Bill Brink's Pirates baseball chat transcript: 7.3.14

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Poll Question: How may all-star representatives will the Pirates have? Answer #1: One (14.3%)Answer #2: Two (57.1%) Answer #3: Three (28.6%)

Bill Brink: Thanks for all the questions guys, and here we go....

Mikhail: How long the Pirates can wait on extending Gregory Polanco?

Bill Brink: It's not exactly up to them. If they had their way, they would have signed him before he ever debuted. Polanco and his agents know just how talented he is and how much he could earn if he waits to agree to an extension closer to arbitration eligibility, so the Pirates would have to blow Polanco away with an offer. Because they are trying to sign him cheaper by doing it early, they won't blow him away, and an extension will have to wait.

James: How long do you think this run will last?

Bill Brink: As long as their pitching holds up. I see no reason for the offense to go anywhere -- McCutchen might cool down a little -- but if the rotation stays strong, they could keep going.

Andrew from Long Island: Biggest need seems to be a starting pitcher as the trade deadline approaches.... John Neise from the Mets, AJ Burnett again? Who do you think the Pirates should target?

Bill Brink: Two types of pitchers -- someone who offers a clear upgrade over what they have now and someone who can serve as a depth option, maybe who has options or isn't on the 40-man, in case someone gets hurt. Because Liriano and Cole have both had injury issues, they can't rely on health. Niese would work, Burnett, Hammel, Ian Kennedy, Samardzija, etc.

Andrew from Long Island: Mcutchen, N.Walker seem to be heading to the allstar game.... Any others you would consider?

Bill Brink: Maybe Tony Watson.

Erik: The Pirates have a pretty good outfield, and will for years to come. Should Josh Bell and Austin Meadows get some reps at first base? If these two are as good as reported, I don't see the Pirates ever trading them.

Bill Brink: Meadows is too valuable as an outfielder, which is the harder position to play, to move him. First baseman are easier to find than outfielders, so if someone can play the outfield and hit, teams are reluctant to move them, especially as early in their development as Meadows and Bell are.

Ryan Shaw: Do the buccos have the best outfield in the MLB now with the Polanco move and can we compete with St. Louis/ Milwaukee this year?

Bill Brink: I think so. I'm struggling off the top of my head to think of a comparable one. Milwaukee's is very good, with Braun, Gomez and Davis. The Pirates can keep up as long as their rotation allows them to.

Bill: Please tell me this AJ talk is just speculation. I'm here in Philly and I'm not sure he would be any better than our current options. Take the money you've have to pay and just take it to Russell Martin's house as part of what the Bucs should do to keep him another 2-3 years.

Bill Brink: So much of these "trade rumors" are the result of a matchmaking process. Example: The Pirates need starting pitchers. The Phillies stink and will sell. Burnett is older and on a short-term contract. Voila, Burnett back to the Pirates becomes a rumor, and before long a "report." It makes sense, but I haven't heard anything to that effect.

Bill: Any talk of a Russell Martin extension at all? Any talk from Martin's end in the clubhouse? He seems to enjoy his role and place with the Bucs.

Evan: Has there been any talk of a Russell Martin extension?

Bill Brink: Not yet. We're not even at the all-star break, and with Martin this close to free agency after the year and a half he's had, he will want to test the market unless the Pirates blow him away.

James_Pittsburgh: Bill, what happens to Liriano if he comes back from the DL and things haven't improved performance wise? Can the Bucs afford to drop him like Wandy and stick with Cumpton or Locke?

Bill Brink: Excellent question. Hurdle doesn't like to have guys lose jobs because of injury and Liriano will get a few starts to prove he's capable, but if they're competitive, they won't wait around.

SpeedRacer: Do you attribute Papa Francisco's struggles this season to nagging injuries? If so, do you see him returning to form in the 2nd half?

Bill Brink: I don't think so, unless the groin that bothered him in spring training had something to do with it and he didn't say anything. The oblique happened on one pitch and wasn't a gradual thing. Some time off to clear his head should help him return to form somewhat.

Dave: What are your thoughts on batting orders? I think if the Pirates are winning, it doesn't matter if Pedro is batting 4th or 7th.

Bill Brink: There are ways to optimize them to best utilize the batters' skill sets, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't make that much of a difference --a win or two over a 162-game season. If something is working, they should stick with it.

Dave: I know waivers are not public knowledge, but is someone like Tabata, or a player with a bad contract always on waivers?

Bill Brink: No, because a waiver period is a defined time, so once you go on waivers you either are claimed, or not claimed by the time the period expires -- known as "clearing waivers."

Jeff King: What will be the Pirates biggest priority come trade deadline? Sad to say but I'm thinking it could be a first basemen. They are getting very little out of their 1Bs. I see the No.4 spot as the biggest hole in their lineup.

Bill Brink: I'm curious to see how Walker does with some extended run in the No. 4 spot. They have two capable third basemen -- yes, Davis had a rough June -- but they already went out and got one this year. They won't use resources on another.

Travis Persinger: Do you hear of anyone in the front office who is worried or concerned about the return of Liriano? Not just for his performance but for having to send down someone who is performing well right now?

Bill Brink: No concern. Hope that he returns to form, but they've dealt with having too many starters for the rotation before and except for the Kevin Correia situation, it always worked itself out.

donald gasbarre: Will the pirates sign anymore of their 2014 draft picks?

Bill Brink: I would think so. They have about a week and a half until the deadline.

Guest: At what point do the Pirates decide to move Harrison to 3B permanently? Alvarez has too many negatives with the ability to sign him long term at the top. Short Term play Alvarez to increase trade value with the idea of Harrison long term. Good plan or not?

Bill Brink: Not a good plan, sorry to say. Alvarez has the capability to hit 35 home runs in a season, and Harrison does not. That power potential is hard to find in the post-steroid era and can make up for some strikeouts and a low batting average.

Doug_Out: Agree or disagree - unless you pay a high prospects' price for top tier guy like Szmardja (sp?), Price, Lee, then stay put with the in house pitching options we have?

Bill Brink: It depends on the market for Price and Samardzija. If the Cubs and Rays ask for the universe for them (and the Rays should) and no team pulls the trigger, those second-tier pitchers will become much more in demand and other teams will try to snatch them up. If Samardzija and Price go, the Pirates might have a shot at a lower-level starter.

Mark L: Any sense of how badly McCutchen was hurt last night?

Bill Brink: Looked pretty sore, but no word on any specific injury. He was not available in the clubhouse immediately after the game to answer questions about it.

Dave: I am not one of those "Pittsburgh gets no respect" people, and really don't care what the national media thinks or writes about, but Josh Harrison is not even a blip outside of Pittsburgh, right?

Bill Brink: The NL Central guys who have seen more of him realize his improvement this year. I can't speak for the rest of the country because I live in Pittsburgh, but I don't think he is recognized as much elsewhere.

Doug_Out: Could you ever see Walker profile at 1B? I just never realized how big he and Mercer are...have to be the tallest middle infield around?

Bill Brink: I'm sure he could play there, he's played everywhere else, but when you have a middle infielder who can hit, no reason to move him.

Gino: Who do you feel the Pirates untouchable prospects are?

Bill Brink: I would have said Taillon, but after the Tommy John, with the uncertainty in recovery, if the Pirates can get a really good major league piece for him they have to think about it.

Andrew from Long Island: The Pirates NEED to sign R.Martin... Is there a mutal interest and do you think it will get done?

Bill Brink: There is mutual interest, he likes it here and they love him. But he is close to free agency and might want to test the waters after two strong seasons.

Dave: Out of all the extension talk, I would think Neil Walker would be the easiest to sign. You always hear the term "hometown discount." I think he would actually give one. I think the fact that it hasn't happened means that the Pirates are not interested in doing so.

Bill Brink: I don't think he will give one, based on what I've heard, or it would have happened already. The Pirates had interest in 2011, but that interest cooled. It has rekindled due to what he'll make in arbitration but will have to wait until after the season because he doesn't like to negotiate during the season.

Luke: Do you think we can see JHay get some reps at shortstop?

Gino: Any chance we see Kingham this year?

Bill Brink: The fact that we haven't seen it yet indicates to me two things: They want Mercer to put it together there, and they value Harrison's versatility and don't want him entrenched at one spot.

Bill Brink: I think he could be a September call-up, but that is contingent on the Pirates putting him in a bullpen role, which they might not want to do.

PhillyJake: Unless we trade for Price or Shark, is any of he pitching out there really an upgrade over what we have ?

Bill Brink: In terms of track record, yes. We've seen brief periods of strong pitching from Locke and Worley but others might be more attractive because they have done it for longer.

I personally think Locke is back. Haven't seen enough of Worley yet to determine that, but we'll know more tonight.

Andrew from Long Island: Is Milwaukee THAT good this year? Doesnt seem they have fallen off of their fast start as of yet..

Bill Brink: I think they are. They're hitting, they're pitching and their bullpen is strong. Lucroy has been a revelation.

Allison: Do the Pirates keep Vin Mazzaro at AAA until the next need for a bullpen call up? Or is he likely trade material?

Bill Brink: They tried to trade him during spring training and found no takers and he cleared waivers twice this season, so it looks like he's gonna stick around with the Pirates until they need him again.

Dave: Chris Stewart was supposed to be some great defensive catcher. I haven't seen it. Am I wrong?

Bill Brink: I haven't seen anything to indicate he's a poor defensive catcher, but the "great defensive catcher" billing when he came over might have been a bit of an exaggeration (which, who knows, I might have helped propagate!).

Scott in Omaha: After April and May, no one thought the Brewers could keep their pace. Now that we are in July and still looking (a ways) up at them still, any chance we climb back in the division race, or focus on that wild card spot (from a trade deadline standpoint)?

Bill Brink: They will focus on winning games, not necessarily on running down the division or the wild card.

Luke: Do you expect Liriano or Volquez back in 2015?

Bill Brink: I could see Volquez coming back. He likes it here, he's had success and Searage has helped him. Maybe not Liriano.

Gino: Do you have any info on the Pirates international signings?

Bill Brink: I know Yondry Contreras, the 16-year-old Dominican outfielder who signed for $400,000 yesterday, is talented and projectable at 6-1, 175. I'm working on pulling together info on the others today.

Bill Brink: and Baseball America have people dedicated to this who do a much better job than I ever could, so take a look there as well ( is free).

Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.

Evan: pirates final season record prediction

Andrew from Long Island: pirates win total for the year........

Bill Brink: I'll stick with my preseason guess of 87.

Guest: Do Pirates have a realistic shot to make it to a world series in the next few years?

Bill Brink: Sure, if they get more stability in their rotation, Alvarez turns the corner and shortstop/first base production increases. Getting Martin back would help.

Andrew from Long Island: Saw J.Rutherford at the game last night... Will he help N Hunington make some trades at the deadline?

Bill Brink: That'd be a funny conversation:

“Neal, I'd add another defenseman if I were you."

"But we need pitching ..."

Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for all the good questions this week! We'll do it again next Tuesday from St. Louis.

First Published July 3, 2014 12:00 AM

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