First Pitch: How Being a Contender Changes Spring Training Decisions

The next few weeks might introduce uncharted territory for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In previous years around this point in Spring Training, we’d see at least one of the following scenarios playing out:

1. The Pirates would be picking up players via trade or waivers from teams that had too many options and couldn’t possibly keep all of those players.

2. The Pirates would construct their roster in a way where they could keep everyone, with no worry about losing anyone.

3. The position battles for the final roster spots would include a lot of projects and players who seemed like high risk/high reward options.

This year things are different. The Pirates are now one of the teams with too many options. They probably will construct their roster in a way to keep as many players as possible, but there’s no possible way that they can keep them all. And they’re not having to fill the roster with a lot of high risk bets, but they’ve got a legit roster, with those high risk guys likely being on the outside looking in when it’s all said and done.

Stolmy Pimentel is probably the biggest representation of the change. Last year the Pirates kept him on the roster, betting on his upside. A few years before that, he might have even been given a shot in the rotation. This year? I really don’t see him making the team, which means the Pirates are going to have to hope he clears waivers if they ever want him realizing his upside in their organization.

Then there’s Pedro Florimon, who is out of options, and is another guy who would have probably claimed a bench spot in previous years. This year the Pirates spent a lot more on their bench, leaving them with one open spot, and I highly doubt that Florimon gets that spot.

It’s possible that the Pirates could make some moves this year to bring talent in at the deadline. One year ago today, they added Vance Worley to as little fanfare as you could possibly have for a Spring Training trade. In that same way, they added Keon Broxton a week later in another minor trade. This off-season they’ve made about a billion waiver claims and minor trades to improve the organization. I could see them making minor trades using the players who are unlikely to make the roster, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they add a depth piece to play in Indianapolis.

All of this is what happens when you become a top contender. Your roster becomes so good that you lose players who could help teams that have more time to display patience with those players. You have fewer spots for projects, or for players who are out of options. It’s not like these are bad things. They’re definitely good problems to have. But since the Pirates have never been in this situation before, it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle it all.

**We’ve got a big announcement tomorrow morning.

**We are down to our final case of the 2015 Prospect Guide from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current stock is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

**Pirates Prospects Is Looking For Paid Writers In Altoona And West Virginia. We’re looking for new writers to cover the home games in Altoona and West Virginia, and to provide prospect reports.

**Notes: The Upcoming Cuts, McCutchen Returns, Stewart Rehab Update

**The Roster Situations That Could Impact The Makeup Of The Pirates Bullpen

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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As a fan I would much rather have the pirates dealing with contender problems rather than pretender problems.

R Edwards

I agree with pretty much everything stated in this article, except in Pimentel’s case its a year too late. I would have made the decision to let him go last year – instead of giving away Morris to the Marlins so we could keep Pimentel on the 25 man roster.

If Florimon are both let go and someone claims one or both, so what? Neither is likely to be anything more than AAAA players. In Pimentel’s case, I’m not sure he is AAAA….


it’s the afternoon now, lol

I am guessing the big announcement has to do with a radio show


Tim will be cutting off his dreadlocks and auctioning them for Pirates Charities.

No wait…

Luke sutton

We are cutting off Pedro’s arm because he doesnt use it anyway….i think i got farther away from the real story…..


I’m going bold, since this is a “big” announcement. My guess is that Baseball America has acquired Pirates Prospects and put Tim in charge of building out the model for every MLB team.


Tim I usually don’t disagree with you but I think your first point is wrong. I fully expect the Pirates to be aggressive claiming people off waivers. With Pimentel and Florimon likely to be DFA’d and Cumpton possibly being put on the 60 day DL they will have maybe 3 open spots on the roster. There is no reason not to go in a binge claiming anyone interesting who has options remaining.


Interesting players who have options left usually get optioned rather than put through waivers.


Correct a team isn’t just going to DFA a player for no reason but some players with options are nearly always removed to make room on the 40 man roster for NRIs.


Predictions – Morton to remain in Bradenton rehabbing the hip; Locke to Rotation

BP: Melancon, Watson, Liz, Caminero, Holdzkom, Pimental – 7th will be Richard if there is any possibility of losing him. If not, Hughes.

Bench: Sanchez, Rodriguez, Hart, Kang

25th Man/LH Bench – Jaff Decker, Utility OF

Scott Kliesen

You forgot Bastardo. He’s a lock to make team and take Wilson’s role from last year. Once Morton is activated, Holdzkom or Hughes will be sent down to AAA. I think Pimentel is better than 50/50 to get traded or waived by opening day.


What about Bastardo?


bpf: Thanks for catching this oversight – I liked the trade and like the way he has worked so far in ST, but got all caught up in trying to rush out the door to head to Nashville.

BTW, the silence is deafening on the Morton front. I knew I was going to catch hell from the Lambo folks, but I expected a few of the Morton folks to step up. I do not see the Pirates letting Richards get away – he is way too important at this particular time.


Lambo takes Decker’s spot and Hughes has options so I think so he goes to Indy. I am really skeptical on Rodriquez – whatever his problems were last year in Tampa, they don’t seem to have been fixed by the move to the Bucs. Richard either makes the roster or will be lost – expect he has an out clause in his contract to get his release if he is not in Pittsburgh opening day.


Rodriguez was a league-average hitter WITH a ridiculously low .235 BABiP. What are these problems you speak of?


The ones that led to Tampa Bay DFAing him and evidently nobody else in either league claiming him other than the Pirates


But other than red herrings, do you have actual concerns?


The Pirates will spend at least $20m more than the Rays on payroll this year.

One club clearly has more use for a bench player making Rodriguez’s salary than the other.


Rodriquez wasn’t exactly free.


And I said at the time the Bucs got him it was an overpay UNLESS they had some clue on how to get him back to a 2+ WAR player – ZIPS sees him as about half a WAR this year.


League average performance for a grade C pitcher in single A, do you consult with the Phillies?

For Sean Rodriguez to hit 2.0 Wins he is going to need over 400 plate appearance, I’m not sure that is the best outcome for the Pirates. His defensive rating look bad last year but in samples of little value.

Are there concerns, sure but you can find them on any team when you go looking, we are mostly discussion the bullpen and a utility player.


So your expectation was to get a league-average player – essentially Jordy Mercer – *off the bench* in a part-time role or else giving up a 22 yo college sign who hasn’t pitched above low-A is an overpay.

Sure. Totally reasonable.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

Condescension runs course through your veins.

Lee Foo Young

ll…I am with you on everything except SeanRod…I think he’ll be okay.

Ben Swogger

It would be nice to keep Florimon in the organization as defensive depth but he will likely get claimed. Such is life as a contender.

Scott Kliesen

This is what’s called a rich person problem. The Pirates should never be reticent about losing guys like Pimentel and Florimon, even if they go to a competitor and help them. It is evidence to the fact they are drafting, signing and developing talent so well they can’t find a place for them all.

Ps – Nice tease, Tim.


But the Pirates aren’t a rich team.

Scott Kliesen

Rich in talent.


Which they lack to the financial power to get back if handled flippantly.

Scott Kliesen

I understand your sentiment. But we’re talking last man on roster here. Not that hard to find those type players no matter what budget constraints they are under.


That’s fair, but it is a long season, I think the idea that the Pirates need to take the best 25 is a poor one, you need options in case of injury especially in the bullpen.

Scott Kliesen

I think that’s one of the reasons they kept Pimentel around last year. May very well do it again this season, too. Bullpens are very volatile places.

Bill Kline

Now I’m anxious for the announcement tomorrow. Hey Tim any hints?


If ti involves a Trout/Tabata trade, I will die a happy man!


Any Trout/Tabata trade would involve a tangible threat for someone to sleep with the trout and other fishes.

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