Monday, March 12, 2018

New Year and I have no idea how to feel

It is another new year for the Pirates.  I had completely expected to just be ready for a horrible season that would include dumping a few more players at the trade deadline.  I was ready, braced for the bad summer.  But then the Pirates traded for Dickerson, an All-Star from the Rays, for a fairly reasonable price. 

Now, I am at a loss.  The Pirates did send away two greats, but they did pick up some pieces.  Third base has a good outlook, and McCutchen's offense is mostly replaced by Dickerson.  The Pirates have hope to replace Cole with the many young arms they have.  It was the deepest spot on the roster (with middle infield perhaps the other).  Nova and Taillon should hold the front down with Williams, Kuhl, Brault, Glasnow, Kingham, and others trying to fill the back end.  That is a lot of options. 

And Meadows has looked really good in the spring making me think his arrival could be sooner rather than later.  That would lessen the need for Polanco to be all we hoped he could be. 

I know the NL Central is loaded.  The Cubs are loaded.  The Cards are never bad.  The Brewers are trying to make a run.  But, there is a lot of talent on this team.  Unlike Pirate years in the past, where I had to convince myself that Randal Simon and Brian Bixler were going take a huge step up, I don't think a lot of convincing is needed. 

Sure, the Pirate prospects probably lack that mega-star, but they have a lot of guys that could be better than league average at almost every position.  Would we be surprised if Bell was a big home run hitter with a high OBP?  No.  Would we be surprised if Marte hit .300 with decent pop?  No, he has done it before?  Would we be surprised if Polanco took a step forward this year?  No.  Would be be surprised if Moran turned out to be a solid every day 3B?  No, not really.  Would would be surprised if Mercer hit as he has the last couple of years?  No.  Would we be surprised if Harrison hit near .290 and provided energy?  No.  Would we be surprised if Taillon became the top tier pitcher in a year without cancer?  No.  Would we be surprised if the Pirates found a 5th starter?  No.  Are we going to be surprised if The Nightmare continues to pitch great?  No.  Would we be surprised if the rebuilt bullpen is better?  No.  Would we be surprised if Frazier provided good utility work on a regular basis?  No. 

The only real holes appear to be catcher where I would be surprised if Cervelli got better or remained healthy, and pinch hitters, where I would be surprised if the bench showed power and if Sean Rodriguez did well. 

So, here I am, stressed and in the middle.  I would be surprised if a lot of these guys were good.  But I would not be surprised if someone of them weren't (Polanco, Moran, and Harrison to be exact).  I am impressed the Pirates got me here after the trades, but I might just be a fool again. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

So now it is a bit different . . . McCutchen Trade

Okay.  Everything has changed from my last post.  Gerrit Cole’s trade was not bad when the team was still structured with McCutchen.  I thought they could still compete with the new third basemen in Moran and some reasonable expectations of improvement, along with the now better pen and the depth at starting pitcher. 

But without McCutchen, it looks worse.  McCutchen’s return was another pen piece and Bryan Reynolds a decent hitting, no power, outfield prospect.  Not exactly world beating, but outfield depth is a bit of an issue for the Pirate farm system.  Reynolds was #5 in the Giants system, but won’t be in the Pirates. 

Now everything has to break their way for them to make the playoffs including injuries to the other guys’ best players.  Marte has to hit well and with power, Bell has to hit more, Polanco has to live up to expectation, rookie pitchers need to win lots of games, and Moran has to be all we want and then some.  So, better to dump people now.  Harrison is asking to be traded, and if I could get an actual person back for him, I would do it.  Judging from the value of the other two guys a warm body would be a nice return for Harrison.  He was a nice piece in a lineup where he was not the main hitter.  He brought energy, a solid bat, and okay defense at second.  But without McCutchen, his value is less to the Pirates.  He is now a solid bat in a lineup that lacks a consistent threat and power.  The Pirates have a glut in the system of middle infield, so move him now so we can start sorting the Moroff, Newman, Kramer, Tucker situation out and get people at bats. 

I would have been okay with trading Cervelli this off season, but not now.  Ironically, I think his value to the Pirates increased.  With younger arms in the rotation and the pen, an experienced catcher is more valuable.  He is not really blocking any break out catching prospects, so keep him and let him work with the young staff plus mentor Elias Diaz as his back up. 

I suppose the opening day outfield will now be Marte in center with Polanco and Osuna at the corners with Fraiser doing his thing bouncing around.  If all goes well in the minors, we should see Meadows, but with his history he needs to show he belongs now.  Reynolds is there in case Meadows does not pan out. 
The other part of this trade is the return of international signing money.  The Pirates put this in the trade, they had better use it.  I heard they were scouting the top catching prospect, with the extra money and what they have not spent, they need to make a bigger signing.  That would put that player as sort of a return for McCutchen.  But just hoarding signing money is not really of use.  They got extra cash, time to use it. 

It is possible that some of these bullpen guys from these last two trades get turned around at the trade deadline.  Bullpen guys seem to have a bit of increased demand at that time.  That might help some of this look better, but I am not sure the Pirates are thinking that way. 

I do think the Pirates are still not very far off.  This is not a taking it down to the foundations kind of rebuild.  The Pirates still have some good prospects and real talent on the roster.  But, this year going to be hard to watch.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Filling holes is not wrong

Gerrit Cole is gone, and I will miss him.  It would have been nice to have stock piled sure thing prospects, but that apparently was not possible.  Even in all the rumors with the Astros and Yankees top prospects were always off limits.  So, one can assume this is as good as a Cole trade gets.  Obviously the trade will be decided on three factors.

1.       How well these major league ready players turn out to be this year and next.
2.       How well Cole pitches this year and next.
3.       How well our talent pool of pitchers turns out to be this year and next.

Overall, I am happier that the Pirates appear to be trying to make a playoff push this year.  I am still of the opinion they are not that far away.  I think there is good reason to expect more from Marte this year, not to mention growth from Josh Bell.  Add that to a renewed McCutchen, and the Pirates have a real chance to compete if the pitching holds.  But it was absolutely necessary to upgrade 3B and the pen, which this trade does.

Moran was the 9th overall prospect in the Astros system, so he has acknowledged potential.  And even if he lacks the power, he will have a better average than Freese.  This will help the team.  Feliz is a solid strikeout reliever who has some walk issues.  He is not going to be counted on to be the closer, so he should have little problem finding real usage in the Pirates pen. 

Musgrove is the biggest question mark for me.  He has about the same amount of starts as appearances from the pen, and I think he is better off in the pen.  I hope they don’t just hand him a staring job as the Pirates have loads of starter talent that I think eclipses Musgrove such as Glasnow, Brault, and Kingham.  Freeing up Cole’s spot is better for one of them and using Musgrove where he has been more effective, in the pen. 

The deal also gives us one prospect, Martin, who does not really jump off the page, but does still look like he could play in the big leagues.  It is good to have a prospect in this package. 

The second component is Cole himself, who has been less than ace worthy in his last two years.  If he finds that dominance that we always thought he had and has shown glimpses of, then this trade is not enough.  If he just continues to pitch as he has, which will make him a good starter on the Astros, but not a great one, then perhaps this deal looks good in hindsight.  Cole has questions marks.  The bigger question is whether or not the Pirates have anyone who can answer the questions better than Cole did.

That is the third major part for me.  Brault, Glasnow, and Kingham could all take a step forward and be this year’s Chad Kuhl or Trevor Williams.  I am assuming Kingham probably starts the year in the minors, but there was only one spot really for Brault or Glasnow in Pittsburgh before the trade, now there maybe two. 

Look at this potential pitching combo.
Rotation: Taillon, Nova, Kuhl, Williams, Glasnow
Bullpen: Rivero, Kontos, Hudson, Feliz, Neverauskas(or Santana), Brault, and Musgrove

This is a pretty good looking pitching line up.  Strikeouts should flow freely.  If Glasnow can get it together, then this could be a playoff type pitching staff with real depth.  If Hudson continues to struggle, AAA will have the loser of the Neverauskas/Santana race ready to step in.  Clay Holmes would be available if a long reliever is needed.  As a ground ball guy, he could be a help, but is a bit like Musgrove.  And Kingham would be there if a starter went down or failed as would Brault and Musgrove.  Although in this set up Brault is the second lefty in the pen. 

Add to this a team that includes an upgraded 3B, probable improvement in Marte and Bell (and perhaps Polanco), and has kept McCutchen.  I think this is a team that could compete for the wild card, and perhaps the division title as the Cubs pitching currently stands as borderline ugly. 

If they do make the playoffs this year, the trade has to be seen as a success.