The Pirates haven't had to make any drastic roster moves during the Neal Huntington/Frank Coonelly era. But decisions this winter on the young guns regarding arbitration offers, out-of-option players, and Rule 5 protection are becoming more difficult as the clock's ticking gets louder.
First, they have to decide which of their nine arbitration eligible player they want to tender offers to. The list (with current salary) is: Ronny Cedeno ($1.125M), Zach Duke ($4.3M), Joel Hanrahan ($453K), Jeff Karstens ($410K), Andy LaRoche ($451K), Wil Ledezma ($500K), Lastings Milledge ($452K), Ross Ohlendorf ($439K) and Delwyn Young ($444K).
We can bet the ranch that they'll offer contracts to Cedeno, Ohlendorf and Hanrahan. The odds are loaded that LaRoche and Ledezema will be non-tendered.
That leaves four maybes. Our guess is that Milledge gets tendered, Duke doesn't, Karstens is a coin-flip, depending on whether they see him as a possible starter or just a long pen guy, and DY will probably not get an offer. The decisions will be more performance-based than financial; even Duke's - is he worth $5-6M or can you find better value for the money on the market?
Jose Ascanio, John Bowker, Brian Burres, Jeff Clement, Argenis Diaz, Sean Gallagher, Kevin Hart, Chris Leroux, James McDonald, Charlie Morton, Brandon Moss, Steve Pearce and Chris Resop are out of options and need to be added to or kept on the 40-man roster.
J-Mac, Morton and Resop will stay on the 2011 40-man roster, and Ascanio, Bowker and Pearce are also likely to keep their spots.
That leaves Burres, Clement, Diaz, Gallagher, Leroux and Moss on the outside looking in. Gallagher and Moss are safe bets to be gone; Clement may be in a battle with Bowker for one spot, as Diaz will be with Brian Friday, and we think they'd like to remove Burres from the 40-man but resign him as an Indy insurance policy. Leroux will be part of the numbers game.
Rule 5 eligible players include Nate Adcock, Mike Crotta, Mike Dubee, Brian Friday, Gorkys Hernandez, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Starling Marte, Diego Moreno, Bryan Morris, Danny Moskos, Eliecer Navaro, Jim Negrych, Rudy Owens, Alex Presley, Donnie Veal, and Tony Watson.
This is an area that's half evaluation and half voodoo. The FO not only has to guess who is attractive, but who is far enough along to last out the season on a MLB roster. Sometimes, using as an example Donnie Veal, it doesn't take much.
Hernadez, Lincoln, Morris, Presley and Veal are already on the 40-man. Marte is sure to be added, and after that, it's a crap shoot. Moreno and Moskos are the best relievers in the system, Locke and Owens are a pair of mid-rotation possibilities, Crotta is a mid-inning relief man, Watson a LOOGY, Friday and Negrych could be MLB ready as bench players.
Also thrown in the mix for organizational depth purposes are upcoming minor league free agents. Jonathan Van Every and Tyler Yates are among them, and may be potential MLB insurance policies. The biggest hit could be among catchers; Eric Kratz and Hector Gimenez are both eligible, and losing that pair would put a serious crimp in catching depth, especially if Dewey moves on.
One other problem; if the Buc ink any of them before December 9th and don't add them to the 40-man roster, they become eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Both catchers would be attractive options to a team looking for a back-up.
So there's more going on than a wake after the 2010 meltdown; the wheels are being greased for 2011. The FO will have to fit the pieces together as who they consider to be key pieces down the road.