Every offseason brings a list of roster decisions for teams to make. You’ve got arbitration eligible players, players who are out of options, non-tender decisions, options to be decided on, and so on.
The Pirates have more than the basic decisions to make this year. They have the normal stuff that relates to options years, arbitration eligible players, and non-tender candidates. As I wrote yesterday, they already project to have a payroll near $100 M, and that’s without any other additions. They will most likely need to cut payroll in some areas, in order to spend in other areas. I’ll be breaking down that potential juggling act tomorrow. Today, we’ll just be looking at the standard roster decisions on the table.
Here is a rundown of the players who have key roster decisions, along with some analysis on what I think the Pirates will do in each section.
Jordy Mercer – 3rd Year
George Kontos – 3rd Year*
Gerrit Cole – 2nd Year
Felipe Rivero – 1st Year*
*Has four years of arbitration
The biggest cases here will be Gerrit Cole and Felipe Rivero. Cole is arbitration eligible for the second of three years, and as a Scott Boras client, he will end up going year-to-year. He’s coming off a bad season by his standards, which followed an injury-ridden 2016 season. However, the arbitration process takes into account his entire career, so expect him to get a good raise, even with the last two years of performance.
It’s hard to tell what Rivero will make, as arbitration pays heavily for saves, and he doesn’t have a lot of saves in his early career. He’s also Super Two eligible, so this amount could be significant down the line, as it will set the stage for three more years of arbitration following years where he will be getting a lot of saves.
Jordy Mercer is in his final year of arbitration. The Pirates and Mercer were both open to an extension last offseason, but nothing came from that. I could see them going for a Clint Barmes type extension this year, as they won’t have a shortstop prospect ready until at least the middle of the 2018 season, and might need Mercer as a bench guy and a mentor when that player is ready to take over.
George Kontos has two years of arbitration remaining, and is due a raise over his $1.75 M. I think the Pirates will keep him, as they added him right after the trade deadline with an eye on the 2018 season. I could see them making a Wade LeBlanc type deal, where they sign him to a one year deal with an option for a second year.
OUT OF OPTIONS
I’m not sure if Nick Kingham is out of options, since he may qualify for a fourth option year due to his Tommy John surgery. The fact that the Pirates didn’t call him up makes me lean more toward the idea that he will get a fourth option year.
I think A.J. Schugel could have an inside track on one of the bullpen spots, due mostly to his option situation, but also because of his performance the last two years.
Elias Diaz will almost certainly be on the team, with the only way he wouldn’t be on the roster being a trade. He’s out of options, and I can’t see the Pirates letting him walk and paying Chris Stewart $1.5 M to be the backup.
I’m not sure what the deal is with Dan Runzler. He was a surprise addition in September, but I could see him being non-tendered.
LeBlanc has a $1.25 M option with a $50,000 buyout, and I think the Pirates will choose the buyout. I also don’t see Runzler sticking around on the 40-man, since he’s older and out of options. I could see Stewart getting traded or bought out, since they don’t need to pay his $1.5 M option with Elias Diaz around.
The Pirates claimed Leathersich in September, although he’s the type of guy who they might try to sneak through waivers in the offseason. Gift Ngoepe didn’t get a callup in September, which isn’t really a good sign. His future role is bench depth, and the Pirates didn’t call him up when they needed extra bench players. They also don’t have much room in a crowded Indianapolis infield next year, so he would be expendable.