Bill Brink: Good morning from St. Petersburg and welcome to this week's Pirates chat ... And here we go ...
Bill Brink: Almost everyone in here has asked about who goes when Walker comes off the DL today, so I'll answer them all here. The short answer is we have no indication which way they are leaning. I see three options.1. Travis Snider. They don't need a fifth outfielder with Polanco up, they would only be costing themselves about $650,000 and Harrison can play the corners.2. Clint Barmes. Mercer has played strong defense since mid-April, Harrison can play short and Barmes has not done much on offense.3. Option a pitcher such as Brandon Cumpton or Jared Hughes, play with an extra offensive player until Cole gets back and figure it out from there. Tabata is an option but he is owed more money so I find that less likely.
Will: Any chance if Bucs DFA Barmes that he accepts the demotion in the likely event he clears waivers? Seems like a good depth option and potential Sept callup. Is there a market for Barmes if Bucs wish to roll dice with mid infield defensive depth? It's a modestly costly, but Bucs saved all kinds of money this offseason $ shouldn't drive this decision.
Bill Brink: I don't think at Barmes' age that he will be too keen on spending time in the minors as a depth option, but I also know that he looked around for starting jobs this winter before signing with the Pirates as a backup, so there may not be any market for him. If he wants to keep playing, that might be his only option.
PhillyJake: There had been some Gaby to the Tigers rumors a few weeks ago. Anything new on that front ?
Bill Brink: I don't claim to read every report but I haven't seen much linking Sanchez to Detroit. I did see something from the Dallas Morning News about the Rangers having interest after Prince Fielder went down but have not heard anything about that since then.
PaulDurham: Settle a bet question, please: Minor league players, not on the 40 man roster, how much are they paid?
Bill Brink: Depends on the level and if they are a minor league free agent or not, but usually between $2,000 and $7,000 from what I understand.
Chuck: With the struggles at first base and with Pedro's throwing issues, would it make sense as part of the playing time for Harrison to use Pedro at first on occasion and let Harrison play at 3rd?
Bill Brink: Alvarez's throwing issues are not deep-seated and consistent enough that a move to first is imminent. Harrison will play some at third, especially against lefty starters, but I don't see the Pirates moving Alvarez to first after trading for Ike Davis.
Guest: I know it won't happen since managers have to be careful about how they handle the vets, but looking at Polanco's speed (and his not being used to right field), wouldn't the best outfield alignment for the Bucs be Cutch in left, Polanco in center, and Marte in right?
Bill Brink: When you start moving guys around, you mess with their comfort level. Marte and McCutchen are comfortable in left and center and Marte is faster than Polanco, so he is better suited to left in PNC Park. If anything, Marte makes sense in right because of his superior arm strength, but the potential gain of this move does not outweigh the possible problems.
Dayton Pirate: Do you hear any rumors of the Pirates going out to get a starting pitcher under control beyond 2014 before the trade deadline
Bill Brink: None specific yet, but I certainly expect them to look. They have no depth if they lose another starter and Liriano is no guarantee to come back soon and be effective.
Nathan: Do you think Josh Harrison will be a starter someplace with Neil Walker back? He totally deserves a job somewhere with his production. Maybe at DH tonight for sure?
Bill Brink: I don't think so. I have a hard time, given Polanco's success against lefties in triple-A, that Hurdle will bench him for Harrison even against a lefty. He could play over Marte if he goes back to struggling, get some starts at third or ease Walker's transition back to second.
Speedracer: Does Jason Grilli have a future with this team?
Bill Brink: It's possible Melancon doesn't give the closer's role back, and even if he does, I don't think the Pirates will re-sign Grilli.
Guest: If you are an outfielder in the Pirates farm system, how do you feel about your MLB prospects with the Pirates?
Bill Brink: If you're Chris Dickerson, you're not happy about it, but if you're farther away, like Josh Bell or Austin Meadows, you're not worried because a lot can change in the three or four years it'll take you to reach the majors.
Doug S: Thoughts on batting Pedro 3rd and moving Cutch to cleanup? GP, Marte, Pedro, Cutch, Walker, Russ, Ike, Jordy/Josh would be pretty potent, no?
Bill Brink: Tough to put that kind of strikeout potential in the third spot with the top two speedsters on base, plus Alvarez has not hit well higher in the lineup.
Gil: Hi Bil. Where do you think Clint Hurdle ranks among MLB's best manager?
Bill Brink: It's tough to say because I don't see the AL teams play much, but I'd put him in the upper third in the NL. His lineups have improved each year he's been here, as has his handling of the bullpen. There are still a few too many bunts and intentional walks but overall he does a decent job.
Todd: Since we're in TB anyways might as well ask...whats the chances Pirates make a move for D Price?
Bill Brink: They will inquire but I don't think they ultimately decide to part with the prospects the Rays will want.
Doug S: Even if we are buyers this season, I don't see any major holes to fill?
Bill Brink: The rotation, and a bullpen that has thrown a lot of innings this year.
JAL: In his last start Cumpton was breezing along on 83 pitches after 7 innings and CH removed him. last night Volquez was breezing along on 100 after 7 and CH let him pitch the 8th. Was the difference in experience the big factor in those two decisions?
Bill Brink: I was not in Chicago with the team so I'm speaking from a distance on that one, but I think the game situation had more to do with it. Hurdle liked his chances with two great relievers in a close game, while Volquez had more breathing room.
Sec217: The coaches seem to think Harrison can't handle playing SS - do you think if he keeps hitting at this clip they will eventually reconsider him as an everyday SS option?
Bill Brink: They might have no choice. It might be a gradual transition, but if he hits like this they might have to.
Jeff King: Were you as stunned as I was when Mercer pinch hit for Pedro? Has Hurdle lost confidence in him or has Pedro lost that much confidence in himself or is it a combination of his hitting and fielding?
Bill Brink: I was surprised. Sanchez off the bench, sure, but Mercer? Alvarez still has confidence in himself -- he said last night he has felt good at the plate regardless of the outcome -- but Hurdle is being realistic about his recent struggles.
Doug S: What are Tabata's options? Is it simpy DFA like Wandy? I see Snider's left power bat and PH success the better option of the two.
Bill Brink: He is out of options and they will have to designate him for assignment.
Doug S: Best futbol-er on the 25-man roster?
Bill Brink: Russell Martin can be seen sporting a Germany shirt juggling a soccer ball before the games, so I'll go with him.
Joe-FL: I am struggling to understand why player evaluation is so heavily weighted towards the long ball. All of Alvarez's weaknesses are forgotten because he hit 37 homeruns last year. With all the homeruns, he has never had an annual OPS of .80 or more. I think it is pretty clear he is not part of the long term plans of the Pirates.
Bill Brink: Home runs are harder to find in today's game, partly due to drug testing, partly due to the changes to the college bats that force coaches to recruit line drive hitters. Home runs can make up for a lot of weaknesses.
Barry: What is Duke Welker's status with the club? I see he is still on the active roster. Are they gonna put him on the 60 dl?
Bill Brink: Duke Welker had Tommy John surgery in early June and is out until next year. He was in the minors at the time.
James_Pittsburgh: Bill in the past I've noticed a lot of rehab starts in the minors from pitchers and position players in general until this season where Grilli and Martin both skipped a rehab starts this year and now Cole seems to be doing the same (although Walker i believe will get 1 start in AAA)...does this have to do with a rush to stay in contention or do they evaluate players on a case by case basis and feel that most may not need a rehab start or two under their belt?
Bill Brink: They evaluate players on a case-by-case basis and both Grilli and Martin said they did not want rehab outings. They felt they could maintain their timing and sharpness with simulated games and that would allow them to return quicker.
Hunter: Any scenario with Tabata or Snider where they would actually accept an assignment to Indy if they cleared waivers?
Bill Brink: I would have to check on this further but off the top of my head neither has been designated for assignment yet, so they would both have to accept the assignment if they cleared waivers.
Julian: What player(s) do you see the Pirates pursuing approaching the trade deadline?
Bill Brink: I'm sure they'll be interested in Price and Samardzija but some of the lesser pitchers -- Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy, etc. -- could be in play.
Hunter: Has Clint Hurdle ever had only one backup middle infielder on his roster? Seems like option B would limit roster flexibility quite a bit.
Bill Brink: Good point. It would, and Hurdle likes middle infield flexibility in the case of injuries to two of Barmes, Harrison and Mercer. I think option A is the most likely.
Guest: Why, Bill, do you think it wouldn't be a good idea in this difficult depth scenario to DFA Tabata? I agree, btw, but he has the best chance of coming back but I do think the Red Sox would grab him with their problems, thoughts?
Bill Brink: My point was that given the way the Pirates operate it was the least likely, not that it was a good idea. Although, they showed willingness to eat money with Wandy earlier this season. I think someone claims him.
Hunter: who goes for Cole and Liriano? Would anyone in the rotation without options clear waivers?
Bill Brink: Cumpton and Locke would probably be optioned back for them, though the Pirates might do something creative with the bullpen when Cole comes back this weekend. I don't think Worley would clear waivers at this point.
Hunter: Any indication of how the transition with the closer role went over in the locker room?
Bill Brink: I wasn't in Chicago this weekend but I know Grilli and Melancon are close, so I can't imagine there was anything more than frustration on Grilli's part at his recent performance.
JAL: Any thoughts on why the Pirates make so outs on the bases? Like trying to go from 2nd to 3rd on ball hit in front them. Marte seems to have base running mistake every game, is he being given extra coaching on base running?
Bill Brink: The coaches review film of baserunning mistakes with the players and explain to them why they were wrong, so it's not like he's not being told what to do.
Eric Scot: Better fit and chance to acquire the following: David Price from the Rays, Jeff Samaradjiza from the Cubs, Jason Hammel from the Cubs or Brandon McCarthy from the D'Backs?
Bill Brink: McCarthy would be the easiest to acquire, though the addition of Tony La Russa to their front office might change things. I'll still say him.
PhillyJake: Where is Liriano in his convalescence ?
Bill Brink: He threw the other day and got up on the mound to go through his delivery without the ball. He's still a ways away.
ct: Trade deadline approaches. SD just fired their GM. If they decide to blow it, and assuming he's heathy, is Cashner an option for pirates?
Bill Brink: No, because he's good and young and under team control. They will want him for when they rebuild the offense.
Julian: Josh Bell is having a monster season in High-A. Im guessing this year, soon, he'll in Double-A. What do you do with him? He has the potential to be better than Marte. Do you use him as trade bait?
Bill Brink: That's a good point, and I think they would be more apt to consider moving him if it nets them a quality to above-average major leaguer in return.
PhillyJake: Mercer is hitting .294 for June. He hit .285 last year. His defense is adequate, if not spectacular. Why does everyone want to dump him ?
Bill Brink: You'll have to ask everyone.Excuse my sarcasm, but I'm with you. He's played good defense since mid-April and hit better recently. Not saying he's Tulo but he's been solid of late.
James_Pittsburgh: Since the Pirates probably see themselves in the way that the Rays handle being in a small market and careful where they spend their money...is it alarming that they Rays are the worst in baseball this year? Sure you can reload trading D. Price but it'll take years to get back to the Rays on top of the AL East again.
Bill Brink: The Rays had injury issues in their rotation between Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb, which hurt them early, and their offense hasn't lived up to expectations even before Wil Myers got hurt. That has more to do with it, I think, than the small-market aspect.
Guest: With the recent performance of lock, cumpton, and worley, does this affect the FO in terms of seeking starting pitching help at the deadline?
Bill Brink: Probably not. They want as much pitching as you can get. What it might change is they go get some triple-A depth guys rather than big-name major league starters.
Jazz: Do you think Mercer, Tabata and a prospect get packaged for a starting pitcher?
Bill Brink: I don't think that will be enough unless that prospect is Polanco.
JB: Is liriano guaranteed a spot in the rotation when healthy?
Bill Brink: Yes. They will give him a chance to regain his footing in the rotation.
DougOut: Who would you say are the best prospects the Pirates would dangle out there for trade help?
Bill Brink: Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell are the three that come to mind.
Jeff King: Right now, I think the Pirates biggest problem is the cleanup spot. What's your ideal lineup when Walker's back?
Bill Brink: We've kicked this around a lot in the press box and there's no perfect way to do it. One option:Polanco 9 Marte 7 McCutchen 8 Davis 3 Walker 4 Martin 2 Alvarez 5 Mercer 6 Starter 1
Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.
JAL: Polanco so far--below, at, or above expectations
Bill Brink: Can only speak for my own, but above.
rob: Are any prospects (currently in the minors) that are off-limits, in your mind, or would they entertain all offers.
Bill Brink: They will entertain all offers but it will take a lot to trade Glasnow, Kingham or Taillon.
Hunter: US making it to the knockout round?
Bill Brink: They'll go as far as Jozy's quad will let them.
Julian: Will Volquez continue to pitch well?
Bill Brink: I see no reason why not. It's not smoke and mirrors, he's keeping the ball down and throwing strikes.
Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for the great questions!
First Published June 24, 2014 12:00 AM