By Andy Burdick
The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates exceeded the expectations of pretty much everyone except the hardcore yinzers who have been predicting a 90 win season for the Pirates since the Kevin Young era. And while Pittsburgh will have difficulty replicating the success of this past season, they are a team on the rise with an exceptional farm system that is also built to compete right now. This gives the Pirate faithful something to look forward to in the offseason.
As long as no free agent signings go into Operation: Shutdown, things are looking up in the Steel City.
Dearly Departed (Free Agents)
Clint Barmes, SS
John Buck, C
A.J. Burnett, P
Marlon Byrd, OF (signed with Philadelphia: 2 years, $16 million)
Justin Morneau, 1B
Felix Pie, OF (elected free agency)
Arbitration Eligible Players
Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Garrett Jones, OF/1B
Vin Mazzaro, P
Gaby Sanchez, 1B
Travis Snider, OF
Neil Walker, 2B
Jason Grilli, P – $4.25 million
Francisco Liriano, P – $8 million club option (The 2014 option is guaranteed at $8M with 150 days not spent on disabled list in 2013 with the right arm injury, $6M with 120 days not spent on disabled list with the right arm injury or $5M with 90 days not spent on disabled list with the right arm injury.)
Russell Martin, C – $8.5 million
Andrew McCutchen, OF – $7.45 million
Wandy Rodriguez, P – $13 million player option exercised (Pittsburgh owes $7.5 million)
Jose Tabata, OF – $3.16 million
Vin Mazzaro, P
Bryan Morris, P
Andy Oliver, P
Jerry Sands, OF
Travis Snider, OF
Out of the arbitration eligible players, Garrett Jones makes the most sense to be non-tendered. Jones made $4.5 million in 2013 and hit .233/.289/.419 with 15 home runs, his lowest total since he became a full-time player. Jones is in line to make somewhere in the $5 million range and would become one of the most expensive and ineffective platoon options in recent memory. Clint Hurdle managed to take away as many at bats from Jones as he could against lefties within reason and it still proved to be too many at bats for Garrett.
|vs RHP as LHB||417||382||92||25||2||15||50||30||89||.241||.295||.435||.730||.273|
|vs LHP as LHB||23||21||2||1||0||0||1||1||12||.095||.174||.143||.317||.222|
Jones will probably be nontendered soon and while he wouldn’t make an awful platoon-mate for the right price, it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Pittsburgh to flat out upgrade first base this offseason via free agency. Pirates owner Bob Nutting has stated that he would love to see the Pirates payroll continue to increase so maybe filling the void at first will be an option for the Bucco front office this winter.
Speaking of free agents…
There are a few players who are eligible for free agency that may be making a trip back to Pittsburgh. Clint Barmes, who cost the Pirates $5.5 million this past season, is a target for general manager Neal Huntington to try and bring back to Pittsburgh. It sounds like right now the job is going to be Jordy Mercer‘s to lose next season, but the organization would like to buy a Barmes insurance policy for good measure. While Barmes offers little with his bat, he does have an exceptional glove.
At the beginning of the offseason, it seemed like Pittsburgh’s number one priority was bringing back A.J. Burnett. However, Neal Huntington has made it abundantly clear that Burnett will only return if the price is right for the Pirates. And a $14 million qualifying offer was too steep of a price to pay.
Pittsburgh had said they wanted Marlon Byrd back, but made the right choice in letting him fly the coup for a 2 year, $16 million deal in Philadelphia. There isn’t a long track record of successful players coming off of the best season of their careers at age 35 and repeating again at age 36. It’s been well documented around Tri-State of Mind that Marlon Byrd did everything he needed to do to make that trade a raving success that Neal Huntington could brag about with his drinking buddies for years to come. But while losing Byrd is probably going to be a bit of a blow to the offense considering the alternatives that will have to run out there in 2014, there was some recent activity prior to December’s Winter Meetings…
Going in to 2014, Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster is already crowded. That stems from the fact that players who are first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 Draft. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. That means that the Pirates had to add top prospects Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, as well as Casey Sadler and Joely Rodriguez. The Pirates also re-acquired Duke Welker from the Twins when they traded lefty Kris Johnson to Minnesota, at which point Welker hopped aboard the 40-man.
Check out the Pirates 40-man roster here on their official website. You’re probably not going to find a more well maintained and up-to-date version of the 40-man anywhere. And if you do… well, let the Pirates know because someone probably needs fired.