Bucco breakfast: How much bullpen depth do the Pirates need to add?

Bucco breakfast: How much bullpen depth do the Pirates need to add?

In about two weeks, players eligible for minor league free agency will become free agents. Then the Pirates can begin their search for the next Richard Rodriguez. They’re starting from a better point than a year ago, when Felipe Vázquez was the only set bullpen piece, unless you want to count George Kontos. Now they’ve got four established, late-inning relievers in Vázquez, Rodriguez, Keone Kela and Kyle Crick. (Well, five, but Edgar Santana will miss the season.) The thing is, I don’t feel much confidence that they can fill the remaining three or four spots with what’s on hand, not to mention adding the depth they’re going to need if somebody gets hurt or just sucks. After all, Rodriguez and Crick both started this season in the minors.

As it stands now, arguably the three leading candidates for the remaining jobs would be Nick Kingham, Steven Brault and Nick Burdi. Kingham is out of options and Neil Huntington has flatly stated that he’ll be on the team. With all five rotation spots locked down, barring trade or injury, that means the bullpen. This year, Kingham performed about as well as you could reasonably expect from a rookie who lacks overwhelming stuff, except for a massive gopher ball problem. Brault has an option left and, based on the way he pitched, shouldn’t be anywhere close to a lock for a spot. Burdi needs to stay in the majors for the first two months of the season and poses the usual Rule 5 issue of carrying a guy who may not contribute much. If the Pirates get incredibly lucky, his command will take a big step forward in the spring and he’ll earn a spot on merit. Relievers can be like that.

Beyond those three, the Pirates have a bunch of guys who may not be much more than lottery tickets. Michael Feliz, who has no options left, and Dovydas Neverauskas, who has one, are kinda the same guy: very good velocity with little else. Jesus Liranzo, who struggled in AAA and didn’t get a September callup, is similar. Tanner Anderson looks like a useful multi-inning guy who can be called up in an emergency, but nothing more. I doubt Alex McRae will be on the roster much longer. The Pirates moved Clay Holmes to the bullpen near the end of the season, but I don’t know whether that was a short- or long-term move. Either way, his control is so bad that it’s impossible to say whether he can help.

That’s about it. There are a few relievers who might help later, probably much later, in the season. Geoff Hartlieb and Blake Weiman are both in the Arizona Fall League. Hartlieb is hitting 100 mph, but is doing just OK after a good but not great season at Altoona. Weiman is a more advanced type of pitcher, and he’s a lefty, but he’s only pitched a few innings above class A. I suppose Montana DuRapau could get back on the charts after a shaky return from a drug suspension, but he has to get by with fairly ordinary stuff.

So it seems to me that the Pirates need to make some fairly substantial bullpen additions. They’re obviously not going to blow a lot of money (or even a modest amount) on any big name types, unless they decide to go after an established lefty. This is perfectly realistic, as it’s the middle-inning and depth spots they need to fill, not the late-inning jobs. (Of course, a bullpen is always a volatile and fragile institution.) Despite having four spots nailed down, though, they probably need to bring in quite a few possibilities. If you have any ideas for relievers to go after, please share.

Daily Links

  • This web site has a list of the five worst starting pitchers in MLB in 2018. Featured on the list is none other than Trevor Williams. In fact, three of the five were worth 2.0 fWAR or better (2.5 in Williams’ case). I’m not typically the sort of fan who insists that advanced stats have ruined baseball. When you’re purportedly determining the best or worst of something, though, and the results that directly impact the standings diverge so much from your chosen metric, maybe you’ve chosen the wrong metric.
  • The Reds have hired David Bell to be their manager. Bell is coming off a one-season tenure as head of the Giants’ farm system. Given his short stint there, it’s impossible to gauge his success at turning around a moribund system, but he sure sounded good. He comes across as the anti-Dusty Baker; strongly information-driven and progressive in his ideas, the classic post-Bill-James guy. Of course, you can have all the best ideas ever and still fail because you execute poorly. But the Pirates more and more are looking like they’ve fallen behind the times again, with their commitment to a manager who keeps one foot firmly planted in Jurassic World.
Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove has abdominal surgery.

Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove has abdominal surgery.

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove has had abdominal surgery.

Dr. Craig Smith operated in Los Angeles on Friday to repair Mugrove’s abdominal wall and address a stress reaction in the pitcher’s pelvic bone.

Pittsburgh said the time between surgery and a resumption of full offseason activity is about six weeks and Musgrove is expected to be close to a regular schedule for spring training.

The 25-year-old right-hander did not pitch after Sept. 17. He was 6-9 with a 4.06 ERA in 19 starts.

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FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Pittsburgh. Musgrove has had abdominal surgery. Dr. Craig Smith operated in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 19,2018, to repair Mugrove's abdominal wall and address a stress reaction the pitcher's pelvic bone. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Pittsburgh. Musgrove has had abdominal surgery. Dr. Craig Smith operated in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 19,2018, to repair Mugrove's abdominal wall and address a stress reaction the pitcher's pelvic bone. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 17, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Pittsburgh. Musgrove has had abdominal surgery. Dr. Craig Smith operated in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 19,2018, to repair Mugrove’s abdominal wall and address a stress reaction the pitcher’s pelvic bone. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

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Stephens' wild pitch in 10th sends Pirates over Reds 6-5

Stephens' wild pitch in 10th sends Pirates over Reds 6-5

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Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett, center, relieves relief pitcher Matt Wisler as interim manager Jim Riggleman, right, heads back to the dugout in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Pablo Reyes scored on Jackson Stephens‘ wild pitch in the top of the 10th inning Sunday, rallying the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds finished 67-95, their fourth straight season with at least 90 losses – the second-worst stretch in franchise history. Their first item in the offseason is choosing a next manager.

Bryan Price was fired after a 3-15 start, and the Reds went 64-80 under interim manager Jim Riggleman. He’ll be interviewed Monday, and the Reds plan to pick a manager by the end of the month. Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has told the team he isn’t interested at this time.

The Reds were one of a record eight major league teams to finish with at least 95 losses this year. There were seven in 2002.

Starling Marte and Josh Bell homered for the Pirates, who finished 82-79 – their most wins since they last made the playoffs in 2015. They head into next season with a solid rotation and bullpen, their best hopes for getting back into contention in the NL Central.

Reyes doubled off Stephens (2-3), advanced on an error and scored on the wild pitch. Michael Feliz (1-2) pitched the ninth, and Felipe Vazquez got his 37th save in 42 chances.

Clint Hurdle got his 1,200th career win as a major league manager. Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia, Buck Showalter and Terry Francona are the other active managers with that many.

LAST HURRAH

Riggleman gave several regulars a curtain call. First baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Billy Hamilton took their positions to start the fourth inning and were subbed out, removing their jerseys and handing them to fans on the way to the dugout. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez got a curtain call in the fifth and tossed his cap to a fan.

DWINDLING CROWDS AT GABP

The Reds drew 1,629,356 at Great American, their smallest home attendance since 1984 when they were at Riverfront Stadium. Attendance has slid significantly each of the last three seasons as the team languished in rebuilding mode.

”Oh, it’s definitely noticeable,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. ”It’s pretty hard to not notice it when you can hear the light towers buzzing. It just means we have to play better. If you play better, more people will come.”

UP NEXT

The Ohio River rivals will reunite at Great American Ball Park to open next season, playing at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday, March 28.

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Pirates' Jameson Taillon: Finishes with loss despite quality start

Pirates' Jameson Taillon: Finishes with loss despite quality start

Taillon (14-10) took the loss Saturday despite giving up three runs in six innings. He worked around seven hits while striking out seven and not walking a batter against the Reds.

The right-hander peppered the zone with 64 strikes in 89 pitches but allowed a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the third before a homer by Eugenio Suarez and an RBI single from opposing pitcher Michael Lorenzen in the fourth. All in all, Taillon was quite effective, but his offense failed to plate a run, which left him empty-handed in a quality start packed with strikeouts and sans a walk. He’ll wrap the 2018 season with a sparkling 3.20 ERA and 2.2 BB/9, with a solid but below-elite 8.4 K/9 in 191 innings. Taillon already enters 2019 in top-25 territory among mixed-league starting pitchers, and given his impressive 10.5 swinging-strike rate from this year, he might reach another level in punchouts with more experience and a few tweaks to his approach.

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Pirates' Gregory Polanco: To undergo shoulder surgery

Pirates' Gregory Polanco: To undergo shoulder surgery

Polanco (knee) is set to undergo surgery on his dislocated shoulder Wednesday, Adam Berry of MLB.com reports.

Initially, the Pirates believed that Polanco wouldn’t require any sort of procedure after suffering shoulder and knee injuries during Friday’s game against the Marlins. Following the diagnosis of a deep bone bruise on his left knee, the club announced that he would be sidelined for the rest of the season. More recently, a second opinion on his shoulder from Dr. David Altchek revealed that surgery was necessary to stabilize the shoulder. The Pirates won’t provide an estimated recovery timetable until after the procedure has been completed.

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Pirates' Josh Harrison: Back on bench

Pirates' Josh Harrison: Back on bench

Harrison is not in the lineup Tuesday against the Cardinals.

Harrison returned to the lineup Monday for the first time since Aug. 31 after battling a nagging hamstring injury, going 1-for-4 with a solo homer. He’ll retreat to the bench Tuesday as the Pirates look to ease him back into action. The veteran second baseman could continue to cede starts to rookies Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer down the stretch as he continues to monitor his balky hamstring. Kramer is starting at the keystone in this one.

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