Will the Pirates Make Any More Moves?
By Eric Scot
Could they, would they, should they?
That seems to be the question in hand right now, whether or not the Pirates will or should make a move to continue to bolster the roster? The Pirates seem to be set in almost all positions right now, having a deep bench and a solid bullpen. There is depth in the minor leagues in case of injury and seemingly, all the “experts” are expecting the Pirates to be a contender. However, while the Pirates may be one of the Top 6 teams in the NL and once again get into the playoffs, at this point fans should be expecting the next step and that is to win the NL Central and compete for the World Series.
Most “experts” will predict the Pirates to finish 2nd in the Central while one may predict 1st and a couple others may predict 3rd, the Pirates are a legit team now and a far cry from being cellar dwellers. The St. Louis Cardinals are considered the best of the division and the Chicago Cubs have improved quite a bit to the point where they are expecting to contend. While the Cardinals did not do a ton in free agency this offseason, they have one of the deepest systems in all of baseball and they make very smart moves. The Cubs have a great core put together and have added Jon Lester to bolster the rotation. The Milwaukee Brewers seemingly are always on the verge of making a huge signing or trade but they haven’t seemed to push the trigger and finalize a deal. The Cincinnati Reds have made a few interesting moves but none of them are significant enough to believe they are not just rebuilding.
At this point, I would say that most of the “experts” would predict the NL Central to finish something like this:
1. St. Louis Cardinals – 90-72
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – 88-70
3. Chicago Cubs – 83-79
4. Milwaukee Brewers – 75-87
5. Cincinnati Reds – 69-93
For the Pirates to move forward and become the best in the NL Central, there is one major area of concern to which they have a unique opportunity to boost the position and be the team to beat. You have to figure the Pirates need to have 3 extra wins to overtake the Cardinals as the Champions of the Central so where does it come from? If Pedro Alvarez can hit 40 home runs instead of the 18 he had last season, would that be enough? If the shortstop position can produce around a .280 average and hit 20-25 home runs, would that be enough? If the bullpen doesn’t blow 24 games like they did in 2014, would that be enough? If Gregory Polanco can hit around .300 with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases, would that be enough? If someone goes down with an injury, is the bench depth good enough to not lose a lot of production and be enough?
For me, the biggest opportunity for improvement is to look to add another arm to the rotation. It’s unlikely the Pirates will overdo it and sign James Shields, one because of the money he will command but because he’s an older guy and I don’t believe the Pirates can take that kind of chance. But they do an arm and not just any arm, a STUD arm and my target on the subject is Stephen Strasburg. I can almost feel your eyes rolling already that the Pirates can go out an get Strasburg so please stop now and read on. The Washington Nationals are a smart organization and they have just signed Max Scherzer to a long term deal(7 years, $210M). They have depth in the minor leagues that can come up starting this year and next year that would supplant the possible losses of Jordan Zimmerman and/or Doug Fister(both free agents after 2015). Strasburg is their biggest bargaining chip to replenish the minor leagues without killing this season.
What would it take for the Pirates to get Strasburg, you ask? I’m not a statistics guy who is going to through all kinds of WAR numbers, BABIP numbers or any other sabermetrics that are available to suggest value equaling value. I’m going to put this in easy terms for everyone to understand. Of course, the Nationals would want either Jameson Taillon or Tyler Glasnow to be the main attraction to any such deal for Strasburg. I’m on the thinking that these two guys are completely untouchable because Taillon is major league ready now and should already be on the team, if not for his Tommy John surgery last year. Glasnow is a few years away yet and could be an excellent replacement for Strasburg when he becomes a free agent.
So the Pirates will need to give up some big time prospects to make this deal happen and I believe if this offer was on the table, Strasburg is in black and gold before Spring Training starts. Here we go. First, the main piece to this deal would be 1B/OF Josh Bell. Here is a guy who is a switch-hitter, has been learning 1B but is naturally an outfielder. The Nationals could keep him in the outfield and as a switch-hitter, could become an All Star. The next piece would be Nick Kingham. Kingham is almost major league ready but on the Pirates WITH Strasburg, would be blocked by other guys like Charlie Morton, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke and Taillon.
The last piece to be given up in this deal would be Alen Hanson who should see time in AAA this year and could be major league ready by mid-season, September call-up or midseason 2016. This would potentially allow the Pirates to sign Neil Walker to a 4 year deal and wait for more depth to come up through the system before he leaves or retires. This would also give the Pirates one hell of a rotation for this season and the next couple seasons after. Think about this and start to drool. Strasburg, Cole, Liriano, Burnett, Morton/Worley/Locke/Taillon. WOW. It’s not just a pipe dream either because the Nationals have been linked to potentially dealing away Strasburg, Zimmerman or Fister but Strasburg gets them the biggest return.
The most likely scenario is for the Pirates to wait patiently through the 1st half of the season, find out their true weaknesses, see who shakes out and who doesn’t and make moves accordingly at the deadline. However, if the Strasburg move could happen now, I’d say go for it and let’s win the NL Central!
What do you think it would take to get Stephen Strasburg or do you think the Pirates have absolutely zero chance of getting him?