Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: March 14th, 2019
Welcome back to the weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag here at Rum Bunter
Could the Pittsburgh Pirates address the final spot in their rotation by adding Gio Gonzalez? Should fans be panicking about shortstop? And more in this week’s mailbag.
As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week and participated. Now, let’s dive in!
Gio Gonzalez is a popular man this week and it is easy to understand why. The veteran lefty remains a free agent and he is a player many Pirate fans would like to see the team sign. To be honest, signing Gonzalez is something that the team needs to be looking into.
Jordan Lyles remains the favorite to land the final spot in the Pirate rotation. He is competing with Nick Kingham, Rookie Davis, and Steven Brault, and none of these four pitchers have pitched well this spring. They have combined to allow 28 runs in 37 2/3 innings pitched this spring. This is a 6.69 ERA which, believe it or not, is not good. The fact none of these pitchers own a strong track record as a starting pitcher at the MLB level only adds to the concern.
Gonzalez is coming off a 2.0 fWAR season in 2018. In his career, he owns a 3.69 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and he has been worth an average of 2.8 fWAR per season during his 11-year MLB career. He would be a major upgrade as the team’s fifth starting pitcher, and signing him would also then bump Lyles to the bullpen.
As a reliever last season Lyles owned a 3.32 ERA, 3.11 FIP, and a 25.9% strikeout rate. These results came in 40 2/3 innings pitched which is a decent sample size for a reliever. He was also dominant in the month of September for the Milwaukee Brewers. So, Gonzalez bumping Lyles to the bullpen would also improve the team’s middle relief, not just their starting rotation.
All of that said, it appears unlikely that the Pirates will sign Gonzalez. Even if they do, there is no chance he would be ready for Opening Day with how much of Spring Training he has missed. That, however, is no reason to not sign him. He would likely need just a start or two in the minors before being ready to bump Lyles from the rotation.
Panic is a strong, strong word. But, shortstop appears to be a major weakness for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, nothing that has happened this spring changes that perception.
While likely Opening Day starter Erik Gonzalez has played strong defense, which is to be expected from Gonzalez, he has slashed just .120/.185/.240. He has also struck out an alarming 11 times in 25 at bats.
This has opened the door for former first round pick Kevin Newman to seize the job at shortstop. However, Newman has not been much better. Newman is slashing .182/.208/.227 this spring, but he’s struck out just five times in 22 at bats!
Neither Gonzalez nor Newman has ever done anything to lead anyone to believe they will hit enough to be starter quality players at the MLB level. Gonzalez, however, is a plus defender at shortstop while Newman is average at best. This is why Gonzalez will likely be the starting shortstop when the season begins, and this is indeed panic worthy. Not address shortstop this offseason was inexcusable by Neal Huntington.
On Opening Day you may see Colin Moran at third base. That said, expect third base to become a position where Clint rolls with the hot hand early in the season as he looks for someone to grab the bull by the horns at the position. When healthy, Jung Ho Kang is the far superior hitter to Moran. He is also a better defender.
So, common sense says Kang. Especially when you factor in the fact he has already hit four home runs this spring while looking more than comfortable defensively at the hot corner. While Kang may need some time to knock all the rust off, if he is anywhere close to the player he was in 2015 and 2016, and his results last season in the minor leagues and this spring indicate he is, expect him to eventually be getting the lion’s share of the at bats at third base.
That will do it for this week. As always, if you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions. Also, do not be afraid to ever ask a question on Facebook!