Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Buyers or Sellers?

The reasons for being a buyer are pretty simple. 

#1 You have a shot at the playoffs.  The Pirates have been fairly injured all year and Cutch has been awful, yet the Pirates are only a couple of games out of the final playoff spot.  Adding the needed pieces (mostly pitching) ought to push you over the top.

#2 You have a deep farm system.  This is always an important consideration when looking to be a buyer.  Do you have the pieces to lose?  And right now the answer may actually be yes.  Do the Pirates really need Adam Frazier, Max Moroff, and Alen Hansen?  What about Chad Kuhl, Brault, Kingham, and Williams?  Not to mention Clay Holmes in AA.  Even the wave after that already includes Hinz and Keller.  And let us not forget that we have Kramer, Tucker, and Newman all bunched together and Hayes right behind occupying third further narrowing that group.  The farm system could survive a trade or two.

The reasons for being a seller (or at least not a buyer). 

#1 You have no real shot this year.  The Pirates have an easy schedule down the stretch, some head to head with the Cardinals, and have been pretty even so far with the Mets.  It is reasonable to assume that they can be jumped if the right trades are made.  And the Marlins are playing above their heads, the last wild card spot is a real possibility.  But, that gets you a one game playoff on the road against Kershaw.  Yikes.  If you win that you get the Cubs with the new improved bullpen.  I am not sure the Pirate are cut out to win a five game set against them.  If they did they would get either Bumgardner and the Giants or Strassborg and Harper with the Nats.  Both seem to have better rotations and star players playing like star players.  That is just to get to the World Series.  Not a likely scenario at this point.

#2 You are about to lose Mark Melancon for nothing.  The Pirates are not going to resign him, and he will probably be overpaid.  But the Pirates could trade him now and get something in return.  Maybe a prospect for the pen in a year or a guy who might compete for a 5th rotation spot next year.  Maybe even a catcher to push Diaz.  He will be overvalued right now at the deadline.  This is an opportunity to get a little something to help next year. 

#3 There are too many needs to make the Pirates great again.  The Pirates need another arm in the pen to make a run.  While Watson and Hughes are regaining form, another solid late inning arm is necessary.  Four late inning guys and a ground ball guy ought to be good enough for a playoff push, but they need one more arm to get to that spot.  It doesn’t have to be a closer, but a good hard throwing strike out guy.  But what the Pirates really need is a starting pitcher.  Right now they have Cole and that is it.  Lirano is not going anywhere, but he needs to be pushed down in importance.  Let us assume for a moment that he is getting it together and Taillon is reliable into the post-season.  You don’t want to have to go with Glasnow and Kuhl or Locke and Niese as the back end for the playoffs.  And you don’t want any of them this year pitching in the playoffs.  So, assuming one of those four can hold down a fifth slot we need a guy to take the fourth slot to pitch in the playoffs.  It would actually be better if you can get a #2 or 3 guy to make the Pirates competitive.  The price for a Chris Archer or a Julio Teheran would be astronomical.  You are talking losing a Bell or Meadows plus someone like Brault plus something else (or two). 

#4 The market stinks.  We already mentioned the high priced names with control left like Teheran that will cost top 5 prospects and then some.  Even if the Pirates are just looking for a rental it will still cost a top tier prospect plus a lower minor leaguer, and the return will be bad.  That is just the market this year because there is no one.  None.  It is an ugly starting pitching market.  Seriously James Shields is the big name rental.  Oakland’s Rich Hill might be the best idea, but he just went on the DL.  And Rich Hill is not exactly a world beater that is going to change your team from pretender into contender. 

#5 Help will be here next year.  The Pirates, thanks to some bad injuries last year, are just in a weird year where their internal help is too far off.  Glasnow is not really ready.  Kingham went down.  Kuchno imploded, and it is just a stretch to bring up some bullpen arms.  Think about next year.  The starting rotation can be Cole, Lirano, Taillon, and now Kuhl.  All have experience and ready to go.  By mid June you could bring up Glasnow and Kingham or a Brault and have a good solid rotation.  Your bullpen can have Watson as the closer, Hughes, Locke (or not whatever), and a whole bunch of new guys.  You can sign a guy if you need it or bring back Schlegul.  You could have Durapau by mid season (who is dominating AA right now), and you could convert Frank Duncan to the pen to start the season.  Maybe even a September call up of Luis Heredia, who is destroying High A in the pen.  Add to that Josh Bell’s power bat, and the Pirates are a lot better next year than this year. 

All in all it is pretty clear I want to be a seller.  I think you have to get something for Melancon while you can, and frankly I might trade some others if I could.  I like Jaso and I think he has a place on next year’s team, but maybe now is the time to let Bell do what he can do and get something in return.  Maybe Matt Joyce is as good as it is going to get right now.  I don’t really shop those guys, but I listen if someone came a calling. 
That being said, I also would not be upset if the Pirates just ride it out.  Keep what you have and let Melancon walk at the end of the year.  That way you are not giving up, and you might slip into the playoffs anyway. 

I suspect that the Pirates will make a real low level deal for a bullpen arm.  Maybe a Jeremy Jeffress or a David Hernandez or Andrew Bailey, but nothing too much. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

All Star Break Breakdown

As I am usually a pretty pessimistic fan, I actually find myself somewhat excited about the Pirates this year.  They are going younger, and it is working.

Yes, they currently sit on the outside looking in, but this is only by a game.  And they have done this without Cole, Cervelli, Stewart, and a bad version of Lirano and McCutchen, not to mention a suspect bullpen.  However, the bullpen has come around and even today's loss showed hope for a Jeff Locke out of the bullpen coming in the future.

We have seen Chad Kohl, and he has been better than many thought.  He deserves a shot at the eventual 5th starter role.  We have seen Glasnow, and he is going to be able to strike guys out.  Adding that change is going to make him deadly.  We have seen Taillon, and while some growth is still there, he can be dominate.  He needs the majors to grow any more, and he is going to be an addition to the team.  We have seen Adam Frazier, and he can be the super utility guy of the future or the eventual starting short stop or second baseman.  He seems to be able with the bat and in the field (although needing a little more outfield time). 

We have also just gotten a glimpse of Josh Bell.  Wow.  What a way to debut.  Bell got a pinch hit single in his first at bat off of none other than Jake Arrietta.  He came around to score the winning run.  We saw Bell's second pinch hit go for a grand slam to put the game away against the Cubs.  We saw his third plate appearance go for a walk, where he would come around to score the tying run.  Bell is 2 for 2 with a run scored in all three plate appearances.  Not bad at all.

So, the Pirates appear to be able to compete with what they have right now.  If they could clear out Niese to make room for a Kuhl or eventually a Glasnow, it would be great.  If they could get their catchers to stay healthy it would be good.  Cole will be back right after the All-Star break.  Plus, they have some prospects that could be traded for immediate help, probably in the bullpen, as they don't really need any other bats and have the young arms to pitch in the rotation.  Someone like Max Moroff, who may now be disposable with Frazier grabbing his opportunity by the horns, or even a Hansen.  Frank Duncan looks like a break out pitching prospect, perhaps he gets a trade look.  Brault could be another pitcher to go.  The Pirates have the people without having to risk someone like Meadows or Keller.

At the very least this has been a glimpse into not needing McCutchen.  He was the hope for so long and Alvarez failed to materialize as his running mate.  Now McCutchen has Marte and Polanco and maybe even Kang to cover him.  Getting a glimpse of Bell as a power bat should make everyone feel like the Pirates are set for the future.  Seeing Taillon develop to run with Cole and getting the glimpse of Glasnow only fuels the fire.  With guys like Kuhl stepping up to audition for the supporting cast is also invigorating.

The Pirate future is bright.  I do think they make the post season, they won't have to face the Cubs in a do or die, nor does it look like Bumgardner will be waiting.  It could be Kershaw, but only time will tell.