Pittsburgh Pirates: Two More Moves To Make

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
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AJ Burnett is the leader of the Pirates staff, but do they bring him back or let him walk?

AJ Burnett is the leader of the Pirates staff, but do they bring him back or let him walk?

The Pittsburgh Pirates enter their first off-season fresh off of a playoff berth for the first time in 20 years. The Pirates play in the dangerous NL Central along with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals who both should be good again. The Pirates roster is virtually the same as last season, but they have two more important moves to make in order to be set going into 2014.

1. Acquire A Platoon First Basemen

Gaby Sanchez is currently the only true first basemen the Pirates have on the depth chart. The Pirates have been looking for a first basemen to platoon with Sanchez due to Sanchez being a left handed pitchers nightmare. Sanchez posted a slash line of .333/.438/.539/.987  in 2013. Sanchez would be the first basemen on days when the Pirates play against left handed starters. Sanchez against right handers is a different story with a slash line of .204/.304/.315/.619. The Pirates have been rumored to be looking for a left handed bat who hits well against righties. They inquired about Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays, but talks were shot down when the Blue Jays asked for Neil Walker. The Pirates have two options in my mind:

Option 1 – Ike DavisIke Davis struggled in 2013 to the point where he was sent down to the minor leagues. Davis in 2012 hit 32 home runs with 90 RBI. He has a ton of power, but he struggles against southpaws. Davis struck out in 26.8% of his at bats in 2013, which was a career high for him in the minors or majors. Davis fared better against right handers in 2013 posting a slash line of .222/.356/.371/.727 compared to .145/.203/.203/.406 against lefties. The New York Mets and their fans are growing tired of Ike Davis, but he still has potential. Teams realize this as evidenced by the Milwaukee Brewers making pushes for Davis. The Pirates could probably send some of their rotation depth to the Mets in return for Davis.

Option 2 – Mitch MorelandThe Texas Rangers acquired Prince Fielder this off-season seemingly making Mitch Moreland available via trade. Moreland has made Rangers fans frustrated with his untapped potential. He has posted some decent seasons with the Rangers, but not good enough to make the Rangers hold off from finding a replacement. Currently, Moreland projects to be the DH for the Rangers who could move him should the right offer come along. Moreland posted a .241/.297/.404/.701 slash line against left handers compared to .227/.300/.452/.752 against righties. Despite the drop in average, 20 of Moreland’s 23 home runs came against right handers, which shows his power comes from hitting against righties.

Both of these options are intriguing for the Pirates and reports keep surfacing they are interested in the two. If I was to choose who I would take, I would take Ike Davis due to the enormous power potential against right handers. The Pirates could use another power bat in their order and Davis has proven he can hit right handers better than Moreland.

2. Re-Sign Or Let Him Walk

The final move the Pirates need to make is whether or not bring back veteran right hander and 2013 staff ace A.J. Burnett. Burnett’s career has revived in Pittsburgh since coming over after some tumultuous years with the New York Yankees. Burnett has provided an excellent veteran presence in the Pirates rotation and truly has stabilized the top half of the rotation for the Pirates. Burnett has indicated he is either going to retire or come back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates have prepared for the event of Burnett leaving by re-signing Charlie Morton to a 3 year extension and signing Edinson Volquez to a 1 year deal. The current crop of starters the Pirates could choose from to make their 2014 rotation is:

1. Francisco Liriano, 2. Gerrit Cole, 3. Charlie Morton, 4. Jeff Locke, 5. Wandy Rodriguez, 6. Edinson Volquez.

Should Burnett decide to come back, the Pirates need to decide if they want to bring him back or not. I am sure they would welcome Burnett back for 2014 on a one year deal, but there is a seventh starting candidate who could help the Pirates decide to bring Burnett back or not. Jameson Taillon is waiting in the wings for his time to shine for the Pirates and should they feel he can win a rotation spot maybe they will not bring Burnett back. Rotation depth, however, is always key and injuries do occur. Bringing back Burnett would provide the Pirates with eight potential starters to choose from in 2014.  Cole and Liriano are almost locks for the rotation and Burnett would be as well should he come back. Jeff Locke showed his potential by earning a spot on the NL all-star squad. Wandy Rodriguez is a veteran workhorse, but is coming off of a major injury. Charlie Morton is a reliable low-end groundball starter. Edinson Volquez has lost the once dominant stuff he had as the ace with the Reds in the late 2000`s. Should he recapture any of that prior success Volquez could earn a rotation spot. Jeanmar Gomez figures to be in the bullpen. He also has starting experience and could enter for spot starts should worse come to worse. The Pirates decision to bring back Burnett or not is actually a big one. It provides them with even added rotation depth, or the ability to trade a starter away for a bat. Not bringing back Burnett gives the Pirates extra cash to work with and instills confidence into a young rotation to get the job done and get back to the playoffs in 2014.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in an awesome position going into 2014. They have very few holes on this team and could very well go back to the playoffs in 2014. The two moves I think they need to make are crucial and would cement them as my choice to win the NL Central in 2014.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Social Media Specialist for Pragmatic. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors

  • MP

    Walker for Lind… Blue Jays GM is smoking crack.

    Justin Smoak would be a better fit for Pgh than either Moreland or Davis… not sure why you didn’t mention him, as Seattle would be a better trade partner than either NY or Texas – Seattle needs RP and OF and Pgh has both…

    • Brendan

      Seattle current plan is to keep Smoak at 1st while having Hart DH and Morrison in right. Though, that could change now they brought back Guttierrez.

  • Gideon Clarke

    I highly doubt that A.J. Burnett will be back. Bob Nutting will use the extra cash to buy another mountain.







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