First, our blessings and prayers go out to Kip and his family. Nothing is scarier than having to worry about a medical condition.
It looks like Kip will be having surgery.. just not the UNC surgery I figured he’d have. So, scratch his name from the Pirates 25-man roster for 2006.
Sean Burnett will get the fourth spot if healthy out of spring training, but that is a huge IF right now. Knowing the Pirates front office ways under Littlefield, and the fact Sean has been throwing ok so far, I am going to assume Burnett is pushed to start the year in the rotation.
That leaves the fifth spot up for grabs among:
— Ian Snell, Victor Santos, Matt Capps (you didn’t know he could start?), and Ryan Vogelsong;
— long shots: Jonah Bayliss, Tom Gorzelanny (needs time in AAA), Brandon Duckworth, Terry Adams, and Giovanni Carrara (remember, Tracy likes this guy a lot);
— even longer shots: Matt Peterson, Bryan Bullington (late in the year), Damaso Marte (hasn’t started since 1999), and Marty McLeary;
— still even longer shots: Ron Chiavacci and CJ Nitkowski.
Pedro Astacio is the only starter left in the FA pool and he really isn’t any better than Santos. However, the Pirates could afford to go after Astacio if Wells opts for surgery (assuming Littlefield was intelligent enough to have purchased a risk management policy on Wells) because the Pirates will be about $3MM flush in cash after insurance pays Wells.
A trade for a starter would be difficult because several teams are in the hunt including the Astros, Nats, Rays, and Reds, among others.
Four teams seem to have an abundance of qualified MLB starters: A’s, Giants, Angels, and Braves. The Marlins also have an abundance, but of youth.
Our best trade partner looks to be the A’s for Joe Kennedy. Possibly a Craig Wilson package might sway them some since Swisher is their starting LF. The Marlins also need OF help but it will take a lot more than Craig to get one of their arms.
Hennessey with the Giants could be available. He hasn’t exactly lit up the majors with his work and his farm stats don’t suggest a long term stay as a starter in the bigs. However, the Giants need some relief help so maybe there is a potential deal there.
Pirates GM David Littlefield backed himself in the corner by diluting his starting rotation with the giveaway of Mark Redman and the release of Josh Fogg. Either of these two guys is superior to Victor Santos, despite their ills in 2005.
Further, Littlefield should have known he had injury risks in Oliver Perez (limited velocity in early 2005 and couldn’t find the plate all of 2005), Wells (lack of velocity and couldn’t find the plate in 2004 and 2005), Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten, and Byran Bullington (all coming off surgery), and Paul Maholm (tired elbow the end of 2005).
I feel Littlefield was negligent in trading Mark Redman because the end result was Burnitz being signed where Craig Wilson would have been a better pick to start anyway. Redman was our 2cd best full-time starter last year who simply blew up after his injuries set in mid-year. Had Mark received reasonable run support, he would have had a very strong first half.
Littlefield can only make more mistakes at this point: starting Gorzelanny, pushing Burnett notwithstanding his performance so far in spring training, starting Capps, or pushing a four-man rotation with Burnett, Perez, Duke, and Maholm.
If Burnett can’t start out the year in the rotation, Santos will take the fourth spot and Carrara, Snell, and Duckworth will be competing with Vogelsong for the fifth rotation spot. Don’t expect Snell to win, imo.
The 2006 Pirates aren’t going to contend and Littlefield knows this so don’t expect a trade or the Pirates to go after Astacio, albeit you might hear rumors in the Pittsburgh press.
Wells going down simply opens the door for Littlefield to say easier in July ‘look at the team – we aren’t competing’ as he starts his annual mid-year, blue light special, salary dump with Sean Casey.
Also expect the $3MM saved on Wells to be put in the bank for Ogden Nutting and company.