Friday, November 17, 2017

13 free agents the Pirates should check in on this off season

Taking another break from the position primers, Lets take a look at some of the top available free agents this year that they Pirates should at least check in on.    This is not a comprehensive list, I just pulled names from one of the many "top 50 free agents" lists that are out there.  By no means should the Pirates sign a majority of these players but one or two could make a large difference.

First the list.  Ordered by position, not quality and assuming they are healthy.

  • SP R.A. Dickey
  • SP Alex Cobb
  • SP CC Sabathia
  • RP Anthony Swarzak
  • RP Brandon Morrow
  • RP Addison Reed
  • RP Mike Minor
  • RP Greg Holland
  • SP/OF Shohei Otani
  • UT  Eduardo Nunez
  • 3B Mark Reynolds
  • 2B Neil Walker
  • C Jonathan Lucroy

R.A. Dickey - Starting Pitcher Righty - At the tail end of his career, may even retire this off season.  If he doesn't He could be that veteran presence the rotation needs.  Even at 42 years old he gave the Braves 190 innings last season.  He doesn't look like a top end guy any more but should give you a fair amount of innings but will put your catcher to work.  Luckily we do have some decent catchers (as long as their healthy).  If he doesn't retire, offer him a one year $6M deal with a team option for second season for the same pay with a 500k by out.

Alex Cobb - Starting Pitcher Righty - Here is an excellent pitcher how has trouble staying on a field.  He is a fair risk but also pretty high upside.  The pirates have the pitching depth to cover for him should he get injured.  Before missing 2015 had cy young award potential.  I doubt he would take anything less than four years but if you can get him on a three year $36M deal with an option.  Or even a one year $13M deal with an option to rebuild value.. then hard to pass up.

CC Sabathia - Starting Pitcher Lefty - He should resign with the Yankees or retire, but he is still pitching well and just might be willing to go else where.  If he does the pirates should grab him up on a multi year deal.  The main reason for him over anyone else that is a starter is because... well hes good and that he is a lefty.  Two years $30M or three years $40M would be my ceiling for CC.

Anthony Swarzak - Relief Pitcher Righty - Quality middle relief that appears like they can easily setup for Rivero. three year $15M seems like a good point with him.

Brandon Morrow - Relief Pitcher Righty - pretty good pitcher that has done fairly well since moving to the pen, but also hasn't logged a tone of innings since 2013.  I'd start off with a two year $10M offer.

Addison Reed - Relief Pitcher Righty - Good pitcher but probably looking to go some where that he'll have an opportunity to close, Unless Rivero gets injured or falls apart that won't be here.  Barley worth mentioning but he'll be looking for closer role at $10M a year which really isn't realistic for the pirates.

Mike Minor - Relief Pitcher Lefty - Had a great comeback year in 2017 out of the pen  I can see him looking for a four year deal up to $32M range but I'd go as high as three year $21M with an option year

Greg Holland - Relief Pitcher Righty - Greg had a very nice comeback year.  His ERA is a bit inflated probably do to the increase in home runs around the league in 2017.  He is a closer and may not have the opportunity to close in Pittsburgh and probably played his way out of the pirates price range.  However the team should ping him to see if there is an ack just to make sure.

Shohei Otani - Pitcher/Outfilder - Probably the most interesting of all the available options.  Probably most utilized as a pitcher, but Otani says he wants to continue playing both ways.  The 'experts' seem to think that he is shoe horned into the AL because of this.  I disagree, I feel it would be wonderful for the NL as well.  If the team is trading Cutch or another outfielder he can start 4/5 days in the outfield and hit.  On the fifth day he pitches and you use a fourth OF in his place.  When he is done pitching that game move him to the outfield and put in your reliever.  Or one of the many other options, maybe too many options.  Team needs to make a push to get him, they will probably fail but they better try.  Teams are limited by their bonus money on him, the pirates do have quite a bit left but not as much as a few others.  If it comes down to money, they won't get him.

Eduardo Nunez - INF/Utility - Of all the available position players he makes the most sense.  He can play third if Kang doesn't come back.  He can play short if Kang does come back.  He can be super utility if Kang returns and one of the prospects step up.  He isn't' the best defender at any position but his bat isn't bad.  three year $24M seems about right.

Mark Reynolds - Third/Fist base - Power guy with good OBP, not a good fielding third basemen.  He doesn't make as much sense as Nunez but if you know Kang isn't coming back he can be the power you are looking for.  Really not much to say here.. his fielding is bad.  probably too bad to make him a viable option BUT at the right price his bat might be worth it.

Neil Walker - Second base - maybe an average fielder who is fairly decent at the plate.  Since he would replacing Freese it isn't a huge upgrade but it still is one.  Walker would have to take a slight discount but if he did it would be a fair signing and also pretty popular in the Burgh.

Jonathan Lucroy - Catcher - One of the better defensive catchers in the league and snapped out of his slump on returning to the NL.  I'd easily give him three year $36M, Trade Cervelli for what ever you can get to dump his salary and you got a nice line up upgrade while probably increasing your defensive value as well for only a little more than what you are paying now.  It would never happen but nice to think about.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: Short Stop

After a brief break and side track we'll continue around the diamond to short stop.

In 2017 the Pirates only had two players play short stop.  That makes this discussion pretty simple, but also hard choices need to be made.

The List

Jordy Mercer 145 Games, 1.4 WAR, 4.9 DEF, $4.32M
Max Moroff 56 Games, 0.5 WAR, 5.5 DEF, $550k

Brief Overview

Jordy Mercer has been the staple at short stop with solid defense and generally average bat at the back of the line up while being fairly cheap during his career.  He has done a generally good job keeping mistakes down and has pretty good range.  But that has been changing the past two seasons.  While still good and average defense, mistakes have been more common and seems to have lost a step after returning from injury in 2016 his bat also has declined a small amount but neither all that dramaticly.  Along with the slight decline his price tag has also gone up and is expected to go up a fairly significant amount again this off season.  To make matters worse other short stops around the league have gotten better, in some cases much better.  This makes what was average a few seasons ago look below average now.

Max Moroff, we covered him in the second base discussion so i'll just say if he can get his bat to league average he has a shot at starting in the big leagues.

My opinion

Jordy is the starter but they need to keep his cost down. Hopefully Tucker, Newman and/or Kramer will be ready soon and no moves need to be made. But watch Max, if he adjusts to MLB pitching and starts getting on base more Jordy might be out of a starting job.

The off season/draft

Alot here depends on Kang.  Won't go too deep into it, we've been through that in previous posts and will go deeper in the third base over view.  There are two Free agent options available.  Nunez and Cozart.  Nunez makes more sense to play third and if they get Kang back can play short.

Nunez provides about average defense, a slightly above average bat and is versatile on the field to give you options in the event of Kang returning.  A 3-4 year deal at 6-8M/year seems to fit his skill set maybe a little more or less depending other incentives.

Cozart over his career is an around average bat, that broke out last season.  He is also a well above average glove.  However he is pretty much shoe horned into short stop having never played another position in the MLB.  He could probably move to third with out much trouble but I would guess he would like to stay at short.  He could be an okay pick up if the team could get him one a one or two year deal for around 7-8M/year

Again the draft should not focus on a middle infielder.

TL;DR: Jordy is the guy until someone better comes along.  Nunez makes sense if Kang returns Nunez can slide over.  Hopefully Max or one of the prospects makes the jump soon and does at least average.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Shorten the MLB Season?

There are rumors that some people in power want to change the number of MLB games played by a team.  They say the number of games forces some teams to play into November.  Well, yes some lucky teams get to play in November but there are other ways to fix the "problem".  There are really only a handful of reasons that playing into late October/November is a bad thing.

The start of the NFL, NBA and NHL seasons.  With other leagues modifying their schedule as well as the MLB making changes the seasons overlap quite a bit.  Believe it or not there are people who like the NFL, NHL and yes even the NBA more than the MLB.  I don't know who these people are but they do exist.  Sometimes these people abandon baseball the moment pre-season starts in the NFL.  Many of these people try to follow both.  Sometimes these people are "lucky" and their baseball team is well out of the running before the regular season starts.  You could argue, these other sports take away from revenue the MLB team could be getting if the fans where not distracted by other sports.  This is a problem for the league and owners.

Some might say the games themselves hurt the players having to play so many games in the short time frame.  If you are at the top of your game you are probably putting in a lot of work nearly daily.  Batting cages, pen work, weight room, watching tape, etc..  You are probably doing this most days of your life not just during the season.  What difference would lowering the number of games to 140 make for you?  Realisticlly probably not much.  You may even be greatful for a game on that day because it gives you a break for a few hours.  Okay okay, players are able to spend more time with their families and such.  I can totally understand that portion.

The most important reason of course is.. well it is cold in much of the country.  You know what is worse than sitting in the stands freesing your butt off.  Hitting a baseball with a bat the wrong way when it is 30F.  If you've done it you know what i'm talking about.

With that said, I do agree the post season should be over by early October at the latest including any make up games baring something crazy like a natural disaster or something.

As it stands now, from April 1s through the end of September there are 183 days to play 162 games.  In october there are up to 20 more games, not counting tie breakers of course.

There are a few things the league could do to shorten the season with out cutting games.

First shorten the all star break which has gotten over the crowded with silly events.  Instead of a week shorten it to three days.  Day one off day and maybe futures game.  Day two the game, Day three the derby.  Have the break on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and instead of the Derby taking place at 8pm have it start at 1pm (Eastern of course).  The reasoning here is that for the futures game, almost all are minor league prospects who follow a different schedule and gives your All-Stars a day off and for some it may involve travel time.  Saturday the all star game.. easy to figure out.  Sunday almost all the all-stars can return to their teams or take the day off.. what ever it is their day.  A few will take part in the Derby.  Only those ones might need an extra day provided by their team.  Since the Derby is earlier they can travel pretty directly after the game.  Sure it is a bit rough, but if it is too rough for you don't take part.  However what ever time missed could be compensated through a "Rest day" rule that i'll come to later.  This frees up a few of those 183 days for games.  Only about 50-75 players take part in the all-star break the impact would be kept to a minimum since most players don't get to go.

Move the start of the season up one or two weeks league wide.  Schedule most games in warmer climates for March/April, with inter league play this shouldn't' be TOO hard to do.. not all games would this work for though. Also doing some promo games in places like Mexico City, Caribbean, Europe, Japan, etc...  would also be fun and help with this problem more.

Along with moving the season up.  Allow teams to start spring training earlier.  Allow teams to start spring on January 1 (or shortly there after) for players players with less than one year of service time, players doing injury rehab or otherwise normally unable to play.  For that last bit i'm thinking of players like Kang who haven't been able to see live pitching but maybe able to play in the season, also players who are/were suspended but also should be able to play in the season just to keep in shape.  After that MLB players report on February 1 and otherwise things stay the same until the start of the season in mid-March.

More double headers, fit two games in to one day.  Every team has one or two double headers a month on a Saturday or Sunday followed by the 'normal' day off on Monday.  Just one double header a month will save half a week of games.

Now, MLB baseball is not a rough and tough sport like football, hockey or even basketball.  But even then people get sore and tired.  ESPECIALLY Pitchers and Catchers.  It is a long season and a lot of games.  By cutting out the extra days for the break and the mandatory double headers players will get a little more tired.  To combat this creating a 'Rest Day' rule.  EVERY non-pitcher MUST be given a day off once every ten games.  Starting pitchers cannot pitch more than once every five days.  Days, not games.  Relief pitchers follow the same as position players.  Designated rest position players can enter the game in the 8th inning but can play no more than three innings.  If it is an extra inning game and the player enters during or after the 11th inning they can play the rest of the game. Starting pitchers are unavailable to pitch until after the 12th inning in an extra inning game.  If they pitch more than three innings they cannot pitch again for another 4 days.  Designated rest relief pitchers are not eligible to enter a game until the 10th inning and allowed to pitch one inning.  This rule will provide ALL players a mandated day off.  No player will start more than 146 games in a season (baring the tie breaker).  Once post season hits the "Rest Day" rule no longer applies.

Because of the rest day rule, the 25 man roster is expanded to 28.  The extra three can be used how ever see fit but other wise follow the current 25 man rules.

Now clearly there are lot of cracks in my ideas that need filled, the MLBPA would never approve.  But it would help move up the end of the season two weeks to a month

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: Second Base

Moving on through the Pirates off season primer we will check out Second base.  The Pirates had eight players play second base in 2017. I'm only going to mention those with 100+ innings, still with the team and Sean Rodriguez. (stats from

The List

Josh Harrison 83 games, 2.6 WAR, 3.6 DEF, $7.75M
Adam Frasier 42 games, 1.1 WAR, -4.9 DEF, $0.5M
Max Moroff 28 games, 0.5 WAR, 5.5 DEF, $0.5M
Gift Ngoepe 20 games, 0.0 WAR, 0.3 DEF, $0.5M
Sean Rodriguez 8 games, -0.5 WAR, -1.2 DEF, $5.75M

Brief overview

Josh Harison is generally a fine second basemen.  for 2017 he ranked around the middle of the pack among qualified MLB second basemen.  J-Hay every day happens today.  Harrison played 128 games but only 83 from his primary position of second.  As long as his health checks out she should be starting somewhere out of spring.

Adam Frasier.  Man he can hit.  In his first full season playing a total of 121 games and over 450 plate appearances he did a very fine job at the plate.  Look for big things from him. His problem is he isn't the greatest fielder.  Probably better suited to a utility or coner outfield that can play infield in a pinch.

Max Moroff is a defensive wizard the only thing that has held him back is his work with the bat.  In 2015 he had a 'break out' year in the minors slashing .292/.374/.349 and followed up the next season with a .367 OBP in AAA that earned him a quick look in 2016, in 2017 he continued getting on base at an astounding rate of .390 which eventually got him back in the show.  He only slashed .200/.302/.325 in 140 PAs but he also had 3 HRs a triple and 21 RBIs.  Not great buy any stretch but worth watching.  His value isn't his bat however.  If he can get close to league average with his bat he would have a starting job somewhere.

Gift Ngoepe, If Moroff is a defensive wizard, Ngoepe is the grand wizard.  He is another that has been held back by his bat.  He is a great story as well.  Hopefully he can get it going at the plate and make some sort of impact.

Sean Rodriguez,  brought back in a late trade that probably cost a little too much.  He is a great guy to have around especially with the questions about Kang.  He has played every postion in his career except catcher and pitcher and done so fairly well.  Last season in Pittsburgh he hit great over 342 PAs and 140 games but after his accident hasn't gotten completly back to form.  Expect him to be better next season where ever he ends up on the field.

My opinion

Josh is the starting second basemen with the current roster.  That can easily change however depending on what happens at third or if another second basemen is picked up. Max and Gift are more defensive/depth options right now until their bats produce. Adam's fielding just isn't good enough to put him there for the long term most likely working with Sean as a Utility player filling in where and when needed.

The offseason/draft

Everything depends on Kang.  The team will be looking for a third base option or possibly a second base option and move Harrison to third.  Neil Walker is now a free agent.  He will probably demand too much money after being paid $17M last season and he is probably looking for a four to six year deal.  Probably not the best option considering Newman, Kramer and Tucker should all be ready the next couple years.  But if if he takes a discount on fewer years, a no trade and more option years.. why not? PR would be great and I think few fans would mind bringing him home.  It wont' happen but it is fun to think about.  Outside of that there really is not much in the way of second base free agents that would be equal or better than Josh Harrison.

The upcoming draft should not include a middle infielder the the first few rounds unless it is a steal of a pick.  Always take the top talent available but it shouldn't be a focus right now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: First Base

To continue where I left off we go on to first base.  The Pirates had six players act as first basemen this season, I'm going to leave out those with less than five innings.

The List

Josh Bell 147 games, 0.8 WAR, -11.9 DEF, $0.5M
Jose Osuna 23 games, -0.5 WAR, -1.4 DEF, $0.5M
John Jaso 29 games, 0.3 WAR, 0.4 DEF, $4M
David Freese 3 games, N/A (at first), -0.6 DEF, $6.25M

Brief overview

Josh Bell is starting to live up to the hype.  On the season went .255/.334/.466 tied the Pirate rookie record for home runs and greatly improved his defense at first.  Baring something crazy he's the teams first baseman for years to come.  He still needs improvement at first and will need to watch that AVG/OBP but he was still seeing quite a few pitches so his eye is still pretty good.

Jose Osuna has some power, still needs some work both offensively and defensivly.  Played mostly corner outfield and first during the season and did so reasonably well.

John Jaso didn't have much luck this season. He came out of his slump for a short time but fell hard again.  Jaso did a great job learning first base last year but it might be the end of the road for him as he is contiplating retirement.

David Freese didnt' have to play first much this season, thankfully everyone else stayed pretty healthy.

My opinion

With out a doubt, Bell is the first basemen next season.  With both Freese and S-Rod back on the team Osuna might end up back in AAA until needed or he forces the issue.  This is especially true if Kang returns.  No changes 'need' to be made at this position.  If anything they could attempt to trade Freese if Kang is returning and call Osuna back, but really not nessiscary, David is a quality bench piece who is capable of being an everyday starter if needed and is reasonably cheap.

The offseason/draft

No changes need to be made, What is even better is that Freese is making $2M less next season and with Jaso's contract expiring the team is saving $6M with out even making a change.  Doubt Neal's personel selections all you want but the man is thrifty and knows how to save money.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: Catcher

In what will hopefully be a series of posts I intend to go over the eight positions to help determine what the best course is for the future of the team. 

The List

Francisco Cervelli 78 Games as Catcher. 0.8 WAR 3.5 DEF $9M
Elias Diaz 53 Games as Catcher. -0.1 WAR, 5.3 DEF, $0.5M
Chris Stewart 48 Games as Catcher. -0.7 WAR, 3.0 DEF, $1.4M
Jacob Stallings 4 Games as Catcher. -.1 WAR, 0.2 DEF, $0.5M

Brief overview of each

After a pretty fine season at catcher in 2015 where Cervelli stayed pretty healthy and hit for average, got on base and was a pretty good defender the Pirates rewarded him with a three year extension worth $31M through 2019.  In 2016 he only played 101 games and in 2017 he was shut down due to injury and only managed 81 games, with a handful of those only being for pinch hitting.  Along with the reduced time his bat has falling off along with his defense.  Neither extremely poor but certainly not what you would expect from someone making 9M this season.  Average at best is how I would describe his performance the past two season.

Elias Diaz has become a nice addition to the roster.  His bat hasn't gotten there yet but his value is for his defense.  Once his bat comes around to above the Mandoza line he is at worst a solid back up.  Should he start hitting closer to league average (.255/.325/.427) then he should be a fair starter on a team that doesn't have a catcher like Posey or Molina.  He is smart, has a rocket of an arm that is accurate and seems to work with many of our young pitchers well.

Chris Stewart has been around with 6 different teams in 11 years.  Picked up to back up Russell Martin and then Cervelli he has done a generally fine job.  The past couple seasons have seen his bat drop off but as a back up he has done well and seems to handle both pitchers and umpires fairly well.  Chris is signed through 2018 team option that probably should be picked up at $1.5M even if he is traded shortly after.

Jacob Stallings is the Pirates depth piece only seeing a handful of games since his debut in 2016.  pretty fair defensively and was raking it at the plate in AAA Indianapolis in 2017.

My opinion

It is my opinion that Cervelli should be traded.  His value is pretty low right now with injury and poor performance but if the team can get a couple mid grade prospects for him they should do so.  Now professional teams usually keep insurance on players so if they get injured they get reimbursed for some of the players pay... that isn't too much of a concern, but if the team wants to move forward and appear to compete they need a steady team out their daily.  Cervelli has had the opportunity to play 486 games as a pirate (three full seasons) but has missed 174 of them, including rest days.

Elias should take over the starting catching duties permanently if not free agents are picked up ( i'll get to that in a minute).  We haven't gotten much in the way of hitting from the catching position the past couple seasons so this really isn't a loss on the offense, however Elias is superior at defense and is far cheaper.  All the team will loose is Cervelli's OBP which was still pretty good and the childish look on his face after taking a "bump" that all catchers deal with.

If the team does as I suggest and Cervelli is off loaded in the off season, Stewart is very necessary to the team.  If Cervelli is kept and the Team is fairly comfortable with his health then his option picked up and traded after spring.  Stewart doesn't have a lot of value but a team hit with an injury bug could be willing to part with a mid range pen arm or fringe prospect(s) for a more than capable backup catcher.

Stallings is more of a career Minors player that provides depth.  Should he leave the organization it wouldn't be the worst thing, however if possible he should be kept to see if that bat he showed in AAA during the 2017 season is for real.

The offseason / draft

There is really only one catcher of note that is a free agent after 2017 and that is Jonathan Lucroy.  As a Pirate fan I loved to hate this guy and the only reason was is that he was a Brewer.  Well since he went to Texas and now Walker plays for the Brewers I don't mind him so much.  Since going to the AL he has tanked and hard.  Now Back in the NL at Colorado he has done much better.  I think it is safe to say he is looking for an NL team next season unless he is looking for a place he can DL to save his legs.  However even with Lucroy's down performance in the AL, he will still cost too much.  I would speculate he gets 2y/40m with a vesting option or maybe 3y/55m but only from an NL team.  I wouldn't bet on the Pirates being that team, but if they are able to trade Cervelli and sign Lucroy to a 2y/30-40m deal it would be a huge win for the organization. (both are unlikely)

Any significant trade (Polanco, Cutch, Cole, Harrison, Freese, Cervelli, etc) A catcher should be coming back to the team.  Even a fringe prospect.  Of course Pitching is priority but after Elias the Pirates have few options in the minors.

In the '18 Draft the Pirates should be looking for catcher first and take the best available catcher in the first or second round. I'm not sure

The To Long; Didn't Read (TL;DR) version, trade Cervelli if you can.  If Cervelli is gone make a huge push for Lucroy but if it doesn't happen use Elias as starter and it would still probably be an overall upgrade at catcher. Stewart backing up and Stallings for depth.