Pirates’ Depth Chart, Payroll & Winter Meetings Primer

neal huntington pirates

Neal Huntington and the Pirates have been fairly quiet so far this offseason, but that should change this week as the league’s annual Winter Meetings begin in Nashville.

By this point last year, the Bucs had already added A.J. Burnett, Francisco Cervelli, and Sean Rodriguez, then focused on re-signing Francisco Liriano and acquiring Antonio Bastardo at the Meetings. While they’ve surely laid some groundwork for deals over the past few weeks, their activity should ramp up in the coming days.

Here’s a look at what the Pirates currently own across the roster, what they might be looking for, and how many dollars they may have to work with…

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How well Pedro Alvarez needed to hit to offset his defense


Last night, the Pirates officially non-tendered their enigmatic first baseman, Pedro Alvarez, making him a free agent. The Bucs had been shopping him, Pedro himself had been looking for a trade, and it was clear that his days as a Pirate were numbered. However, the trade offers never came, or at least weren’t satisfactory. That became more and more apparent, as Mark Trumbo (essentially a right-handed hitting Alvarez) needed a reliever to be packaged with him just to fetch Steve Clevenger.

Alvarez, National League home run champ in 2013, had lost all value. In the years when defense has become more and more appreciated in the game, El Toro has gotten worse and worse. His case of the yips in 2014 forced a move to the other side of the diamond, but first base proved to be even more of a struggle. Alvarez was charged with 23 errors (tied for 3rd worst in MLB) and -14 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for fourth worst). Although his power returned and his overall offensive production matched his 2012 & 2013 output, his defensive deficiencies made him a near replacement level player by whichever version of Wins Above Replacement you prefer — FanGraphs (0.2) or Baseball-Reference (0.1).

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Pirates Offseason Notes 11/30/15

Allen Webster Pirates

18 weeks until Opening Day…


— You can check out last week’s offseason notes here.

— In case you missed it, the Blue Jays signed J.A. Happ for three years and $36 million — which is the going rate for a mid-to-back rotation starter like Happ.

Roster Moves

— On Wednesday, the Pirates announced the signing of 1B/OF Jake Goebbert. His only MLB experience came in 2014 with the Padres, when he appeared in 51 games. Goebbert, 28, batted .294/.392/.452 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (AAA) this past season, and he’s consistently been an above-league-average hitter at the upper levels. A walk machine (his 13.5% BB rate ranked fifth in the PCL), he has no trouble getting on base.

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J.A. Happ & Market Rate

JA Happ Pirates

Last night, the Blue Jays signed J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract to return to Toronto. That takes one option off the board for the Pirates this offseason, as they look to fill the open spot(s) in the back of the rotation.

Happ, who hadn’t posted a seasonal ERA under 4.00 since 2010 and had never had a FIP under 4.00 in his career, wound up pitching to a 3.61 ERA & 3.41 FIP in 2015, thanks in large part to his final 11 starts in Pittsburgh. While he had the benefit of facing some easier NL opponents, two of his better starts (by Game Score, they were his two best) of the year came against the St. Louis Cardinals in the heat of a pennant race. In all, he somehow, someway managed a 1.85 ERA across 63.1 innings, while solidly increasing his strikeout rate (9.81 per nine) and decreasing his walk rate (1.85 per nine). He was dominant.

And, because of it, he got paid.

I’ve seen many fans saying it was too much cash — I don’t disagree, and it seems the Pirates don’t disagree either (I’m guessing they also didn’t agree with the number of years). However, these are the dollars that teams are facing on the open market.

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Pirates Offseason Notes 11/24/15

19 weeks until Opening Day…

You can check out last week’s offseason notes HERE.

2016 Schedule

— To accommodate ESPN’s effort to televise a number of 2016’s Opening Day games, the Pirates-Cardinals opener has been moved up a day to Sunday, April 3rd. First pitch will be at 1:05 at PNC Park, marking the first game of the MLB season. Opposed to just the traditional Sunday night game on the season’s first day, Pirates-Cards will be one of three (Blue Jays-Rays at 4:00; Mets-Royals at 8:00).

— It was also officially announced that the Pirates and Marlins will play two games in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 30 and 31 to honor the legacy of Roberto Clemente.

— The Pirates’ spring training schedule was released. Grapefruit League play begins on Tuesday, March 1st. The Pirates will wrap-up spring ball with an exhibition against the Reds in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 2nd.

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