First Pitch: Why the Pirates Bullpen Might Be Better After the Melancon Trade

The Pirates traded Mark Melancon today in a deal that was largely about getting future value for a guy who would be leaving after the season. It was also a move that was made to help them continue to contend this year. But the bullpen took a short-term decline in exchange for an upgrade beyond 2016.

Or did it?

As I was looking over the deal today, and looking at the makeup of the bullpen, a crazy thought occurred to me: The Pirates might actually have a better bullpen now with Felipe Rivero than they did with Mark Melancon.

I’m going to start off by pulling a Joe Biden and telling you to hold your cheers and boos and listen to me on this one.

If we’re comparing the pure talent in the bullpen, then the Pirates absolutely downgraded here. I think Felipe Rivero could be a better option than Melancon in future years, as Melancon looks like a guy about to be on the decline, while Rivero is a young left-hander who can hit 100 MPH. But this year, Melancon is easily the better reliever. And this trade just swaps the two guys, meaning the Pirates saw an overall downgrade in their talent.

When you start considering the bullpen roles, though, that’s when things get interesting. Especially when you don’t place a lot of value on the idea that pitching in the ninth inning requires some special magic, and that your best relievers are wasted in that role.

Before the trade, Melancon was locked to the ninth inning. And there were times this year when the ball didn’t even get to him, because the middle relief spots were a disaster. That has improved lately, thanks in large part to Juan Nicasio moving to the bullpen, but also due to improvements from Arquimedes Caminero and Jared Hughes (although I don’t think you can fully trust either of those two to put up consistent good outings).

Because Melancon was locked in as the closer, he could only be used as the closer. And sometimes, the way Clint Hurdle used the closer role was downright ridiculous, as he was a slave to the save stat. There were four games this year where Melancon came on for a save with a four run lead. There was one game where he came in for a save with a five run lead. And then there were seven games where he came in for a save with a three run lead. He even had two games this year where he came on to pitch when it wasn’t even a save situation, and pitching him clearly wasn’t about getting him work.

By comparison, Melancon had 11 save opportunities this year where he entered with a one run lead. He blew two of those opportunities, but the Pirates got him the win in one of them (they won the other, but he didn’t get the win, and this stat really doesn’t matter, so I don’t know why I’m even including it in this article).

So out of 33 save opportunities this year, Melancon had 11 with one run, and 12 with three runs or more, not to mention the two games he pitched with four and five run leads that weren’t even save situations. He was the top reliever in the bullpen, and you want your top reliever in for as many high leverage situations as possible. But the save stat prevented the Pirates from fully maximizing his value as a top reliever.

Rivero isn’t as good of a reliever, but the Pirates can utilize him in a much better way than they could with Melancon. They now have him in the 7th inning, while also having Juan Nicasio available for the same role, giving them two hard throwing pitchers — one from each side — who can both pitch multiple innings. They also both have ERAs in the bullpen that are much higher than their xFIPs, showing the ability for good results going forward.

There is a lot more flexibility in the seventh inning. Those guys aren’t locked in to that spot. There have been a few times this year where Neftali Feliz has come in to pitch the sixth inning when needed. One of those games saw him coming in with the bases loaded and one out, with a two run lead. The other one saw runners at first and third with two outs, and a three run lead. Imagine that concept: A talented pitcher leaving his normally designated inning to pitch in a higher leverage spot, rather than waiting and hoping the lead gets to him with no outs in a later inning, because he can only pitch in that inning with a very specific lead.

The Pirates will still have that situation in the closer’s role. Tony Watson now becomes the guy who is locked in to the ninth inning, and who will be coming on for those one out saves with the tying run on deck and a four or five run lead. If you’re a fan of the idea that it’s more difficult to pitch in the ninth inning, then Watson is a great replacement for Melancon. And while he has been used at times in the seventh inning and in a flexible role, he’s mostly been locked in to the 8th inning, so having him in a very restricted role won’t be too different.

As for the rest of the bullpen, the Pirates now have an advantage they didn’t have before: freedom from ridiculous inning-defined roles. Sure, Neal Huntington said that Feliz would be the 8th inning guy and Rivero would be the 7th inning guy. But making the argument that Feliz would only be comfortable in the 8th inning is ridiculous at this point, and the same with Rivero. The Pirates now have three hard throwing middle relievers who they can pitch at any time they want. They traded away an elite reliever who they were only using about half the time in situations where you’d want an elite reliever. They got a very good reliever who they can use at any time, and freed up their bullpen to allow any pitcher to pitch at any time.

Back in April, I asked Clint Hurdle why a guy like Tony Watson could pitch in the 7th inning when needed, but a closer couldn’t pitch outside of the ninth inning. While I don’t agree with the way Hurdle manages to the save stat, his response was very honest, and might explain why he does manage to the stat.

“We’re working within an industry where we’ve created some of our own challenges,” Hurdle said in April. “Guys don’t go get paid for holds. And what’s beautiful about our guys, is once the contract is done, they’re ready to show up and go to work. If we ever got to that point where a crazy situation would arise, Mark would move. I just feel we’re best served in the capacity with him pitching in the ninth inning right now, from a team perspective. Not a Mark perspective. He’s earned that opportunity. He’s just been so effective.”

Hurdle also said that it’s challenging for a closer to be used earlier in a game, such as the sixth inning in a key situation. And at the time, he felt the Pirates were better off keeping Melancon locked in to the ninth inning.

“There’s a challenge in our game I would think to get a closer to pitch the sixth inning,” Hurdle said. “It’s not anywhere close to as easy as some people think it is. It’s just not. I don’t have anything that I could quantify it to that people might do in their jobs that could be somewhat rated similarly. The guys we’ve got in front of that, it’s more common fabric. I’m of the opinion that our club is best suited with one closer, one man getting the ball right now, and the other guys being flexible enough to work to get the guy the opportunity.”

The Pirates now have a bullpen where they can be even more flexible in getting the ball to the ninth inning. And since Tony Watson doesn’t care when he’s used, and can pitch multiple innings, they might even be able to bring him on in the 8th inning for a multi-inning save, rather than letting one of the middle relievers or set-up guys take the higher leverage situation.

Furthermore, last off-season, their plan was to add a lot of high quality relievers who can pitch multiple innings, easing the load on the starters. This was at a time when the starters had a lot of question marks. Unfortunately, that plan fell apart. Juan Nicasio went to the rotation, Ryan Vogelsong wasn’t as good in the bullpen, Arquimedes Caminero and Jared Hughes struggled early in the year, and some of the other potential multi-inning relievers didn’t work out.

There are still a lot of question marks with the starting rotation, and a lot of young guys who might not pitch into the sixth inning every time out. Adding another multi-inning reliever like Rivero, along with recent additions like Jon Niese and Jeff Locke, and the recently improved Caminero and Hughes, puts the Pirates in a much better situation to let their bullpen take over for the rotation earlier in games. And the Pirates don’t even need to rely heavily on Caminero or Hughes this time around for that to happen.

The Pirates downgraded in short-term talent with the Melancon trade, and there’s no denying this. They still have a good late inning group, but when you trade one of the best relievers in baseball, it’s hard to not downgrade. But the reality is that, while Melancon was an elite reliever, he was being limited by the closer’s role. The Pirates now don’t have to limit themselves as much, and can be very flexible with their large group of hard throwing middle relievers, while also using that advantage to ease the pressure on their questionable rotation to pitch deeper into games. I don’t think that trade-off represents a massive upgrade, but it should off-set the drop in overall talent in the bullpen.

**Tomorrow morning we will have an article detailing where Taylor Hearn ranks in the system. This initial ranking will probably be very volatile, as it could change when we actually get a chance to see him. That will be coming up soon, as I’m heading to West Virginia next week, catching a series in Morgantown, one series in Charleston, and then traveling down for a series in Bristol. That’s two weeks of coverage, and a feature on Hearn, along with my first live look. You can get all of the reports from the upcoming trip by subscribing to the site.

**Prospect Watch: Austin Meadows Continues His Rehab Stint. All of the minor league updates, including a live report on a game to forget from Indianapolis.

**Neal Huntington Discusses the Mark Melancon Trade. The Pirates’ GM discussed the move, with details on what they saw in the two hard-throwing left-handers they got in return.

**Chad Kuhl Expected to Return to the Indianapolis Rotation on Monday. Good news from Brian Peloza, as it doesn’t look like Kuhl’s triceps issue ended up being a major injury.

**Pirates Looking For Starting Pitching Following Melancon Trade. I don’t know if they’d want to turn around and spend what it would take to get a top starter on this market. I could see them going for a J.A. Happ type deal.

**Pirates Trade Mark Melancon to Nationals. The full trade breakdown, with info on Rivero and Hearn, and my initial analysis.

**Morning Report: Comparing Last Year and This Year for Gage Hinsz. John Dreker looks at the changes from Gage Hinsz in the last year.

**Jose Osuna Is Off to a Great Start in Triple-A. From Friday, Brian Peloza looks at Jose Osuna’s hot start to his Triple-A career.

  • This whole season was screwed from the onset…..the failures of NH
    in the off-season to even replace Morton was inexcusable (check out the
    numbers for that Whitehead kid)

    We lost 2 starters in Morton and Burnett and actually felt Locke and Vogelsong (originally) were going to be the answers? Really?

    We lost our starting 1B & 2B – Yes, Alvarez was maddening at times and Walker didnt have the greatest range,…but we lost them because we were CHEAP pure and simple

    During one of NH’s MLB 2016 video game tournaments, he decided that hitting Cutch 2nd was a great idea and getting Spanky Lavalliere to hit leadoff (that is all Jaso could have hoped to be….a singles/BB guy with NO speed)

    Really, when you think of it, this year could end up going down as one of the biggest busts in franchise history…..a 20 game swing in the wrong direction which has only happened a couple of times in this franchise’s history (last one being 92 to 93 and we all remember what that started)

  • Rivero looks like a LH version of Caminero–throws hard with almost no command.

  • I’ve been saying this very same thing since the trade was announced, glad someone else can at least see this side of the argument. Wait until you see this kid pitch, people will be saying MM who (as long as Watson is good in the closer role, but I put much less value on a closer than most do)

  • It’s called perspective. Some of you really need to get it, and oh what a surprise, here’s some from the Nationals’ side.

  • This all sounds like the same ballyhoo that proceeded the trade of Hanrahan for someone named Mark Melancon.

    I don’t know about making the bullpen stronger, but I do like Rivero. Hearns is a lottery ticket. Lots of articles out there about how Rivero for Melancon would’ve been enough as lots of Pundits love Felipe’s future. Some thought the Nats were stupid to make the deal.

    I think most of the consternation is from
    a) Fans thinking we’ll get a Aroldis (or now Miller) type of haul
    b) Fans thinking that this team is any good (we’re two games over .500)
    c) Fans just need to whine and moan. 🙂
    d) They read DK’s “spectaculary putrid” column on it last night. 🙂

  • The biggest disagreement I have here, as others have stated, is that this trade will somehow free Hurdle from being so rigid with his bullpen use. No way in hell do i see that happening. IF he were to use Watson ant Feliz in fireman roles, IF he were to use Locke and Neise regularly with a quick hook to the young arms, then yes, I believe our bullpen would definitely be better. But he would’ve already been doing that with MM too if that was his mindset. Unfortunately we will continue to plod along with the suboptimal rigid roles that are in place. All that said, im fine with the trade, I really don’t think it will swing any of our odds much either way and 5 years of control plus a prospect is ok. Seems like the rest of the market was a bit higher though…

    • He started doing that with Watson at the beginning of the year, before Watson was struggling. He also had the plan at the start of the year to use their middle relievers in the way I outlined above, before guys struggled and Nicasio joined the rotation.

  • No one likes to lose a known commodity for some future whatever but seriously this is not a playoff team this year. Cutch and Kang are in the tank, Jaso is doing nothing at this point. If it wasn’t for Freese and Joyce the team would be fighting to stave off the worst record in years. So lets relax and root for them to win and make the playoffs. I would guess on Tuesday that Bell will be the first baseman and Jaso might be gone in a trade for anything.

  • Really excellent analysis. Couldn’t agree more that hurdle is a slave to the save stat. Your best relievers should pitch in the most high intensity innings, matchups and moments regardless what inning it is

  • I have a hard time agreeing with this because the entire argument rest on the assumption that, he Pirates now have an advantage they didn’t have before: freedom from ridiculous inning-defined roles. Whether that assumption comes to fruition remains to be seen.

    Also I’m not sure the idea that Before the trade, Melancon was locked to the ninth inning. And there were times this year when the ball didn’t even get to him, because the
    middle relief spots were a disaster,
    is correct. Didn’t the Pirates have some record streak of not losing a game when leading after seven innings? The middle relief has been poor but that was mainly allowing teams to extend leads, not surrender Pirate’s leads. Feliz, and Watson have as many blown saves as the rest of the bullpen combined.

    In addition, Melancon was entering games in the highest average leverage state amount Pirates relievers, so while casing saves was dumb, he was still covering high leverage spots.

    I think you overstate the detriment that having defined inning roles had on the bullpen and just don’t believe that the Pirates are going to dramatically change how they use relievers.

  • You’re going out on a limb with this one, Tim….

  • An overused bullpen eventually becomes as good as its weakest link. Whether it breaks in the 5th inning or the 9th is really immaterial for once the starter has left, it becomes the BP’s responsibility, wherein all have to perform as one. That is the ideal seamless transition from starter to reliever which all managers strive to achieve and I believe that is what Tim was trying to convey.

  • Joseph Willis
    July 31, 2016 9:54 am

    Where is our what Matt Joyce, Feliz, S-Rod could go and bring back article

  • I thought I’d dislike the trade but I think NH pulled off the a master stroke in the best possible way. He traded away 2 months of MM for what looks like a reliever with the sky as his limit and a nice lottery ticket. We aren’t sacrificing our win now and we locked up the future of our bullpen.

    • Kool-Aid flavors have really expanded. What’s you favorite?

      • Because I disagree with you I’m a kool aid drinking cultist? Yea ill go ahead and wait and see how this turns out before I start being a total jerk.

    • heres a question for everyone…would the cubs have made this trade? would the cardinals have made this trade?
      enough said.

      • of course not.
        In fact the cardinals went out and got an extremely effective Zach Duke today for…………a prospect.

        • i cannot believe we are still talking about zach duke in year 2016….has he developed a knuckle ball or something? isnt he older than jamie moyer at this point?

      • Remember the Arrieta trade?

  • Tim,

    I also must add I find it comical you write a piece about the Pirates possibly liberating themselves from “defined” roles now that MM is gone the night after last night’s game. We are in the 7th and have watched Caminero do what he so often does but somehow we have a chance to get out of it with 2 outs and runners on 1st and 3rd in 7th to keep it one run game. Do you think Clint would even consider using Feliz there(yes I know he gave up homerun) or Rivero in a high leverage spot that doesn’t conform with his predefined roles. I highly doubt it.

    • Once again, Tim laid out a very logical argument. How Clint chooses to utilize his bullpen is another story.

    • They didn’t have Rivero last night. He would have been coming on instead of Caminero.

      • In a game with a deficit. I’m not so sure they use him there. And even if they did Rivero has been horrible vs lefties this year.

  • I get the point. The talent in the bullpen just went down for the balance of the year. This may not result in worse results due to more flexibility in the use of the assets. Obviously for the future the talent is better because you now have an asset for the pen for up to five more years and this doesn’t even consider the Glasnow lick lottery ticket in the deal. If you really want MM for next year he likely will still be available at the same cost he would have been without the trade unless you think he would get the QO. Btw I don’t see using a quote from a current vp to be an endorsement of said politician only an example to make a point. I will use a good quote from almost anyone because even a broken clock is right twice a day

    • MM will be a FA at end of year; he is not eligible for QO due to trade.

      • You need to factor in how the manager will use the pieces he has. Otherwise, what does it matter.

      • I am aware of that I should have said unless you think he would have received the QO if not traded.

  • Sorry Tim this is just silly. I understand the trade and probably is best for the long term. I think it’s foolish to try to spin this as some positive for the bulpen THIS year.

    1. MM was excellent in his defined role and I don’t think Watson will be as good. Watson’s FIP is about a full run higher than MM.

    2. As far as Nicasio and Rivero splitting the 7th based on matchup? Neither of them is good at getting lefties out. Rivero has reverse splits and is much better vs righties. In 2016 Rivero has been horrible vs lefties as has Nicasio

    It will still be a lot of “defined’ roles. It’s just that our options are now worse.

    Watson most likely worse than MM in 9th
    Feliz may very well be worse than Watson in 8th
    Rivero has upside but we will have to see how he does in 7th

    A bunch of same crap in middle innings like Hughes and Caminero to piss away games that are within reach like last night.

    • You lost me with the word spin.

      • You lost me at “better” this year

        • Obviously you missed the word “might”. Tim laid out a very logical argument. I don’t get the spin reference.

          • I shouldn’t have said spin. “Might” is an ambiguous word so if Tim is intimating there is very small chance the bullpen will be better (less than 10%) I would agree. But as I read it Tim was implying it was higher likelihood than that.

      • On a more seriousness note “spin” was wrong choice of words. Wrote that quickly and didn’t mean to imply you are being disingenous or had an agenda. I think you are overthinking how this could be a positive. I see what you are trying to say in theory but in how this will impact the Pirates in reality/ I don’t think we will be better in the bullpen. It could happen but I find it rather unlikely.

  • Dear friends, just to make you feel better in disputing this article I actually agree with Tim W. in some of his views on the trade/bullpen impact for the next 60 games, think we all agree that it makes us better in 2017 and beyond, of course… I understand the good points about having Melancon locking down the 9th but he has slipped a bit in the past weeks, I think a couple hiccups but my post isn’t about that it is more about flexibility in the BP… I can see real rationale for thinking that we can be using the bullpen in a less structured way to match up better with situations/lineups/who they have on the bench in this scenario.. It is just me, as I have never been wedded to the entire firm role (6/7/8/9) as most…. but this is just my view, so try to be nice 🙂 🙂

  • Tim: Good try, but even though many of us see future value in the deal, it is very difficult to justify that we are better right now by exchanging Melancon for Rivero.

    Is it time to clear out the one year lineup for the prospects who will play with more enthusiasm? They made Chase Anderson look like another Cy Young candidate last night.

    • Melancon was a very good player and well liked unfortunately they need to jump start the weak and inefficient offense. Kang and Cutch are killing this team. Marte and Polanco need to go to T ball to learn baserunning. Everyday the lineup is continually changing with poor offense stats getting rewarded with more playing time. This trade cannot be justified under the current weak performing offense.

      • It’s not only Kang and Cutch.

        In July JHay has hit .219 and drawn 2 BBs. Jaso has hit .211 with 3 RBIs. His touted ability to get on base has been bolstered by 4 walks for the month.

        Poor base running has for some untold reason been a problem.

      • well put, Biagio….I am a lifetime huge Cutch fan, but, on most other teams, they would have dropped him in the order by now (maybe hit him 6th?)…Kang should actually be sent to AAA until these whole personal issues are resolved (my guess is that Cubs ownership is asking their local authorities to “investigate this” throughout the baseball season…i really wonder what those fuckin cubs will have in store for him next season? maybe visa related? have him deported?)

  • Tim, you like lots of Joe Biden fans, live in the world of what makes sense in your head logically must be true. In the real world, having MM in the Closer role has resulted in the Pirates winning 80 straight games when leading after 8 innings. You completely undersell this fact in your article to the point of not even mentioning it. This is the one and only stat that counts for a Closer! And nobody does it better than MM did for the Pirates.

    I’ll happily tell you I’m wrong and you’re right when the Pirates win their 161st straight game when leading after 8 innings. Until then, put me in the this trade sucks for Pirates category!

    • Agree

    • The Pirates winning 80 straight after 8 isn’t all on Melancon. He blew two saves this month that they won. He’s a very good closer, but the team picked him up a few times along the way to keep that streak going. You could just talk about how good Melancon is to make a point about him. That streak doesn’t entirely reflect Melancon’s skills.

      • tiredofallthis
        July 31, 2016 2:11 pm

        Again, unbelievable. Melancon has the most saves in baseball since the beginning of 2014. I think he blew saves in 5 out of those last 80 games, but he didn’t give up the lead so the Pitates still had the chance to win. Is there anything you won’t say in your effort to minimize the negative impact trading Melancon will have on the remainder of this season?

        • Again, I’ve said repeatedly that Melancon is a great reliever. But that 80 straight stat is about more than him. They’ve done that at times in spite of him. And that doesn’t make him any less of a reliever, since even the best relievers have a bad outing.

  • Tim
    You make a theoretical argument that the Pirates bullpen might actually be better this year after trading our 3-time All-Star closer who is performing at his peak? Assuming this is not a joke and test to see if we are paying attention, you then go on to provide the reality check on why the bullpen is worse.
    As you point out, Clint has been a slave to the closer stat and limited his best reliever(Melancon) to the “closer” role even when it was not a pressure situation. Why, because Melancon “earned it” it. Neal Huntington says the same damn thing. Unfortunately, the party line now is that Watson has earned the closer role and the chance for his big payday because that is the way the industry works.
    Your argument is based upon the premise that the Pirates COULD be more flexible in their use of Watson outside of the closer role….and could be freed from the ridiculous inning defined roles. However, the guy that matters said “guys don’t get paid for holds” and “our club is better suited with one closer.”
    The All-Star with the out pitch making $9.6M is gone, replaced by a guy making $516K with one save to his credit. Immediately after the trade the manager confirms that he will be a slave to the fixed closer role, defeating your entire premise that flexibility will provide the opportunity for improvement.
    I thank the fans deserve an article focused on the opportunity to get a starter before the deadline. If the GM does not do that it will confirm what many have suspected about this year, try to compete while dumping salary(Morton, Walker, now Melancon). Hoard prospects…..and to what end?

    • Walker’s salary was replaced with Niese’s salary. No dumping in that case.

      • True. We are trying to dump Niese now with no takers. Mets dumped Niese on us. If we had taken the the fringe prospects on a pure salary dump the press and fans would have screamed.

        • You’re right. And I thought Niese would be a good fit. If NH had done something, almost anything, to grasp the escalating cost of SP, it’s possible he could have gotten an upgrade. But, the Searage myth about fixing pitchers bit him in the behind.

    • “Hoard prospects…..and to what end?”

      They hoarded Cole, Marte, Polanco, Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, and others. So the end would be a very talented, very young group of players.

      • I am not talking about the elites or the untouchables. We have excess talent to go get a starter and if he doesn’t make a move to get one the fans and the team have a right to be upset.

        ANSWER: Hoard excess prospects instead of using them to improve the team and increase our chances of making the playoffs.

        • They’ve traded plenty of prospects the last few years if you remove the elite prospects. Off the top of my head you’ve got JaCoby Jones, Adrian Sampson, Yhonathan Barrios, Dilson Herrera, Vic Black, Buddy Borden, Trey Supak, Keon Broxton (the last two in a questionable trade), Shane Carle, Kyle Hayes, and so on.

          • I am talking about the present. We are loaded with prospects. We were, before the worst three performances of the year, in contention for the playoff lottery ticket. The move to trade our All-Star closer does not improve the team’s chances. Your theory about increased flexibility has been emphatically rejected by manager’s announced plan.
            For what it’s worth I still hold out hope Jaso, Rogers and prospects are dealt for pitching help before COB tomorrow. And if Cutch can’t act and perform like a leader then its time to move on. My eyes and his performance tell me holding out hope for an improvement that will increase his value may be a mistake.

  • well lets start to get value for freese, joyce, feliz, jaso ,locke, stewart,kang,hughes,liriano, and niece. prospects with no rule 5 issues and mlb’er with some year’s of control and minor league options left and maybe some talent and upside would do the trick.

    • Hell yeah…if we’re gonna give up let’s blow it up. Just give us 12 minutes of fireworks after every home game and a coupon for an ice cream cone and the fans won’t know the difference.

  • The Pirates are a weaker team in 2016 because of this trade, period. The Nationals – a team the Pirates would likely have to play and beat to make the WS – has become a stronger team because of this trade, period.

    Now, if the Pirates were to go out and get a starting pitcher using the money they “saved” by trading Melanceon, you could argue they would be a better team in 2016, in part due to this trade.You could also argue that the Pirates aren’t going anywhere in 2016, so the upside the Melanceon trade gives you for 2017 and beyond makes the trade worthwhile. But facts are facts. The Pirates made themselves weaker this year and made the competition better this year on purpose, Tim. Those are the facts about this trade.

    Saying that exchanging a great pitcher for a lessor pitcher somehow makes this year’s team better strains credibility and sounds foolish, Tim. Get real.

    • The money the Pirates saved on Walker’s contract they could have spent it in J.A. Happ and didn’t so what makes you think they will do it this year. More Niese and Voglesongs??? BYW, did you see Happ’s record??? last I looked he had like 12 Ws.

      • Look again. It’s 14.

        I’ve gone on record as noting that was the singlemost stupid thing NH has done in his tenure. Let’s recap how that went down again:

        a) Bucs need to bolster their rotation
        b) NH and staff has liked Happ for awhile and think they can turn him into a better pitcher
        c) Surprise! They turn him into a better pitcher
        d) Happ becomes the 2nd best LHP in baseball post ASG
        e) Happ wants Liriano money (after all, he’s now a 3.4 fWAR pitcher to Frankie’s 3.6)
        f) NH doesn’t want to pay, thinking it’s too high
        g) Happ continues being an excellent LHP
        h) NH signs Jon Niese
        i) Bucs flounder, Jays are playoff bound

        I keep hearing the BS about “he was only good for a half season” thus not worth the money. That’s not the point at all. NH did what NH does – he correctly identified a project they could fix and fixed it, even better than they did Volquez. And what about Volquez? He’s still doing better than he was before the Bucs fixed him. Who have they fixed that fell apart the moment they left the Bucs? Nobody.

        If the idea of fixing pitchers is to add value so they can flip them for something of equal/greater value, that would be a plan. But to fix pitchers and then simply let them walk because NH thinks that somehow they’re “ungrateful” by asking for more money (his direct quote), then that enters hubris territory. And hubris, IMO, is why we’re sitting in the crappy position we’re at right now.

        Anyway, please stop saying Hughes “has been better of late”. Or Gas Cam for that matter. They both suck goat butt. And Clint’s management of the pen last night might’ve been the worst I’ve seen in five years.

      • piraterican21
        July 31, 2016 10:48 am

        Happ was signed by the Jays way before the Walker trade.

        • Do you think that NH wasnt aware that he would be trading Walker? Was it a surprise to him? The chronology of the moves doesn’t change the point. They couldve signed Happ knowing that they would be looking to trade Walker

  • gosteelers69
    July 31, 2016 6:21 am

    I don’t mind a perspective like this at all – this is why I subscribe and love this site.

    As for the trade, I look at the upside of it and will take a wait-and-see approach. The FO has done a pretty darn good job in similar trades, so they at least deserve the benefit of the doubt right now. Time will tell, but I like the trade.

    As for the bullpen itself, it’s terrible. We all feel the same way regardless of stats … of late. The starting rotation is just as bad … although it’s encouraging to see the young guys getting results. This patchwork group (starters/bullpen) didn’t work out this season. It looked shaky on paper, and the results backed it up.

    On the offensive side of things, our star player continues his downward decent to the point of rare MLB territory for a player under the age of 30. I’ll refrain from any further comment on this pain point.

    As we all agree, it hasn’t been pretty this season. But this team is to still above .500 and within a WC spot. Crazy! No, I have no excitement or anticipation right now. Quite the opposite.

    Regardless, this season really is a bridge to the future. Many of us stated as much in March. Nothing has changed in opinions; now we are starting to see what many on this site expected. I still hope for a winning record and WC birth. I do!

    Anyway, long-term vision is the key, folks. keep the faith!!

  • Who the heck is joe biden and seriously who cares.

  • Unbelievable. You really think the Pirates bullpen will be improved by trading away Melancon? Did you watch the game last night? Who impressed you, Caminero? Niese? Feliz? Watson? They all sucked. In case you didn’t know, the Pirates had won 80 straight games in which Melancon came in to close. They hadn’t lost a game where Melancon was the closer since April, 2015. If you want to argue that the trade makes sense because MM was going to leave in free agency, fine. I don’t agree because I think they waved the white flag on the season by doing it, but it is not totally unreasonable. But don’t insult my intelligence by claiming that giving up your top five closer improves the bullpen. Put as much lipstick as you want on this pig, it’s still a pig.

    • BallHeadWonder
      July 31, 2016 5:52 am

      I still have to disagree with you Big Brotha!! I watched the game last night and Melancon would not have pitched!! We have a .500 Ballclub!! It’s not happening for us this season!! Am I praying and hoping and rooting?? Absolutely!! But the way we look on offense, spoiling a great outing by Taillon is frustrating as hell!! So you can say we waving the white towel all you want, but if we don’t hit the ball, you can’t win ball games!! Especially against a 5-10 and over 5 ERA pitcher!! And Frankie’s ass on the mound tomorrow?? Good Luck with that!!! Got to depend on him to salvage this embarrassing weekend??? Yea ok!! We can’t even begin to evaluate our closer situation!!!

      • First, last night 2-1 game in bottom 7th inning, 2 outs, lefty comes to bat. Who does CH call in to face him? Jon Niese. If MM was on team, CH calls on Watson. Does the outcome of game change? Who knows, but saying not having MM didnt affect game is just flat wrong.

        Second, the team looked like they had zero energy last night. As if the GM had traded away their most reliable arm in the heart of a playoff chase for a couple of maybe arms. If you don’t think one is related to the other, you don’t understand human nature very well.

        • What was their (the players) excuse then on Friday night? Or previous games (years) against Milwaukee? The Buccos need to put their big boy pants on and play winning baseball – if not, this is what happens and you try again next year.

          • Scott Kliesen
            July 31, 2016 8:34 am

            Friday night and years past is irrelevant. Yesterday the GM sent the team a clear message. I care more about the future than the present. You can try to spin it any way you want, but that’s the fact.

            • But you are talking causality, and that their lack of energy was due to that trade….Maybe if they hadnt shown that same lack of energy all season long, and have played to their potential, they would be in a better position, and MM wouldnt have been traded.

              I doubt NH makes this trade if they were 1 game back of the Cubs for the division. But when you are a .500 team, you put yourselves in a position for something like this to happen.

              • Scott Kliesen
                July 31, 2016 9:30 am

                You do realize when this trade was made the team was 1 game back in the loss column from being in the playoffs? And when the media first reported MM was being discussed in trade talks they were 4 games above .500?

                Spin it all you want, but the fact is the GM traded away the most reliable arm in the heart of a playoff race.

              • Was their position that terrible? They had the easiest schedule in baseball the second half of the year and were only 3 games out of a playoff spot despite the rotation falling apart and their best player slumping the whole year. Again, only 3 games out despite those troubles. Now was not the time to get rid of your closer

                • michael schalke
                  July 31, 2016 11:49 am

                  It was actually the right time to do it for exactly those reasons.

                  • Except we’re in a playoff chase. Trading from a position of strength to improve your playoff competition never makes sense unless they go full blown seller and flush 2016.

            • In no way is it spin or anything close to it… they had zero “energy” Friday – I’m asking what the excuse for that is. Could be they’re just not that good.

              • Scott Kliesen
                July 31, 2016 8:50 am

                You and NH both think they’re just not that good.

                • piraterican21
                  July 31, 2016 10:47 am

                  Ooh, ooh, count me in on the column that think this team is not good enough! I mean you have seem our starters, the performance of McCuth, Kang, Harrison, Cervelli, Jaso and middle relieve (#free Shugle) the team has been carried by the bench, a bench that will not be here next season.

        • Kris Mosley
          July 31, 2016 8:12 am

          Hurdle hasn’t shown all year that he would use Watson in a “LOOGY” role, without the lead.
          What makes you think he would’ve done so last night?

          • Scott Kliesen
            July 31, 2016 8:37 am

            You’re right, Watson or Felix would’ve started the inning instead of Camineiro.

        • If grown men being paid a not insignificant amount of money to play a game, mope around at the loss of a teammate, and give less than their best effort, they should consider a different career.

          • michael schalke
            July 31, 2016 11:52 am


          • Scott Kliesen
            July 31, 2016 1:01 pm

            Baseball players, due to playing daily, are conditioned to move on quickly from losses. And I’m sure this situation will be no different. However, if you think their rate of pay or career choice makes them immune to human sentiment, than your mistaken.

            • You’re talking nonsense, these guys understand this is a business. You seem to be the one having a hard time dealing with this and you’re projecting that on the team. Time to grow up, this isn’t little league.

            • This is such an obtuse topic I really don’t know why I am debating it. The money references was a nod to the concept that only a select few individuals have the skills and mental makeup to play in the major leagues. If you cannot handle failure, cannot deal with adversity, and the ups and downs of life, you don’t make it.

              Additionally, why do you assume that it is human nature to become downtrodden and performance to slack in the face of adversity? Could it not be just the opposite?

    • Agreed. Just because a guy is a rental, it doesn’t mean that any return makes your team automatically better. If what we got from Washington is the best offer out there, then I would rather let Melancon walk for nothing and spend the 10M in we no longer have to pay him on as many relievers as necessary.

    • You’re actually helping my case. Those guys are all now moved down in the pecking order when Rivero arrives. Except Feliz and Watson, who definitely don’t suck.

      • I disagree. There is no way the Pirates bullpen is better this year with this trade. They basically swapped their elite closer for a pitcher with an ERA over 4. There is no rationalization that justifies this idea that the bullpen is suddenly better now

        • The ERA doesn’t reflect the pitcher. That’s the same argument that was made against Melancon when he joined the team.

          • That doesn’t mean ERA doesn’t matter either. Not giving up runs is the name of the game after all, so it doesnt mean nothing.

            But the first Melancon deal isn’t a very compatible example to this one. Melancon wasn’t the headliner. He was a throw in. Pimentel and Sands were considered the pieces of value. So I don’t really even remember many making an argument against Melancon at all. We all knew he was a lottery ticket. It just happened to work out. This deal is nothing like the deal in 2012. The Melancon of that deal is headlining this one. So the situation is different. If the Pirates had moved Hanrahan for just Melancon and a low A ball reliever back in 2012, would you have been okay with that deal? I certainly wouldn’t have applauded them for it at the time.

            • Melancon wasn’t a throw-in. He and Sands were the main pieces. Melancon was expected to come in and fill a bigger role than Rivero.

              Pimentel was a big lottery ticket and De Jesus was more of a throw-in.

              As for ERA, it doesn’t matter when determining future production. Take out a really bad two week stretch from Rivero in June and his ERA goes way down, matching his xFIP. Relievers have such a small sample size that 2-3 bad outings can really inflate their numbers.

              • The pitcher with a 6 ERA was the main piece? That sounds like a throw in to me. Pimentel was a top 10 prospect in the Red Sox system with middle to back of the rotation starter projection if I remember correctly.

                Fair point with ERA but it works against you. If I take away two good weeks, his numbers likely look like garbage. But I’m not necessarily using ERA to determine future production. I’m using it to judge his past production and making a logical assumption that past performance is indicative, to a degree, of future performance. For example, Clayton Kershaw is sub 2.5 ERA for the last 6 years or so, so I believe that it’s fair to assume that he’ll likely be a sub 2.5 ERA pitcher next year as well. Anomalies happen obviously where that assumption is wrong, look at McCutchen or Arrieta. But for the most part, when the pitcher you have owns an ERA around or over 4, that’s most likely the pitcher you’ll have. Again, I could be wrong, but I would think a player playing to his career averages is just a tad more reasonable than assuming that Rivero will eventually make the jump from average to elite.

      • tiredofallthis
        July 31, 2016 2:07 pm

        Help your case?? Really?!!! If you truly think that trading away Melancon improved our bullpen, you are hopelessly delusional.

        • Or just someone who thinks outside the box and doesn’t like traditional bullpen roles.

          • Name me one MLB team that doesn’t have traditional bullpen roles. The Royals won the WS last season with clearly defined bullpen roles.

          • The manager has emphatically stated who will be his 7, 8 and 9th inning pitchers. So how does your statement that we are better hold water if your concept has no chance of implementation?