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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Pirate-ology bubble watch


BRADENTON, Fla. – Selection Sunday is always a lot of fun … unless you or your team is on the chopping block. Selection committee members always have tough decisions to make and the Pirates’ brass will soon face their own Selection Sunday-type drama.

While the majority of the Pirates’ 25-man roster is expected to contain few surprises, there is an intriguing bullpen battle this spring.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday the team will likely carry 12 pitchers “for 98 percent” of the season. He noted the Pirates are unlikely to have the luxury of beginning the year with just four starters because of  the way the schedule shakes out. So the Pirates are highly like to have five starting pitches and seven relievers on the roster on March 31, which means there will be a significant, out-of-options bullpen arm from last season that will not make the roster.

With two weeks until Opening Day, and in the spirit of March roster Madness, here is my first crack at the Pirates’ 25-man roster.

LAST FOUR IN: Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Harrison, Andrew Lambo, Stolmy Pimentel

LAST FOUR OUT: Jeff Decker (has options remaining), Chris Dickerson, Vin Mazzaro (out of options), Jeff Locke (Locke has an option remaining or could begin year on DL)

Notice who is not in the last-four-in line?

Bryan Morris.

Morris has done more than any player over the last two weeks to improve his stock and I know believe he’s solidly across the “safe” line. Against the Rays last week and against the Phillies on Sunday, Morris touched 97 mph with his fastball. His two-seamer sat in the mid 90s and showed excellent movement. His cutter has played like a  90-mph slider. He’s had scouts buzzing. I know because I sat with the scouts during Morris’ outing on Sunday.

So I think Morris is either in, or is used as a trade chip. I also think Gomez gets in because he can start or relieve and I think Pimentel gets in because he has an electric arm. I sense the odd man out is Mazzaro.



Starling Marte

Andrew McCutchen

Travis Snider

Jose Tabata


Pedro Alvarez

Clint Barmes

Josh Harrison

Andrew Lambo

Jordy Mercer

Gaby Sanchez

Neil Walker


Russell Marin

Chris Stewart


1 – Francisco Liriano

2 – Gerrit Cole

3 – Charlie Morton

4 – Wandy Rodriguez

5-Edinson Volquez

LNG – Pimentel

LNG – Gomez

RST – Morris

RST – Mark Melancon

LST – Tony Watson

LST – Justin Wilson

CL – Jason Grilli


Who you got? (Sorry, no billion-dollar prize offer here).



9. Boston Globe reports the Pirate are interested in Mike Carp. 6. I wonder if Carp can be had for a Pirates’ reliever.

Here’s a question: scouts were buzzing that Morris is throwing like an eighth-inning guy. Do you sell high on Melancon for bat?


8. I think sometimes we forget that while analytics are a big part of the game, a big part of the Pirates’ approach, old-school scouting still is really, really important. It’s still the lifeblood at the amateur levels. That’s what I tried to convey in Sunday’s story on Gregory Polanco which is linked here.

Said my man John Hart:

“I’ve talked to a lot of friends of mine who saw him down in the Dominican this winter and thought, head and shoulders, he was the most improved player they had seen over the course of the year. … Exceptional talent. Believe me, when this kid arrives, he’s going to be pretty special.”


7. What is Ray Searage‘s most important skill? Empathy.

Read about it here


6. Lambo is batting .065. Sure spring stats don’t mean anything … but still.

I’m a platoon guy. Heck, I’m Mr. Platoon. But I’m starting to think Sanchez should be the everyday first baseman. (More on this Tuesday)


5. Walker homered right-handed on Sunday. He didn’t do that last regular season. In fact he hasn’t done it since June 6, 2011 against Wandy Rodriguez.


4. Hurdle mentioned last week that usually at this point in the spring he’s  covering for Alvarez and deflecting away questions about Alvarez’s struggles while Alvarez gets work in on the backfields. Not this spring. Alvarez’s approach and contact has been much better.

This could be a big deal. A Chris Davis-style harbinger.


3. It continues to be a healthy spring for Wandy Rodriguez. That’s a big deal. If the Pirates’ front four of the rotation is in good health there’s no reason they shouldn’t be competitive.


2. Walker told the Trib last week that he believes Snider is a breakout candidate. I’m in agreement with this. Snider hit well before he injured his foot last year and those minor league numbers mean something. Snider posted elite milb numbers over 510 games. That means something. Snider is in better shape this year and he has a blend of patience and power that Tabata does not. I still think Snider opens with lion’s share of RF reps.


1. Are too many over-reacting on Volquez? Or is he already a lost cause? He’s trying to work out some mechanical issues, but he’s got electric off-speed stuff, his xFIP suggests there’s something there. But then again he hasn’t really had a quality season since 2008. He might very well fail. But he’s worth a role of the dice because there is some  Liriano lurking if he can throw strike one. Obviously that’s a huge if.



Huntington on Volquez: “Barring injury, we see Edinson in our rotation to start the season. We believe in the stuff. We believe we can help him.”


Rene Gayo on Polanco: “I thought he’d get better. But I never thought he’d run like he does. Guys that big don’t move that fast. I thought he’d be an average runner. You’re basically looking at a guy the size of Jim Thome running around. It’s ridiculous.”



The percentage difference in free-agent spending between the Yankees ($471 million( and Pirate ($7 million) this offseason. Just a small divide.


Siesta Beach Florida. The sand is as white as Pittsburgh snow.




  1. Travis, interesting that you consider Lambo as one of the last 4 in but no other 1Bs listed in your last 4 out. That seems kind of weird. If the bubble bursts on Lambo wouldn’t Ishikawa or McGuiness make the club?

  2. Steelkings says:

    From Roto

    Colin Dunlap of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh was told by a Pirates source that there is “extremely high” doubt Andrew Lambo can handle first base.

    Lambo has played the position some in the minors, but it appears he’d probably only be an emergency option there at the big league level. Dunlap adds that it “seems iffy” Lambo will crack the Opening Day roster. Not only has the 25-year-old looked shaky at first base, he’s also picked up just two singles in 31 at-bats this spring.

  3. Keith says:

    I feel like mcGuinness and Ishikawa are getting more serious looks late, given Lambo’s lack of success so far. I wouldn’t be surprised, with Lambo’s option, that one or the other goes north now that all is nearly said and done.

  4. T.S. says:

    Gomez has been awful in ST. I think he should be the odd man out. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Martinez makes it over Harrison; Hurdle loves the guy and he hits/fields better than J.H. As for Lambo, I think they’re probably going to give him a few months to see what they have. I think if he’s 7 or 8 for 22 instead of 2 for 22, there’s no conversation like there is currently. IMHO.

  5. T.S. says:

    Correction: If Lambo is 8 or 9 for 31…

  6. T.S. says:

    And I’d take Dickerson over Tabata. Jose hasn’t cut it for a long time.

  7. Steelkings says:

    @ Travis
    Re: No# 9

    Carp is hitting .235 this spring against right handers. With that said, if you roll the dice to acquire Carp, I think it will be Tabata of Snider heading to the sox. Victorino and Gomes are really struggling and I think the Sox will look for a corner outfielder

  8. Steelkings says:

    Smoak and Morrison are putting up almost Identical spring numbers. Both hitting 297 with 30 or so at bats. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the third guy battling for 2 spots is Right handed Cory Hart. Hart is 2 for 28 hitting 107.

  9. Steelkings says:

    I’m almost willing to bet money that Hart ends up back in Milwaukee before the spring is over.

  10. BostonsCommon says:

    Not that spring training stats matter, but Lambo is carrying a 3:4 BB:k and a k%<13% so far. That would indicate that he's at least not being over-matched…

    Travis, is that the case? Or does he look lost out there?

    Good stuff on Walker and Alvarez… Two guys with room for tremendous offensive improvement from last year.

    Again with the spring training stats… But Marte has yet to take a base on balls.

  11. NMR says:

    Colin Dunlap, lol.

  12. NMR says:

    Except that McGuiness and Ishakawa suck at baseball.

  13. Steelkings says:

    Puig is 5 for 41, hitting a buck twenty two. Jus sayin

  14. NMR says:

    Carp also hit .178 LAST spring training.

    Which meant absolutely NOTHING then, just like him hitting .235 this spring means absolutely NOTHING right now.

    When are people going to learn?

  15. Steelkings says:

    ^*^*^*But Marte has yet to take a base on balls.^*^*^*^

    First off, guys are up there hacking. Secondly, Martes is too busy doing his impression of “Coach” from cheers to draw walks. He leads the majors this spring in getting plunked. Actually he is tied with fellow Pirate Jordy Mercer.

    Note* Marte was 2nd in the MLB in getting Plunked in 2013. Only bested by Shin Soo Choo.

  16. PetroSteel says:

    It’s spring training for gosh sakes. Throughout all stat’s.

  17. Steelkings says:

    Speaking of getting plunked. Whats with guy chucking it at McCutchens Knot? And Morris is my new hero. Finally someone dished a little back for throwing seeds at our MVP.

  18. Steelkings says:

    Should we Throughout all stats thoughout all spring training?

  19. NMR says:

    Great round-up, Travis!

    -Love spring training stories like Brian Morris. All these reports have me back to being convinced he’s making the team. Mazzaro seems like the odd man out with Gomez also getting praise from Hurdle, et al.

    -The Red Sox appear to only have two bullpen spots with a chance of not being set, given Uhera, Breslow, Mujica, Tazawa, and Capuano seemingly locks. Andrew Miller probably could be added to that list, as well. Seems like the best bet for a Carp trade may be prospects.

    -Wandy Rodriguez is, by far, the biggest story of spring training. Wandy’s health goes a hell of a long way to mitigating the risk of Volquez never putting it together.

    -Very surprised by all the sources of optimism surrounding Travis Snider. I was president of the fan club last year, and even I will admit that his April success was little more than a BABIP mirage (.409!!).

  20. Steelkings says:

    Alvarez vs Goldschmidt Spring Training 2014

    GoldSchmidt 1HR – 8 K’s
    Alvarez 2HR’s – 6 K’s

  21. Steelkings says:

    Miami sure is glad the Pirates cut Jones. 3 for 35 with 12 K’s….Yikes!

  22. Nate83 says:

    I don’t know Mazzaro shares the same red face as Hurdle. He may want to keep him around so he doesn’t stand out as much. He would only have Snider’s red cheeks if Mazzaro left.

  23. Nate83 says:

    Are you finding spring training stats on everyone just to get NMR all worked up? It’s only Monday you can’t get his blood pressure going that early in the week.

  24. Steelkings says:

    Spring stat of the day:

    Andrew McCutchen (.560) is out hitting the combined BA’s of both shortstops Mercer (.190) and Barmes (.211)

    Somebody remind me why Mercer is the starter over Barmes

  25. Steelkings says:

    What? NMR has a problem with spring (Counting) Stats?

    Or to answer your question……Yes…Thats right!

    Grote likes em…… :)

  26. NMR says:

    Becasue his huge success against LHP makes it easy for everyone to overlook that he was awful against righties?

    Ok ok, that wasn’t completely fair, I know.

  27. Travis Sawchik says:

    Steel, interesting. I actually am not sure what the Sox’ needs are but I wouldn’t go crazy for Carp

  28. Travis Sawchik says:

    Boston, I haven’t seen much solid contact from Lambo. If he had a track record of success against MLB pitching it wouldn’t be concerning but …

  29. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, NMR

    I’m not suggesting Snider will be a star … but I think he has a decent chance to be pretty useful especially in a lineup in need of OBP

  30. Justin says:


    I think you have the wrong “Dickerson” up there in the first four out section.

  31. Nate83 says:

    But Carp has played the outfield before. Why wouldn’t they just keep him and have a guy that can play both positions. I honestly don’t think Carp is moving. Unfortunately I don’t think Seattle’s GM has any clue how to run a team and for some reason they will hold on to all their average assets and get nothing in return when they realize they are all equal players.

    In the end it may be the best thing for the Pirates if none of these players are available because none of them are really that good. They already have not that good on their current roster why get more of that. Just wait until the trade deadline and something useful will become available.

  32. Steelkings says:

    If thats the case, then McGuinness can go home and they dont need to trade for Carp. Lambo and his invisible bat will be just fine.

  33. Steelkings says:

    Now THATS funny!

  34. NMR says:

    Travis, your fanhood has clearly muddled your perception of Travis Snider. ;)

    Seriously, though, I agree that Snider isn’t far from being a useful peice of the lineup. Really looking forward to seeing him for the first time this year. Hopefully the swing has come together.

  35. Steelkings says:

    Heres something really not fair, NMR.

    Mercer and Barmes are both out hitting Drew!

  36. Travis Sawchik says:

    NMR, maybe it’s the first name. Kindred

  37. NMR says:

    Only 25 spots on a roster, Nate.

    Who would the Sox cut so that Carp makes the team?

  38. Steelkings says:

    I like this one better

  39. Nate83 says:

    I don’t know their roster that well but how does trading Carp for Tabata or Snider as the post suggested help their situation. It’s more likely they want prospects or possibly bullpen help but I don’t think they are hurting that bad in the bullpen.

  40. NMR says:

    My bad, Nate. Didn’t even realize your post was a response to Steel.

  41. Steelkings says:

    For the sake of argument, wouldnt that mean Carp would come pretty cheap?

    March 26 — Last day to request unconditional release waivers on a player without having to pay his full 2014 salary – 9 days from today

    March 30 — Active rosters reduced to 25 players – 14 days from today

    Decision time is looming!

  42. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks. Fixed.

  43. NMR says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say Carp would be inherantly cheap, as other clubs need for 1B/OF will also help set the market.

    But yes, if the Red Sox straight up don’t have room at the inn, then that is one less team in the bidding.

  44. Steelkings says:

    In my scenario Victorino or Gomes would be odd man out. They are both 35 and Carp is 28. Also they do not have anything in the minors at 1st base. With Carp gone, if something happens to Napoli, which it does annually, their choices would be to run 41 year old David Ortiz out there, or Nava who has player only 18 games at first in his career.

  45. Nate83 says:

    That’s OK. You bring up a good point and I saw on the other thread that somebody posted you took a good look at the Red Sox roster and how it may all shake out.

    I think the Pirates would be more willing to trade from a surplus such as their bullpen or average right field options to get a player like Carp who isn’t much of an upgrade then they would be willing to give up prospects. That’s why I’m not sure Boston is a match. I could be wrong and Carp could be on our team by the end of the week for a couple of fringe prospects.

  46. NMR says:

    I cringe every time I see Szymborski linked. Guy is the definition of smarky, know-it-all stats geek that does more harm to the sabr movement than good.

    I promise, all you non-sabr people. We’re not all like him.

  47. cmat0829 says:


    Thanks for finding a creative way to tie into March Madness with the madness of us asylum-ites kvetching over the 24th and 25th spots on the roster of what should be a playoff-competitive team. My perspective is that it is really great to have the core lineup spots solidified (outside of glaring hole at 1B), so we can have a compelling debate on the merits of Morris, Pimental, Gomez and Mazarro; perhaps on the merits of JayHey vs. some other AAAA type…

    My two cents:

    I tend to agree that Mazarro would be the most expendable (UNLESS one of the other bullpen types is traded). You just have to love the raw stuff of Morris and Pimental better than Mazarro….and Gomez seems to me to be more flexible to go multiple innings and spot start and we may need that….

    I had heard some buzz that Daniel Schlereth was in position to perhaps to sneak onto the club…though I suppose that would require a trade of one of the other lefties.

    No reason not to give Snider a bulk of starts early on in the season in RF. Tabby is Tabby, which is a serviceable 4th OF… but with Polanco looming in Indy, it is now or never to give Snider a chance to turn some heads.

    As to 1B, I would think Lambo would be playing more in the field if they truly intended to make him a starter vs RHPs at 1B… so I think he is destined for AAA. That would mean that Gaby gets most of the starts… but would also mean we’d need to either (1) trade for a platoon partner at 1B or (2) keep Ishikawa or McGuiness on the bench. NO REASON to keep Lambo on the 25-man if he isn’t gonna play, and it would look like that isn’t gonna be the case.

  48. cmat0829 says:

    One more point, perhaps the most important point:

    In the bullpen you need to think beyond 2014 as well. Either Grilli or Melancon or BOTH will not be here in 2015… so you need to keep the guys who can take advanced roles , either closer or setup roles, over those that are more depth. Morris, by all accounts this Spring, has the stuff and makeup to be a back-end bullpen guy. Watson could close. Wilson could close. Mazarro to me doesn’t offer any of the future upside as a tie breaker in any bullpen decision for this year’s squad.

  49. Andrew says:

    Funny you should write that I was just looking up prior ZiPs projections.

    Burnett 2012: ERA 4.22, ERA + 92
    Burnett 2013: ERA 4.07, chance of ERA+ > 100, 26%
    Liriano 2013: ERA 3.72, chance of ERA+ >110, 9%

    Obviously it is highly unfair to cherry pick projections that missed, but projections cannot escape prior performance and Volquez’s projection of ERA 4.48 ERA + 80, tells me nothing more than he has been bad so bad that regressing to league average he will still be bad.

    I tolerate Szymborski, I have a high tolerance for snark most days, but he really does not have anything insightful to add on Volquez.

  50. NMR says:

    Completely agree with that, Nate, and thought that would be the exact reason Carp wouldn’t be traded to the Pirates.

    But that was before Grady Sizemore took his roster spot.

  51. Andrew says:

    I think Melacon is arbitration eligible for 2015 and a free agent in 2017. I do not think he would become too expensive as long as he does rack a lot more saves as they drive up arbitration valuations.

    I keep reading about different pitchers great stuff but remember Mike Zagurski could touch 96. Outside Grilli and Melacon no one else in the Pirates bullpen had above average K/9 rates in 2013, which is fine if you do not walk anyone but this does not describe Morris or even Wilson. Pimental did not strikeout a lot of batter in AA or AAA. Yes the samples are small and I assume the front office has better data, but I really do not have much to add other than skepticism.

  52. NMR says:

    Isn’t he ESPN’s token SABR guy now? Certainly suits them.

    I quit reading his chats and unfollowed him from twitter a while back because 98% of it was poor attempts at humor. So many words, and so little value.

  53. Nate83 says:

    Well if he truly does become a spare part then maybe he can be had for really cheap but it’s not as if we are the only team that would be interested in the services of Carp so it would cost more then a lottery ticket. Maybe somebody with options left like Schlareth would interest them if for no other reason then he gives them depth if they have multiple injuries to their bullpen.

  54. NMR says:

    Regardless, they have what they have. Unless you see the organization going outside for closer/setup man.

  55. Nate83 says:

    He already had arbitration this year I think. He will more then likely get close to 4 million next year and even more then that the year after. He will be a free agent in 2016. The Pirates wouldn’t be paying him more then 4 million to do anything but close and I don’t see him as much more then an 8th inning set up man myself. He is definitely a trade candidate after this year if other guys step up and show they can fill his role. If NH has shown us anything it’s that he will not spend much more then 5-8 million on the 7 man bullpen.

  56. NMR says:

    And fwiw, I also feel I have a high tolerance for snark. Huge Keith Law fan. But Keith is at least intelligent and good at his job.

  57. NMR says:

    re: 1B “…or (2) keep Ishikawa or McGuiness on the bench.”

    In light of this blog pertaining to a quality reliever being cut or traded due to roster restrictions, why are we giving either of these guys a spot on the 25-man?

  58. mab71 says:

    I think Mazzaro or Jeanmar gets traded before the season. However, I think there is an outside chance that Wilson gets traded early in the season after somebody has a big injury. Wilson, it seems, can bring the most in a trade given that some people think he could be a starter. I think the Pirates are going to be forced to try to get a 1st base prospect into their system, as Lambo isn’t going to be the platoon partner April 1st. McGuiness will be that guy. I see something like Wilson and Kingham going for a legit hitting prospect and maybe a AAA catcher.

  59. Nate83 says:

    You are skeptical about the bullpen going forward past this year?

    It’s the most volatile group of players in baseball by far. All you can do is have plenty of options to throw at the wall and see if they stick for a year or two. Not all the pirate prospect pitchers are going to stick as starters. Some will have control problems and others will not be able to develop a good enough third pitch. The Pirates have a lot of young live arms. Some will end up as relievers.

    As far as the walks I think most relievers walk a lot of batters. It’s one of the reasons they become relievers. I’m also not sure about Wilson, Watson and Stolmy not being able to have K/9 rates that are not in line with the rest of the league. I can’t imagine they would be much below if they are at all. Both Wilson and Watson had ERA’s in the low 2’s and Watson walk totals are low. I personally feel pretty good about the bullpen.

  60. The Gunner says:

    invisible bat………gotta love it!

  61. Andrew says:

    I am basically saying I do not know good or bad, and having a bunch of hard throwers with occasional command issues is a good problem to have. Morris could certainty improve and has some good whiff rates over a small sample if not strike out rates.

    I just worry a little when I see Watson, Wilson, Morris, outperforming their FIPs by run largely because of sub .250 BABIPs, Jared Hughes did the same thing in 2012. However I am not that worried going forward one thing the this front office has done is construct a good bullpen even when the rest of the team was terrible.

  62. Andrew says:

    Accurate characterization of Szymborski, not really funny and there are plenty of better people writing about baseball, I still love ZiPs. My pet peeve about Twitter is when writers I follow for baseball or other sports start posting a lot of political and personal stuff.

    The ESPN Sweetspot blog is good, and free, quality suffers a little from having to cover the entire league, but sometimes you get gems like this:

    “Another way to spin that is to look at the teams that received highest percentage of their overall team WAR from their five best players:

    1. Astros: 153 percent
    2. Phillies: 110 percent
    3. Mets: 95 percent
    4. Mariners: 90 percent
    5. White Sox: 86 percent
    6. Marlins: 84 percent
    7. Brewers: 78 percent
    8. Twins: 74 percent
    9. Diamondbacks: 73 percent
    10. Rockies: 72 percent

    Yes, you’re reading that correctly: The Astros and Phillies received more value from their top five players than they did from their entire rosters — meaning, the rest of their rosters behind their core five were below replacement. ”

    Travis, sorry for taking up so much space talking about another writer on you blog, but this is not any worse than posting a litany of spring training averages.

  63. Nate83 says:

    Just don’t talk about the Tigers bullpen. It’s a hot button topic that get some blood a boiling quickly……..

  64. brendan says:

    This is pretty tasteful for a ‘youtube fan video’. I was pleasantly surprised they opted to eschew the obtrusive classic rock that normally underscores these things for the relatively more subtle “faux explosions in the sky” track.

    That’s not to damn it with faint praise. It gave me a little bit of a lump in my throat. They managed to capture almost all of the memorable moments of 2013 and not just home runs but really significant moments like Cole’s first start which are sometimes forgotten when it comes highlight time.

    My only complaint is that I wish the “Cueto, Cueto…” audio had been included.

  65. NMR says:

    Ha! That is pretty awesome.

    Ok, for example, this is the crap I’m talking about. Somebody posted this from his chat today on the Bucs Dugout Blog:

    “12:11 [Comment From GuestGuest: ]
    Pirates continue to cling to Volquez as #5 – does it cost them the playoffs?

    Monday March 17, 2014 12:11 Guest
    12:12 Dan Szymborski: It could very well. I’m not a fan of it at all.

    12:13 [Comment From JeremyJeremy: ]
    Obviously you’re not a big fan of the Volquez deal. Is there someone else the Pirates have in camp right now that you’d be giving those starts to? Cole/Morton/Liriano are locks, Wandy if he’s still healthy. Jeff Locke would be better if he weren’t hurt. Would you go Pimentel, Cumpton, other?

    Monday March 17, 2014 12:13 Jeremy
    12:13 Dan Szymborski: Over Volquez? Yes. If Volquez is willing to go to AAA, I’d be happy to have him there.”

    Hmmm, if only there were some way of projecting the value a given player has to a team in terms of wins…oh wait, Szymborski RUNS a service that predicts the value a given player has to a team!

    ZIPS says Volquez will barely be replacement level, at 0.2 WAR. The largest value any of the pitchers listed projects to have is Jameson Taillon at 1.5 WAR. Over a full season, which of course isn’t likely to happen since Taillon should be taking over a rotation spot by July.

    How do you go about trying to explain projections and WAR to a non-sabr guy when the guys who make this crap up can’t even follow their OWN stuff?

  66. Steelkings says:

    Wilson and Kingham for Carp and Xander Bogaerts maybe

  67. Steelkings says:

    I just listened to an interview with Terry Francona on the radio. He was just saying that the one thing teams cant have enough of is quality starting pitching. From both a talent and financial aspect. Proven vet starters are extremely expensive. He went on to say that the first thing teams ask for in return for a position player is bull pen guys who are contract friendly who can become back end starters. Or promising minor league starters.

    He went on to say that is the reason for the lack of trade deadline deals. Position players are a dime a dozen. Quality starters, not so much. Everybody wants starters and nobody wants to give them up.

  68. Thundercrack says:

    I agree with you that it seems like Mazzaro is the odd man out. He did a nice job last year and very well may be effective again this year. But Morris seems to be coming into his own and Stolmy throws too hard and has too much potential to give up on. Plus he may be as effective as Mazzaro will be.

    And I think Morris could be groomed to be the closer after Grilli is gone.

  69. Travis Ishikawa is Travis Ishikawa, but I could see him serving as an April option at first base.

  70. The Gunner says:


    That very well may become reality. What are your reasons for saying that?

  71. Dan Szymborski says:

    It seems my desired ratios are off.

    I had been shooting for 45% poor attempts at humor, 55% poor attempts at analysis. That is, if you have to put each into a group, obviously there’s going to be a significant bit of overlap.



  72. He’s looked like he knows what he’s doing, whenever I’ve seen him. A couple weeks ago, I thought he was a long shot. Since then, he’s played well and Andrew Lambo hasn’t. Personally, I’d rather go with a known quantity, at least to start 2014, then put even more pressure on a guy who’s never done it in the bigs before. Let’s see how Ishi does for a while, get Lambo his confidence back at Triple-A and then bring him up the first day of a Bucs’ road trip — as Huntington is known to do.

  73. Ghost says:

    What Steelkings and Brendan said. The amateur outdid the pros.

  74. tedwins says:

    Forgot the smiley face… :)

  75. The Gunner says:

    Some people on this blog believe that spring training stats mean nothing. I think they do depending on the particular situation. I pretty much agree with what you say.

  76. Jim S. says:

    Michael Martinez is organizational depth. He can’t hit better than Harrison. I watched the game on Sunday on MLB Network, and even the Phillies announcers were in agreement that the guy just can’t hit.

  77. Jim S. says:


    Interesting thought on trading OF for Carp, as opposed to most of the talk centering around trading pitching depth for him.

    But, I think trading Tabata for Carp is overpaying. We might not all like Tabata here, but he has more value than Carp by a long stretch. I could see Snider being offered in that deal.

    I actually think Tabata is a nice 4th OF after the regulars are set as Marte, Cutch, Polanco. Tabata hits both RH/LH pitchers, and can play both corner positions reasonably well.

  78. Jim S. says:

    Carp hit .178 last year, NMR? Then, I don’t see him getting any regular season at bats last year.

  79. Jim S. says:


    What are the contract situations of Victorino and Gomes? They are being paid a lot of money, and were both nice contributors to a WS winner 5 months ago. Why would they suddenly be the odd man out?

  80. Nate83 says:

    Xander Bogaerts isn’t going anywhere. Even if the Boston had interest in trading him it would take a lot more then Kingham in my opinion.

  81. Jim S. says:

    They are trying to get Marte to not dive in so much with the hands, from what I have read.

    But, has anyone noticed that Neil Walker and Cutch also get hit a lot now? Fortunately, they are not taking pitches to their hands like Marte. He’ll have a broken hand or wrist at some point this season if he doesn’t change something.

    I think this is more than an accident with Cutch. He gets on base at a 40% clip, and a lot of times he gets XBH. I think some teams are insisting on pitching him way inside, and if he gets hit they are fine with it. I think the Pirates have also talked about an organizational philosophy to pitch inside as well. Travis, did you write a story on that not too long ago?

    Anyway, you pitch inside, you hit more batters. This may be a trend in baseball in coming years.

  82. Nate83 says:

    JimBibby are you giving Gaby a majority of the right hand at-bats in that scenario because Ishikawa is not a 450 at-bat type of player. His ceiling is defined as major league depth/bench player. A team with him taking 70-80% of the at-bats is in trouble. Lambo has the higher ceiling. I don’t think they should stubbornly stick with him but I think you need to give him 100-150 at bats to find out. It sink or swim time for Lambo in my opinion.

    I think Gaby becomes the everyday first baseman before he does any kind of straight platoon with anybody not named Lambo.

  83. Jim S. says:

    To NMR, Pres. of the Travis Snider Fan Club:

    I sent my initiation dues last March and never got my package of smoked meat products or my autographed lunchbox. :-)

  84. Jim S. says:

    I almost wrote the exact same thing, Nate. But, you beat me to it.

  85. Jim S. says:

    If Drew gets a hit next time up, he’s hitting 1.000, Steel!

  86. Jim S. says:

    “obtrusive classic rock that normally underscores these things.” Great call, Brendan. Very funny!

  87. Jim S. says:

    I’m sure Mike Tomlin helped your cause at Pirates camp yesterday, NMR.

  88. Jim S. says:

    If not for Lambo, who else can play 1b?

  89. Jim S. says:

    Thornton seems to strike out an awful lot of batters per 9 wherever he pitches.

  90. Lambo has hit the ball hard from time to time. Nothing is falling in. But repeat after me, “30 spring training at bats mean nothing….30 spring training at bats mean nothing.” Don’t you feel yourself relaxing already?

    I find it interesting that some see Snider as a breakout candidate when he has had 1347 at bats in the major leagues and done, essentially, nothing, but they don’t want to give Lambo a shot because he is unproven. Well, yes, he is unproven, but at least he hasn’t proven himself to be terrible.

  91. Jim S. says:

    True regarding Snider, Dr Strangeglove. He has had chance after chance for about 5 years in 2 organizations, and there is always an excuse that seems plausible. I think these injuries have prolonged his career in some odd way. Teams keep saying, “Yes, he struggled last year. But, we think it was his nagging foot (or insert other body part) injury. That’s been fixed now, and we should see the real Travis Snider.”

    Well, maybe so. But, it is “put up or shut up” time for him now.

    If he had remained healthy and continued to not hit, he’d have been jettisoned already.

  92. The Gunner says:

    The BMTIB might send Lambo to Indy to get more reps @ 1B and get his offensive game more in order for a few weeks. Then, they’ll bring him up and DFA Ishikawa. Believe me, if Ishikawa goes north instead of Lambo, it will be a short term thing.

  93. Nate83 says:

    Some very needed level headed thinking going on there Dr. Unfortunately the logic you are using for Snider can also be applied to Volquez. I’m thinking it is probably easier to see if something is still there for a pitches as opposed to a hitter but 4 years of bad results is a big ship to try and turn around. At least Volquez has done so you know he is capable of it at this level.

  94. Jim S. says:

    And, I should also say that I think Snider may be the poster child for resisting bringing up a kid too early.

    He was mashing HR when he was 20, so they brought him up. Someone looked purely at his stats in the PCL, maybe, and pulled the trigger. Maybe someone with an old school set of eyes on him could have avoided that mistake. I’m just speculating as to his issues. But, he has not gotten any better since he first came up at about 20.

  95. Jim S. says:

    Those stats mean nothing, of course.

    But, I said at the end of last year that I don’t see him hitting anywhere near .330 again. He’s a great talent and all. But, I see him regressing a bit this year.

  96. NMR says:

    Gaby Sanchez.

  97. NMR says:

    Bahaha! My lord, if Snider ever makes it, the endorsement deals will write themselves.

  98. Nate83 says:

    No, not the Gaby that made the all-star team as an everyday first baseman. He could not possibly handle the job.

    Honestly I’m all for giving Lambo enough at bats to see if he can handle it but personally for me option number two should be Gaby receiving 80% of the first base at-bats. If at the trade deadline something is available to dramatically improve that situation make the move but until that point I don’t see many trade options that dramatically improve the team.

  99. NMR says:

    #1 rule of platoon building, Jim: make sure BOTH guys can hit.

  100. NMR says:

    Travis Ishikawa has 13 at bats. THIRTEEN.

    What sort of relevance can possibly be determined from THIRTEEN at bats?

  101. Jim S. says:

    I’m just saying it is a necessity to make sure you have at least 2 guys who can play 1b, in case 1 gets hurt.

  102. NMR says:

    On the 25-man roster? I don’t agree with that. I don’t think any teams specifically keep backup 1B.

    Any of the infielders could pick up a mitt in a pinch, and a guy could be sent from Indy the next morning.

  103. Jim S. says:

    I think you missed my point about “Who else can play 1b?” I was actually being realistic in the fact that someone else has to be able to physically man the position even if Gaby is the full-time starter. If he gets injured in the middle of a game, then what? So, even if the other guy doesn’t start, we need someone.

    As for Gaby being the full-time starter, if Lambo or any other lefty hitter can’t do better than .242/.313/.387, then there really is no reason to not give Gaby all the starts. That is Gaby’s slash line for his entire career vs. RHP, btw. He has 35 HR in 1,260 ABs. He has drawn 127 BB in 1,415 plate appearances. He hasn’t hit for much of an average, nor power. And, he doesn’t draw the large number of BB that he does vs. LHP. And, as we know, he has been far worse in hitting RHP the last 2 years. So, I say again, if Lambo, Carp or someone else can’t hit better than that, go ahead and give Gaby all the starts. But, that is a pretty low bar if you ask me.

    And, we definitely still need someone else who can play 1b on the roster. The only way to save a roster spot would be a 1b/OF combo guy. Since Lunchbox can’t do it, I guess that brings us back to Lambo, who Colin Dunlop says can’t play 1b well enough. Seems like if that is the case, they need Ishikawa or McGuinness to be on the team, or make a trade for someone. If they make a trade, it should be for a guy who hits lefty. They can be as confident of Gaby as a full-time hitter as they want to be, but they still need a back-up. Logically, they should get a lefty hitting back-up, and that point, why not give that guy some ABs since Gaby has proven to not hit RHP well over his first 1,1415 plate appearances.

  104. NMR says:

    I don’t agree with that, Jim.

    Can you point out any other teams that specifically keep nackup 1B on their rosters?

    I can’t think of a worse use of a roster space, in terms of value.

  105. Nate83 says:

    Jim, Travis actually alluded to what I had been saying earlier this winter in his column today about Gaby possibly being an everyday first baseman. Essentially a case could be made that Gaby would outperform his last two years simply because of the repetition. His career before joining the Pirates didn’t have such drastic splits. He wasn’t destroying right handed pitching but he wasn’t far from being what they would get from some of the options out there.

    Asking a guy to do something every once in awhile is very tough. As Gaby mentioned he usually would be facing right handed pitcher later in games when it’s a reliever and the ball is coming in at 96-98 mph. He mentally is not prepared to see the ball coming from that angle. Getting 10-15 at bats a week against right handed pitching has to help the timing as opposed to 3 or 4 a week.

  106. Jim S. says:

    I hadn’t thought of it that way. I assumed every team has at least one other guy who has actually played the position in the majors on the 25 man at all times.

  107. NMR says:

    Jim, you’re absoltely correct, but there’s an important difference.

    Most teams have someone who CAN play 1B at the big league level. Not ONLY play 1B.

    A backup defense-only 1B has, literally, the smallest opportunity to help a team as any possible role on the diamond. If you’re going to be the 1B backup, you better darn well be able to play other positions as well or else you’re never getting in the game.

  108. Jim S. says:

    So, Gaby gets every single start at 1b? And, we hope he doesn’t get hurt in the middle of a game so Hurdle doesn’t have to look down the bench and say, “Who feels like playing 1b tonight and, maybe tomorrow?” Unless I am missing something, they don’t have anyone else who has even played there in a pinch. I think it is kind of important to have played it in a game before.

    I know 1b is way down the list of positions in defensive importance. I know guys end up there if they can hit, but can’t run or throw from the OF. But, no back-up plan? What team has no one who can fill in? None of our OF can even play there if we cut Lambo.

    And, I think you are vastly overrating Gaby if you think he can take every single AB vs. RHP and get the job done.

  109. brendanmcfadden says:

    That’s for sure. He’s a top three prospect in all of baseball who looks to stick at short stop. It’ll definitely take a lot more than a guy who’s on the fringe of the top 100.

  110. Steelkings says:

    Then you are not going to trade either of two potential starters for a maybe 1st baseman.

  111. The Gunner says:

    The $64,000 question is can any of our current potential 1B platoon combinations hit? We will find out one way or the other.

    I do agree with your statement any of the infielders could pick up a 1B mitt in a pinch until help arrives from Indy. Hell, I think Barajas even played there once or twice during his time here, so it can’t be that tough. And Doumit played there, too occasionally.

    This 1B situation really sucks, we need some offense, guys!!!

  112. Steelkings says:

    I think the roster spot is being battled for between Snider and Tabata. Lambo is a two position player.

  113. Steelkings says:

    From Roto

    Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates are shopping outfielder Jose Tabata.
    This is an indication that the Pirates believe top prospect Gregory Polanco is close to major-league ready. Tabata, 25, batted .282/.342/.429 with six home runs and 33 RBI over 106 games last season and still has three years and $12.25 million remaining on his contract. He should generate interest. Biertempfel hears that Travis Snider could also be available, but he’s not nearly as attractive.

  114. NMR says:

    Jim, please please please try to remember what I’ve said for two winters. I absolutely want a left handed compliment to Gaby Sanchez. But that guy has to actually be ABLE TO HIT!!! No left handed option the Pirates currently have can definitely say that. Simply hitting from the left side does not prove that.

    As for your assertion that the team absolutely must have someone with 1B experience on the 25-man roster in case of in-game injury to Gaby, I find that terribly overstated. If Josh Harrison can play shortstop in a pinch there is absolutely no doubt that he can put on a 1B glove for a few innings.

    If the Pirates cannot find a player within their organization to provide more value than a backup 1B only player, then that is terribly damning to their ability to put together a team. There’s just no value in the player you speak of.

  115. NMR says:

    Exactly, Gunner!!!

    I’d love nothing more if Ishikawa or McGuiness could surprise everyone in baseball and actually turn out to be a valuable hitter from the left side.

    But unless they actually do that, they have absolutely no value to this team. Saying one of them must be on the roster to platoon with Sanchez is admitting to giving a player a roster spot based solely on the side of the plate in which he swings.

  116. Steelkings says:

    I got a hold of a copy of Tomlins Motivational speech. Just the bullet points.

    This group understands the standard that comes with being a Pittsburgh Pirate.”
    “There’s some above-the-neck preparation that we’ll continue big time.

    These Pirates have shown great moxie… They are viable guys… no strangers to Baseball…They are capable men… model of consistency… record of longevity… They are an awesome shot in the arm… Baseball smart”.

    They don’t live in their fears, They live in their hopes”

    The Arrow pointed up

    People throw stones at the crown. You dont wear the crown yet but you should desire to.

    Dont shadow box with your opponent.

    Be thoughtfully non rhythmic.

    Ensure your opponent fall to your whims.

    Dont get to high or to low on Lambo based on baseball in shorts.

    Keep your balls on the balls with an extra good on good.

  117. Nate83 says:

    “Travis Snider could also be available, but he’s not nearly as attractive.”

    I’m not sure why it matters what either guy looks like.

  118. yokesoverz says:

    Pretty boys get more hits. ;-)

  119. John Lease says:


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