This Sunday, all 30 MLB GM’s and various team executives will convene in Nashville for the annual Winter Meetings. The meetings last from Sunday the 6th through Thursday the 10th. Typically, this is when the action of the offseason happens and groundwork is laid for deals to continue through the remainder of December and into January. Here’s a checklist of what Neal Huntington and crew need to accomplish at these meetings:
- Figure out the 1B situation — With the non-tender of Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates only have Michael Morse on the roster as a viable 1B option. Although he does not have a large platoon split historically, I can’t get past the fact that he was used so little after being acquired last year. With the Pirates trying to trade Alvarez, it’s understandable that they haven’t been hyping up Morse as “their guy at 1B in 2016”, but we’ll see in the near future if you hear statements such as those. I still contend that Adam Lind of the Brewers makes entirely way too much sense for the Pirates, so therefore it won’t happen, but his $8M salary in 2016 is a perfect fit and he can reproduce the home run production of Alvarez with fewer unproductive outs.
- Is Walker in the plans for 2016 or not? — Huntington contends that the Pirates don’t have Jung-ho Kang’s recovery as intertwined with Walker as pundits like myself do. When Huntington makes a definitive public statement of that ilk, I’m inclined to believe that’s the truth. I imagine that whatever teams miss out on 2B Daniel Murphy in free agency will probably look to the Pirates as a trade partner, since Walker and Murphy are in the same sphere of player. My feelings on Walker are pretty much known at this point — he’s a valuable player, they can afford his $10M’ish salary, he’s a good hedge against Kang’s recovery.
- Trade Mark Melancon — The Pirates don’t need to pay a closer $9-10M with just one year of team control remaining. Whatever teams miss out on Aroldis Chapman will look to the Pirates as a trade partner, as well. Melancon should bring back one or two usable major league pieces.
- Find a #3-level starter — Now, this #3-level starter may be a reclamation project, of course, but at least he’s been that level at some point in his career. I think that with the glut of pitchers on the free agent market and the potential pitchers on the trade market, there will be a deflation of prices come January when a bunch of these guys are still on the market and players get antsy to sign. As stated in the 2016 Pirate Roster and Payroll article, I could see the Pirates swinging $10M for a pitcher under the proposed $105M payroll.
- Don’t draft anyone in the Rule 5 Draft — A few years ago, Neal Huntington told me that if he could change something in baseball, he would eliminate the Rule 5 Draft. He felt that it didn’t benefit either the team or the player, because for the vast majority of players their development is stunted while they’re hidden for a year on a Major League roster. Now last year was a banner year for Rule 5 picks, as the Phillies got a very useful Odubel Herrera to be their CF and the Rangers did the same with DeLino DeShields. But most picks are handled with more care than a Faberge egg and it’s a wasted roster spot. The Pirates are in a win-now position and need all 25 roster spots to be useful. They don’t need to experiment with a bullpen arm used once every two weeks. And Pirate fans, if they lose a player or two in the draft, it’s OK. Most players don’t last the whole year and get returned and most of the ones that do stay aren’t going to be missed. Only prospect humpers will miss a player like RHP Clay Holmes, who would be a big gamble for a team coming off TJ surgery, just 214 innings in his career, and just a handful at the High A level. Barrett Barnes? No loss, either. It’s OK. You can’t keep all your toys, especially the ones that are broken.
The Pirates won’t get tangible results, probably, from all of these bullet points after next Thursday. But the behind-the-scenes groundwork will be laid for the first four bullet points. This is the perfect offseason for someone with the discipline and patience of Neal Huntington to wait out the market and find the right deal.