Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Roster Make Over For The Stretch Run?

The question isn't so much will the Bucs add pieces, but where and what kind as they head into the post All-Star stretch run eleven games over .500 and a game up on the Reds. Time to look at the positions and take a stab at where they'll look to upgrade:

Outfield: Cutch is the only true keeper, and the rest is up for debate. The big question is when Starling Marte will appear, and how much of a learning curve will he go through? That's pretty crucial; if he spends two months trying to recognize sliders, the Bucco's chances at a playoff run take a dive. We'd assume his initial look will be as a platoon partner with Garrett Jones/Alex Presley, so that will help grease the skids.

Even when he comes up, the Pirates could use another corner bat. JT is at Indy, Presley's .276 OBP doesn't cut it for a top-of-the-order guy, and Drew Sutton is an infielder holding down an outfield spot. Gorkys Hernandez is a great glove guy, but should be limited to seventh inning defensive duty.

Lots of outfielders are available, but there should only be a handful of interest to the Bucs. Justin Upton and Jacob Ellersby are too expensive, both in terms of acquisition cost and payroll. Alphonso Siriano, meh. Shane Victorino is another punch-and-Judy hitter. The market hasn't really defined itself yet, but Carlos Quentin or Cody Ross would be nice rentals, and if players like Alex Gordon, Josh Willingham, or Jason Kubel hit the market, they could prove attractive with the benefit of some team control.You can add Chase Headley & Bryan LaHair to this list if you're willing to consider them as a viable corner OF'ers; both are infielders first.

Starting Pitching: J-Mick and AJ are the rocks of the rotation, and the peripherals point to them remaining fairly strong during the summer. Jeff Karstens has indicated he's rounding into 2011 form after his last two starts. That leaves Kevin Correia and Erik Bedard.

Correia has pitched much better than his stats show and has been a dependable back-ender, but we remember his rapid regression of last season. Bedard hasn't been his early season self. In his past ten starts, five have gone five innings or fewer and only three have resulted in less than four runs scoring. He's been given a fair-sized vacation from the rotation to work on some tweaks. So there is some reason for concern at the back end. Add in that they're both in the walk year of their deals, and they're on less than solid ground.

Charlie Morton is out and Brad Lincoln's home is in the bullpen, at least for now. Rudy Owens and Jeff Locke are doing OK at Indy, but both are projected as 4-5 starters in the MLB. That's the spot they'd be asked to work, but the FO seems reluctant to bring them up during a pennant chase. Justin Wilson has the most upside, but because of control issues is the furthest away from being ready for the show. The young guns are looking at an arrival date realistically of 2014. So the Bucs can throw a couple of rookies into the fire, or find themselves a middle-of-the-rotation or better guy to shore up the arms.

Cole Hamels? Very sweet, but not happening. Probably ditto for Zach Grienke. Ryan Dempster and Wandy Rodriguez are dark horse possibilities. Maybe even Matt Garza, who has two more years of arbitration. A couple of mid-rotation guys may also be for sale, like Jason Vargas, Joe Saunders, Clayton Richards or Trevor Cahill, if indeed all of Arizona's roster is up for bid.

Bullpen: Lights out group, but every one of the current bunch is outperforming their peripherals, so a regression is almost inevitable. The variable is that so few guys have built a sufficient sample size to really determine how severe a regression to expect. Our guess is that the back end of Hanny and Jason Grilli will stay intact (with Hanrahan trade rumors resurfacing in the off-season) with Brad Lincoln getting more eighth inning work and Juan Cruz joining him as bridge men. Jared Hughes and Tony Watson have held up remarkably well, and Chris Resop has been strong enough to drive away all challengers.

We don't think they'll add on here unless it's an internal move. Indy has Bryan Morris, Daniel McCutchen, Chris Leroux, Tim Woods and even Wilson available to shore up the Pirates' pen if the need arises.

The Bench: Just so-so now, with glove guys like Gorsky Hernandez and Jordy Mercer along with Josh Harrison, Matt Hague and eventually Drew Sutton when Alex Presley returns. They could use one big bat, and it's possible that bat is already in the system in the person of Jeff Clement.

Infield: Not much shaking here. Neil Walker is money, Pedro is in for the duration, the two-headed Casey McGehee/Garrett Jones first base platoon works, and shortstop...well, Clint Barmes can catch a ball, but he's not so much at the plate. But we think the Bucs will live with that - everyone wants a SS - and don't see much action here.

Catcher: Not at all deep (geez, they kept Eric Fryer on the 40-man roster), and starter Rod Barajas looks like he's going to be a .225 hitter with a few homers. The joker in the deck is Mike McKenry who is hitting like he's channeling Josh Gibson. The power surge is a surprise; his HR numbers in the minors dropped as he advanced at every level. And we expect to see him a little more often during the second half. Could the Bucs upgrade here? Sure, but as we saw last year, a competent catcher is hard to find. With Kurt Suzuki being the big catching name on the block - though Kelly Shoppach could be dangled - we think the Bucs stand pat because of the market more than complacency.

Is a lot of change in the cards? We don't think, though there may be some internal shuffling. But we'd be surprised if they don't add an OF bat and another starter, with maybe a bench or bullpen tweak.


WilliamJPellas said...

My two trade targets would be: Chase Headley and Jason Vargas. Either Tabata or Presley would be part of the package I would use to get them, along with one from among Owens/Locke/Wilson. If I had my 'druthers I would hang onto Wilson and let him duke it out with Owens or Locke---whichever one was not traded---next spring for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Ron Ieraci said...

We'll see which direction they choose, Will. Though it's said they're considering parting with one of the elite prospects, I sorta think that they are more likely to give up some second tier guys. They have done a good job of staying mum; I think they might just let the market come to them instead of pushing things.