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Examining What Was Said At Pirate Fest

Another Pirates Fest has come and gone. What’s the damage? Photo by Britt Reints.

The best spin rate on the Pirates is Kyle Crick ?s slider. The worst spin rate is the front office at Pirates Fest.

Yes, last Saturday ?s Pirates Fest had a little bit for everyone. Autographs for the kids, tours of the park for adults and a fresh batch of ?probably should have phrased that better ? quotes for Twitter. I can ?t say I envy Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly for having to smile and nod while being chastised for Bob Nutting ?s frugality, especially when Bobbo decides he would rather do anything else than be called a cheap jagoff to his face. But this is their 12th Pirates Fest and roughly the 12th time they have had to be treated for Athlete ?s Tongue. Huntington and Coonelly had to have known what questions were coming and what rhetoric irks the fanbase the most. Read the scouting report.

The following three statements seemed to garner the most attention on Twitter. Just how bad were they?

Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman can be Freddy Galvis and Jordy Mercer, or better. – Huntington

Hang on, I have a tweet for this.

Shortstop was always going to be a tough spot to upgrade this offseason. I ?ll give Pirates Twitter credit for memeing a Machado-to-Pittsburgh rumor into existence, but after him, the pickings are slim. Going by Steamer ?s projections, Jose Iglesias and Nick Ahmed are upgrades, but only slight ones. Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria are at best lateral moves.

So, yes, Newman and Gonzalez could be as valuable as Galvis and Mercer, but don ?t mistake the gift of lowered expectations as good. Here are the WAR totals the Pirates received out of the shortstop position each year Mercer was on the team. The 2019 total is the Steamer projection, giving 300 PAs each to Gonzalez and Newman.

Courtesy of FanGraphs. Click to enlarge.

With the exception of 2015, the Pirates ranked in the bottom half of shortstop WAR each year, and in the bottom eight four times. The only reason 2015 was higher was because of Jung-Ho Kang, who had the majority of his playing time come at third. If you take away his contributions to that year ?s shortstop class, then the 0.9 WAR Gonzalez and Newman are projected for is fairly average for the Pirates in this stretch. But fairly average is fairly bad.

Jordan Lyles is ?Plan A ? for 5th starter job. Nick Kingham and Steven Brault are plans B and C. Plan D would be to use an opener. – Huntington

I ?m not going to split hairs on the pole position. Kingham has a higher ceiling, but Lyles had the better 2018. It’s a pick’em. Brault is the only lefty on the 40 man besides Felipe Vazquez and has an option year remaining, so the Pirates could use him as a reliever or stuff him in AAA. It makes sense why he ?s going to Bradenton in third place.

The part of this quote that irks (at least me) is the opener is only plan D. That ?s…that ?s not what an opener is. What he ?s describing is a bullpen game, which I can actually get behind. Let ?s say Mitch Keller is Major League ready by the first week of June. For a specific date, I ?ll use June 8. With the extra off-days teams now have under the current CBA, they would only need eight bullpen games the first 62 games of the season to keep the four man rotation on full rest.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

But that doesn ?t mean the opener should only be regulated to the fifth spot in the rotation. The Pirates allowed more runs in the first than any other inning last year. Some pitchers could really use one, including Kingham. This statement seems to shrug off a legitimate strategy at an area of weakness.

The Pirates payroll is low because most of the roster is pre-arb. Eight will become arbitration eligible, and more expensive, in 2020. Payroll can grow.- Coonelly

Well, he ?s not wrong. The payroll is low because only 11 members of the 40 man roster will make more than pre-arb money. Now I may not be a financial genius, but shouldn ?t that mean there is more money to spend today?

Ethan currently projects the payroll to be $70.9 million. Based on his payroll series from last year, the Bucs ? expenditures were $100+ million from 2015-2017. Pittsburgh is getting a smaller cut of the revenue sharing pie under the new CBA, and while we don ?t exactly how much they ?re missing out on, I think it’s safe to say they could add another $15-20 million to payroll. In this market, that could go a long way.

The Pirates could use a veteran number five starter. Gio Gonzalez is a man without a home. So is Wade Miley. And lest we forget this hole was only created because Ivan Nova ?s salary was dumped. The bullpen needs a lefty, and Tony Sipp and Jake Diekman are two quality, affordable arms. The Pirates could grab a starter and a reliever on a one or two year pact for $15 million, if not less. Those moves wouldn ?t be as impactful as trading for Paul Goldschmidt or signing Yasmani Grandal, but they would be clear upgrades.

Payroll will expand in 2020 when the core of Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Josh Bell and Joe Musgrove all hit arbitration, but the first year will be a drop in the bucket. I ?m not the first to say this, but what sense does it make to trade for Archer and Kela and then pinch pennies instead of completing the team. Why buy the car if you aren ?t going to pay for gas?

Alex is a Pirates and Duquesne basketball contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Point Park University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Comm. and a minor in English in 2014. Everything can be explained with numbers. If you want to keep up to date on both teams or have a story idea, you can follow or reach him @AlexJStumpf.

4 Comments on Examining What Was Said At Pirate Fest

  1. I did find it amusing when NH said the Pirates have a “young Freddy Galvis” in Gonzalez, as if that is actually a thing.

  2. Jake Smail // January 29, 2019 at 9:00 AM //

    I enjoyed this article from young Keith Olbermann.

  3. Why bother? Just do what I do and check in once every six months, note that nothing has changed, and get back to doing anything and I mean anything anything anything else other than following this team or giving them one penny.

  4. Jack O'Hara // January 30, 2019 at 5:36 PM //

    I wrote an article on the Pirates lack of contention and the reasons as well as my solution. It is 4,000 words and I did a fair amount of research to arrive at the conclusions. Title: “In Defense of Nutting”. Would like you to have a look at it

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