First, let's establish who comprises the core of this team. There is a slew of pre-arbitration talent on the current iteration of the Pirates. Frustrating as it may be to read of the front office looking ahead to arbitration glory days, when you look at the full landscape there are at least a few intriguing aspects.
At the very least fans will know sooner or later the plans for the near future of this team.
Winter is Coming
According to Spotrac, here's a list of pre-arbitration players:
- Starling Marte
- Chris Archer
- Richard Rodriguez
- Josh Bell
- Adam Frazier
- Trevor Williams
- Joe Musgrove
- Kyle Crick
- Colin Moran
- Elias Diaz
- Kevin Newman
- Jacob Stallings
- Jose Osuna
- Bryan Reynolds
- Chris Stratton
- Dario Agrazal
- Luis Escobar
- Jameson Taillon
- Edgar Santana
- Chad Kuhl
- Erik Gonzalez
- Steven Brault
- Nick Burdi
- Clay Holmes
- Rookie Davis
Arbitration is a confusing process sometimes; generally representatives for teams and for players (and the player himself if we're talking about Trevor Bauer, Cleveland's mad scientist) meet and argue over the worth of the player. The natural progression is for players to receive a raise of some kind in the arbitration process.
These players will command a raise, but won't price themselves out of the Pirates market, at least not in 2020. And yes, some could be moved in the next six days, winter, or next year's trade deadline, but don't rock the boat (rock the boat, baby). And definitely do not tip the boat over. Not yet.
Disclaimer: I do realize the…ahem…financial constraints the Pirates are under as a team. The following exercise is strictly hypothetical.
As my listeners on The SportsBlitz could tell you, I'm not a stooge for the front office. Even if only in the spirit of #PiratesPositiveThinking, even skeptics must admit that list is a pretty good start.
If I'm the Pirates General Manager (a job my management training in college radio surely doesn't qualify me to do), I look to extend Josh Bell this season. If unwilling- fine, at least we'll know we have until 2022 before he gets a massive contract. So I'm circling the 2021 and 2022 seasons as our window to win. And I mean really win, "we'll win so much you'll get tired of…" nah, just kidding.
Even if Josh Bell feels he's worth more than the Pirates will ever be willing to pay, I'm at least calling the agents of Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier to ask about a Ronald Acuna-esque (8 years, $100 million but doesn't get pricey until 2022) contract extension.
Should there be a need to re-build after the 2022 season, pending an unforeseen demise, these players will be movable assets.
And with Francisco Cervelli walking, the $11.5 million that gets freed up will pay the first three years of the new deal I whipped up for Reynolds and/or Frazier.
Wow, this is EASY!
I'm especially concerned about the outfield, let's fix that next.
Here are the outfield options:
Gregory Polanco and his shoulder, for better or worse, is locked in thru 2023.
Starling Marte is owed $11.5 and $12.5 million respectively in the coming two seasons. We have to strongly consider trading him this off-season if we can return a major league outfielder. He'll need a new contract in 2022 if not. That's our year and we don't want question marks surrounding what players might want at that time.
Corey Dickerson is on an expiring contract, he might want a slight raise on his $8.5 million option if we decide to retain the 2018 Gold Glover. I'm not married to Dickerson in the outfield, literally or figuratively.
We already gave Bryan Reynolds an extension that the industry loved.
The outfield is an unfinished project, for now.
Now for deadline plans:
Trade Jordan Lyles. He's an unrestricted free agent after the season and the Pirates stand to profit by selling him, since they signed him on the cheap, for $2.05 million.
As far as reliever Keone Kela goes, I say trade him.
Felipe Vasquez? It's got to be a VERY large return. I'll open the bidding at a contender's two top ten organizational prospects who are just about ready. So, I'm leaning to keep him; though I'm willing to listen because of how well that Hanrahan to Grilli to Melancon to Vasquez thing went.
Note: That closer carousel also netted Kela.
The prospects could grow into everyday players for us in 2021, or they can be traded for a big league left fielder who hits 40 home runs a year. Those can be found anywhere, right?
Cole Tucker is a trade candidate, but only for major league talent to help our championship run along beginning in 2021. Let's keep Will Craig, in case we need to make Bell into a designated hitter, or into a right fielder to make way for Polanco to DH.
While we're at it, why don't we also keep Jason Martin? He might be the left fielder of the future.
Ke'Bryan Hayes could supplant Colin Moran at third as early as the 2021 season.
So there you have it, the 2021 opening day lineup:
- SS Kevin Newman
- CF Bryan Reynolds
- 2B Adam Frazier
- 1B Josh Bell
- 3B Colin Moran
- LF TBD
- RF Gregory Polanco
- C Eliaz Diaz
- P Jameson Taillon?
Reserves: Martin, Hayes, Will Craig, veteran, veteran.
Wish List: a household name behind the dish and a power-hitting outfielder.
I suppose we could take a look at possibilities for our pitching staff, but I'm exhausted from all this planning. Let's go get Primanti's and try on that tomorrow.
The current Pirates players comprise a core that I could see developing into something special- and that's not #PiratesPositiveThinking so much as realism. Could remains the operative word, and you know who the rest is up to.
But, there's a chance.
Alex Womer hosts The SportsBlitz from 4-6 p.m. weekdays in Erie, Pennsylvania.
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