The Pirates made some news and got this offseason off to a hot start, or at least a controversial start.
First, it is undeniably good when your team is not picking up players in the Rule 5 draft. It means your team is pretty good. Or at least trying to win.
Second, losing Deolis Guerra is no big deal. Sure it is better to have him than the money, but if he ended up on the team it meant something went wrong in the bullpen.
Third, today's signing of Juan Nicasio is good. He is a mid 90's guy for the pen that can throw multiple innings and maybe spot start if needed. The pen needed some help. Melancon is the closer and Watson the set up man. The back end is set (baring a trade of course). Jerrod Hughes has his role as the ground ball guy locked up too. The Pirates still have Caminero from last year, but lost Soria and Bastardo. Nicasio will take a spot in the pen that needs him to be more than just the long man. The final two spots could be Scahill and Holdzkom, but neither of those guys is a sure thing. The Pirates did pick up Knudson in the off season, but if you get waived from the Tigers pen, well, it says something. The Pirates did also claim Jorge Rondon, who throws hard, but his lack of success is not inspiring. And they paid money for Webster, but he seems to be starting depth. Nicasio then gives experience, velocity, and reliability to a bullpen that looks shaky so far.
Fourth, the Walker trade is the main thing. Neil Walker was traded to the Mets for Jon Neise. Now, the Pirates gave up the better player, but I think it was a decent deal. Neise does help replace some of the losses in the starting rotation. Burnett is retired, and Locke is only okay. Many are pointing out the similarities between Locke and Neise, but remember those similar stats are with Locke getting the support of one of the best defenses in baseball, and Neise had the Mets. Yes, the defense that cost the Mets multiple games in the World Series. He should improve with the Pirates as he gets ground balls. It is noteworthy that he is lefty as well. Morton was awful against left handed hitters this year, and Neise could be a Morton replacement. He is also cheaper than Walker.
Walker is better and worth more wins, but Walker is the worst option for the Pirates infield right now. Kang showed he deserves a place in the everyday line up. But Harrison does too. He hits and does not strike out much and frankly adds a bit of hustle and crazy that can change ball games. But Kang is better at third than Harrison. Mercer, the worst hitter of the group, is the best defender and the defense gets so-so with Mercer not at short. Thus, the obvious place for Harrison is second. It is his best defensive spot. Also Alen Hanson is ready to be a major league back up (I don't ever see him as much more than this), so there is some insurance at second base. Max Moroff is probably only a year away, so your future is coming.
Walker was not worth resigning next off season. Trading him in-season would probably have hurt team chemistry, and probably would not have brought back major league ready returns. We all expect the Pirates to be in the playoff hunt, and you don't give up a second baseman for prospects when you are trying to make the playoffs. So, this is probably his highest value for a trade right now. They got a pitcher that will be part of the rotation and has World Series experience. It was not necessarily an equal value trade, but it was the best trade the Pirates could make. So they made it rather than take nothing next year.