Sunday, August 26, 2012

FO At The Deadline: Meh!

OK, we've had a month to check out the results of the FO's efforts to keep the Bucs in the hunt at the deadline. They were busy, pulling off deals with Houston, Toronto, Miami and the Yankees along with calling up Starling Marte. But the question is did they construct a roster built for two months of grind it out baseball?

Travis Snider, in a small sample, looks like he could plug the RF gap for the Bucs. He's hitting .304 with a homer and six RBI. He's misplaced at the top of the order but adjusted to it, compiling a .372 OBP, his career high mark, at the cost of some power. Lunchbox has banged lefties, so he could be everyday material. And if you can get a starting position player for a reliever, albeit a multi-role guy like Brad Lincoln, it's a good deal.

Shane Victorino would seem to have been a better short-term fit at the top of the lineup, but his asking price was reportedly the same for two months and done. The Pirates opted for the long term. And so far it's not a bad decision; the Flyin' Hawaiian is just hitting .236 with a .337 OBP for LA.

We would just as soon keep Garrett Jones in right than add Hunter Pence to the outfield mix. As for Chase Headley, he was kinda a man without a position for Pittsburgh, which would have likely converted the third sacker to 1B/OF. And San Diego, from all appearances, was trawling the waters to try to gauge his value more than actively seeking a deadline deal unless a real overpay was offered. The action on him will take place during the off season, and now the Friar brass have a starting point for their talks.

With Jones and Starling Marte's call up, the Buc outfield seemed solid enough, especially with JT (since recalled) and Alex Presley in reserve at Indy.

One thing that they whiffed on was adding a veteran utility infielder, a guy like Mario Scutero or Willie Bloomquist who play everywhere and get a hit from the pine. That's a missing piece in their bench. 

There were a couple of toss-up deals for Gaby Sanchez and Chad Qualls. The Pirates overpaid some on Gaby, giving up Gorkys Hernandez and a high supplemental draft pick just after the first round. They could have used that selection after missing out on Mark Appel. Sanchez had worked his way out of favor in Miami, but caught the Bucs' eye with a good AAA showing and a .297 BA against lefties.

Gaby made Casey McGehee expendable, and the Bucs sent him to the Bronx Bombers for Chad Qualls, who the FO had pursued as a free agent for the past couple of seasons. Qualls was having a rough go in NY after starting the year poorly with Philly, and was said to be a heartbeat from being DFA'ed. So the Bucs grabbed him in an exchange of not-so-shiny spare parts.

Then there's Wandy. The FO wanted to slot a dependable guy behind AJ, J-Mick and Jeff Karstens. Wandy Rodriguez seemed that steady presence, though in June and July his ERA and WHIP jumped. We assume that Pittsburgh did its due diligence in scouting his outings, and concluded that the toxic atmosphere in Houston was more the culprit than his pitching. So they sent Rudy Owens, Robbie Grossman and Colton Cain to the rebuilding Astros. They had the pitching depth, and Grossman, 22, was a player the Bucs couldn't agree on regarding upside, though he is playing well for Houston's AA Corpus Christi club.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez's woes continued into August; he's got a 4.86 ERA and nary a win in the rotation after five starts (though he did pick up a W in relief). And he caused one huge construction problem for the Bucs. They now had six starters, three of whom were having problems, and kept them all. Kevin Correia spot started and was slotted as a long man while Wandy and Eric Bedard stayed in the rotation.

And that's where the construction problems began. The Pirates shouldn't have kept all six starters, even if they gave one away in a Casey McGehee type deal. They had enough depth at Indy to cover a spot start or take a fifth man role. To make matters worse, they went to a six man rotation, alternating between a short pen and a short bench, hardly the way to play through August.

The bullpen had been carrying the team all season. They removed Brad Lincoln and replaced him with Chad Qualls and added KC, who is a slow starter out of the gate and hadn't pitched relief since 2009. The result was that for a month, the Buc bullpen was a jumble with roles shifting, Correia in and out, and just plain work overload.

They finally seem to have realized the problem, bringing in 37 year old lefty Hisanori Takahashi off waivers today. But they're still carrying one starter too many and three that aren't very effective, and this is a month later. They aren't going to address the issue further, we suppose, until September call ups, which you may note is after the big series coming up with St. Louis.

We understand that the FO was walking a tightrope between selling out for 2012 and planning for a future that's falling nicely into place, and they weren't going to bring home a big shiny rental. But they have to get out of collector mode sooner or later and start become builders, fitting pieces together into a unit. They still judge too much on player value as in salary, rather than player value as in filling a team need.

They added Snider and Marte to the lineup, swapped out McGehee for Sanchez on the bench, and created chaos with the pitching staff. The hitting and to some degree the pitching were due to regress, but the FO didn't help soften the blow. Let's hope that after their first real taste of playoff body snatching (2011 was just a dry run) that they develop a better battle plan next time around.

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