You know nothing, Jon Snow.
I feel like Jon Snow this offseason in regards to the Pirates. I know nothing…for certain. This offseason has the potential with possible trades, major and minor league free agents signings, DFA’s, Rule 5 draft, etc. to have many different 25 man rosters. Let’s start with the things I know for sure.
The Six Fielders
There are only six of 12 position players I feel certain will be on the 25-man roster come spring:
- Josh Bell
- Gregory Polanco
- Starling Marte
- Elias Diaz
- Adam Frazier
- Sean Rodriguez
That’s it…that is all I’m sure about. Bell will be the 1B. Marte and Polanco will play somewhere in the outfield as much as their health and performance determine. Diaz will be a catcher; he might be the starter, but will probably be the backup. Frazier is a key cog for the Pirates going forward regardless of where he plays or if he starts. Rodriguez is revered, plays many positions, and is OK coming off the bench.
- McCutchen, Harrison, Freese, Mercer and Cervelli all could be traded — more on this $48M group of players to follow.
- Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff could be starting ML players come Spring Training or could be back in Indianapolis providing depth. They are the like some starting pitchers to be named later.
Clay Holmes is the easiest
Like the position players, there is a great amount of uncertainty with the pitchers. See my handy Venn diagram below:
Many people speculate that the Pirates will trade Gerrit Cole and/or Ivan Nova in the offseason and I think that is wrong. Cole needed a breakout 2017 season for that to happen, which didn’t and Huntington knows he could potentially carry a rotation in 2018. The perfect scenario would be a 5+ WAR 2017 season for Cole with a trade next offseason. As for Nova, he’s cheap for a starter and might work well as a swingman, which is the future of pitching to be sure.
Steve Brault is probably the player that could have the biggest extremes in 2018. He could be a fifth starter in the majors. He could be the number one starter in Indianapolis. He could also be the LOOGY in the major league pen who morphs into the next Tony Watson for the conceivable future. Nick Kingham’s role could be similar to Brault’s, but a newly issued fourth minor league option almost guarantees him time at AAA this year, as he’s not Brault-like with his polish.
Tyler Glasnow’s future should be easier to visualize after watching Lance McCullers, Jr. pitch in the playoffs (he of the 28 consecutive curveballs). McCullers has the similar story to Glasnow and is why we need to be patient. Glasnow will probably be in AAA to start the season, but if it clicks he’ll be in the major league rotation.
My buddy Edgar Santana and Lithuanian bouncer Dovydas Neverauskas are the Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff of the Pirates’ bullpen. Both Santana and “Dovy” could man the 7th inning for the Pirates in the 2018 season or could marinate with their minor league options in AAA to provide additional depth. Clay Holmes will be in AAA, making one decision easy. He’s a solid AAA starter a year away from being a ML starting option and a failed AAA starting year from being converted to a potential dominant reliever.
Mad Libs with current starters
Would __(current starter)_____be a better than _____(younger possible starter)___ or would we be better off trading (current starter) for a ____(prospect type)___ and save ____(amount of money)_____?
- McCutchen, Luplow, A- or B+ prospect, $14.5M
- Cervelli, Diaz, B+ prospect, $11M
- Harrison, Moroff, B prospect, $10M
- Mercer, Moroff/Frazier*, C prospect, $6M
- Freese, Frazier, C prospect, $6M
First all of the possible starters are ready to start. All of the current starters might be at their highest value going forward. All of the current starters are tradeable and would return something of value, possibly a lot of value. All of them would relieve salary.
With the real payroll ceiling believed to be $120M the Pirates could have $75M+ of payroll to spend this offseason, if they jettisoned all these guys. I don’t think it’s good for a clubhouse to have a mass exodus, but this offseason is a good time to have extra cash. Let’s look at 5 scenarios:
Scenario A – keep the vets players (green), add $10M worth of Free Agents, keep payroll near $100M
Scenario B – keep the vets players (green), add $30M worth of Free Agents, raise payroll at $120M
Scenario C – Trade vets players (green), add no Free Agents, payroll under $60M
Scenario D – Trade vets players (green), add $50M+ worth of Free Agents, payroll near $100M
Scenario E – Trade vets players (green), add $70M+ worth of Free Agents, payroll near $120M
Scenario A seems most likely, but B is not out of the question. If Huntington wants to trade some of these veterans at their high points (you know he wants to) it will probably be some hybrid of Scenario A and D.
What many Pirates fans don’t know is that some teams are payroll strapped this offseason. Some have to cut overall payroll, some have been told to get under the luxury tax threshold or not to spend to go over the threshold.
- free agents will take very low salaries
- there will be free agent bargains due to lack of competition (see: Zack Cozart)
- free agents will take one year contracts to wait until next year
- other clubs will be looking to unload contracts
This situation coupled with the Pirates advantageous situation with Qualifying Offer free agents could lead to a big name free agent landing in Pittsburgh. Stranger things have happened.