The Pirates are one of several teams holding a FanFest today. Reporters, including MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth, were on hand for the Q&A with GM Neal Huntington. The Pirates’ GM admitted that today’s Morton swap was mostly about payroll relief, although the club does like David Whitehead.
Here’s more Pirates notes:
- Today’s trade of Charlie Morton will likely instigate “multiple moves,” tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. After the move, the Pirates payroll is around $88MM with a target of about $105MM per Biertempfel (tweet). Huntington told reporters including MLB.com’s Adam Berry (tweet), “A big part of the motivation was to free some dollars to allow us to deepen the club, to reestablish some depth.“
- Industry sources implied to Biertempfel (tweet) that pitchers like Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, or others over $10MM per season are not on the Pirates radar. However, there is no doubt that at least one starting pitcher is on the agenda. The rotation presently consists of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, and Jeff Locke. Presumably, the club prefers for Locke or Niese to fill a long relief role with Allen Webster serving as minor league depth. Top prospect Tyler Glasnow is not expected to reach the majors early in the season.
- Closer Mark Melancon is expected to earn $10MM in arbitration per MLBTR estimates, but the club is under no pressure to trade him, tweets Biertempfel. The team could potentially get by in the late innings with Tony Watson, Arquimedes Caminero, and new acquisition Juan Nicasio. However, a bullpen with Melancon is certainly more robust. With the market for quality closers at a premium, Pittsburgh would find it difficult to replace Melancon. Per Huntington, “if somebody steps up and gives us a return that’s significant enough to motivate us to get a little bit uncomfortable, then we get a little bit uncomfortable.” (h/t to Wilmoth for the quote).
- In commenting on Nicasio, Huntinton told Wilmoth, “We do think there are some things we can help him with. Now, is it going to be enough to make him a good starter? Time will tell. Is it going to be enough to make him a really good reliever? Time will tell.” The Pirates have developed a reputation as a haven for reclamation projects which could make Nicasio an interesting player to watch.
- Comparing recent acquisition Jon Niese to the market, Huntington said “he’ll continue to put up numbers similar to guys who are getting sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety million dollars in free agency — we have three, essentially, one-year contracts with Jon Niese.” While Niese comes with less cachet than somebody like Mike Leake, it’s true that they project to perform similarly. As such, Huntington may very well beat the market with this swap.
- Huntington says Jung-ho Kang is more likely to return in April than May, per Berry (tweet). If true, this is a lucky break for the club. They currently have some combination of Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Alen Hanson, and Pedro Florimon penciled in for second base, shortstop, and third base. An injury or poor performance from Hanson could leave the club scrambling for reinforcements.
- The Pirates will retrench in 2016 with an aim to contend again in 2017, writes John Perotto of the Beaver County Times. While the club will still pursue a postseason berth next year, they’ll have their eyes on developing top prospects like Josh Bell, Glasnow, and Jameson Taillon.