Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Radhames Liz Is Not a Lock to Make the Pirates Bullpen

Which relievers the Pirates choose to round out their bullpen is perhaps the only roster question left to be answered during this Spring Training. As Charlie Wilmoth of BucsDugout.com has pointed out, John Holdzkom‘s hold on a roster spot might be tenuous at best because he is one of the few relievers with options remaining. Arquimedes Caminero, Radhames Liz, Jeff Locke, and Stolmy Pimentel are all out of options. The only relievers with options remaining besides Holdzkom are Jared Hughes, Bobby LaFromboise, and Tony Watson. LaFromboise is certain to be optioned to AAA while Watson is guaranteed to be the primary setup man on the big league staff. Caminero has a fastball that approaches 100 mph and has been fantastic this Spring. It seems he has pitched himself onto the roster. Hughes has a career 61% ground ball rate and significant big league experience. Being the closest thing the Pirates’ bullpen has to a ground ball specialist helps Hughes’ case tremendously. Jeff Locke will probably be kept around because he makes the most sense as a swing man/spot starter. Radhames Liz is thought to be safe because the Pirates are paying him a $1 million guaranteed MLB contract. All of these factors put Holdzkom on shaky ground. He might have to start the season in Indianapolis simply because he is one of the few relievers that can be stashed in the minors.
But then again maybe it is a faulty assumption that Radhames Liz’s guaranteed MLB contract means he has already earned a roster spot. The Pirates did not hesitate to designate Vin Mazzaro for assignment last Spring when he was making similar money. The concern that Liz would not clear waivers also seems to be misguided. Teams do not make a practice of taking on a million bucks for an unproven relief pitcher. It is hard to imagine a team putting in a claim for Liz when they weren’t willing to make him such a contract offer in the offseason. Is the market for Radhames Liz really greater now than it was in December? I think not. Radhames Liz looks like a very stashable player in my opinion. If the Pirates must decide who to roster between Holdkom or Liz the decision should be based solely on merit.


  1. This is actually the beginnings of an interesting strategy. Say you have a player that’s going to be out of options and you want to keep them but they aren’t quite good enough to make the big club. Over the offseason, give them a ridiculous raise to scare other teams away from claiming them. It’s like buying an extra roster spot. Worst case scenario is that someone else ends up overpaying for your 26th-best player.

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