First Pitch: Should the Pirates Add Two More Starting Pitchers?

Whether it’s the trade market or free agents, the starting pitching market is currently being held up by one person: Jon Lester. Once Lester signs, other dominos will fall.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be one of the teams looking for a pitcher. They have the money to spend, and they have the need. That need is not only for a pitcher, but for a quality pitcher who can be one of the best starters in the rotation. They needed two starters heading into the off-season, and have already filled one of those needs by signing A.J. Burnett.

The current rumor is that the Pirates are making Francisco Liriano a priority. This makes sense, as they offered Liriano a $15.3 M qualifying offer. At the time, many felt that he would accept that offer. The fact that they were willing to make that offer shows that they were willing to sign him for that much on a one-year deal. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re still interested.

Whether it’s Liriano or Brandon McCarthy or Ervin Santana, the Pirates could use a starting pitcher from “Tier 2”, after the Tier 1 combo of Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields are gone. But should the Pirates stop there? Should they consider adding a third starter this off-season?

The current rotation includes Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Vance Worley on Opening Day. Charlie Morton will be in the mix, but won’t be ready by the start of the season. Jeff Locke should take his place until he returns. Adding a third starter would be replacing Locke or Worley until Morton returns, and possibly Locke and Worley after Morton returns.

The Pirates have done an outstanding job with reclamation projects. A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez all went from posting some of the worst numbers in the majors before signing with the Pirates, to posting outstanding numbers with the Pirates (although in the latter case, the outstanding numbers weren’t backed up by advanced metrics). They also took a struggling Worley and turned him back to his pre-2013 form, which looked like a league average starter. And they might be hoping for round two of a Burnett reclamation project this off-season.

So what about rolling the dice again? If the Pirates got someone like Liriano on a $12 M per year deal, they’d be projected for around $84 M in payroll in 2015. They have already said that they will likely end up over $90 M in payroll this year. So there would be room left for a third free agent starter in the form of a reclamation project. And there are a lot of reclamation projects out there right now. Brett Anderson, Brandon Beachy, Justin Masterson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Morrow, and Alexi Ogando are just a few of them.

If the Pirates did add a third starter, it would make the team stronger in multiple areas. If they replaced Jeff Locke in the rotation, then they could move Locke to the bullpen as the second lefty, where he might undergo the Zach Duke/Andrew Miller transformation from a struggling lefty starter to a dominant lefty reliever.

Morton returning might provide a bit of a problem, although I don’t think any team has ever had a “problem” of too many starting pitchers. If everyone in the rotation is healthy and productive, they could shift Worley to the bullpen. Odds are, not everyone will be healthy and productive. They’ll probably have to replace one starter by the beginning of May, and at least one more by the middle of June. Having extra starters around never hurts.

As for the payroll, it’s not like the Pirates are spending it on many other positions. They seem to be content with Pedro Alvarez at first base. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart look to be the catchers. Every other position is locked down with starters. They recently added Sean Rodriguez to the bench, and the other infield bench player will likely be a league minimum guy. Radhames Liz will probably cost a little over a million, but that shouldn’t impact things.

The main need on this team is pitching. The Pirates have plenty in the budget for someone like Liriano. After that, they’ll still have room for another reclamation project. And based on their recent history with reclamation projects, that would be a wise way to spend the remaining money they have.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide. I’ll be sending the book to the publisher on Friday for a test copy, to make sure that everything prints out alright. The last of the profiles should be finished by Sunday night. The book will officially be finished a week from Thursday, following the Rule 5 draft and all of the transactions during the Winter Meetings.

**Clint Barmes Signs With San Diego

**Pirates Sign Left-Hander Clayton Richard to a Minor League Deal

**Links: Trade Values, Mark Melancon’s Arbitration Price

**Winter Leagues: Joely Rodriguez Outpitches Stolmy Pimentel

  • I thought Liz was to be a starter ?? Liriano is welcomed back of course…and I agree one more would not hurt…injuries always occur. Moving Locke to the BP is necessary and Worley just may be the real deal. Taillon will be ready for use hopefully by July…and we also have Kingham ready. Lots of options to mix it up if we acquire 3…. As for Pimentel…get rid of him

  • Nothing to do with anything here, but just saw the Tigers traded Robbie Ray as part of the Didi Gregorius three-way deal. Robbie Ray was the guy the Tigers “had to have” and they gave up Fister to get him.

    What a strange world up there in Detroit.

    But Detroit got Shane Greene from NY, who’s pretty good himself, which to me indicates Yankees are going to step up to the plate for one of the big three, and soon.

    • Saw that as well.. sounds like they recognize that was the dumbest trade of the century so far.. probably will be for another thirty years or so

  • Tim or John…. What about giving a prospect package, even if it had to include Alan Hansen, for Jeff Samardzija on a one year rental? Are we not in a position to have that make sense , considering our current circumstances?

    • I doubt hansen gets us anything close to smarj… they gave up the best ss prospect in the game to get him..

  • This week is the time of a lull in the off-season that always leads to me losing my Buc fan objectivity. Hearing how teams from L.A and Seatle to Oakland , have surplus’ of talent at one position or another from which to deal from. Am I wrong to feel a slight chip that we have no such bank to work from? Is that not one of the simple and few expectations we should be allowed to have based on our organizational structure & strategy ?

    • What kind of “surplus” does Seattle and Oakland have to trade from?

      • Seattle definitely has a pitching surplus. Oakland is down but has a surplus of first base hitters (Tho Moss can’t walk right now).

      • Let me ask you , what do you think about making an offer for Samardzija ? We may have what they really want.. A shortstop that looks close. So a package of prospects , that we aren’t terrible comfortable parting with , headlined by Alan Hansen. Does a one year rental not make more sense for us right now than for other clubs , or than it will for us again in the future… C’mon , co-sign this crap for me…

        • Hanson wont be considered a SS in a trade deal if PIT continues to give him the majority of time at 2B. At very least, it gives the other team all the leverage during the deal to say “look, you cant call him a SS since you yourself dont use him there full time”. Maybe mid season they simply try to get something for Samardzija and take a lesser deal, but a deal that is headlined with Hanson seems weak during the offseason. Assuming that anything headlined with Hanson means the other prospects are below him in the ranks.

        • Oakland has a much better SS prospect than Hanson right now, Daniel Robertson. My opinion, after watching Hanson for two seasons is that he will not be a MLB SS anyhow.

      • I do think 3 to 5 years ago the plan was that we would have a surplus of RH power arms, ala’ the Mets right now, but even more so… I do think we will have that surplus in the next 2 years as many of our young project-able arms start meeting projections.

        • Wasn’t there a plan to have a surplus of outfielders as well? Yet when I suggest we trade from that surplus I get beat up

          • You do get beat up for it. I think just as w the pitching, the ‘plan’ was to have a considerable stock of OF… The best laid plans……

            I think in 18-24 months the 2nd attempt at OF surplus, again just as the pitching, may be a more real possibility… When Meadows & Ramirez become more real possibilities Tabata is a one man wrench in the operation… Let’s not even think about allowing Moss & Pearce to blossom elsewhere …or the 4 letter word, JOSE, in Canada.

            I just cannot put Snider in the same category with Polonco .
            Yes. If Polonco isn’t ready to claim right everyday just yet , Snider can be a satisfactory RF. But as far as trading Polonco… Can we really swallow watching him evolve into a star in another city?

    • So Seattle has a pitching surplus, Oakland has a surplus of 1Bmen….but we are ignoring any hint of a surplus of OFers for PIT? So basically you are going to argue for a few guys in Oakland being real solid players but argue against Snider being a decent option, along with rather good depth in AAA.

  • McCarthy would be a good signing. But if the Bucs sign two starters, where would Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham pitch? Presumably Taillon will be healthy soon, and I am not sure Kingham will get much better by playing more AAA ball.
    Liriano should not be signed. The benefit of an extra first round (“comp” round) draft pick (when Liriano signs elsewhere) is substantial. The Bucs would be better off signing McCarthy, Anderson, Masterson, or Morrow and letting Liriano walk.

    • Agree with this assessment… McCarthy and Anderson would be my picks and I think Liz is going to turn a few heads: he has good stuff and a competitive nature.

  • Do I live in a fools paradise to hope we could make a serious run at both our FA starters ? If it took payroll over $90m , but could get it done inside $100 , say $97 or $98m ? LOL. As I say that part aloud , I answer my own question.

  • We should either go big or go small.. if we’re going to pay market rate for a known commodity, get the best… otherwise we should continue getting reclamations. . We can get liriano 2.0 much cheaper, then use those resources in the bullpen

    • It’s just tough to pinpoint this year’s Liriano because most of the bounceback type guys are bounceback types because of injury concerns as opposed to pure performance bounceback types.

      Even if… say… Brett Anderson could come in and be just as talented as Liriano, he could break.

      This is at least how i think about the current situation and my preference for a more durable, established guy.

      • Few saw Volquez or Worley being that guy either. . I have faith they’ll find a #3 on the cheap.. witch isn’t much less then one can expect from liriano

  • I think you sign a second tier fa, but after that, the biggest “problem” the rotation has is that a guy with 51 starts, a 3.69 era and roughly a 4 xFIP over the last 2 years is in your rotation for at least the first month of the season. That’s…not the biggest problem in the universe, really. I think you could go ahead and throw <$5 mil at a reclamation project because, yeah, pitching depth good, but no more money than that. I lean toward an injury prone candidate, as I see higher upside in those guys this year, and we aren't in need of an innings eater, per se – just better quality depth. Signing even a Volquez 2-16 deal or something seems like an inefficient use of money. All we need is a guy that can give us 12 competitive starts or so – everything on top of that is gravy.

  • Two pitchers: lester & shields please

    • Call me crazy, but I say Liriano gives Pirates same chance to succeed as Lester for half the cost.

      • I can see that.. but to me he looked like he was breaking down.. even in the last few games that he dominated the first inning or two were shaky at best.. don’t get me wrong I want him back.. signing him though doesn’t provoke a feeling that it’s our division to lose.. just more like hoping things go our way

      • In a one game scenario? Sure

        Over 200 innings? Very slim chance.

        • Scott Kliesen
          December 4, 2014 3:13 pm

          I’m not saying Liriano is as good as Lester. My point is a top of rotation SP is enough to make this team a WS contender. And I believe Liriano is an Ace.

          • Ah, I read you now.

          • There’s a probability liriano is an ace next year.. that percentage is much less for liriano then it is for lester though. .

            • Scott Kliesen
              December 5, 2014 8:53 pm

              I’d agree with that assessment.

              • I don’t have any expectation that we’ll sign an elite pitcher.. at the end of the day the length of contract for one is really too much to take.. especially given that our arrow is pointing up for the long term without one.. I think with a healthy liriano we at least get the wild card game.. if he reaches his ceiling we can go deep in the playoffs.. I would prefer we trade for one but that idea is not received well given that it will cost us marte

    • As fun as those guys are (shields is one of my favorite non Pirates), I …and i might be the minority here… just can’t see the Pirates dropping $250,000,000 on pitching this winter 🙂

  • Seems like the pirates are on a run that is similar to the rays recent streak of winning baseball with a miniscule payroll ( comparitively speaking) where if the whole thing backfires it does not set your team back five years. It is nice to thumb our noses at the big boys and go nah nee nah nee, the only drawback to the rays and for that matter the a’s and to a lesser degree kc is no ring. Let’s hope the pirates become the small market team that overcomes this snag and wins the series.

  • I don’t believe the Pirates are content with Alvarez at 1st base, I believe the Pirates are still working on an upgrade. It does not make much sense to have your starting 1st basemen going into the year with almost no experience at all. Huntington did say last year that it was his fault they did not have a better 1st base situation in 2014 because he waited to long to upgrade and the upgrades they wanted were gone. The fact that they are in worse shape this year at 1st base tells me they are not through at that position, the money spent on 1st base will greatly affect who and how many pitchers they get. IMO, there is still a big trade coming down the pike.

    • Worse shape? Than Andrew Lambo? Please.

      I don’t know how many times it can be said, but moving a 3rd baseman to 1st base isn’t anywhere close to as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. Alvarez is an infielder. He’ll be fine.

      • Nobody said Alvarez can’t play 1st base, only that it is highly unusual to start a season without one proven 1st basemen on the 25 man roster, who does this? given the fact that Huntington was dissatisfied with the actions he took addressing 1st base last winter, why would he do even less this winter?

        • Because he didn’t “do less” this year. That’s obvious.

          • Yes, he has done less so far, he does not have one proven 1st basemen on the 25 man roster, he had 2 this time last year, that is a lot different than this year so far, that is why IMO, he will bring in another 1st basemen, probably by trade. Sanchez and Jones could play 1st base that was a fact, you can debate how good all you want, Alvarez has not proven he can play 1st base, we just think he can, only a stupid GM would go into a season without one proven 1st basemen.

    • I did not realize how bad the pirates defence was at first until morneau arrived then it was painfully obvious how bad it was before him and since he left. What the answer is at first is I do not know, I just hope it’s not pedro , enough already.

      • Try to imagine Justin Morneau as a Major League 3rd Baseman, then explain to me why Alvarez couldn’t be just as good, if not better, at 1B.

        • He might not be good at picking balls up off the dirt from throws. He scooped them at 3B but that is entirely different and more reactions than learning how to set up correctly for throws from infielders. You also need to learn the curve on the infielders throws, know how to back up the cutoff men on outfield throws, be able to throw a strike to 2nd on DP’s started by the 1B. Anyone can do these things, but only a few guys in the league can do them well. They also take high numbers of repetitions, and based on Pedro’s lack of discipline with his weight, I highly doubt he is so determined to put in the time that is required to become a respectable first baseman. It’s an easy position to do passable work at, but a very tough position to be good at.

          • You know nothing about Pedro Alvarez if you believe he doesn’t spend a ton of time working on his defense. This has been documented for as long as he’s been a Pirate.

          • Please, pedro is putting in his work and then some.. pedro may fail but rest assured it won’t be from lack of effort

            • Bull…he has a bad attitude and would not play winter ball. Belongs in the AL where he can play third , first or DH. We lose him soon anyways as he is a Boras client. Spoils the chemistry of this club. He is reclusive, moody and simply….we don’t need him. He may work on his defense, but the reward is not high enough. TRADE HIM

              • Easy now.. not playing winter ball doesn’t necessarily constitute laziness. . He could have very easily got more accomplished with personal coaches. .

  • IMO, if they can get Liriano on board then it would be worth a shot to get someone like Anderson or Beachy. If they go for Volquez they can go a little higher and get a pitcher on the same tier as Volquez, like Young. Morton coming back and Tallion getting healthy have a lot to do with them acquiring additional pitching, they probably could get by with a 4 man rotation until May.

  • Gregory Polanco extension would eat up a chunk of that remaining budget.

    • If the Pirates extend Polanco he won’t go from league minimum to $6-8 million for next season. Without an extension Marte would not have been arbitration eligible next year, he is making $1.3 million.

    • A polanco extension has nothing to do with 2015 payroll. it is the 2018-2020 and beyone budget that Polanco affects.

      • An extension would likely include a nice sized signing bonus. Probably in the $2M-$3M range, so not a big deal, for sure.

  • You can never have too much starting pitching. Signing a a guy to slot behind Cole, preferably Liriano, is a must for this team. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring in another #4 type SP either pushing Jeff Locke to AAA. I like Brett Anderson a lot.

  • Assuming they bring back Liriano, if you cant bring back Volquez too then I say go with what you have. Use Worley, Locke, Morton, Pimentel to fill out final two spots. I’d love to see a rotation of Cole, Liriano, AJ, Volquez and Worley. But I guess it comes down to how much money and years Liriano and Volquez can get.

  • I would like to see them take the money they would spend on two Tier 2 starters and put it toward a single Tier 1 starter. The difference between the Tier 1 and Tier 2 starters is bigger than another Tier 2 and our current options, not to mention the fact that the 4 and 5 starters make little to no difference in the playoffs. This is especially true with the possibility of Taillon coming up after the All-Star break.

    • In principle it sounds like a good idea. Go get a dominant Starter, and fill the 2nd. spot with what we got in-house. The problem is not this year, but having $23/$25M tied up on one player (say Scherzer?) for the next 5 years! What happens if he gets injured? Does he block the chance of extending someone like Cutch? Sure, there’s always the chance to trade him in the future, but you have to be sure he’s healthy and performing as a Top pitcher. A lot of risk there!
      I liked the idea that the Bucs were willing to put a package to aquire Price at the deadline! I would consider that again! Even if Price is just a 1-year rental, he could give us that chance to go farther in the playoffs. And for the future, hope again that Cole/ Taillion/ Kingham will become #1 and #2 Starters!

  • Scott Kliesen
    December 4, 2014 8:50 am

    Never have too much SP. With that being said, I think Pirates decision to sign a 2nd SP is based on how they feel about the prospects on the cusp of being brought up. If they are confident Kingham, Sampson and Taillon are ready to contribute, then there isn’t a glaring need.

    For me, NH needs to do what it takes to sign Liriano! He fits so well to this team, this Park and this Division. The success of this off-season is primarily dependent on keeping him.

  • Not sure where Medlen is as far as health but he has the most upside of that group. If you are going to take a shot then that’s my pick.

  • Lee Foo Young
    December 4, 2014 7:52 am

    I’m sorry, but I prefer Locke, who has proven to at least be a league average starter over the oft injured and inconsistent Morton.

    • But Locke is just as inconsistent as Morton, maybe more. Morton, over the last 4 years, has averaged 21 starts 3.74 era, 3.76 fip (don’t have the exact xFIP atm, but its close to that.) I am completely fine with that in a rotation, although no argument about the injury part.

    • The Pirates gave Morton the largest contract they’ve ever given to a pitcher, last off-season. He is going to be in the rotation.

  • “Or, they could have recently signed Clayton Richard make that transition, and store Locke away in the minors as added pitching depth.”

    No, Tim. They can’t just store Locke away in the minors, he’s out of options – it’s even on his player page on this very site.

    He was optioned in 2011 (http://espn.go.com/mlb/transactions/_/date/20110317), 2012 (http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/pirates/2012/03/16/Pirates-send-down-d-Arnaud-as-part-of-10-moves/stories/201203160189) and 2014 (http://www.si.com/si-wire/2014/04/11/pirates-starter-jeff-locke-optioned). In all 3 years, Locke spent more than the requisite 20 days in the minors. He also does’t qualify for a 4th option year under any of the exceptions – he had 3 full (90+ days) minor league seasons prior to being added in November 2010, and has been active for 90+ days in each of his 3 option years.

    Locke would have to clear waivers if the Pirates tried to send him down, and there’s no way he makes it through.

    • Yeah, any plan that doesn’t recognize that Worley and Locke are out of options is not going to work. The Pirates need to add one more good starter, but after that the focus needs to be on depth, not more MLB signings. Clayton richard was a good get. He’s exactly the type of reclamation project Tim is talking about, but he didn’t cost an MLB roster slot to sign. Another guy like that would be good.

      Also, I want to quibble with the idea of making Locke a reliever. This site is usually pretty good about a) defending underrated Pirate players and b) pointing out that relievers are fungible. So I find it bizarre that Tim would advocate turning a young, reliable lefty starter into a bullpen piece. Locke has been a solid fifth starter for the last two years, he’s only 27, and he’s under control for four more years. He’s underrated because he’s so inconsistent, but the overall performance has been solid. He’s a valuable player. Turning him into a reliever is a bad idea.

      • Also, I don’t think the payroll math adds up. According to the projection on this site, the Pirates payroll is at about 72.3. Adding Liz will bring it up to 73.8. Adding Liriano for 12 makes 85.8, and they still need to add a right-handed hitter for platoon/bench duty and (arguably) another bullpen piece. I don’t think they can afford two more MLB starters.

        • If they can find a solid lefty masher to go with Pedro, then I agree they can get away with only one more starter. I would add though: If they find a nice reclamation project that puts them around the mid 90’s in payroll, I don’t think that Huntington/Nutting would have issue with going closer to 100 mil for this season if they have wiggle room for 2016 and beyond. They understand that the Pirates are now in a good position to compete for a World Series, and as long as the contract doesn’t handicap their future, they will spend if it makes the team stronger.

          Polanco hopefully figures it out at the plate and his defense should improve, Harrison will upgrade the 3B defense and end the 25+ throwing errors to 1B that we had to see last year. If those two things happen and Harrison’s bat doesn’t fall off a cliff, that can more than make up for Martin right there.

        • Coonelly said that they anticipate payroll over 90 via report on Dejan K’s site. so they *could* add 2 starters and a cheap RH platooner if they so choose.

          85.8 + 2 for the RH Platooner + 8-10 for the bouncebacky pitcher brings them to the mid ’90s. Doable.

          But necessary? I think that’s the better debate

      • I think we need to define Locke’s “inconsistency” better. It’s not like he’s very inconsistent from start to start. He’s inconsistent from !H to 2H of a season. In other words he lacks stamina to go 200+ innings in a season consistently. Given that limitation he might be better suited for the bullpen.

        • Thank you.

          The “average MLB starter” comments are what you’d expect to hear from people who pull up his FanGraphs page and look at his full season stat line.

          In reality, he’s developed a fairly decent track record of being far better in the first half than the second. Just doesn’t have the body to hold up as a starter at this point.

          • Would you think it’s reasonable to expect locke to go deeper into the season as he gets older

            • Simply due to age and experience? I wouldn’t bet on it.

              He needs to figure out a conditioning program that gives him enough strength to be able to maintain his mechanics through 180 innings.

              • I’m of the opinion that Locke is just inconsistent, and we’ll likely always be. He did throw 180 innings this season, and wasn’t performing particularly well in AAA just prior to his call up, a couple 5 walk games. He also had two very good starts in September.

                I just wouldn’t pencil him in for 160+ quality innings, though I’d say the same about Liriano, also Locke needs to throw to a good pitch framer.

                • Really good point on framing. Not good enough stuff to live over the plate, not good enough command to consistently hit the edges.

              • As proficient as our coaching has become with grooming/correcting pitching… Should the organization have some responsibility in adding mass and strength to his frame ? The issue is so obvious , we choose to almost not even blame the kid… With whom does expectation lie to address it, the player or the team?

                My wife has a ‘4 waffles at midnight’ regimen that could help add that Clemens like ass to drive off .

              • He may never be able to do that. He’s looks like a slightly built guy. Maybe one good half is all that can be expected of him. This year that means he’s perfect to use until Taillon is ready. In the future? Long relief and spot starter.

          • That is it. He is just too slight. He is 6’2… Skinny as a rail. Can’t they bulk that kid up some? He could potentially be Tom Glavine then… If he had any idea where his change up was going to go…

            • “Clemens-like ass” may be the best thing I’ve read here in a while. So many meanings, all awesome.

              You ask great questions, just not sure we’re privy to enough internal workings to give educated answers.

            • Is Locke actually frail he listed as 6’0″ and 185 pounds? Or is just inference drawn from his appearance, if I were listing frail Pirate’s pitchers I’d go with Morton and Liriano before Locke.

              As for adding mass, it isn’t that simple, it can be counterproductive, if you are stronger you can increase power output but the pivotal question is can your non-contractile tissues, ligaments, joint capsules handle the increased load.

              I’m pretty sure Locke would get some league sanctioned time off if he follows the Clemens method.

              • lol… As far as I know The Pirates have never had an active team member connected to PED’s … And my wife’s waffle program will not bring about a false positive…
                I don’t suggest him lifting weights …. Add weight. Eat more protein .. More carbs… Work on his legs and his ass.He is 6’2. 180.. And almost always weight listings are charitable.
                I played with a pitcher in college who was 5’8 , prolly 150.. He hit 88 , and had nasty breaking stuff… He would curl a 60lb dumb bell with only his wrists …. There exist programs to strengthen and fortify pitchers… Just another billion dollar industry.

              • Did either of us use the word “frail”? Maybe I missed it. To me, frail implies susceptible to injury. That’s not at all what I meant.

                What I’m talking about is the endurance, through increased strength, to maintain proper mechanics through a grinding seven month season. With your mechanics goes your command, and Jeff’s has gone out the window as the season has progressed.

                • Regardless of how you define it I have trouble buying this line of reasoning, that Locke lacks endurance or strength, and his mechanics broke down. Locke was pretty much the same inconsistent pitcher last year, he just dramatically different BABIP results over the season, this year it is true that his walk rate climbed later in the season but if you include his AAA numbers he struggled significantly with command in May.

                  He is inconsistent I just I don’t there is a simple reason for it. Mundane point but what is the internet for?

                  • Take it up with Ray Searage, Andrew. I would be in agreement with had he not literally said they’ve noticed his mechanics breaking down as the season progressed.

                    I’m not simply trying to appeal to authority, but that’s the kind of thing I’m certainly not good enough to spot with the naked eye.

                    • That’s fair, and even if the Searage is wrong (which I don’t think he is, I didn’t remember any comments like that, only Locke discussing a back injury last year that prevented him from lifting), if the solution is better conditioning strength training, there isn’t any negatives.

                      I just hope they don’t think .200 BABIP Jeff Locke was his actual talent level.

                    • Absolutely agreed, and FWIW, if we did this conversation over again I wouldn’t come off sounding like I thought this was the solution to all that ails him. I wouldn’t expect him to get any more benefit out of improved conditioning than allowing him to pitch further into the season like the 4/5 starter he realistically is at the big league level.

                    • If I can anyone can. Pay attention to him next year and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

                  • Like I said above your comment. You can literally see it when it happens. When he gets tired his movement through his delivery gets sloppy. if he starts out a game like that he’s going to have control problems. When it happens during a game it’s time to get him out of there.

                • That’s the thing with him. It seems that when he gets tired that twist he has in his delivery isn’t as sharp and it throws him off.

        • Kinda like Liriano was sporting an ERA close to 5.0 in early July? Locke is just like AJ, money in May stuggotts in September. Wins in May are just as important as in September. I just don’t see any Tier 2 starters I would expect a better 2015-2017 than him. Same for Worley. We are spoiled, plain and simple.

    • The 4th paragraph from the bottom says ..”If they replaced Jeff Locke in the rotation, then they could move Locke to the bullpen as the second lefty, where he might undergo the Zach Duke/Andrew Miller transformation from a struggling lefty starter to a dominant lefty reliever.” It does not say anything about “the minors”

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I had it wrong on the 40-man page, which is what I use for most articles.

  • “the remaining money they have”…historically, the club squirrels away upwards of $8M of their budget for post opening day transactions. $84M with Liriano + even a $6M project gets them to the $90M threshold. So are you suggesting they won’t squirrel anything this season? Or that the budget will go way past $90M? Of course, they might even now be planning to shed some salary to keep the budget intact.

    • Looking at the 6 possible projects you mention, maybe I misunderstood and what you’re suggesting is that we could get one of these guys for $2M at most? They were all really bad. Doubt Masterson would take that big of a pay cut, but the others might. Beachy only made $1.5M last year, so maybe he’s the most realistic target.

    • My thoughts as well. Max out payroll on Opening Day and you end up like the Blue Jays at last year’s deadline. Not smart at all.

      I will say, hopefully without inciting a tired NUTTINGZ CHEAP conversation, that the Pirates unquestionably have plenty of money unspent from last season’s budget. One would hope that if Huntington did happen to push Opening Day payrol to $90m or more, Nutting would authorize additional cash throughout the season.

      • The Pirates have said more than once that Huntington has a budget and he can do what he wants inside of that budget (I am assuming within reason, like he can’t trade McCutchen without a little conversation), so if he has money left in the budget I don’t believe Nutting is involved, I also don’t think it has anything to do with what is left from last year., if he has to go outside the budget I believe Nutting is involved. What the budget is we don’t know and never will know.

        • What did I say that was any different than what you wrote?

          • You said they had money from last season’s budget, I said I don’t think it has anything to do with this years budget. I also said I don’t believe as long as Huntington is within the budget that Nutting has much to do with it. You said If it was 90mil or more that Nutting would authorize additional cash, I did not put a dollar figure on it, however I do think that it could be 90-95 this year as a budgeted figure, that would take Nutting out of it.
            In other words to make a long story short, IMO, Huntington can probably do what he wants under 100mil without Nutting’s approval.

            • Slow down and try to follow…

              “Max out payroll on Opening Day and you end up like the Blue Jays at last year’s deadline. Not smart at all.”

              ^this is me saying it’s not a good idea to max out payroll on Opening Day, leaving no capacity for additions during the season. This would lead one to believe I do not think Huntington should push Opening Day payroll past $90m, which for purposes of this conversation is believed to be his budget.

              “One would hope that if Huntington did happen to push Opening Day payroll to $90m or more, Nutting would authorize additional cash throughout the season.”

              ^this is me saying that if Huntington does use his payroll budget on Opening Day, I hope the owner of the team would authorize additional resources.

              “I will say, hopefully without inciting a tired NUTTINGZ CHEAP conversation, that the Pirates unquestionably have plenty of money unspent from last season’s budget.”

              ^this is me citing the payroll capacity unspent last year as a means of paying for additional resources needed to go over this year’s budget, cited above.

              • In his interview with DK, Neal said he spent that idle $8-$9 million from this year on “baseball operations”. So not sure if you’re thinking that’s in a piggy bank somewhere, but apparently it isn’t.

                • Are you sure he said they ALREADY spent that money, or that all that money will be spent on “baseball operations”. Final payroll numbers don’t come in til after the season. I’d like to know how in the hell they could spend that much ADDITIONAL money on “baseball operations” in about a month.

                  • I’m not “sure” about anything. I’m not in the Pirates’ finance department. You could be right. When I first read it, it sounded like it was already earmarked, but on second read, maybe not.

                    • FWIW, I questioned DK on what sort of “baseball operations” the Pirates are spending all this money on considering they can no longer spend big in the draft, have seemingly decided not to spend much in Latin America, and are done building big new facilities.

                      His response was payroll. I’m personally skeptical, since simply coming out and saying that would seem to be much better PR than continuing to use the “baseball operations” black box. But take that for what it’s worth.

              • Flawed thinking. First off they saved money last year and did nothing with it. Secondly if you fill your spots with good players before the season starts you might not have to add anything. Teams with limited resources like the Pirates need to get what they can while they can. that in and of itself might be the difference between being buyers or sellers at the deadline. And I don’t think they roll over unused payroll. If they do then all this $90 million means is that they are raising payroll by the amount they saved at the deadline. and that they still aren’t doing all they can.

                • Easy, buddy. “last year” ended about a month ago.

                  And speaking of flawed thinking, you yourself just used “might” in the first sentence of your roster explanation. Please find me examples of teams that go start to finish with the same 25. You always, always, leave room in your budget for additions. This isn’t even a debate.

                  The Pirates have said time and time again that all profits go back into baseball operations. The Pirates budgeted around $90m in payroll last year and only spent about $82m. I don’t know about you, but that shows up as profit in every company I’ve worked at.

                  It wouldn’t make any sense to budget that directly into next year’s payroll as there could be other baseball activities they’d like to use it on, but there’s just no way in today’s game of capped draft and int’l spending to use ALL of it that quickly. Thus, my comment stating I’d hope a portion would be used to supplement payroll, if needed.

                  • I get trying to save money for an unknown event. Injury, whatever. But if that means missing out on a guy they feel they need I think it should take a back seat. Besides because they said payroll might go over $90 million doesn’t mean that’s all they have. I don’t see a reason it shouldn’t be around $95 or so. They will be getting more from the network TV deals this year. But I’d hate to see them pass up on a guy when they don’t really know what shape they’ll be in at the trade deadline. that “guy” might be the different between actually needing that guy at the deadline and looking to unload some salary.

                    • “I dont see a reason in shouldnt be around 95 million or so”. So you have knowledge of their finances then? Because without that, what you are now arguing is purely based on assumption. Its entirely possible the team sees itself as financially stable at 95-100 million total at years end, so starting at 95 means come deadline time any upgrade is financially a no go. This is simply getting into the never ending old argument of “they can easily spend more” that Pirate fans have been saying each year for the last 5 years. Once they hit 100 million, fans will say they can spend 105-110.

                    • You have to admit.. it’s pretty easy as a fan to throw another $5m on the cap. Lol

                    • I think DK here said more than once they could have went to $90 last year. If that’s the case, and considering the increased TV contract money they should have room to go to $95 million. People are also paying more for their tickets.

                    • I respect DK on some things, but when DK speaks on the Pirates and money he at times allows his clear dislike of some individuals inside the organization to show. I agree they could spend 90 million, but last year i appreciated not spending it on guys like Loney and Johnson just to say they spent it.

                      Also, your last sentence is laughable a bit since some fans are saying “ticket prices went up so pay more money on the team!” while the ignore the fact that this team has some of the lowest ticket prices in the league. Pirate fans have no room to remark about ticket prices and should be thankful they are so low, or admit they need to be drastically increased if they want payroll to drastically increase. We speak on the TV money without actually knowing the details about how much is seen each year. Pittsburgh can afford a 95 million payroll….at the end of a year. Which means heading into the year at 85-90 is reasonable and meets that expectation, but that would still get fans saying “why wont they spend more to win”. If they sign 1 Liriano type SP and fill out the bench with maby 1 more cheap option, they head into the year in the mid 80s in payroll. Which shouldnt, but will, upset anyone.

                    • If you take the Pirates at their word, they put their money back into the team. So if they are telling the truth what other reason would there be to raise ticket prices ? And comparing their ticket prices to other teams doesn’t work, those teams are also spending more on payroll.

                    • The reason to raise ticket prices is to allow them to continue to raise payroll to stay as competitive as possible with other teams. Yes, comparing ticket prices to others teams DOES work. You are correct they spend more on payroll, but part of that is because they bring in more money from tickets. To say PIT is fine and prices can stagnate is just false. PIT can indeed continue to be a small market team that isnt outspending the biggest teams, but a raise in ticket prices would place them in the middle of the pack in comparison and allow them a solid chunk more to put back into the team.

                      In short, they absolutely can be doing everything right and still raise prices, because a continued winning team will see continued demand for their product that enables them to stop having bottom third of the league low ticket prices. If they can raise prices, and thus being in more money for the team, and not see a large drop off in attendance, its better for everyone.

    • Coonelly just said the other day they are very much expecting to have the payroll be above 90 million this season. So if that holds true, they could go into the season at 90 million and still be in line with the expectations of having around 5 million to spend in upgrades during the year. All signs seem to point to the team being fine with the end budget being above 90 million this year at seasons end.

      • That’s all I’m saying. they appear to be able to do everything they need this offseason and still be able to add at the deadline if they want/need to.

  • Arik Florimonte
    December 4, 2014 1:00 am

    Yes, they should. You can’t have too much starting pitching.

  • Liriano would be very nice to have. If they can’t have him, McCarthy would be my number two as I don’t see them getting Santana. Then, go for one of either Morrow/Anderson and hope the miraculous happens and they give them a solid 100-150 innings. We won’t see Taillon after August even if he is strong this year, Morton is a near lock for at least 2 DL stints, and at least 2 others will be likely be hurt by May.

    • Bet u taillon is mlb ready first week of July

      • Yes, sorry I was unclear in that post as I have been up too long. What I meant was if he comes back and is pitching well/racking up innings, even if he is on the roster I think they will shut him down early making him mute for any playoff run. How many innings can we expect them to let him pitch this year? If he had 150 in 2013 before the injury, I am thinking they don’t even let him reach that this year even if he is fully healthy. So when I keep hearing he will be waiting for them by mid-season, it seems kind of optimistic to count on him contributing if we are in the race this year again. In 2016, he may be limited again leaving 2017 as the first year he can even pitch a full season.

    • Regardless big fan if Anderson

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