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How The CBA Will Determine The ABC’s Of The Pirates Offseason

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I regularly take my sons to Altoona Curve games.   Upon entering Blair County Ballpark they always ask “what inning are we staying until?”   I always answer “It depends.”  It depends on how long the first several innings last and if I can get them home at a reasonable time.   A four hour extra inning game with 15 pitchers pitchers combined isn’t ever in my plans, but a quick 3 hour game that starts on time will get them to see the last out.

This offseason for the Pirates is somewhat similar.   How can we talk with conviction about personnel moves without knowing the rules that the team and management we’ll be playing under, i.e. the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)?  I’ll take a moment to highlight the most notable.

25 man vs 40 man vs September rosters

Change:

MLB is looking to change the current system where you can expand your roster to 40 men in September.   A suggestion is that you have a 30 man ML roster for the whole year, instead of the 25 man ML roster from Opening Day until September 1st and a 40 man ML roster from 1 September until the end of the season.

Now if you want to know how any position is battled in a CBA it’s this:  owners want to spend less money and want rules that favor their individual franchise.  The Players Association (MLBPA) wants to ensure its players get paid the most money.  More days in the majors means more money for the players, so it would come down to how those numbers would break out.  The franchises would differ on whether they like the changes or not.

How it could affect the Pirates:

The main reason the Pirates have been so successful over the past few years is due to their depth.   The depth is played out in three ways:

  • Players on the Pirates’ 25 man roster can often play multiple positions allowing depth on the ML roster
  • The Pirates have ML ready talent in AAA on the 40 man allowing 15 extra players who can step in and contribute
  • The Pirates normally have prospects (example: Kuhl and Moroff) and journeymen (example: Boscan and Rondon) who are not on the 40 man but in AAA that can be called up to contribute during the season.

The Pirates have been built for a marathon the past few seasons, probably better than any other team in baseball outside of the Dodgers.   The Pirates have had 30-35 ML quality players available the last few years while some teams don’t have 25.

Limiting the accessibility of players not on the 25 man roster or cutting down on the 40 man roster would severely hurt a team like the Pirates… and help a team like the Tigers that have no farm system… but a big budget.

If the 40 man roster went away the Pirates would have a lot of roster shuffling to do.    It also could lead to a trade where they package multiple players for one player or prospect.

To DH or not DH

This is the most commonly known of all the prospective rule changes.keep-calm-and-ban-the-dh

Change:  

The National League would adopt the DH for all games, not just interleague games.

How it could affect the Pirates:  

The first and most obvious result of the NL adding the DH would be finding a true position for Josh Bell.   I personally think in the future he’d do fine in RF at PNC (with Polanco playing CF or LF).

Targeting Bat-Only Players
Two ways it would affect the Pirates is by allowing Huntington to target a new type of player that he hasn’t been able to target before:   the bat only player.    Since Dick Stuart, aka “Strangeglove” aka “Stonefingers”, was a Pirate there haven’t been many players that shouldn’t play the field.  In fact the current Pirates’ administration has valued defense much higher than most of the other teams in baseball (see: Brock Holt and Ryan Doumit).

Losing the AL-to-NL pitchers

One of the big negatives for the Pirates in the adoption of the DH would be the loss of the pitcher who just isn’t good enough to cut it in the American league.

Baseball is a game of inches and the Pirates have taken many pitchers that struggled in the American League and turned them around.  Part of it has to do with going to work with Ray Searage, part of it is that the Pirates have/had great framing catchers, part of it is the good defense the Pirates have had over the years…but part of it is facing 8 bats in a lineup instead of the 9 with the DH.

Burnett, Nova, Happ, Soria, etc.  All AL-to-NL pitchers that did well once they showed up at PNC.    Losing some of the reclamation projects could hurt the Pirates.

Qualifying offer going away?  All 1st round picks protected?

Change:  

Now this shouldn’t affect the Pirates this offseason, but there probably will be a change to the qualifying offer/draft system in the new CBA.    There is no way to predict what the exact decision with be, but here are a couple possible outcomes:

  • Players could accept or decline the QO at any time until the start of the next season and not just have 7 days to decide
  • They could raise the QO to the average of the top 25 percent of players (approx. $23M)
  • They could protect ALL the 1st round picks instead of just the top 10 picks.
  • Sever ties between the draft and free agency by doing away with the qualifying offer

How it could affect the Pirates:  

All of these outcomes would affect baseball and could affect the Pirates approach to free agency this offseason.  It’s too complicated to go through all the possible outcomes and how the Pirates would change things but we all know how the Pirates feel about the draft.   Any change that would allow the Pirates to be more competitive with free agents without sacrificing their draft approach would be welcomed by Neal and crew.

Long story short, this offseason could change a lot based on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

About Michael Bradley (59 Articles)
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.
Contact: Twitter

1 Comment on How The CBA Will Determine The ABC’s Of The Pirates Offseason

  1. Great article Mike! Mandating the dh and expanding rosters would hurt the Buc’s more than anything else that is proposed.

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