Series Preview: Pirates @ Cubs

preview CHI

Pittsburgh Pirates (35-25) @ Chicago Cubs (24-33)

June 7, 2013 – 2:20 pm
June 8, 2013 – 4:05 pm
June 9, 2013 – 2:20 pm

Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL

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Resources: Pirates Depth Chart | Bullpen Workload | Statistics

The Bucco offense has been in a funk as of late, leading to losses in five of the club’s last six games. They’ll face a couple of tough pitchers in Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija this weekend, but have a few good starters going themselves – Liriano, Burnett, and Locke. The Bucs swept the Cubs a few weeks ago at PNC Park; hopefully they can do it again at Wrigley.

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Probable Starters:

Game 1 – Francisco Liriano (3-2, 2.17) vs. Travis Wood (5-3, 2.75)

Game 2 – A.J. Burnett (3-6, 3.22) vs. Jeff Samardzija (3-6, 2.96)

Game 3 – Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-8, 6.29)

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Batting Leaders (Among Qualifiers):

Pirates

Cubs

AVG

Andrew McCutchen (.284)

David DeJesus (.275)

HR

Pedro Alvarez (12)

Anthony Rizzo (10)

RBI

Alvarez (31)

Rizzo (39)

SB

Starling Marte (15)

Alfonso Soriano (7)

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Pitching Leaders (Among Qualifiers):

Pirates

Cubs

Wins

Wandy Rodriguez (6)

Feldman, Wood (5)

SO

A.J. Burnett (94)

Jeff Samardzija (91)

ERA

Jeff Locke (2.45)

Wood (2.75)

Saves

Jason Grilli (22)

Kevin Gregg (6)

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Opponent Blogs: Bleed Cubbie Blue, Cubbies Crib, The Cub Reporter

Edwin Jackson
Edwin Jackson in 2012 (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

Player to Watch: Edwin Jackson, who’s been awful this season for the Cubs (1-8, 6.29 ERA). The Pirates have handed him two losses this season, once on April 3rd and again on May 23rd. To make matters worse, he’s 1-7 with a 7.87 ERA in nine career starts at Wrigley Field. Hopefully the Bucs can get to him early and often on Sunday afternoon.

Go Bucs

Greinke Signs with LAD; Dominoes to Fall?

The Pirates are in dire need of a starting pitcher. In fact, the depth chart on the team website only lists four pitchers in the starting rotation. Those hurlers are A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and Jeff Locke. Burnett and Rodriguez are the leaders of the staff; two reliable veterans who should bring a lot to the table. McDonald, despite his tremendous first half, was demoted to the bullpen down the stretch; who knows which J-Mac we’ll see in 2013. Jeff Locke hasn’t done much to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot; he’s just 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 12 career MLB games.

It was reported Saturday night that Zack Greinke would be signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently have an unlimited supply of cash. The deal is reportedly worth $147 million over six seasons, which would make him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever. Greinke, 29, entered the offseason as the most prized pitcher on the free agent market. Typically, players wait until the top free agent inks a deal before deciding where to sign, hence why there weren’t many big moves at the Winter Meetings.

With Greinke off the market, is it time for the dominoes to fall?

Here’s a look at some of the remaining free agent starters:

Anibal Sanchez – Out of price range; Dodgers interested in him, too.

Edwin Jackson – #EJaxToBucs failed last year; worthy of a second attempt?

Ryan Dempster – Mitch Williams suggested he’d be a fit for the Bucco rotation.

Kyle Lohse – Beyond the Box Score makes a case not to sign him.

Shaun Marcum – Seems like a decent add; drawing plenty of interest from other teams.

Francisco Liriano – His name has popped up multiple times as a fit for the Pirates.

Joe Saunders – Orioles still looking to re-sign the veteran southpaw.

Kevin Correia – Doubtful that Correia and/or the Bucs want a deal.

Carl Pavano – Wouldn’t be surprised to see NH take a flyer on him.

Jeff Karstens – Should not have been non-tendered by the Pirates; unlikely to return.

Mike Pelfrey – Non-tendered by Mets; appeared in just three games in 2012 (elbow).

Jair Jurrjens – Braves non-tendered him; 2011 All-Star said to have a dead arm.

Manny Parra – Non-tendered by Brewers; no thanks.

Tom Gorzelanny – Ex-Buc non-tendered by Nats; possible long-reliever/mop-up man.

John Lannan – Another Washington non-tender; no space for him in Nats rotation.

Who knows which route Neal Huntington will take. Keep in mind that a starting pitcher could be acquired via trade – closer Joel Hanrahan may be on the move (especially if Jason Grilli re-signs in Pittsburgh).

The starting rotation let the team down at the end of both 2011 and 2012, so it’s important to bolster the staff. There is a bit of help on the way (see: Cole, Gerrit) but that won’t be until mid-season at the earliest. The rotation is up in the air at the moment, but hopefully that changes in the coming weeks with some acquisitions.

Go Bucs

MLB Network Discusses Pirates’ Offseason Wish List

The Pirates got some air time on MLB Network on Friday, as Billy Ripken, Mitch Williams, and Ahmed Fareed talked about the Bucs’ offseason wish list on MLB Tonight.

Here’s a video we captured of the segment:

*Sorry for the poor audio quality; you may need to turn up the volume.

They focused on three areas: shortstop, corner outfield, and starting pitcher.

At shortstop, Bill Ripken feels the Pirates should stick with Clint Barmes. Mitch Williams, on the other hand, suggested acquiring Dee Gordon from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ripken went out on a limb and decided he wants to Bucs to make a run at Josh Hamilton, who is the most prized outfielder on the market. “This big man patrolling the outfield with McCutchen out there and with Marte out there; you got the possibility of having one of the best outfields in all of baseball,” he said. Ripken went on to say, “I don’t know if they can pull the trigger… He would look good in the black and gold.” Williams stated that he’d rather stick with Marte and Snider at the corners.

As for a starting pitcher, Ripken suggests Edwin Jackson, and Williams likes Ryan Dempster in the Bucco rotation.

Bucs Bits: Pirates News and Notes

- Despite a tremendous effort on Twitter by Bucco fans everywhere, Edwin Jackson decided not to come to Pittsburgh, and instead signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals.  The hashtag “#ejaxtobucs” was not enough to persuade the 28 year old starter to join the Pirates.

– However, it has been reported that Jackson turned down a three-year offer from the Pirates.  The deal would have been worth around $30 million.  It was clear that Jackson wanted to pitch for a contender, but it would’ve been great to see him in a Bucco uniform.

– The Pirates signed Brian Tallet. The veteran lefty suffered a few injuries last season and finished with a 9.45 ERA. He will likely compete with fellow lefties Danny Moskos, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Doug Slaten for a roster spot.

Casey McGehee will have his arbitration hearing on February 16th. His desired salary is $2.725MM. The Pirates asked for a salary of $2.35MM.

– The first episode of the Pirates Roundtable Podcast, featuring McEffect, Raise the Jolly Roger, North Side Notch, and Three Rivers Burgh Blog, was released this week. Be sure to check it out.

– ESPN ranked the NL Central by position. Pretty interesting read, with a few questionable placements. Overall, it’s fairly accurate.

– It’s been reported that the Pirates inquired about Roy Oswalt… but he declined. At least the Pirates are trying, right? Now that we know that they are trying for these guys, there shouldn’t be too many complaints about the Nutting’s being cheap. Simply put, the big name free agents do not want to come to Pittsburgh. Hopefully someday soon, we will turn it around and place ourselves in the running for solid free agents.

[tweet https://twitter.com/BiertempfelTrib/status/166937666426904576]

– ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported that the Pirates and manager Clint Hurdle will be working out Dmitri Young next week in Bradenton. Really not sure what to say about this, other than the fact that we don’t think the Pirates should sign him. He’s been out of baseball since 2008, but ESPN wrote an article in January about a potential comeback for Young. Young has had numerous off the field problems. He played in Venezuela this fall, and hit .166 in 66 at-bats. He apparently has lost 75 pounds and has his life back on track. Still, we don’t think it’s a good idea from the Pirates perspective.

57 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

Should the Pirates Be Looking for a Starting Pitcher?

With Paul Maholm leaving for the Cubs, a possible Pirates rotation for 2012 could look like this:
Erik Bedard
James McDonald
Charlie Morton (assuming he’s healthy)
Kevin Correia
Jeff Karstens

Of course, it is still very early, and really none of the 5 spots are locked in yet. A lot will depend on how guys do in Spring Training, but this is a decent rotation at best. There are concerns about all 5 of the pitchers listed, and there isn’t much help from the minors. Brad Lincoln and Jeff Locke look like they’ll be fighting for the 6th spot, and neither have had a ton of success. With that said, it would be nice if the Bucs picked up one of the starters that’s still on the free agent market. There are 3 guys that the Pirates should take a look at.

Edwin Jackson-In his 8 year career, Jackson has been an All-Star, thrown a no-hitter, and played for 6 different teams. He’s compiled a record of 60-60 with a career ERA of 4.46. This is the first time that he has been a free agent, as he’s been traded from every team he’s played for. He’s got a lot of big league experience for a guy who is only 28, but he’s been pretty inconsistent. In early January, Jon Heyman reported that Jackson was looking for $15-$17MM. It’s since been reported that his asking price has dropped significantly, which has intrigued some Bucco fans. Assuming that he’s now wanting about $10MM a year, it makes sense for the Pirates to at least consider Jackson. $10MM is a pretty big investment, and Neal Huntington would be taking a risk, but Edwin Jackson should be an option for the Bucs’ rotation.

Roy Oswalt-The 34 year old is obviously on the tail end of his time in the big leagues. He has a career ERA of 3.21 and record of 157-91. Oswalt was a part of the Astros rotation that went to the 2005 World Series along with Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and was of course a member of the Phillies’ “Big 4″ in 2011. We saw a lot of Oswalt when he was in the NL Central, and we saw how effective he could be. It was recently reported that the asking price for Roy was only 1 year for $8MM. Such a low cost has attracted multiple teams, which means that the Pirates would have some competition if they decided to pursue Oswalt. He’s certainly a pitcher who could help the Bucs win some games, and be a good example for the young guys.

Joe Saunders-There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about Saunders this offseason, and the Pirates haven’t shown any interest in him so far. But, Saunders could be the best fit for the Bucs out of anyone. He’s a 30 year old southpaw that you could think of as a replacement for Maholm. He’ll eat up a ton of innings, and if you give him some run support, he’ll win some games. He has a career record of 69-52 with a 4.16 ERA. He made $5.5MM with the D’backs in 2011, so it can be expected that he’s looking for a little bit more than that. He’s been offered 1 and 3 year deals so far this offseason, so it looks like the Pirates could have some competition if they go after Saunders. Still, it would be nice to add another lefty to the rotation for 2012.

Is it likely that the Pirates sign any of these 3 guys? Probably not. But Neal is definitely out there searching for someone that he thinks could contribute to the staff next year. It’s obvious that the Pirates lack major-league-ready depth at the starting position, with no help on the way until Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are ready to debut. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Bucs decide to add to the rotation.

Go Bucs