They were retooled after the 2014 campaign too, when guys like Jason Grilli, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Vin Mazzaro, Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez, Ernesto Frieri and Big John Holdzkum answered the phone. This year's shuffle is the Pirate rule, not the exception.
One opening remains in the relief corp. Assuming Feliz and Nicasio will offset Soria and Blanton, that makes the Bucs one shutdown lefty short of last year's group. But Bastardo was, like Watson, a guy that was effective against either side, so the Bucs may opt to fill in with a two-way arm instead of another lefty, although that does leave Clint a little short in the match-up game, a familiar scenario.
The Bucs have loaded up with NRI lefties; it's TBD if any have the stuff to break camp.
Here's a quick look at the anticipated pen:
Mark Melancon: It's probably the 30 year old Shark's last Pirate go-around; Watson is just about ready to close and Melancon's $9.65M deal is rich for the FO's liking, although they do have to face the music and realize the back end of bullpens are tough to build on the cheap anymore. Mark had another effective year in 2015, albeit with some SABR-metric red flags. His saving grace is that his BABIP for the past two years has been in the mid-.250 range, and between coaxing soft contact and the infield positioning, he's been able to outperform the metrics. Still, if the Bucs are floundering at the deadline, he'll be dangled again, as he was this winter, before his 2017 walk year.
|The Shark celebrates another save with Fran (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)|
Arquimedes Caminero: Uncle Ray got him to quit trying to throw the ball through the backstop, and tho his K rate dropped by a couple per game, so did his walks. Oddly enough, per Fangraphs his fastball velocity went up to 97.9 and his ground ball rate increased to 47.6%, both career highs. So a little less grunting added some movement, and he's turned into an effective bridge guy. Arquie only has a year's service time, so he's under team control for the long haul.
Jared Hughes: The true fireman, Clint brings him in anytime a ground ball is needed to stop the bleeding, and he's thrived in that role. As long as he continues to get the ball hit into the dirt at his career 61.7% rate, they'll be a spot for him. Additionally, he can soak up multiple innings, so he's the perfect middle man. Hughes is inked to a $2.175M deal and has two more arb years ahead.
|Jared Hughes (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)|
Neftali Feliz: Since his 2011 season, including 2010's RoY (he saved 72 games from 2010-11), Neftali has been through the wringer, being switched to the rotation, encountering control issues and then undergoing TJ surgery. He's lost a couple of feet from his heater, though he still guns it in at 94, and opposite of the Pirates' preferred mold, is a 50% fly-ball guy. But his control is OK, the OF can cover pretty well, and Searage has had bigger train wrecks to work with. His 6.38 ERA last year was two runs over his FIP, largely fed by an unsightly .349 BABIP. The Bucs bet $3.9M that he'll have a healthy arm and bounce back this year. In what role has yet to be determined; he has an early back-end resume but mop-up results last year. He should be motivated; 2017 is his FA season.
Next up: The Pirate Bullpen's Depth Arms
Heading to Camp: Starting Pitching, Eight Deep
Heading to Camp: Starting Pitching, On the Way & Depth Arms