While all hope of the Pirates contending in 2017 isn’t gone I find myself on the side that believes this team just isn’t good enough right now. Who knows maybe they get hot win 9 out of the next 10 and find themselves right on the division door step but until they get and stay above .500 for a little while I’m going to go on thinking this season is over.
With that in mind I figured I’d play with the the potential 2018 roster a little. None of this is to be taken as anything more than just some slightly educated guesses on my part but it should still be a fun exercise. So let’s start by breaking down players by their status heading into next year.
Free Agents: Juan Nicasio, John Jaso, Joaquin Benoit
Players With Team Options: Andrew McCutchen, Chris Stewart, Wade LeBlanc
Under Contract: Francisco Cervelli, Josh Harrison, Ivan Nova, David Freese, Daniel Hudson, Starling Marte, Sean Rodriguez, Gregory Polanco, [Jung Ho Kang]
Arb Eligible: Jordy Mercer, Gerrit Cole, Drew Hutchison, George Kontos, Felipe Rivero, Phil Gosselin, [Wade LeBlanc]
League Min – Out of Options: AJ Schugel, Nick Kingham, Elias Diaz
League Min – With Options: Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Adam Frazier, Josh Bell, Trevor Williams, Jose Osuna, Jordan Luplow, Max Moroff, Edgar Santana, Tyler Glasnow, Gift Ngoepe, Johnny Barbato, Jacob Stallings, Steven Brault, Chris Bostick, Dovydas Neverauskas, Clay Holmes
Notable Rule V Eligible: Edwin Espinal (MiLB FA), Angel Sanchez (MiLB FA), Austin Meadows, Luis Escobar, Eric Wood, Adrian Valerio, Tyler Eppler, Dario Agrazal, Jake Brentz, Montana DuRapau
Now lets go through the categories one by one and speculate on what the Pirates may do.
Free Agents – I could see them making a play to retain Nicasio but in the end I think we will see all three players move on
Players w/ Options – Regardless of if he is with the team next year picking up McCutchen’s option is an easy call. As for the other two I think we are looking at the end of the line for Stewart and while I’d like to see them pass on LeBlanc they have a dearth of left handed bullpen arms and he is cheap so I bet they pick it up.
Under Contract – Though we’d probably all like to see them cut bait on Hudson chances are everyone under contract, save Kang, will return and be a part of next year’s roster.
Arb Eligible – These all appear to be fairly easy calls. Cole, Mercer and Rivero are important players on the Pirates so all will be tendered. Kontos looks good so far so I expect them to tender him as well. Hutchison hasn’t played in the majors yet this year so tenderin him doesn’t seem likely. LeBlanc only becomes an issue if they decline the option and if that were to happen they will obviously non tender him. That leaves Gosselin who to be honest I’m not even sure is arb eligible yet but a September call up would erase any doubts with that. Regardless with Rodriguez back I can’t see him returning.
Out of Options – Diaz and Kingham are high pedigreed enough that the Pirates just aren’t going to let them go. Bet on them being on the Opening Day roster next year. As for Schugel he has been solid enough that the Pirates should at least hang on to him and let him compete for a bullpen job.
The Rest – Cheap guys who can easily be stashed in the minors. These guys remain on the roster unless a roster spot is needed. Looking over the list it would appear Barbato, Ngoepe, Stallings and Bostick represent the bottom of the group so they may be in danger but the rest will likely stay.
Rule V – I listed the 10 players I feel are the biggest decisions facing the Pirates here. Obviously all won’t be added to the roster but expect a lot of them to be. Austin Meadows is the one no brainer in the bunch. Outside of him Luis Escobar appears the next most likely. He is a bit far away but is a good enough prospect the Pirates likely won’t risk losing him. Outside of those two I’m going to say they keep 4 more and my guesses are Sanchez, Valerio, Brentz and Eppler. Sanchez and Eppler look like they could help as bullpen depth options next year and Brentz and Valerio look like prospects with some upside who could be fairly easily hidden by someone.
So all in all there we lose 3 to free agency, decline one option and non tender two guys. That leaves 6 open roster spots and conveniently we have 6 additions to the roster. I highlighted four potential guys to drop from the roster but obviously there are a couple more who could be (Schugel and LeBlanc come to mind) and there are of course trade possibilities.
In my next post I’ll discuss whom I see the Pirates potential trading and who I could them potential signing as a free agent (with maybe a trade target or two included).