Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: December 18th, 2018
By Marty Leap
After a week hiatus, the mailbag is back here at Rum Bunter
Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings are now in the rear view mirror. While the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to get a bad contract off the books at the meetings and add to their pitching depth, the team still has moves that need to be made this offseason.
Who will be at shortstop on Opening Day for the Pittsburgh Pirates? Is the team still looking for a lefty reliever? And more in this week’s mailbag! As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week. Now, let’s dive in!
The answer here remains the same as it has been all offseason. On Opening Day, the starting shortstop for the Pirates will be someone who is not currently in the organization. The only way Kevin Newman or Erik Gonzalez starts at shortstop against the Reds on March 28th is if there is an injury in Spring Training to whoever the team brings in.
Neal Huntington spent much of last week’s Winter Meetings engaged in trade talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks about Gold Glove winning shortstop Nick Ahmed. Talks are still ongoing there.
Sunday, there was a report that the team has ‘big interest’ in free agent Freddy Galvis. Then, yesterday, the team emerged as the potential front runners to sign the recently released Troy Tulowitzki. They like free agent Jose Iglesias as well.
There are three more areas the team needs to address this offseason. One of those areas is to add another left-handed pitcher to the bullpen.
Other than closer Felipe Vazquez, there is no other lefty reliever in the organization that is a lock to make the Opening Day roster. Steven Brault is on the 40-man, but was wildly inconsistent for the team last season. Outside of Vazquez and Brault, there are no other LHPs currently on the 40-man roster.
The team is in dire need of another LHP for the bullpen. Free agents such as Andrew Miller, Tony Sipp, and the aforementioned Jeremy Blevins all make sense for the Bucs. It would be a surprise if the team does not add another lefty reliever between now and Opening Day.
In my opinion, yes. The Pirates have a pair of starting rotation anchors in Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer, and then a pair of strong middle of the rotation arms in Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams. After this, the makeup of their starting rotation is completely unknown.
Following the trade of Ivan Nova, which was the right move to make because his value in 2019 is projected to be much less than the $9 million he is set to make, the team has no fifth starter. Steven Brault and Nick Kingham both made starts for the team last year, but both are best suited to pitch out of the bullpen, and the same can be said about Clay Holmes. The newly signed Jordan Lyles is in this boat, too.
If the Pirates do not add a starting pitcher between now and Opening Day, until top prospect Mitch Keller reaches the MLB level this summer, their best bet for the final rotation spot may prove to be using an ‘opener’. Carry an extra reliever, use one of them to pitch the first inning, look to get 2-3 innings out of guys like Brault and Lyles, and then turn the game over to your best relievers.
Dallas Keuchel would be the complete opposite of using an ‘opener’ in the final rotation spot. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner will not come cheap for whoever signs him, but injuries/inconsistency since 2015 will drive his price down some.
Will it come down enough to be in the Pirate price range? My guess is no. The Bucs have kicked the tires on Keuchel to see what his asking price is, but the fact nothing more was heard about it leads me to believe it was more than the Pirates can/will pay.
If we get close to Spring Training and Keuchel is still on the market then it becomes more of a possibility as his price will drop. Potentially on a one-year deal that allows him to then pursue a big contract again next offseason. But, don’t bet on Keuchel being a Pirate in 2019.
I have heard that their top choice is Stuebenville native Rollie Fingers. However, if the Hall of Famer is unavailable, then ex-Bucco backstop Ryan Doumit is the front runner. Just imagine the mustaches he could help guys such as Colin Moran, Francisco Cervelli, or Josh Bell cultivate.
That will do it for this week. If you have a question for the mailbag at any point this offseason look for our Tweet each week asking for questions. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to us on Twitter with any questions you have for the mailbag.