Bill Brink's Pirates baseball chat transcript: 7.8.14

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Bill Brink: Good morning from sunny St. Louis ... Thanks for the questions and keep them coming. Here we go ...

Scott: With the emergence of Harrison, do you believe the team will look to unload Pedro for SP talent?

Bill Brink: I don't know that they will shop him, but they might listen. On the one hand, Alvarez is going to get expensive in arbitration soon, is unlikely to sign an extension before reaching free agency and has two seasons of 30 homers on his resume. On the other, he might be better suited for first base/DH duties (some scouts I've talked to are concerned that his footwork is behind the poor throws) and hasn't had the best offensive season, so his trade value might be diminished.

There's also the consideration that Harrison has only done this for a half-season.

Matt: Is there any indication the Pirates will shop for a closer before the trade deadline? The back end of the bullpen seems to be their most pressing need.

Bill Brink: They could look for another bullpen arm, but probably not a closer. They will probably give Tony Watson a shot at the closer's role before going out and trading for one.

Scott: Is there any remote possibility Kingham gets a late season call up?

Bill Brink: Yes. Despite getting roughed up in his previous outing, Kingham has been quite good since his promotion to triple-A. If he continues to progress, the Pirates could make him a September call-up and use him in relief, as the Cardinals have done with some of their young arms. They might opt not to, but it's a legitimate possibility.

Bobby Toledo: I love Josh Harrison as much as the next fan. That being said, is there any chance the Pirates trade him? His value will never be higher and the market for second basemen is hot right now.

Bill Brink: I've talked to people and heard of interest from other teams, but that doesn't mean the Pirates will entertain the offers. He is versatile and especially as Alvarez struggles on defense they might not want to move him.

On the flip side, they could sell high on the best three-month stretch of his career.

Andrew: Any chance that the Pirates trade for a bullpen player before the deadline?

Gino: What do you think of the possibility of acquiring Houston Street?

Bill Brink: I imagine they'll look to add another reliever, but right now, with Cole going back on the DL, their priority is a starter. Their rotation currently consists of Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Vance Worley, Brandon Cumpton and Edinson Volquez, and that group has pitched quite well during the past month, but I think they'll want more.

Street would be a good add. His strikeout rate is up, his homers are down and he's having a very effective season for San Diego. As a result, he will be in high demand.

James_Pittsburgh: Bill, did you cover the weekend series against the Phillies? I was wondering what A.J. Burnett had to say after the game...I was glad Pittsburgh applauded him as he came to the mound in the first inning, he meant a lot to where the franchise is now and that applause was well deserved!

Bill Brink: I covered the series but did not speak to Burnett after the game, instead spending my time in the Pirates' clubhouse talking to Locke and preparing for the All-Star roster announcement. I did talk to Burnett on Friday and he continued to express gratitude to the Pirates fans and players for accepting him, in addition to the front office for being patient with him last winter.

I saw a tweet from him saying he was surprised and pleased with the scoreboard video and the round of applause, and the tip of the hat on the mound said it all.

The Chief: Bill, Chicago seems to be in in a trading mode. After getting Russell they have an abundance of shortstops. Any chance the Pirates go after Starlin Castro, who is only 24?

Bill Brink: Generally, teams negotiating a trade to a division rival tend to ask a little bit more than they would if they sent him elsewhere, a division tax if you will. I think that little extra, plus Castro's contract and the fact that the Pirates want to see what they have in Mercer, means the Pirates won't trade for Castro.

James_Pittsburgh: What is the thought process on having Michael Martinez on the active roster? I saw he got a pinch hit appearence on Sunday but what else does he bring to the table knowing Harrison is our utility player...Is it because he's a switch hitter with speed?

Bill Brink: Hurdle likes three players on the roster who can play the middle infield, specifically shortstop. With Barmes gone, that leaves Mercer, Harrison and Martinez as shortstop options.

The Chief: Who is the odd man out when Liriano and Cole are healthy enough to return to the rotation?

Bill Brink: Far too soon to tell, because as we saw yesterday with Cole, things change quickly.

Jerry: Dont you think they need to do something with Pedro. I realize he hits homeruns but he is forever a rally killer with his strikeouts

Bill Brink: I don't know what you do at this point. Hurdle periodically sits guys for a three-game stretch to let them get their head right, so we might see that. The All-Star break might provide that breather as well.

Brennan: What are the chances Russel Martin signs an extension with the Pirates? I feel he is very important to what the pitching staff does and leadership on this team.

Bill Brink: I don't know what odds or percentage to put on it, but I'd say higher than at the start of the season. This team has shown it can compete, his pitching staff and coaches love him, he displayed his dedication in the Carlos Gomez game and the Pirates just might pay him.

JamesinNYC: I am not sure they really need to trade for anyone, besides a top starter(at what cost) you are not getting any sure inprovement other then piece of mind what do you think?

Bill Brink: We talked with Neal Huntington about this yesterday and he said there is no real glaring hole. Now, I understand first and third haven't provided great production and Mercer started slow, but I don't see them getting another first baseman after trading for Davis and I don't see them trading for an upgrade to Alvarez when Harrison is still position-less. I do think they try to add to the rotation and possibly the bullpen.

Bill: Assuming Cole comes back after the AS Break, when Liriano comes back, who goes? Locke has the option but is pitching too well. Worley wont clear waivers. Volquez to pen perhaps?

Bill Brink: Most likely Locke, despite how well he has pitched, because he has minor league options.

Joey D: What is the most you think we could get for Alvarez at this time. He tied NL HR lead last year, but this year he is poor in fielding and getting pitch hit for.

Bill Brink: I spend more of my time trying to figure out what other teams think of players than evaluating them myself, and I haven't run across either any interest in moving Alvarez or serious offers from other teams for him. Every team likes players on other rosters, it's just not publicized as often, so I'm sure 28 teams out there would give up something for Alvarez. It just has to match the calculus of what the Pirates think he's worth.

Bill Brink: All this talk of trading Alvarez, from what I can gather, has resulted from people putting puzzle pieces together of: Alvarez playing poorly and in arbitration + Harrison hitting well without a position. Have heard nothing concrete about this.

daneo: What first baseman are on the market that the Pirates could potentially upgrade the position for a playoff run?

Bill Brink: Our old friend Justin Morneau might be available, but I don't think the Pirates make another trade for first base.

James_Pittsburgh: What's the deal with Frieri? I know Grilli was at the end of his contract so we wanted something in return, but I haven't had a chance to see him pitch yet...what is the scouting report on why we targeted him in the Grilli trade?

Bill Brink: Frieri is a guy with elite velocity and strong experience in the late innings who has struggled in half a season. The Pirates think they can get him back to his original form. He is also under contractual control for a few more seasons.

The Chief: Bill, in your opinion could Neil Walker be a Major League third baseman?

Bill Brink: Neil Walker is a pure athlete and can play almost anywhere, so yes, but his value is not maximized there. He plays a solid if not spectacular second base and hits for some power from there, and as a result is more valuable.

The Chief: The Phillies also seem to be in selling mode. Anyone on their roster a good fit for the Pirates, other than AJ ?

Bill Brink: From a pure baseball perspective, maybe Rollins, but he has 10 and 5 rights and the Pirates want to see what they have in Mercer. Rollins would be a short-term solution.

Chris: Polanco has been a spark, but if your best hitter should bat 2nd, why not switch him and Marte in the lineup?

Bill Brink: it is true that your best hitter should bat second in a sabermetric sense, but that only adds about one win in a 162-game season. Marte has struggled in the leadoff spot, Polanco has done fine, and Marte has hit much better in the No 2. spot behind Polanco, so you're probably gaining that win back and then some by leaving Marte second.

Brian: Bill, do you think we should give Lambo another shot at 1b?

Bill Brink: Maybe at some point, but he's still playing in rehab games after coming off surgery so he's got some time.

James_Pittsburgh: Any word on Tabata's progression in AAA? He seems to be here for the long run due to his contract so does management have any future plans if he plays well in AAA ball?

Bill Brink: The only thing right now that would put him back on the active roster is injury to one of the outfielders, so he seems destined for triple-A unless someone wants to trade for him.

Guest: Next call up from the minors will be?

Bill Brink: Cumpton, Wednesday, but I don't think that's what you mean, so I'll say new addition Dean Anna. Maybe he replaces Martinez at some point.

JamesinNYC: Best idea for the PBC for Alvarez would be in his next to last year of arbitration...then you have something like the market for Price where you build the anticipation and hopefully that coincides with an upswing. Kind of stupid to trade him at his lowest right?

Bill Brink: If they're going to move him -- emphasis on IF -- now is not the time, you are correct. If he plays better his value might improve, but other scouts aren't stupid and can see his swing-and-miss tendencies and his throwing issues. His value will never approach Price's, who is having a tremendous season, but it could get higher.

The Chief: Dickerson gets traded to the Indians and is immediately in the starting lineup. Any reason he was not given a chance while we were waiting for Polanco?

Bill Brink: It seems that right around the time the Snider-Tabata experiment ended, Harrison started taking off, and because Dickerson wasn't on the 40-man they could keep him in the organization rather than call him up, then DFA him in a month when Polanco came up.

Jim in VT: Allie seems to be an intriguing power prospect. How far away is he according to the FO?

Bill Brink: I haven't asked the front office about him recently, but the last time I spoke with a Pirates official about him, they told me what he was doing was legit. The average could come up and the strikeouts could come down, but the power is there. He is in his first season above A ball, though, and is a ways away.

Chris: One more quick question: so many chances last night and nada. Does that break the team spirit or offer optimism for the series? I'll be at Busch tonight and want to see a winner!

Bill Brink: It's demoralizing for a night but they move on and play the next day. Baseball players are very good at moving on after bad nights because they play so often.

Loran: Bill, even after the run the Pirates went on against last place teams, I'm still don't believe the rotation can compete against top tier NL Pitching. Convince me otherwise

Bill Brink: Their rotation has a 2.71 ERA in the past 30 days, second-best in the NL behind the Dodgers.

Loran: With the return of Liriano and the trade deadline looming, what does the starting rotation look like on July 31?

Bill Brink: Liriano Cole Morton Volquez Worley, but one trade could replace Worley. They will look.

Brian: When will we finally see Kingham as part of our starting rotation?

Bill Brink: You're probably looking at 2015 at the earliest.

Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.

Barry: If two small market teams Oakland and Pittsburgh meet in the World Series will MLB and ESPN be upset?

Bill Brink: ESPN doesn't broadcast the World Series. MLB might be upset but it's also good exposure for new teams and a sign of parity.

Guest: No love for Jeff Locke?

Bill Brink: He has minor league options, making him the unfortunate victim of MLB roster rules in this case.

Mike from Spokane: Isn't keeping Harrison as a utility player better than trying to wedge him into a permanent spot?

Bill Brink: That's one argument. You put him at third base every day, you lose that flexibilty to give Marte, Walker or Polanco a day off.

Loran: The 2.71 ERA was against teams such as the Mets, DBacks, Rays, and Cubs. What about teams such as the Brewers, Cards, Dodgers, ect?

Bill Brink: I don't have the numbers in front of me, but the numbers are the numbers and the resulting wins count just the same.

JamesinNYC: Hughes or Locke both have options I think who do you send down?

Bill Brink: It would have to be Locke because otherwise you've got a six-man rotation and a six-man bullpen, which Hurdle has said he won't do.

Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for all the great questions!

First Published July 8, 2014 12:00 AM

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