First Pitch: You Can’t Say the Pirates Aren’t Focused on Winning in 2015

In the past few years, there have been questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ commitment to winning. There have been complaints that the Pirates aren’t acting like a winning team, and aren’t making moves a winning team should make. Complaints that the Pirates are focused too much on the future, and not enough on the now. Complaints that they’re wasting Andrew McCutchen’s prime years, or that they’re just wasting the rare chance they’ve got to contend.

With this off-season, I think we can put to rest the idea that the Pirates aren’t focused on winning now.

In the past few years, they’ve gone with reclamation projects when they needed a starting pitcher. It wasn’t a bad plan at all, and led to some great results. But that type of approach does have risks (even though the Pirates didn’t really deal with many consequences of those risks). This off-season they needed two starting pitchers. They got A.J. Burnett (who is a bit of a reclamation project, although I think just getting healthy will be a huge thing) and Francisco Liriano. The latter signed a three-year, $39 M deal. That’s not ground breaking. It’s the market rate for a pitcher like Liriano (possibly a bit of a discount, based on what Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana received), and the Pirates paid it.

A lot of complaints have been about the payroll, which has quietly been showing a steady incline over the last few years. The Pirates have said they will probably be spending over $90 M this year. I don’t know the details of Liriano’s deal, but right now I have them at $88 M, and that doesn’t include Radhames Liz’s deal. That deal was originally rumored as a two-year, $3 M deal, but was announced for one year today. I think it’s safe to say that it will end up around seven figures or more, considering the offers he had on the table from other leagues. That would put them at a projected $89 M. They’ve added about $8 M in-season the last few years, which would put their projected end-of-the-year number at $97 M. Again, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. It’s just something Pirates fans have wanted, and it’s happening.

Then there were the two trades recently. I detailed the Antonio Bastardo/Joely Rodriguez trade the other night, pointing out how the Pirates are trading a guy who could be a good lefty reliever for them for six years, and getting one year of a guy who has been a good lefty reliever.

Today the Pirates completed another trade in which they acquired Sean Rodriguez to fill their utility role. They sent out Buddy Borden on the other side of that deal. I think that’s a high price to pay for one year of Rodriguez, especially since Rodriguez was designated for assignment, only has one year remaining, and is coming off a down year. We had Borden ranked high, and probably higher than most. Since he won’t be in the Prospect Guide, I put up his scouting report in today’s article.

I also decided to do a trade value on Rodriguez, just to see what he was actually worth. I went with a 1.1 WAR, which was his 2013 total, and the average of his last five seasons. His projected salary is $2 M, and I went with $6 M per win. The result was $4.6 M in surplus value.

The disclaimer with that value is that I don’t know how being designated for assignment would impact his value. He’s also coming off a bad year where he posted a -0.2 WAR. So by putting him at 1.1 WAR, a team is paying for a bounce back season, and only gets fair value if that bounce back season occurs. If Rodriguez has another replacement level year, the Pirates have lost this deal.

So how does Borden stack up? It really depends on how you view him. A Grade C pitcher of Borden’s age is worth $2.1 M. A Grade B pitcher is worth $7.3 M. We have Borden at Grade B status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others have him between B and C. If you do have him between those grades, then Borden for Rodriguez is total fair, assuming there is no lost value in being designated for assignment, and assuming you’re paying for the bounce back year.

I also decided to run a Trade Value on Bastardo. I put him at 0.7 WAR, and he’s projected to make $2.8 M. That gave him a trade value of $1.4 M. We graded Rodriguez as a Grade C pitcher, and a Grade C pitcher at his age is worth $1.5 M. So that trade seems fair, although I could see a scenario where the Phillies are better off in the long-term, and possibly the short-term, with Andy Oliver and/or Rodriguez in their bullpen.

In each of these deals, the Pirates traded from their minor league pitching depth to get one year of a player who can provide a small upgrade. If Bastardo keeps pitching like he has been pitching the last few years, and if Rodriguez bounces back to his 2013 numbers, then the Pirates just added about two wins. In exchange for those two wins, they traded away two pitchers who project to reach the majors, and in one of those deals I think they paid too much. But the Pirates now have their utility player and their second lefty. The roster is stronger for it. They’re clearly only focused on 2015 with these moves. That’s something people have been wanting to see from them. And once again, they’re doing it.

The Pirates are paying for established free agents. They will have a payroll that rivals other small-to-mid market teams. They are trading from their depth of prospects just to upgrade for one season. With the exception of Russell Martin, they’ve done everything you could have asked for this off-season to fill the needs for the 2015 season. And then there’s this…

Cervelli has posted good offensive numbers, although in small sample sizes. He’s also had issues staying healthy. There are some big “ifs” here, but if he can stay healthy and if he can hit like he has been over a full season, then the Pirates won’t miss Martin that much.

Last night I wrote about how it looks like the Pirates might be done filling needs this off-season. I don’t know if they’ll continue making moves this off-season. What I do know is that you can’t really say they’re not focused on winning in 2015 with all of the moves they have made so far.

Links and Notes

**Pirates Officially Sign Radhames Liz, DFA Josh Lindblom

**Pirates Send Buddy Borden to the Rays to Complete the Sean Rodriguez Deal

**Charlie Morton Expects to be Ready on Opening Day

**Pirates Make Francisco Liriano Deal Official

**Winter Leagues: Sam Kennelly Makes Debut in Australia, Julio Vivas Impressing in Venezuela

  • Is it spring yet?

  • I still think NH gets another starting pitcher. I think it will either be Volquez or a guy like Brett Anderson. A sort of reclamation project who would be very affordable. NH loves lefties. I could see him bring Anderson in. He could perform anywhere from a #2 -#4 starter but We saw how nasty he can be when we saw him in Coors this past season. I want another lefty in this rotation. Lefties are perfect for this park

  • Tim, good read. Have to agree it appears ownership is having a much better off season than we had last season.

    • There was activity this yr. but that was due to contracts running out.
      The Pirates were forced to act.
      On paper it is just about the same team and not better and maybe a little worse.
      Unless the Pirates do something drastic and out of character they will have to rely on mostly the same players playing a lot better than last year. Which is possible.

      • I don’t think it is the same team, the depth portion is a lot different, this year they are very deep in starting pitching and bullpen pitchers, the infield and outfield have more depth this year. On paper to me, this is a better team for the long haul and only similar if you are looking at playing one game. The starters give the impression that it is the same team.

      • Same team, so its worse. Even though Marte, Polanco, Mercer are all of an age where historically at their positions they get a bit better for a few more years. They bring back Liriano and upgrade from Volquez to AJ. So unless Liriano misses a good deal of time and Cole sees the DL again, the rotation is likely to be more consistent. But im sure someone will say “you dont know that, its all assumption” since that appears to be the theme.

  • ok here’s the poop, catcher is a down grade and our backup catcher may have catch and than be exposed. we need a right handed hitting 1b with a good glove. Marte has to hit like he did the last 2 months and polanco has to hit better period. snider or lambo could be trade pieces for a rh 1b an a rh right fielder, tabata is not the guy. pitching staff looks ok and the bull pen has to be better early in the season than it was last year.So the pirates still have a little work left. ps can pedro make the throw to second to start a double play or get the lead runner? if not he dh bound.

    • Very small sample size but Alvarez did turn 4 double plays last year as a first baseman. Not sure if he was throwing in any of them or just receiving on a standard 4-6-3.

      • He also lost a game airmailing a short throw home to Martin, indicating he might have issues throwing to any base, not just 1b.

        To be perfectly fair, Ike did the same thing in the same game. Might’ve even been the same inning.

  • I don’t know of any team in baseball that is not focused on winning. Some of them know that their chances are slimmer than others, but the commitment to winning is in every team.

    • I think the important part is winning “in 2015”. Sure, every team is committed to winning. But some teams are blown up from time to time (Marlins) to win later rather than winning now.

      • Technically the Marlins went in on “win now” the year before they were blown up, knowing the young talent that got them there was walking in FA. Not that anyone should want to be MIA at any point in their Loria history, because as good as winning the WS is, knowing the team is going to be totally different the following year has to be painful. “Man, that Beckett really is something annnnnd there he goes.”

  • My question is : out of the new Bullpen arms we acquired who will be the best?
    My vote is on Liz. He has the great stuff, but definitely he’s the typical high risk high beta guy.
    Here’s hoping for some more Searage magic.

  • I always get confused about the different prospect grading systems, does Grade B = 50 Future Value, so a #4 starter, lesser closer, low-end everyday player?

    • Andrew…don’t worry about being confused….I have gotten used to being confused about a lot of things as I get older.😳😳😳😳

  • Tim…I remember the early days of P2, when you’d get 5 or 10 comments on your articles. I remember when bloggers and columnists would ‘pooh pooh’ your site if brought up in a blog comment.

    It does my heart good to see how Pirate fans have now discovered your site as a destination!

    Thank you (and John, of course) for all of your hard work and dedication!!!!!!!!!!!!

    After the PBC Asylum, this is my ‘go to’ page for Pirate news! I can’t imagine life as a Pirate fan without these two sites!!!!

    Bob “Foo” Veale

    • I remember the early days of P2 as well. I became aware of the value of prospects as I listened to the old baseball today podcast with Keith Law, and always hoped today I’d hear a snippet about a pirates prospect. Thank god I found this site, and thank you Tim for all the great info and insight u offer us fans.

    • Agree. Former Asylum member as well, but Tim’s site is my favorite and go to now. Keep up the great work Tim and supporting cast!

  • With the talk of not having a true front line guy, and I’m in that camp, would anyone have an educated reaponse as to how much coles ceiling/floor has changed sense he was called up.. is there a higher/lower probably he becomes that elite starter?

    • The Pirates won 2 W/S without a true front line guy in the 70’s and were saved in 79 by a guy that could not make this team (Rooker). I will take a staff full of 3,s and a possible 2 hear or there any day, any starting pitcher in the Pirates rotation is capable of competing with another teams No.1 on a given day. The Pirates don’t have a true 4 or 5 on this staff.

      • Yeah but it ain’t bad having a dominant pitcher like Kershaw in the reg. season and a Bumgarner in the playoffs completely shutting down the opposition.

      • No they did not have “a” frontine starter in 1971 and 79 they had two. Steve Blass/Dock Ellis in 1971. Bert Blyleven/John Candalaria plus Bruce Kison had a real good regular season in 1979.

    • I think Cole will have to pitch a full season (180+ innings) for anyone to take an educated guess on him becoming a front line starter.

      I don’t think his ceiling has changed. His floor may have sunk a little if the lat strain he suffered is a recurring issue.

      • Thanks frank. I think in my mind his ceiling fell, or at least the probability that he hits his ceiling. Sounds like I was a bit premature with that

  • You guys that are asking “yeah but did they improve?”… This team can improve merely by getting complete, healthy seasons from Pedro and Cole. By having Polanco for a full season and make adjustments with his debut behind him. And there’s no way they were replacing Martin’s contribution from 2014, not even re-signing Russ was going to do that. He put up a star-level season last year and I’ll take anyone’s money who wants to bet he does it again.

    • Pedro healthy does no good if his pitch recognition and power continue to decline. There is no reason to believe at this point that he will be any better in 2015 than he was in 2014

      • If he plays a full season, he still hits 25 and that is only a slight decline. Most players dont “decline” at the early 20s stage, in fact a case can be made a ton of players like Pedro see peak years from 28-32. How old is Pedro again?

    • If you truly believe that Polanco will improve dramatically, then it stands to reason that the Cubs rooks will too. If you truly believe that all Cole needs to do is stay healthy, then you can say the same about Wacha, to an even greater degree. See where this is heading?

      And it doesn’t matter what Russ does this year. Completely irrelevant. What matters is that 5+ WAR left and 5+ WAR hasn’t demonstrably come back. It doesn’t really matter who’s contributing it. It sounds plausible that you’ll get some from Cervelli, some from Pedro (just eliminating errant throws adds something), some from Polanco and maybe a little from the pen or starters. But at this point it’s just speculation until Pedro and Polanco start hitting and Cervelli proves he’s capable of putting in 120 games behind the plate.

      So “did they improve” is a completely valid question.

      • bucsw….we will have NO idea whether they improved until they start playing the games.

        Up until that point, it is ALL based on speculation.

        • Exactly. So it’s both the people questioning if they did enough AND the people proudly proclaiming they did who have no idea.

          Which includes everybody here and the authors of this site and every single other Pirates-related site in existence.

          As a wiser man than either of us once said: “That’s why you play the game.”

          • Or you make somewhat informed estimates.

            http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Standings

            • Great for picking fantasy teams. As I keep mentioning to someone else who continually cites Steamer – go back and d/l the Steamer pre-season Google docs for 2014. Take a look and see if you’d have wanted to bet on that information in hindsight.

              I’m not picking on you for bringing it up. Honestly, I had no real idea whether Steamer was good/bad/indifferent until I went back and looked on my own.

              It seems valuable for when there’s a significant number of seasons of data on an individual (Cutch, Kershaw, Waino), so the data for a veteran team is probably sounder. Not so much when said individuals don’t have a long history, or have an erratic one.

              • So a system that has little data has a lot of variance, who would have thought?

                There are penalty of comprehensive looks at the different projection systems.

                http://razzball.com/fantasy-baseball-projections-review-2012/

                http://blog.rotovalue.com/2013-projection-systems-review-woba/

                I think it is better that just looking at last years roster or record and then mentally adjusting. Yes in the end we know little, but some information where we understand the flaws and limitations, is better than none.

                • “So a system that has little data has a lot of variance, who would have thought?”

                  It’s one thing to know and accept that, it’s another to ignore it, as I see here often.

                  It’s still a relatively new tool/industry and I’d assume the algorithms will continue to improve. But for today it’s simply a somewhat useful tool, a fun talking point, but ultimately not close to fact.

                  • This discussion has degraded a bit. PECOTA and Marcel projections have been around for a decade, Szymborski has been doing stuff on Baseball Think Factory for quite some time.

                    My main point is there is a chasm between we know nothing and we know everything, don’t let the prefect be the enemy of good. I have no clue how much faith individual posters put in the projections, I don’t really care.

                    Projections provide information, people can choose how to use them, there isn’t absolute correct way, but there are certainly better and worse ways, that said I really don’t know a situation were ignoring information is ideal.

                    • Andrew – I appreciate the content and tone of the discussion. And I understand your bigger point.

                      I’m very interested in the different projection methodologies, and especially recent attempts to translate minor league performance to major league results (e.g. Javier). I come from a marketing analytics background.

                      I just don’t find the various systems reliable in many circumstances, although I do find the various formulas themselves interesting as to what they measure and weight.

            • Pirates hosting Cubs in the Wild Card game. I would rather win the division, but that could be fun.

          • Although I’m loving the team today, sadly we can’t forget many players had break out seasons last year. From 2nd half’s Martel, Mercer and snider to Walker, Martin, Worley, Volquez and of course JHay.
            Hopefully some of em keep it up and new guys will break through (I’m looking at u Polanco) there will be some regression.
            But you can’t ask much more than a team with few holes, and thankfully the better depth will help.

          • of course, I DID leave out how much fun it IS to speculate. lol

            What else is there to do on a dreary Dec day? 😄😄😄

            • I’m with you. I can watch bad baseball much more easily than bad any other sport. And I can bore people to tears talking about it. I just love the game.

              As I mentioned several times before, I grew up a Mets fan and followed them religiously for decades. That was perhaps more painful in the 70s and 90s than being a Bucs fan because the Mets had money and still managed to lose most of the time. In fact, it was 7/17 that convinced me I should just start following the cheap guys playing down the street and leave the prima donnas in NYC behind.

          • Embarrassing confession : I am both the questioning and the proclaiming….

            I guess it’s an admission of not knowing much at all…. The set product never looks just right to me and the results are always incredibly impressive… So again I echo your benefit to NH…
            *And apologies for sending you the same comment /question 2 separate times earlier….

      • A better starting point would be to look at what the players lost were expected to produce in 2015, not just assume that 2014 production = 2015 production.

        Even if you brought back Russell Martin, you likely need to find 1.5 WAR somewhere else.

        • I’m coming from a position of what total WAR was needed to get to the WC last year and what total WAR would be needed to win the division, with the understanding that the correlation isn’t perfect (0.7 or whatever).

          So there’s not a large chasm between our approaches to the same question.

          • Bucsws2014,

            I am not sure that in the Pirates situation you can rely entirely on WAR. The biggest troubles the Pirates had last year were hitting by pitchers (.093 combined AVE) and errors / unearned runs. Not sure if a pitchers hitting numbers are included in their WAR because of the American League DH and I don’t put too much faith in defensive WAR metrics. Nonetheless:

            http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/stats/fielding/_/name/pit/pittsburgh-pirates

            2014 Defensive WAR
            Russell Martin ( C ) = +2.0
            Pedro Alvarez ( 3B ) = -0.5
            Ike Davis ( 1B ) = -1.4
            Total = +0.1

            2015 Projected Defensive WAR
            Cervelli ( C ) = +0.1 (His defensive WAR from last year)
            Josh Harrision ( 3B ) = +1.4 (He put up this number last year when playing 4 different positions)
            Pedro Alavarez ( 1B ) = +0.0
            Total = +1.5

            By those numbers, the Pirates defense has improved by 1.4 WAR assuming that Pedro is even a league average defensive 1B.

            Cervelli’s total WAR last year was positive 1.1. Martin’s was 5.5. Subtracting out the defense leaves you with an offensive WAR of 1.0 for Cervelli and 3.5 for Martin.

            Alvarez was a 3.4 WAR in 2013 (+2.9 Offense, +0.5 Defense) in 558 AB’s and a 0.8 WAR in 2014 (+1.3 Offense, -0.5 Defense) in 398 AB’s. Even 2014 Alvarez would be good for +1.8 Offensive WAR in a full season of AB’s.

            Improved 1B / 3B defense = gain of +1.4 WAR
            Full season of Alvarez AB’s = gain of +0.5 to +1.6 to WAR
            Cervelli at Catcher = 1.1 WAR
            Total = +3.0 to +4.1 WAR

            So the Pirates are left trying to makeup between 2.5 and 1.4 WAR from the loss of Martin through improved play by Polanco, a consistent season from Mercer, and some better batting numbers from their pitching staff ( 0.093 combined AVE – are you kidding me?!?! )

      • Improvement could come from:

        Marte plays the whole year like 2H2014
        Polanco adds .100 to OPS
        Harrison plays at 2014 level for the whole year rather than sits bench
        Mercer plays the whole year like 2H2014
        Walker continues power surge
        Alvarez returns to 2013 form
        Cutch improves his running game
        Cervelli outhits Martin

        All the above could happen. Don’t look for the negative so much!

      • So we gotta replace Russell Martin, but it doesnt matter that if we still had Russell Martin we would still have to replace most of his offense? Yes, we have to replace his WAR. But you cant dismiss the fact that his offense is almost a guarantee to step down, making it much easier to replace some of his value. The fact that we acquired a guy known for similarly good framing, blocking, and game calling skills makes it even more likely the Pirates are able to handle that loss. Yeah, its speculation on anything anyone says about any player in baseball until they perform, but thats for every team and every player. Just like “5 WAR left and 5 WAR hasnt demonstrably come back” is speculation. You cant really call out others for speculating and include a remark speculating about the team losing WAR.

    • As a team the Pirates finished in the NL:

      Batting
      4th in runs scored
      1st in on base percentage
      3rd in batting average
      4th in stolen bases

      Pitching
      5th in ERA
      7th in batting average against
      3rd in saves (even with the early season bullpen troubles)

      Trouble spots last year:
      Batting – Not many other than batting by pitchers (combined 28 Hits in 300 AB – 0.093 AVE) and grounding into too many double plays (127 good for 4th highest in NL).

      Pitching – Again not many – the walks were problematic (gave up 6th most in NL) leading to a high OPS number against (11th best in NL). The Pirates despite being 3rd in the NL in saves were 2nd in the NL in blown saves.

      Melancon – 4 Blown Saves
      Watson – 7 Blown Saves
      Hughes – 2 Blown Saves
      Grilli – 4 Blown Saves
      Wilson – 3 Blown Saves
      Morris – 3 Blown Saves

      The Pirates leaned more heavily on their bullpen than most other teams because they didn’t get long innings from their starters like Liriano (averaged 5.6 innings pitched per start last season). Do the new bullpen arms (Holdzkom, LaFramboise, etc.) constitute an improvement?

      Defense – A definite sore spot. 69 Unearned runs allowed and 109 errors last year were both NL worsts. Big room for improvement when you reduce Pedro’s errors (25 errors) and Ike Davis’s errors (9 total). Reduce those 34 errors down to a league average of 17 for combined 1B / 3B and you have real improvement. Harrison committed 6 total errors last season – granted only about half of the time he was playing “the hot corner”. Even if he commits 10 as a full time 3B next year, that is a vast improvement over Pedro’s 25.

  • Focused on winning as more and more talent comes up through the system and players develop? Then I agree but every move they made were lateral moves. This team might be better than last years but not the one that finished 2013.
    This team has guys at every position but that doesn’t mean they improved those positions. I hope Pedro hits 30 HR’s. Cervelli might be talented but so is Beau Bennett of the Penguins!!! Gregory Polanco to me is the key to the season but as of right now he’s a question mark. Also I hope J-Hay is as valuable as he was as super utility.
    Pitching I think will be real good and if all of those players above work out then this team can be special. I hope they do.

    • Not sure why you would choose to compare what the Pirates might look like at the start of this season and compare it to the end of a season. Who’s to say that the Pirates won’t make the types of Byrd and Morneau trades mid-season again?

      If you’re going to compare them to 2013 at this time of the year, it would be more accurate to compare them to Opening Day.

      2013 Opening Day roster:

      Rotation:
      A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke, James McDonald, Wandy Rodriguez, Jonathan Sanchez

      Bullpen: Jeanmar Gomez, Jason Grilli, Jared Hughes, Chris Leroux, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson.

      Catchers: Russell Martin, Michael McKenry.

      Infield: Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, Josh Harrison, Garrett Jones, John McDonald, Gaby Sanchez and Neil Walker.

      Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata.

      • I hope they make moves to improve if needed but I hate giving up prospects to do it and last year few teams even wanted prospects.

  • I have high hopes this team will take the next step and wrestle the division title from the Cardinals.

    But I’m really excited for 2016-18. Having Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Liriano, and Kingham as the rotation to go w an Offense w all of the top talent in their prime gets me pumped!

    Let’s go Bucs!

    • Keep in mind that Cole, Glasnow, and Kingham have not yet had their Tommy John surgeries. Has anybody heard estimates about when they are scheduled for their UCL reconstructions?

      It should start with a sudden loss of velocity, followed by official denials from management that anything is wrong, followed by missed starts just for “precaution”, followed by official acknowledgment that they are going to see Dr. James Andrews, followed by an announcement they will miss the rest of the season, followed by rumors that they will miss most of the next season. You know the drill.

  • The question isn’t whether the Pirates are “committed to winning”. I think the Pirates have shown a commitment to winning since retooling the entire organization.

    The real question, IMO, is: “Is the team better?”

    Inconclusive at this point.

    • inconclusive? Eh……doubtful is a better answer. Losing Martin has not been made up by signing Cervelli and Burnett. Losing wilson and bringing in Basterdo is equal at best, and a minor tick up getting an upgrade for Barmes.

      • Benefit of the doubt. If Neal went to the meetings shopping Pedro, there’s something else rattling inside his head that would imply Bucs aren’t necessarily done yet. Couple of months to find out.

        • Could have been a back up plan if they weren’t able to resign Liriano?

        • I was also suspecting since it was never more than one T. Singer tweet anywhere that it was bogus to squeeze another team or agent into agreeing on a deal for the real pitching target…. A few hours later came the report we were in til the end on McCarthy….. Who knows right?

    • to be honest, we won’t know until Aug of 2015. Offseason moves are always debated in the offseason, but until they play the games…………….

      How many games did we have Worley winning? Who had Holdzcom on their radar? Very few saw Jordy becoming a solid SS. Was All Star JHay included in any offseason talk?

      • I’ll give you 3 out of 4. Jordy simply followed his career path, struggling when promoted, then figuring it out.

    • I feel good based on how I felt at this time last year. I remember looking at the moves and the set roster thinking, Volquez !? WTF , they are throwing in the towel !
      I admit I was a bit off… Only place I love being wrong is questioning the competence of the Pirate FO.

    • What was your feeling at this moment one year ago ?
      I have admitted that one year ago I was sick… Volquez !? I said, Oh , thats it , they have given up on this….
      Although I am so glad to have been so wrong.. And your logic is solid, that it remains to be seen…
      I have learned to trust this group. They are so good at evaluating and projecting what we , and many times the rest of the industry cannot.. It’s like watching my calculus prof do calculus , Even as I watch him do it , I don’t know what he’s doing and I am always amazed at the correct value as the outcome….

  • The acquisition cost of both SRod and Bastardo was minimal in comparison to free agent alternatives, namely Neshek (or Gregerson) and Bonafacio. It’s Neal Huntington’s way of using home grown talent to compete with the big boys.

    • I like Buddy Borden, but I like what SeanRod brings to the table. I watched a lot of Rays games and I am glad we got him.

      • I like him too. He’s a big improvement over some of the scrubs we’ve thrown out there.

    • You have to wonder if that organization, even as bad as their pen was, took a good look at Neshek’s career over the past 4 years.

  • The ONLY issue I see with this team is the lack of a clear ace. The guy that you KNOW is going to win your Wild Card game, or Game 7. Hopefully some day Cole, Taillon, or Glasnow can be that guy.

    • There are so few of those in baseball. Guys who will win in the postseason no matter what. Right now you’d almost have to say there’s Bumgarner, and maybe Wainwright. Kershaw is really looking like he lacks confidence in the postseason. Wacha was turning into one, but then injuries and sophomore slump put him back in his place last year.

      You almost have to home-grow your own. I’d love to see what Searage could do with Cueto, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.

      • The way Cueto looked last year I don’t think he needs much help from Searage or anyone else for that matter. In any league without Kershaw he wins the Cy Young. What a quiet incredible season he had because of what Kershaw did and because the Reds were out of it.

    • There is a vast difference between an ace and a guy who teams can give the ball to in any game and expect a win. Guys like Kershaw and Waino are men you can give the ball to and expect a win. Guys like Lester and Price are dominant but have off days. All are aces. Its maybe just over a handful of options in all of baseball that are considered sure wins in high pressure situations.

      • So there’s a vast difference between the 5th best compared to the 6th best?

        • Vast difference from being the 15th best pitcher in baseball, which is still an ace on most teams, and a top 5 pitcher in baseball. There is even a pretty huge difference from 10th and 5th, as there are about a handful of guys that are clearly a step ahead of other “aces”.

    • Based on what I’ve seen, I would feel good giving Cole and Liriano the ball in a high pressure, must win game.

      • I think everyone is as comfortable as that pitcher has pitched in his last 5 starts. On July 1st 2013 that pitcher would have been Jeff Locke for example

    • A healthy Cole has a shot at being that.

      • More than a shot… He grows every start and we saw what to expect in 2015 when he dueled Cinnci in game 162.

        The offense has to give him 2.5 runs per 9 innings , even that would put him over the top.

    • Just like everone KNEW Kershaw would win……..its a falacy and a fantasy. Move on, there are no guarantees at the end of a 162 game season on what is left in the tank for any player and how hot the team is they are playing against

    • I think Cole if he can stay healthy will reach the next level and become the ace. All signs point to him being a stud in 2015.

    • Gerrit Cole is that ace already.

    • An ace above all things is an innings eater. He is the guy that gives your bullpen a rest by pitching a complete game. Pittsburgh got 2 complete games last year from their starters – one from Volquez and one from Worley. By contrast St. Louis (Wainright with 5) and San Fran (Bumgarner with 4) pitchers each had 8 CG starts last year, the Dodgers (Kershaw with 6) had 7 CG starts last year.

      Gerritt Cole to date has ZERO complete games in 255 innings pitched.

      • It is organizational theory … I had questioned the validity of his injury before the All- Star break… It felt like an evolution of the Nationals shutting down of Strasburg.

      • Soooo,
        Stephen Strasburg 1 CG in 649.1 innings in his career
        Max Schrezer 1 CG in 1239 career innings
        Felix Hernandez 0 CGs in 440 innings the last 2 years (in the AL where there’s no excuse for not going all 9)
        Jon Lester 1 CG in 219 innings last year.

        All not aces then??

        • I do not know what these guys think an ace is …
          It is a different era… The 300 game winner is extinct …
          I agree , you have a list of modern day aces there , and for my money 24yr old Cole is no contest the guy I want…

        • Lack of CG’s is not the only reason that I don’t consider Cole an “Ace” at this point – it is one of many reasons.

          • I think they are protecting investment and stretching him to 30 starts and 200 + innings very gradually…

            My bet is we see 200 or close to it in 2015

    • Did you see the ever growing , evolving young Mr Cole the last day of the regular season…

      Someone please debate me… He will be a top 5 , or better, RH pitcher in ALL of MLB within the next 2 years.. Likely in 2015. A big part of why we can expect to continue to be relevant .

      • Well. I don’t know if I can debate you. I don’t feel as if he’ll be a top 20 pitch even healthy. I’ll try to support that tomorrow

        • Rick… That surprises me… You can name 20 guys with a better combo of potential and proven track record ?

          He is still figuring it out… It is palpable … I have never before been so able to see a players steady progression w my own naked eye..

          Most important , He was born w that killer animal instinct that makes him desire the ball and not give it back , when it matters most.

          • It’s more that I feel we’ve seen the best cole has.. as is, he’s a solid pitcher and I won’t be surprised if he ends up a cy young type..

            • So, Cole has peaked?? At the age of 24??

              • I feel like he’s about as good as he gets yes.. imo.. perhaps marginally better.. i’ve never had huge expectations from him though.. but i’ve made it a point to catch all but one of his home games so I’m not just hatin

                • The great pitchers don’t have their stuff get any better. But they learn how to pitch better, much better.

                  By making a statement like that, you’re basically saying that Cole won’t learn how to use his stuff better in games. That’s a pretty bold statement – because it basically implies that Cole isn’t learning anything. That he’s just using his stuff to get by.

                  If you’ve gone to all of his home games, how could you not see that Cole is already a dominant pitcher?

                  I think it’s more of a case, that Pirates fans have been burned by so many potential “aces” over the years: Perez, Benson, and a whole bunch of others since Drabek left, that some people are just having a hard time believing their eyes. It’s been so long since we’ve seen a top notch young pitcher every 5 days in a Pirates pitcher, that we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

                  But, I don’t know how you can’t see the massive improvements Cole has made in his short time in the majors?? It’s not his stuff getting any better, it’s already tremendous stuff, it’s that he’s becoming a better pitcher every single time out.

                  • I’ve only been a bucco fan for 8years or so.. I hope I’m wrong and definately don’t claim at all to be a scout..lol.. i hope it’s not his age 27-29 years when he figures it out though..

                    • C’mon, we all pretend to be scouts!!

                      Certainly Cole could flame out, but his stuff even in his first games, seemed to be at a higher level than any young pitcher that I’ve seen on the Pirates in decades.

                      Guys like Kris Benson and Oliver Perez had games where their stuff was devastating, but I don’t remember them having stuff ths good. Of course, Cole has had quite a few bad outings, so it’s going to be all about consistency.

                    • I gotta agree w impliedi … This kid is learning .. going from a fighter to a boxer… And he’s figuring it out fast and early… I heard Hurdle say Cole is a grown man out there on the mound.. and that is what I see.. I also see a guy who has a desire to lead..

                      He wants to set the tone and the example of how a champion goes about his business.

                      Every time he carries us to a win w a dominant performance and limited run support you hear him say…. This team gets it done, they played Pirate Baseball… 24… and Every time he is interviewed as the hero he refers credit to his teammates for playing Pirate baseball… That is a grown man…

                    • If he looked like Jeff locke out there would ya feel the same.. haha.. reminds me of that college coach.. ” im 40!!! I’m a MAN!!!” I think wacha/harvey/fernandez/ventura/stroman have all passed him up.. cole reminds me of mat latos

                    • Oh , I disagree… Lets give that list of young men deserved nicknames.. ready?
                      Tommy John/John/John/ and.. Tommy John…. LOL
                      At least I know you well enough that you will smile Rick.

                    • Sorry.. Not Ventura.. But Pedro was once in a lifetime..
                      Ventura will be the most incredible story of all time if he can avoid breaking down w/o giving up starting.. He weighs 120lbs

                    • Sorta like the George foreman family… son George, my other son George. …

                    • Like their arms all fell off already..
                      Another adbvantage to Cole.. His frames looks like he ate Ventura

                    • You don’t know what you are looking at when you make a statement like that one. SMFH at that !

              • Not only at 24, but with less than 2 years of experience. Yeah, most pitchers peak 1.5 years into baseball…..LOL

            • As the season progressed he worried less about velocity and K’s , and more about holding the game down til handing over to the closer…. But managed to combine the two in that last game.. 8 shut down innings and 12 k’s .. That is a trajectory he is on and that Pitcher the last day of Sept is the guy we can expect going forward… I see him making the Verlander , Wainwright , short list of Righties…

              At least , Rick , I know you have your opinion… But probably hope I am right… LETS GO BUC’S !

              • LETS GO BUCS!!! I’m not a huge fan of using strike outs to measure pitchers anyhow.. hopefully I’ll have time in the next couple of days to do research to kick off our debate.. haha

                • You’re right// He is a perfect example of the draw backs and pitfalls of the K.. The more he attempts to put the ball in play the more effective he becomes.. and still gets a great deal of 3, 4, 5 pitch punch outs…

  • I was going to say there are a few Pirates fans saying “Challenge accepted” but it appears someone already proved that even after a pretty darn solid offseason by the mid point, some will go “well, they didnt do THIS” .

    • LS: The Pirates have more than enough to win in 2015, but can they be better? Of course. I see this as a time for the Pirates to step up, spend more than they have in the past, and secure the future – whether that means contract extensions for ‘Cutch and Walker, or taking a hard look at an upper echelon pitcher like Hamels. I prefer the ‘Cutch/Walker extensions, and a long term contract for Gregory Polanco. MLB is big business these days, and I am looking at a team where the franchise value has increased from $292 mil in 2008 to $572 mil in 2014, and making the playoffs the second straight year means that franchise value will take an inordinately large jump following the 2014 season. The numbers will be out from Forbes in April, 2015.

      • Had we not signed francisco i would have wanted to go after Hamels. Is there a possibility the Pirates would deal liriano as part of a trade for Hamels? I doubt it but that’s the only way we could afford it without the Phils eating a ton of that salary. I personally would make that trade, Hamels is a real Ace. I think a long term contract for Polanco is out of question until after the 2015 season, I think we learned our lesson after signing Tabata on signing based on potential rather than performance

        • Polanco is a much, much, much better player than Tabata.

        • Small market teams have to gamble on the tabata type contracts, sure they look bad when they don’t work but just look at what happens when they do I.e. mcutchen. Like my pap used to say, “some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you”.

      • “Spend more than they have in the past” like going into a season with a payroll of near 90 million?

    • You wanna name names Lukas ? Several that comment here all too regularly I can think of.

    • Picking up cervelli is a good move, but its still a bandaid covered by duct tape. I would have preferred a blockbuster trade for a better catcher. Montero just got dealt, I would have liked to bring him in personally. First base is still a mess, Pedro has had a job handed to him his whole career, he needs some competition to push him. Right now we don’t even have someone who can hit lefties, let alone a competition. I strongly favor a trade of Alvarez regardless of value. Its a matter of winning now. Alvarez will have one less year of control after this year, regardless of whether he bounces back or not, one less year of a first baseman doesn’t have that much value either way. Just deal him and some prospects and get a two way first baseman.

  • This team needs a platoon partner for Pedro, and will have then addressed all their holes IMO.

    • Platoon partner/late inning defensive replacement.

      • Sounds like Gaby Sanchez.

        • No…..we need a good defensive replacement who is an “ok” hitter (read as not a liability) from either side at least a .700 OPS against righties is needed, because if Pedro gets yanked early, he is going to have to face righties too. Gaby is lost against righties

        • Sean Rogriguez might be playing a lot more 1B this year although I do think they need a corner 1B/OF that hits lefties. S-Rod has a career .746 OPS vs lefties.

        • I may be stoned to death if I get in on this one….

      • He just needs someone to re-energize him with a hot dog around the 7thi inning. My theory is that it would take the league about 3 months to catch on if pedro were to go with a bat 5 ounces heavier to slow him down so he could hit changeups. they’d be soooooooo confused

      • Sean Rodriguez is already that guy. Think of him as “Gabby Sanchez” with the flexibility to play 2B,3B, OF and maybe even SS in addition to 1B whereas Gabby could really only play 1B. Actually Sean’s SLG and OPS numbers are better than Gabby’s so the Pirates have upgraded Gabby’s spot on the bench both offensively and defensively.

    • I agree Marty.
      Get it done Neal!!!!

    • Which will also strengthen the pinch-hitting situation.

    • Marty: The Pirates may break camp with 13 position players and 12 Pitchers. 8 starters, our backup Catcher will hit RH, our utility infielder,SRod, has also played a lot of games at 1B and OF and is a RH hitter, and Travis Snider our OF Utility player hits LH. That leaves openings for 2 more position players if they carry 13 to start the year. Because of some key pitching signings and Morton announcing he will be ready by opening day, the Pirates could very well break with 13 pitchers and only 12 position players. Because you do not want to put too heavy of a load on the pitchers in the first two months, I would favor the 13 Pitchers, which would only leave room for one more hitter, who will probably be a LH.

      • How they break camp is irrelevant emjay, who even cares. Injuries will occurr before then regardless, and Morton will probably start on the DL regardless of ready or not if we don’t need a 5th starter

      • Lambo makes the team this year. Pedro may get traded at the deadline if Lambo is playing well.

        • They have shopped Pedro… The issue will be if Pedro is playing poor enough to get supplanted by Lambo , it will mean we literally won’t be able to pay another club to take a $6m pouting , over-sized , position-less albatross from our necks.

          • I don’t understand where people get this pouting stuff? All I’ve ever heard is Pedro still wants to play 3rd base but will do what he has to to make the team better. If He gave up on the idea of returning to the position he’s played all his life, I wouldn’t think much of him as a competitor

            • A year or so ago I read comments from Pedro that he looks forward to Playing for a New York team , to the effect , he can be a home town hero…
              It is hard to not be bothered by a guy who is struggling and frankly , sometimes looks a bit unmotivated talk on where he would rather be…

              Maybe that is why they are willing to listen to calls about Pedro…
              When I think about those comments , it makes me turn on Pedro and say good luck pal.

              • Seems a little harsh of a comment just cause he’s looking forward to moving back home.. it’s not he chose to be here and regretting his decision

                • I know.. At the end of the day I am of the opinion Pedro should be given the opportunity to be the everyday 1stbaseman…

                  I can however stand behind my argument that he gives off the tone , attitude and body language of a brooding , pouting child on occasion .

              • Sources ?

                • You want me to go look that back up that I read over a year ago?

                  Nah… I’d rather retract the statement… Not worth it..

              • The day Pedro was drafted with Boras as his agent it was a foregone conclusion that he’d be leaving the Pirates at the end of his contract.

      • Probably one of the middle IF’ers that we claimed like Florimon or Sellers might get a spot . All defense type

    • It sounds like the organization is giving 100 % confidence in Pedro. Hurdle said today that there would be no platoon. It’s Pedro’s job to lose. I think it’s an excellent decision. This offense was good last year with almost no production at 1st base. Pedro will bounce back there’s no doubt in my mind. I’d like to see us try to extend him right now before his value goes way up.

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