Pirates outfielders Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco last month at Pirate City, in Bradenton, Fla.
Poll Question: Who would you like to see the Pirates trade? Answer #1: Jeanmar Gomez (26%) Answer #2: Bryan Morris (26%) Answer #3: Vin Mazzaro (48%)
Bill Brink: OK guys, here we go...
Derek: Bill if the Pirates decide to trade for a first baseman who would they trade for.
Bill Brink: Ike Davis remains a possibility. Adam Lind and Mitch Moreland seem less likely. Justin Smoak has been named the starter in Seattle.
BV: Hi Bill: the bullpen logjam shows no sign of clearing up. Should we expect a trade in the next week?
Bill Brink: I would expect a trade unless the fact that the Pirates' need to move a reliever is so well-known that other teams lowball them. I still think they get something done.
Guest: Will Ishikawa actually be the left hand platoon or are they going to play Sanchez at first full time with Ishikawa playing sparingly?
Bill Brink: I think they'll play Sanchez more, even against righties, and work Ishikawa in. I don't see it as an even split, though if Sanchez struggles, Ishikawa might get more playing time.
Mike In Downtown: Is Andrew Lambo really Chad Hermansen 2.0?
Bill Brink: Hermansen got parts of four seasons with the Pirates and didn't do well in any of them. It's too soon to say that for Lambo. He can still hit. He was asked to re-learn first base and compete for a major league job at the same time. That combined with a little bad luck on balls in play and gave him a terrible spring. They want him to hit a little bit in Indy, where he raked last year, and build his confidence back up.
Richy: The Pirates have put themselves in a bind with a gaping hole at first base. I would think any team looking to trade them a first baseman is going to ask for a ton in return. Your thoughts, please.
Bill Brink: The combination of the Pirates' need and the lack of good options on the market, plus the fact that the teams who can trade first basemen don't seem very keen to do so at the moment, would make any potential asking price pretty high. I don't think it happens unless the Pirates can find a first baseman in exchange for Morris or Gomez.
PhillyJake: Travis Ishakawa? Really?
Bill Brink: Really.
Bill Brink: He's going to be on the roster. We don't know yet how much playing time he'll get.
Chuck: Are we going to see a trade for a 1B before opening day?
Guest: What are the chances the Pirates go into the season with Ishikawa in the lineup as opposed to a trade for a lefty first baseman?
Bill Brink: Unless something changes in one of the camps around the league, I don't see the Pirates trading for a first baseman before opening day. That could change come June or July. They've been looking all winter and spring and haven't found a deal they like.
Guest: Hey Bill Brink! Why are the Pirates into DiDi? Shouldnt they be looking at 1st baseman or RF?
Bill Brink: The Pirates have discussed Didi Gregorius because they are doing their due diligence on shortstops who might be available. Owings might win that job in Arizona and Gregorius could either make a good platoon partner for Mercer or start every day with Mercer back in the minors. The Diamondbacks parted with Trevor Bauer to get Gregorius, though, and aren't just going to give him away. It would cost a young pitcher. I don't see it happening.
TB: how worried should fans/Pirates organization be about Taillon's elbow?
Bill Brink: Whatever level of worry you choose below "Tommy John," because the ligament is intact and he does not need a replacement. He could have anything from tendinitis or inflammation to a flexor strain to bone chips. There is no telling right now.
JJ: Why did the Pirates send Lambo down? I thought spring numbers didnt count.
Bill Brink: Spring numbers don't count until they do. The Pirates don't look at numbers much, but in Lambo's case the struggles were so drastic -- four hits, none for extra bases -- that they had no choice. They also look at approach, pitch selection, body language, etc., and must have felt that the approach matched the stats.
Tom: Has Morris really turned it around? I remember him being pretty awful last time he was used regularly
Bill Brink: He's had a great spring since becoming more comfortable with his two-seam fastball. Off the top of my head, seven scoreless innings in a row. He always had the stuff, but command of it plagued him. Now he's comfortable with a two-seamer to go with his four-seamer and cutter. That two-seamer takes some getting used to. You don't locate the pitch, you throw it over the plate and trust it to move, and that trust can take some time.
JJ: Are the Pirates still shopping Snider, Tabata, and/or Mazzaro?
Bill Brink: They're probably shopping Mazzaro and listening on the other two. I think they would move Tabata if they could find a taker, but might not be in too much of a hurry to move Snider, whom they liked enough to trade for and who is now healthy.
Guest: How many starts will Volquez get if he continues to struggle? Contending teams shouldn't make gambles of throwing away games every 5th day.
Bill Brink: I think they'll give him April and into May. How long his leash is depends on how good or bad he pitches.
Nick: From what you've seen from Starling Marte this spring, has he improved his plate discipline? Will he walk more and become a better lead-off hitter?
Bill Brink: It's tough to tell when he's not leading off and getting four at-bats day after day, but I feel like I see fewer bad swings at pitches way outside the zone. Facing top-notch major league pitching might change that, but it would be hard to walk less than last year so I think another year of experience and seeing the NL pitchers will help.
PhillyJake: Think Andy Oliver will make it through waivers ?
Bill Brink: Yes I do.
OldSchool: I wold vote for sellinghigh on Melancon and putting Morris in there if they are really that high on him. Any chatter about that?
Bill Brink: No. The common perception is to deal from strength, but teams -- in all sports -- know they have to add to and preserve it. The bullpen was one of the reasons the Pirates won so many games last year. The unit preserved wins with small margin of victory because the offense struggled to score runs. I don't think they're in a hurry to move in, and certainly not to put Morris in there.
JJ: Who do u think is better in the 2 spot in the order, Martin or walker?
Bill Brink: If a righty is pitching, Walker. If a lefty is pitching, Martin.
Nick: Are the Pirates really serious about Didi Gregorious?
Paul: There was some water cooler talk here that the Bucs might try to get Didi G. to play short & move Walker to 1st and Mercer to 2nd. Pipe dream?
Wayward Eer: I thought the Pirates interest in Didi G was to flip him. Send Arizona Locke or Cumpton for him then send him and one of the excess relievers to the Mets for Davis.
jd: Who would you give up to get Gregorious?
Bill Brink: Lots of questions about Didi Gregorius, so I'll address them here: I don't see this happening. The D-backs parted with Trevor Bauer, a top prospect, to get Gregorius, and at 24 I don't think they've given up on him. Sure, they'd move him, but they'll ask for Nick Kingham and I don't think the Pirates will part with young pitching prospects for a platoon shortstop.
That said, he is cost controllable and if they think he can stick at short they might consider it. They have lots of young pitching.
Guest: If Liriano can't start the season, will Cole start opening day? Also, who will replace Liriano in the rotation?
Bill Brink: Right now Morton is scheduled to start the second game of the season, so the Pirates might just slide everyone up a day, but they might also shuffle it entirely. Liriano will throw tomorrow so we'll know more then.
JJ: Who would get the rotation spot if Volquez fails?
Bill Brink: Have to guess Jeff Locke, though Brandon Cumpton, Phil Irwin, Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel are dark horses. Real dark horses, some of them.
TimF: Pirates wish they could have a do-over with GI Jones?
Bill Brink: Doubt it. He was getting pricey, couldn't hit lefties and was a defensive liability.
JJ: Do you know the deal that was offered to Marte?
Bill Brink: I don't. I imagine it would be multi-year, buy out some or all of his arbitration years and was below what he could ask for after another nice season or two. Smart to ask, smart to turn it down.
jd: Does Pimentel make the 25 man roster?
Bill Brink: Pimentel will make the active roster because he is out of minor league options. He'll serve as the long man in the bullpen along with Gomez.
Nick: How has Pedro's defense looked this spring? What kind of effort has he made towards improving?
Bill Brink: Pedro's defense has looked good. More consistent, better throws. Consistency is the biggest thing. He can make all the plays. It's not a footwork or range thing (though his range is limited).
JJ: How many options do u get?
Bill Brink: Players get three options, meaning they can be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers in three different years after they are added to the 40-man roster. In some cases, teams can apply for a player to receive a fourth option. I'd have to look this up to be sure, but I believe this occurs when a player has used three option years before he reaches five years in pro ball. Bryan Morris was granted a fourth option last season.
JJ: Waht pirates do u think will break out this year?
Bill Brink: Marte. If he walks a little more and becomes a little more selective, he could be a 20-homer, 40-steal guy who hits .285.
Nick: What has Neil done to improve from the right side of the plate? What can we expect with that situation this year?
Bill Brink: The plan was to get him consecutive at-bats against lefties and help him re-discover his form as a right-hander from 2011. Walker is a natural righty who is better as a lefty because he faces so many more righties than lefties, so he has the ability, he just has to find it.
Foxx: Why not shop Morris and keep Mazzaro? Mazzaro seemed like a much better pitcher last year.
Bill Brink: It comes down to which pitchers other teams are interested in. Teams might like Morris' pure stuff better than Mazzaro's so-so stuff paired with a solid strand rate last year, considering strand rate is prone to fluxuation.
Guest: how has Grilli's velocity been? Is he hitting 94-95?
Bill Brink: Most of these parks don't have radar guns, but when I've seen a reading, it's been around 94.
jd: Who gets pulled from the 40 man to make room for Ishakawa?
Bill Brink: I would think Andy Oliver. They can probably get him through waivers and retain him, if they want.
Nick: I feel like fans usually go crazy for big prospects, but in general how are Pirates people (management, players, etc) feeling about Polanco?
Bill Brink: The Pirates management has been very frank about Polanco's talent and the impact they expect him to have. One of the reasons they didn't sign or trade for a right fielder, in addition to the lack of good options available, was they know Polanco is coming up and they believe he will stick.
Dan: I want to buy in on Travis Snider. Should I?
Bill Brink: Sure! Healthy toe, slimmed down, older and wiser.
pauldurham: Knowing we have deal with Boras by the end of next year, is Pedro on the market now?
Bill Brink: Hot off the presses: Jeff Locke just threw 47 pitches in three scoreless innings against Pirates triple-A hitters at Pirate City, no hits, 2 BB, 5 K. So there's that
Guest: Will Snider and Tabata be a straight platoon to start the season or will one play more than other?
Bill Brink: Huntington said today that Hurdle will not use a strict left-right platoon but will play the matchups. I think Snider will play more often at first and we will see how that goes.
Bill Brink: Got to start getting ready for the game. Lightning round. Go.
Guest: Will Pirates trade players like Alvarez and McCutchen prior to hitting free agency? Clearly, they will not be able to sign either when contracts are up.
Bill Brink: Forgot to answer Pedro question...
Bill Brink: ... Alvarez will get pricey and Boras will want to take him to free agency unless the Pirates overpay, which they won't do, so it stands to reason they will look to move him at some point. The problem, though, is if they're in the hunt, they can't move 30-plus homers. It's possible they ride him out through arbitration and take the draft pick when he declines the qualifying offer and someone else signs him.
JJ: will Pedro get over the hump and average .260- .280?
Bill Brink: .260 is the upper range. If he tries for .280, he's swinging for contact and not to drive the ball and will lose power. I think .250 is about the ceiling.
PhillyJake: Are there any non-pitchers on the bubble who are out of options ?
Bill Brink: Tabata and Snider are out of options, which doesn't matter now, but it will when Polanco comes up.
Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for the great questions!
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