Coming into the 2014 season, the high hopes of the Pirates team, front office, management, coaches, players and fans were at an all-time level. After 20 years of losing records, not only did the 2013 Pirates team break the .500 record, they shattered it by winning 94 games, taking the wild card game against rival Cincinnati Reds and to the brink with St. Louis in the Divisional Round.
Generally, I don’t listen to the “experts” of sports writers and radio personalities on their comments and opinions. Most of them look at journalism as reporting on the stories as they are being presented and to keep personal feelings out of them. That’s what makes the bloggers so much fun to read because they usually interject the personal feelings to reflect and backup what we write. Usually, I fall somewhere in between the “experts” and the general fan population in terms of my writing style.
I don’t think it’s fair as a Pirates fan to not interject my personal feelings into the equation of an article that I would write. I want the team to succeed and win the World Series just as any fan would want but I do try to remain open-minded when it comes to putting an article together. On twitter, it’s a different story because I’m very passionate all the time and post comments based upon what is happening. @ericscot13 is my Twitter handle if you want to follow me.
As the month of June is about to begin, the Pirates as a team is at the crossroads to how the season will finish up. If the team has an outstanding month, they will look to be buyers at the deadline to shore up some obvious weaknesses that have been plaguing them. The month of June will bring the arrival of top prospect Gregory Polanco as well as I believe the arrival of another starter in the rotation replacing one of the struggling starters we currently have.
I feel as though the next start for Francisco Liriano is a very big start for him to produce, otherwise a trip to the DL will be at hand and Casey Sadler should be the first guy to get a shot. Edison Volquez has probably earned himself another 2 to 3 starts depending on how they go before a decision will be made on him and his replacement could be either Jeff Locke or Vance Worley. Both of those guys have had very up and down type of seasons in the minors to this point.
It’s funny to think that our starting rotation that began Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Edison Volquez and Wandy Rodriguez could end up in June as Cole, Morton, Cumpton, Locke and Worley. I could also see a scenario where the Pirates could make a huge and very surprising move by trying to get themselves a Jeff Samardzija. By doing so, they will be giving up some big prospects possibly including Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Austin Meadows.
Granted that Samardzija would really bolster the Pirates rotation if and when Liriano comes back moving to him to 3rd on the depth chart, Morton to his rightful place as a 4th guy and Cumpton rounding out the 5 starters, I don’t know if the Pirates are the type of team to make this very bold move. I could see a more likely pick up of Samardzija if the Pirates were in the hunt and he is still available after the All Star break.
This much is clear, if the Pirates don’t do something to fix the mistakes on defense, the lack of clutch hitting, the horrendous stats of the starting rotation and the blown saves, the season will be over by the end of June and let the selling begin. I’m thinking of one of the biggest overhauls anyone might ever see on a team. The following is a listing of the current players on the team who could be traded or DFA’d if the Pirates are above .500 by the end of June.
Russell Martin – Traded
Francisco Liriano – Traded
Edison Volquez – DFA
Jordy Mercer – Optioned/DFA/Traded
Travis Snider – DFA/Traded
Jason Grilli – Traded
Mark Melancon – Traded
Jeanmar Gomez – DFA
Jeff Branson – Fired
Clint Hurdle – Hot Seat
Neil Huntington – Hot Seat
That my friends is a huge turnover of players and not really a one of them will bring much back in return. I could see the Pirates getting a couple decent prospects for Martin by a team desperate for a catcher though. However, it’s a reflection of a team who had the highest of hopes to a team decimated by the reality of losing. Jeff Branson could lose his job simply because the offense is not getting it done in clutch situations. The team is getting a ton of hits but scoring very little in the way of runs and a high number of Runners In Scoring Position(RISP), that generally falls to the hitting coach.
Forget about the series against the Dodgers, even if the team gets swept and goes to 10 games under .500, there is plenty of opportunity throughout the month of June to get themselves back to .500 or better heading into July. So the crossroads are upon us and it will be an interesting month to prepare ourselves for how the rest of the season will unfold.