How Should The Pirates Manage The Bullpen In 2014?


Last week I wrote a post on why the Pirates should be aggressively shopping Jason Grilli over the remainder of the winter, in the hopes of trading him. I briefly alluded to the subsequent possibility of moving Mark Melancon into the full-time closer’s role, and pushing Tony Watson into the eighth inning slot. That got me to thinking about the Pirates bullpen depth and the different roles that would be played in the shark tank this year(assuming no major breakouts happen in Spring Training, and that the Pirates find a buyer for Grilli), so I’ve decided to go through it here. Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily how things will look in 2014, but it’s the way they should go based off the current roster.

Long relief: Jeanmar Gomez. Jeanmar was a highly valuable asset to the Pirates bullpen last year, and showed the ability to also be a stopper in later inning high pressure situations. While like many relievers he’d probably prefer the latter option, when you’re good at washing windows, people ask you to wash windows. Unless a drastic change comes, it’ll be Jeanmar unchained anytime a Pirates starter gets the early hook.

My Reliever Vinny

Middle relief: Vin Mazzaro and Bryan Morris. Among a series of pleasant surprises in 2013, Mazzaro was largely overlooked. He was solid all-around last year and should be able to provide similar quality work in 2014. Watching Bryan Morris pitch in 2013 nearly caused me to need a blood pressure prescription after each game, but he was sound like Mazzaro. Morris may not be the best in the Pirates bullpen, but he’s still a good middling option going forward.

Lefty Specialist: No surprise here, Justin Wilson will return at the fireballing lefty specialist for 2014. Wilson has been excellent in each of his first two seasons, and has potential to be a go-to guy in the bullpen, but that potential need not be fully realized just yet. Interestingly enough, Wilson’s numbers were slightly better against right-handed hitters in 2013, but both are excellent. Wilson will likely see some additional stopper and closing opportunities throughout the year, but his primary role will remain the same.

Set-up/High leverage specialist: Tony Watson. Watson turned in a splendid 2013 campaign and showed that he clearly has the stuff and command to be the Pirates 8th inning man going forward, and has potential to develop into a solid closer if called upon. Watson’s slider is incredible, and it’s complimented by a fastball that gets to the hitter in a hurry.

Closer: Mark Melancon. The crown jewel of last year’s Joel Hanrahan trade, and clearly the best pitcher in one of the big league’s best bullpens, Melancon is ready to assume the Pirates full-time role as closer. Melancon had a rough patch to finish off the season which may be disconcerting to some, but the dominance he displayed for the first five months of the season indicates that it was no more than an aberration. Melancon should be the man in the Pirates bullpen in 2014, and hopefully for several more years to come.