Bill Brink: And here we go ...
Guest: what would be considered a successful campaign for Volquez? Staying off the DL? .500 record?
Bill Brink: I think a successful season would be staying in the rotation. He couldn't do that last year, in Petco Park. I've seen stuff from him in spring training that would indicate he can get major league hitters out, but he hasn't been able to do it consistently or command his fastball well.
Guest: is sanchez going to be Lirianos catcher again this year?
Bill Brink: No. I think that was a brief experiment. Martin will catch Liriano unless it's Martin's day for a day off.
TJ: I think the Bucs will end up shopping Mazzaro. Thoughts?
Guest: Hi Bill Any idea who they get for Vin Mazzaro?
Keith: Bill, with recent reliever injury issues in MLB, what is the chance the Bucs can get a return on Vin Mazzaro before he must be waived?
Bill Brink: The Pirates are shopping Mazzaro, and it seemed likely, from what we heard from Neal Huntington Saturday, that they will move him before he hits waivers. As far as a return, he can contribute to a major league bullpen right now, so I would think he would bring a serviceable big leaguer. I don't think a team will part with a prospect for him, nor will they send an everyday player in return.
JamesinNYC: Biggest mistake of not signing Loney or signing Volquez?
Bill Brink: Going to a third year on Loney, and/or increasing the offer to offset the fact that Loney pays no state tax in Florida, would have solved a big issue for the Pirates this winter. That is the more pressing need, but I hesitate to call it a mistake because Loney had to want to sign. They can recruit, but they can't convince someone to play three years for a team he doesn't want to play for.
ScottyfromPA: So the Buccos won as many games as they did last year by winning lots of 3-2/2-1 kind of games. We start with a 1-0 win. I know it's early, but not a ton of offensive upgrades during the offseason. Any chnce the pitching holds up as well as they did last year, especiaaly with rumors of memebers of the bullpen (a huge plus last year) being on the trading block?
Bill Brink: The top four in the starting rotation should hold up just as well as last year, and maybe better with full years from Cole, Morton and Way-Rod. The bullpen isn't getting any worse. Bryan Morris figures to be much better than last year, the lefties are as good as ever and as long as Grilli stays healthy, the eighth and ninth innings are solid. I think the pitching will hold up.
JAL: Should we be pleased that Ishikawa had two hits opening day or disappointed that they were both singles?
Bill Brink: We should be patient and wait for a larger sample size on which to judge him. In the context of Monday's game, pleased, because no one else was doing much of anything on offense.
Guest: Any word on Taillon's second opinion?
Bill Brink: Hoping to find that out today when we get to the park.
Guest: now that the season started, do you see the cost for morales going down? do you think there is a number the Pirates can and will be willing to sign him for? or is the draft pick compensation too much for the Pirates
Bill Brink: The draft pick compensation is now complicated by the fact that the season has started. If Morales and Stephen Drew sign somewhere, the team that signs them can't offer them a qualifying offer after this season because they won't have spent the whole season on the roster. That removes some incentive for teams to sign players.
I still don't think the Pirates part with a draft pick for Morales because they're unsure of his defense at first base and the draft is a valuable commodity for them.
Guest: Is Ike Davis too much to ask for Mazaro in return?
Bill Brink: Yes. Davis, for all his troubles and injuries, is still a young first baseman with 30-homer potential. I don't think Vin Mazzaro will bring him to Pittsburgh, at least not by himself.
JAL: Any idea what the Pirates and other baseball people think of Brandon Crumpton? Someone capable of being a starter in the majors or simply a spot fill in?
Bill Brink: The Pirates currently see Cumpton as a spot starter who can fill in if another pitcher is injured, and based on their rotation, there is no room for him this year unless someone gets hurt or Volquez pitches his way out of the rotation. Jameson Taillon was considered likely to supplement the rotation in the summer, but we will need to see how his second opinion on his elbow went before we know if that is a possibility, so that could open up an opportunity for Cumpton.
Mike In Downtown: Has anyone from the organization commented on whether the deferred money still owed to Brian Giles has any effect on current and future payroll? I believe he deferred at least $10 million.
Bill Brink: No one has commented, likely because no one has asked. It's my understanding that any payments still owed to Giles are small potatoes compared to the rest of the payroll.
Guest: When Locke is healthy, given his excellent spring, what will his role be?
Bill Brink: He will pitch out of the Indianapolis rotation and join Cumpton as a spot starter, though if the Pirates need a long-term replacement starter he will get the first call. He showed the ability to do it last year, and hopefully, now that he can complete his between-start maintenance work without his back bothering him, he can amend his second-half issues.
Guest: please don't say they plan on sticking with the current 1B situation then??
Bill Brink: Not many teams make trades in April or May as they watch how their roster shakes itself out. I would imagine the Pirates will be active in June and July if their first-base platoon isn't working.
Joe - Florida: Although everyone seems to mention 1st as the big hole on this team, I think we should be more concerned with the shortstop. That is a much harder position to fill and I have some serious concerns about Mercer as a long term solution. Thoughts?
Bill Brink: I see no reason why Mercer won't hit. I'm interested to see how his defense plays on an everyday basis. He can make the plays, but like Alvarez, it's a matter of consistency. He looked shaky at times during spring training.
JamesinNYC: June 1st if the current 1st base platoon stinks and Moralas is still out there is it a no brainer to sign him for a year?
Bill Brink: Maybe not June 1, but June 10 -- after the amateur draft, meaning the draft-pick compensation is removed from his qualifying-offer status.
EWS34: Any thoughts on who the Pirates might sign to a long-term contract next?
Bill Brink: The logical move would be Cole, but as a Boras client, he will likely test free agency.
I don't think they'll sign Walker or Alvarez long-term. The next long-term extension may go to Taillon, in 2016.
JAL: I get the feeling from listening to baseball people that they see Pedro Alvarez as what you see is what get. Will hit 30 to 40 HR's with a lot of strikeouts and a BA under .250. What is your opinion and what have your heard?
Bill Brink: The Pirates' coaching staff thinks Alvarez can cut down on his strikeouts, which will increase his on-base percentage and probably raise his average a bit. He'll never hit .280 or strike out less than 100 times, but going from 186 to, say, 150 should help him become more productive without impacting his power.
Drz: Odds Barry Bonds returned from retirement to play for the Pirates?
Bill Brink: Are there odds that go into the negatives? A negative percentage, maybe?
Guest: Smizik wrote that paul maholm signed for 1.5 mil plus incentives. Why would we sign someone who has a history of being awful for 3.5 mil more? Is it simply hope for upside? Seems like a lot for hope
Bill Brink: I assume you're referencing Volquez here. They're banking on the stuff. He has good stuff, it just needs to play more consistently. Despite how awful Volquez's 2013 was, $5 million on a one-year deal for a pitcher is not that absurd in today's market. There is no such thing as a bad one-year deal, and they can eat $5 million if they have to.
Guest: Do the Bucs gets some runs off Jackson tonight?
Bill Brink: (Looks into crystal ball) Yes, they do.They can hit him.
Guest: If I'm the Blue Jays why wouldn't I look to trade Lind for a Bucs starter and sign Moralez to replace Lind at DH?
Bill Brink: I don't have a handle on the Blue Jays, so most of my insight comes from what I read, but it seems to me they want Lind to play first so Encarnacion doesn't have to all the time. Morales would either force Encarnacion onto the field if he DH'd or play the field himself, and Toronto is probably as dubious about his defensive abilities as the Pirates are.
PhillyJake: How much longer is Volquez' leash than Jonathan Sanchez' was last year ?
Bill Brink: Assuming he doesn't get himself tossed for hitting a guy in the head in addition to being bad, like Sanchez did, I think Volquez has a longer leash. If his outings are average and/or show promise, they'll keep running him out there. If he reels off a string of terrible starts, they'll either DL him or cut him.
Joe - Florida: Given the Bucs have not extended Walker's contract, it seems like he is in a no win situation. If he rebounds he will be too expensive if he doesn't, I think Mercer will be taking his spot. Any other way to see it?
Bill Brink: I see the first part but not the second. Mercer can't play second because nobody else in the organization can play short. Alen Hanson is still at Class AA Altoona. But Walker will become expensive in arbitration if he hits as a second baseman.
Ben: Does McCutchen have the most team-friendly contract in baseball? People who complain about a 70 mil payroll don't realize that it should be around 90 if Cutch was paid what he was worth.
Bill Brink: That was a great extension for the Pirates. The comp at the time was Jay Bruce, and now the comp could well be Kemp or Trout (not saying he's Trout, but that if trout got $144 mil, McCutchen could ask for $110 mil or something).
Ben: Do you have a secret part of PNC where you like to watch the game when you are not working?
Bill Brink: Ever since I was a kid, I've always liked sitting in the first few rows of the upper deck behind home plate. I feel like I can see everything that way. At PNC, though, the seats above the Clemente Wall are always fun.
EWS34: What would the Pirates be willing to trade for a first baseman?
Bill Brink: Depends on the first baseman. Sorry, that sounds like a dismissive answer, but I don't think they'll part with young pitching prospects for Ike Davis the way they might for Adam Lind.
Joe - Florida: Follow-up on Walker. If he is gone then who will play second?
Bill Brink: He won't be gone for a while. The Pirates still have him under control for three more seasons. At that point, it could be Alen Hanson or who knows who else.
Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.
JAL: D backs selling an 18-inch corn dog stuffed with cheddar cheese, jalapenos and bacon--you in on that when Bucs visit Arizina?
Bill Brink: Gonna see if I can get another writer to split one, because I don't think any distance I can go for a run in Phoenix in August will justify an 18-inch corndog, but for sure, I want to try it.
Jared: Realistically, where do you see this team at the end of the season, barring no major injuries?
Bill Brink: Realistically, 88 wins, second or third in the NL Central with a shot at the NL wild card. The injuries to the Dodgers, Reds, Braves and D-backs have me thinking the Pirates have a better shot than I thought they did during the winter.
EWS34: Is Morris considered a rookie?
Bill Brink: No, he had more than 50 innings pitched last season.
Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for the great questions. We're looking to do this twice a week now, probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon. Today was different because of yesterday's off day. Hope to see you all back next week!