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Pirates Q&A: Proposed Rule Changes, The Business of Baseball, Roster Decisions


Here’s one final batch of questions from this past week before I dig into Spring Training coverage the rest of the week…

Rule Changes

Sam T – When the NL adopts the DH (which it inevitably will), how do you think that changes the Pirates approach to extensions? Does it make them more likely to sign aging vets who are losing defensive value but still have valuable bats? If it is adopted this year, who becomes the de facto DH and would you expect the Pirates to sign a veteran bat?

Tim: I don’t think there’s any chance it will be adopted this year. It could change their approach to extensions, although the idea that aging vets would only lose value defensively and not offensively (where their bat speed would likely slow down) doesn’t seem like it would be common.

I think the benefit to the Pirates would be with guys like Josh Bell, who are a defensive liability in their 20s, but could have some value with the bat. I’d imagine it would help Bell if he spent all of his time focusing on hitting, rather than spending time working on his defense at first base.

Jim Deweese – Much as it distresses me, it seems as if the DH is coming to NL baseball, perhaps as early as 2020 (although more likely in the next CBA) 
As our roster stand today, is there anyone other than Bell or Craig (Kang will likely be gone) that would make sense in 2020 who is currently on the team/Farm? I don’t see one…

Tim: Bell would make the most sense, especially if Craig arrives as a starting option. Craig can play defense at first, and definitely won’t lose value at the position. I wouldn’t say that he’s an option for the DH role in the same way that Bell would be an option.

I think the biggest benefit in the farm system would be that you could have a path to the majors for certain players who are either blocked or who have defensive issues. I wonder how things would have played out for some guys like Jose Osuna or Jin-De Jhang if they never had to worry about defense and only focused on the offense. I have a feeling we will get a better idea of that in the future.

joe s – The ML PLAYERS association is proposing a rule change to punish teams with losing records by dropping their draft position ten slots or more. I think it’s wrong. What is your view of thier suggestion.?

Tim: I think it’s a bad idea. I understand the reasoning: they want teams to try to contend every year, and they want to disincentivize tanking. The problem is that I believe they’re trying to fix a symptom without treating the disease.

Who are the teams who would be impacted the most by seeing their draft spot lowered if they don’t win? Small market teams who are rebuilding. The big market teams see quicker turnarounds if they rebuild because they can spend a lot more money. The small market teams take the tanking approach because it tries to speed up the process, but even then the rebuilding process can take a few years. Also there’s the factor that a higher draft pick impacts a small market team more than a big market team.

The best approach for MLBPA would be to focus on leveling the financial playing field for all teams. If you did that, you’d create a market where 30 teams would always be legit contenders for every available player, since no team would have the current financial restrictions they do now. You also wouldn’t need to worry about giving teams an incentive to spend, since you’d have more teams able to spend on players, even with the normal rebuilding teams.

JamosLN50 – Does the minimum 3 batter rule for relief pitchers decrease the chances of LOOGYs Liriano and Lyons making the opening day roster?

Tim: It would if you believed the Pirates were intending on using one of those guys as a LOOGY. Based on their previous approaches, the Pirates will use those guys as regular relievers, pitching to both sides of the plate. This rule won’t go into effect in 2019, if it does at all. But if it did, it wouldn’t impact their approach with those lefties.

The Business of Baseball

ironkett – Who do you see as major players for the next TV deal? Do you think there is any chance that a non-traditional contender (non-cable) enters the mix or am I stuck with cable until I move out of pittsburgh?

Tim: Honestly I’m not familiar with the Pittsburgh market. I know of ROOT because that’s the current network. I know of KDKA, but don’t know if they do much (I believe the Steelers are on that network). If there’s a non-traditional contender, I’d think it would be MLB buying a regional sports network, and the Pirates going that route, getting the full benefits of the advertising shown during the games.

Kevin S – With the tv contract expiring what kind deal do u think pirates will get and will it raise payroll or do we need to get it our head that it will never change

Tim: I think they need to hope and aim for something in the $30-40 M range, which is comparable to other markets like the Cardinals, Reds, Indians, etc. That extra $10-20 M should lead to an increase in payroll. I say “should” because they’re already talking about how payroll is low this year, but will go up next year due to arbitration raises, all while failing to mention the likely possibility of revenues going up with the new TV deal.

mw24 – Any update on the player union grievance against the Bucs/As/Rays/Marlins for not spending revenue sharing $s appropriately? Bucs do not seem to be concerned, having dropped payroll $20M this year.

Tim: That grievance was a joke. There was nothing to it. The MLBPA realized they made a bad deal during the last CBA, and that was a desperate attempt to force teams to spend money on players. They also couldn’t target the big market teams who weren’t spending, since they don’t receive revenue sharing. We might see them try the same thing this year, but if they do, realize that they’re trying to counter a league-wide problem, but can only target a few teams at the bottom. Ultimately they’ll be ineffective because of the CBA they agreed to. This isn’t excusing the owners, just saying that the players don’t have much of a chance to change things.

Roster Questions

Lee Fieux – Some pitching metrics say that Williams will regress to the mean (eg, FIP), while others suggest that he can keep up his effective pitching (Hard Hit Ball %). What Say Ye?

Tim: I’m concerned that he’ll regress, due to the numbers that lead into FIP. I think he’ll still be an effective MLB starter, but I don’t think we can expect what he did last year without more strikeouts, or without him just becoming the next Jeremy Hellickson type guy who consistently out-performs his FIP.

jimmyz – As the roster currently stands, outfield depth seems thin in terms of either Dickerson or Marte getting injured quickly unravels the front office’s plans. With Chisenhall set to open for Polanco, is Kivlehan the early season 4th outfielder? Does Reyes or Osuna make the opening day roster? Or does Frazier move back to the grass?

Tim: This question came before the addition of Melky Cabrera, although I don’t think that helps the proposed problem. I would think that the early-season backup plan would be Frazier moving back to the outfield with someone else taking over at second, since their depth is stronger for the middle infield spots. But the Pirates might also want to keep Frazier set on one position.

I’ll have to defer this to what we see in Spring Training. The key factors would be how soon can Gregory Polanco get back, and which of the potential bench or depth guys will step up in Spring Training?

AttyMike – Why is Chisenhall a better option in RF than Osuna? Asking b/c of the difference in the ZIPS projections for those players. Also, does Keller have a similar problem to Glasnow, i.e. a lack of effective change up and will that impact his transition/timing to the bigs? Does Kang have a better chance of being the starter or being cut out of Spring Training?

Tim: When healthy, Chisenhall has put up some good numbers the last two years, while Osuna has yet to put up good numbers in the majors. The ZiPS projections were similar, but those projections match what we’ve seen from Chisenhall, while projecting something that has yet to happen with Osuna.

Keller and Glasnow aren’t similar. I’d say that Keller is closer to Taillon and Cole in terms of his eventual transition to the majors.

Kang will end up as a bench player out of camp. I don’t see him being a starter at the beginning of the year unless Moran gets hurt.

ironmike56 – Looking at the remaining free agents as of February 8th, if you were GM and your payroll budget was $85 million to start 2019, who would you sign to improve the club at shortstop and as a starting pitcher?

Tim: Out of the shortstops, Marwin Gonzalez looks like the best gamble for that price range. I really like Brett Anderson for an inexplicable reason, but he just signed. Also I don’t think the Pirates are looking at a starter. I’m not even sure they’re looking at a shortstop, but that would be a priority for me.

IC Bob – Now that Realmuto has found a team does this increase the likelihood we trade Cervelli?

ironmike56 – Cervelli is in the final year of a contract with a 11.5M price tag. The Bucs rarely keep that profile.
Do you think the Pirates deal him now for salary relief and a lottery ticket or give him away at the deadline?
My opinion is we are better off keeping him and hoping for good health but so many times we have seen the contract go away with a broken promise to spend the savings.

Tim: I’m not sure how the Realmuto deal impacts Cervelli, or if the Pirates are still looking to move him. They don’t need to move him, and unless they’re going to sign Machado (unlikely), I don’t think it makes any sense to clear his salary off the books.

clemo83 – Where are the home runs coming from on this team? The lack of home runs was a real Achilles heel last year and stagnated the offense for long stretches (insert good stat to support this point, that I’m too lazy to look up). Without Polanco the power potential seems worse on this team. Can they be truly competitive this year without having a single guy hitting over 20 hrs? Can this team overcome a similar anemic stretches of no power like last year?

Tim: I think the hope would be that Bell and Moran tap into their power potential under a new hitting coach. Also, Polanco was showing good power last year before he got hurt, and if he can return early and pick up where he left off, that would be good. I actually think they could have multiple 20+ home run hitters, just between those guys, Corey Dickerson, and Starling Marte.

Micbg77 – One of the guys I am most curious about is Kingham. I’ve seen a lot of questions in prior Q&A’s about what his role will be this season but my question is regarding how you view his potential, and what he needs to fix if he wants to stick in an MLB rotation. I’ve seen commentary on other sites like Fangraphs and Pitcherlist that hold Kingham in high regard with loads of potential but I am getting the sense that he is an afterthought now for the Pirates.

Paul Kraybill – Nick Kingham (pre-injury) seemed like a #3 workhorse. Post injury he seemed to lose some of his stuff until a stretch last year where he looked real sharp including his first couple of starts in the majors. What is your opinion of his current stuff… same as pre-injury or did he lose a little? My net concern is if he really can be a #3 workhorse why isn’t he being given more of a shot for the 5th rotation spot?

Tim: I had Kingham as a potential #3 workhorse before his injuries. He still has the frame and the stuff to get there, and I think he could benefit from some of the same changes that Jameson Taillon and others went through last year regarding his pitch usage. He did see a drop in his velocity and his control immediately after the injury, but that has improved in the time since.

I’ve been very bullish on Kingham for the better part of a decade now. I’ve lowered my prediction a bit to him being a #4-5 starter, but still having the capability to be a major league starter. I think he’s not getting more of a shot at the starting job on Opening Day because Lyles (who has the inside track and will likely get the job) has MLB success over Kingham.

Quick Hits

Darkstone42 – Here’s a trivia question:

Which current member of the Pirates is named in a Macklemore song?

Tim: I don’t know the answer, but can we request a trade when we figure it out?

Michael B – When is the site going to go back behind a paywall? Just curious.

Tim: I’m hoping this week. It’s been a long, tedious process, and has taken a back seat at times to writing the book and other site stuff. I do want to get it back behind a paywall now that Spring Training and the season are starting up.

dr dng – Tim,
Always love your Bradenton visitors guide.
Retiring and hope to get there next year.
One thing you have not mentioned is
how is the golf in the area? Isn’t there a
course basically on the Pirates “campus?”
What is it like? Do the Pirates players
play during spring training or could it
mess up their spring.

Tim: Was this in iambic pentameter?

The visitors guide gets released tomorrow morning. I don’t play much golf these days, outside of Top Golf, but there’s no shortage of places to play. I’ve never played River Run, which is the course by Pirate City, but I’ve heard it’s good. I’ve played at The River Club near I-75, and really liked it. One hole has an island green, and another lets you drive through the woods into an open field on the other side. IMG is a good course, but I think they might be private now.

Check out Golf Now for some great rates. I don’t know how great they’ll be in March. However, I’ve played twice in a week in the past at some nice courses for about $15, riding 18 holes.

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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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