Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Pen

Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review wrote today that LHP Brian Fuentes is off the Bucco wish list; he apparently wants a multi-year deal at $5M per year, kinda steep for a 35-year old set up/closer type.

But he'll get someone to bite; it's been an odd year for relievers. Usually among the last to be added to a roster, this year they went early and for multiple years.

There's not much left for the Pirates to sort through; the team is pretty well set with RHP and was looking for a couple of lefties for balance. The FO has said they're still searching, but the Bucs may end up with an in-house crew this year, for a couple of reasons.

The back end is set with Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek. The Pirates have said that they didn't plan to have them compete in camp, and they would decide who would close before that. Well, tick tock...

Hanrahan will likely get the call. Not only has he closed for the Nats in his prior MLB life, but he was 6-for-10 in save chances last year and struck out a dazzling 100 batters in 69-2/3 innings.

That 6-for-10 may not sound like money, but compared to Meek, who was 4-for-10 in converting save opps, it is. So we think we're looking at Hanny closing and Meek as the eighth inning set-up guy.

The bridge pitcher out of the gate will be Chris Resop. The hard throwing righty whiffed 26 batters in 21 frames and handled himself pretty well as the seventh inning arm, Meek's position until the Octavio Dotel trade. He'll get a look at the more highly leveraged set-up spot whenever one of the dynamic duo needs a blow.

All three are under team control for the next 3-4 years. Hanrahan entered his first arb year this off-season; Resop and Meek become arb-eligible after the 2011 campaign. They're all locks to make the 25-man, and that's a good thing. Only Meek has any options (2) remaining.

Middle relief is set; in fact, it's logjammed. One can assume that the loser of the Scott Olsen-Craig Morton battle for the fifth spot will claim one seat on the bullpen bench. Both Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart have to be on the 25-man roster or DFA'ed. Ascanio should be healthy; it's possible they could delay a decision on Hart for awhile, although he should be back from labrum surgery by camp.

Jeff Karstens is almost automatic as the long man/spot starter; it's a role he fills perfectly. And that adds up to a full complement of seven bullpen guys, none of whom can be sent to the minors without clearing waivers except Olsen, who has options remaining but could opt for free agency if demoted (thanks to Tim Williams at Pirates Propects for that heads-up).

But as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!" If Olsen wins the fifth start, which given the competition is entirely possible, the Pirates would have no lefties in the pen.

They do have a couple of in-house LHP candidates in Danny Moskos, the answer to "who did the Pirates draft first in 2007 instead of Matt Weiters?" and Tony Watson. Moskos is a back-end pitcher who tore up Altoona but fizzled at Indy, while Watson, 25, is a starter who's a potential LOOGY but hasn't pitched higher than AA ball yet. Justin Thomas, a non-roster invitee who spent some time with the big club in 2010, is also available.

We think all three, for a handful of good baseball reasons, are ticketed to start out at Indy.

But the bullpen situation, while fairly predictable at the moment because of options, is still fluid. There's not much on the market, but between the available FAs, the in-house arms, and where Olsen ends up, adding a lefty or two could change the middle tier of relievers considerably.

And the Pirates still have a couple of trade irons in the fire. If they pull the trigger on a Paul Maholm deal, the pitching fallout will impact both the rotation and the middle relief crew.

1 comment:

WilliamJPellas said...

I didn't know Fuentes was that old. Definitely too many $$$ for him at this stage of his career.

That said, I don't know where the team is going to get some reliable bullpen lefties now that Ledezma has been claimed by the Blue Jays and most of the other "name" players are already gone. I'm not ready to write off Danny Moskos just yet, but surely he has to have a strong 2011 and he has to do it at the Triple-A level or he's done in our organization. Watson might be able to contribute at some point in 2011, but as you say, he projects as a LOOGY and nothing more than that, where at least in theory Moskos ought to be able to give you multiple innings here and there.

The 'pen looks fine from the right side, but we're definitely weak on the port side.