Welcome to the first Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag of 2020 here at Rum Bunter!
It may be a new here, but here at Rum Bunter we have the same Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag, and it is time for the first one of the new year. Will Starling Marte be on the Pirate roster come Spring Training? Is Colin Moran the answer at third base? Will Chad Kuhl be a starter or a reliever? And more in this week’s mailbag.
As always, a big thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week and participated. Now, let’s dive in!
While Marte has yet to be traded, it will still be a surprise if the Pirates do not move their star center fielder.
Marte is controlled through 2021. And while the Pirates are not devoid of talent, they are at least still a year or two away from truly being competitive again. So, the smart move for the Pirates and Marte is to trade him to help bring in young talent.
If this were a normal off-season, i.e. not one in which a new general manager was hired in November, odds are Marte would have been traded by now. However, Ben Cherington started behind the eight ball to an extent due to not being on the job until November. That is something we will discuss in a later question.
Long term? No, Moran is not the long term answer at third base. If all goes according to plan, that is Ke’Bryan Hayes.
Moran was one of the key pieces, along with Joe Musgrove, when the Pirates traded Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros prior to the start of the 2018 season. The past two seasons Moran has been given every opportunity to seize the third base job, but he has failed to do so.
In two seasons with the Pirates Moran has slashed .271/.331/.419 with a 7.1% walk rate and a .142 ISO. While he has done a nice job of making contact, he has hit for almost zero power and has struggled to get on base. Also, his defense has been abysmal at third base leading to him owning just a 0.8 fWAR in two seasons as a Pirate.
Again, Hayes is the long term answer at third base. At least the Pirates hope so. At this point, Moran is nothing more than a stop gap until Hayes arrives in Pittsburgh which will hopefully be some time this summer.
This is a tough question for a few reasons. First off, Kuhl’s talent is undeniable and it is tough to give up on guys like that as a starter. However, he has not pitched in going on two full calendar years so who knows what his stuff will be like. Also, his stuff could be dominate out of the bullpen. Second, it could also hinge on who else the Pirates add to the roster between now and the start of the season.
Pre-injury, Kuhl possessed a power fastball and a wicked slider. If he could lean on that slider more and have improved fastball command, he could be an excellent middle of the rotation starting pitcher. That said, who knows what Kuhl will be like returning from Tommy John Surgery.
Also, if the Pirates add another starting pitcher that could impact Kuhl. Right now Musgrove, Chris Archer, Mitch Keller, and Trevor Williams all appear locked into the Pirate starting rotation. So, adding another starter could bump Kuhl to the bullpen.
Ultimately, Kuhl’s fate may come down to how he looks in Spring Training. Personally, I would like to see Kuhl move to the bullpen where he could be dominant.
Well, first of, remember, it is just January 7th. For example, both the Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole trades happened later in the month of January than this. There is still over a month until pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton.
You also have to take into consideration that Cherington was not hired as GM until mid-November. As a result, he missed the GM meetings. Typically, the GM meetings lay the groundwork for moves to be made at the Winter Meetings. Well, for Cherington, the Winter Meetings were his GM meetings.
Now that the appropriate legwork has been done, you can expect the team to swing a few trades before the season starts. In addition to Marte, Adam Frazier and Keone Kela are also being shopped heavily. It would not be a shocker to see Kyle Crick moved, either.
Patience, my friends, patience.
Well, that depends on who you ask. A lot of fans, myself included, are feeling hopeful about the direction in which the franchise is trending. Cherington was a great hire to be GM, and he has made some excellent front office hires such as Steven Sanders and Oz Ocampo.
New manager Derek Shelton is widely respected in baseball circles and could have had multiple other jobs this offseason. He has made strong addition to his staff with coaches such as Don Kelly, Glenn Sherlock and Tarrik Brock. Oscar Marin appears to be a rising star when it comes to pitching coaches.
Combine all of this with a good young core of Bryan Reynolds, Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, Kevin Newman, and Mitch Keller. Plus, top prospects such as Ke’Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz quickly approaching the MLB level, there is plenty of reason for optimism.
Now, some fans, no matter what, will also be pessimistic. And, hey, after 20 consecutive losing seasons I get that. But the Pirates have had a winning season in four of the last nine seasons and made the postseason three times during that stretch. They have also done a great job overhauling the front office and coaching staff this offseason. Things are not as bleak as some will make it out to be.
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 Twitter or Facebook.