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Monday Mop-Up Duty: The Locke conundrum

PNC PARK – No matter how well Jeff Locke pitches – and he’s pitching very well – there’s a chance he will simply not remain in the rotation. It’s simple math: when Francisco Liriano is healthy, the Pirates have six starting pitchers vying for five spots and Locke is the one pitcher who has options. Vance Worley, Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez are pitching well and are all out of options. Gerrit Cole is in the rotation when healthy and I think Liriano is, too. The Pirates want to protect their assets and their pitching depth so ….

Locke appears to be the odd man odd, unless the Pirates’ starting staff has another injury pop up, which over the remainder of the season, is likely to occur.

Locke2

Locke has pitched eight innings in three of his last five starts

 

Has Locke forced his way in the rotation? It doesn’t sound like it.

“Question for another day,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I really like the way he’s pitching.”

Who doesn’t?

What was interesting in watching Locke out-duel his old buddy AJ Burnett on Sunday is how Locke has taken the best from Burnett – the inside two-seamer approach,  the spiked-curve – and make real gains with his changeup and strike-throwing ability.

The tw0-seamer is playing like it did in the first half last year. He was getting it up to 92-93 with movement on Sunday. Locke had a superb 15-to-1, groundball-to-flyball ratio.

The changeup is much better, Locke got Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp to swing and miss on a changeup that had so much fading action it looked like a screwball.

Locke learned the spiked-curve from Burnett, and while he didn’t throw many on Sunday, he did generate some swings and misses.

I was skeptical about Locke last season and this off-season, particularly regarding ability to pitch in the strike zone. But he’s attacking the strike zone this year and has walked just six in 50 innings. He’s upgraded his status in my eyes, and even if he is sent down to Triple-A, he’ll likely be back at some point after the All-Star break. He’s certainly in the club’s long-term plans with Liriano and Volquez as free agents after the season.

Remember, Neal Huntington likes to say depth is fleeting … because it is. There’s nothing wrong with having pitching depth.

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS 

9. Josh Harrison an all-star? Truly the feel-good story of the summer. I love what Harrison brings to the table. He’s meant a lot to the Pirates this year. I don’t think he’s an all-star level player, but, the selection is not crazy if you consider his positional versatility for a potential extra-inning game.

Speaking of Harrison, it looks like he is in line for more playing time at shortstop following Clint Barmes’ Grade 3 groin strain.

Huntington said Harrison was going to see time at shortstop regardless of Barmes’ health and now he will see more time. What is the plan to get Harrison on the field at shortstop? Ideally it’s with a fly-ballish pitcher on the mound.

“In a perfect world you put your best defensive lineup out there behind Charlie (Morton), who keeps  ball on the ground on the most,” Huntington said. “But if the rest day falls on Charlie’s day,  he’ll be comfortable putting Harrison there.”

8. Obviously, Andrew McCutchen is an all-star but I do think Tony Watson is the team’s other deserving all-star and it’s nice to see a relief pitcher being evaluated for his true skills and not his save totals.

Watson has been charged with just one earned run since April 22. He is 3-0 with a 0.29 ERA over his last 30 appearances. The K level is elite and the BB rate is well above average.

Best lefty Pirates reliever in recent  memory?

7. Are the Pirates for real or the product of a weak schedule?

*I think they are for real in the sense they are a playoff contender, in not an NL championship contender.

*The Pirates are 9th in RPI, which suggests this isn’t just the product of playing a weak schedule.

*The Pirates’ run differential is +12 since May 1.

*The Pirates were once eight games under .500 now they are six games above.

6. Jordy Mercer has been much better but he still has a .290 on-base mark and a .372 slugging mark. I think shortstop could be upgraded.

5. Edinson Volquez is pitching well … but he intrigues me as a late-innings reliever. What could he be if he consistently pitched in upper 90s in short stints?

4. I’m not too concerned about Gerrit Cole … yet. Yes, the second muscular injury/tweak creates something of trend and his velocity has declined later in some of his recent starts but he’ still touching upper 90s. I might consider shutting him down until after the all-star break, though. They need Cole to be at his best in September like he was a year ago.

3. Hurdle says the Pirates continue to work Pedro Alvarez on his throwing. At some you wonder if Alvarez is what he is: a flawed hitter who is going to have to move to first base.

2. Huntington says no position change for the hot-hitting Josh Bell, yet (who will be in the Futures Game, which is more interesting to me than the All-Star game)

1. Huntington said the Pirates are willing to trade prospects for the right fit … but they’re also not going to compromise their future. AJ Burnett is not the Phillie I would have my eye. Cliff Lee is. Lee is a guy who be a difference maker.

(Man was Brandon McCarthy acquired cheaply)

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: 17

Alvarez’s MLB-worst throwing errors. Alvarez leads the baseball in errors (18) and all but one have been of the throwing variety.  Josh Donaldson (10) is the only other major leaguer to have double-digit throwing errors. Alvarez’s first-inning throw on Sunday sailed four rows into the stands.

 

HE SAID IT

A.J. Burnett on his reception Sunday.

“The video caught me by surprise. It was very moving, for sure. It made me feel at home. (The ovation) caught me off guard. I didn’t know what to expect coming in. Very classy.”

I don’t think he’s coming back to Pittsburgh … but I think he would accept a trade here.

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK 

It’s not really new any more, but I do like the newish Foster the People album. This song has been playing after some Pirates’ games recently:

Maybe your 2014 Pirates are coming of age …

- TS

Comments

  1. Donald says:

    Trade Alvarez now and make Harrison the everyday 3rd baseman. I was at the game yesterday, and every time the ball is hit to third, every person in my entire section was holding their breath and making comments about being able to make a throw to first. If he moves to another organization, he can DH or be forced to first base. The Pirates aren’t the type of organization to pay $5Million on a platoon 7th hitter. Send him to a Florida team for Ben Zobrist or Casey McGehee.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s a good idea to send Jeff Locke back down. What is that going to do to the psyche of a guy that has pitched like a #1 or #2 for this team lately? Go with a 6 man rotation at least until Cole and Liriano are proven to be back and can get some extra days of rest. If Liriano can’t throw strikes, maybe it’s time to part ways now before he puts up more losses like Wandy did…

  2. likeabugonarug says:

    Well, now I don’t feel so bad about not being able to get to Buccos games if they’re playing that trash.

    Kevin

  3. bpn8pitt says:

    I’m a fan of trying to sneak Gomez or Pimental through waivers, like they did with Mazzaro. Put one of the starters in the bullpen and delay the decision a week or so.

    Not sure what Lirianos value is being injured, but maybe him Cumpton or Worley could be included in some kind of baseball trade to the AL eventually.

    I think you have to walk a fine line shipping a guy who’s pitching well for you, back to AAA all the time.

  4. NorthPirateFan says:

    Josh Harrison is not a starting player at any position let alone third. His .788 OPS is nearly .100 higher than the previous high of his short career and has been drifting south since his hot May. He doesn’t walk enough, strikes out to much and certainly doesn’t hit for enough power to hold down third base as a starter.

    Like TS says, what he brings to the table, especially his versatility, is nice to have but if Josh Harrison is starting at any of the four corners you should be looking for an upgrade. The idea of trading Alvarez in order to start Harrison is ludicrous.

  5. bpn8pitt says:

    Its possible Harrison could platoon at 3b with another player if needed.

    I’m starting to think a lot of the Pedro-apologists have seats on the 1b side. Hope you all get a free ball soon!

  6. FlBucco says:

    I understand asset management, but at some point you need to balance it with pride management.

    No Pirate starter has pitched as well as Jeff Locke over the last month – NOBODY!

    He has earned the right to stay in the roration

  7. likeabugonarug says:

    Watching the Phil’s broadcast yesterday, Matt Stairs was talking about playing 3B in Japan. He said he airmailed 2 throws to first in the first inning (about 14 rows up). He was immediately removed from the game.

    Kevin

  8. NMR says:

    Do you really have to get so juvenile with the apologist crap?

  9. Leo Walter says:

    It appears that Tom Milone of the A’s is in much the same situation that Locke is in Déjàn : the unlucky guy still in an option year.

  10. Leo Walter says:

    Did you really say go to a ” 6 man rotation ” ? Trade Alvarez and have Harrison replace him is bad enough,but THAT comment ? Wow ! SMH at that one !

  11. Leo Walter says:

    That is because Matt Stairs was an over weight guy who could do nothing but swing the bat. A good pinch
    hitter, but the classic one tool player. And I have tried to be kind to him here.

  12. NMR says:

    I’ve been floating the Volquez-to-the-pen idea in conversations with Jim, Andrew, and the rest for the last few weeks, but Liriano may be the better guy to move into that role right now.

    Volquez has been walking the tightrope and what we’re seeing may very well not be sustainable, but fact is he’s making pitches and getting outs when he needs to. Liriano just wasn’t doing that before his injury.

  13. MJS says:

    Travis,

    Great job on the blog as always, have a few questions for you. With the amount of young pitching coming up do you think the Pirates will focus their payroll on rising cost of arbitration players and an extension with Russell Martin. Thus giving young starting pitching options a chance. They focused so heavy on starting pitching in the draft they need to start giving young guys a chance. I love the reclamation projects they have gotten over they years but they were used as fillers until young pitching was Major League ready. I just think Russell Martin is very important to these young pitchers and their development and in turn their league minimum salaries could help free up money for his extension as Liriano and Volquez are making 11 million this year combined.

    2015 Starting Five
    Gerrit Cole
    Charlie Morton
    Jeff Locke
    Vance Worley
    Brandon Cumpton

    Spot Starters
    Stolmy Pimental
    Jenmar Gomez

    Depth in AAA
    Nick Kingham
    Jameson Taillon
    Casey Sadler

  14. NorthPirateFan says:

    The problem with using him in a platoon is that with the exception of 2013 he’s always hit right handers better than lefties … probably just sample size distortion but still makes it tough to set up a platoon of right handed hitter like that.

  15. bpn8pitt says:

    The scary thing is, how many more errors would he have, and how much closer to .200 his BA would be if he didn’t sit against lefties. Not just starters mind you. But how many times in later innings he has been pinch hit or pinch ran for with that matchup in mind.

    You know as well as I, at 4.25 million, Pedro can hit 30hr with 30 errors and sit against lefties and he and the Pirates can get away with it. At 18-25 million per year, no way. And good luck to the franchise that writes that check.

  16. NorthPirateFan says:

    … which not to say having him start at third on occasion with a LHP starting would be a bad idea.

  17. NorthPirateFan says:

    Since both, Liriano and Vloquez, are free agents after this season, neither is particularly young and likely to be part of the long term plans … maybe one (or both) should be part of trade conversations as the deadline approaches instead of Worley?? Assuming of course Cole is physically fit.

  18. NMR says:

    Very similar thoughts regarding contract status and long-term plans, but different conclusion.

    I don’t believe either pitcher would return a major league piece for the playoff push (what would that even be, frankly?), and I’m not particularly excited to add another mid-teir prospect to a system already ranked in the top few of the league.

    Because neither guy will likely be here, I don’t really care to let them work through their struggles with consistency in order to become better starters for another team next year. I’d rather see one of them shore up what looks like the biggest area of addition, the bullpen.

  19. Pig Legs Robinson says:

    They better not trade Josh Bell or any other hitting prospect. There is a shortage of good hitting right now over all of baseball. Hitting in the major leagues is now at a premium – There is much more good pitching to be had than good hitting. Countless articles have been written about this, you don’t need me to say this. Just look at all the team’s offensive numbers. Even the last several drafts have been very pitching-heavy and bereft of much hitting to go around.

    It would be suicide to let go of any decent hitting prospects the Pirates have because it will be a lot harder to trade for hitting than for pitching, now and in the coming years.

    In order to remain contenders 5 years from now, the Pirates will desperately need their next wave of prospects, i.e. the Josh Bells, Austin Meadows, Cole Tuckers. Look at the Phillies, who several years ago looked to have the nucleus of many years of contending. They let all their prospects go and now they have too many high priced players to even bring in any new prospects through trades. They will be lucky to get salary relief alone for what they now have.

    Anyone who thinks the next wave of Pirates hitting prospects have no where to play on the big league team had better think twice. These situations always work themselves out, there will always be a need for more hitting and a place for it on the team.

  20. bpn8pitt says:

    #prospectlove

  21. Andrew says:

    If you have an avatar and post frequently, I don’t mind these type of jabs, I laughed. Not like that guy I’ve never seen before in the last thread who indirectly called us all morons and who don’t understand trade values, because he found a suggested Worely for McCarthy trade thoughtless and illogical.

    Then its learned that McCarthy has been on waivers for six to eight weeks.

    I think NMR brought this up before, Mark Reynolds might be a good comparison for Alvarez and expected arbitration costs. Despite homeruns and RBIs his numbers didn’t get Ryan Howard like, possibly the strikeouts and being the current holder of the most throwing errors from a 3B in a season at 18, suppressed the salaries.

    I don’t think Alvarez is going to get $20 million in arbitration. To be fair hitting wise overall this season he hasn’t really been that different than 2012 or 2013, he has just gone about it in a different way, the most notable being the decline in power.

  22. NMR says:

    -The most exciting thing about Jeff Locke is what he’s missing: the curveball.

    Just hasn’t had it this year. Usage has dropped from 19% last year to just over 8% this year, and his strikeout rate has understandably dropped with it. But that changeup is a big league pitch, and one he did not command last year. If he can regain feel for the curve while maintaining the improvements to the changeup, we’re talking about a legit above average big league pitcher.

    -At this point, I’m in pure enjoyment mode with Josh Harrison. I don’t care to think about the unlikelihood of this being sustainable or whether or not he’s the team’s long-term answer at 3B. Just care to watch him play baseball, and enjoy what I see.

    But there is a name that comes to mind when thinking about whether or not Harrison should be the full-time 3B, and that is Conor Gillaspie. Who? Right. Gillaspie is a 3B who’s enjoyed a breakout of his own for the White Sox, hitting very similarly to Harrison. But he’s not a household name, and certainly not an All Star. And that is because he’s a 3B.

    What has made Harrison so special is his ability anywhere and everywhere. This team finally has a bit of depth, and Harrison is the main reason for that. Last thing they should do is shoot themselves in the foot by going right back to the situation they started with at the beginning of the season.

    -The problem with acquiring a guy whose xFIP is far better than ERA mid-season, a la Brandon McCarthy, is that their poor performance most certainly is NOT due to “bad luck”. Homeruns, in fact, are one of the three things a pitch DOES have control over. He made those pitches and they got hit very far. No luck involved. Does anyone want to raise their hand right now and claim that Ernesto Frieri’s problem is bad luck? Didn’t think so, despite what was said after the trade.

    What xFIP says is that the number of times he makes those mistakes is bound to regress towards his career average. What xFIP doesn’t tell you is how fast that’ll happen. Brandon McCarthy was a sabermetric darling last year as well, with a FIP over a run and a half less than ERA. We’re still waiting on that regression to come, and in the mean time, he’s still giving up a lot of runs. Those still count.

    Pirates have bet on guys like Burnett, Liriano, and Melancon regressing, but they’ve had full seasons to do it, not to mention much time with the coaching staff. Betting on a guy like McCarthy is betting that the regression will come immediately. And that’s an enormous risk.

  23. MJS says:

    Agree with you 100% on that point, I thought the Marlon Bryd trade last year was interesting in the fact the Pirates gave up Dilson who was probably on par with Henson and they lacked middle infield prospects to begin with. When Walker ,Pedro, Ike leave after 2016 season they will have their whole infield pretty much gone. They better watch themselves trading hitting prospects because the more you have the better chances you have of getting a productive Major Leaguer. I was a lot more comfortable having Dilson Herrera as a backup plan in case Henson didn’t work out and Dilson just so happens to be out performing him this year.

  24. bpn8pitt says:

    Your post got me thinking…

    Went back and looked at what the Brewers gave up to get Sabathia, and what the Phillies gave up to get Lee and Haliday…outside of Travis D’arnaud, who I believe is barely above the Mendoza line…not a whole lot.

    All im saying is, careful hanging on to prospects/lottery tickets.

  25. Andrew says:

    I think this Locke being the odd man out may be for naught because, 1) Gerrit Cole is not healthy and I believe this until proven otherwise. 2) Volquez is not really pitching well.

    I fully endorse the idea of him going to the pen, if a decision has to be made. Of the 73 NL starters who have thrown at least 50 innings by FIP-/xFIP- Volquez ranks 62nd and 64th, that is a fifth starter. He ranks 48th by ERA-, but that is a product of an above average strand rate and a below average BABIP.

  26. bpn8pitt says:

    Not in love with McCarthy, but AZ is a hitters paradise.

    What Id like to see is a creative baseball trade take place, as opposed to prospect filler like you mentioned.

    Hey. man…Travis Snider is still around. Who would have thought that.

  27. Andrew says:

    I agree with Robinson but for a different reason, I don’t think the Pirates are in the correct part of the win curve or their life cycle where they should be looking to add pieces that require top 50 hitting prospects.

    To d’Aranaud, remember even top prospects struggle when they reach the big leagues, the Puigs, Harpers, and Polancos are the exceptions.

  28. Steelkings says:

    Old Uncle Steelkings say’s:

    PAY THE “PRICE”

    This team is set up well to make a run. What they are not set for is the playoffs. If you want to win in the post season you have to have a lock down starter. An Adam Wainwright. A Jon Lester or a Justin Verlander. The Buc’s have some solid starters as of late, yet no one who is separating themselves from each other or anyone else in the league for that matter. Worley, Volquez, Morton, Locke, Cumpton, Liriano are all mid rotation type guys. You have to have a lock down guy.
    David Price is not a one and a half year guy. He is a two year guy for the Pirates. He certainly would still make a difference this year and he would certainly, injury aside make a difference in year two. This Pirate team is set up for a 2015 world series run. The must must must get a lock down guy and its right in front of them. Josh Bell and Nick Kingham are not the next hope for this franchise. This team is ready to challenge NOW! Send Bell and Kingham and the Pirate 2015 1st rounder for Price. Now is the time to take the chance.
    The Pirates need to resign Martin and they are as close to being a contender as they may ever be.

  29. bpn8pitt says:

    d’Arnaud, okay maybe…hitting .206

    But all those other guys? C’mon man, your opinion of guys like Kingham and Glasnow is that high? Taillion didn’t dominate before he had the TJ.

  30. bpn8pitt says:

    I think team’s overvalue prospects. Fans get guilty of reading things like “ML ready defense” and “dripping with power”….”speed” in Tabata’s case…

    Then reailty sets in.

  31. NMR says:

    “2) Volquez is not really pitching well.”

    I don’t believe this statement accurately captures the actual picture of what’s going on right now. That’s taking an entire half of a baseball season and claiming this is what Edinson Volquez is right now and can be expected to be moving forward.

    As we’ve talked before, the guy is changing so much that the last thing I’m comfortable doing is taking an average and expecting that to move forward.

    Since May 22, 9 starts, he has a 3.70 FIP. In the 9 starts before that it was 5.21.

    I wouldn’t argue with moving him to the pen, for many solid reasons, but Edinson Volquez most certainly is pitching well right now.

  32. Eric Singer says:

    I still do not understand at all how anyone can think you trade Alverez in favor of starting J-Hay. Pedro is exactly the same player that they drafted, he will strike a lot, hit a bunch of homeruns (however he hasn’t yet this year), he is not a .300 hitter, he will always be in the .230-.250 mark. Quit making him something he’s not. Power is a disappearing trait in baseball today and regardless of some throwing issues I would take Pedro as my 3rd baseman any day of the week. Now if you can flip him for young and talented shortstop with years of control that’s different but outside of that happening the Pirates best lineup is with Pedro in it!

  33. Eric Singer says:

    you do realize outside of competitive balance picks, draft picks cant be traded right?

  34. bpn8pitt says:

    I would probably move Kingham, Meadows, Hanson and Heredia/or low A ball pitcher with upside for Price.

    I try to hang on to Bell, but if he and Kingham would get it done alone I would consider it, as long as I got a prospect back.

    I don’t understand all the prospect love either. Probably do to the success they have had recently…The pendulum does swing the other way eventually.

  35. NMR says:

    You didn’t listen to what Andrew wrote.

    He didn’t say he’d NEVER trade prospects. He said he wouldn’t trade them right now.

    Timing is absolutely a major factor.

  36. NMR says:

    Great point, man. You say “creative baseball trade”, but I think what you essentially mean is moving salary.

    I think it was Andrew who pointed out that Brandon McCarthy has passed through waivers months ago. Any team could’ve had him, provided they took on his $9m salary. Every one of them passed.

  37. cmat0829 says:

    pretty sure you can’t trade future draft picks, unless I missed something.

  38. bpn8pitt says:

    My boy, Worley, his numbers will probably rise. But hopefully not too much. He along with Locke are two I would like to hang on to, with the years of control.

    As far as the starting pitching goes, its a nice problem to have. I just wonder if the numbers are a little inflated from the garbage we have played the last month.

    Pedigree is my concern, NMR…Price’s numbers in the playoffs are not exactly spectacular but I think he’s pretty nasty in the NL. And if you look at team BA averages vs lefties, the Dodgers, Reds, Brewers and Cards are all in the bottom half of the NL, with SF just below the Pirates…its a little strategic too, especially at PNC.

  39. cmat0829 says:

    On prospect love, I think it’s important to realize the Pirates are where they are BECAUSE of prospects they kept. Cutch, Walker, Cole, Marte, Polanco, and yes Pedro. The key, and it’s getting Kevin Towers fired this summer, is a better track record of identifying the prospects that Won’t Miss and the ones who fall within the statistical norms (most DO miss).

    So careful just denigrating any and all ‘prospect love’. I personally would’ve HATED the Pirates making any of the cheered-for trades last year that would’ve included Polanco… but now that Polanco is with the Bucs, and Marte and Cutch in tow, NH has indeed built the flexibility to go ahead and pull off a trade of numerous prospects without setting the franchise back for years. Question is FOR WHOM and WHEN. It’s all now a matter of timing. I don’t think anyone, including NH, is against making that prospects for ‘over-the-top’ trade like the A’s just did. But when and whom is really key. I’m not overwhelmed right now to pull the trigger on price, but that is just one man’s opinion.

  40. Steelkings says:

    It would be a competitive balance Pick, to which the Pirates are eligible.

  41. NMR says:

    If I could reconcile your second and third paragraphs in my own mind, I’d be able to give your a direct answer on whether or not I’d trade for Price.

    If the Pirate team that has showed up since about halfway through May is in fact legit, then David Price is absolutely in play. This team, this offense, that has played for the last month or so could absolutely make a World Series run.

    Glasnow and Bell are the exact type of prospects I’d trade. Monster arms with poor command (Glasnow) are consistantly overrated, and prospects with swing questions (Bell) have a history of getting blown up as they face better and smarter pitching. I believe both of these guys, right now, are at peak value.

  42. Steelkings says:

    Here’s a question. What do you suppose the value of the franchise is (Forbes) now that the Pirates are winning compared to say …2009? I.E, if Nutting sold the franchise now would it be worth more than 2009 because its winning and peoples butts are in the seats or is it because the economy is better. Point being if it has gone up in value then why stay status quo by continuing to simply nurture prospects in order to stay even keeled and complacently competitive.

  43. NMR says:

    And doesn’t have much value.

  44. Steelkings says:

    Opps…wasnt done….

    If the Pirates can win a championship with a relatively young team then the franchise should really shoot up in value.

  45. NMR says:

    There’s no chance franchise value is that volatile, Steel.

  46. Steelkings says:

    Its hypothetical…Turn the fog machine off.

  47. Steelkings says:

    Not so fast…See the LA Clippers. I know we are not in LA where millions become Billions, but winning teams become way more attractive than losers. Someone should do the research.

  48. NMR says:

    Nobody investing $2B in a team is going to do that with the fear that a few losing seasons will kill the value of their investment.

    They just aren’t.

  49. NMR says:

    And hypothetically, a trade of Kingham, Bell, and a hypothetically low value draft pick doesn’t hypotheticaly have any chance of being hypothetically accepted by the Rays.

  50. cmat0829 says:

    not sure if this ‘franchise value’ answer was to my post , but if so, it’s not relevant to my view on prospects. Fact is, this team is built with prospects and future success will greatly depend on prospects coming up and succeeding. And yes, the occasional swap prospects for help now.

    Franchise values in MLB go up for the most part due to the media contracts, and often has little to do with current W/L record of the team.

  51. Steelkings says:

    Absolutely that volatile NMR

    Forbes Values: Post PNC Park
    2011 Pirates value 304 Million
    2012 Pirates Value 336 Million
    Pirates start winning
    2013 Pirates value 479 Million
    2014 Pirates Value (current) 572 Million

    Whats a world championship worth?
    Just sayin

  52. cmat0829 says:

    Right, Kingham, while I am rooting for the kid, is more like a Cumpton than a Taillon. Rays are among the sharpest and will want 2 top prospects (like our top 10 list) plus some more.

    I think TB is going to go all the way to the ASB and see if they can climb back into the AL East race….

  53. Steelkings says:

    Cmat makes my point. The value of TV contracts go up with the success of the team.

    The value of the Pirates has gone up 268 million dollars. Thats meaningful money

  54. cmat0829 says:

    IMHO, ‘go for it’ trades of our top prospects really have to be made in mind with taking THIS team to a level where it could truly match/compete for the NL crown. Right now, in my mind, the Dodgers are the team to beat in a playoff series. Good enough offense, with pedigree to do more, and Kershaw/Greinke is top notch and near devastating. And IF the Dodgers flex their $$$s and get another top tier pitcher, good night Irene.

    Do the Bucs need Price to compete with the Cardinals, Brewers, Giants, Braves, Nationals, Reds barring any of these teams make any major major moves? IMHO NO. Would a Price addition to THIS team put us in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers? IMHO, just IMHO, not necessarily. Not unless Cole or Liriano become DYNAMICALLY better. We are TWO dynamite starting pitchers away from going toe to toe with the Dodgers.

  55. cmat0829 says:

    cmat wasn’t intending to make YOUR point, Steel. You seem to equate the Pirates dealing away their prospects to maximize franchise value. My point is that W/L record of the team is far, far down the list of what determines franchise valuation.

  56. Steelkings says:

    Again in 2002 the Boston Reds Sox were worth 380 Million dollars. Their current value is 1.5 billion. Thats one hell of a TV contract!

  57. Steelkings says:

    The evidence is right in front of you , Bro. The Pirates started winning and went up in value by 268 million dollars.

  58. NMR says:

    Steel, that is probably the biggest correlation without causation fallacy I’ve ever seen.

    You already have the 2014 valuation, despite the season being only halfway over? Doesn’t that mean the valuation took place PRIOR to the season? Meaning your smoking gun, the Pirates winning in 2013, wouldn’t even have factored into 2013′s valuation.

    But you clearly have yourself convinced and are only looking for people to confirm what you already believe, so there’s really no point in continuing this conversation with me.

  59. Andrew says:

    I’d argue your overvaluing recent performance, the only remarkably difference between Volquez first 11 starts and last 6 is his HR/FB rate.

    I agree Volquez is wildly inconsistent and the results have been better of late. Good pitching can come out of nowhere but I’m not smart enough to know when the overall numbers are wrong. I’ll gladly be wrong, I just don’t think Volquez has been very good.

  60. Andrew says:

    Prospects to me are a Catch 22; only hitters who rank in the top #20 overall achieve 50% success rates, so to be successful you need a lot of them, pitching more so, hence the catch. I think base on this year ranking and using success rates there is about 2-4% chance of a successful rotation of Cole, Tallion, Kingham, Glasnow.

    That said I cannot get agree with the type of trade needed to get a David Price, I think that is overvaluing the short term and failing to accurately evaluate the Pirates chances of success.

    There is a massive difference between the Athletics coming off two division titles, having the best record in baseball, the best run differential by 64 runs, and leading the team with 2nd best number by 3.5 games. The Pirates have a run differential of -1 and currently in five team wild card race, given that and years of control the Pirates have over key pieces, I really don’t see how a David Price makes sense.

    There are ways to improve the Pirates at much less of a cost.

  61. jefft says:

    Hi Travis…
    I know this will not be received well by the fan base (& I’m not necessarily endorsing the idea), but going by the “buy low, sell high” theory you advanced on Vance Worley, what kind of trade value do you think somebody like Josh Harrison would have right now? Would the Pirates be able to get a higher grade pitcher (not one-for-one, mind you), like a Cliff Lee, if someone like Harrison were thrown in?
    I’m going to go & duck for cover now.

  62. Andrew says:

    Steel, the overall value of a team is largely dependent upon the value of the league, hence that whole anti-trust exemption. I think much of recent value increase is tied to the rising value (or prospective value) of media rights league wide.

    Are there examples of million/billionaires buying teams and then cashing out following a championship? I really don’t think that motivates sports teams owners but I don’t know what life is like up there in the suites.

    And if I put on my Nutting Nutter tinfoil hat, I think Bob only cares about cashing that revenue sharing check so he can build ski lifts.

  63. NMR says:

    “Even the last several drafts have been very pitching-heavy and bereft of much hitting to go around.”

    29 of Baseball America’s Top 50 prospects are hitters. And they’re coming from somewhere.

    “It would be suicide to let go of any decent hitting prospects the Pirates have because it will be a lot harder to trade for hitting than for pitching, now and in the coming years.”

    Let’s be clear, this is a theory. Not a fact.

    Yes, the numbers show offense is down. Yes, analysts have been predicting a coming wave of pitcher for hitter swaps.

    But the Oakland A’s just traded the 5th best position player in the minor leagues for a year and a half of a pitcher who arguably isn’t even an ace. That is a whole lotta value still being placed on pitching.

    Good pitching is still, and will always be, the highest priority in baseball. That’s just how the game works, and always will as long as it is played with a round ball and a round bat.

    Despite all the calls for offense suffering in baseball, every Pirate fan found out just what it can do against mediocre pitching at the beginning of this season.

  64. Donald says:

    Josh’s .788 OPS is higher than Pedro’s. And please, let’s not even talk about Josh striking out too much when we are talking about Pedro in the same paragraph. Why could he not play 3rd base everyday? I highly doubt he would have 18 errors in 86 games. Regardless, Casey McGehee plays 1st and 3rd, so he could spell Josh at third base on days that he wasn’t at first base. And he’s been hitting clean up for a Marlins team that has been fairly potent. We lack the big bat at four, and Pedro is probably never returning to that slot. If you’re looking at something like Polanco, Marte, Cutch, McGehee, Walker, Martin, Harrison, Mercer… that’s pretty solid. I think they need to trade Pedro now because he will leave, and his value is becoming less and less… he’s like Chase Headley a few years back.

  65. Donald says:

    I believe I said “Go with a 6 man rotation at least until Cole and Liriano are proven to be back and can get some extra days of rest.”. Not forever. Cole isn’t 100% and hasn’t been… and Liriano, who knows what’s going on there. If they can’t pitch every 5th day, no sense in demoting someone. The Orioles have had a loose 6 man rotation all year due to Ubaldo Jimenez’s issues, and it seems to be working out well. You may end up losing someone for the year, or someone starts getting shelled. These things have a way of working themselves out… but I don’t know that Cole and Liriano are both going to be ok to pitch every 5th day in the immediate future with the way things are going.

  66. Nate83 says:

    Locke seemed to handle all other demotions just fine so I don’t think it will hurt him. It may even make him hungrier. He knows he has a spot in the Pirate starting rotation next year if he pitches well and he will have an entire year to prove himself earn a spot beyond. If not for the Pirates then for another team after a trade.

    Harrison does not hit for enough power to be our everyday third baseman. I don’t think he will hit for a high enough average or OBP going forward to make up for that lack of power. We are seeing the best version of him right now.

  67. Donald says:

    Personally, I think Vin is better than Gomez, Pimentel, and Frieri.

  68. Nate83 says:

    I have to imagine all teams valuations have went way up over the last 3 years. The local and national TV money has become insane. The fact that the Pirates suddenly became winners is just a coincidence. It has very little to do with their value in my opinion.

  69. Nate83 says:

    I don’t think Harrison has much value right now. He would need more then 50 games of really good play to increase his value drastically. He does a lot of things well but nothing great. He’s currently a poor man’s Ben Zobrist. If he can continue this over 150-200 game stretch then he becomes Ben Zobrist which has value but always seems to have more value to the team he is on then a team that might want him.

  70. Donald says:

    Pirates top prospects in 2011:

    1. Jameson Taillon, rhp
    2. Tony Sanchez, c
    3. Stetson Allie, rhp
    4. Starling Marte, of
    5. Luis Heredia, rhp
    6. Bryan Morris, rhp
    7. Rudy Owens, lhp
    8. Jeff Locke, lhp
    9. Zack Von Rosenberg, rhp
    10. Chase d’Arnaud, ss/2b

    2010:

    1. Pedro Alvarez, 3b
    2. Jose Tabata, of
    3. Tony Sanchez, c
    4. Brad Lincoln, rhp
    5. Chase D’Arnaud, ss/2b
    6. Starling Marte, of
    7. Tim Alderson, rhp
    8. Zack Von Rosenberg, rhp
    9. Rudy Owens, lhp
    10. Gorkys Hernandez, of

    2009:

    1. Pedro Alvarez, 3b
    2. Andrew McCutchen, of
    3. Jose Tabata, of
    4. Brad Lincoln, rhp
    5. Bryan Morris, rhp
    6. Neil Walker, 3b
    7. Jeff Sues, rhp
    8. Shelby Ford, 2b
    9. Daniel McCutchen, rhp
    10. Robbie Grossman, of

    2008:

    1. Andrew McCutchen, of
    2. Neil Walker, 3b
    3. Steve Pearce, 1b/of
    4. Brad Lincoln, rhp
    5. Daniel Moskos, lhp
    6. Shelby Ford, 2b
    7. Jamie Romak, of
    8. Brian Bixler, ss/2b
    9. Duke Welker, lhp
    10. Brad Corley, of

    How many of those guys are contributing? How many were over rated? How many would you trade for a David Price in retrospect??

  71. Nate83 says:

    It is almost impossible to trade for elite pitching prospects. Most trades involving top 30 prospects in all of baseball almost always seem to be hitting prospects being traded for pitchers. I agree with NMR the pitching will always be the number on commodity in baseball and it’s not even close.

    Which made it even more surprising that the Cubs didn’s make seperate trades with their two pitchers. Addison Russell has a lot to do with that. There isn’t many prospects that match his ceiling. I assume the A’s insisted on both pitchers with Russell being involved. The Cubs couldn’t chance not getting another prospect offer like him.

    The Cubs could very easily end up getting Samardjza back at the end of 2015 in free agency. They will have plenty of bats and Theo will be ready to spend on pitching.

  72. Nate83 says:

    They couldn’t even come close to putting a package together with those prospects for Price. They had a bottom third of the league farm system during those years with most years being bottom 5. We really are not talking apples to apples here.

  73. Pig Legs Robinson says:

    I’d trade Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow or any other pitching prospect they have if I could get Paul Goldschmidt or Giancarlo Stanton (if he could play first base, otherwise Marte can take a seat).

    Whoever is reading that I wouldn’t trade pitching prospects didn’t read what I wrote.

    I just would not let go of my hitting prospects. Pitching prospects they can trade all day and I wouldn’t care.

  74. Ghost says:

    “We are seeing the best version of him right now.”

    I don’t know how anybody can be so certain about Josh Harrison anymore. Gotta disagree with the certainty of the implication that he can’t really be this good.

  75. Steelkings says:

    @ NRM
    Forbes did the Valuation in March of 2014. Daytime drinking causes you to go to bed to early.
    @ Andrew
    I think much of the valuation as a whole does go up with the league. However the valuation of the TB Rays has hardly moved in the same time period as the Pirates 268 million increase.

    The point is fella’s, The Pirates will never be in a better position to go for a championship in 2015. Understand Im talking about next year. What ever it takes to get the best left handed pitcher to a team that faces many very left handed vulnerable teams in their own division. I for one would much rather have a team that losses and rebuilds for three years because they play at a championship level every so often as opposed to simply be comfortable with mediocrity.

  76. Donald says:

    I don’t know…. Stetson Allie was considered untouchable because he was our future #2 and an ace. Tony Sanchez was considered an above average defender with good power for a catcher. Rudy Owens was a strike out pitcher. Brad Lincoln got several chances to make the big club with big hype surrounding his starts.

  77. mark says:

    Brandon McCarthy was acquired cheaply because he is awful.

  78. NMR says:

    .278/.317/.371 over the last month.

    You’re not seeing the best of Josh Harrison. That has already come and gone. But the guy is still doing a great job…in this role.

  79. Andrew says:

    Steel, there is certainly an argument to be made in favor of trading for Price, I just found the idea that it will increase the Pirates’ value a bit convoluted.

  80. Andrew says:

    I have to agree with Nate, on that list outside McCutchen Walker, and Sanchez in 2011 (#46), none of those names cracked Baseball America’s top 75.

    A deal for Price doesn’t start with Alen Hanson at #76 overall, and tacking on Harold Ramirez and Adrain Sampson won’t move the needle much.

  81. NMR says:

    Yeah, I think Russell was just too good to let pass. And I don’t think the Cubs are nearly as set up the middle as others do.

    I don’t necessarilly fault the Cubs strategy, but I believe they’re being more than a little disingenious with the whole trade-hitting-for-pitching schtick. They’re gonna buy their pitching. Or at least a big chunk of it. Because they can.

  82. Jim S. says:

    Well, we know now that Cole is not ok. From the sounds of it, his bullpen session yesterday went very badly, and he voiced a lot of discouragement afterward.

    So, Cumpton has to come up for a start, but after that it appears we’ll have Frankie back very soon. The other 4 look to be Volquez, Charlie, Worley and Locke. With Cumpton having the options, as long as Worley continues to pitch well, BC is the odd man out.

    McCarthy was had cheaply. Actually, I’m glad that he and Hammel are no longer available to Milwaukee, whom I think will still need starting pitching help this year. I did not see Samardzija or any other elite pitcher (Price) as an option for them due to their lack of elite prospects.

    Charlie was magnificent last night. He’s been pitching more like a #2 lately than the #3 he was expected to be. He is learning to harness his nasty movement better now, and it would not surprise me if he is now a consistently better pitcher than he has ever been.

    I don’t know what SS might be available to the Bucs who I would be certain is an upgrade over Jordy, provided he continues to improve his hitting. The question is which Jordy is the real Jordy moving forward? Start of season Jordy, or the Jordy of late? I’m thinking it is somewhere in the middle.

    I love the Cubs-A’s deal from the Cubs’ perspective. That was quite a haul for two pitchers that did not figure into their long range plans. I don’t fault Beane for going for it this year. But, he gave up a big chunk of the A’s future for a good pitcher and an average pitcher having a good 1/2 season. JMO.

  83. Jim S. says:

    I have made this point about Pedro before, and it still holds true more than halfway into the season. He has one fielding error to go with the 17 or 18 throwing errors.

    Pedro may actually combine the best glove at 3b in MLB right now with undoubtedly the least accurate throwing arm. I find that truly remarkable.

  84. Jim S. says:

    Casey McGehee is having a nice year at the plate. But, we all know who he is, and it is very likely he will be returning to that status before too long. He’s a .267 career hitter who hasn’t even hit that well in 4 years.

  85. Jim S. says:

    No one ever says they would never trade prospects. But, somehow, when bpn reads anything from anyone ever suggesting that prospects are important to a team, he reads it that way.

  86. Jim S. says:

    McCarthy is a RHP who is going to a ball park where lefty hitters get a lot of HR. He better keep that groundball rate very high, because his fly balls seem to be going over a lot of fences lately.

  87. NMR says:

    Good stuff, Jim!

    -I don’t think there’s any doubt that Beane made that trade with winning it all in mind. Hell, the guy already traded for a $10m closer this season.

    Which brings me to my point…Billy Beane has been very successful doing things differently than everyone else. And now this season, he seems to be reaching into the old bag of tricks to try and put his team over the top. His $10m closer experiment is a failure, unquestionably. Now he took the best starting staff in the AL and inserted two guys from the NL. No doubt they are having fine seasons, but all you have to do is look at the last two Cubs pitchers to make that jump (Garza and Dempster) to see that success is far from certain.

    He very well may have given up his shortstop of the future without even increasing his teams chance of winning it all.

  88. Jim S. says:

    I’d say there don’t appear to be as many hitting prospects is because hitting is so hard with all the pitching prospects.

  89. Jim S. says:

    Bingo. I actually hope the A’s win it all if it can’t be the Bucs. But, the Cubs just got a lot better for the next bunch of years.

  90. NMR says:

    A walking conundrum, Jim.

    You could put your xFIP Goggles on and see a hitter, like Andrew said above, that has improved on everything BUT the one thing he actually did very well previously (hitting homeruns). That guy looks like a breakout candidate!!

    You can also, very correctly, point out that he’s actually drastically cut down on his fielding errors and these throwing issues are unprecedented in his career and simply a flukey case of the yips he’ll get over. Wow, that’s a really good ballplayer!!

    But I think the likelihood of everything crashing down is probably just about as high, with the overwhelmingly greater odds being that he just eventually ends up looking like the same player we’ve seen over the last few years.

  91. NMR says:

    YES!!!

    This has been my point all along. I think it’s lazy analysis just to look at offensive numbers trending down and conclude that hitters are worse right now.

    Yeah, I’m sure teams would LOVE to be adding better hitters to their lineup. BUt who is going to do it at the cost of their better picthing? That has yet to be seen.

  92. NMR says:

    And it also makes him look even more like a baby for those playoffs-are-nothing-but-luck comments.

  93. Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 Prospects are out.

    Pirates have 5 in Top 50 —— #21 Tyler Glasnow, #24 Jameson Taillon, #35 Josh Bell, #37 Nick Kingham, and #43 Austin Meadows.

    Twins also have 5 ——#1, #9, #27, #30, #32. Thus higher ranked than Bucs.

    Cubs have #2, #5, #7, and #33. Hard to beat that! Dodgers have #13, #16, #18.

  94. NMR says:

    Groat, you ol dog. Don’t come around for weeks and then show up with a prospect list of all things. ;)

    Taking Reese McGuire over JP Crawford already starting to look dubious.

  95. Boobybear says:

    St Louis is the best team in our division and Pgh is the 2nd, they are the team to beat, why is it that we sit our best relief pitchers in the 9th inning for this guy named Wilson, they should have left Morton in there, he was pitching outstanding and the game would have gone to the 10th inning. I really feel the Pgh manager doesn;t want to beat the St Louis manager because he picked him for the All-Star game. Is he going to sit Polanco for the whole series, I sure hope not. This series with St. Louis will tell us if Pgh. has got what it takes to be a real contender. The players are playing their butts off, the manager is dreaming in the dugout.

  96. Steelkings says:

    Sk 9 Thoughts

    9. Will the real number two starter, Please stand up!

    Inconsistent starts are making it nearly impossible to figure out who is who in the starting rotation. 1 good outing is usually followed by a stinker. At this time I would have to say that surprisingly Ed Volquez is the ace of the staff.

    8. Power Failure
    The No#1 and No#2 national league 2013 home run leaders were not even considered by the captains for the HR derby contest. In fact Justin Morneau will be chosen if he is the final vote getter for the last all star spot.

    7. Speaking of Morneau
    MLB trade Rumors and Roto wire have both said that the Pirates have rekindled an interest in reacquiring Morneau for the stretch run. Let good ole Uncle Steelkings tell you that there is NOOOO WAAYYYY thats gonna happen. No Way.

    6. Buzz Kill
    The talk of Pittsburgh radio Sunday morning was what a huge lift it would be if the Pirates completed the sweep of the Phillies. The sediment was that the sweep would likely give the Pirates sole possession of 2nd place and put them a solid 6 games over 500 and 4.5 behind the leader. Well…….The pirates better win the next two in SL, because they get to face the 3 hottest pitchers in the NL Central in Lato’s, Leake, and Cueto when they go to Cincy this weekend. Tonights and Thursdays games are huge for this road trip. Finishing this trip 2 and 5 will be disappointing to say the least.

    5. Clint Hurdle has lost his mind

    First you have Mondays 7th inning where Mercer leads off with a single. In a 0 -0 game Hurdle follows the lead off single with a Morton fake bunt. Brilliant! Then, as if he’s trying to out do himself with stupidity, with the bags loaded in the 8th and 2 outs, he brings left handed GP off the bench to face the flame throwing left handed Sam Freemon.

    4. Boy there sure must be more to the Tabata DFA’ing

    “with the bags loaded in the 8th and 2 outs, he brings left handed GP off the bench to face the flame throwing left handed Sam Freemon”
    Stewart couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper sack. That leaves Sanchez as the only other real right handed bat available off the bench when Harrison plays. Sanchez was used up. Martinez likely would not have gotten Freemon off the mound in the above situation. However Tabata would have. That would have put the Right handed Motte who was loose in the pen on the mound. And a much better match up for GP. The Pirates only have 1 real RH bat on the bench which makes the choice of Tabata outty with Martinez inny kind of strange.

    3. Lack of Black

    Im not sure I have seen one Pirate fan in the stands at SL. Hats off to them. SL may be the over-all best franchise in baseball right now.

    2. The “Price”

    Word from the Rays is that it would require a teams top two prospects for David Prices services. For the Pirates that would be Kingham and Bell. But for the Pirates, Thats not the problem. Its the 20 million plus bonus, salary they would have to pay in 2015.

    1. Getting Peeved

    The Cardinals are close to adding Jake Peavy from the Red Sox. This will require a 3a guy and a player to be named and cash. It is a salary dump for the Sox to a team that can absorb his contract.

  97. NMR says:

    Always appreciate you taking the time to put these together, Steel.

    re: 4) Excellent, excellent point. The incriminating pictures Travis Snider has of the Front Office must really be wild.

    re: 1) Cards beat writer says they’re now looking for offense more than pitching. As if these rumors won’t change twelve more times in the next three weeks.

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