it while you can. Cole personally drives me crazy with his inconsistency. However, when he’s on, he’s damn good.

piraddict

For a great return I’d be all in for trading Cole this winter.

beaverjp

Marte didn’t look real hot pre suspension with the disclaimer that his defense has been on point.

Catch22

Might have been because Marte knew he has getting suspended and had that constantly on his mind…I’m not making excuses, but combine that with missing 80 games and trying to get your game legs under him. The man averaged over a 5 fWAR the past 4 years.

beaverjp

The concern is that his O was league average in August. What I do like is that his reverse platoon continues to be very good hopefully he figures out how to hit lefties.

Catch22

People outside of Pittsburgh think the Pirates rotation will take a big step next year. Combined with healthy full seasons from Polanco and Marte….Get the bullpen sorted out and they just might have something.

beaverjp

I think the future may be a whoever’s healthy platoon of Meadows and Polanco

Catch22

I think they might just have something with Luplow.

Nuke Laloosh

I agree. I see Ryan Ludwick when watching Luplow. I’d take that!

beaverjp

I agree 100% with the handling of Luplow and he has deserved to play. Long term not sure where he lands maybe the 4OF beginning next year maybe he could use time in Indy next year until there’s an injury. I comfortable with him playing but hope to see him develop more – he’s good news IMHO.

piraddict

Why not in RF with Polanco as the 4th outfielder? Close to equal playing time for the four.

jaygray007

Maybe plugging in Newman and dealing Mercer is an option too.

They have to keep Polanco healthy. Maybe committing to a Luplow Polanco platoon could help the team in a few ways.

leowalter

I think that it is very important that happens s soon as possible jay, The lack of range and offensive capability at SS is hurting them a great deal.

jaygray007

as reliable as Mercer is now, i think relying on 31+ yr old, 6’3″, 200+ lb dudes to remain good at shortstop for much longer is risky business.

leefoo

The way Polanco keeps getting injured, you might as well just install Luplow as the starter in RF?

ralph j

Dunno if anyone else has ever had a hammy strain. But I got one in the beginning of my Sophomore baseball ear of HS. I reaggrivated twice/it never fully went away until the next season. Felt like I was running with leg braces… like a young Forrest Gump. And he turned out okay.

jaygray007

i see what you’re saying, but i know i’m not ready to *give up* on polanco

NMR

A path to being a “strong contender” almost has to go through Polanco. There simply aren’t any better opportunities for net improvement than him finally becoming a star.

Scott K

I think he needs to lose weight. I hope he uses this winter to get his body right. I strongly believe his hamstring injuries are a result of his body type.

NMR

That could be, Scott. I can’t comment on proper body type for injury prevention, I just don’t think a slashing type of player profile for Polanco is a particularly good one.

Is GP, without an increase in power, more than a 2 WAR player?

leowalter

I just saw a picture of Polanco in a Curve uniform, and realized just how much bigger he has become in that time. He doesn’t even look like the same person.

NMR

Wasn’t the 2013-2014 winter the one where he was posting instagram workout pictures looking like he somehow added 20 lbs of muscle around playing winter ball? Crazy body change in a short amount of time.

Scott K

I totally agree about him needing to hit for more power to be worth more to team. But to hit for more power doesn’t he need to be active instead of on DL? Seriously, he needs to lose body fat and strengthen his core and wrists and forearms to generate more bat speed.

jaygray007

counterpoint: maybe Polanco needs to just become huge with muscle and stop even trying to be fast.

Scott K

Maybe I’m wrong and you’re right, but I don’t remember him having this problem until he bulked up a couple years ago.

jaygray007

even if he does get skinny again, how long can that last? Dude is destined to put on weight. I think it’s just time to embrace it and become an absolute tank haha.

but we agree that his current weight sure isn’t working for him.

jaygray007

I’ve always been skeptical that his one year of success vs lefties was real.

i figure committing to a platoon would keep his hammy a little fresher, and he probably can’t *actually* hit lefties anyway.

A path to being a strong contender probably *at least* goes through Polanco mashing righties again. I figure a Luplow-Polanco platoon could be a good start.

Maybe it’s time for Polanco to give up on being a fast player and just get huge this offseason.

Scott K

I disagree with getting huge portion of your comment. He needs to lose weight. Those hamstrings weren’t made to move that much weight at his top speed.

jaygray007

maybe he just needs to decrease his top speed.

but i’m with you that his current weight sure isn’t working.

i just figure that even if he does lose weight, he’ll still gain weight *eventually* because that’s what happens.

NMR

May not be bad ideas at all, both the pseudo-platoon with Luplow and transitioning Polanco into a power role.

Bill W

I would really really love to plug one of our 100 utility players into that slot! I would rather have Don Slaught!

Michael Sanders

They just have to follow Polanco and his streaks. When he is on a hot streak, bench him. That’s the only time he gets hurt.

john fluharty

LOL

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop

WEDNESDAY: Opinions

THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments