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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Pirates searching for catching help


Peter Gammons mentioned on Twitter yesterday that the Bucs are among the teams looking for experienced catchers; Jon Heyman added this morning that they could be interested in Ramon Hernandez.

The Bucs seem to be set with Russell Martin and Michael McKenry behind the plate this season. Hernandez, who turns 37 in May and will earn $3.2 million this season, doesn’t seem like a necessary acquisition. The key word in Heyman’s tweet is “could” be interested; it was probably more of a follow-up to Gammons’ tweet, and Hernandez is an experienced catcher that is available.

The club could be looking for some minor league catching depth, although Tony Sanchez should be getting plenty of playing time for Indianapolis. A.J. Burnett and others have been pleased with Sanchez’s play this spring.

Tom Singer praised minor league catcher Carlos Paulino again on Saturday, mentioning that he could pass McKenry on the depth chart. That’s a pretty ridiculous statement considering Paulino is 23, hasn’t played above Single-A, and hasn’t hit much in the minors. Singer noted a few days ago that the Pirates like Paulino’s arm, going on to say that he could be the “top midseason callup candidate.” We don’t believe that just yet; we wrote a bit about this yesterday.

With just two weeks left in spring training, final cuts will be made around the league and the Bucs could snag a catcher off waivers or via trade. It’ll be interesting to see what other moves the Pirates make between now and Opening Day.

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

Pirates remain in contact with Liriano, interested in Marcum

Late Sunday night, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported the following:

Liriano apparently injured his right (non-throwing) arm at some point since the Pirates agreed to a deal with him in December. Negotiations seemed to be stalling, especially after John Perrotto claimed that the Bucs were “kicking the tires” on southpaw Joe Saunders.

Shortly after tweeting about Liriano, Morosi offered some more insight:

Marcum, 31, has not drawn much interest this offseason, mostly due to an elbow injury sustained in June. He’s one of the better starting pitching options still available, and the Rangers and Padres are hunting him down as well.

These two rumors are noteworthy because the Pirates ZiPS projections were released today, and the pitching does not look too promising. Here’s what the article has to say:

[quote_center]”…it would probably be fair to say about ZiPS that — while it doesn’t hate the Pirates pitching staff — that it’s at least thoroughly unimpressed by those qualities in the Pirates pitchers which correlate most strongly with future run prevention. With the exception of Wandy Rodriguez and (just barely) A.J. Burnett, none of the team’s starters are even viewed as average.”[/quote_center]

The starting rotation is still up in the air, with not much depth beyond A.J. and Wandy. Even those two aren’t guaranteed successful seasons, as they near the end of their careers. The Buccos could definitely use some pitching help, so Liriano, Marcum, or even Saunders would be a good start.

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

Pirates acquire three; Russell Martin on radar?

Neal Huntington and his staff shuffled the roster a bit today by acquiring three players.

First, they picked up RHP Zach Stewart from the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later. Stewart, 26, has a career 6.82 ERA in 33 games.

Next, the Bucs got 1B Clint Robinson and RHP Vin Mazzaro from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Luis Rico and Luis Santos (both minor league pitchers). Robinson, who will turn 28 in February, hit .292 with 13 HR last season for Triple-A Omaha. He’s been blocked in the Royals’ system, mostly by young first baseman Eric Hosmer. Robinson seems to be a decent pickup; his name was brought into discussion last spring when the Bucs lacked offense. The 26 year old Mazzaro had a 5.73 ERA in 44 innings last year for KC. He pitched against the Pirates on June 9th, lasting just three innings and surrendering four runs.

To clear room on the 40 man roster, they designated “The Hit Collector” Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro for assignment.

Rob Biertempfel of the Trib brought up some good points about these pickups. He writes, “Pirates today made two trades that could figure into plans for who is tendered/non-tendered Friday… Vin Mazzaro could be either back-end starter or long reliever, just like arbitration-eligible Jeff Karstens. Clint Robinson makes it 3’s a crowd at first base with arbitration-eligible Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez.” It’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs handle this. Both Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez should betendered contracts, but you never know. If Jones and Sanchez are on the Opening Day roster, Clint Robinson would most likely be replacing Matt Hague and Jeff Clement as the first baseman at Indianapolis.

In other news, it looks like the club is aggressively pursuing catcher Russell Martin. Jon Heyman wrote that the Bucs are trying to pry him away from the Yankees. Heyman says that the Pirates may be offering around 3 years/$25 million. Many of the people who have weighed in on the situation are not too excited about this deal. Martin hit just .211 last season and his power numbers will most likely decline at PNC Park. Is he an upgrade over Rod Barajas? Yes. Is he worth the money he’s asking for? Probably not.

Biertempfel had this to say – “There’s a sense among some in industry that Pirates will overpay if necessary for a FA this year. Will it be C Russell Martin? Management must show it’s serious about avoiding another second-half breakdown. And the club desperately needs a catcher.”

Ken Rosenthal with a few thoughts:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/273892378060926976]

[tweet https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/273892380908863488]

[tweet https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/273894393163964416]

Go Bucs