Sunday, August 2, 2015

On Deadline Deals, AJ & Beanballs

On deadline day, the Bucs applied a little putty around the edges. Joakim Soria was the big pickup; he's not lights-out, but is a competent back-ender, and the Pirates needed one more late inning, high-leverage guy.

A-Ram was a necessary band-aid; tho he and Pedro as fielders at the corners, sheesh. In fact, they are pretty much clones at bat, too: Ramirez - .236/11/44; Pedro .233/15/51. Ramirez will be a bench piece when Josh and Jordy return. The FO got someone who was inexpensive in trade value, won't complicate the left side when Josh & Jordy are back, and serves a short-term need.

Joe Blanton came to town to provide the flexibility to the bullpen that Vance Worley couldn't. The Bucs carried Vance as an insurance policy for a long time. The deal made sense when it was struck, but now with AJ possibly done, it looks like the Bucs may have cancelled their policy a little prematurely.

JA Happ's get was purely reactionary on the FO's part after AJ went down; we don't believe they would have gotten him if Vance was still on the roster. And we don't think he'll have a very long leash; the Bucs will pick up someone, either internally (Radhames Liz?) or via an August deal if Ray Searage can't work his magic in a hurry. Those early season injuries to Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Brandon Cumpton cut the Bucco depth down to the bone; that's why they kept Vance around.

Michael Morse? You tell us; maybe the Pirates feel some of that 2014 thunder is still in his stick as they continue their quest for Pedro's caddy. The fact he took the full three days to report isn't exactly the best way to show some enthusiasm; but we guess that can be excused with his recent dizzying journey from Miami to LA to Pittsburgh. At least he'll have a handful of frequent flier miles to cash in this winter.

Joakim Soria was the Bucs big pick up (Image: Root Sports)
The cost wasn't much - cash back and forth, Adrian Sampson, who profiles as a fifth starter, two upside but raw prospects in Yhonathan Barrios and JaCoby Jones, and Jose Tabata, who long ago wore out his welcome.

The Bucs did OK for the moment. Their bullpen is deeper and they put a patch on the left-side infield, especially with JHK playing an acceptable short. But they have to look at a rotation upgrade if AJ's arm is gone.

We wondered if something was amiss, altho AJ does go through dead arm periods historically in August. But his explanation is totally Burnett - he tried to soldier through some pain until it got to the point where he was hurting his club. He'll be tested tomorrow, and already said surgery is off the table. That makes sense; he'd be done for the year if cut, and he's made it plain that this is his swan song. Why go it through it for naught?

Options are awfully limited; Happ isn't a likely long-term answer. In-house, Radhames Liz is on a hot streak at Indy (3-3/1.02; 51 K in 44 IP), maybe they'd look at Angel Sanchez or Chris Volstad, too, or even a reunion with Worley. But depending on tomorrow's results for AJ, bet that they'll be keeping a close eye on the August waiver wires, even if Jeff Locke and Charlie pick up with their consistency.

As an afterthought following the Reds-Bucs rumble, there are two reasons Cutch gets clocked. One is the nature of the beast; the Pirates leading the league in hit batsmen correlates to Pittsburgh pitchers leading the league in hitting batsmen, due as much to pitching philosophy as a mean streak. Cutch is the man and the target; Starling is the #2 guy and not established enough yet to go after, tho he does wear his share of baseballs.

Beanball wars have been around as long as baseball. Byrd and Phillips were both hit hard & high, not with backfoot curves. Until someone outperforms Cutch, the payback cycle will remain the same.

Second, it's again pitching philosophy, but now from the other dugout. Cutch doesn't hit high stuff or inside balls very well, so where would you pitch him? Watch opponents work him; they back him off the plate inside and follow with stuff at the top of the strike zone and away. That's why when he's on top of his game, he's banging balls to right center. So Cutch has a double-ringed bullseye pinned to his jersey.


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