Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Month – December 2015

Are The Pirates Punting on 2016?

It has been a little more than two months since the Pittsburgh Pirates’ season ended at the hands of Cubs in the Wild Card Game. And we are still about two months away from the start of Spring Training. That puts us at just about the half way point of the offseason. The good news is that still leaves plenty of time for GM Neal Huntington to strengthen the club to make a run at 2016. The bad news is he has so much work left to do that it feels almost inevitable that the team will take a step back next season. Even worse is that the club seems almost resigned to that fate. The actions thus far by the front office this offseason do not resemble a confident contending baseball club that senses they are on the cusp of winning a championship. Instead the team has been focusing on controlling costs almost to the point it appears they are content with punting on the 2016 season. It is one thing to trim the fat of overpaid and underperforming players such as Pedro Alvarez and Charlie Morton. Sure, those moves were to some degree salary dumps. But those decisions have potential to help the team by addition from subtraction.
More troubling are the plans to jettison solid performers just because their salaries have risen to an “uncomfortable” level. The Pirates are rumored to have been shopping closer Mark Melancon all winter. They have already dealt 2B Neil Walker to the Mets for Jon Niese. I actually like Jon Niese as a 4th starter. And Niese’s salary obligations are not that far below what Neil Walker was set to make in 2016. From that standpoint the trade wasn’t a salary dump. But wouldn’t this team be better had they kept Neil Walker AND SIGNED a competent left handed starting pitcher? They actually had one of those at the end of last season. His name was J.A. Happ and they chose to watch as he was signed away by the Toronto Blue Jays.
It hasn’t been all bad moves for the Bucs this offseason. They did make an intriguing acquisition by dealing for 1B Jason Rogers from the Brewers. Rogers has some positional versatility and he has hit at every level in the minors. He acquitted himself quite well in his first taste of big league action last season. I also like the free agent signing of pitcher Juan Nicasio. Nicasio could be a nice piece in the bullpen. He also could get another crack at being a starting pitcher. But these are really nickel and dime type moves. A strong contender like the Pirates should be moving beyond just thrift signings in the offseason. It is time the team gets a little “uncomfortable” with their payroll instead of just making the fans of the team “uncomfortable” over the thought of punting on the 2016 season.

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