How Should the Pirates Proceed?

The Pirates have made a few moves so far this offseason but the team is by no means complete. Logically this raise the question what should the team do next? Well I figured this was as good a time as any to take a look at where the team as constructed stands.

Catcher

Starter: Russell Martin

Backup: Michael McKenry

Depth: Tony Sanchez, Ramon Cabrera, Ali Solis

Outlook: The Pirates have a solid starter in Martin who will hopefully put up average numbers for the position and a decent backup in McKenry they know is ready to step up and take a good chunk of playing time should he be called on to do so. In addition the Pirates have two solid prospects in Sanchez and Cabrera waiting at the AAA level and added Solis to serve as emergency depth just like Eric Fryer did last season. In an ideal world you would like to see the Pirates add a veteran 3rd catcher, much like Jose Morales last season, but in all likelihood what you see is what you are going to get here and that really isn’t a bad thing.

Infield (2B/3B/SS)

Starters: Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes

Backups: Brock Holt, Josh Harrison, Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer

Depth: Anderson Hernandez, Jared Goedert

Outlook: The Pirates have two of thier key regulars in Walker and Alvarez manning 2B and 3B respectively. At the other starting positions Clint Barmes provides a great glove but a weak bat so in an ideal situation looking for an upgrade over him would be on the agenda. In the real world immediate upgrades at the shortstop position are hard to come by so the Pirates should be looking for a replacement for Barmes in 2014 and beyond. The bench provides an interesting cast of characters who can play all 3 positions but not one of them is a proven commodity. Keeping two of them on the major league bench would be a bad idea so the Pirates should be exploring the market for a backup at these positions. As far as depth is concerned the Pirates have a couple minor league veterans should an emergency arise.

Outfield (1B/OF)

Starters: Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Travis Snider

Backups: Clint Robinson, Jose Tabata, Alex Presley

Depth: Matt Curry, Matt Hague, Jeff Larish, Felix Pie, Darren Ford, Adalberto Santos

Outlook: The Pirates have a lot of talent in the 1B/OF department but also a lot of question marks. At 1B Jones and Sanchez has the making of a good platoon but the Pirates are shopping Jones which is the right move considering his contract situation and the year he is coming off of. The Pirates shouldn’t trade him for nothing but a good return such as a shortstop for 2014 and beyond needs to be taken if offered. In the outfield the Pirates have one of the best players in the game in McCutchen and two young unproven players in Marte and Snider. Ideally you don’t want both players starting in the outfield to begin the season but once again this isn’t an ideal world. The Pirates should be considering bringing in a more proven outfielder but I understand the reasons they may choose not to do so. As far as the backups go Robinson provides the Pirates with an interesting fall back choice should they be successful in trading Jones. It would be risky to go into the season with him and Sanchez manning 1B but it might just be worth it. As the roster is currently constructed Presley and Tabata figure to fight for one bench spot. Presley is the more prototypical 4th outfielder but Tabata has the OBP skills the team is missing and since he is a righty would be able to spell Snider against tough lefties. Between those two the Pirates should have a solid 4th outfielder. As far as depth the Pirates have two solid prospects in Curry and Santos waiting in the wings and have a plethora of minor league depth to call upon if needed.

Rotation

Locks: AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald

Competing: Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro, Rick VandenHurk

Depth: Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, Phillip Irwin, Brandon Cumpton, Brooks Brown, Zach Stewart, Chris Leroux,

Outlook: Burnett and Rodriguez look like solid pieces of the rotation. They are getting up there in age but the Pirates have little choice but to move ahead with them. McDonald is a big question mark but with all the positives he showed last season the Pirates agin have little choice but to move on with him as part of the rotation. Following those 3 the Pirates have a handful of players who look like non-horrible candidates to start the season as a 5th starter but in no way should two of them be counted on to begin the year. The Pirates absolutely have to look to acquire another starter who is a lock for the rotation. I believe this is the most important thing left to do. I would also like to see a more major league testes starter brought in on a minor league contract to compete for the 5th spot. Locke and McPherson would be solid 5th and 6th starters to begin the season but as 4th and 5th starters with little behind them the Pirates have a big hole. The rest of the players competing will ideally be reduced to bullpen roles or AAA depth. As for the depth the Pirates have a mixture of solid prospects, minor league vets and bullpen arms capable of making a start if needed. Aside from that there is Morton who will hopefully be back mid season and Cole who will hopefully be polished enough to make his debut by mid season. Those two will hopefully being to boost the rotation come the middle of the year.

Bullpen

Locks: Joel Hanrahan, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris

Competing: Chris Leroux, Vin Mazzaro, Justin Wilson, Rick VandenHurk, Zach Stewart, Chad Beck, Duke Welker

Depth: Victor Black, David Bromberg, Erik Cordier, Mike Zagurski, Ryan Reid

Outlook: The bullpen is a mess right now. The Pirates are considering trading Hanrahan a move which they should consider but the value is likely to be low so if they don’t get something worthwhile he could always return and be the anchor for the pen. Outside of him Hughes, Watson and Morris look like sure bets to be part of next year’s bullpen and all of them should be solid. Next up is a large number of players competing for those final bullpen jobs. Its really anyone’s guess as to who will get them and to be honest the Pirates should feel perfectly comfortable with 2 arms coming out of that group. Serving as depth should injuries mount is a typical assortment of minor league depth and Victor Black who looks like a good back of the bullpen prospect. If he shows improved control he could be a quick addition. If Hanrahan is traded a proven bullpen arm or two should be added but even if he remains the Pirates should probably look for one anyway.

What They Need To Do?

1) Acquire a starting pitcher who can pitch a lot of quality innings.

2) Acquire a starting pitcher who will be able to compete for the 5th spot and provide depth in AAA

3) Keep their minds open to all possible trades especially Hanrahan and Jones

4) Look for a future replacement for Barmes at SS

5) Acquire 1 or 2 solid bullpen arms

6) Continue to stockpile bullpen options for the final 2 spots

7) Acquire a good utility player capable of playing the middle infield to improve the bench

Moves that Would be Made in an Ideal World

1) Acquire a veteran 3rd catcher to serve as depth in AAA

2) Acquire a proven 1B/OF so Marte and Snider don’t both play everyday

3) Acquire an immediate upgrade at the shortstop position

4) Acquire 2 young pieces to the starting rotation which would allow the possibility of moving Burnett or Rodriguez

5) Acquire 2 or 3 good arms for the bullpen

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