DETROIT – The Pirates made a flurry of roster moves Monday as you are probably aware. Among the decisions was to keep Jose Contreras on the 25-man roster, and ship Bryan Morris back to Triple-A, to make room for Mike Zagurski.
Morris has options, Contreras does not. Earlier this year when addressing a similar situation, I believe it was with Jordy Mercer being sent back to Triple-A and John McDonald remaining on the roster, Pirate manager Clint Hurdle spoke about “asset allocation”
Hurdle indicated the Pirates are striving to keep as much depth and flexibility as possible. Indicating when one players has options and another does not, that will be a factor in the decision making. That’s logical … to an extent.
On Monday, 40-year-old Jose Contreras pitched like a 40-year-old. He allowed the pivotal runs in the seventh inning. He walked four and allowed two runs in 1/3 of an inning. Bryan Morris is probably not the second coming of Trevor Hoffman but it’s hard to believe he’s not a more valuable piece – his fastball averages 94 mph – than Contreras at this point in their careers. Wouldn’t the Pirates at least like to see what he can do in an extended Major League run?
Is Jose Contreras one of the Pirates’ top 25 players? Raise your hand if you think ‘yes.’
So after the Pirates’ Memorial Day loss to the Tigers, I asked Hurdle about the balancing act that is constructing a 25-man roster, maintaining flexibility and monitoring service-time issues, while fielding a competitive team.
Said Hurdle: “When we make moves it’s always about having our best 25 guys in the Major Leagues … Always.”
I don’t believe that.
I believe as a manager, as a leader, you have to get behind the 25 guys in your clubhouse. You can’t always speak candidly to the media.
I get that.
It would be nice to have truth serum handy but it is what it is.
But I also get that it’s prudent, because of baseball’s bylaws, to not always have your 25 best men on the roster.
Let’s be honest here: Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon would make the Pirates better yesterday. But the Pirates are prudent to not have them at the Major League level…. yet to suppress service-time and free agency clocks. The patience will be worth while when the Pirates have those studs for another year in the prime.
It’s a tricky thing balance a 25-man roster with future and win-now interests. But with the Pirates off to their best start since 1991, I think the balance should be shifting to a win-now focus. I think Morris is a better fit on the 25-man roster than Contreras. I think Mercer can be more helpful than McDonald, who has made a good career for himself and is a good guy …but he’s an offensive liability. I think Gerrit Cole should be called up in the middle of June and given a shot to be an impact guy in the rotation. Maybe he’s saving his best for The Show.
The Pirates have often been a player development story, but now is the time to seize and opportunity.
THE RULE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SHOULD ADOPT
I have a solution to some of the 25-man roster complications managers and front offices deal with: change service time requirements.
It’s in the game’s best interest – the players’, the fans’, the managers’ best interests – to have the best players on a roster.
What would put more big league-ready stars on rosters earlier in the season is a change to service time rules (something owners would be completely against).
But if you counted one day on a MLB roster as one year of service time, we would end this silliness about June until waiting until promotions. If a player is good enough to break camp with a club, he breaks camp. He is still eligible for arbitration in his fourth year of team control.
It this rule was in place, Gerrit Cole might be up. Wil Myers would be. Ditto for Zack Wheeler and Michael Wacha. It would give us a better rosters early in the season, it would give us a better game. Take comfort in the fact that it will never happen.