Bob Smizik: The Pirates' 25-man roster all but set

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Here it is December 15 and the Pirates' roster, normally open-ended at this time of the year, is pretty much determined. Spring training is more than two months away, but only one, possibly two, positions on the team’s Opening Day roster remain in doubt.

The Pirates, like most National League teams, carry 13 position players. Here are 12 that are all but locks to make the roster that will open the season March 31 against the Cubs at PNC Park:

Pedro Alvarez

Clint Barmes

Josh Harrison

Starling Marte

Russell Martin

Andrew McCutchen

Jordy Mercer

Gaby Sanchez

Travis Snider

Chris Stewart

Jose Tabata

Neil Walker

These are the five starters currently close to concrete in the rotation:

Gerrit Cole

Francisco Liriano

Charlie Morton

Wandy Rodriguez

Edinson Volquez

Here are the seven pitchers who will fill out the bullpen:

Jeanmar Gomez

Jason Grilli

Vin Mazzaro

Mark Melancon

Stolmy Pimentel

Tony Watson

Justin Wilson

This list of relievers does not include Bryan Morris, who faltered in the second half of last season -- .310 BAA -- but still seemed to maintain the confidence of manager Clint Hurdle. But with the entire bullpen returning, barring a trade, someone has to be moved to make room for Pimentel, whose spot on the roster was guaranteed Saturday by general manager Neal Huntington.

All that’s missing from these lists is a left-handed hitting first baseman. Huntington has suggested multiple times he’d be willing to go with Sanchez as the team’s full-time first baseman. He backed off that stance somewhat Saturday when he said, “We are exploring the trade market. We do feel good about our options out there.’’ published this excellent resume on the first basemen likely available by trade. Of note, the story mentions Eric Chavez, a good fit about whom the Pirates reportedly have made inquiries.

The only position player listed whose job might be in jeopardy is Harrison, a utility infielder/outfielder. But his strong season against left-handed pitching, a .981 OPS in 40 at bats, could make him solid. Balancing that, however, was a .488 OPS vs. right-handers in 48 at bats.

Only the return of A.J. Burnett, now highly unlikely, could alter the rotation. If there is injury, Jeff Locke is the clear first alternative.

The drama of players competing for roster spots largely will be missing in spring training, but that's become more the rule than the exception for contending teams in this era of guaranteed contracts for veterans.

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