As you could see from the list of Rule 5 eligible players in the Pirates’ organization, the team is going to need some roster space this fall. That’s all the more true because the Pirates currently have six players on the 60-day injured list who’ll have to be added back to the 40-man roster after the season. That means six players have to come off just to accommodate those players.
But have no fear! Potential roster space abounds on this team. The current roster has a level of flotsam that hasn’t been seen since the earliest, abysmal days of Neal Huntington’s tenure as general manager. They could remove darn near half the roster and never miss anybody. Here’s a list of possibilities:
This is easy enough. Left-hander Francisco Liriano, catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Melky Cabrera will all be free agents. It wouldn’t make sense for the Pirates to retain any of them. Liriano and Cabrera built up some goodwill with strong early-season performances, but Liriano has actually struggled for much of the season and Cabrera has tanked in the second half. The former isn’t really that effective any more, as his control remains poor (4.3 BB/9) and his slider isn’t the dominant pitch it once was. His ERA (3.39), as is often the case with relievers, is misleading. He has an xFIP of 4.89. Cabrera’s hitting has steadily fallen off for some time now; he currently has an OPS+ of 85 and a WRC+ of 83. Combined with the fact that he’s a DH trying to play the outfield, FanGraphs gives him a -0.8 WAR.
Cervelli is going to be in a tough position during the off-season. He probably won’t get more than a minor league deal. That wouldn’t be helpful to the Pirates, who are already faced with not knowing whether Elias Diaz is really a major league catcher, given his very poor offense and defense this year. It’s possible he hasn’t recovered from the illness that kept him out early in the year, but adding the uncertainty of a catcher who may need to give up catching due to concussion issues will add exponentially to the uncertainty at a position they need to upgrade.
A big chunk of this list is the result of the Pirates’ desperate attempts to find pitchers who meet their ultra-cheap standards. Since Huntington’s efforts to find pitchers this season have been mind-numbing failures, there are a lot of pitchers on the roster who simply won’t be missed if they’re dropped. Of course, Huntington has a history of valuing years of cheap control over talent, so it may be hard for him to part with many of these guys, regardless of their performance, which doesn’t seem to be a concern. Because of that, the number of pitchers who get dropped this fall will serve as a partial measure of the team’s desire, if any, to improve.
Rookie Davis, RHP: This should be easy. Davis has never had more than middling success in the minors, has always struggled in AAA and has gotten torched in his brief major league chances. And he’s missed much of this year with forearm problems. He does have an option left.
Montana DuRapau, RHP: DuRapau’s stuff is fringy and the Pirates added him to the roster at a time when they were desperate for live bodies. (Well, that’s pretty much all year . . . .) He hasn’t been effective in his brief chances. It’s pretty likely that he’d clear waivers and could be outrighted to AAA.
Luis Escobar, RHP: This probably won’t happen, as Escobar has outstanding stuff, but his command and control haven’t progressed at all in the last several years. He has a 5.2 BB/9 at Indianapolis and struggled badly in his four major league appearances. He still has an option left.
Geoff Hartlieb, RHP: Hartlieb is one of several pitchers listed here who throw hard but have significant command issues. He’s had a very rough time in his major league appearances, but he hasn’t had the control issues in AAA that Escobar has had and he’s less experienced. He also has two options left.
Clay Holmes, RHP: Yet another pitcher with good stuff and poor command, Holmes remains an extreme groundball pitcher and he’s started missing bats in the last year or so. He’s also walking a batter an inning in AAA this year and 6.2 per nine innings in the majors. He has no options left, so the team won’t be able to shuttle him back and forth while he continues his long search for the strike zone. It’s one thing to carry one or two pitchers with good stuff who are trying to develop control, but so far Huntington doesn’t seem to believe that you can’t afford to have a quarter of your 40-man roster and most of your major league bullpen made up of them. The Pirates are going to have to start making some choices.
Parker Markel, RHP: The main argument in Markel’s favor is that he hasn’t had time to establish the same frustrating track records as pitchers like Holmes and Dovydas Neverauskas. He throws hard, although not as hard as some of the other pitchers here, and, sure enough, he’s had control problems since he reached the upper minors. He moved to the bullpen last year in independent ball and looks interesting because he’s struck out a lot of hitters this year, first in the minors with Seattle and recently at Indianapolis. But . . . control problems. Along with some other guys here, it’d make sense for him to get a look in the majors in September.
Alex McRae, RHP: McRae is, at best, an average pitcher in AAA, which is not a sign that he belongs in the majors. He’s been badly overmatched in his chances with the Pirates. He’ll almost certainly come off the roster in the off-season, as he’s strictly an emergency option. He passed through waivers before and will again. It’d behoove him not to elect free agency, because he’s unlikely to find the opportunities elsewhere that he’s gotten with the Pirates.
Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP: Neverauskas throws in the upper-90s and his control isn’t as bad as, say, Holmes’, but he’s been just dreadful in his chances with the Pirates, including 15 gopher balls in just over 60 innings. He’s out of options and he clearly shouldn’t be on the 2020 opening day roster, unless something miraculous happens between now and then, so it’s hard to see him keeping his roster spot.
Yefry Ramirez, RHP: The Orioles have an historically bad pitching staff and they had no use for Ramirez. He also has no options after this year. Enough said.
Yacksel Rios, RHP: Rios has a career ERA of 6.38 in 53 major league games and 4.83 in AAA. He does have an option left, which is worrisome.
Chris Stratton, RHP: Stratton is the one and only pitcher Huntington has picked up who hasn’t been horrendous (unless you count Markel’s three innings). Unlike most of the other pitchers here, he has a track record of being semi-passable (except for the early part of this year), and he’s pitched very well for the Pirates. Depending on what happens the rest of the season, he probably deserves a longer look. He’s out of options.
Erik Gonzalez, UT: The Pirates’ decision to hand Gonzalez their shortstop job was the clearest indication of how little effort they’re putting into upgrading the team. There’s never been any reason to consider him more than what he was in Cleveland: A marginal utility player with (depending on your metric of choice) average or slightly above defense at short and no bat. He’ll be 28 in a few days, so the team’s blatherings about his potential, as if he was still a prospect, were nonsensical. A guy like this makes sense only as an up-and-down player while he still has options and as a guy you stash at AAA on a minor league deal after the options are gone, as Gonzalez’ are. But he’s cheap, which was always the point, so I don’t expect them to drop him.
Kevin Kramer, 2B: The Pirates haven’t shown much interest in Kramer. Despite having several opportunities to call him up, he’s made it to Pittsburgh just long enough to draw one walk. He’s a bat-first second baseman who’s having a below league average season in the suddenly high-octane International League and he’ll be 26 in six weeks. I doubt he’d be one of the team’s top choices to free up a spot, but given their lack of interest I could see it happening if the right, hard-throwing reliever with a 6.50 ERA became available.
Indianapolis has 14 games left. They trail by 11 games in the division and 8.5 games in the wild card.
Altoona has been eliminated from the playoffs.
Bradenton has 12 games left. They trail by 10 games in the division. They can be eliminated as early as today. I’ll note that MiLB has them eliminated already, but that’s an error. Their elimination number is two.
Greensboro has 13 games left. They trail by seven in the division and they are three games back for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot.
Morgantown has 13 games left. They lead by a 1/2 game in the division.
Bristol has 8 games left. They are a 1/2 game out of first place and one game ahead of the third place team. Two teams make the playoffs in each division.
GCL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoffs.
DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoffs.
DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 4-1 over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. They will send out Joe Musgrove for his 26th start tonight. He gave up two runs over 7.1 innings against the Chicago Cubs last time out, with no walks and nine strikeouts. In his prior two starts combined, he allowed 11 runs in 8.2 innings. Musgrove did not pitch when these two teams met earlier in the season. The Nationals will counter with veteran lefty Patrick Corbin, who has a 3.34 ERA in 153.2 innings, with 180 strikeouts and a 1.18 WHIP. He gave up one run over six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers last time out, which followed two runs over six innings against the New York Mets. Corbin had eight strikeouts in each outing. He gave up one run over seven innings against the Pirates earlier this season, striking out 11 batters.
The minor league schedule includes Indianapolis playing a doubleheader today after a rain out last night. Alex McRae and Dario Agrazal are the listed scheduled starters, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them join the Pirates today after two straight days of bullpen games. Domingo Robles goes for Altoona. He gave up four runs on 11 hits over six innings in his last start. His previous outing was his best since joining Altoona, seven shutout innings. Bradenton sends out Brad Case, who has allowed four runs in each of his last two starts, though he has also struck out 12 batters over those 11 innings. Greensboro sends out Will Kobos, who has allowed just two runs in his last three starts combined. Bristol’s Luis Ortiz is coming off of his worst start of the season. He gave up six runs in 3.2 innings six days ago. In his previous four starts combined, he allowed five runs. Morgantown is on their All-Star break until tomorrow. They are sending four players to the NYPL All-Star game tonight.
MLB: Pittsburgh (52-73) vs Nationals (68-57) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (4.59 ERA, 124:32 SO/BB, 137.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (61-65) @ Toledo (58-68) 5:35 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (5.15 ERA, 86:38 SO/BB, 101.1 IP) and/or Dario Agrazal (4.78 ERA, 55:12 SO/BB, 64.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (63-64) vs Hartford (66-59) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (4.83 ERA, 57:18 SO/BB, 82.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (68-58) @ Palm Beach (54-68) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (4.35 ERA, 46:21 SO/BB, 62.0 IP)
Low-A: Greensboro (73-52) @ Delmarva (84-41) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Will Kobos (2.84 ERA, 17:9 SO/BB, 19.0 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (34-27) @ Auburn (21-40) 7:00 PM 8/22 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Rookie: Bristol (30-29) vs Pulaski (39-21) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Ortiz (4.10 ERA, 31:17 SO/BB, 41.2 IP)
GCL: Pirates (15-30) vs Rays (21-24) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (32-36) vs Indians (26-39) 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (53-15) vs Mariners (33-35) 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Indianapolis on Monday, this is not a repeat from yesterday, Ke’Bryan Hayes homers for the second day in a row
Ke’Bryan goes ke’boom 💥
Hayes has now gone deep two games in a row after smashing a leadoff homer in his first AB tonight for @indyindians. He’s reached double-digit homers for the first time in his career.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 19, 2019
From Altoona, two Cam Vieaux highlights from his seven shutout innings
We see you, @CVieaux 💪
Cam is through six scoreless with three hits allowed, six strikeouts and one bat spike. pic.twitter.com/NFiEI9VYO4
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 19, 2019
Finishes off his night
Tip of the 🧢 to @CVieaux for seven shutout innings tonight.
Since returning to Altoona: 13 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 9 SO
We're up, 3-0, entering the eighth. pic.twitter.com/1LjO1kJrm9
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 20, 2019
8/20: Richard Rodriguez activated from injured list. Montana DuRapau optioned to Indianapolis.
8/20: Pirates release Austin Coley.
8/20: Sean Keselica placed on Indianapolis injured list.
8/19: Cole Tucker optioned to Indianapolis.
8/18: Pirates add Montana DuRapau to roster.
8/18: Elvis Escobar activated from Altoona injured list. Tom Koehler placed on injured list.
8/17: Nick Mears promoted to Altoona. Cody Bolton placed on Altoona injured list. Ryan Valdes added to Bradenton.
8/17: Colin Selby placed on Greensboro injured list. Oliver Garcia promoted to Greensboro.
8/16: Pirates release Jake Brentz. Mitchell Tolman and Darnell Sweeney promoted to Indianapolis.
8/16: Adrian Valerio and Jesse Medrano promoted to Altoona. Chase Lambert and Raul Siri added to Bradenton roster.
8/16: Pirates recall Cole Tucker. Geoff Hartlieb optioned to Indianapolis.
8/15: Kevin Kramer placed on Indianapolis injured list.
8/14: Pirates sign Francis Olantilo.
8/14: Osvaldo Bido placed on Bradenton injured list.
8/14: John Bormann retired.
8/13: Pirates sign Isaias Dipre.
8/13: Nicholas Economos assigned to Bradenton.
8/13: Tom Koehler assigned to Altoona. Francisco Cervelli assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
8/12: Pirates recall Mitch Keller. Richard Rodriguez placed on injured list.
8/11: Pirates release Tyler Lyons. Cody Ponce promoted to Indianapolis.
8/11: Clay Holmes activated from injured list. Parker Markel optioned to Indianapolis.
8/11: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Altoona on rehab.
8/11: Rookie Davis assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the Major League single-season leader for triples.
Chief Wilson was in his second season in the majors when he played on the 1909 World Series team. He hit .272 that year and played 154 games. By 1911, he hit .300 and drove in 107 runs. The next year, he clubbed 36 triples, setting an MLB record that still stands and hasn’t even been approached since, with 26 being the highest total since then. Wilson stayed around Pittsburgh until 1913 when he was part of the inexcusable Dots Miller trade to the Cardinals. Wilson had a rifle for an arm, picking up 181 assists in his nine-year career.
Jeff Clement, first baseman in 2010 and 2012. Came over from the Mariners in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade.
Jesse Chavez, reliever for the 2008-09 Pirates. Came over from the Rangers in a deal for Kip Wells.
Ramon Vazquez, 2009 infielder. Signed a two-year deal, but ended up lasting just one season.
Lou Collier, shortstop for the 1997-98 Pirates. Hit .246 in 110 games during the 1998 season.
Murry Dickson, pitcher from 1949 until 1953. Pirates purchased him from the Cardinals for $125,000. Won 20 games for the 1951 Pirates. Finished 66-85, 3.83 in 137 starts and 91 relief appearances during his five seasons in Pittsburgh, playing mostly for last place teams.
Cobe Jones, shortstop for the 1928-29 Pirates. Played the last game of the 1928 season and 25 games the next year.
Jim Mosolf, outfielder for the 1929-31 Pirates. Batted .462 during September of 1929. Played 40 games during the 1930 season, just six as a starter. Mosolf played even less often in 1931, with 39 games total and four starts all season.