Pirates Q&A: Off-Season, Polanco Extension, Number Three Starter, Payroll

Last week we did a live Q&A on the 2016 Prospect Guide. The chat went well, so I decided to make this a more regular event. This time around, the Q&A was on any subject. The questions and my answers can be seen below in the comments.

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rburgh

Do you think there’s any chance that the Bucs start the season with Feliz and/or Nicasio in the rotation, just hoping they can keep it together long enough for the cavalry (Taillon, Kingham, and Glasnow) to join the fray?

cyphtime

With all the investment the pirates have put into right handed relievers is there any chance they are planning on just skipping the lefty reliever role? Do any of the guys they have or have acquired have interesting splits where they can fill that role?

Joe S

Will the mini-camp be at Pirate City of McKechnie Field?

leowalter

Pirate City

Matthew D

What options for the rotation do you see as viable free agents the pirates would sign?

Andrew Rothstein

What’s your best guess as to what happens with Sanchez? Minor league deal with a new team?

JayhawkDuke

I’m finally taking the family to the west coast of FL this year for spring break to enjoy some spring training. We’ll probably only spend a couple days in Bradenton. Is Pirate City open to fans? Would you recommend that or actually going to games? Thanks for all the great work!

Kevin O

I would look at the minor league schedule before going so you can plan in advance. Also make sure to grab a roster card so you can identify players – they don’t have names on their jerseys and that was a struggle I had last year.

McKechnie was still a great experience though. Nice to see some more recognizable faces for the kids, and the field is beautiful. Have fun!

Bill W

Just when I was getting comfortable with the off-season moves the Pirates sign Neftali Feliz. I also am baffled by the amount. Could they not have re-signed Bastardo and some of the other head scratchers. I know he is looking for a 3-4 year deal but this deal leaves me befuddled.

joe s

Do you think it’s time for the pirates to blow through the international salary cap and sign some high end prospects? With the pirates drafting so late and with a limited budget they can not get much high profile talent. So blowing through the cap can or may bring in some much needed talent. The pirates only sign international talent for $300,000 any way.

Chris M

First of all sorry Tim this is a little long, it’s a few queations.
The pirates minus the Jaso move seems to be doing things completely different compared to last few years. Trading based on potential value thus only getting even value if everything pans out, instead of value moves like cervelli, overpaying for relief projects instead of finding valuable waiver claims, and counting on reclamation guys for rotation instead of depth options. Not to mention trading assets for no return aka morton.
Do you see a reason for the complete shift from the effective process of last few years?
Secondly, Dodgers do seem like best fit for melancon from a trade value standpoint what in addition would we need to give up with melancon to realistically get?
Seager?Urias?Wood?Ryu?

Andrew Rothstein

Tony Sanchez … DFA’d

Todd Shevchik

Tim,
We still need a number 3 starter. I keep thinking Locke for the bullpen but he doesn’t have good L on L splits. This seems like the extra arm that would precede a Melancon trade.
Hopefully they trade Melancon and an OF to the Padres for SP Tyson Ross. He would plug #3 and have some control. Watson would close. What other #3 options are out there?

jamminjoe66

Padres are are rebuilding, no way they have interest in Melancon. With that said I would’ve preferred Ross over Neice

mike_carlini66

When is the Mini Camp this year? And also, it is open to the public?

ArthurDayne

Have you heard anything on John Holdzkom? That guy has been through hell the last year.

Sean McCool

Holdzkom has said that he is fully healthy during the CARE-a-van event in early December. He mentioned his tough season with being able to get over injuries, and he finally feels good. What may be difficult is that his brother Lincoln died in a car accident in mid-December, so hopefully he is able to recover from losing someone close to him.

Holdzkom is definitely a wild card trying to make the Opening Day roster, but it will be extremely tough with the bullpen the way it is constructed, especially after today. I’d expect him to start at Indy and hopefully stay healthy for an early season call-up if necessary.

Jared

If Melancon is traded?

ArthurDayne

Thanks Sean.

BJointBucs24

You recently wrote about how Willy Garcia doesn’t have much of a future at the big league level with the Pirates because of the depth, would you say that Harold Ramirez is the best prospect to be traded this year? I’m going off the fact that Glasnow, Bell, Taillon, aren’t going to be moved. Diaz and McGuire I also don’t think will be moved because of the lack of depth at the catcher position.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

They better not trade Ramirez – he may turn out to be better than Meadows. I think a guy like Garcia would be attractive to a team that has a weak farm system, limited outfield prospects, and is rebuilding – like the Phillies, Padres, Reds, Brewers (who got Broxton), Indians, Rays, etc. By himself, he’s not going to get you much. It would have to be a larger package deal. So, considering that injuries do occur, I would keep him in Indy as depth and see how he develops.

Jared

Isnt that part of the point of stocking a farm system though? Is being able to use it to maneuver to acquire better talent? I would also say that the deal for Marlon Byrd included a very, very good prospect.

dcm8299

In an effort to extend the recent run of Pirate prosperity for the forseeable future, I think its imperative that the front office maximize value whenever possible. Gone are the days of drafting in the top 3 where elite talent is much more easily acquired, gone are the days of unlimited spending. Due to the success of the Pirates front office, this team is now drafting for the most part towards the bottom of the MLB draft order. 25 years ago, Barry Bonds, arguably the greatest Pirate and MLB player of all time walked out the Pirate front door and the Pirates received absolutely no compensation. The franchise felt the effects for over 20 years. Fast forward 25 years from that moment and we are at a SIMILAR crossroads (and no I’m not comparing Cutch to Bonds in any way). I woud preface this by saying I would love for Cutch to remain a Pittsburgh Pirate for the remainder of his career. Having said that, I would offer to extend Cutch to 6 years at $22-23M/year. Roughly 3-4X larger than any contract in the history of the Pirates franchise. Reality is, Cutch is probably worth double that. NO WAY he would accept that contract. So it leaves this organization in a quandary. What do they do with the remaining 3 years of Cutch??? This is what I would do:
#1 . Approach a team like the Indians and offer Cutch for Carrasco, Salazar and Clint Frazier.
#2 . Trade Melancon
#3 . Move Starling Marté to CF, Gregory Polanco stays in RF and Josh Bell goes to LF
#4 . With the savings from Cutch and Melancon, offer Chris Davis 6 @ $25M/year. The savings from Cutch and Melancon for 1 year cover his salary and a new TV deal w/I the next couple of years should ease the pain of the salary for the remaining next few years.
#5 . Extend Polanco.

Position players:
1B Davis
2B Harrison/Hanson
SS Mercer/Kang
3B Kang/ Harrison
C Cervelli, Diaz
CF Marté
LF Bell
RF Polanco

SP:
Cole til 2018
Liriano til 2017
Carrasco
Salazar
Niese/Locke

SP Depth:
Locke/Neise
Vogelsong
Glasnow
Taillon
Lobstein

Bullpen:
Watson
Caminero
Hughes
Nicasio
Feliz
Holdzkom
Locke/Niese

Bench:
Jaso
Harrison/Hanson
Rodgers
Figueroa
Morse
I know it would be a PR issue, but if you really wanna creat a bridge of transition that would be most effective. Interested to hear your thoughts or anyone’s for that matter.

dcm8299

based on the moves seen so far (and the offseason is not over yet), would you say the BUCS are GOING FOR IT in 2016 or are they creating a BRIDGE to the new wave of Pirate players?? And if they are more likely revving up for 2017 wouldn’t that be a waste of 1 prime year of Andrew McCutchen, as well as, Cole, Liriano and Kang??

Eric S

I agree they will never punt on a year in which they come from 98 wins and still have a solid core. My thoughts are the moves this team has made so far is of that to allow their prospects to come up and contribute this year. With that, the overall record will probably be lower than both the Cubs and Cardinals, although I can see St. Louis taking a major step backward and the Pirates finishing in 2nd. 2017 and 18 definitely should be serious contender years.

Chuck C

remember…..162 games. San Diego looked like a shoe-in for post season play. How did that turn out!! I’ve never seen a piece of paper get a base hit or strike out anyone. Anything can happen in the greatest sport in the world. That’s why i like it best.

dcm8299

IMHO, unless Polanco explodes, Marté, Kang and Harrison continue with upwards trends and Niese becomes a borderline top 2 pitcher I just don’t see how they win the NL Central over the Cubs. Cardinals are getting a healthy Wainright back (Pirate killer) along with Yadi, Matt Adams, and Holiday. And with the moves that Arizona and San Francisco have made that’ll take up a dvision winner plus a WC. Never count out the Dodgers and their endless budget. The Mets rotation is the best in baseball. What if the Nationals become what everyone expected them to be. Too much competition to y around the fringes and expect to seriously compete.

Arik Florimonte

My response is: those teams are all pretty good, but they all also have their faults and question marks. And the Pirates offense is better than you think.

Mets — where’s the offense? Defense is iffy too
Nats — lots of questions on offense. Lost Fister and Zimmerman.
Cardinals — Holliday and Molina not getting any younger, lost Heyward, getting Wainright back but lost Lynn & Lackey.
Diamondbacks They are one ace better than they were last year. They got Miller but lost equal production in Enciarte. Tomas is a liability on defense.
Giants — Samardzija is a gamble, Cueto’s arm may or may not fall off. Weak OF.
Dodgers — They have money but so far their team is worse this year.
Cubs — They look amazing on paper, but they are also relying on continued improvement from several 2nd year players, which doesn’t always go the way you plan. Lester and Lackey aren’t young anymore. Anything can happen.

Meanwhile the Pirates have a chance to put up a pretty impressive lineup next year, say:

Harrison
Jaso
McCutchen
Kang
Marte
Polanco
Cervelli
Mercer

That’s 4 above average guys, 2 very good guys, one great one, and one below average. So they should have a pretty good offense even if Polanco doesn’t bust out.

Chuck C

See my last reply.

kenneth s

Why were the Indians do that when they have the number 26 and number 35 prospects in all of baseball that are both centerfielders ? and give up two fantastic pictures? major major pipe dream.

dcm8299

Can either of those top prospects right now post a 6.0-7.0 WAR or better season and be a legitimate MVP candidate in 2016, 2017 or 2018?? because right now, Cutch is a TOP 3 player in all of baseball….PERIOD. And that is the missing piece for them to win an otherwise winnable division and make a run at a World Championship. IMO, when you have a legitimate shot at a World title in a certain time frame you GO FOR IT.

kenneth s

Getting rid of those two pitchers and they won’t be contenders anymore.
have you heard of the law of diminishing returns?

dcm8299

I understand what you’re saying. Based on what I’ve seen and read, I was under the impression that the Indians would be dealing from a position of strength in their MLB SP and upper minors. Whereas Rajai Davis or Almonté are not exactly the same level as McCutchen.

Matt K

I truly believe that Andrew McCutchen is about more than just the money at this point. The way he talks and his humble nature and seemingly genuine nature make me believe he would take a pretty substantial discount to stay with the Pirates. It’s just speculation at this point, but I think thats the type of guy he is. He seems more concerned with happiness than money. As for that trade prop, I don’t see CLE giving up both Carrasco AND Salazar. This scenario seems like a pipe dream IMO.

Chuck C

The union won’t let Andrew give the kind of discount the Pirates could afford. I know McCutchen is his own man, but there would be questions if he were to give his self away.

dcm8299

Carrasco and Salazar for 3 prime years of a 5.8 WAR player (lowest WAR value in the past 3 years) who is a perennial MVP candidate playing one of the most valuable positions in the field in a division in which they can make a serious run at a divisional crown??? I would have thought people would have told me that wasn’t enough for Cutch. Top 3 player in all of baseball!
I agree about the money thing BUT 70-100M left on the table is not a hometown discount.

jamminjoe66

Cutch’s defense & declining production 3 years running keeps him out of top 3 conversation. He maybe playing a premium position (Only because Hurdle doesn’t have the testicles to move him), he’s not playing it very well.

dcm8299

He’s never had a strong enough arm for CF. But because of his legs he’s still better than most CF in the game. With regards to his decling production, April and May have not been friendly to Cutch TBH but I also attribute some of his decline to the knee injury last year and also to the decline with players around him specifically Pedro Alvarez never becoming what this team needed. When Pedro was a feared hitter, Cutch excelled because you had to pitch to him. Now he just gets worked around.

Matt K

Carrasco was worth 4.8 WAR according to Fangraghs and Salazar was in the minors for the first month of the season and racked up 3.0 WAR. They are both as underpaid for their production as McCutchen, they’re both younger, and they both have more control. If I’m the Indians I’m laughing at NH as I hang up the phone.

kenneth s

Couldn’t agree more ! and he wants to throw in the number 35 Prospect in all of baseball on top of those two

dcm8299

OK then so you tell me Mr. GM. What is the value of a top 3 player in all baseball, a perennial MVP candidate with one of the most team friendly contracts in all of baseball with 3 years remaining in his prime playing one of the most challenging positions in all of baseball. Clint Frazier is a prospect. BTW, Travis Snider was a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. They don’t always pan out. The Indians would know EXACTLY what they were trading for in McCutchen. Salazar and Carrasco are good young pitchers but lets not confuse them with let’s say a CY young winner like Cory Kluber or a David Price or Greinke. Starting pitchers @ 180 innings affect roughtly 30 games or 18.5% of a regular season. McCutchen affects roughtly 92-95% of the games.

kenneth s

The value is what someone is willing to pay. The Indians aren’t willing to pay 40% of their rotation and a top 35 prospect.
by the time they replace them McCutchen would be a free agent.
No one is arguing McCutchen has tremendous value but the deal does not make sense for Cleveland.

pierogieking

Why wouldn’t you hang onto Cutch until he at least has 1 year remaining on the current contract?

dcm8299

that’s a significant loss in value to a team that’s not going 100% ALL-IN on his remaining 3 years. Neil Huntington said that the Pirates were trying to bridge old wave v. new wave of Pirates players. That tells me that they are revving up for 2017 which is a waste of 1 full year of not only Cutch but also of Cole, Liriano, and Kang.

yutz03

Tim, love the guide, once again, thanks for the surprise return on my 3 year investment. My question goes back to Allen Webster. What is the motivation of letting him go overseas if they liked him enough to acquire him and give him a shot with the big club. Do they hope for some goodwill if he comes back after pitching well? I just don’t get why they would give away an asset.

Scott K

Pirates are reportedly set to sign Netfali Feliz for 1-year @$3.9mm. Clearly they must believe he’s a strong reclamation bullpen piece. Does this mean they are getting ready to move on from Melancon?

freddylang

I completely agree. I see the Feliz deal as writing on the wall. It could be the most interesting mid-jan to mid-feb in the history of the hot stove league. So much more has to happen. Too many players and needs still hanging out there.

Jared

I honestly like the idea of signing a reclamation project for $10M, getting rid of Morse, and moving Locke to the pen better.

Matt K

How likely is it that they get a Polanco extension done this spring? Also, is that even something worth doing at this point. They will have both Meadows and Harold Ramirez to the big club by then. Is it even necessary at this point to continue to explore? I know there is something to be said for trying to capitalize on getting value out of a player while you can, but given the fact that they have tried two years in a row and nothing has come to fruition, is that even something that they will continue to look at?

SSGJD9595

After this year they will sign him and or Cole to deals. The TV deal w Root is up so they will have more money to play with.

steve b

Those two are as much a guarantee as polanco is right now. Meaning none of them are. I don’t see the upside many do in polanco.

Luke S

One of those 3 has put up 2 WAR in the ML….so its literally false to say they are as much a guarantee as Polanco.

Those 2 may never put up 2 WAR as a ML player, thus far less a guarantee.

Scott K

Having a player cost controlled only backfires if their performance suffers due to injury or downturn in production. In the event he is extended and Meadows and/or Ramirez appear to be more productive, his trade value would be enhanced.

terrygordon30

Are the Pirates slowly being priced out of Baseball? This may seem a lot of gloom and doom, but it is getting to the place where reclamation projects will be demanding 10-15 million for a one year contract. I agree with how the Pirates are playing the situation, but eventually, how can the Pirates survive?

NMR

The next CBA could get scary.

The rich guys are sick of paying Pirates/Marlins/Rays/etc payroll, and they’re going to have a lot of pull.

jamminjoe66

Rich guys also know it’s better for them to pay small market teams money to keep salary cap out. Rich teams are more in favor of current system then small markets

Jared

The next CBA will have to still leave room for some small market success…look at the way that small market fanbases have responded recently in KC and Pit…it is a GOOD thing for baseball.

freddylang

The Royals just shelled out the money for Gordon. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates do this at some point in the next 3-5 years. Making 2 straight WS helps your financial situation though. That’s a lot of cash they spent on Gordon by the way.

Luke S

Not really. I mean yes, its a lot of cash overall but as far as market value KC likely just got a friendly deal by a good chunk.

freddylang

It might be a friendly deal but if you call the Royals and Pirates markets similar…I’m not sure if I see the Pirates jumping to make a deal like this. Not to say they won’t when the time comes with Marte or someone else. I can’t use Cutch or Cole as an example because they will be so expensive I won’t blame the Pirates for not being able to resign them. The Royals have gone for it the last few years and it has paid off huge. Still, They will be paying Gordon 20 mil when he is 34 and 35 so the deal could end up looking bad.

Luke S

Yeah i was surprised KC did it, but his style of play also helps assuage some fears. He plays elite defense, so you’ll likely have “good” defense most of that contract. That helps bring value even with regression. He’s become a legit OBP guy, which isnt something typically that will regress a ton that soon.

He’ll likely regress a bit, but that skill set is nice from a “how bad will the drop be once he falls off a bit.”

freddylang

For me he always has been a guy you thought would have that one monster season but it has never really happened. Still he has had 3 really good seasons. I still wouldn’t be surprised if he got locked in and had a .925 OPS 26-28 HR year and had some luck and hit .310. Doubtful and it would have to come in the next season or two, but when you see the guy’s skill, he seems like he could do it. With his defense an offensive year like that might put him around an 8-9 WAR.

NMR

That’s not how rich people think, Jared.

Scott K

The short answer is no, but a new local TV deal needs to give them a revenue stream more in line with teams in their market size and viewership in order to give them the necessary resources to stay competitive long-term. I believe they have 3 more years left under current deal.

dr dng

Ok, I will start with this.
1) How optimistic on a scale of 1-10 are you about this season?
2) Or maybe convert it this way. How many wins do you predict?
3) On August 2, 2016, who is in our starting rotation?

dr dng

Sounds good to me.
Thank you.

Eric S

1. 6
2. 84
3. Cole, Liriano, Niese, Glasnow, Taillon(or a player we traded for. Id love Lee to be in there though.

Steve S

Would the Pirates have any interest in Cliff Lee, provide he shows that he is healthy?

Bobby L

IMO if he’s healthy, he’s way out of the PBC’s salary range.

Eric S

His deal is going to be incentive based, not base salary and as such, the escalators wouldnt be so high out of the Pirates range. Pittsburgh is one of the few teams he is/should be considering.

Matt K

I posed this idea a few weeks ago, and it seemed to be unpopular. Here it is: If Melancon is held onto and has a year closer to his 2013-14 numbers, does he get a QO from the Pirates at the end of the season? His K/9 is not as high as other elite closers and I think Pittsburgh values him higher than most teams. These would both be the main cases against it, but he is still one of the top 5-10 closers in the game IMO.

Bobby L

Expect the QO to be about $18 or so after the ’16 season. No way will the Bucs risk offering the QO and possibly having it accepted. JMO, of course.

Stephen Brooks

I’m looking at it settling at about $17M when the last remaining free agents are signed. The average AAV is already up $650k from last year, which would put it at the $16.4-$16.5 range. If Davis, Upton, Chen, Cespedes, Desmond, Fowler, Gallardo, Kennedy, Span and Howie Kendrick are signed at their projected salaries from MLBTR, it’ll be $17M. Latos, Fister, Austin Jackson and David Freese are projected to be on the bubble of the Top 125, so unlikely to move the average significantly.

Kozy21

There’s gonna be a new CBA this year right?

Stephen Brooks

There will be, but it won’t go into effect until after the QO deadline, which for 2016 is covered under the existing CBA.

clem21

At this point, what is more likely with Cervelli? Sign him to an extension, trade him soon, or let him play out his contract this year for free agency.

freddylang

If he has a similar year to 2015 it’s a nice position to be in because you can do the QO and know for sure a team is going to outbid you…I’ve seen writeups that had Cervelli as the #2 C in the majors for 2015…and you have Diaz, then you just add another catcher and wait a year for McGuire to be ready…or possibly a few months. The option of keeping a cheap Stewart is still there too.

Jared

Is he someone you would attach a QO if he has a similar year this year to last year? The $15M price would be high, but the likelihood he takes that over a multi-year deal?

Luke S

Seems like his lack of payday to this point would make him really wanting to sign a multi year deal. Another healthy 3 WAR season and he can fetch 12 AAV over 3 years unless the market just dissolves.

NMR

He and Weiters are literally the only free agent catchers, which means something, but Cervelli seems at best like the kind of mid-level FA that the QO just kills; *especially* if the bat regresses and his value primarily comes from the glove.

The teams that value catcher defense and framing also likely know better then to be throwing away first round draft picks for 31 yo catchers.

Highly, highly doubtful the Pirates would QO FC or MM, and I think that’s probably the right call.

freddylang

I don’t know NMR. I think Cervelli had a slightly off defensive year and if he is even a .270/.330/.410 offensive catcher in 2016 his value will be substantial in the free agent market.

Luke S

A 3 year deal puts him just on the right side of mid 30s for many teams to throw 12 AAV at plus a pick.

I dont think, in that market, his value gets killed unless only 1-2 teams need a C. He’s not Weiters, but he’s the best of the rest and unless his bat regresses next year….his bat will be seemingly above average.

BJointBucs24

He’s the starting catcher for 2016 he isn’t going to be traded.

Bobby L

Must say I like this feature, especially since there’s not much going on.

As far as I know, this subject hasn’t been discussed…so my question is what happens with Jaso when Bell arrives?

piraterican21

Jaso is getting pay bench player money, so if they have to move him there it won’t hurt at all.

freddylang

Elite, rich team bench money but if Bell pans out it will be nice for the Pirates to have that luxury at least for a few months or maybe 1.5 years.

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