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Pittsburgh Pirates State Of The Union For 2016: All Hands On Deck To At Least Start 2016!

Pittsburgh had the 2nd best record in the Majors with 98 wins, yet were samarily dismissed in the Wild Card Game by the Cubs - and a lightning hot Jake Arrieta at the time It may actually get worse for the Bucs in coming years with the emergence of the young NL Chicago squad and the continued dominance of the St. Louis franchise. My idea is to spend some money this offseason, but if you are 5 or 6 games behind the playoff bar near the Trade Deadline, to deal all guys on the remainder year of their contracts and to retool for 2017.

Pittsburgh had the 2nd best record in the Majors with 98 wins, yet were samarily dismissed in the Wild Card Game by the Cubs – and a lightning hot Jake Arrieta at the time It may actually get worse for the Bucs in coming years with the emergence of the young NL Chicago squad and the continued dominance of the St. Louis franchise. My idea is to spend some money this offseason, but if you are 5 or 6 games behind the playoff bar near the Trade Deadline, to deal all guys on the remainder year of their contracts and to retool for 2017.

Chuck Booth (Owner/Lead  Analyst) 

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I start this blog by praising Neil Huntington and his management for how they assembled this team over the last 6 – 7 years.

It follows the Royals and Twins before them as smaller market clubs that finally used the draft to their advantage after struggling for years.

Here is the thing though..You have a team that needs the final pieces now to compete for a championship!

Heading into 2016 the teams core nucleus comes back, and the club will attempt for a 4th straight playoff appearance.

There are 8 players on the last year of their deals, and you have several other players that will become increasingly more difficult to keep as their Arbitration Dollars exponentially grow over the coming years.

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McCutchen is signed for about an average of 14 Million Dollars a  year until he hits FA in 2019. Hc has been in the running for NL MVP every year since 2012 (3rd place),  with winning the Award in 2013, and another 3rd place finish in 2014- and likely for another top 3 slot this year too. This has bode well for the Pirates in terms of value in his salary. He is the best player the franchise has drafted since Barry Bonds. The Pirates will be perennial contenders for the next 3 years because the had the foresight to lock him up longterm before he met and exceeded expectations.  That window still lasts

The 8 players are 2B Neil Walker, C Francisco Cervelli, 1B Pedro Alvarez, CL Mark Melancon, OF Travis Ishikawa, OF Travis Snider, 1B/OF Mike Morse and C Chris Stewart.

Okay the last 4 aren’t as important as the first 4, but nonetheless, this situation is coming at the Bucs quickly.

Gerrit Cole hits Arbitration next year and will start multiplying his paycheque ever year.  The team has about $50 MIL in salary commitments, and have 12 other guys going to Arbitration that will sneak around another $40 MIL.

A $90 MIL payroll is definitely near the bottom of the league already.  Add in the fact with the Cubs and Cardinals in the same Division, and you are talking about a hard task to win the NL Central, let alone win a playoff spot.

The Pirates have a great young OF in Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, so there is no real need to add any players to that mix.  They need help with one Utility Infielder, and are in need to take 1 – 2 spots in the Starting Rotation.

With Cole already manning the ace position and #1 Starter, followed by Francisco Liriano as a nice #2, they need a couple of guys who could hold down the fort as a #3 arm in 2016.

The departed A.J. Burnett provided great 26 Starts and a 3.18 ERA last year.  He has retired and they need to replace those innings.

Jameson Taillon may have been that guy a few years ago, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Minors since 2013, in recovering from Tommy John Surgery the last 2 seasons.

I would make a strong bid to sign LHP’s Wei-Yin Chen or Scott Kazmir. It may cost more money than you are willing to give, but it would round out the staff nicely.

Of course a pitcher like Doug Fister on a 1 year deal may work out nicely as well.

Just like every other team I write a need for, I will say the Pirates could also benefit from signing a guy like Ben Zobrist.  With the SS/3B and 2B positions all influx depending on the health of Jeong-Ho Kang to start the year, it would be nice flexibility for them.

Another reason signing Zobrist would be good is a trade chip then could be dangled once Kang became healthy in Neil Walker.

The Pittsburgh native is on the last year of Arbitration, and will be slated to make in the $10 – $11 MIL range this upcoming season.  Heck, even if you don’t wait until the Kang injury resolves itself, this may be a quality maneuver to partake in.

Pittsburgh should also approach Cervelli about an extension for a few more years past 2016.  Catchers are becoming harder and harder to pick up.  Look at this years Free Agent backstoppers crop, yikes…

The Pirates finished in the top half of the league for attendance in the past year almost drawing 2.6 Million. If they continue to contend - sellouts should be more the normal than not. Keep spending for the next 2 - 3 years while your core is all together. Worry about saving money on payroll later.

The Pirates finished in the top half of the league for attendance in the past year almost drawing 2.6 Million. If they continue to contend – sellouts should be more the normal than not. Keep spending for the next 2 – 3 years while your core is all together. Worry about saving money on payroll later.  PNC Park is often rated among the top 2 – 3 Parks in the MLB by people that have seen all 30 Parks.

Huntington should also keep wheeling and dealing throughout the year.  If Taillon can throw enough in the Minors, then potentially he could be added to the Staff near the end of the year.

It is also conceivable that the Pittsburgh team could win in the low’ 90’s and miss the playoffs.  If they are 5 or 6 games out of a playoff spot by the Trade Deadline, Huntington must not take stay calm approach.

Why I say to go for it in the winter right now is because of the nature of the Division.  St. Louis and Chicago will be favored higher than Pittsburgh.

Add in the Mets and Nats in the NL speedbagging the rest of the NL East, and a playoff spot could come down to a move made in the early winter.

Go for the gold early.  If it is not working out, don’t be afraid to trade a lot of guys – and reset for 2017 and 2018.

Yes I explained the time to win is right now, but that is based on the team they have right now.  They still have their entire OF coming back for years. 

Liriano is signed through 2017 and Cole is only to hit Arbitration next year. A quick retool for 2017 would be okay.

If the franchise can pocket about $25 MIL in salary at the end of the 2016, they can re-spend it again next winter. 

It is unfortunate that the top 3 clubs in the MLB all reside in the same Division right now.  It is just the way the league is situated right now with playoff alignment.

Neal Huntington was named General Manager by the Pirates in 2007 and was yet to have a playoff berth heading into the 2013 year - and now has made the Wild Card game three years consecutively. This club has improved a great deal over the last 8 years, and under his watch, they are in great shape for 2 - 3 more. His strategic moves over the next 12 months will determine if that means a playoff round win.

Neal Huntington was named General Manager by the Pirates in 2007 and was yet to have a playoff berth heading into the 2013 year – and now has made the Wild Card game three years consecutively. This club has improved a great deal over the last 8 years, and under his watch, they are in great shape for 2 – 3 more. His strategic moves over the next 12 months will determine if that means a playoff round win.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

I am happy to be back at the helm of the MLB Reports, after completing my record 224 Games in the MLB Trip in 2015.  It was the 5th time I have seen all 30 MLB Parks since 2008. 

During that time away I was fortunate to do 100 Media Interviews and be named the Baseball Blogger Alliance President.

Interview on CSN Philly during the month of July.

Interview on CSN Philly during the month of July.

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the www.mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker . In 2015, I watched 224 MLB Games, spanning all 30 MLB Parks in 183 Days. Read about that World Record Journey at https://mlbreports.com/183in2015/229sked2015/

Posted on November 16, 2015, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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