Found March 21, 2013 on Pirates Prospects:
If there’s one move that the Pirates have made which I’ve constantly disagreed with, it’s their approach with bench players. The Pirates have a horrible habit of giving out bench spots to aging veterans, while passing over their own internal options. I was reminded of this with today’s trade. I initially decided to point out all of the past situations where the Pirates have passed on their own internal players, instead looking at the “grass is greener” veteran player on the other side of the fence. I’ve written about this in the past, so to keep it fresh as I update it, I decided to go Quentin Tarantino style. No, it’s not full of bloodshed, and Samuel L. Jackson isn’t in it. It’s just, well, here it is.   Opening Credits 2012 Season In 259 at-bats, Pedro Ciriaco hits for a .293/.315/.390 line with the Boston Red Sox. Clint Barmes hits for a .229/.272/.321 line with the Pirates, while posting a 15.3 UZR/150 at short as the starter. Jose Bautista gets 332 at-bats, hitting 27 homers with an .886 OPS. Brandon Moss hits for a .291/.358/.596 line with 21 homers in 265 at-bats with the Oakland Athletics. November 21, 2011 The Pirates sign Clint Barmes to a two-year deal worth $10.5 M, filling their starting shortstop position. October 31, 2011 The Pirates decline the option of Ronny Cedeno, making him a free agent and opening up their starting shortstop job. August 31, 2011 Matt Diaz is traded to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later after hitting for a .704 OPS against left-handers. December 14, 2010 Matt Diaz is signed to a two-year deal to platoon with Garrett Jones in the outfield. Diaz, 33, is coming off a down year against left-handers with Atlanta, but has good career stats. November 4, 2010 Brandon Moss is granted free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates after 569 at-bats in the majors over three seasons, and a .667 OPS in that time. 2010 Season Jose Bautista has a break out season and leads the majors with 54 home runs. Bobby Crosby gets 156 at-bats from the start of the season to the trade deadline as the backup middle infielder. Argenis Diaz receives 33 at-bats from the Pittsburgh Pirates. April 8, 2010 The Pirates release Ramon Vazquez, eating his $2 M salary after he hits for a .230/.335/.279 line in 204 at-bats off the bench the previous season.   The Bautista Situation August 21, 2008 The Pirates trade Jose Bautista to the Toronto Blue Jays, who claimed Bautista off waivers. In return they get Robinzon Diaz. Bautista hit for a .729 OPS in 314 at-bats in 2008 with the Pirates. December 12, 2008 The Pirates sign Ramon Vazquez to a two-year deal worth $4 M. 2009-2010 Seasons Jose Bautista makes $4.8 M combined through arbitration. The Story The Pirates basically gave Bautista away. He wasn’t hitting well, was pretty much established as a bench player, and was about to make multi-millions as a bench player. Almost four months later, the Pirates committed $2 M per year to an aging middle infielder with poor numbers outside of Texas. What happened with Bautista wasn’t the fault of the Pirates. No one saw that coming. He took two years to go from an established bench player to the best player in baseball with Toronto. In the process he almost was non-tendered by the Blue Jays. For all we know, Bautista could have never made the adjustment with the Pirates, or with any other team. What doesn’t make sense is dealing Bautista at a time when his value was low. The Pirates only had one trade option in August 2008, and that was Toronto. They basically dumped his salary, which wasn’t a bad move at the time. They just traded their best player and their only hope for winning in the immediate future. Why spent millions on a guy who is an established bench player? Only they went ahead and spent that money on Vazquez, who was an established bench player with poor road splits in his time with Texas. If they were going to spend the money anyway, why not keep the younger Bautista, rather than the aging Vazquez? It’s hindsight that Bautista had a breakout season. But you don’t need hindsight to know that a 28-year-old with a career .722 OPS has more upside than a 32-year-old with a .749 OPS outside of Texas the year before.   The Lonely Grave of Brandon Moss July 31, 2008 The Pirates trade Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox as part of a three team deal. In return they get Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss, and Craig Hanson. Moss is considered the third biggest piece in the deal, and a potential starting outfielder. January 18, 2013 The Oakland Athletics avoid arbitration with Brandon Moss, settling for $1.6 M. Moss has three years of arbitration remaining. The Story Moss is another situation where you could point to hindsight when talking about his post-Pirates success. He went to Philadelphia in 2011, after being released by the Pirates the previous off-season. He was a total surprise in Oakland, and not many people trust his numbers. But they did happen, and if they continue, Oakland has him for $1.6 M in 2013, and for three more years after that. The Pirates only gave Moss 569 at-bats in the majors. He had 103 with Boston before that. This amount seems like a lot, but consider the Pirates dealt their biggest trade chip to get Moss and three other players. You’d think he would get more of a chance to prove himself. Instead, the Pirates brought in Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz. Overbay was coming off a year where he hit for a .762 OPS in hitter friendly Toronto. He also looked like a platoon player at best, but was used as a regular. Diaz was coming off a down year as a platoon player. Both players were aging, while Moss was turning 27. Maybe to a lesser extent you can excuse this move for hindsight. But why couldn’t the Pirates keep Moss around for a bench role? Why get rid of him so soon?   Mr. White…J-Mac Now let’s get to today’s move. Today the Pirates added 38-year-old shortstop John McDonald from Arizona for a player to be named later or cash considerations. That will pretty much guarantee that he takes one of the final bench spots. The other spots are taken by Gaby Sanchez and Mike McKenry. At least one spot will go to an outfielder. My guess is that the other spot will go to a utility player like Brandon Inge or Josh Harrison. That means the acquisition of McDonald will most likely push Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus Jr. to Triple-A. The big strength with McDonald is his defense. He doesn’t have much of a bat, so he’ll be a strong defensive shortstop off the bench, unless he sees a regression.   I’ll get back to this.   Pedro Ciriaco didn’t get much of a chance with the Pirates. Inglourious Backups July 22, 2009 The Pirates trade Adam LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox for Hunter Strickland and Argenis Diaz. Diaz is considered a top defensive shortstop prospect with no bat. December 9, 2009 The Pirates sign 30-year-old shortstop Bobby Crosby to a one-year, $1 M deal to be the backup middle infielder. Crosby is touted for his defense at short. Many Sidney Crosby/Bobby Crosby jokes follow. July 31, 2010 The Pirates trade D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Church, and Bobby Crosby to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Chris Snyder, Pedro Ciriaco, and cash. Ciriaco is considered a top defensive shortstop prospect with no bat. December 2, 2010 Argenis Diaz is granted free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates. September, 2011 The Pirates enter the month with a 62-74 record, 18.5 games back in the NL Central. Ronny Cedeno gets 47 at-bats, and starts 16 games. Pedro Ciriaco gets 21 at-bats, and starts 3 games. He only had 33 at-bats the entire season. December 12, 2011 Pedro Ciriaco is granted free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 2013 Season Pedro Ciriaco received $502,500 from the Boston Red Sox, who control his rights through the 2017 season. No word on where Argenis Diaz is currently playing. The Story Notice a trend here? At the deadline in 2009 the Pirates acquired Argenis Diaz as one of the two pieces for Adam LaRoche. Diaz was a strong defensive shortstop with the upside of a backup. Diaz spent the 2009 season in Triple-A. He was 23 in 2010. Yet the Pirates signed Crosby for $1 M to be a strong defensive backup shortstop. That same year they dealt Crosby, Ryan Church, and D.J. Carrasco for Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco. It was pretty much Carrasco for Snyder and Ciriaco, with the rest of the deal being made to cover Snyder’s salary. Almost four months later, Diaz is a free agent, despite only 33 at-bats in the majors. But the Pirates do have Pedro Ciriaco, who is an even better defensive shortstop. Fast-forward to 2011. The Pirates are out of contention in September. It’s clear that Ronny Cedeno isn’t one of Clint Hurdle’s favorite players, and won’t be back the following year. Yet Cedeno starts 16 games that month, while Ciriaco starts three. They were clearly moving on from Cedeno. They weren’t contending. That’s the perfect time to give Ciriaco a shot to see what he can do. Instead, Ciriaco is let go in the off-season, and Clint Barmes is brought in on a two-year, $10.5 M deal. First of all, Argenis Diaz is how most of these situations play out. A guy is released and never heard from again. I included him to point that out, but also to help illustrate this next point. Ciriaco went to Boston the very next year, got some plate appearances, and had a surprising year. Was it legit? Much like Brandon Moss in Oakland, no one really trusts the results. But if Ciriaco can do it again, the Red Sox have him for the league minimum in 2013, and under control through the 2017 season. If he’s just a strong defender who can hit some, that’s going to provide some value for a few years. What if the Pirates decided to actually play Ciriaco at the end of the 2011 season? What if he hits the same way he did in Boston once he gets a chance? Does the team spend $10 M on Barmes? More importantly, why even trade for Argenis Diaz and Pedro Ciriaco if you’re not even going to use them? It can’t be due to their lack of upside as no-bat, all-defense shortstops. That was known at the time. That brings me to the final part.   Prospects Unchained The Pirates have just added John McDonald. That’s probably going to push Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus Jr. to Triple-A. It could also push Josh Harrison down. There’s not much room down there to begin with. Clint Robinson is at first. Matt Hague is at third. Jared Goedert could spend time at third or DH if he goes down. That would keep Matt Curry in Double-A. That also leaves two middle infield spots for Mercer, Harrison, and De Jesus. Plus d’Arnaud, when he returns. Mercer was up and down a lot in 2012, but didn’t get much playing time. That was true even when Clint Barmes didn’t deserve to start every day. The Pirates just added De Jesus as one of four pieces in the Joel Hanrahan trade. He used to be a strong defensive shortstop before breaking his leg. He still shows some skill at the position, and one scout I talked with earlier this Spring liked him the best of the backup middle infield group. Is De Jesus going to be the next Diaz or Ciriaco? Why even acquire these guys? The Pirates are a team that needs to build through young players. Some of the players they’ve acquired only have the upside of a bench player. Some of them had an opportunity to do more, and easing in to the majors on the bench would have been perfect — much like using a starter initially out of the bullpen. But the Pirates don’t turn to Diaz, Ciriaco, and De Jesus. They give that playing time to veterans who will be gone the following year. And what’s the upside? John McDonald had a 0.7 WAR in 2012. Jordy Mercer, in only 68 at-bats last year, had an 0.3 WAR. Even if that’s the difference, I’d trade 0.4 WAR to give the young players a chance and see if they can become more. From a value standpoint, very few spots on the team are more worthless than the final spots on the bench. I’m also not a guy who buys the value of “veteran presence” from the bench. Don’t the Pirates already have “veteran presence” in Russell Martin and Clint Barmes? At what point does Garrett Jones get his “veteran presence”? And if they don’t have enough players, they should already have guys on the bench who are providing “veteran presence” — the coaches. John McDonald isn’t going to play a big role on the 2013 club. So why even bother? Why not give any playing time to De Jesus or Mercer? Sure, there’s a chance that Clint Barmes goes down, and it’s not ideal to rely on inexperienced guys like De Jesus and Mercer as your starter. But Barmes and McDonald are both gone at the end of the 2013 season. Eventually you’re going to have to take the chains off the prospects and see what they can do. If you don’t do this, then you’ll just see history repeating itself. Maybe it was total hindsight that Jose Bautista went on to become the best player in baseball. Maybe there was some hindsight involved when we look at Brandon Moss. I don’t think there would be any hindsight with Pedro Ciriaco if he proves to be legit, since the Pirates didn’t even give him a shot. They’re all different situations, but the moves behind them are the same. The Pirates chose to give bench spots to aging veterans — paying those veterans millions — and cast off younger players who went on to have breakout seasons. That type of move is probably going to end up with an Argenis Diaz situation more often than not. If you do it too many times, you’ll get a Ciriaco, or a Moss, or worse, a Bautista. The Pirates seem to be continuing this approach. McDonald will take the spot of a younger player. We won’t get to see what that younger player can do in the majors. McDonald will provide minimal value. The Pirates will be left with unproven young players and an open shortstop position after the 2013 season, just like they were after the 2011 season when they didn’t give Ciriaco a chance. Eventually they’ll need to give a young player a shot. Wouldn’t it be better if that young player was getting playing time as a backup in 2013, rather than as a starter in 2014? That’s assuming they trust the young players in 2014, rather than signing another veteran for the job. Links and Notes **I mentioned earlier in the week that I was sick with a fever and a sore throat on Sunday. It got worse tonight, to the point where I couldn’t drink water without pain. I went to the doctor and found out it’s strep throat. So I’m going to take a day off tomorrow and let the antibiotics and the Airborne go to work. I’ve got 3-4 articles that I’ve been working on, plus a few interviews to transcribe, so I’ll have some content on the site throughout the day. I just want to stay away from people for a day or two. I’ll probably end up watching Kill Bill. **Pirates Acquire Infielder John McDonald, d’Arnaud to DL. **Minor League Injury Updates: Chambers, Pribanic, Fuesser, Hornback. **Bryan Morris Gets a Fourth Option Year. **Pirates Release Six Minor Leaguers; Lakind Converted to Pitching. **Prospect Notebook: Alex Dickerson’s Back Problems Could Have a Solution. **How Did Vic Black Get His Unusual Delivery? **From yesterday, James Santelli’s first article on the site: Pirates Projected Among NL’s Top Four Benches. Sure enough, one day later the bench looks different.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Bryan Morris Gets a Fourth Option Year

  Bryan Morris has an extra option year. Baseball America has a list of players who received the rare fourth option year (h/t Bucs Dugout). We already knew two of the Pirates on the list who had received fourth options: Pedro Alvarez and Andy Oliver. One player who was unexpected was Bryan Morris. From what I can gather from Baseball America’s description of the rules, Morris...

Pirates Release Six Minor Leaguers; Lakind Converted to Pitching

The Pittsburgh Pirates have released the following six players, per a team press release: Alex Lukashevich, RHP Porfirio Lopez, LHP Mike Colla, RHP Philippe Valiquette, LHP Martires Cadet, LHP Wilson Lee, LHP They have also converted Jared Lakind from a first baseman to a pitcher. More details to come on all of these players.

Pirates Option Bryan Morris, Re-Assign Two More

Bryan Morris was optioned to Triple-A. The Pittsburgh Pirates made a few cuts from major league camp this morning. They optioned right-hander Bryan Morris to Triple-A, and reassigned infielders Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Jared Goedert to minor league camp. It was previously believed that Morris was out of options, although earlier this week we learned that he was granted a fourth option...

Minor League Injury Updates: Chambers, Pribanic, Fuesser, Hornback

Evan Chambers is out eight weeks with a broken foot. Here are some injury updates from minor league camp. **Evan Chambers broke his foot and will be out for eight weeks. The 2009 third round pick had successful surgery last week, and had his cast removed this week. He has been walking on crutches with a boot the last few days. **Aaron Pribanic had labrum surgery in the off-season...

Pirates OF McCutchen deals with stardom in stride

Andrew McCutchen insists he will not change even while he becomes one of baseball's biggest young stars. The 26-year-old finished third in National League MVP voting in 2012 after hitting .327 with 31 homers and 96 RBIs. His performance made Pittsburgh's decision to offer him a six-year, $51-million contract extension last spring a downright bargain. The baseball world...

Important breaking news: Pedro Alvarez's ears are free!

For three years now, Pirate fans have broken down every tiny aspect of Pedro Alvarez's game. What's his strikeout rate? What does that mean? Is he struggling with fastballs? Breaking balls? Is the "Daydro" thing actually a thing or a weird sampling problem? Why would he hit better during day games? Does he need contacts or something? Did you see how far he hit that...

The WHYGAVS Spring Training Extravaganza: Jonathan Sanchez Edition

As I made my way to spring training on Sunday night, I tried to figure out the Pirates' rotation for this week. My main hope was to see Gerrit Cole in person, though I figured that might be a long shot given the late date in the spring and the fact that Cole had just pitched the day before. I was right about that; before I even made it to McKechnie field on Monday, Cole was demoted...

Healthy Sanchez could be big plus for Pirates

First baseman Gaby Sanchez burst on the scene with the Marlins in 2010 and was an All Star in 2011. Last season he had been demoted to Triple-A and was traded to the Pirates. Sanchez was hurt and missed most of his preseason conditioning last year because he was coming off knee surgery. Now healthy again Sanchez told PiratesDugout.com's George Von Benko that he is feeling great at the plate.

Draft Preview: Top Pitcher And Hitter Square Off

The sixth weekend of the college season is about to get under way. The Pirates have the #9 and #14 picks in the upcoming June amateur draft. Throughout the college/HS season, leading up to the draft, we will cover the interesting players that are being discussed in the Pirates draft range. There will also be daily notes on past picks by the Pirates who went unsigned. For a recap...

Pirates Cut Bryan Morris, Two Others

The Pirates made a surprising move today, sending Bryan Morris to Triple A.  The writing was written on the wall for Bryan Morris when he was given a rare fourth option.  When I wrote my Roster Watch it was before he was given the option. I still think this move hurts the team.  It hurt…

Roster Watch: Jose Tabata

Jose Tabata is still supposedly young. He is only 24. I don’t think people realize how young he is. He is only two months older than Starling Marte for reference. It’s really easy to think of him as a veteran player because he’s had some MLB success.  He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt…

Prospect Notebook: Alex Dickerson’s Back Problems Could Have a Solution

Could Alex Dickerson’s back problems be over? If you’ve been following my daily lineup notes, you probably noticed that Alex Dickerson had been out of the lineup for about a week. The first baseman wasn’t a red shirt, and finally returned to game action today. “Now I’m feeling real good,” Dickerson said of the stiffness. “It was rough for a couple of days. Just kind...

Pirates acquire John McDonald

With the Pirates on a two-day hiatus from playing baseball anywhere near where I am in Florida, I've been trying to take a break from the internet because that keeps me from worrying about work and, believe it or not, there aren't a lot of fun things that surround your sixth year in grad school. And so I missed out on some actual Pirate news this afternoon because I was off...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.