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Bucs Blather 3.0

2019 salary breakdown makes one think

There is a fairly good chance that David Freese, Josh Harrison, George Kontos and Jordy Mercer could depart the Pirates after this season.   This is based on younger players like Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman, Colin Moran, Max Moroff, Adam Frazier etc. being ready to play everyday.   By my estimation that leads to 18 players making league minimum who could probably be on the roster:

Players on League Minimum Players under contract Arbitration
Bell Cervelli $11.5M Michael Feliz
Frazier Marte $10.5M
Moroff Polanco $6.1M
Newman Nova $9.2M
Kramer Rivero $4.5M
Moran
Meadows
Taillon
Musgrove
Williams
Brault
Kuhl
Kingham
Glasnow
Santana
Neveruakas
Crick
Diaz
18 x $550,000=
$9,900,000 $41,800,000.00 approx $2,000,000
Total $53,000,000.00

While we could dream on a $30M contract for a Machado or Harper type I think the more realistic use of the free payroll space would be extensions to Bell and Taillon.

MLB Pipeline puts Reynolds at #4

Friend of TPOP, Jonathan Mayo from MLB.com, reshuffled his Pirates Top 30 prospects after the trades and I was pleasantly surprised at the results.  Mayo had new acquisition Bryan Reynolds ranked #4 just behind Shane Baz, but ahead of Colin Moran, Cole Tucker, Ke’Bryan Hayes…and everyone else.

This is relevant for a couple reasons.   First and foremost it tells you that some people might like the trade return better than others.  Second, for some reason certain media outlets overlook MLB.com’s prospect analysts (Mayo and Jim Callis), even though they are highly respected for their draft and prospect knowledge within baseball and overhype Baseball America and Keith Law.   Finally it shows you how arbitrary this prospect process is and how you need to look at predictions several years later instead of industry consensus while they’re in the minors.

Nova needs to put the bat away

If you missed it the other day, Kevin had a tremendous article about the Pirates starting to “bullpen”.   Obviously there are the common ideas about the Pirates doing this, from Tyler Glasnow possibly pitching 100 innings with many being 2-3 innings to the myriad of relievers the Pirates having lined up and are waiting in AAA.  I’ll throw another idea at you.

I remember an interview with Neal Huntington after the re-signing of Ivan Nova in which Huntington hedged his bets on Nova.  He stated, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘if Nova doesn’t work out as a starter we think his arsenal fits well in the bullpen.’

First, can you think of a starter who has a better closer pedigree than Nova?   His control is legendary.   If he could gain a couple miles per hour on his fastball and keep the control he could evoke memories of Mark Melancon (low BB/9, high WAR reliever).

The other benefit of Nova becoming a reliever: you’d take the bat out of his hands.  Last year, Nova was a -0.7 WAR offensively.  Yes, honestly almost 1 WAR to the bad due to his .020/.020/.020 line.

Cutch worth 2/$6M?

Let’s be honest — most fans don’t really know (or care) about what other clubs are doing, so they probably missed a signing of a CF which I found interesting.

When we traded McCutchen to the Giants last week he left as our center fielder.   The Giants promptly stated “he’s not a CF” and then went looking for one.  The Giants signed Austin Jackson to play CF this week.  They signed him to a 2 year/$6M contract.    When they did this I thought, “OK, strong defensive player in the middle of McCutchen and Pence,” then I looked at his line.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that Austin Jackson has the pedigree of Andrew McCutchen, as his highest WAR ever was 5.0 back in 2012 and his hasn’t come close to that since.  There is a chance, though, that he might be more valuable now in that he can play CF for most teams and had a good 2017.  Maybe he was part of the flyball revolution.  Maybe the Pirates should have considered signing him as a stopgap?

Harrison is pro-“bullpenning” 

Here lies before you Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez’s career position breakdown per Baseball Reference:


With bullpenning, it allows for more pinch hitting and provides the opportunity for players of different positions to possibly enter the game.  This could easily coerce SRod and JHay to play 2, 3 or even 4 positions in the same game.     Add the fact that Adam Frazier can play in the infield and outfield, with Max Moroff playing an adequate shortstop in addition to 2B and 3B, and the Pirates are ready with bench pieces to bullpen.

Value Factor Tease

Since I’m an engineer and feel just as smart as many of the sabermetricians out there, I came up with my own stat back in 2015.   I called it Value Factor.  I looked at pitchers who could be signed or acquired that had value based on what they could be acquired for (ie. Burnett, Liriano, Melancon, Happ, etc.).   I’m working on crunching the numbers but I’ll hint to you who had a high Value Factor.   His initials are JM and he pitched in the state of Texas.   Article to follow…..

Sickels blurb

I very much like fellow baseball writer John Sickels and the community that he’s built at minorleagueball.com.   Every offseason before his prospect rankings he does a thread for each fanbase called “Organization Discussion”.   He tries to start up dialogue about your team and it’s usually some pretty informed fans.  The Pirates Organization Discussion was sparser than normal this year so I wrote stuff I hope the other fans appreciated.   Here’s what I said:

Trade/projections

Trade return is fine. Musgrove could easily be another Chad Kuhl or better. If Moran’s power is real he’s a 6 year starter at 3B (probably will get reps at 1B and RF in PNC as well). Feliz and Crick are 11 years of nice bullpen pieces who could be very nice bullpen pieces. Jason Martin will be one of the youngest players in AAA and since the Astros snuck him through the Rule 5 he’ll have 3 options after 2018, i.e. he has a decent chance to be a average regular in a corner. MLB.com ranked Reynolds the Pirates #4 prospect ahead of Ke’Bryan, Tucker, etc. People are also forgetting $500k of international bonus money too.

While the Pirates don’t have any players (outside of Polanco) who have 6 WAR potential, they have several potential 4 WAR players (Polanco, Marte, Meadows, Harrison, Moran, Cervelli, Bell, Taillon, Kuhl, Glasnow) and others with 2 WAR floors (Nova, Trevor Williams, Musgrove). They have potential for a 5 WAR bullpen with Rivero, the new guys, and some converted starters from AAA. LOTS of depth. I think they’re solidly [get] 76-86 wins with chance of wild card if things break right.

John will tell you in a couple days but the system is crazy deep. Many C and C+ that could develop into B and B+ types. Keller and Baz are nice. Meadows is still really young and oozes potential and Glasnow will be 24 this year and is 30 innings from still being a prospect.

Also they have a nice young core to sell the fans on: Taillon, Josh Bell, Rivero plus the very average but incredibly fan friendly Trevor Willams and Steve Brault.

Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.

29 Comments on Bucs Blather 3.0

  1. Michael…I spent 33 years getting parts to ships while working for NAVSUP and NAVICIP in Mechanicsburg.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. NAVICP, not NAVICIP…lol

  3. Henry Kassab // January 29, 2018 at 9:37 AM // Reply

    Really enjoyed your article. Would love the Pirates to spend some if that new found cash on a outfielder with 15-20 HR power. Bottom line, We can wait till the cows come home for Meadows to establish himself, Pirates have the financial flexibility to acquire an established player this year.

  4. Harry Schade // January 29, 2018 at 11:18 AM // Reply

    Yeah, focusing on tomorrow. And I bet the Bucs are not finished dealing. Kudos on this article.

  5. Yeah….we should hold on to those newly acquired middling prospects. They might raise our minor league ranking past a team or two.

    But probably not.

    Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the team just lost it’s best player and it’s best starting pitcher without getting anywhere close to replacing their talent on the field. This coming off 2016 and 2017 where they won 78 and 75 games respectively. This coming off an offseason where the Cubs are just as good, the Cards are going no where, and the Brewers are schooling the cheapo Nutters on how to go all-in.

    And here you are selling hope.

  6. I believe that team payroll can be vastly overrated as a measure of competitiveness. The new emphasis on younger, controllable players has every team, even the big market types, moving in a lower direction, even if it is still comparable to their market size. Every team over the salary cap that triggers a revenue sharing payment is trying to bet below it, and the MLBPA has taken notice and threatened to take the Pirates and Yankees to Arbitration for violation of the MLBPA.

    That being said, the Pirates can afford to bring in some supplemental free agent talent. With respect to your thoughts on extending Taillon and Bell with some of the payroll savings that moving Cutch and Cole created, I’m not sure if I agree or disagree. The only reason I’m not 100% for your proposal is that Taillon has a significant injury history and Bell has only one full season of baseball on his resume. If Taillon stays healthy this year and Bell puts up even comparable numbers to last year, then I’d say the Pirates should go for those extensions after the 2018 season. I would not be terribly dismayed if they decided to do that now.

    Along those same lines, Moran, Musgrove and Kontos could all be looked at in terms of extensions. Kontos is signed for this year and eligible for Arbitration in 2019 and free agency in 2020. He’s currently on a one year deal that pays him $2.7 million. He’d probably get a raise to $3.7 – $4 million in Arbitration for 2019. They could probably lock him up for 3-4 years at an average of $4.5 million per. Since he played college ball for four years at Northwestern, he was a later age draft pick and is coming up on age 33. So a 3 or 4 year contract is probably the rest of his useful career. He looks to me like a very solid set-up guy, and if one of the power arms the Pirates has develops into a high leverage guy, Kontos would look good as the 7th inning guy. Just a thought.

    • THAT. AND THE OTHER THING.

    • Michael Bradley // January 30, 2018 at 11:22 AM // Reply

      Bob – great take on Kontos. Looking at his peripherals as he appears pretty steady. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could have a 3.50 FIP for a couple years going forward. Plus his June 15th birthday means he’s two weeks from being a “year younger” in terms of baseball terms (i.e. a young 32).

  7. “I believe that team payroll can be vastly overrated as a measure of competitiveness.”

    Give me a break. Only teams with at least a mid level mlb payroll and above win the WS. You’d have to field a team of elite young players to even make the playoffs. Then, you’d have to supplement the team with proven veteran(s) to take that team over the top (ahem…Royals, Astros). Payrolls for such teams always end up at least mlb mid pack. Pirates have never been close to such levels, and never will be.

    The Pirates not only do not have a field of elite young players, their major league AND minor league are devoid of ANY such players. And, even if/when they field such a team (in the year 2042…owner Nutting’s daughter) we already know that they do not supplement with proven veterans. They scour the trash heap.

    Payroll simply is not overrated if you are considering teams that are payroll bottom feeders, ala the Pirates.

    Get your facts straight.

    • Listen Jim. You clearly have a one track mind. You have nothing on your mind except your obsession with how cheap Bob Nutting is. In fact, nothing in my post suggests that the Pirates should not spend more, because I explicitly said that they can afford to do so, and that they should do so. My comment was directed to the projected opening day payroll as it stands two weeks before Spring Training even opens for pitchers and catchers. I hope and expect the Pirates to add some parts between now and the All-Star break, but I defy you to explain who they should add and how much they should spend that would guarantee even a wild card spot. They have a lot of new pieces coming into camp and I don’t think that the team will make any decisions before camp other than on whether or not to trade Jay-Hay and whether or not to add one or two of the lower priced free agents that are still out there. Most analysts agree that the best years of a players career come prior to his age 30 season and tops out at around age 32. Therefore, to the extent that the MLBPA contract keeps salaries low for players with four or less years of accumulated seniority actually benefits small market, low budget teams like the Pirates. It reflects the reality in the owners box and on the ground, and not some pie-in-the-sky wish list of who you think the Pirates ought to be adding. Give it a rest will you. N.O.B.D. requires extensive rest and sensory deprivation therapy.

      • You simply refuse to admit that Nutting hamstrings this organization with the severe cost restraints that he obviously imposes. Other small market teams have bigger payrolls, year after year. And most of the columnists here want to sweep that elephant in the room under the rug and talk about such things as middling prospects and “bullpenning”.

        The fact that I rebel against all this propaganda nonsense does not mean I have a one track mind. the fact that you complain when I tell it like it is just proves that you enjoy drinking the kool-aid that they are serving up.

        • By the way, the columnist here that I was very impressed with….Vince Comunale. Unfortunately, he appears to mainly be writing Pens material. But his recent article comparing and contrasting the Pens and the Pirates desire to compete was spot on. It was a bullseye.

          I’m ok with the usual Pirates articles and talk regarding assessing prospects and areas of team strength. I just complain when those articles veer into the land of propaganda. As stated, don’t try sweeping that elephant under the rug. It will always be there as long as Nutting is owner of this once proud franchise.

          • Michael Bradley // January 30, 2018 at 12:03 PM //

            As a lean six sigma/engineer/efficiency guy I honestly would run the organization exactly like Huntington does. In particular I love how he attempts to always buy high and sell low. Fans want to sign the JD Martinez’s or extend the Gerrit Cole’s. I love the trades for Rivero, signing Volquez , drafting Meadows, Keller etc. That’s totally how I’d run the franchise if I was Huntington.

            I totally take Nutting out of the picture, as Huntington and Hurdle have no control on their payroll. I just root for the team and GM to do their best with a roughly $100M. Thinking about Nutting takes the fun out of being a Pirates fan so I don’t.

          • Bob Stover // January 30, 2018 at 12:21 PM //

            Amen to that Michael. The Plan fits the budget and not the other way around. I fault N.H. for his misses on draft choices and the organization’s failure to develop more players than it does, but I cannot possibly fault him because they don’t buy players that are not in the budget.

          • Michael…

            Please see Vince Comunale’s standout article on this blog from 1/19/2018. Or, try the following from si….

            https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/16/pittsburgh-pirates-andrew-mccutchen-gerrit-cole-bob-nutting

            These articles were posted in just the last few weeks.

            NH is just the guy that guards the Nutting loot. He has had maybe 1 or 2 years out of 11 in which he was a good GM under the crushing cost constraints of this team. His drafting history is irrefutably abysmal. Likewise, although a monkey could hit on a trade every once in awhile, NH trade history is not much better. And for every reclamation project that he has hit upon, there is one in which he struck out (see monkey example above).

            There is a good reason he signed that 4 year extension last year. No other team wants the bum.

        • I don’t enjoy drinking the Kool-Aid. I’m a realist living in real world who knows that it’s drink the Kool-Aid or quit being a Pirates fan. I’m a fan of the team, not its owners. I can’t control what ownership does and I refuse to dewll in misery as you do every day of your life by constantly complaining about that which I cannot possibly change. All that you accomplish by complaining every single day about how cheap the Pirates owners are is to make others just ignore you or you tune you out. You should rejoice that I bother to engage with you, as you are a one-trick pony.

          • Bob….you are living in a bubble. The fans are with me, not ignoring me. What rock are you living under! Just because a handful of people on this Nutter slanted blog agree with you (such as Michael above) doesn’t give you any kind of an upper hand. 60000 people just signed a petition to get Nutting ousted (it won’t do any good). Do you think those people, and the thousands and thousands of other clear headed people who have good sense would “ignore” me, or would they call you a buffoon. I’ll go with buffoon.

          • Bob Stover // January 31, 2018 at 10:39 AM //

            In a year in which the Pirates sell 1.8 million tickets, 58,000 signatures represent about 4% of ticket buyers.

          • By the way, Bob, I’m perfectly fine if no one responds to my commentary. In my mind, that only means I’m finally getting thru to some of these Nutters and that maybe a light bulb or two is turning on. But, by all means, if you need further enlightenment I can continue to school you. Or, if you’re just lonely, I’m there for you man.

          • 1.8M tickets does not equal 1.8M different people (not even close). Whereas the 58K signing that petition are just a drop in the bucket as far as fans who are tired of the worst owner in baseball – some say “one of the worst”, but the smart fans know better…he’s the worst….

            http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2018/01/23/nutting-voted-one-of-worst-owners-in-mlb/

            Additionally, along with the Marlins, the Pirates have been under scrutiny as to how they have been spending (or should we say, not spending) $.

            http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/pirates/2018/01/26/MLB-players-union-mlbpa-investigation-revenue-sharing-income-Andrew-McCutchen-Gerrit-Cole/stories/201801260119

            Worst owner, worst organization…..it’s not up to me to tell people how to spend their money, but of the fans going to the games I suspect a large proportion of them aren’t as dumb as you infer. Many of them know Nutting is cheap, and NH is in over his head, but they choose to go see a game anyway. And, heck, many are out of towners.

          • Bob Stover // January 31, 2018 at 3:17 PM //

            And perhaps only 10% of those petition signers are ticket purchasers. Let it go Jim. OK?

          • Hey…you’re the one who brought up the inane apples to oranges comparison, which I easily disposed of. Hence, I fully expect that you’ll be the first to “let it go”.

          • Bob Stover // January 31, 2018 at 3:30 PM //

            Dog with a bone. WOOF! WOOF!

          • Thanks for the capitulation, Bob. This is fully how one acts when they are unable to win the argument. Goodnight, and good riddance.

  8. Polanco sucks, he should have been traded at the top of the hype hill. He is a bust big time

  9. Joshua garmong // February 3, 2018 at 9:30 AM // Reply

    That sports illustrated article that jim referenced was factually inaccurate garbage from someone that is trying to gin up rage from the uninformed portion of the fan base….Like jim. This article is emotionless data and it shows that there is a method to the pirates thinking this year. There is nothing wrong with cashing in short term assets for long term potential. That is small market baseball. If you don’t like it or are too emotional about your baseball team you should follow the yankees

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