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 Post subject: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:25 pm 
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On this foggy Wednesday morning, June 11, 2014, the Pittsburgh Baseball Club stands at 30-34, third place in the National League Central division, 7.5 games behind division leader the Milwaukee Brewers, and 4 games behind the second NL Wild Card position, with 4 teams currently sporting better records for the 2 Wild Card spots.

That's the state of play.

The Pirates find themselves in this position largely due to deficiencies in pitching and defense. Sure, the hitting has been hot and cold, but in terms of real problems, the Pirates have failed on the mound and in the field. Blown saves, poor starts, and a plethora of errors and misplays have led to a team scuffling to keep sight of contending teams.

And now injuries have descended upon the team. Neil Walker, in the midst of his finest season at the plate, is on the disabled list after an emergency appendectomy. Gerrit Cole finds himself on the DL with "shoulder fatigue." And Francisco Liriano will likely end up on the DL with an oblique strain. If you can handle some bad news on that front, read this:

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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:43 pm 
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Wade Miley won't take a lot to get if we act now. He's having a bad year so far. If we're going to give up a bunch of prospects I would go after Chris Archer.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:46 pm 
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urbman21 wrote:
Wade Miley won't take a lot to get if we act now. He's having a bad year so far. If we're going to give up a bunch of prospects I would go after Chris Archer.


That's a tough get given his 6-year, $25.5M deal with the Rays (along with club options for 2020 and 2021). Looks like the Rays, who LOOOOOVE cost certainty, see Archer as a big part of their team's future.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:48 pm 
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They can't and won't go into sell mode yet. They are still only 3 or 4 games out of a wild card spot. I'm sure Neil will try go get a starter, but its not going to be a David Price type of player. They won't pay the price required in terms of prospects for a rental player.

Gotta keep trying with what you have. Sell mode is at least a month away.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:50 pm 
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Besides, we'll have very little to sell, when the time comes.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:59 pm 
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Ralphie wrote:
Besides, we'll have very little to sell, when the time comes.


I listed the options, and they aren't great: Russell Martin, Jason Grilli, Josh Harrison, Pedro Alvarez. Liriano's hurt, so he can't be moved. And Walker's also hurt, so he can't be moved. I do believe, however, that Martin could bring back a nice haul if Huntington decides to go that route. Grilli could also bring back a decent prospect if he continues to do well; teams in contention with bullpen problems always seem to overpay a bit for a nice closer/set-up man.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:02 pm 
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This feels like a year where we'll just have to eat where we are instead of trying to upgrade. We don't really have anything to work with unless we start dipping into the big prospects, and I'm not in favor of doing that for short term solutions. I think any help in the rotation comes in the off-season and from within. Maybe Locke can find his groove again?


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:03 pm 
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Stark's tweet is interesting, considering the report from MLB Trade Rumors that they were shopping Gaby around. Didn't sound like they were looking to buy.

Also I think Cole will be back soon enough that they won't need to buy. Plus Pimentel is being stretched out. They have the bodies and replacing Liriano isn't a tall task this year.

ESPN had them as sellers in a column a couple of days back, but that was with Liriano and Martin viewed as the trade candidates. Without Liriano, who knows.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:05 pm 
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RTJR wrote:
This feels like a year where we'll just have to eat where we are instead of trying to upgrade. We don't really have anything to work with unless we start dipping into the big prospects, and I'm not in favor of doing that for short term solutions. I think any help in the rotation comes in the off-season and from within. Maybe Locke can find his groove again?


I think it depends on what kinds of acquisitions you classify as "short term solutions." Would acquiring Wade Miley and Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks fall under that category, given that the Pirates would control those players through the 2017 and 2018 seasons, respectively? I think any move for a starting pitcher should begin with the idea of getting a guy who would be here at least through next year. That way, Huntington builds up the rather bare-bones 2015 projected rotation along with helping this year's team.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:10 pm 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
Stark's tweet is interesting, considering the report from MLB Trade Rumors that they were shopping Gaby around. Didn't sound like they were looking to buy.

Also I think Cole will be back soon enough that they won't need to buy. Plus Pimentel is being stretched out. They have the bodies and replacing Liriano isn't a tall task this year.

ESPN had them as sellers in a column a couple of days back, but that was with Liriano and Martin viewed as the trade candidates. Without Liriano, who knows.


Don't "need to buy"? If they want to contend, StarlingArcher, the Pirates NEED at least one more solid starter. You can't rely on Cumpton, Locke, and Volquez to hold up 3/5 of the rotation when Cole gets back. And while Liriano hasn't been very good this year, the Pirates can't replace him with ANYONE who can get the same level of strikeouts or possess the same high ceiling.

At the end of the day, pitching depth has failed the Pirates. Sure, they have "bodies." But those bodies haven't performed above replacement level. By WAR, the Pirates have the WORST starting pitching staff in the major leagues. For 2015, the Pirates have only Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole written into the rotation in black ink. If the PBC is going to contend next season, then we'll need to see better options than Jeff Locke, Stolmy Pimentel, and Brandon Cumpton to fill out the rotation. Much better options.

The old adage is entirely true -- you can NEVER have enough starting pitching. And if you end up with a surplus of it, then you can trade it for HUGE returns. It's the most valuable commodity in the sport.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:13 pm 
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I think the FO is going to stand pat. That's pretty much what they did in the offseason, letting AJ go and not re-signing Byrd, because they were going to wait for Polanco and Taillon. One's here, one's not, but that doesn't change the calculus. The jury's still out on whether Mercer has made the leap or not, but I don't see the team doing anything but letting him play or resigning themselves to more Barmes, who seems to be better in spot usage. Harrison's nice month aside, he's still more the player to be named later than an asset that will fetch anything. Martin's too valuable. He won't be let go. So, the only tradeable assets we own are Grilli, who's been hurt and not going to fetch anything like he might have, and Pedro. And I could see a team with a nice cozy park being very interested in Alvarez. I'd trade him for starting pitching in a heartbeat.

But as I said, I don't think the team will do anything drastic but fiddle around the edges and wait for 2015.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:21 pm 
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I don't think it's a contender. I also don't really think dealing for a starter will help much, the bullpen is bad too. Melancon, Watson, and Wilson are the only ones with positive value.

Their low staff WAR is heavily related to Wandy and Morris combining for a -1.5 WAR. They wouldn't get the marginal value you'd expect from a new pitcher given what their staff WAR is on paper.

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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:22 pm 
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I know Pedro is prone to bad throws and is probably at best a .240 hitter, but he's also a potential 40 homer, 100 RBI guy. I don't trade him unless there's someone in mind that's going to help make up the loss of those runs. Who do we have? No one, yet.

Grilli is about all we've got in the big leagues that I would be OK with trading. Though you wonder when other GMs are going to learn their lesson regarding closers.


Last edited by RTJR on Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:25 pm 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
I don't think it's a contender. I also don't really think dealing for a starter will help much, the bullpen is bad too. Melancon, Watson, and Wilson are the only ones with positive value.

Their low staff WAR is heavily related to Wandy and Morris combining for a -1.5 WAR. They wouldn't get the marginal value you'd expect from a new pitcher given what their staff WAR is on paper.


Even if the Pirates aren't a contender, the team needs to build a better 2015 rotation. The starting pitching is not at all "playoff caliber" looking ahead to next year. That could be rectified in the off-season, potentially, but Huntington has a history of acquiring players with additional years of control so that he can bolster the following year's squad. Approaching the trade deadline with that in mind would allow him to improve this year's AND next year's Pirates teams.

Because you cannot go into the 2015 campaign with Cole & Morton as the only proven MLB pitchers. That can't happen.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:29 pm 
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Well, we'll wind up seeing what Cumpton, Pimentel, Locke, and Worley have to offer. "Proven starters" had to prove it somewhere. Then they'll know how many pitchers they'll need and how many will have to be placeholders for Taillon and Kingham in the offseason.

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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:39 pm 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
Well, we'll wind up seeing what Cumpton, Pimentel, Locke, and Worley have to offer. "Proven starters" had to prove it somewhere. Then they'll know how many pitchers they'll need and how many will have to be placeholders for Taillon and Kingham in the offseason.


No. They won't know how many pitchers they'll need. That's the thing. Pitchers get hurt. A lot. You were talking about how the Pirates didn't need another starter this past off-season because Jameson Taillon would be coming up in June. How'd that work out? Going into this season, none of Liriano, Cole, or Morton had thrown 200+ innings the year before, which means they were unlikely to get through 2014 without skipping a turn or two or five. That tests depth. And that's why teams stockpile starting pitching. Indeed, it's why the Nationals acquired an excellent pitcher, Doug Fister, to be their NUMBER FOUR starter. That way, the Nationals would only have to rely on their unproven, prospect-type starters to fill the fifth spot in the rotation (or pick up injury starts).

Cole and Morton will start the 2015 season as two of the Pirates' starters. We know that. And we know that trying to fill the remaining three slots -- 60% of the rotation -- with unproven starters is a recipe for disaster. The Pirates need to build up starting pitching depth. Period.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:48 pm 
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They have 5 bodies now for those 3 slots. Will add 3 next year at minimum. That's 10 total for 5 spots. They aren't in dire straits from a numbers standpoint, they'll have bodies to withstand injuries once they sign more in the offseason.

They won't be able to trade or sign for a 1/2 type of guy so they do need to plan around Taillon, like it or not.

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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:57 pm 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
They have 5 bodies now for those 3 slots. Will add 3 next year at minimum. That's 10 total for 5 spots. They aren't in dire straits from a numbers standpoint, they'll have bodies to withstand injuries once they sign more in the offseason.

They won't be able to trade or sign for a 1/2 type of guy so they do need to plan around Taillon, like it or not.


They don't need "bodies," they need "pitchers." And the Pirates CANNOT go into 2015 with Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and a bunch of "bodies." Hopes and dreams don't fill out a rotation. Guys coming back from Tommy John surgery who have never pitched in the major leagues cannot be counted upon to pitch quality innings for the team. Guys in AA who have shown control problems and have never pitched in AAA cannot be counted upon to pitch quality innings for the team. These kinds of guys are depth options, sure, but not good pitchers written in indelible ink. The Pirates need more of THOSE.

The Cubs signed Jason Hammel for $6 million on a 1-year deal this past off-season. The Pirates need a guy or two like that. Trading for one of Samardzija/Kennedy/Price/Miley would help the team this year and next, and reduce the risk of relying upon young "bodies."

You can never have enough starting pitching. Period.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 2:02 pm 
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J_C_Steel wrote:

You can never have enough starting pitching. Period.

I fully agree with you JC. But I think SA understands the FO zeitgeist. You're both right. We need more pitching, but I don't think we're going to get it.


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 Post subject: Re: Decision Time -- 2014 Pirates Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 2:10 pm 
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And Hammel is the type of guy they're likely to sign. Just like Liriano and Bedard and Volquez and any other guy they get on a 1-2 year 7 figure deal.

And again, the bodies can't become pitchers until we let them try to be pitchers. They're bodies now but you can probably get a solid 4th starter out of Pimentel, Worley, Sadler, Locke, and Cumpton. At least one of those guys will pan out in the long run and the others will be solid depth options in AAA.

And as much as we might not like it, they need to count on Taillon. They cannot get a pitcher like him on the open market so they need to plan around him being up here. Just like they bit the bullet and didn't block Polanco, they won't block him either. That's just how a small market team operates and it's not reasonable to expect them to act in any way other than a small market team.

Price isn't worth the package of prospects they'll want and the cost of acquiring a guy like that in free agency is prohibitive.

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