As I type this on Wednesday, the Pirates are currently in a cloud delay versus the Atlanta Braves.?? Makes sense, because a giant dark cloud has been settled over the 2019 Pirates for the whole year.
Because everything sucks right now, especially with the Pirates only having three real starting pitchers and three relievers, some people are already thinking about blowing the whole thing up and having a good ol’ fashioned fire sale.
While I think that is just a touch premature to discuss on June 5th, a month from now on July 5th it may be more applicable.?? There’s a faction of the fanbase that has decided via groupthink that Starling Marte is a terrible baseball player and must go.?? This is silly for a multitude of reasons, but let’s say that maybe in the offseason the Pirates should move Marte from a purely asset management standpoint.?? He has two affordable seasons that can be picked up as options.?? It’s essentially a 2 year/$24M contract for a team to potentially get a power-speed-defense asset good for 3 to 4 WAR.
With Cole Tucker appearing to be the Pirates’ shortstop of the future, where does that leave Kevin Newman??? Newman has surprised me in some aspects this year.?? His ‘hit’ tool has been better than I thought it would be, even if his absence of power has not.?? His defense at short is adequate at best, but he did uncork this gem recently.
Tucker isn’t the next coming of Andrelton Simmons, but he has more range than Newman.?? So assuming he’s the starter moving forward, it only makes sense to re-purpose Newman to maximize his value to the team.
I’m not 100% convinced that Bryan Reynolds can handle center field defensively.?? If Marte is traded, you may as well trade Polanco, too.?? So that leaves a hole in center field.?? Perhaps Kevin Newman can fill that vacancy.?? The reason I’m bullish on Newman’s ability to handle a position he’s never played is his pure speed.?? Essentially, the Reds took Billy Hamilton and his raw speed and converted him from a failed SS then 2B to a stellar CF.?? This is not to compare Newman to Hamilton’s defensive prowess.
By Statcast, Newman’s Sprint Speed averages 28.4 feet/second, placing him in the top 15% in all of MLB.?? Average Spring Speed is defined as 27 feet/sec, with 30 feet/second considered elite.?? The top end is the realm of your Trea Turners and Bryon Buxtons of the world.?? As a comparison, the scorned Starling Marte’s Sprint Speed is 29 feet/second.?? Newman’s Sprint Speed places him 5th on the Pirates behind, in this order: Marte, J.B. Shuck, Erik Gonzalez, and Tucker.
If Newman were given the whole offseason to learn the position, there’s no guarantee he would be any good.?? But if the Pirates are going to trade Marte, the Pirates may be able to utilize an asset that would otherwise be relegated to the bench.
Kevin Newman is not going to be a star.?? He may never be more than a 2 WAR player.?? But if the Pirates are going to go into a rebuild, he’s an option to consider as a placeholder while the Pirates wait for their next great star to man center field.