Poll Question: Which aspect of the Pirates most concerns you? Answer #1: Rotation (64%) Answer #2: Bullpen (18%) Answer #3: Offense (18%)
Bill Brink: Thanks for the questions guys and keep them coming. Here we go ...
Jason PGH: How much does the pitching woes are because of Russell Martin being on the DL??
Barry: Was it a wise choice for the Pirates to spend 13 million dollars on an arthritic arm?
Bill Brink: Wrong two questions, sorry. I'll get back to Wandy in a minute. First ...
Jason PGH: Stats to back up my question. In 8 games he missed, the team era is 5.35 ERA and they have given up 44 ER. In 24 games he played in 3.61 ERA and 89 ER
Bill Brink: ERA splits by catcher behind the plate have been shown to mean little, and this is a very small sample size from which to draw conclusions. There is, however, a great deal of comfort between the Pirates starters and Martin, so his absence likely has had at least some impact.
Tony Sanchez is a good defensive catcher as far as blocking the plate. His throwing needs improvement. But Martin has years of experience and a nuance for game calling and managing his pitcher that Sanchez just doesn't have yet.
Paul L: Assuming that they are healthy and produce at or above their current 2014 level, what do you think the Bucs can get at trade deadline for Liriano, Martin or Grilli?
Bill Brink: If Liriano can return to his 2013 levels or thereabouts and Martin can stay healthy, they could net solid returns. Both are also candidates for qualifying offers that could net the Pirates a draft pick in the 2015 draft. I don't think they will get much for Grilli.
cableman: When the shine rubs off Harrison and Lambo gets his shot who bats leadoff?
Bill Brink: Marte will move back up there eventually. He's too fast and explosive not to.
Bill Brink: Back to the question on Wandy: Comment From Barry
Was it a wise choice for the Pirates to spend 13 million dollars on an arthritic arm?
Bill Brink: This is a good question, because it allows us to clear up some things. Rodriguez exercised a player option, meaning the Pirates had no choice but to take him back. They would not have spent that kind of money otherwise.
Also, Neal Huntington told me last September that Rodriguez's flexor tendon injury was the main thing the Pirates were concerned about. Rodriguez told reporters he heard from the doctor that he had arthritis, but the Pirates never mentioned it. My takeaway from that is, the arthritis either isn't there, is minor, or there's nothing they can do about it anyway.
Joe: Will we make playoffs?
Bill Brink: Not at this rate. There are indications that their luck should turn and their players should improve, but they have to do so quickly to remain in the race.
William: Will Gaby Sanchez hit 40+ homers this year?
Bill Brink: Gonna have to say no on that one.
Bill: The common thought was that Locke would be sent down and a hitter (possibly Lambo) would be called up today. Does last night's game change that plan at all?
Bill Brink: I believe so. Lambo did not play for Indy last night and it seemed likely he would come up for at least a few games because the Pirates don't need a fifth starter for a while. Now, I would imagine a reliever comes up, with Duke Welker or Phil Irwin the main candidates.
Noah: Polanco or Lambo
Bill Brink: Polanco. He's one of the best prospects in the game, a five-too player.
Nez: Last night, the Detroit Tigers faced a battery of Jason CASTRO and Jarred COSART. Does that anagram blow your mind, Mr. Brink, as it does mine?
Bill Brink: I'm not sure how Tigers batters managed to focus on their plate appearances in the face of such a thing.
BobbyToledo: If I were to hit the pause button until Gregory Polanco is called up for major league duty, when could I press play?
Bill Brink: June 4? Somewhere in that neighborhood.
Nothing this team does surprises me anymore, so if they called him up tomorrow I wouldn't be shocked, but the front office would have to massively change its approach to do so.
BobbyToledo: The Josh Harrison experiment has to end at some point, right, RIGHT? I mean there's a reason why he is nothing but a bench player at this point in his career.
Bill Brink: Yes. Recent three-game tear aside, he's a career .282 on-base percentage guy that is not suited to lead off.
Noah: If the Pirates only send Locke out for 5 innings last night do they win the game in your mind
Bill Brink: It's always easy to say after the fact. I'm not so sure. The bullpen was pretty bad last night as well. Locke's sixth inning was not the Pirates' biggest problem. Morris, Watson, Wilson and Melancon couldn't hold leads.
BobbyToledo: Oh and another Polanco-related question. If Huntington and co. only received three-year extensions, why so concerned about what would happen to Polanco's contract six years down the line? The bottom line is, they need to win now.
Bill Brink: Huntington says publicly that he doesn't make decisions to save his job, and Nutting and Coonelly made clear to him that they did not want him to do so. He's doing what he thinks is best for the organization: saving a few million down the road by keeping Polanco from being eligible for Super 2 status, which is a reality for a team whose ownership approves a payroll in the bottom third of MLB and whose TV revenue is also low. Not endorsing or agreeing with the strategy, but just explaining the rationale.
Mike: Is there tension in the front office with the poor start? Poor playing team equals no fans in the stands.
Bill Brink: None that has boiled over to the point where I've heard of it yet. The team should regress in a positive way as the season wears on, so I don't think they're panicking yet.
Jeff: Do you really think this management team will use a qualifying offer on any player?
Bill Brink: It would have to be one that they either really want to keep around, or one that they know will sign elsewhere so they get the draft pick. If Liriano or Martin aren't in either category at the end of the season, probably not.
Bill: In response to the Lambo question earlier, it would make more sense IMO to send down Hughes for Welker and Locke for Lambo. Hughes just is not a very good pitcher
Bill Brink: That's a decision fast approaching: How long can they wait for Hughes to discover the form he had in 2011-12?
Stillafan: Why not Josh Harrison at short. He's played more games there than in the outfield.
Bill Brink: Josh Harrison is a capable defender at short, but that is such an important position that they don't want to sacrifice any defense at all. Hence, Barmes.
Which begs the question, why play Mercer there? Mercer's defense has improved since spring training and he looks really comfortable now. I didn't used to write an automatic 6-3 when I saw a ground ball to short, the way I did with Barmes; now I'm starting to.
Jeff: Pitching has to be a priority this off season. Aside from yearly reclamation project, do they have it in them to sign a quality pitcher at a market price?
Bill Brink: This is a put-up-or-shut-up year in that area. They can't bank on Taillon, and it's too early to tell what they can expect from Sadler, Kingham or any of their other young pitching prospects. Their rotation next year is Cole, Morton, Locke, question mark, question mark, with Cumpton and Irwin somewhere in there. If ever there was a year to go get a bona fide starter, this offseason is it.
Bill Brink: No more questions in the queue, what other questions do we have today?
Jeff: Real downer of a start. Any frustration in clubhouse you can tell?
Bill Brink: Definite frustration after last night's game, but that's to be expected when you lose a game in that fashion. Not to the point where it's been in previous years.
BobbyToledo: When Polanco does get the call, who exits?
Bill Brink: Have to think Tabata or Snider. I can't see them carrying five outfielders on the roster, especially when they have Barmes, a first baseman, a backup catcher and Harrison on the bench. I don't see any of them going. Unless they cut ties with Barmes because they think Mercer can handle it, I think Tabata or Snider.
Neither one has options, so that makes it complicated.
BobbyToledo: Also is it coincidence or is Alvarez getting better pitches to see with Marte betting behind him?
Bill Brink: Lineup protection is often overstated. The numbers don't back it up to the point that we like to believe. I also don't think Marte, who is strikeout-prone and doesn't walk much, is going to scare pitchers in to pitching to Alvarez, who has 40-homer power.
BobbyToledo: Any truth tot he rumor the Pirates are still looking for a first baseman?
Bill Brink: I read that too, and I don't think so. They wouldn't have traded for Ike Davis if they didn't want to roll with him and Gaby.
Marc: Are the Pirates pleased with Ike Davis?
Jeff: Ike Davis so far...yuk...is PTBNL based on performance?
BobbyToledo: When is Ike Davis going to heat up?
Bill Brink: Lots of Ike questions. He hasn't been here long enough for them to be displeased with him. They still like him and think he can be productive.
The PTBNL is not based on performance. Sometimes it's one player who can't be announced because he's a 2013 draft pick (as I've heard in this case). Sometimes it's a list of five players that the other team can choose from.
Mark: What $$$$$ will Ike cost the Pirates next year?
Bill Brink: He is making $3.5 million in his second of four years of arbitration because he qualified for Super 2. I would guess his salary goes into the $5 million range.
bob: what are your thoughts on switching marte and cutch in the outfield..i believe it makes them stronger defensively?
Bill Brink: Marte has the stronger arm, but in every other facet they are similar. Where I see the holdup is Clint Hurdle going to the franchise player, the MVP, and telling him to move off a premium defensive position.
McCutchen also makes better judgments and more accurate throws. If Marte improves in those areas, it might become more of an issue.
Guest: I understand Super 2 on Palanco but with that outfield that would fill the seats and tighten up are lineup. I think they make more money with him being here than they would lose in a contract a year early
Bill Brink: We've had this discussion in the press box often. How many more jersey sales, ticket sales, potential playoff ticket sales if Polanco helps them get there, would it take to outweigh the extra year of arbitration?
Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.
Marc: Do the Pirates finish over .500 this year?
Bill Brink: No.
Mark: Wandy and Grilli (age) nagging health issues...can they last this season?
Bill Brink: Not sure on Wandy, who has had injuries each of the past two seasons. Grilli, probably.
Paul L: would A J had made a difference?
Guest: Do they regret not signing Burnett?
Bill Brink: I don't think so. I'm sure they would have liked his production, but in weighing the health risks and the personality and the age against their internal value, they are probably confident in their decision not to up their offer.
Sean: Does Walker ever get signed long term?
Bill Brink: I don't think so. They have him under contract for a few more years during the prime of his career.
Brad S: Do they regret not making a stronger play for a one-year deal for Marlon Byrd, knowing that's pretty much all they needed out of him with Polonco on the way?
Bill Brink: They don't tell us whether they regret their moves or not, but I'd have to guess not. A 36-year-old on a two-year contract isn't in their best interests.
Marc: With that answer, do you see the fanbase become VERY negative shortly?
Bill Brink: I'm not a member of the fanbase, but I hear from a lot of them, so I have to think yes.
Guest: BRGR or Burgatory?
Bill Brink: BRGR because it once had the 21st Amendment Hop Crisis Imperial IPA on tap. I haven't found that in a bar anywhere else in the world and it's one of the best five beers ever created. I even went to the 21st Amendment brewery in San Francisco when the Pirates played the Giants last year and THEY didn't have any. There was one liquor store in western Maryland that had four-packs of it.
Jeff: Ballpark dead...no excitement....think Coonelly disappointed he did not push to spend more this off season?
Bill Brink: What I wonder is if they're going to have to re-evaluate their offensive projections. They had to know going in that the offense wouldn't get that much better, yet didn't do much to help until the Davis trade.
Sean: Your not a fan of he pirates. Who do u root for then?
Bill Brink: Because I cover the sport, I don't root for any team. I root for my NFL team and my alma mater for college sports.
Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for all the great questions!