Neal Huntington had his online video chat today and he offered up a few tidbits for us:
— it appears he sees Chris Duffy, Steven Pearce, Romulo Sanchez, and Neil Walker starting in AAA next year;
— for ’08 the club is looking to add a backup receiver, middle and corner utility players, and looking for bullpen help;
— he seems to have a 12-man pen in mind;
— he’s still looking to add scouts and scouting supervisors, and he will be adding a 1B coach possibly Thursday;
— Sean Burnett will challenge for a rotation spot in the spring;
— he said Zach Duke feels his mechanics are already "right";
— look for Brad Lincoln to be back in form in 2009;
— the Pirates will take "best available" in the draft, all things considered.
The starting lineup card seems to be the same as last year other than Morgan in CF, barring trades of course. The bench (I have to guess based on his comments) will have Thompson, McLouth, two FA utility players, and Doumit.
A few of his comments caught me off-guard:
— he said Jason Kendall’s throwing problems "improved dramatically" after Russell became a coach. You can decide:
INN SB CS SBA CS % # INN 1 CS No Russell ’99 – ’02 4215 277 135 412 32.8% 31.2 Russell ’03 – ’04 2537 128 60 188 31.9% 42.3 diff -35%
— he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to come in for the GM interview to begin with as if he was reaching out to someone trying to kiss and make up;
— he seemed to indicate Neil Walker’s offensive fades might be health related. That could be why all of a sudden we are hearing Headley rumors – just a guess;
— he stated a scouting 101 answer to the question if the Pirates will take best available in the draft or fill for need by saying "overall upside, probability of obtaining upside, makeup, and signability." Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the word "tools" which I would have expected to be the first thing he said. Scary.
— he seemed to indicate the club will continue to draft with a preference for college players over high school which I mentioned was a concern in my mind with new scouting director Greg Smith’s high regard for picking high school players. We’re just too far away from being able to add years on to development to think high school right now, imo.
— he said Doumit’s injuries have been "strange injuries" which suggested to me a makeup issue in Huntington’s mind;
— he held the Q&A at the same exact time John Perrotto was doing his Q&A at BA on the Pirates prospects. Low blow.
Honestly, it was a very dry, very boring, thirty minute Q&A. If he had any message to get out it seemed directed at the players in that he expects them ready to show up to play, and possibly an "I’m sorry message" he was projecting out to others.
Speaking of Perrotto’s chat on the Pirates prospects, here were a couple of interesting exchanges:
Q: Wilbur Miller from Silver Spring, MD asks:
Is Yoslan Herrera a real prospect, or was this more of a PR stunt? His stuff looked pretty pedestrian to me.
John Perrotto: More like a PR stunt at this point, though the guy hadn’t pitch competitively for nearly three years until last year. I’ll give him a mulligan in 2007 but he has to perform well in 2008 to really be considered a prospect.
Q: Mike from Toronto ON asks:
Sure McCutcheon looks good as a Pirate, but how does he compare to top outfield prospects from last year’s BA top 100? Can you rank McCutcheon, Chris Young (ARI), Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzales, J Upton, C Maybin?
John Perrotto: Frankly, I’d have to put McCutchen behind all of them at this stage.
Hilarious stuff, but not for the obvious reasons. Anyway, I agree with him on Herrera and McCutchen.
BA’s official Pirates Top Ten prospects are:
1. Andrew McCutchen, of
2. Neil Walker, 3b
3. Steve Pearce, 1b/of
4. Brad Lincoln, rhp
5. Daniel Moskos, lhp
6. Shelby Ford, 2b
7. Jamie Romak, of
8. Brian Bixler, ss/2b
9. Duke Welker, lhp
10. Brad Corley, of
What about the report out of St. Louis which suggests the Cardinals may target Jack Wilson? When a club’s rebuilding and knows it’s going to take more than three years to complete the process, dealing a player like Wilson in the division really isn’t so worrisome. Especially when they will eat his entire salary (although I think he’s underpaid myself and therefore has value to the Cards).
Jerry Cransick at ESPN also reports the Pirates are "actively shopping" Matt Morris. Right, well, there might be someone willing to take on a workhorse. But just how much would we have to sent with him, or does it even matter?
Combine that with the Nady to Padres rumor from yesterday and Jeff Passan’s announcement that Torres and Marte are likely chips to be dealt, and that will officially put broad smiles on Bob Nutting and the rest of the shareholders faces going into 2008.
Seriously, I think the Cards article is a PR move and unlikely to happen, I’m still not convinced losing Nady and McLouth for Headley is a good idea unless Walker’s health is indeed a question mark, and it’s just a matter of time before Marte and Torres are sent packing.
Shane Youman, who was DFA’d when the roster was set, was picked off the wire today by the Phillies. What a shame to lose Youman over Eldred or Barthmaier. Perhaps the 40 pitch type innings Jeff Andrews forced him through at Indy last year fried his arm and we don’t know it yet? Two thumbs down losing a servicable back of the order guy.
But hey – there is good news. Josh Sharpless, Bucco Blog’s 2006 Most Balls Award Winner, sailed through the wire and will again be put into the Pirates system.
Rumors — to be quite honest, there really isn’t much to talk about that I’m hearing yet. The newspapers are drumming up some, and like they say where there is smoke there is probably a fire, but there just isn’t a lot making it to my email box like last year. I tend to believe Huntington’s phone is a lot quieter than he wants it to be right now.
The Pirates announced they had filled three of the six coaching vacancies today. The most obvious guy missing was Indy pitching coach Jeff Andrews.
Tony Beasley and Gary Varsho were added to John Russell’s staff as had been speculated. Luis Dorante as bullpen coach is a bit of a surprise.
A friend of mine has a son in the Marlins organization and let’s just say Dorante is either deeply loved or deeply hated. He’ll probably be a good guy to get the most out of Castillo and Paulino and he’s probably a great guy to hand the clubhouse paddle to if the players get out of control. He’ll do fine as a bullpen coach but, again, this is a surprising hire.
Jeff Andrews wasn’t mentioned today. I assume that’s because the Pirates wanted to make some kind of an announcement before the holiday period and they had these three men already under contract. Perhaps we’ll hear more Wednesday or Friday.
In somewhat of a curious move, Neal Huntington set the Pirates 40-man at forty, meaning the Pirates won’t be eligible to pick in the Rule 5 draft in December.
Olivo Astacio, 23 RHRP, was added which was a no-brainer. Jimmy Barthmaier was claimed off waivers from the Astros and added. He’s been steadily declining since 2005 and was rocked last year in AA. Stats don’t always tell the whole story but he certainly looks like a candidate for elbow or shoulder surgery next year. And Ronald Belisario, of all people, was added who is less than marginal (80% combined strand rate in 2007 and still could only reach a 4.90 xERA). Brian Bixler was also added – another no-brainer.
Designated for assignment was Shane Youman (solid 2.20 – 4.05 xERA @ 70% strand rate last three in the farm) who, in my opinion, should have been kept over some of the other garbage on the roster but Huntington may prefer the trade bait, Josh Sharpless as expected, and Josh Phelps, who could sign back on with a split contract.
I had hoped that the Pirates would keep at least one or two slots open for the draft. A couple of interesting guys might have been John Jaso with the Rays or Fernando Hernandez with the White Sox.
Updated 2008 draft top ten prospects:
|1||Pedro Alvarez||3B||L-R||Vanderbilt U.|
|2||Brian Matusz||LHP||L-L||U. of San Diego|
|3||Eric Hosmer||1B||L-L||American Heritage HS|
|4||Gerrit Cole||RHP||R-R||Orange Lutheran HS|
|5||Tim Melville||RHP||R-R||Wentzville Holt HS|
|6||Tim Beckham||SS||R-R||Griffin HS|
|7||Aaron Crow||RHP||R-R||U. of Missouri|
|8||Justin Smoak||1B||B-L||U. of South Carolina|
|9||Kyle Skipworth||C||L-R||Patriot HS|
|10||Ryan Perry||RHP||R-R||U. of Arizona|
I’ll be surprised if the Rays pass on Alvarez.
Dodger fans get to help build a float for the Rose Bowl Parade and then have a chance to ride in it during the event to boot.
Maybe the Pirates should offer a chance to load firework displays on the barge and then ride with them for the post-game display with Steve Blass singing Smoke on the Water? Ouch.
It’s questions and answers like this exchange at pirateball.com that really gets my blood running:
Q. Is there any chance the Bucs will go after Torii Hunter?
A. No, and there are two reasons why they won’t.
The first is financial. The economics of the market in Pittsburgh just can’t compete when it comes to landing the big-name free agents. . . Second, the Pirates’ main priority this off season isn’t for help in center field. . .
I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it.
Bob Nutting could take on Torii Hunter at 5/80 without dealing one player from the current roster and still not put a significant dent in his 2006 – 2008 profits.
Now, I’m not suggesting he should, I’m just saying he could. "The economics of the market in Pittsburgh just can’t compete" when landing big-name free agents is just plain hogwash. That’s how marginal teams move up the ladder.
If we sign a +7 win player like A-Rod at the equivalent of $30M per year, ditch Bay, Marte, Wilson, Torres, Nady, and Grabow to bring A-Rod’s cost down to $15M per year for a couple, then surround A-Rod with players like LaRoche, McCutchen, Sanchez, Pearce, and Paulino, do you think we’ll win more than 70 games?
Heck yeah. Especially when you start adding in the wins from the booty Bay et al could bring in as well. So what if Robert Nutting’s profit is cut in third. Geez..
Then after reading that poke-in-the-wall exchange, I ran across this tidbit from the Pirates CEO Frank Coonelly buried in a Trib article Sunday:
"We’re not going to sign another Tony Armas — players who are only marginally better than someone you can sign for the major league minimum. Instead, we will plow that money into player development."
Plow what where?
Here we go again – this time it’s rebuilding management using a McClatchy era coined phrase. Come on Frank – the fans don’t want to hear that BS. Tell us EXACTLY what you will spend it on or don’t say anything because you’ll be hard pressed to find any Pirate fan that believes you.
Next thing we’ll be hearing is money saved in 2008 will be plowed back into scouting, or Bradenton, or laser fireworks. Hey, the scoreboard is now a year old now – we need a new one. Chock it up to player development since they watch it.
Dang – it’s really hard to be a Pirates fan anymore.
Folks, stop emailing me about Erik Bedard. There is zero chance we will get him. I just thought he’d be a nice addition.
One of the Pittsburgh Trib papers (Trib is the official newspaper of the Pirates, or something like that) said at pittsburghlive.com:
"While we cannot endorse Russell, something we mistakenly did for Lamont, McClendon and Tracy, we wish him well."
Does it get any lower than that folks?
"I was talking to a friend who works for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and he told me about.."
Batton down the hatches – they are coming out of the woodwork now.
Psssttt.. inside scoop here: I was talking to a friend who works for Hank Steinbrenner and he told me he was trading Hughes to the Bucs for Jose Castillo and a few bucks.
Duke’s wedding is plastered all over the web for you to enjoy by their wedding planner:
Good stuff. Congrats to them both.