Getting 7 years of Alen Hanson with a little spin
Alen Hanson needs to start the year in AAA and remain there for at least two weeks. If he remains in AAA for at least two weeks he will be under Pirate control until November of 2022. If he remains in AAA until June he will be under control through 2022 and will only go to arbitration thrice vice being a Super Two.
I really don’t even think Super Two status for Hanson is that much of a concern, as I don’t think he has superstar written all over him like Cole, Polanco, Marte etc.
Huntington just doesn’t want to give away a season of Hanson for two weeks if he could have someone to fill in. Problem is that after Josh Harrison there isn’t much in the way of 2B other than Hanson available at Huntington’s disposal. So enter Cole Figueroa
I hadn’t even heard of Figueroa when Huntington dropped his name and gushed over him recently. At Piratefest Huntington said the following things about Figueroa he “does some things in the batter’s box that we absolutely love — commands the zone, uses the whole field … He’s going to be given every chance in the world to make our club.” Cole who?
Figueroa looks like a Jaff Decker type of patient hitter that can play all the infield positions but has no power. But Cole Figueroa wasn’t an option for a Yankees team that is a worse team than us and who needed a second baseman prior to the trade for Starlin Castro. He is left-handed though with a bunch of RHH Pirate middle infielders after Walker was traded…. and he’s cheap and disposable.
With the signing of Sean Rodriguez the need for a stopgap for Hanson isn’t as bad. Maybe with Serpico and Figueroa they can leave Hanson in the minors until the Super Two deadline passes.
But the overarching point is: to win the PR war with the media over Hanson starting the season in the minors Huntington has to plant the Figueroa seeds now. You have to be good at trades, drafting and spin to be a good GM in today’s game. Huntington is good at all.
The money is there
The Pirates could be in very good shape in the 2017 season as far as payroll is concerned.
Other than Cutch and Liriano’s 8 figure salaries, most of the team is signed to affordable contracts (Kang, Harrison and Marte) or inexpensive in arbitration (Cole, Hughes and Watson). They might have starters at catcher (Diaz), first base (Bell), second base (Hanson) and rightfield (Polanco) making the league minimum as well as two or three of the rotation spots (Taillon, Glasnow and Kingham).
My rough estimation is that with all likely players the Pirates will have a payroll around $75M. If the $95-$100M payroll is the new Pirates’ norm, they could take on a nice free agent or sign a hefty extension to someone like Cole or re-sign Cervelli.. or maybe extend Cutch.
Pirates won’t sign another starter
In a ideal, yet realistic Pirates’ world, a 5 game stretch in September would have the following pitching lines:
Cole (W) – 8 innings: 3 hits 9 K’s 1 BB 0 runs
Liriano (W) – 9 innings: 5 hits 10 K’s 2 BBs 0 runs
Taillon (W) – 8 innings: 6 hits 9 K’s 1 BB 0 runs
Locke (W) – 8 innings: 3 hits 9 K’s 1 BB 1 run
Glasnow (W) – 7 innings: 3 hits 12 K’s 5 BBs 1 run
#1 – Yes, Locke is in my ideal rotation. Not Mat Latos. Not Jon Niese. Jeff “yinzer scapegoat” Locke.
Jeff Locke has the components of #2 starter stuff. His fastball sits at 91-92 and touches 95. His curve is nasty and his changeup is really good. He struggles with command but when he finds it he’s very tough… he’s an All-star or he’s the pitcher that had the highest game score of ALL Pirates pitchers last year with an 84 versus the Indians on July 4th. If you get really bored compare Locke’s pedigree, age and initial seasons to Wandy Rodiguez: very similar. Left-handed pitchers take a long time to find command; if Locke does he can be a #2.
#2 – While everyone agrees that the Pirates would love to have a dominant Taillon and Glasnow in the rotation in the second half they aren’t seeing how that affects this offseason. The Pirates don’t need to sign another #3 starter. They want to insert Taillon and Glasnow into a rotation in June that includes Cole and Liriano and pick one of Locke/Niese/Vogelsong… and to a lesser extent Lobstein, Nicasio or Brault.
“What about an injury in the first half?” – You have Lobstein or Brault… or even Taillon to bring up if it’s dire.
“What if Taillon and Glasnow struggle?” – They are the future of the rotation but all rookies have their growing pains (see: Marte, Polanco, Harrison, etc.) There is only so much you can learn in AAA.
So count this guy as one that won’t be surprised in the Pirates don’t sign another starter and go with what the currently have in the system.