Holiday stuffing: the missing platoon advantage

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PHILLY – Happy Thanksgiving, folks. I’m spending the holiday in Philadelphia so this might be the last blog post through the weekend.

 

Enjoy the holiday and be safe. Also, I’d like personally thank those  loyal readers and commentators of this espace. This space is not meant to be a one-way conversation and thanks for making a likely, smart place for discussion and debate.

 

One last baseball thought before you feast … One thing hat surprised me while flipping through Bill James’ 2014 Handbook is this: the Pirates were not a great platooning team in 2013.

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Market prices and the Pirates, Mikolas is a foodie, and what’s next on defense?

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SOUTH HILLS – As GM Neal Huntington has said many times, as any baseball realist appreciates, for the Pirates to be successful they must build their core  – and the outer core, too – from within. The free agent market has only become more expensive and less efficient so there’s even less incentive for small market teams to seek out mid- and top-prices free agent assets. We’ve been over this before.

 

Still, Huntington has also noted that it’s impossible for every team to fill every void internally. For the Pirates to try and replicate their 2013 success it seems a quality left-handed, right-side corner bat,  a starting pitcher, and at least a backup middle infielder, if not a platoon option, must be found externally. (I actually think Rafael Furcal makes sense because he can play both short and second and as a switch-hitter he could perhaps form a double platoon with Jordy Mercer and  Neil Walker).

 

Look, few were expecting the Pirates to start throwing out mega dollars this offseason, that’s not smart business or realistic. But I did think it made a lot of sense to make AJ Burnett a qualifying offer, and it seems surprising – at least to me –  the Pirates aren’t willing to pay closer to market rate on a  one-year deal for Burnett. After all, Burnett did lead the NL in strikeout rate and groudnball rate last season.

Continue reading Market prices and the Pirates, Mikolas is a foodie, and what’s next on defense?

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Instant analysis: Pirates acquire Jaff, designate Jones, and call on Furcal

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Sure, it was not Fielder-for-Kinsler of even Bourjos-for-Freese, but the Pirates did give us some hotstove fodder Monday in swapping fringy assets with the Padres.

 

Alex Dickerson is an interesting young bat, but he was blocked by a number of other outfielders in the system and he was not one of the Pirates’ top 10 or even 20 prospects. The Pirates traded him Monday for two pieces that could help this season in outfielder Jaff Decker (No, not, Jeff Dacker) and RHP Miles Mikolas.

 

Decker was once a top 100 prospect (No. 82 by  Baseball America in 2010). But injuries set him back in 2011 and 2012 before he rebounded last seasonat Triple-A Tucson, batting .289 with a .381 on-base percentage. Decker’s most interesting traits are that he posted a .402 on-base percentage over six minor league seasons and that he can plan all three OF position. He’s also a left-handed bat, meaning he could platoon with Jose Tabata.

Continue reading Instant analysis: Pirates acquire Jaff, designate Jones, and call on Furcal

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: an un-Cardinal like signing, and appreciating Mercer

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CLARK BUILDING – It’s tough to question any decision the Cardinals make, any transaction they execute, given their track record.

 

I’ve written a lot about their incredible recent drafts, particularly their historic 2009 draft. They have the best development system in baseball. They’ve supplemented a homegrown core with value free agent signings like Carlos Beltran. They’ve had incredible success at the MLB level over the last decade. St. Louis GM John Mozeliak is a really smart guy and he’s surrounded by smart people.

 

All that said, I don’t get Jhonny Peralta signing.

Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: an un-Cardinal like signing, and appreciating Mercer

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Cardinals close defensive divide … And does Kendrys Morales have the Bourn identity?

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SOUTH HILLS – When St. Louis traded postseason hero David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos  they immediately improved at three defensive positions.

 

Bourjos is so good in center, that he pushed Mike Trout to left field in LA.

 

Matt Carpenter is expected to shift to his natural third base position and prospect Kolten Wong will likely occupy second base. Those are two more defensive upgrades.

Continue reading Cardinals close defensive divide … And does Kendrys Morales have the Bourn identity?

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Same old Pirates? Or smart, frugal Pirates?

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SOUTH HILLS – What we’ve learned about the Pirates’ 2013-14 approach to free agency  to date this offseason is that the club is again seeking value targets. It you had dreams about a high-profile, big-money signing that seems unlikely.

 

We were told last week the Pirates were seeking low-risk, high-upside starters and this week we learned they were finalists for such a target in Josh Johnson, who signed a one-year $8 million deal with the Padres on Tuesday.

 

Today I reported the Pirates had inquired about first baseman Lance Berkman, who is coming off two injury plagued seasons and will be 38 in February. The Pirates were/are likely considering Berkman as a potential platoon partner – .301 career hitter from left side – or a bench bat. The Pirates might again be looking to trim costs on the corners by employing platoons to open 2014.

Continue reading Same old Pirates? Or smart, frugal Pirates?

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Johnson off the market but Polanco is close

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Updated: Early Tuesday afternoon I caught up with Josh Johnson‘s agent who said his client had the Pirates as one of ‘three of four’ finalists for his services. Unfortunately for the Pirates, late Tuesday night the Padres turned out to be the finalist. ESPN  reported around midnight that Johnson had agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal with the Padres. The deal carries $1.25 million in incentives.

 

Johnson’s is coming off a down year, but has upside: See his 3.58 xFIP vs. 6.20 ERA and a 9.2 strikeout rate. Johnson was seeking for a pitcher-friendly home ballpark and for a ticket back to the National League after a disastrous year in the AL East.

 

The Pirates have a run-depressing park and have revitalized the careers of Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett in recent seasons. It’s not surprising they were on each other’s radar. It’s a fit that would have made a lot of sense. But San Diego and San Francisco were thought to be his favorites from the beginning as they  closer to his Las Vegas home.

 

Continue reading Johnson off the market but Polanco is close

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Pirates’ top 10 prospects and Under 25 talents

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SOUTH HILLS – Sorry I’m a little tardy with this today, folks. But better late than never, right? Before we get to the early holiday gifts that are the Pirates’ top 10 prospect  list  and 25U talent rankings from Baseball America, which were published online today, I thought I’d share this piece on Rene Gayo I wrote for Baseball America.

 

Teams are always looking for edges in the market place and Gayo has given the Pirates a competitive advantage in Latin America.

 

While teams like the Cubs and Rangers have recently spent millions on signing bonuses for teenage Latin America prospects, Gayo has been one of the best at finding value in the Latin America market. Consider this: he signed Gregory Polanco – Baseball America’s No. 1 Pirates prospect – Starling Marte, and Alen Hanson for a combined $300,000.

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How Andrew McCutchen became the NL’s Most Valuable Player

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LEBO – Andrew McCutchen was born with five-tool baseball DNA. Time matured physical gifts. But physical gifts are never enough to become an MVP and the Pirates made a key observation when scouting McCutchen prior to taking him with the 11th overall pick in the historic 2005 draft class. It was a risky decision not only because he was a high school prospect  but because he was facing less-than-elite competition as our own Dejan Kovacevic reports:

 

Brian Graham, the Pirates’ farm director at the time and now with the Orioles, once watched Cutch play an opponent that was starting mostly eighth-graders. So Graham had an idea: The Pirates would whisk Cutch to their complex in Bradenton for some private tests. Rajai Davis, a speedy outfield prospect who went on to major league duty, was invited to provide a man-on-man challenge.

“That day, watching Cutch hit and run right alongside Rajai, that was it for me,” Graham recalled Thursday from his Cranberry home. “All the tools were there. We all saw that. But the makeup, the drive to go compete with someone like Rajai … that sold me.”

Continue reading How Andrew McCutchen became the NL’s Most Valuable Player

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Why Clint Hurdle was a deserving NL Manager of the Year, and why he is the archetype of a 21st century manager

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LEBO – Anchor and analyst Brian Kenny offered an interesting anecdote leading up to the manager of the year awards yesterday on his Clubhouse Confidential program on MLB Network.

 

Kenny noted when attending sabermetric conferences  over the past several years he would hear a common refrain from frustration analysts working in major league front offices: too little of their work was making its way to the playing surface. Too many old-school coaches and manager were resistant to the data they were receiving from the front office.

 

That was not the case in Pittsburgh in 2013 and that is a key reason why the Pirates won 94 games and why Hurdle was a deserving NL Manager of the Year winner on Tuesday.

Continue reading Why Clint Hurdle was a deserving NL Manager of the Year, and why he is the archetype of a 21st century manager

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