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Pirates Notes: The 2017 Bench, Bonilla’s MLB Deal, Eric Wood and the Rule 5 Draft

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Here are a few thoughts and notes from some of the transactions that have taken place this week.

**Matt Joyce signed with the Athletics yesterday for two years and $11 M. Last year, the Pirates signed Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and David Freese for a combined total of $6.5 M. This year, they all received two-year deals for around $11 M total, with Freese getting an extension from the Pirates during the 2016 season.

There wasn’t much need for Joyce on the team, considering the lack of playing time he would receive in the outfield. He’s probably lined up for a starting role or at least a platoon role in Oakland. Even if the Pirates trade Andrew McCutchen this off-season, Joyce would have been an expensive bench player.

The current bench looks to include Freese, John Jaso, Chris Stewart, and Adam Frazier, and one spot open. The Pirates have Alen Hanson and Jason Rogers out of options. I don’t know if their bench is set this year, but I don’t see them adding guys at the same rate that they added options last off-season. Joyce was a minor league deal, while Rodriguez and Freese joined the Pirates on major league deals. I think if we see anything, it would be a move like Joyce, where a veteran is brought in to compete for a job, with a chance to work his way in the mix by the end of Spring Training.

**There were a few questions that I saw wondering why Lisalverto Bonilla received a major league deal and a spot on the 40-man roster. The simple answer is that the Pirates (and all teams in this situation) feel that the player wouldn’t be obtainable on a minor league deal. This is why Jose Osuna and Dovydas Neverauskas were added to the 40-man roster this off-season, rather than the Pirates trying to re-sign them to minor league deals like they did with Jared Lakind. It was the same situation last year with Gift Ngoepe. And while neither made an impact, it was the same reason they signed Jake Goebbert and Trey Haley to MLB deals last off-season.

As for the player, John Dreker had a write up of Bonilla’s skills if you want a detailed report. He seems like a good depth option, with a shot to be middle relief depth and a heavy ground ball pitcher, and an outside shot to make a few starts one day as depth for the rotation.

**Why did the Pirates leave Eric Wood unprotected when they were going to just DFA Jeff Locke about two weeks later? I’ve seen that question often, and especially after the move yesterday. We’ve written a few articles on this, but just to repeat, third basemen rarely get selected in the Rule 5 draft. If Wood is the exception, then it would also be rare for him to be protected all year. There’s a difference between a good prospect and a guy who could stick in the majors all year right now. Wood is only one of those things at the moment.

That’s why the Pirates didn’t protect him. They’re taking the chance that he either won’t be drafted, or won’t be protected. Historically speaking, that’s a good risk to take. And by leaving him unprotected, they keep a roster spot open all off-season. Yes, Jeff Locke was going to be non-tendered or DFAd, so they could have had a spot for Wood. But that’s short-sighted, only focusing on the 40-man roster over a two week span in November. In the long-term view of the off-season, they’re going to need that spot for 2017 additions.

This situation comes up once a year, although maybe not to the extreme as the situation with Wood this year. Last year it was Barrett Barnes and Clay Holmes. A few years ago, it was Zack Thornton mentioned as the big prospect they could lose in the Rule 5 draft. Yhonathan Barrios was also on the popular list one year. We’ll see what happens with Wood exactly a week from today.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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