Pittsburgh Pirates Twitter Q&A – December 27, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 04: Gregory Polanco
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 04: Gregory Polanco /

Welcome to the first edition of our Twitter Q&A about all things Pittsburgh Pirates here at Rum Bunter

The Major League Baseball off-season is continuing to chug along. At the current moment the Pittsburgh Pirates are at the center of the off-season buzz in baseball. This is due to trade rumors and notes swirling around Pirate ace Gerrit Cole.

Even without the Gerrit Cole rumors, there is plenty to discuss about the Pittsburgh Pirates at the current moment. So, let’s dive into this week’s inaugural Q&A!

If the Pittsburgh Pirates acquire Clint Frazier in a Gerrit Cole trade, or any trade, with the New York Yankees this off-season the outfield certainly becomes interesting. The Bucs would then have Starling Marte under contract through 2022, Gregory Polanco through 2023, and Frazier and Austin Meadows neither of whom’s arbitration clocks have even started yet.

If Frazier is acquired, an Andrew McCutchen trade should be fully expected at that point. Frazier, Marte, and Polanco would then become the starting outfield for the Pirates, with Meadows playing every day at Triple-A.

At this point, things will hinge on performance. Marte has proven to be one of the best two-way players in the National League so he will be playing. Polanco has flashed the ability that once made him a top-10 overall prospect in all of baseball, but he has struggled more times than not, and Meadows has been riddled with injuries since reaching Triple-A.

My guess is if a healthy Gregory Polanco can produce the way he did from June of 2015 through July of 2016 (.341 on-base percentage, .333 wOBA, 110 wRC+, .167 ISO) and Clint Frazier turns into the player he’s expected to be, then I would look for the Pirates to look to move Austin Meadows for help elsewhere. This is because Polanco and Frazier would be proven Major League producers, while Meadows would not be.

That said, there is no guarantee that Clint Frazier will ever be a Pittsburgh Pirate. And even if he does get traded to Pittsburgh, these things tend to work themselves out. But if Frazier is traded for, look for him to join Marte and Polanco as the team’s starting outfielders on Opening Day 2018.

This is an intriguing one. In terms of an all-around player, Gregory Polanco has a higher ceiling than Josh Bell. While Bell has come a long way defensively at first base, Polanco can be a Gold Glove caliber outfielder. It is very unlikely Bell ever gets to that point at first base.

Offensively, I would probably give a slight edge to Bell. Both Bell and Polanco were high on-base players in the minors, but in the Majors Bell’s strikeout rate has risen while Polanco’s has dropped. Although, both have a strikeout rate that is below the league average.

What separates the two players is power. Josh Bell owns a lifetime .196 ISO and .455 slugging percentage, while Gregory Polanco’s are .149 and .401. Polanco has the ability to hit for much more power than he has to this point, he did slug .442 in the minors after all, and he has the swing for it. However, Bell has flashed his power at the Major League level thus far and Polanco has not.

To circle back around to the original question, I believe Polanco has the higher ceiling in terms of an all-around player while based solely on their offensive ability I give the edge to Bell.

If Gerrit Cole is not traded, he gets the Opening Day nod and spit balling how the rotation will be set up probably gives the Home Opener to either Ivan Nova or Trevor Williams. If Cole is traded, then Jameson Taillon would appear to be in line for Opening Day while the Home Opener would still be Nova or Williams.

That said, between trades, free agency, and injuries there is a bettter than good chance the Pirate rotation sees a shakeup between now and March 29th.

In my opinion, no. Andrew McCutchen is an ex-MVP who has been a well above league average hitter every year minus one (2016) since he debuted in 2009. The asking price for two years of a player of that caliber should be the sun and the moon.

As for Gerrit Cole, a lot of people remember his home run bugaboo of 2017 while forgetting everything else. Since his debut in June of 2013 he is in the top-10 in the National League in innings pitched, FIP, ERA, fWAR, walk rate, and home run rate.

Even with his struggles last season Cole still ranked in the top-10 in the National League in innings pitched, and walk rate. He was also still in the top-15 in the league in strikeout rate, fWAR, FIP, and xFIP.

So despite struggling with the home run ball last season, Cole is still one of the best starting pitchers in the National League and two years of Cole should net a king’s ransom for Neal Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That’s easy, the first one.

From 2013 through 2015 many younger Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans such as myself were introduced to why nothing in sports in better than a pennant race and postseason baseball. The lack of Buctober the past two seasons has sucked. I’ll pick a scenario that involves the Pirates in the postseason over any other scenario every single time.

The Pirates actively shopping Francisco Cervelli would all hinge on how much faith they have in Elias Diaz. Based on how Diaz was handled last season, they do not appear to have much faith in him and for good reason. He did post a -0.3 fWAR last season after getting on base at just a .265 clip, and posting a .253 wOBA and a wRC+ of 52.

Now, that said, if the Pirates were offered a package they like for Francisco Cervelli I doubt they would say no. However, if that were to happen and Cervelli was moved you should expect them to look to add catching help so Diaz does not have to catch on a daily basis.

Honestly, it would not surprise me if the Bucs added catching help between now and Spring Training allowing Diaz to start the year at Triple-A even if Cervelli is around.

Next: Where are the Bucs in SI's power rankings?

Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s Q&A. This is going to become a weekly happening here at Rum Bunter, so keep your eyes peeled on Twitter each week for our Tweet asking about your questions.