Making Sense of the Recent Moves by the Pirates

At the end of the Winter Meetings, the Pirates made a move that signaled several other future moves. They dealt Charlie Morton for David Whitehead, which was a deal that looked to be a salary dump. It’s not that Whitehead had zero value as a prospect, but he’s a prospect who doesn’t stand out in the Pirates’ system, and has much less value than Morton.

That said, the trade did make sense if it meant the Pirates could use Morton’s salary on other upgrades. And the early indication was that the Morton trade would lead to a series of other moves in the future. But so far, we’ve yet to see those moves.

Last week the Pirates traded Keon Broxton and Trey Supak for Jason Rogers. The move added another first base option, but didn’t add a first base option that you could be confident in. That leaves you wondering which approach the Pirates are going to take at the position. Are they going for more of a sure bet until Josh Bell arrives (such as a trade for a Mitch Moreland type, or signing a free agent)? Or will they throw a few interesting options against the wall and see what sticks? They’ve currently got the interesting options in Rogers, Jake Goebbert, and Michael Morse. None of them are guaranteed for success, but you can see a scenario with each player where the Pirates would be fine until Josh Bell arrived.

Maybe that’s the plan at first base, or maybe there’s more to come and those guys will just make up a strong bench. For now, we can say the Morton money didn’t go to that position, since Rogers will make the league minimum, and it’s a guarantee that the Pirates would have spent at least that much on his roster spot.

The Pirates made another move that same day, with the signing of Sean Rodriguez. I’m going to skip over this signing for the purposes of this article, because I don’t think the Morton move led to the addition of an extra bench player. I think Rodriguez would have been added either way.

The final big move that was made over the weekend was the addition of Ryan Vogelsong. The addition of Morton left a hole in the rotation, and left the feeling that there was another shoe about to drop. Signing Ryan Vogelsong to a $2 M guaranteed deal is uninspiring for both of those purposes, to say the least. This, of course, assumes that Vogelsong is the replacement for Morton.

If Vogelsong is the replacement for Morton, then the rotation is set. It would include Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke, and Vogelsong. This would basically be banking on the top prospects (Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon) to arrive by mid-season and provide an impact. That’s similar to the theory at first base, where if the Pirates are done with upgrades, they’d basically be waiting on Josh Bell to arrive.

I believe this could be the approach at first base, and I don’t think it’s a bad plan there. But I have a hard time believing the Pirates are set with their current rotation.

First of all, the Pirates never go into a season with just five starting options at the beginning of the year. Granted, they do see Juan Nicasio as an option. I think he’s guaranteed for a bullpen spot, with the chance for a spot start if needed. I could also see them adding a veteran guy for the Triple-A rotation (which is where I’d classify the Bronson Arroyo rumor). But even with a Triple-A veteran, and Nicasio as a starter, this all seems light.

Last year when heading into Spring Training, the Pirates had a rotation of Cole, Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Morton, and Locke. They had Vance Worley in the mix, Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler in Triple-A for early season depth (both went down with Tommy John, although Sadler made a start), Radhames Liz as the “he’s guaranteed for the bullpen, but they’ve said they liked him as a rotation option” guy, and Clayton Richard as a veteran starter in Triple-A. They also had prospects that they were expecting by mid-season. Even without the prospects, you had ten starting pitching options who could help on Opening Day.

At the moment, the Pirates have six rotation options for the start of the season, counting Nicasio. Anyone who thinks they’re done adding to the rotation hasn’t been paying attention to how the Pirates have built previous teams.

After the signing, Neal Huntington made a comment about how Vogelsong would be in the rotation as of today, but that the rotation isn’t exactly set.

It makes sense that Vogelsong is in the rotation as of right now. If you look at the current roster, he would be one of the five best rotation options. But assuming he would be in the Opening Day rotation going forward also assumes the Pirates won’t add any better options.

That’s where we get back to the Morton deal. He was making $8 M in 2016, and Vogelsong is guaranteed $2 M, with $3 M more in performance bonuses. So the Pirates still have $6 M to spend from losing Morton, and maybe $3 M of that actually goes to Vogelsong if he does remain in the rotation. But I would be surprised if that happened.

Vogelsong looks like this year’s version of Vance Worley. He’s a guy who will make the majors, but seems better as a number six option in the rotation. He’s a year removed from a 4.00 ERA/3.96 xFIP season, and that wouldn’t be bad until Glasnow and Taillon arrive. But his age and his slump in 2015 raise questions about whether he can repeat that success, even when you consider the Ray Searage magic at work.

I don’t believe the Pirates are done here, and I still think they could add a guy to their rotation who would be an upgrade over Vogelsong and Morton. It doesn’t make any sense that they would dump Charlie Morton, then downgrade from Morton. It does make sense if you believe in the theory that they’re only concerned with cost cutting, and not concerned with the 2016 team. I just don’t buy into that theory, as it doesn’t line up with that they’ve done in the past, and the current roster doesn’t match what they’ve had in previous years.

I still think that other shoe from the Morton deal is waiting to drop. I just think they’ve added to their depth before adding the big rotation upgrade they need.

  • where does David Whitehead pitch this year? AA/AAA?

  • Enjoyed it, Tim. Makes sense…I too feel like something somewhat major is going to happen. Morton trade caught me off guard.

  • Great article as usual, another example of why PP is my first read on the Bucs each day.

    They’ve been clearing budgets and adding extra pieces so far this off-season. How much do they have to spend if their budget is $105 million and is there anywhere on PP to keep track of this? Thanks!

  • The Nutting entertainment business is running up staggering losses at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley this year due to rain and record high temperatures. Losing the entire Holiday season is unprecedented. Do not be surprised if Pirate opening day payroll is well below $100M, which explains all these lottery ticket acquisitions and salary dumps.

  • Summing it all up:

    1) Nutting could spend a bit more to make this offseason easier (but doesn’t mean the Pirates can REALLY keep up with the Cubs et al based on the flawed MLB model)
    2) Pretty clear there’s additional money (say about $15M) not yet allocated on the opening day roster that Nutting has authorized
    3) The moves thus far have been interesting, and certainly do point to another move or two or three coming
    4) Analysis of these moves so far have to be put into context or heads will be blown..i.e. Vogelsong as Worley with better track record makes sense… but not if people are looking for Kazmir, et al.
    5) Walker move probably draws most ire and paints almost all other analysis.

    AFTER all this, and pending additional moves, the Pirates season rests on Cutch, Marte, Polanco, Cervelli, Kang, Harrison providing same or better production from 2015… Cole becoming a true #1… Liriano maintaining his stuff and command… and Melancon /Watson and the pen shutting games down. No reason this team doesn’t win 85 – 88 games right now without further moves. If a true upgrade at 1b and a better SP is coming, then the Bucs may have kept alive a playoff possibility.

    Nutting and NH critiques aside, and some measure deserved, though not at the decibel and extreme many go to, there were no moves this team could have made in this offseason to keep up with the Cubs. None. The Cubs, with their cachet of young talent, combined with pent-up savings from past seasons, are unrivaled at this point. Even the Cards have been easily surpassed this offseason.

    All of this said, if I were GM, I would have dumped Pedro as was done, dealt Walker for only prospects, dumped Morton as was done, and used all of the money to sign one STUD starting pitcher. Not sure exactly who that is but I’d put all the chips in one basket.

    • Good points and agree on alot but disagree on a few.
      1. They have enough were they should have kept pedro and walker. Unless u get an unbelieveable offer. And keep melancon. Doing so bridges kang and bell gap. Then they still could have added a legit 3 (happ,kazmir) and add a reclamation guy to take locke or mortons spot. Wouldn’t have been out of so called budget. You create insurance for all young guys and still have a legitimate team without spending cubs money.

    • Nice summary. I think you are a little pessimistic on the win total. I would have kept Walker for the year because of the uncertainty surrounding Kang. I can only conclude they wanted Niese in place of Morton to face the LH oriented lineups in the division.

    • A couple of questions:
      #1. how are the Pirates going to score runs to keep up with the Cubs and the Cards? We’re not going to out pitch them with the rotation as currently constructed. They just watched 43 home runs walk out the door with Alvarez and Walker. Where and how are those bats going to be replaced? Josh Harrison?? Morse?? Rodgers??? They replaced Burnett and Morton with Niese and Vogelsong and still don’t have a bona fide #3 starter or a league average 1b or a 2b. Harrison is a utility guy. Hanson should be the everyday 2b and keep Harrison at 3rd until Kang comes back healthy.
      #2. Even if they win 85-88 games, that more than likely is not nearly enough to get them into the wildcard no less a chance at the NL Central.
      #3. Given the financial constraints of the Pirates organization, you’re willing to hold onto a closer for $10 million/ year on a team that has AT BEST a less than marginal chance of competing for a wildcard as of right now??
      The Pirates have to make a decision. Are they in or are they out for 2016-2018 If they’re in, then BE IN and stop playing around on the edges. If they’re out, BE OUT and make bold moves to strengthen the organization and the MLB team for the next 5 years and beyond i.e. start seriously considering trading Cutch with 3 years of control for maximum return.

  • Excellent explanation of a difficult topic to explain Tim. Can you now explain the US tax code to me? …and I was wondering…what happens when we die?

  • Make this simple…they got 15 mil to spend roughly. Sign Latos (I’m guessing around 8-10 million). Sign Dae Ho Lee on a 1 year deal…maybe 5 mil. Trade Locke (salary dump) or move him to a relief role.

    Rotation becomes: Cole, Liriano, Latos, Niese, Vogelsong

    Glasnow comes up mid year, moves Vogelsong to long relief spot.

    Taillon gives some spot starts down the stretch, if he’s ready.

    Platoon Lee and Bell (when he arrives) with Morse and Rogers filling bench roles.

  • Any chance they’re looking into that latest but somewhat less heralded Cuban import Yaisel Sierra? He’s definitely younger and in need of refinement but he could be MLB-depth at AAA to start this year with back-end bullpen or mid-rotation starter upside if everything pans out. Because he’s still so raw (and a pitcher) I think his price might actually be quite reasonable.

    • I would like to know a lot more of what they are doing in Cuba. Cause that talent pool dam is about to burst.

  • FYI NH is on High Heat in 5 minutes

    • He straight out blew smoke on High Heat—when Russo asked him about the disgruntled fan base. Are they in dismay, because your big move is Walker for Niese. Do ya think we’re pissed NH

      • What was nh’s response to that?

        • Gave a story that basically said potentially 3 years of Neise greater than 1 year of Walker

          • This I truly, truly do not understand. If the Pirates are any good at developing pitching what so ever, Niese’s replacement will be in Pittsburgh by 2017 at league minimum.

            • I hope you are right, and that Niese can be traded for value when he no longer is in the top 5.

            • But aren’t those the constraints of being a small market team. They trade Walker for MORE value. Given the success of the Pirates organization in pulling out the best in struggling pitchers, I think they made the right move in trading Walker. I’m still a little underwhelmed by the return but 3 years of a cost controlled, capable #4 starter under Ray Searage’s tutilege (sp) is definitely worth 1 year of Neil Walker assuming they fill in the other holes.

              • They most certainly *did not* trade Walker for more value, they traded him for less.

                What has made the Pirates so successful in general and specifically with pitching has been acquiring arms for *current* value and developing them *into* higher value arms. With Walker>Niese, they did the opposite. They paid for the Searage turnaround before it actually came. If Niese *doesn’t* turn his career around then this trade ends up looking awful. He has to rebound just to marginally justify the transaction as even, let alone start getting additional value.

                Niese may be “cost controlled”, but even if he returns to a 3.75-4.00 FIP pitcher you’re *still* paying him 10% or more of payroll. Is that really how smart small market clubs use their resources?

              • Put another way, they could’ve straight up signed the kind of upside reclamation arm they’ve had so much success turning around in the past for the same money they’re spending on Niese *and still* have Neil Walker.

        • Canned responses and a cheesy analogy about candy bars. Before the interview, Mad Dog made me laugh out loud when he said I guess the Pirates are counting on Ray Searage to be their MVP this year

    • Anyone have a link to this? I just missed it.

  • The thing is, I’m not sure we can expect Glasnow and Bell let alone Taillon up and performing at a high level this Summer.

    Both Glasnow and Bell are blue chip prospects, they are central to the team moving forward. We can all imagine how good the team could be in 2016/17 if Bell was great at 1B and Glasnow and Taillon were in the rotation and dominating.

    But the Pirates have had some mixed results with guys coming up. The central importance of these players makes it all the more important to get them up at the right time. So if the agenda is to basically leave spots open for them, we may be waiting a while. Summer 2016 would be aggressive for all three.
    Furthermore, we can’t realistically expect those three to be dominant from the beginning. It will take time. Sadly, when Glasnow comes up, he’d be in a rotation with Niese, Vogelsong and Locke, and therefore needed to be great. Same with Taillon or Bell.

    So the Pirates failure or unwillingness to get stronger players may well push them back a few years. In fact, it likely will. And this is not only unwanted, it is unnecessary. The message this sends to Cutch, Liriano and others is not good. And it’s a real let down to the fans who are the ones making the whole thing work. We often focus on Nutting’s money etc. but truly it is the fans’ hard earned money that allows everything to happen.

    • Playing all those rookies worked out pretty well for the Cubs last year huh.

      • Schwarber and Bryant had weeks where they had as many HR’s as Bell had all last year. I am sure the SP’s will be on an innings limit, so what good will they be in September?

        • Are HR’s the only way to score runs?

          Glasnow will not be on an innings limit. Taillon will have his innings limited in AAA so he can pitch in September.

          • Young pitchers are traditionally limited, we shall see I guess. As far a power, you specifically sited the Cubs and in that case power was the main ingredient. Tim will tell. If we needed an OF, I wouldn’t be real worried, but the pitching and 1b market is getting iffy real quick. Who knows if they will do something else, we can only argue/complain about what is in front of us right now, and it’s not pretty

          • Not the only way, but certainly one of the easiest! One swing of the bat. Sadly, the Pirates have lost 43 of them and don’t have any replacements.

      • And *expecting* near-historic rookie production sure as hell ins’t a terribly smart way to build a team.

        That fact that the Cubs did what they did when they did it is what got them so much attention. They weren’t supposed to be that good that quickly, because baseball is really f’ng difficult.

        • The Pirates won’t need near historic production from their prospects as long as their core players play as well as they have in past. The Pirates can win division with rookies being complimentary players, NMR.

      • In this case, Taillon hasn’t pitched in 2 years nearly, Glasnow was in AAA for a very short time (just 8 games started!) and Bell for just 35 games! I haven’t looked up the Cubs players numbers, but no, we can’t expect that.

    • What this off season’s ranting and raving by the majority of the fan base (by others not so much by you) shows is that the Pirate’s fan base is totally psychologically unprepared for the stress that will be endemically related to a team that is committed to replenishing talent internally. For total internal replacement a team needs to average a turnover of 2 to 3 of the top 14 positions (starting 8, 5 man rotation and closer) EVERY SEASON. This season they are turning over 2nd, 1st and at least two maybe three rotation positions, so the turnover is higher than average. In 2017 maybe they turnover two positions, C and SS. In 2018 they may well only need 1 SP. So the average over 2016 to 2018 will be ( 8 changes / 3 seasons = 2.7). But goodness, the angst right now is unbelievable. You’d think their spouse was dying of cancer.

      • It wouldn’t be such a concern if the Pirates weren’t confined by the restraints of being a small market team. But the reality is , they are and always will be. So for the Pirates the 3 remaining years of Cole and Cutch should be considered top priority. And the fact is that the idea of wasting a year, while transitioning, of a perennial MVP candidate and a true #1 ACE pitcher causes a lot of angst.

        • Your thinking implies a bias towards “catch the window of opportunity while it’s open” type thinking. The Pirates, quite correctly have said that that isn’t their focus. They want to build a system that competes year after year, primarily through total internal replacement. So their primary focus is on finding and developing the next Cutch, the next Cole; as it should be.

    • You nor I have can say with any certainty who will be in rotation when Glasnow is promoted. And for your claim of Niese, Vogelsong and Locke all being in rotation would mean he’s replacing either Cole or Liriano.

      More importantly, the prospects coming up will supplement the core, not BE THE CORE.

  • I’m rather clueless about it all, but I think there are four possible explanations:

    1. There is no sense to be made of the moves.
    2. Huntington is a genius playing a Kasparov-like game that will shock everyone when the totality of his plan is revealed.
    3. Nobody in the organization wants to say rebuild/retool because they don’t want ticket sales to drop.
    4. Neal believes a quarter of the roster can be swapped out with rookies in June and they’ll keep the team competitive.

  • Pedro, Morton and Walker all underperformed last year. In that sense I think it made perfect sense to move on from all three, especially when you consider their salaries. What hasn’t made sense to me so far has been the lack of any key additions and the apparent failure to address obvious team needs.

    I am kind, of sort of okay with the first base situation and the idea of a youth movement in the infield. Their pitching staff is waaaaaaaay too thin for me to be comfortable. If they do sign a quality pitcher to be their #3 guy and add a few projects, I will be satisfied with their efforts. However if they stand pat I will believe that they are more concerned with team profitability than team quality. Will wait and see.

  • I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I

    t’s important to note, the entire FA Market is at a Standstill right now. All the SP are waiting on Kazmir, and who knows what all the position players are waiting for. There are a lot of top 15 FA still waiting to sign. This also slows down the trade market, since teams are waiting to hear back on offers they have given. Once some of the top guys start signing, everything will start happening again.

    Don’t forget, AJ Burnett wasn’t traded to the Pirates until mid February. Still plenty of time.

    I hate waiting though.

  • Tim, you would then subscribe though if no further rotation moves are made that this is indeed a salary dump?

  • Bucs out of bottom 5!!!
    Just saw Bucs 2015 payroll ranks 24th in baseball
    Moving on up!

  • What happens to the money from the luxury tax paid by big spending teams? It’s not a good thing to assume anything, but is this redistributed to the other teams.

  • I agree that we need depth and that Neal is always focused on starting the season with pitching (and in recent years – catching, and middle infield depth.)

    In terms of budget, Tim’s 40-man projections have them at about $91 million – so we may have $14 million left in the budget:
    – a pitcher like Kazmir would finish off the budget (unless we turned around and traded Melancon)
    – a reliever like Bastardo along with someone like Moreland would eat up about $12 million

    Based on those restrictions and starting with $14 mil, I would actually consider trading Melancon ($24 now available), signing Kazmir, and getting bullpen help with the remaining $$10 mil

    • “Over the weekend, the Royals and A’s were among the clubs linked to free-agent lefty Scott Kazmir, and this morning, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale calls those two teams, along with the Orioles, Cardinals, Nationals and Astros the finalists for Kazmir.”

      • Read that and I agree we won’t be players for him but I think we should, (and could still if we wanted to spend the money there). Especially, if we gave the 4th year

      • You trust Kazmirs arm for 3 years NMR? His Sept was worse than any month Locke or Morton had.

        • Me, personally? No, and I’ve been pretty consistent with that all winter.

          I’ve said from the start that their mid-rotation target should’ve been JA Happ. Smaller AAV over less years, and I bet you there’s less than a win difference in value between them. I could easily see Happ settling into a 3.75 FIP type of arm, which may not have the upside of Kazmir but isn’t appreciably different otherwise.

        • You don’t need a 3 year contract to be good for 3 years, you just need to get enough value out of it to make it worth it. Two years would be good, 3rd year would be gravy. Considering the financial difference between making and not making the playoffs, they should still be seeking that #3 starter to move Niese and Vglsng/Locke back in the rotation.

          • Arik, I don’t trust that guys arm for 6 months let alone 2-3 years.

            Little dudes like that, that create a lot of torque, eventually break down for good and finish their career on the DL. No thanks, man.

          • The Pirates can never be in a position to eat a $15MM third year commitment to a pitcher they can’t use.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 21, 2015 12:29 pm

    If our #3 thru #5 are Niese, Vogelsong, and Locke, we will not be competitive in our division or in the NL – compare those to the projected #3 thru #5 of the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, DBacks, and Mets – just to name a few…

    • And the offense has gotten worse. Don’t forget that.

      Their only realistic hope is for complete health from Cutch/Cole/Liriano, breakout from Polanco, and ridiculously good defense all around.

      • The offense has lost about 1 WAR net at 2nd base and perhaps 7 HR net at 1B assuming the combo that fills in there combines for 20 HR. I think it is reasonable to expect better offensive production next year from LF, CF, RF, 3B and the same production from SS and C. The overall offensive production may very well be better in 2016 than 2015, and the infield defense will certainly improve. Right now the only significant unanswered question is who the Pirates will add to fill the hole in #3 spot in the rotation.

    • By August #3 through #5 will likely be Glasnow, Niese, Taillon, if the Pirates don’t add a #3 (which they most likely will). Cole was 10-7 with a 3.22ERA his first year, but it took until his third season to reach “ace-hood”. Of the three years 2016, 2017 or 2018 for Glasnow and Taillon to begin their careers I think 2016 is the best rather than delaying their introduction and necessary growth period in MLB.

  • “We see him in the rotation and project similar production,” Neal Huntington said, “but at a lower commitment that allows us to redistribute dollars elsewhere on the club with the intent to deepen our roster.”

    I’m just gonna leave this right here…

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 21, 2015 12:37 pm

      Translation – “we’re too cheap to pursue someone who may be able to actually help us remain competitive with the Cubs….like Kazmir – so, we will sign 2-3 old, broken down pitchers and hope we catch lightning in a bottle!”

    • *Trust the process.

    • Huntington also said Walker would help the team in 2016 an hour before the move was made official, in response to questions about the trade.

      • Isn’t that true of every trade scenario, change doesn’t exist until it does?

        • Walker was already traded at the time. The physicals weren’t completed, so Huntington was acting like Walker was still on the team, when everyone knew he was gone.

          • If either party failed the physical the deal didn’t exist since one of the contigencies wasn’t met.So the deal isn’t a reality until all the conditions are met. NH acted appropriately.

  • If you ran a business and believed that you would make the playoffs with a $100 million payroll why would you spend another $5,$10 or $20 million. I think that is what we are dealing with. You look at last year the dumbest move made was not signing Edinson Volquez. Maybe this year that would be JA Happ. This organization will not spend any money that it perceives is an over-spend. Pennies are tossed around like manhole covers. I am not saying that this is good or bad I am saying that this is their strategy.

    • I think you are right if you are dealing with an owner that is only concerned with making x amount and not conceding more money for a better team. I’m not saying they should increase payroll by 50 mil either. Teams have proven you don’t need to spend 200 mil to win. But 20-30 mil spent wisely could go a long way.

  • I think we fans forget we didnt start playing Kang until a couple of months into the season, we should have him for most of the year and I think his production will exceed what Ramirez would have provided. Also Josh full time at second i think will be an improvement defensively over Walker and at least a push offensively. With Alvarez gone I think whoever we put out there will be an improvement. maybe not as many solo irrelevant homeruns but better. I feel Melancon may not be moved now if ever this year. Regardless, I expect the pen to be good again. Niese will be as good as AJ who wasnt very good the second half of year. Its true we need the young starters to come through and the sooner they are ready the better this team looks this year and for next. The Bucs will be a tough bunch.

    • Harrison a push with walker offensively is a pipedream. But I’m rooting for it

      • Harrison is one full season removed from almost winning a batting title. The only dream is thinking Walker is not replaceable.

      • Walker in 2015: 2.6 oWAR in 600 PA. Harrison: 1.6 oWAR in 450 PA.

        Steamer currently projects Harrison for 2.3 fWAR and Walker for 2.2 fWAR.
        It’s not far-fetched at all.

        • But you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, Arik.

          Harrison was going to be a Pirate regardless of trading Neil Walker, and he very likely would get damn near as many at bats by way of super utility.

          You’re still losing Walker’s value in the sum.

          • This is a good way to look at it. It would be better to ask who actually replaces Walker and how much WAR does he produce. But to be totally fair you should look at the comparison over the next 4 years. How many WAR will Walker and Hanson produce over the next four years and at what cost? What will the average $/WAR be at 2B for the next 4 years with Walker versus with Hanson?

        • There is a better chance they will be 0.5-1.0 WAR apart in Walker’s favor. Harrison has had one good season. Walker’s worst WAR season was last year. He was better than 2.6 albeit not by much 5 years in a row. I’m rooting for Harrison to have another 2014, but he gets exposed by swinging at everything. Harrison in 4 seasons where he had 200 PA: One season over .717 OPS. He didn’t run as well last year and is a 28 year old squatty guy so that’s not going to improve. The only hope for offensive improvement is for him to find a double digit HR stroke again.

          • Harrison’s greatest value added is as a super utility guy. I hope Hanson works out well soon so Harris can transition back into the SU role.

    • I think it is hilarious when someone calls any home run meaningless makes no sense whatsoever

    • Also ur ja/aj combo in 3 spot put up 5 war range. At neise best he was a 2 plus WAR player so I guess we should not only put up a career year but we should expect him to more then double that. Come on

  • Completely agree with this, and have been surprised at how many knowledgeable fans seem to forget that we never enter ST with only 5 or even 6 options.

  • Pirates only allocated 38% of their revenue towards the payroll last year. They were third from last. Only 5 teams were below 40%. One was cubs who obviously have changed that this offseason. Another was braves who are rebuilding. Royals were in mid 40s there is no reason we can’t b in that range. I would assume after this offseason pirates number will even be less. At what point do we stop making money excuses and realize they just don’t put enough into payroll and this talk of they need to cut salary to sign someone is complete bs. Not to mention they don’t sign anyone of impact anyway.

    • I dont believe Bob Nutting is cheap. I just dont believe he has the capital to make the Pirates a Top 15 payroll organization. A lot of that revenue that isnt spent on payroll is earmarked for other areas, like lease, upkeep, Aramark, 9-5 employees, security, scouts and so much more. Plus, if you run your business properly you have a rainy day fund.

      Hey, I wish the guy spent more on payroll. But the worst thing he could do is run it into the ground like Howard Baldwin and Kevin McClatchy.

      • Those who continually harp on Nutting not spending enough on payroll are primarily people who have never owned/managed a business, or believe sports teams shouldn’t be run like one.

        • The revenue/payroll chart from 2014 MLB thats making its way around Pittsburgh Twitterland right now is driving me nuts.

          There are so many other fixed and variable costs when running a hundred million dollar business its not even funny.

          • I once worked for a self-made billionaire who said, “Profit is the applause a company receives for doing a good job.”

            Profits and winning are very much intertwined.

            • Betcha that guy didn’t get a $50m check every year from his biggest competitors.

              • First off, Nutting didn’t institute revenue sharing, MLB did. Second, I could care less what money is or isn’t spent on payroll as long as team keeps being operated successfully. When and if they start losing then I may look at it as a reason. But I refuse to put the cart before the horse like you and Chris and others are doing this offseason.

                • I don’t look at the issue as money, Scott. I look at the issue as resources. Prospects, players, coaches, money…all resources.

                  I certainly wouldn’t want the team to just stop developing or using resources like prospects just because they’re winning, and I see absolutely no convincing logic for why another resource, money, shouldn’t be treated the same.

                  It’s not a cart/horse issue at all.

                  • Why is it that on this site if you question the moves thus far you are anti Nutting or NH? Believe me I appreciate the recent success and they were doing things with the draft that had never been done before, until Josh Bell broke the draft. This off season SO FAR has been garbage. Is there time for it to get better, yes. But so far just about every move that has been made was made to shed payroll, and that’s fine if they are going to add it back. But I am sorry,to remove offense as they have done from a team that has been shut out 2 straight years in the playoffs and not add anything of consequence is unfair to this fan base that was loyal to them through all the losing. There are moves they could have made. Do you mean to tell me they couldn’t have gotten Todd Frazier? That was the best they could do for Morton?

                    • You know, very verrrryy little bothers me on Pirates internet. This is all for fun, and if it wasn’t fun I sure as hell wouldn’t be participating.

                      But the strange, uber-defensive behavior from a few folks you just described this winter has been a real surprise. I was and still am a fan of Huntington’s work because I thought it made sense. Not every move, certainly, but my objective view of the process was one that made sense. This winter, however, the script has not stayed the same. Their successful reclamations like Liriano and Volquez all had far, far more upside than Vogelsong. They *never* made a big league trade where they gave up more value than they received (Walker>Niese). Even folks comparing Jason Rogers to Josh Harrison are missing that it sure as hell didn’t take a million dollar high school arm less than two years from draft day to get him.

                      I admired the process, but this winter simply does not reflect what has made them successful in the past. Not in my view, at least.

                    • Nmr every single thing you said is a perfect summary of everything I have been trying to say.
                      And will add one more point, just because management has made a few good moves the last few years does not mean that they can not do wrong. And they have certainly had a few that haven’t worked the last few years too. And when talking about payroll some fans arguments are hilarious. Nutting has to pay for overhead, aramArk etc. Like somehow the other teams that allocate funds to payroll don’t have those same costs. The pirates have made some very successful cheap moves but that won’t be always the case and occasionally need to open up checkbook. It is sad they are proving again they wont. Even worse that fans support the fact they wont.

                    • The mistake a lot of people make is looking at moves — and expenditures — on a yearly basis rather than projecting them out a little farther. We all recognize that the Pirates have a backlog of blue-chip prospects ready to break into the majors this year. At a minimum, that list probably includes Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Hanson, Kingham and Diaz, and the team certainly needed to create some roster flexibility to make that happen.

                      Everyone also recognizes that not all of those rookies will hit the ground running. Maybe none of them will, which is all the more reason why you need a few bona fide major leaguers to keep you competitive until they do.

                      The point is, with all those youngsters on the roster — plus the additions of several more next season — this team is going to have maybe eight or 10 players next year making the league minimum. Keeping Alvarez until Bell is ready to take over would have meant paying $8 million for a flawed player, but the money would have balanced out next season when Pedro was gone and his replacement was earning less than $1 million.

                      In other words, it’s easy to point to the contract the Giants gave, for example, Johnny Cueto and say the Pirates can’t afford that kind of money given the current makeup of their roster. But their roster won’t look the same in 2017.

                    • Just to take this a step further, as late as two years ago, it was easy to blame Nutting for everything and give all the credit to NH for being a boy genius.

                      Then NH misread the market and left a chunk of money on the table at the trade deadline that could’ve gone for pitching that might’ve done better than Morton/Locke – maybe the difference between 1st and 2nd place.

                      Now, it’s if he’s daring the fans and the rest of the baseball world, telling all he can win with worse junk than before, and without Benedict and some still productive players whose contributions haven’t been replaced. It’s as if he believes a couple of years of success have given him superpowers.

                      Yes, he still has time to make a better deal or two. But I’m losing confidence he’ll actually do that.

                    • Maybe they could have gotten Frazier if they were looking for a 3rd baseman. With Kang on board they aren’t. Yes that was the best they could have gotten for Morton. Nobody in MLB but the Phillies, one of the worst teams in baseball in need of a total rebuild wanted him.

                    • So Frazier at 3rd and Kang at 2nd isn’t a huge upgrade, with Harrison staying in the super sub role? Or Frasier plays 1st(I think I remember reading somewhere he has some experience there). Also I am sure no one in baseball had use for a viable 4/5 starter. They could have kicked in some cash to get a better player back.

        • Ha!

          How many business owners do you know that have had taxpayers build them the best facility in the country and have competitors directly fund significant portions of their revenue stream? Nutting has it made.

          • This may be the best to reply to this argument I have ever read

          • You’re describing just about every green energy company Obama blessed in his 1st term in office.

            Nutting may have it made, but he inherited a true dumpster fire and has turned it into a model organization. But go ahead and complain about him if it makes you feel better.

            • And since you clearly have such a high opinion of those companies you cited, why in the world you come to the defense of Nutting is beyond me.

              • Simply put, under his ownership the team has thrived. Before him, it languished.

                Knowing this, it surprises me you make him out to be a villain.

                • Whoa whoa, not me. Not a villain. Loria is a villain. Wilpon is a villain.

                  Nutting is simply doing the minimum to put a good product on the field while watching his investment grow many times over. That’s not villainous to me, but yeah, I absolutely bristle when folks compare him to honest businessmen who have actual difficult circumstances. Nutting has it made.

                  • Ok, villain was a poor choice of words. Apologise if I offended you.

                    I personally like the product they’ve put on the field the last 4-5 years. And I fully expect to like it for many years to come as well.

                    • Fair enough, and no offense taken.

                      I’ve had my fill of ownership talk for the moment, though, so I’m going to step out of this part of the convo.

            • It just makes me laugh every time someone tries to paint him as the plight of the humble small business owner just trying to make it work. Couldn’t be further from the truth.

            • Scott, here is a point of criticism I would make. Every professional sports organization has a majority owner and usually that owner/ownership group is usually the ones with the most significant financial backing, with the deepest pockets of the bunch. In this case, its supposed to be Nutting.

              Nutting operates and budgets very conservatively. Why? Not sure. But he doesnt want to take too many risks financially even though those risks likely wouldn’t take the Pirates out of the black on any given year.

              So if for whatever reason the framework doesnt allow him to feel comfortable extending the payroll by a moderate % then he needs to find an additional investor who would be willing to do so. It would lessen his risk as an owner and would allow the organization to invest more money into the product on the field.

              He has been unwilling to do what I suggested.

          • Exactly

      • I think he is very frugal. This is inculcated throughout the organization.

      • The way I am looking at all of this is with the extreme rare case of the talent they have at AAA, and their 3 year track record, they deserve some benefit of the doubt. But they also deserve to be hammered if they head into August 3 games over .500. The opportunity to fill 1B and get a third starter is here. When you want to win a championship July is for fine tuning, not filling voids.

      • I guess no one else on baseball then also has these other expenses wake up

    • Where do you get these numbers? Can you add a link?

      • It is from Forbes it won’t allow me paste cause it is a pay site

      • Here’s the chart

        • I was able to find same chart elsewhere to paste

        • So when the Pirates reach $105MM they will be at 45% exactly in the middle of the pack.

          • Revenue increased from last year but even if that’s the case and need to get to 110 pr 115 to make that happen it isn’t going to

        • Couple things about this chart. First, using opening day payroll isn’t a true accounting of actually payroll. Second, payroll % is a poor way to compare this when revenues from one team to another are so far apart.

          For example, the Red Sox spent 51% of their revenue on payroll, but considering they made $370 mm, that means they had nearly as much as Pirates entire revenue stream of $220 mm for other expenses and profit.

          A better way to look st this is hard dollars. The difference in dollars earned and spent on payroll will show Pirates ownership isn’t as frugal as payroll % suggests.

          But then, that doesn’t really support your Nutting is cheap mentality does it?

          • Actually % is a better way of looking at it because it puts everyone on an even playing field. We all know dollars wise we can’t spend as much as the dodgers and yankees, but we can spend a similar percentage on payroll as the royals ect. The fact that we aren’t even close tells us they don’t spend enough on payroll. Nice try is does support my argument.

            • Did you happen to notice 5 of the 8 teams with the lowest payroll % of revenue made the playoffs?

              Kind of blows your theory to smithereens.

              • My theory is that they can afford to go get one more player or two and not have to salary dump to do it. That chart does prove that. I never said you have to have a 300 mil payroll to win, but when you are as close as we are and can’t add one or two mid level pieces based on what they allocate to begin with that’s a problem.

                • 3 of top 10 on this chart made playoffs. 5 of bottom 8 made playoffs. 2 of middle 12 made playoffs.

                  Your theory claiming spending more equates to success has been proven wrong. I can understand you don’t like being wrong, but wrong you are just the same.

                  • You certainly did nt understand my point then. I never said spending money equates to winning. My point was they have more payroll flexibility to add a piece when they need to.

            • And only 3 of top 10 on the list made playoffs. The only thing this chart shows is how irrelevant payroll expenditures are to success on the field in today’s MLB.

            • Your thinking doesn’t discriminate between fixed costs and variable costs (MLB salaries).

          • My argument never was they should spend as much dollar wise as top revenue teams but there is no reason % wise of what their revenue is they should be at bottom ur argument makes no sense there areany similar revenue teams that contribute way more to payroll.

  • The strategy you’ve described makes perfect sense, Tim. I just no longer believe the Pirates are following it.

    Like you, when the Morton trade was first announced I made the assumption it was a straight salary dump. And when combined with the money the team is saving by dumping Pedro and trading Walker, I figured they were going after a big-name pitcher and it would only be a matter of a couple of hours until it became clear who that person would be.

    After all, you don’t trade away the No. 4 starter on an already-thin pitching staff unless you’re damned sure you have a tentative deal lined up with his replacement, right? But I’ve been hitting the refresh button on this site for a week and we’re no closer now to announcing a big deal than we were then. In fact, it seems even less likely now given the acquisition of Vogelsong.

    At this point, who’s still available who’d represent a clear upgrade over Morton anyway? Leake? Latos? Kazmir?

    The more I think about it, the more convinced I am the front office decided to cut salary and mix and match with spare parts in the infield AND the starting rotation until the midseason arrivals start producing — even if that takes until 2017.

    • Agree great points

    • Yeah why wait until off season plays out when it’s so much easier to make a snap judgment 3 months ahead of time.

    • Well that also means wasting one of the 3 remaining years of Cole and Cutch. Talk about wasting value. Trade him if they’re planning on punting on 2016. The strategy is to take a step back to transition into the next wave of Pirate MLB’ers while also trying to incorporate the current Pirate players. The inherent problem is that you inly have Cutch signed for 2 years and an option and you’re going to punt on one of those years during this transition phase. Better value allocation would be trade him and maximize his current value IF you don’t plan on going for it all this year. Which they don’t appear to be.

      • Wasting a year of Cole/Cutch/Marte— This is my problem with the idea of a bridge year too. Hopefully that notion will be proven to be incorrect, but right now from comments NH has made, it sounds like he is setting of a defense of this offseason as-is.

    • We had hoped Morton would be a #4, he wasn’t. He was a poor#5, and a playoff contender not named the Yankees would be stupid to spend 8M for his performance when that could be bought for League Minimum. A healthy Cumpton would have put up better numbers than Morton in 2015.

  • Relying too much on Searage magic is a shaky way to set up a staff but I don’t mind retreads…you just need to stockpile 2-4 more ok options before the season starts to offset failures and injuries. I like arroyo as a reliever and swing guy if he is right….and I like him in clubhouse too. He is AJ Burnett with Morton’s guitar

  • I know you arent saying this Tim, but Taillon hasnt thrown much in 2 years. To expect anything from him beyond two dozen AAA starts is really reaching. Even that would be an accomplishment.

    • If he stays healthy, a big if, he will be pitching in Pittsburgh in 2016. And a whole lot better than Morton did last year, too.

  • Do you think the pirates may be finding themselves in even more of a financial constraint with the escalating salaries across barbell coupled with them not having a new TV contact yet? I’m not sure how the structure of that works.

    • No. Not even close.

      The Pirates are in fantastic financial standing, with money to spare. Not $50m, but certainly enough to keep last year’s club intact while still adding a starting pitcher.

    • Excellent attendance and 3 straight playoff games with an average of sub 100 mil payroll. They are doing ok. Maybe with the talent at aaa they are keeping their roster flexible and money fluid for a big free agent down the road…or maybe even next summer.

      • Or maybe they are just really cheap.

      • I get the all that but even but it doesn’t really address the TV contract end of it…I honestly don’t know a lot of details about how that works, Its just conjecture on my part but I really could see it being a factor, albeit one that I’m sure no one would ever admit to.

  • We live in an instant gratification world where one expects to have all the answers at once. Nowhere is this played out more than on sports message boards.

    The fact is the Pirates are trying to piece together their roster, which must fit in a confined budget, while competing against 29 other teams doing the exact same thing. Some make their big move(s) early on, and some wait for the feeding frenzy to calm down to seek better value.

    NH has been immensely successful at identifying Pitchers who can perform better for Pirates than they have elsewhere. I have every reason to believe he is working diligently to replace Morton with the next such SP.

    Patience is what’s needed now. Not premature judgment based on an incomplete process.

    • I must admit, I thought you were Huntington, but I didn’t see the term “dollar allocation” being used.

      • I have never been in upper management but worked closely with these types on projects for years. I always wondered if they realized how ridiculous they sounded and got sick of hearing themselves talk. Oh well. Let’s quit blame storming and parking lot this for later. It’s just a one-off….dicks.

    • Even if that happens they did not get appropriate value in any of there trades hat have already happened. What has made Huntingtons trades soo good before this offseason is that he didn’t trade for value wise what they could do they traded for what they are. If neise improves that’s great but u traded him based on the value of what he could do. That’s not good and different from cervelli etc. And as a result your not really getting same value out of those kind of trades. And somehow morton who was still a major league starting pitcher u gave away for a bag of baseballs. You can’t take that,back no matter who else they sign.

      • To us he was worth less than a bag of baseballs because he was eating $8MM per year and delivering #5 performance. Morton was the poster child for players suitable for dumping.

        • Then u don’t know baseball and what is going on with pitchers unless u believe they dumped walker too.

          • Walker and Morton aren’t suitable for comparison at all. Walker is well above average offensively, with well below average defensive range for an over all grade of slightly above average. Morton is in the lowest 25 percent of starting pitchers, with a lousy injury history. Walker wasn’t dumped, he was traded for a contract of similar dollars. Morton wasn’t. Unless you think NH is an idiot, and there isn’t any evidence he is, he got the most he could for Morton. The fact that Morton went for what he did indicated that nobody in MLB offered more. Is that hard for you to see?

            • Is it so hard for u to see that mortons numbers over the last few years are very comparable to neise. Neises numbers over last three years are basically locke. We gave up walker for that. So if u are stating that morton with similar numbers with a nicer contract went for no one, you also must be saying that they didn’t get proper value for walker

              • No way. Niese is a better fit than Morton for the Pirates when they compete against the Cubs, Cards and Reds. The fact that Morton performed poorly and was unreliable due to injury has no bearing on Walker’s value. Your thinking is flawed.

    • While we’re being patient, other teams are improving. I’m not suggesting the Pirates need to make a panic move, but they needed to make a fairly significant acquisition this off season to fill the holes left by the departures of AJ and Happ from the pitching staff. I’m sorry, but Niese isn’t even an upgrade on Morton, let alone a bona fide replacement for one of the other two. As for Vogelsong and Kendrick, they’re just guys.

      I’m not sure there’s anyone left in free agency at this point who profiles as the sort of pitcher we need to fill the No. 3 slot. Anyone we find at this point will have to come via a trade for good prospects. Personally, I’d rather the team spent a little more to avoid losing prospects — if indeed that’s what NH intends, and I don’t really think it is.

      I don’t mind being patient when I see an end game worth waiting for. But I’d resent my patience being mistaken for consent to do less than the team can afford to do and spent years promising it would.

      • This off-season is similar to previous off-seasons, yet Pirates have somehow managed to exceed expectations.

        Is losing Walker, Pedro and Morton combined even half as bad as what everyone thought losing Martin was last year? Yet somehow, NH put together a better team without him. Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t see the losses to the roster as even remotely close to irreplaceable.

        And to suggest Niese isn’t as good as Morton is laughable.

  • Tim I hope your right but the moves to this point feel more like Littlefield esch stuff to this point. And the trades look like head scratchers, looks like we lost way more value in everyone then we got back. Even considering mortons salary dump, it’s hard on believe they couldn’t have got back more. As much as we are down on morton his numbers arent that far off from neise and it took walker to get him. That to me just doesn’t add up. I’m also concerned if they do more it prob ends up being a reclamation guy, at this point it seems they are gonna need more then that to compete with improved competition.

    • Whether it’s a reclamation guy like Volquez was or signing a FA, what matters is having the player perform at the level needed to compete successfully vs the competition. Searage has a way of helping a player reach their potential.

      • You’re absolutely right, Scott, but this highlights why I truly believe they either didn’t have a very good plan to begin with or had their plan quickly and thoroughly blown to pieces.

        They easily could have just signed a reclamation arm like they do every year *plus* kept both Walker and Morton without ending up with much if any payroll increase *and* still make every other move they have this winter. All of these moves are marginally understandable by themselves, but make absolutely no sense in the context of building a better team and organization.

        • Walker must’ve been viewed as a potential clubhouse cancer. No other explanation for trading him.

          Morton was dumped to give team money for as of yet unknown signing.

          • Except they could’ve afforded that yet unknown signing without dumping Morton.

            • I don’t understand why you mourn for Morton. He was the worst of the six starters the Pirates used for any significant number of games. He was even worse than Locke. Why aren’t you happy to see him gone?

              • Because they haven’t adequately *upgraded* his spot in the rotation. Isn’t that terribly clear?

                • I’D say they haven’t adequately filled the #3 slot in the rotation. Niese is a better fit for the Pirates than Morton primarily because of Morton’s lack of success against LH hitters.

          • Maybe they just really wanted Niese, in view of a plan to dump Morton.

      • Searage is great! But he doesn’t fix everyone. Before the reclamation guy was ur 5th at best (liriano aside) and if he fixed them it was a bonus, now they are banking on it to make everyone better and perform at a number 3 level different and riskier strategy.

        • With this logic we should go find all the cheap pitchers that had a good year at some point in heir career, cause searage can fix them. Can’t work that way

        • It’s too early to make that declaration. Neither you or I know what Pirates are planning for remainder of the off-season.

  • Here is where (I think) we currently sit with our AAA options:

    If one of our starters go down in April or May (before Super 2 date):

    Trevor Williams

    Chad Kuhl

    Wilfredo Boscan

    Oh God!

  • Yes, a good article. I was listening to MLB over the weekend and they were basically dissing the Pirates. I think that Huntington is preparing a younger roster to compete especially for end of the year. Its possible 2016 is not our year but I think the Pirates are at least equal to the Cardinals if not better right now.

    • Haha the cards comment is laughable look at the top 5 rotation still after they lost Lynn and lackey. We are taking even in convo currently.

      • I’ll help
        1. Wainwright
        2. Wacha
        3. Martinez
        4. Garcia
        5. Gonzales/Lyons
        But we are better.. Haha come on.

        • 1. Old and injury prone
          2. Young and injury prone
          3. Young and injured
          4. Often injured
          5. Big question mark/bigger ?

          Tell me honestly, if you were a Cards fan you’d be confident in this group?

          • Scott, come on man.

            Do you really wanna do the same with the current Pirate rotation? Hide the women and children.

            • With the TJ epidemic, I think for any rotation in baseball you could put:
              1. Injury prone
              2. Injury prone
              3. Injury prone
              4. Injury prone
              5. Injury prone

              • Ha, very very good comment.

                • Which further illustrates why Some frustration is warranted. I don’t care about signing a kazmir or Masterson in itself and I honestly wouldn’t feel all that terrible going into the year with the current rotation, but like tim pointed out, having 5 starters to start the season is just bad news waiting to happen when you may end up having Neise as your number 1 starter by the end of may wit Wilfredo boscan getting regular starts until the end of June…

                  • I agree with depth issue AND I do have a big issue with this being our rotation.

                  • Nobody wants to come out and say it, but the Pirates aren’t truly planning on competing for the Division in 2016.

                    They have absolutely zero depth anywhere on the roster. Huntington is far too smart to believe that is going to fly over 162 games.

                    This is a retooling year.

                    They will put a quality team on the field opening day that will likely win 85-90 games *if everything works out*, but won’t have anywhere close to the kind of quality depth that will almost certainly be needed. Those spots will be left to break in prospects like Hanson, Bell, Diaz, Taillon, and Glasnow as they become available.

                    • Totally agree. Wish I didn’t, but I do.

                    • And my biggest complaint is that they’re kind of screwing that up, too.

                      If you’re going to retool, then you may as well get potential future assets for the aging veterans you’re shedding. I was a fan of the Travis Snider trade not because they brought back current big league talent – Snider simply wasn’t valuable enough to do that – but because they brought back low lever prospects with upside that could be developed.

                      Trading Neil Walker and Charlie Morton is fine, but getting back an aging pitcher already pricing himself out of the Pirates rotation and a low level arm with no upside is unacceptable.

                    • Niese had a 3.38 ERA against the Cubs last year (in two games). Charlie Morton had a 11.25 ERA in the one game he pitched against the Cubs. He doesn’t have a pitch repertoire that plays well against a LH power bat. Morton had his worst games against the best competition. Cutting Charlie Morton for zero return would have suited me, provided that they could offload his salary. That they got any return is just a bonus. Niese is an upgrade over Morton. And he likely won’t be kept for all three of his contract years.

                    • I hope you aren’t right simply for the fact that the negativity and wounds from “the streak” are sooooo fresh here. It’s palpable with every move in a vacuum. I think NH has built an amazing team and it’s been a serious slog since 2007 to pull us off the scrap heap of sports to a top 5 franchise… I know some of these comments are in jest, but I hope folks don’t miss what we have here: a true success story regardless what happens going forward… And, if you are correct about their thinking this is a “re-tooling” year, which I’m honestly not believing yet, then I think we owe it to the front office to do what’s needed to keep us contending for another 5-10 years, and not taking a backslide a la Oakland.

                    • See, I couldn’t agree with you any less.

                      The “negativity” isn’t coming from 20 years of losing. It’s coming from a process that appears to be stagnating after three years of winning. You sure as hell don’t see the players or coaches resting on their laurels and saying “Awe shucks guys, I think this is good enough”.

                      They want to take the next step forward, and fans rightfully would like to see that happen as well.

                      You’re allowed to walk and chew gum at the same time. It takes no amount of cognitive dissonance to both appreciate where the team is now compared to where they’ve been *and* want them to take the next step.

                    • You are correct, but I do not call it retooling. The Pirates are bring in [as of now] players to hold the fort till the players you mentioned plus Tarpley are promoted from Indy. What will be interesting is what NH gets for Melancon. I would keep him and give Walker’s money to him. I tend to believe that Cutch is pizzed off at the Pirates.

                    • Yes, if ST started tomorrow. But if they sign a #3 does your opinion change?

                    • Absolutely!

              • I know I can’t be the only one that sees the Pirates top prospect as a young kid with a fastball in the high 90s and thinks it would be silly to *expect* him to be a late season addition. Feels like it’s only a matter of time…

            • I don’t see it that way NMR. I think Niese is going to thrive pitching half his games at PNC. And I think Locke will be good enough until either Glasnow or Taillon takes his spot. And I believe Pirates are going to sign one more SP in the coming weeks.

          • I would be ecstatic with that group compared to ours.

          • It doesn’t matter what the Cards fan thinks. Maybe they have higher expectations. But yea, even with your concerns, that rotation is better top to bottom then what Neil H. has put together as of right now. With regards to Wainright, old and injury prone perennial CY Young candidate who happens to OWN the Bucs. Just clarifying.

        • I was speaking of the entire Cardinal roster. They lost Heyward, they have an aging core(Molina/Holliday/Peralta and Adam Wainwright missed all of last season and Wacha was not nearly the dominating pitcher. I agree the Cardinal rotation is better but I dont think the overall team is. my opinion.

          • Fair enough, but older or not they still have them. We no longer have pedro, walker. And they still got alot of good young guys. Grichuk, piscotty etc.

      • A lot of uncertainty in that cardinal line up and rotation…wainwright, Holliday, molina all not getting any younger and Martinez was shut down with injury late in the year…their upper minors are a lot weaker IMO…I don’t know if I’d ever say they are weaker than us, but I also don’t think it’s laughable to think we can’t field a team that will have a better record. The royals had the likes of edinson volquez and Chris young starting against the embarrassingly good Mets rotation.

        • Injuries are a good point and they have a few older players but they got alot of good young guys too. If u take wainwright out of that rotation they are still better then us. Their only glaring weakness is 1b. Oh wait we also don’t have a first baseman.

  • I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but we started needing a solid starter and a solid option at first. Despite all the moves it seems like that is still what we need.

    • That was a sharp statement!

    • There are still lots of options in Pirates budget available to take a spot in rotation.

    • #3 starter, LH 1B, re-stocked bullpen, re-built bench.

      So far: no, no, “good on Nicasio but still need a LOOGY,” and “please tell me you’re not heading north with Goebbert AND Florimon.”

      • I should clarify that I really like Jason Rogers, but would prefer him as the short side of the 1B platoon and #1 RH bench bat.

        • I agree with Rogers but what I mean is that we still have two holes(SP and 1ST BASE).

          • Oh I agree Bill, I was just meaning to say don’t stop there. They also need a lefty bullpen arm and I don’t love a bench of Rodriguez, Florimon, Stewart and whichever two of Goebbert, Rogers and Morse aren’t starting at 1B.

            • I have zero interest in Goebbert being a viable option on the 25 man squad. Same goes for Florimon. Florimon offers very little to me. I just dont think theres space on the team for an all glove/no hit type player in today’s league. I would much rather bring up Hanson and give him his shot.

              I agree with Tim that there is more to come. The target budget was 105 mil, they have roughly 15 mil left to spend in that case and they have a rotation spot and maybe a 1B spot and a reliever spot to fill.

              From what I understand, Bell is a better hitter as a lefty than a righty.

              As a lefty versus right handed pitching, his OPS is .920

              As a righty versus left handed pitching, his OPS is .632

              I’m not suggesting that he wont be better as a righty in the future, but for now, his strength is batting left handed.

              I’d rather go without picking up a LHB 1B and let Bell be that guy by mid year.

              I would be okay with Morse and Rogers splitting time at first, but frankly I dont think either are guys you have full confidence being everyday starting options for them. While, not great options in the field, they do offer some flexibility to play the outfield if needed on a spot start. I like both of them as bench roles competing with one other free agent signing. I’ve said it before, but I would like the Pirates to sign Dae Ho Lee to a deal. He said he would take a 1 year deal. Maybe 1 year/5 mil, perhaps with a team option.

              I think this would be a good move simply because of his power potential. Morse has power, but we didnt see it last year. Rogers doesnt have much power. I would sign Lee and let the 3 of them compete for time at first base.

  • Tim, do we know what “realistic” budget is left after all roster players have received their increases for the year. Assuming we have a rough gauge as to the total payroll number. (Is it in the 103-105M range to start the season?) Do we have enough to sign a $5M guy, $10M guy for the rotation? or is there even more remaining?

    • I posted a couple of time on PP, that to keep compeitive with Cards and cubs, we need a payroll of $120m. The Pirate way would make that seem like $160m (my opinion.) Now, I go back to the article “,” and maybe this writer knew something. Are the Pirates going to step back and wait for all their young prospects get here? That’s what the Cubs Did and Houston to some extent. Or, maybe their waiting for the mother load of free agents in 2018. Saving the communion money for then. Getting a faviorable TV contract would help also. I’m just throwing this out there for all me friends on PP. Whishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

      • Deal with Root sports is up after the 2016 season, hopefully that’s the season they add the missing piece(s). Or maybe extend the young talent like Polanco and Cole. I agree w 120, wish they would push 140. It seems like they like in season additions more than FA. I could see them staying at or around 100 until the TV deal. Nutting better spend some money though if he likes 2.5 mil fans in his park. They are still a very good team, and when Kang and the young guys get up here we will be even better.

  • Offseason plan, basically.

    • I’m hoping on March 1, you post this with a video of JHay getting out of a pickle instead of this very funny, and unfortunately appropriate, photo.

      • I see this offseason kind of like if Cutch decided to smoke weed and eat cheeseburgers all winter instead of his normal training regimen.

        He’d still be a really good baseball player, just probably not as good as he was last year and certainly not as good as he could be.

        • You know, I usually withhold my judgement of the offseason, but even I have become concerned. I really, really, really hope they didn’t take the “cheap” route this year because they could.

        • It’s not even Christmas yet and Pirates aren’t done adding to roster. But who has patience these days when it’s so much easier to him to conclusions.

          • I really do feel for you, Scott. You should absolutely keep hope alive, man. Don’t let me rain on your parade.

            But boy oh boy. The Pirates are a strong 6 in free agency, and most of the girls left looking for dates to the dance are 7s, 8s, and 9s.

            • Back in my disco days, we had a saying, “It’s 10 to 2 and all the 2’s are 10’s.”

              Maybe one of those 7-8-9’s will lower their standards when it gets close to closing time.

        • Andruw Jones diet?

    • Scorpion’d.

  • Good article. Unfortunately we need to be patient. I have faith in NH in regards to pitching. Hitters not so much, and I think you might be correct, they may stand with what they have at 1B. Which isn’t great news, but it doesn’t make sense to allocate a ton of resources to that position with Bell on the cusp.

    However, you can never have enough pitching, and I think they know that.

    In Neal I trust. Go Bucs!