To begin I must state that I am not saying the Pirates are approaching a problem where they have too many good pitchers as quite honestly the reverse is true and they have too few good pitchers. The upcoming crunch isn’t about good pitchers but rather useful ones. The Pirates have a plethora of “useful” pitchers who going into next year will have all spent significant time at AAA or MLB in the past year. I’m using the term “useful” to describe a back of the rotation starter or middle/long relief option. A competing team should have a max of 6 of these guys and honestly should try to keep it limited to 3 or 4.
The pitchers I’m speaking of are: Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Steve Brault, Drew Hutchison, Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes, Tyler Eppler, Daniel Hudson, Wade LeBlanc, Jhan Marinez, Edgar Santana, Dovydas Neverauskas, AJ Schugel, Johnny Barbato and Angel Sanchez.
Obviously some of those names will and should continue to be depth options out of AAA but for six of them that isn’t an option: Hutchison, Kingham, Hudson, LeBlanc, Marinez and Schugel. It is also difficult to imagine the Pirates sending Kuhl or Williams down after the pair spent the entire 2017 season in the majors but that remains at least a possibility.
Once you add in the four actual good pitchers on the team: Cole, Taillon, Nova an Rivero you may notice the staff starts to get a little tight and nothing has been done to try to improve it. Its obvious the Pirates just can’t keep everyone in that group and in a related problem with pitchers ready to move up from AA some starters are going to have to convert to relief roles.
I’m not sure how the Pirates are going to approach this nor do I even have any ideas on how they should but they are going to have to start sorting out who they want to keep and soon. I do have some suggestions on how they should begin though.
Hutchison has performed decently at the AAA level and has some past success in the majors so he should be given a shot at starting down the stretch to see what he can do. If he struggles it is an easy decision to DFA him. Kuhl is an ok starter but it is difficult to see him remaining in the Pirates rotation long term so having Hutchison replace him and Kuhl converting to relief would be a good idea. Kingham is out of options next year and isn’t ready as a starter but his arm is too good to give up on right now so the only option is to break him in as a reliever.
Taillon has been struggling lately and looks like he could use a break. A brief DL stint for some sort of discomfort sounds like a good idea for him and this opens up an opportunity for Brault to audition. Edgar Santana should really be up here as well but the spot for him was in place of Tony Watson but the Benoit trade complicates matters there so maybe try and find something to place Daniel Hudson on the DL with and recall him.
There are still a lot more arms to go through but you can’t really look at most of them until September. I have some thoughts on the rest … decline LeBlanc’s option, drop Barbato, try to sneak Marinez through waivers this off season … but really the Pirates find themselves in a tight spot here with no real right answer. Some usable major league caliber arms are going to have to be let go in order to try and add some better arms to the mix. The Pirates aren’t going to be able to add all the better arms they need so choosing the best of this bunch takes on a lot more importance than it ordinarily would and time is running out to evaluate them all.