Areas of Concern Revisted

Earlier this off-season I took a look at some Areas of Concern for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I know the off-season is really just under way but I thought now would be a good time to reevaluate my 8 areas of concern. The Pirates have addressed some of these areas and have been rumored to be working on addressing other so let’s take a look at where they stand.

8. Backup Shortstop

Current Incumbent: Pedro Ciriaco

Other Internal Options: Chase d’Arnaud

What Have They Done?: It does not appear as if the Pirates have done much here but they actually have done more than what a first glance would indicate. The Pirates chose not to pick up Cedeno’s option and while he would have likely been used as a starter he could also have been considered a candidate to be a backup shortstop. In addition the Pirates released Brandon Wood and have been giving Josh Harrison playing time at shortstop in the fall instructional league.

Rumored Additions: None

Analysis: This is a very minor need and considering we have heard very little about any possible addition I expect an internal option will likely be used.  The only possible exception I see is if the Pirates opt to select a backup SS in the Rule V draft however this can not be counted on. So putting the Rule V draft aside we will likely see Ciriaco start the season as the reserve SS, unless Harrison can show himself capable of handling the position.

7. 5th Outfielder

Current Incumbent: Gorkys Hernandez

Other Internal Options: Nick Evans, Jake Fox

What Have They Done?: The main move by the Pirates has been releasing Xavier Paul. His release has really opened the door for the 5th outfield job. The Pirates have also signed utility man Nick Evans to a minor league contract and he too is an option to fill the 5th outfielder role. I suppose you could also lump Jake Fox into this discussion but he really does not appear to be an outfielder.

Rumored Additions: None

Analysis: With rumors of Garrett Jones potentially being released the 4th outfield job is of concern, let alone the 5th outfielder job. However for now we are going to assume Jones is retained. I could definitely see a Rule V addition here but like the backup shortstop position let’s push that to the side for now. I do not see the Pirates going with Gorkys Hernandez as the 5th outfielder and because of this the job will have to be filled from the outside. Nick Evans is definitely a possibility but I could see another NRI sticking around and making the team out of Spring Training.

6. Starting Shortstop

Current Incumbent: Clint Barmes

Other Internal Options: None are needed.

What Have They Done?: When I put the shortstop position so low on the list of priorities I assumed Ronny Cedeno would be retained, well obviously he wasn’t. The Pirates however acted quickly by Signing Clint Barmes giving them and upgrade at the position.

Rumored Additions: No longer needed

Analysis: The Pirates acted quickly scooping up Clint Barmes. Barmes is nothing to get excited about but he is a steady shortstop who should provide very good defense and not be totally worthless at the plate. It is safe to say this position is no longer an area of concern.

5. Evan Meek Insurance

Current Incumbent: Jose Veras

Other Internal Options: Chris Resop, Jason Grilli, Daniel McCutchen

What Have They Done?: The Pirates have done really nothing to address this area of concern.

Rumored Additions: None

Analysis: The Pirates need a backup plan at set up man for Evan Meek. Jose Veras is currently the incumbent but I have a strong feeling that he will be non-tendered. If he is kept he is an acceptable option but assuming he is not something needs to be done. However all I can see the Pirates doing is bringing in some NRIs and seeing if anybody sticks. I think we are destined to see the backup plan to Meek be either Resop or Grilli.

4. Pedro Alvarez Insurance

Current Incumbent: Josh Harrison

Other Internal Options: Chase d’Arnaud

What Have They Done?: To be honest not much has been done here either. The only move of note here has been releasing Brandon Wood. Also of some note Eric Fryer has been getting some playing time at third base.

Rumored Additions: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mark DeRosa

Analysis: It appears the Pirates are going to let Alvarez handle the third baseman job, which is fine but a backup plan is needed. This is yet another place a Rule V addition could potential make sense but again we will put that aside for now. I am hopeful the Pirates will go out and sign a player like DeRosa or Blake but I have this odd feeling the Pirates are just going to go with Harrison, which while I like him would not be a move I would readily endorse.

3. Starting Catcher

Current Incumbent: Rod Barajas

Other Internal Options: None

What Have They Done?: The Pirates have made a lot of moves at the catcher position this off-season. Pagnozzi has been released, Fryer has been removed from the 40 man roster, Jeroloman was acquired and subsequently released, Jake Fox and Wyatt Toregas have been signed to minor league contracts but of course no move has had a bigger impact than the signing of Rod Barajas.

Rumored Additions: None are needed

Analysis: Barajas was signed to be the starter and will indded be just that. Like Barmes, Barajas is nothing to get excited about but he does fill a hole and should provide the team with steady defense and not horrible offense. It is safe to say this area has been addressed.

2. Starting Pitcher

Current Incumbents: Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Brad Lincoln

Other Internal Options: Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Locke, Rudy Owens, Shairon Martis, Jeremy Hefner

What Have They Done?: As expected the Pirates decided not to pick up Maholm’s option. Not picking up Maholm’s option is what caused the hole and so far in an attemot to fill the Pirates have done very little. There has been the minor league signing of Martis and the adding of Hefner to the 40 man roster but that is basically all. Owens and Wilson have also been added to the 40 man roster but neither is a serious candidate to make the rotation out of Spring Training.

Rumored Additions: Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada

Analysis: The Pirates have a definite hole in the rotation. In my opinion Morton, McDonald and Karstens should have spots secured and Lincoln and Correia should be competing for the 5th job. This leaves one rotation spot open. I am worried the Pirates will go with both Correia and Lincoln in the rotation but I do not think that will be the case. I have a feeling the Pirates will end up signing Francis but that is really just a gut feeling. I think the Pirates will sign someone but we will have to see.

1. Starting 1st Baseman

Current Incumbent: Garrett Jones and Matt Hague platoon

Other Internal Options: Nick Evans, Jake Fox

What Have They Done?: Well in concrete terms the Pirates have done nothing to address what I called their biggest area of concern. However they have made a few minor moves to try and address the position. The biggest of these moves is obviously offering Derrek Lee arbitration. While it isn’t likely he accepts it is still significant because it represents an offer to a first baseman. The other moves have been adding Hague to the 40 man roster and signing Evans and Fox to minor league deals with invites to spring training. Hague, Evans and Fox are all potential platoon partner for Jones.

Rumored Additions: Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Mark DeRosa, Josh Willingham

Rumored Trade Candidates: Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak

Analysis: It is rather apparent the Pirates need to do something to address the first base situation but I am not too confident we will see a move that does enough to address it. Hopefully Lee opts to return but if not the Pirates will need to do something. I think the Pirates will mange to get someone to play the position but I have a strong sense that we will be seeing Garrett Jones platooned with someone. Which in itself would cause another problem because then the Pirates lose their 4th outfielder. Hopefully they do something of significance here.

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