SOUTH HILLS – Ken Rosenthal reported Monday night that the Pirates generally listen to teams which inquire about players under long-term control. Rosenthal reported Josh Harrison is one player in particular the Pirates would consider moving….if they can find a buyer.
After his breakout, 5-win season in in 2014, the Pirates and Harrison agreed to a four-year contract that included two club options.
Since signing the contract, Harrison has produced back-to-back, 1.3 and 1.5-win seasons and is owed $7.5M in 2017, $10M in 2018. He has two club options totaling $6M in buyouts in 2019 and 2020.
It’s unclear what Harrison could fetch in a trade coming off two years where he slashed .285/.318/.389 with eight combined home runs and 29 steals. Harrison is not a poor player, overall, but he’s not an asset many teams are going to want to commit eight figures to.
Could the Pirates get something of value in return or would they have to package a prospect with Harrison if they want to move the contract?
Rosenthal reported the Pirates tried to sign Sean Rodriguez with the idea of then moving Harrison. If Harrison is traded Adam Frazier probably steps in as an everyday second baseman and the Pirates tab another internal option for the utility role. Frazier can perhaps provide similar overall value to Harrison in his first full MLB season but at a pre-arb salary.
Colleague Rob Biertempfel quoted a scout believing Tony Watson will be moved particularly after the contract Brett Cecil signed with St. Louis.
We all know there’s been much discussion and speculation centered around Andrew McCutchen.
With a thin free agent market, and the Pirates apparently willing to listen on anyone owed significant money, we could be in store for a major trade or two. The winter meetings begin Monday and the Pirates are in an interesting position in an interesting offseason market.
IF McCUTCHEN REMAINS IN PITTSBURGH …
… it will be interesting to see where he plays.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier this offseason that the Pirates have had discussions about moving Starling Marte to center, Gregory Polanco to left, and McCutchen to right.
That’s right, right field – not left.
On the surface that is head-scratching given McCutchen’s arm strength and accuracy issues. But MLB.com’s Mike Petriello had some fascinating findings in this article endorsing the idea of McCutchen moving to right field.
For starters, while Marte had the strongest throwing velocity on “competitive throws” among alls OFs – averaging 97 mph!!! – McCutchen’s throwing velocity of 85.8 mph was just under that of Polanco’s in 2016 (86.6), though that is likely in part tied to Polanco’s shoulder and knee ailments.
@Sawchik_Trib Yeah he was in the top 3 of max throw strength decliners, I believe. His top throw was 97.1 in 15, 90.1 in 16.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) November 29, 2016
Polanco, if healthy, surely has a stronger arm that McCutchen. But maybe the gap is not so significant that it prevents McCutchen moving to right.
Perhaps more important is the ground McCutchen can cover.
It would be easier to hide McCutchen’s declining range in right field at PNC Park compared to left field. Right field, of course, has a smaller surface area. (EDIT: In the original version of this blog entry, I misunderstood Petriello’s chart explaining the strength and weaknesses of McCutchen’s range. McCutchen is stronger going to his right NOT his left. This would allow McCutchen to play nearer the line in right field. And the majority of batters are right-handed and should actually be shaded slightly away from their pull field. See: the Houston Astros outfield defense).
So the idea of playing McCutchen in right field at PNC Park makes some sense. It’s really not that crazy. (But on the road why not platoon Polanco and McCutchen based upon outfield dimensions?)
Jeff Locke was never a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. Much of this had do to with his performance, some due to some curious things he had to say about fans.
Well, he’s officially gone … and a bit earlier than expected.
Locke was almost assuredly not going to be tendered a contract as he was becoming more expensive given his uneven performance but he was designated Tuesday night to make room on the 40-man roster for RHP Lisalverto Bonilla, signed as a free agent, who pitched in the minors for the Dodgers last season.
Locke was a 2013 All-Star. He also was demoted to the minors later that season. That pretty much summed up the Jeff Locke Experience. This is the same pitcher who finished 2016 with a 5.44 ERA but tossed a shutout in Miami.
He finishes with a 4.40 ERA career with the Pirates, actually better than his 4.31 FIP, ironic since Locke was against the advanced metrics that suggested he was out-performing his true talent level in the first half of 2013. But he was out-performing it. And perhaps it was that first half of 2013 that created unrealistic expectations and resentment, from the public, in regard to Locke.
Locke had a fit as a cheap back-of-the rotation arm, but he never put his stuff, his three pitchers, together consistently enough to justify a larger deal.
But Locke will have a job somewhere in 2016. It just certainly won’t be in Pittsburgh.