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Monday Morning Mop-up Duty: an early look at free agency


SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – We have an entire offseason to look ahead, speculate and analyze 2014, but it starts today.


The offseason presents a much-welcomed challenge for the Pirates: building upon and sustaining a winner.


Another much-welcomed change is the Pirates should have more financial flexibility when plugging voids via free agency. GM Neal Huntington told me it’s unlikely the Pirates target A-list free agents, but they’ll continue to rely on searching for small- and mid-market free agent value. (Here’s a list of potential free agents)

From Rob’s Sunday story:


This year, the total payroll of the Pirates’ 40-man roster was $75 million. That figure will grow, likely by a significant margin, next year. The Pirates will gain revenue from an expanded season ticket-holder base (a by-product of this year’s postseason run) and a large bump in its share of the national television money doled out by MLB.


Owner Bob Nutting already has signaled that the club’s penny-pinching days are over. He allowed Huntington to go over budget late in the season by trading for Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau and John Buck.


“We are aware of player and fan expectations,” Nutting said. “My responsibility is to the long-term health of this organization. It’s much easier to stretch a financial budget — we have and will continue to do that for the right opportunities. What we’re not willing to do is mortgage the future by trading really premier prospects.”




(How much is Nutting willing to increase payroll in 2014? Conservative estimates suggest $80-85 million but could national TV dollars push it close to $100 million? )


Moreover, Pirates president Frank Coonelly told James Santelli in August the club will likely increase its 25-man payroll from its $66 million level in 2013. If the Pirates have a similar jump from 2013 to 2014 as they put in place from 2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013, that would place the 25-man payroll around $80-85 million in 2014. But the new television dollars and the spike in second-half attendance could allow for a more aggressive payroll spike.


“We’re gonna lay out a plan to incrementally get ourselves back towards where we need to be, competitive with the Cincinnati’s, the Milwaukee’s, the St. Louis’ of the world,” Coonelly said. “Going into 2014, we’ll continue that path, which is not large jumps, but moving us towards our industry foes.”


The Pirates only have some $31 million guaranteed to players in 2014 but that figure does not include the arbitration cases of Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Charlie Morton among others. The arbitration and pre-arb deals could push that number close to $60 million. So that projects to leave $20-25 million to spend, perhaps more, on a handful of roster spots including critical voids at first base, shortstop, right field along with building starting pitching depth.




9.  The first off-season decision involves AJ Burnett.


Knowing the Pirates should have some financial flexibility, I think the club would be wise to extend a qualifying offer to Burnett. Only a few folks know exactly what happened leading up to his Game 5 non-start, but Burnett was a 4.0 WAR player in 2013. That’s roughly a $20 million value. The one-year, qualifying offer figures to be $14.1 million. And by extending the qualifying offer if Burnett signs elsewhere the Pirates gain a compensation pick, which comes between the first and second round, which might be the most desirable outcome.


Burnett is 37. He’s not a perfect pitcher, but he’s been a very effective one with the Pirates. There’s still gas left in the tank as no Major League starter produced more strikeouts via curve in 2013. And you can never have too much pitching depth.


I don’t think the Pirates – nor should they be – are interested in a multi-year offer.


8. If Burnett retires or walks it’s hardly the end of the days for the Pirates. Because of their defensive plan of heavy shifting and two-seam useage the Pirates have proven to be the premier rehab clinic for pitchers coming off of down years.


Here are some bargain bin FA pitchers who could be bounce-back guys in Pittsburgh: Josh Johnson (Did not take well to the AL. But fastball velocity average  was93 mph last season, has a wiepout slider and could benefit by trading in four-seamer for two-seamer and the dimensions of PNC Park)…… Tim Stauffer (plus groundball rate and can miss some bats) …. Phil Hughes (once hyped prospect could really improve away from the AL and the bandbox that is New Yankee) …. Edinson Volquez (similar to Francisco Liriano in 11-12. Great stuff but command is a mess. He did show an increasingly willingness to throw two-seamer last season).


7.  There are three glaring needs in the lineup: first base, right field and shortstop. Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and Clint Barmes are all free agents. I’ll address them there by priority of need:


6. First base:


I don’t expect Morneau will be back. Garrett Jones might not be tendered. And it’s a weak free agent crop:

Lance Berkman *
Jason Giambi
Travis Hafner
Todd Helton
Eric Hinske 
Paul Konerko
Casey Kotchman
Adam Lind *
James Loney 
Kendrys Morales
Justin Morneau
Mike Morse
Mike Napoli
Lyle Overbay
Carlos Pena
Mark Reynolds
Juan Rivera
Kevin Youkilis


Looking at that list and the recent impact of Yoenis Cespedes and Puig – it’s easy to understand why the Pirates have interest in Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. But as always with Cuban players it’s difficult to project performance. That presents both opportunity, because Abreu could be undervalued as a risk.


And the Pirates could be players for Abreu. From Baseball America last month:


The Pirates are one of the most intriguing potential destinations for Abreu. The organization has a heavily analytical front office and some of the savviest international scouts in the business. The international department has helped infuse the organization with plenty of talent, including Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, Luis Heredia and Harold Ramirez, among others. The Pirates haven’t signed any high-profile Cuban players, but their scouts have signed Cubans in the past and they were in on Dayan Viciedo, another power hitter out of Cuba.


Typically the Pirates aren’t a team that springs for big-name free agents, but that might make Abreu an even more appealing option since clubs view Abreu as a riskier bet compared to a player with major league experience. With a potential bump in revenue coming from a postseason berth and their first winning season in 20 years, the Pirates could have more financial flexibility to pursue free agents in the offseason.


The other option would be moving Alvarez to first base. But he loses value there, and the third base free agent market is equally as barren as first base.


5. Shortstop.


Is Jordy Mercer an every-day shortstop or a super sub? I think he’s probably a super sub, who is best used in perhaps a platoon at 2B platoon with Neil Walker or at 3B with Alvarez while also playing some shortstop. He was a lefty masher in 2013 and that should be his role in 2014.


But if Mercer is just a platoon player , what to do at SS?


Of all the free agent position players, I think  Barmes is the best  bet to return on a discounted one-year offer. The defensive metrics were very kind to Barmes in 2013. He has expressed interest in returning.


I’m not sure if Alen Hanson is a true shortstop, but they Pirates will learn more about that question in 2014 and Barmes could be a competent stopgap.


4. Right field.


The Pirates might make Byrd an offer, but he’s expressed in an interest in returning to New York. He makes his offseason home in L.A. I think he’s unlikely to return. Plus, he’s a 36 coming off a career year. Moreover, Jose Tabata proved capable in the second half and he’s signed to a multi-year deal.


Big picture, Gregory Polanco  is the long term answer. And might make right field less of an immediate need because he could be ready in June, ready to the give the Pirates the most athletic outfield in baseball and perhaps a better option in the lead-off position.


Maybe Byrd or another veteran agrees to a one-year deal, but with OF depth in the system (Josh Bell, Austin Meadows and others) there’s little need to consider a multi-year offer.


3. I assume Wandy Rodriguez will pick up his $13 million player option.


2. I think the Pirates will approach Alvarez and Walker with multi-year contract offers but because they are now in arbitration years the Pirates will have lost much of their negotiating leverage.


1. The Pirates bullpen is deep and under contract for 2014. But if the team decides to go Hanrahan on Jason Grilli or Mark Melancon perhaps they could be in the market for a relief pitcher.


– TS




  1. NorthPirateFan says:

    Goodness gracious, I can’t think of a better way to take the shine off this season than having to consider watching another year of that disaster Barmes

    You can almost give the Pirates a pass for having been suckered in by that Denver illusion the first time, almost because we all know he was Clint Hurdle’s pet and would have been signed no matter what his numbers were, but to even consider bring him back after watching him suck the life out an already weak offense every time he stepped to the plate for two years is just unfathomable.

  2. Jim S. says:

    I agree with you that AJ must be a priority, Travis. And it would be smart to extend the $14.1 million offer to garner an extra pick. And, we all know that pick will be the next Michael Wacha. If only. If AJ doesn’t re-sign, I like the Josh Johnson idea. Between him, Wandy, Locke and Cumpton, we should be able to come up with 2 starters. I suppose you could also throw Stolmy into that mix as well. I would think that could keep things in order until Taillon is ready. I would also like to see Nick Kingham continue to progress next year as well. He’s also not that far away.

    I can’t say I have seen a lick of highlights of Abreu. I have no idea what the price range will be on him. I would not commit too much on an iffy proposition like him, though. Maybe Lambo becomes the next GI Jones hybrid 1b/RF? Polanco should be ready for RF by July, but what if he isn’t? I’m not ready to hand RF everyday over to Tabby and his spotty history,while assuming Lambo will pan out immediately. I would love for Byrd to come back in a 1 year deal, but I think he wants (and will get) 2 years from someone else. I trust Neal to find a decent F/A or snag someone through trade to cover a bunch of the at bats in RF and, possibly, 1b. I think Gaby is the logical answer to the right-handed at bats at 1b. As long as Clint doesn’t expect him to bat vs. RHP, he’ll be fine. As for Morneau, no thanks. We don’t need a guy playing 1b with SS power.

    Walker is still improving as a hitter IMO – his .250-ish average aside this year. He hit his highest # of HR, and he has continued to increase his walk rate. I thought his BABIP was low this year, if I am not mistaken. I believe he is a bounce back candidate offensively next year. You are correct that he should be platooned, and should not bat vs. LHP if the game is ever on the line, or as a starter. Since we only see 20% LHP starters, that gives him 130+ starts and only spot replacement late in games when he has a LHP match-up in a tight game. I don’t know if Harrison is the answer as the righty, but he hit ok in that role this season.

    As for SS, I would love to see Steven Drew wearing black & gold. The Bucs missed that shot last year – as did everyone else but Boston. It is time to let Jordy assume the job full-time if we cannot get a Drew type. I would only sign Barmes cheaply (under $3 million) and only as a part-time player (20% of starts).

    I believe they will target $90 million opening day payroll, knowing it can be bumped to $100 million at the trade deadline.

  3. leefoo says:

    I would like to have James Loney, just for the fact that he doesn’t need platooned at 1b.

    I want Byrd back, if he isn’t too expensive.

    I’m on the fence about AJ.


  4. leefoo says:

    For what Drew would want, I wouldn’t want him. Someone on Bucs’ Dugout did a great article about if he is worth it. The conclusion was that he wasn’t.

    I still think Jordy can be a JJ Hardy clone. I have no qualms with him getting most of the SS ABs, with Barmes as the defensive replacement.

  5. NMR says:

    So glad to see the Monday Morning Mop Up getting the off season treatment!
    8. Is Dan Haren too good to fit the “bounce back” meme? Cuz he’s by far the best fit, IMO. 4.87 K/BB, with an xFIP a full run below his ERA which balooned due to an above average 13.0% HR/FB rate. His GB rate of just 36% last season is a whopping 10% below career high. Considering his 4-seem, 2-seem, cutter, splitter arsenal, this guys is literally the perfect fit for the Pirates pitching philosophy.
    6. Great, great job finding the excerpt from BA. They make an excellent point about the Pirates Latin American scouting staff. I suppose they deserve our trust at this point, eh? If Abreu isn’t a fit, then I really don’t see any option other than platoon with Gaby and a lefty. I don’t see Lambo in that role as any worse than spending big money on a marginal veteran, but that doesn’t mean that a better lefty platoon option doesn’t exist.
    5. Jordy earned the lions share of at-bats for next season, unless the team splurges on Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew. That being said, a defense-first sub is needed and should get at least 500 innings. Assuming the team goes that route, isn’t Brendan Ryan a younger, better version of Clint Barmes? Love Clint, but no reason to be emotionally tied to him in that role when a better option is out there.
    4. Jose Tabata had the most underapreciated season of any position player on this team, and it is not even close. Same situation applies as 1B. Spend money only if it can’t be better spent elsewhere. I thought Corey Hart would be a good fit, but those home/away splits are ugly and getting worse. Also don’t like the thought of Mike Morse playing the field, but he clearly has the power necessary to make PNC look small.
    Thanks again, Travis!

  6. NMR says:

    Walker, arguably, had his best season as a pro posting career high power and walk rates with career low strikeout rate. He was terribly inconsistant, however, and once again missed at least 15 games due to injury. My problem with an extension is that you already have a guy who has missed at least 10% of games due to injury the past two seasons and is a heavy platoon liability, which reduces his role by at least another 20% as you’ve noted. Yet, you can bet he’ll be paid as a full-time starter. Is this the guy a team like the Pirates should be paying +$10m?
    Easy first solution is to just quit switch hitting. Anybody watching the ALCS will see Shane Victorino as proof that not only can it be done, but it can be done during the season and result in an improved all-around player. No reason but pure stubborness not to at least give it a try.

  7. NMR says:

    Loney would bring plus defense as well. His entire offensive contribution is tied to BABIP, though, which is scary for an offense-first position. I doubt anybody will give him big money, so he could be a decent gamble.

  8. WVBurghFan says:

    Would love to see the Pirates make a run at Abreu with the extra TV money. Speaking of which, Travis do you have any more detail on that? Is it a revenue-sharing portion, or will all teams see more money (diluting the impact on any one team, such as the Pirates)?
    In terms of shortstop, is Chase d’Arnaud still in the Pirates’ plans somewhere? Without the injury, he was neck and neck with Mercer coming into the season and probably has a better glove.

  9. Jim S. says:

    I definitely don’t see them offering Walker $10 million a season. Is that the going rate for middle of the pack, or slightly above middle of the pack 2b, NMR? I don’t reallly know. Just asking. I could live with something like 3/$23M, but maybe that is under-value.

  10. Jim S. says:

    He (Loney) won’t be getting big money. This was a bounce-back season for him, but still he had 13 HR and only 46 XBH in 549 ABs. His slash line was .299/.348/.430/.778 – not bad, but if he is a candidate to regress that won’t work out too well. He did hit LHP and RHP almost identically. We need more pop from a 1b than that if he is going to play everyday. Let’s just trade for Votto instead. I hear Cincy fans don’t like him. Haha!

  11. Jim S. says:

    I have always sort of thought of Jordy in the Hardy mold as well, leefoo. The reason I brought up Drew is that he is the perfect platoon candidate offensively for Jordy. As we know, Jordy mashed LHP this year. Drew hammered RHP.

    Drew had a very good offensive season for a SS, with a slash line of .253/.333/.443/.377. He had 29/8/13 XBH and drew 54 walks. But, he was terrific for a SS vs. RHP, with .284/.377/..498/.876. I guess it would take too much $$, but what a combo. Neither is great defensively, but they are so good offensively. In looking closer, though, his home/road splits were pretty one-sided towards Fenway. So, that argues against him – especially for a big outlay of $$.

  12. NMR says:

    Fangraphs did a great comparison/estimate prior to this season, and I’d link if it didn’t get stuck in moderation. Google “Fangraphs Walker Worth of Extension” and it should be the first result.
    They estimate his free agent value at$11m/yr, fwiw.

  13. NMR says:

    Ha, you know, thats actually a great idea. But unfortunately I think Dusty was the dumy, not Jocketty.

  14. Jim S. says:

    Wow! Well, I like Neil but that seems like crazy money to me.

  15. National Mart of Records,
    So, you are saying that it is Walker’s fault that he was spiked, got stitches for the deep cut, and because of that——his only injury in 2013——he is untrustworthy?
    Each season is a new lifetime.

  16. Jim S. says:

    To your point, Groat, his back issues from last year certainly seemed to be eliminated this year. That was good to see.

  17. BostonsCommon says:

    8. You can have Dan Haren. I want no part of a soft tossing righty (average 4 seem velocity : 88.9) who gives up too many fly balls, and too many HRs. His K:BB ratio is phenomenal, and his actual K rate is more than respectable. But I’m just not interested though. Seems like a righty Paul Malholm. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just think think the Pirates should be focusing on guys with a higher upside.
    I would much prefer Searage try his luck with Edinson Volquez or Josh Johnson. I expect both would be open to a 1 or 2 year contract, with the hopes of turning it around a la Liriano, and putting themselves in line for big bucks.

  18. NMR says:

    You must have been on vacation in July when he missed 17 days with an oblique strain.
    Because that’s the injury I’m thinking of.

  19. NMR says:

    Boy, if you’ve ever watched Haren pitch, I’d be shocked if you walked away comparing him to Maholm. Worlds of difference in stuff.
    Johnson, absolutely. Volquez? Yikes. In order to “turn it around”, you would have to have once been good. Expecting Searage to fix Volquez’s control is like asking him to fix Jonathan Sanchez.
    The best thing about Haren is that it can be easily argued that he doesn’t even need “fixed”. 3.52 ERA with 5.0 K/BB and 10.3% HR/FB ratio doesn’t look like a project to me.

  20. Jim S. says:

    I’d much rather have Haren than Edison Volquez. Volquez’s last 3 years WHIPs: 2011 – 1.52, 2012 – 1.41, 2013 – 1.40. And that was in San Diego and LA. He walks a ton of guys, and he gave up a ton of hits this year. Haren doesn’t throw hard, but I think he is much more likely to get decent results next year than Volquez. A guy whose stuff I would compare Haren to is Jeff Karstens. Haren is healthier, though. Otherwise, just re-ssign Jeff. I still say Josh Johnson is the pick of the bunch of those guys. He gave up a ton of HR this year, but Toronto will do that to you. It is a launching pad.

  21. Jim S. says:

    Oops! He did have the oblique issue, didn’t he?

  22. NMR says:

    Haha, just busting Groat’s rosin bags a bit. You’re right though, Jim. Good to see Walker’s back hold up this year.

  23. NMR says:

    Didn’t the Twins put Josh Willingham on waivers at the deadline?
    I could definitely see sending Minnesota pitching in return for an inexpensive year of Willingham in right field.
    Same goes for Adam Dunn, assuming CWS eats about half his remaining contract.

  24. Jim S. says:

    On Dunn, that would be a pricey one if CWS doesn’t swallow hard on what’s left of that contract. I think it is two years, right? Or, is it 3? Either way, he hit under .200 with not so great power by LHP this year, so we would need him as the lefty half of a platoon with Gaby. I think Gaby is due for a decent raise. We might be in the $10+ million range with those 2, even if CWS eats a bunch of Dunn’s deal. I don’t see that happening. But, they could probably produce 30+ HR as a tandem, hit maybe .240 and draw a ton of walks. The defense would be spotty. I’m thinking the hangup would be combined $$.

    Willingham is a righty. His average really plummeted this year, and the power wasn’t really there either. He did draw a good # of walks, though. I think I’d rather have Tabby than him in RF until Polanco arrives. I’m re-evaluating my harsh stance on Tabby based on your input. He had similar #’s to Marte offensively. Even still, I think our extra OF needs to hit lefty, don’t you think? All 3 of the starters (Cutch, Marte, Tabata) are righties. Lambo will get his shot in there somewhere.

  25. NMR says:

    Dunn has one year (2014) left on his contract at $15m. I’d want CWS to eat AT LEAST $5m for any kind of decent prospect in return, but I think he’d be worth all of $10m based on his results after June. He supposedly sat down with his hitting coach after getting off to a horrible start and analyzed spray charts that showed he was losing hits due to shifts (duh). After working on using more of the field he went on to hit .250/.354/.469 with 22 HR from June 1st through the end of the season.
    My contract philosophy is that it is really hard to hurt the team on a one year deal. Spending $10m next year on a 1B like Adam Dunn is much, much less risky than spending $10m PER year for whatever length it would take to sign Abreu or Morales. Your margin between Dunn at a reduced rate and a Gaby/Unknown Lefty is likely to be AT MOST around $5m. That’s pretty low risk for 35 easy homeruns, especially when your alternatives are so questionable.
    Willingham would need to bounce back big after an injury riddled season, and you do bring up a good point about preferring a lefty. But I’ve always had a thing for him and think, when healthy, his power plays even in PNC (15 HR at home – OAK – in 2011).

  26. Big Dave says:

    1. A.J. will stay – make him the offer. He enjoys being the clubhouse leader.
    2. Who said Hanrahan – No, no, no. Grilli will be fine. Watson as setup man.
    3. We can live with one more year of Barmus, and Mercer is a valuable super-sub.
    4. Here’s the big one! Shin-Soo Choo in RF leading off.
    5. Marlon Byrd at 1B batting 5th protecting Alvarez’s cleanup.
    6. Marte batting 2nd. Walker is a better RBI man down in the order (6th?)

  27. leefoo says:

    I would guess Hurdle would want some “D”, so I expect Barmes to come back.

    Agree that Drew and Mercer would make a fine “O” combo.

  28. leefoo says:

    Gonna be interesting the $$$ PRNW gets.


  29. leefoo says:

    I just read where Texas might be interested in Loney.
    $$$$$$$ ????

    Hopefully, that’s just his agent spreading rumors.

  30. leefoo says:

    I would like Volquez if Searage can get his walks down.
    I agree that Josh Johnson is a viable bounceback guy, too.

    I like Dan Haren, but he has become a soft tossing RHP not unlike Karsty. Speaking of which, what about ex-Buc Arroyo?.

  31. NorthPirateFan says:

    I just don’t get all the emphasis on finding another reclamation project for Searage. Don’t the Pirates have enough bodies on their roster to sort through and keep him busy as it is?

    So Liriano, Cole and Morton seem to be fairly solid locks for the rotation next year. Then you have Locke, Cumpton, Gomez, the Wandy situation, Pimentel and Taillon, Kris Johnson looks like an in house project in need of some attention … sure looks like plenty to sort through as it is.

    Maybe they can focus on that offense a bit?

  32. NorthPirateFan says:

    Personally, I’d take Dunn at 15m for one year and love watching what he could do with that short right field at PNC Park for 81 games. As you say, it’s only one year so it’s pretty low risk/damage and at this point the Pirates’ offense is sufficiently in need of an upgrade, especially at first, that quibbling over 5 million seems small and short sighted. They’ve never had as much good will with fans to allow such a bold move as they do right now so why not?

    Between him, Pedro and Marte you might have 600 strike outs but it sure could be fun watching the balls sail out over that wall as those two lefties batter RHP nightly.

  33. NMR says:

    Ha, I can respect that logic, North. Kind’ve where I was headed.
    I don’t see the need for a reclamation project just for the sake of a reclamation project. As you said, they aren’t short on arms. But I do feel that you take the chance if the reward is worth it, just like they did with AJ and Liriano. Any team could use arms like those, and most certainly the Pirates.
    Johnson and Haren both have proven to be top of the rotation talents when they’re right. Volquez and Arroyo? Not so much.

  34. NMR says:

    I like your thinking, North. Dunn certainly strikes out, but he has the power to balance and the team could offset some of that by going with a high OBP guy in right.

  35. NorthPirateFan says:

    Just one more thought concerning the cost, what with the absolutely asinine contract the Giants recently handed Hunter Pence, is 15 million for Dunn really all that costly in comparison?

    If Hunter Pence is “worth” 18 million per without even being a free agent , what is Choo going to get this off season? What’s McCutchen worth and do the Pirates need to think about renegotiating his deal sooner rather than later?

  36. Joe says:

    This will definitely be the most interesting offseason in years, I’m really looking forward to see how they deal with all this especially if the front office will have some $$$ to spend. We need a bat at RF and FB, I’d like to see Byrd back and sign a FA at first.

  37. Travis Sawchik says:

    Stephen Drew would be an ideal target for the Pirates and platoon partner with Mercer. I just wonder how expensive he’ll be and how many years he’ll want.

    He was a 3.4 WAR player in 2013. Nick Swisher was a 3.8 WAR player in 2012 and received a 4-year, $56 million deal from the Indians.

    Now, Swisher has been a much more consistent player than Drew but Drew plays a premium position.

    I think he’s a target but he might be too pricey for Pirates.

  38. Travis Sawchik says:

    I think the Pirates have a wealth of back-of-the-rotation starters NorthPirate, so I think a reclamation project should focus on upside.

    Also, you can never have too much pitching depth. Consider, 80 percent of the Pirates’ opening day rotation did not finish the year in the opening day rotation – Wandy, McDonald, Locke and Sanchez

  39. Travis Sawchik says:


    Haren is a really interesting candidate. Good find.

    You have to like he’s efficiency. It would be interesting to see if the Pirates and Searage could get Haren to trade his four-seamer and cutter in for his two-seamer. He threw just 7.5 percent two-seamers last year but a lot of cutters and four-seamers. The cutter is known to drain fastball velocity because of the arm action.

  40. Travis Sawchik says:

    I believe the national television revenue is split evenly among clubs

  41. Travis Sawchik says:

    Dave, Choo would be an ideal fit on this team … but he’s seeking a $100 million deal so that’s a pipedream, I’m afraid

  42. Travis Sawchik says:

    Walker’s career OPS as lefty, .798, as a righty, .655. Might be time to have The Talk

  43. NorthPirateFan says:

    “The Talk” was long over due IMHO, June 2013 would have been the time.

    It’s almost inconceivable to me that he could have done any worse strictly hitting from the left side of the plate than the .519 OPS he put up this season from the right side or even the .603 he posted last year.

    At the risk of starting the “what are the coaches telling these guys” thing again, it’s really perplexing how he went from being essentially the same hitter from both sides of the plate, .818 hitting lefty .795 righty, in 2010 to having three successively worse years but from only one side.

    On the other hand not having access to good minor league splits maybe he never could hit from the right side and 2010 was just a fluke, can’t say.

  44. Travis Sawchik says:

    Not sure. His career batting average is not terrible right-handed (.260) but he has little power from that side. 50 career HRs left-handed, 4 right-handed and his slugging is only .340 career from right side

  45. NMR says:

    “On the other hand not having access to good minor league splits maybe he never could hit from the right side and 2010 was just a fluke, can’t say.”
    The whole idea that Walker was ever a good hitter from the right side stems from small sample size “production”. 2010 is the outlier in his career body of work, not the standard.
    Three of the four homeruns Neil Walker has ever hit as a righty came in 2010. In no other season has his isolated slugging percentage topped .100, which is Clint Barmes territory for those needing reference. He also benefitted from a .333 BABIP in 2010 which inflated his batting average to .295 from the right side. He’s seen his BABIP tank in each consecutive season due to lack of power and high pop up rate (up to 19%).
    Neil Walker simply never was a good hitter from the right side.

  46. Brendan says:

    Haren threw a much higher percentage of two-seamers during his more successful 2010 and 2011 campaigns, 16.3% in 2010 and 19.3% in 2011:

    He also had a higher GB% during those years as one might imagine as well a much lower HR/9 %. How much causation there is between more frequently utilizing the two-seamer and allowing fewer HR’s isn’t entirely clear–that is to say there may be a number of other factors. But his HR/9 dropped significantly in the second half of the season 1.09 vs 1.84 in the first half, when as noted below he returned to more frequently throwing the two-seamer.

    The questions I have I suppose are 1) Why did he throw the two-seamer less frequently in 2012 and the first half of 2013 2) Would pitching half of his games at PNC also serve suppress a signfiicant number of those HR’s?

    With regard to the first question, I googled Dan Haren and two-seamer and came across several articles analyzing his marked improvement in the second half, which seemed to correspond with throwing the two-seamer, keeping the ball low, etc:

  47. BDHumbert says:

    Great post Travis…

    I am a bit amazed that so many folks have give up on GI Jones…

    I know last year was awful – but I am not sure what was behind the regression…

    But I guess we saw the best GI possible in 2012 – and 2013 is the Real GI…

    The drop in average is worrisome – but the drop in HR is even more worrisome…

    Long way of getting to my question – is there an injury/problem in this – he is a big
    guy and should be 25-30 homers – particularly with PNC…

    I doubt he is going to get much in free agency – and I suspect he and his agent know

    What is the chance the Pirates could get him to agree to a one year deal – for 2-3 M…

    And slot him in as the lefty first baseman ONLY – drop the RF stuff and have him focused on that…

    I would have no interest in Loney – he has only two years with a WAR 2.0 or better – and you have got to get more than 13 HR out of the corners…

    I would love to see them make a run at Josh Johnson…

    There is a nice summary on him here…

    The injury risk is significant so crafting the right mix of base and incentives is critical.

    And put me firmly in the camp of those who hope we have seen the last of Barmes…

    Find a cheap, good glove guy out there – or make a run at Ben Zobrist – nice and versitile.

  48. Big Dave says:

    Jones’ problem is he hits the ball to center (right-center) too much. He needs to pull the ball more to be more effective at PNC Park. He hits too many warning track outs to the longer dimensions the further around to center. He could be a definate HR threat if he would pull the ball more. And his AB in game 5 was rediculous, swinging at the 1st pitch! Some have said he did it on purpose to protest his not playing!

  49. NMR says:

    Thanks for the research!

  50. NorthPirateFan says:

    I’ve view Jones’ situation as yet another example of the numerous short comings that Clint Hurdle has as a manager and his failure to utilize the players he has well an put them in situations they’re most likely to succeed. Jones is now in the same situation Travis Snider is in, which is the same situation Brandon Moss was in … that is playing for and organization and under a manager who don’t seem to understand the value of left handed power at PNC Park and walks.

    In 2010 Garrett Jones got 707 plate appearances and recorded career highs in doubles (34) walks (53) and home runs (21) showing a fairly sizeable platoon split OPS .775 v RHP .621 v LHP while getting the vast majority of his starts (106) at 1B.

    In 2011 Jones should have been the obvious left handed side of a platoon at first, especially with Matt Diaz’s profile but Clint Hurdle was hired and Lyle Overbay was brought in and Jones’ playing time was reduced by about 200 plate appearances as he shuttled between RF and 1B and he managed an .808 OPS against RHP, but in less playing time.

    In 2012 he was similarly the obvious choice to platoon with McGehee, but again he saw limited playing time to start the season, 190 plate appearances in April, May and June with McGehee and Tabata disasterously getting the bulk of the playing time even against RHP. It wasn’t until injuries forced Clint Hurdle to play him more in the second half that Jones was a regular starter against RHP and he put up his best numbers.

    2013 was the same story, Jones was supposed to be the platoon mate of Gabby Sanchez’s and was going to bat second, the RF job was Travis Snider’s to lose all according to Hurdle but instead Jones got a mere 77 plate appearances in April despite posting a .884 OPS, then 77 again in May.

    Garrett Jones is what he is, a left handed hitter who if given regular playing time against RHP will post an .800ish OPS, hit a fair amount of doubles, home runs and draw a few walks. If you’ve got a better full time players without the platoon split for RF or 1B by all means play him but the Pirates haven’t the last few years and for whatever reason Clint Hurdle seems utterly unaware of the value these left handed hitters offer, especially to a team like the Pirates and continually looks for ways to keep them on the bench while penciling in right handed hitters who utterly fail into situations where the lefties belong.

    Indeed, even as they’re facing RHP after RHP in the series with the Cardinals no place for Jones to get a start even as Marte is flailing haplessly, only two measly pinch hits in meaningless situations… inexplicable and I doubt there are many managers in the game who would misuse the lefty/righty matches ups the way Hurdle does.

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