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  1. #1
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    Dec 2005
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    Free Agent Frenzy

    So the Pirates are very unlikely to be active on the free agency front but that shouldn't stop us from speculating about what is out there and how it might line up with their needs. To start today we aren't going to speculate about players yet but rather what kind of budget room the Pirates will probably be dealing with.

    The Pirates currently have 48.25 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2019. This covers six players (Archer, Nova, Vazquez, Cervelli, Marte and Polanco) plus two option buy outs. In addition they have two big arb cases in Dickerson and Kela and though I'm not 100% certain they tender Dickerson I'm confident enough that for the sake of this discussion I'm going to include him. Those two players should take up somewhere around 11 to 12 million dollars. So for rounding sake we will just call the total between them and the guaranteed portion 60 million dollars.

    To fill out the roster with players making roughly the league minimum would cost around another 9 million plus another approximate million for Santana and Kuhl who will spend the season on the DL. Add in a final 1.5 million or so for the 15 players who will occupy 40 man space but not 25 man space and that brings our grand total to somewhere in the vicinity of 71.5 million.

    This past season the Pirates spent 90 million so we are going to assume that is the target number while also thinking that maybe they will stretch it upwards of 100 million. The rationale for this is the Archer move was out of character so perhaps they are looking to be somewhat aggressive. So basically we are going to go through this free agency process with the idea that the Pirates are going to add 20-25 million worth of payroll. That might be a little high but we are just going to roll with it as our baseline.
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  2. #2
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    Catcher
    With Cervelli and Diaz both set to return it seems unlikely the Pirates will be in the market for a catcher. Even if Cervelli is dealt I would guess that meant Stallings would get a shot at the backup job. However I suppose there is a scenario where Cervelli is dealt and the Pirates don't feel comfortable with Stallings so they look at free agency for a backup option.

    Considering we are talking about a backup catcher top guys like Ramos and Grandal are off the table and I would imagine guys like Lucroy, Suzuki and probably even Ellis would be as well. I'd hope the Pirates would steer clear of defense only options like Mathis and instead roll the dice with Stallings.

    That doesn't leave much. A guy like Nick Hundley or Erik Kratz could make sense in this narrow situation we are considering but overall this seems unlikely to me.

    1st Base
    Despite Bell's struggles it seems unlikely the Pirates move on from him so any action at first base is likely to be contained to a backup. Which is good because the market doesn't have much on it with World Series MVP Steve Pearce probably being the top dog. He obviously won't be an option for the Pirates.

    I'd be ok with a pickup of say Matt Adams but again that seems unlikely. A right handed bat like Mark Reynolds would make more sense but the fact he doesn't play 3B well at all anymore means such a move probably won't happen. Moving on to something that does seem more feasible a guy like Lucas Duda coming off a poor season might have to settle for a camp invite and that is something I think would be a wise move. He might not show much of anything but he'd be at least a bit of insurance.

    Outfield
    With Polanco out for a while this is a position where the Pirates probably should look for someone who can play significant time. Obviously this doesn't mean the Pirates are going to be in the market for Harper or even Pollock but someone of some significance should be in a play.

    The name that will catch the attention of every Pirates fan is of course Andrew McCutchen but a reunion seems highly unlikely. It would make a lot of people thrilled but he is probably going to get a lot more than the Pirates will be looking to spend on this position plus it would be awkward if he ended up being the one to head to the bench when Polanco returns.

    The more realistic candidates include guys like Jon Jay, Curtis Granderson, Lonnie Chisenhall and maybe even Melky Cabrera if they think he can still play out there regularly. Ideally this outfielder would also have some 1B experience so he can be more useful when Polanco returns and also serve as a backup plan for Bell but I'm not seeing anyone who fits that description and would be a reasonable good target for the Pirates.

    Tomorrow I will discuss the rest of the infield which is where I could see the Pirates making a larger move and handing out a multi year deal.
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  3. #3
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    Shortstop
    Shortstop is probably the single most likely position the Pirates are going to address with an outside acquisition. The simple reason I say this is because the entire depth chart at the moment is little more than Kevin Newman. Problem is aside form one marquee name (Manny Machado) the available shortstops on the free agent market leave a lot to be desired.

    The Pirates very well may opt for a reunion with Jordy Mercer and while I have appreciated his time with the club I'd very much prefer they went a different route. Jose Iglesias looks like a good option as though his offense isn't great its passable and his glove is great. He'd be an immediate defensive upgrade for an infield that desperately needs one. The rest of the group doesn't offer much. Freddy Glavis looks like a similar to Mercer though he is 3 years younger and Hechavarria while he would provide a good glove can't really hit much at all.

    In short if the Pirates are going to use free agency to address their shortstop hole the best option is probably Iglesias and aside from that they are probably better off looking for a trade or adding one of the 2B we are about to talk about who can also play shortstop.

    Second Base
    The second base market is filled with many more interesting names like Asdrubal Cbarera, DJ LeMahieu and Jed Lowrie. Even going with someone like Ian Kinsler for his defense or Neil Walker or Brian Dozier and hoping for a bounce back would be a good idea. The problem is the presence of Adam Frazier means second base is not as pressing a need as shortstop so while the Pirates could sign one of these guys and send Frazier out to RF to begin the year I don't think that is what they will do.

    Of the names I listed Asdrubal Cabrera is the one who could probably play a fair amount of shortstop and not look terrible doing so. He played the position fairly frequently through 2016 but has only played their in a part time capacity the last two years. Still adding a guy like him who has a plus bat and can play both middle infield positions is something the Pirates need to strongly consider. I think him and Iglesias are two of the better free agent fits for the Pirates.

    Third Base
    It seems unlikely the Pirates will give up on Colin Moran which makes a big expenditure at third base unlikely. Still the Pirates can not be just content with giving Moran a free pass. I think the best thing here is bringing back Jung Ho Kang. Yes I realize he isn't the most popular guy around but he should come relatively cheap and he definitely has some upside and that is really the most the Pirates can do without moving on from Moran.

    Aside from Kang I suppose a guy like Mark Reynolds might work though he isn't really a third baseman anymore. If they did move on from Moran the top of the class Donaldson and even a guy like Beltre would be out of the question. The best option would likely be Mike Moustakas who has a fairly average bat (career 98 wRC+) but good defensive skills.
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  4. #4
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    Starting Pitcher
    As of now the Pirates starting rotation appears set but there is always the possibility of a trade and if it one were to happen then exploring free agency for a possible solution becomes a viable option. Ivan Nova would appear to be the most likely candidate to be traded but perhaps another one could be flipped to help fill a hole on the position side. Regardless any such trade would probably cause a situation where the Pirates would have to choose between going with Nick Kingham as their 5th starter or bringing in some outside help.

    Aside from Kershaw who looks likely to resign with the Dodgers the top names on the market are Corbin, Keuchel and old friend Charlie Morton. The Pirates won't be signing any of those guys. Beyond them you have some solid middle of the rotation veterans like Gio Gonzalez, Lance Lynn and CC Sabathia but again I have trouble seeing the Pirates seeking any of those guys out. You also have Nathan Eovaldi who I might have considered a possibility before his strong finish with Boston.

    If the Pirates are going to dip into free agency and sign a starting pitcher it is likely going to be their normal reclamation job. Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano (heh) and maybe even Clay Buchholz could all count in this group but my personal favorite is Drew Pomeranz. He had a bad and injury riddle 2018 but prior to that he had two very good seasons and he'll only be 30 next year. He also relies fairly heavily on his fastball and those seem to be the types Searage works best with. Assuming his health checks out I would be very much on board with a Nova trade and replacing him with Pomeranz.
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  5. #5
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    The last part of the free agent frenzy thread should be relief pitchers. However the position is such a crap shoot that its tough to actually write anything substantial about it so today is going to be even a lighter touch than normal.

    It definitely makes sense for the Pirates to dip their toes into the market for a left handed relief pitcher. The top of the market Andrew Miller and Zach Britton will of course be out of the question. Guys like Tony Sipp or old friend Justin Wilson could make a lot of sense. Of course the other possibility is a lower tier guys like old friends Zach Duke and Oliver Perez or maybe Huntington will finally land Jorge De La Rosa.

    A right handed reliever could also make some sense given Santana's injury but coming up with names is a tall order so I'm just going to skip that part.

    Next week I'll probably make use of this link and hopefully Fangraphs crowdsourcing project to do some mock scenarios on what the Pirates could possibly do.
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  6. #6
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    Today I am choosing to directly state something that I have only strongly alluded to up until this point. There is one free agent out there who I believe to be a near perfect fit for the Pirates. I say near perfect because what the Pirates really need is high end talent and well this guy isn't that but a guy like that is not realistic considering what the Pirates spent. Still there is one guy out there who I think solves their secondary issue of depth who will likely come with a reasonable price tag. That guy is Asdrubal Cabrera.

    Cabrera hit .262/.316/.458 last year not an eye popping slash line but one that is still quite good for a middle infielder. He can play 2B, SS and 3B all positions the Pirates need additional depth at but it goes beyond even that.

    The Pirates biggest weakness last year by far was their infield and with Polanco's injury right field remains one with question marks. Ideally all would be addressed with known quantities but that is not financially practical for the Pirates so the other way to do it is with options. Adding Cabrera gives them options. I'll explain below what I mean.

    1B: Josh Bell, Jose Osuna, Lonnie Chisenhall, Will Craig
    2B: Adam Frazier, Asdrubal Cabrera, Kevin Kramer, Pablo Reyes, Kevin Newman, Erik Gonzalez
    3B: Colin Morna, Jung Ho Kang, Asrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Ke'Bryan Hayes
    SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Erik Gonzalez, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker
    RF: Lonnie Chisenhall, Adam Frazier, Gregory Polanco

    My initial thought is that Cabrera would start out at shortstop but do to his versatility he could cover second if Frazier struggles and third if Moran and Kang struggle. That would mean Gonzalez and/or Newman would take over at shortstop. However he also provides depth at 1B and RF because he could slide over to second freeing up Frazier to move to RF and Chisenhall to first if necessary. Essentially he gives the Pirates a solid bat and the ability to better move around and cover for any struggling positions.

    In addition to Cabrera I'd also like to see a cheap right handed outfielder who can cover center field brought in. No specific ideas at the moment but its important to state that as he'll be on my roster list below:

    Cervelli (C, 1B)
    Diaz (C)

    Bell (1B)
    Frazier (2B, RF)
    Moran (3B)
    Cabrera (2B, 3B, SS)
    Kang (3B)
    Gonzalez (2B, 3B, SS)

    Dickerson (LF)
    Marte (CF)
    Chisenhall (1B, 3B, RF)
    RH OF (LF, CF, RF)

    And there is one more roster spot which due to the versatility of the above roster could go to Stallings, Osuna, Kramer, Reyes, Newman or even an extra pitcher to start the year.
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