As Tim posted earlier today, there are lots of important dates coming up in the MLB off-season. Some involve free agents; as Pirate fans we know better than to get hopeful about that. One is already past, as we saw Derek Holland and Keone Kela become free agents. Here’s a quick summary of the rest:
November 2: Options must be exercised or declined and players on the 45-day injured list must be reinstated to the 40-man roster.
November 20: Players who need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft must be added to the 40-man.
December 2: Non-tender deadline.
December 6-10: Winter meetings.
January 15: Deadline for arbitration figures.
The immediate concern is that first one. Not counting Kela, who is now gone, the Pirates have ten players on the IL. One of those is Chris Archer, whose option is a lock to be bought out. That leaves Nick Burdi, Michael Feliz, Clay Holmes, Yacksel Rios, Jameson Taillon, Luke Maile, Phillip Evans, Anthony Alford and Kevin Kramer. Assuming Archer indeed becomes a free agent, the Pirates will have to clear nine spots.
Coming up with nine candidates to be designated for assignment sure is tough, but I’ll do my best:
Pitchers: Tyler Bashlor, Austin Davis, Feliz, Carson Fulmer, Dovydas Neverauskas, Sean Poppen, Rios, Nick Tropeano, Brandon Waddell, Trevor Williams.
Catchers: Maile, John Ryan Murphy.
Infielders: Evans, Erik Gonzalez, Jose Osuna, Kevin Kramer.
Outfielders: Jason Martin.
So that’s . . . . . . seventeen. Imagine that! Only 42.5% of the roster!
Actually, going through the Pirates’ 40-man roster makes me feel like an intern perusing the waiver wire. Out of the above list, the only semi-obvious keepers, in my opinion, are Evans and Davis, the latter because he’s a lefty and because they gave up an actual player for him. A quick summary of the rest:
Bashlor: He pitched semi-respectably for the Mets in 2018, but was awful in limited chances in 2019-20. He looks too much like a Neal Huntington Special to me.
Feliz: This is getting old. I can understand the determination to keep trying, because Feliz looks impressive at times, but the gophers just won’t go into hibernation. The decisive factor may be his eligibility for arbitration. He won’t get a lot, but Bob Nutting is going to be squeezing those nickels hard, trying to crush them into dimes.
Fulmer: It’d seem like a missed opportunity not to Dragmire him again.
Neverauskas: This is getting really old. The fact that he pitched only once in the season’s last three weeks probably tells us where he’s headed.
Poppen: Beats me. He certainly seems a candidate to try to slip through waivers.
Rios: They already dfa’d him once and no plausible reason has surfaced not to do it again.
Tropeano: He probably pitched well enough to hang on for now.
Waddell: I’m pretty confident they called him up as emergency depth because they figured he’d be easy to slip through waivers.
Williams: I can’t see them paying an arb 2 salary to a guy who may have been the worst starter in MLB since mid-2019. I don’t think it’ll happen yet, though. They’ve got over a month still and will probably try (unsuccessfully) to trade him.
Maile and Murphy: I suppose you could argue Maile never got a chance, but they’re both arbitration-eligible, and good-glove, zero-bat catchers are incredibly easy to replace at low cost.
Gonzalez: It’s pretty likely that the table-pounding will continue to echo (I’m tempted to add something about empty spaces).
Osuna: The truth is that he’s a corner player who just hasn’t hit much, and he’s arbitration-eligible.
Kramer: He’s an offense-first player who was a below-average hitter in AAA at age 25. Working in his favor is the Pirates’ tendency to fetishize infielders who have experience standing in the outfield.
Martin: He also hasn’t hit in AAA and the Pirates chose to keep playing J.T.F. Riddle rather than give Martin a shot.
One thing to keep in mind is that this will be just the first round. More than nine of these players will end up off the roster, but other factors will drive the timing. Williams is a good example, and I suppose they might hang onto one of the catchers for a while. With all that in mind, which players do you think they’ll dfa? We can check back on Sunday to see who got the most right. Here’s my list of nine: