Bob Smizik: You be the general manager

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Kevin Colbert and Neal Huntington need your help but are too proud to ask. Here are three dilemmas facing the general managers of the Steelers and the Pirates. How would you recommend they be handled?

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LaMarr Woodley once gave indication he was going to be another link in the line of great Steelers outside linebackers. After accumulating four sacks as a reserve in his rookie season of 2007, he started 47 of 48 games his next three years and had 35 sacks. With Woodley and James Harrison --35 1/2 sacks in 47 starts -- the Steelers were defensively dominant and went to two Super Bowls in those three years.

But since the 2010 season, Woodley been less productive and frequently injured. By the time this season ends -- he’s on injured reserve -- he’ll have missed 14 starts the past three seasons. In the 34 starts he did make, he managed only 18 sacks and only nine in 24 starts the past two seasons.

Over the next three years, Woodley will count $13.6 million, $14.1 million and $11.99 million against the salary cap. If the Steelers released him, they still would owe the cap $5.59 million in dead money in both 2014 and 2015 and $2.99 million in 2016. That’s a total of $14.17 million, which is a lot of money. But it's less than the additional $25.5 million they'd pay Woodley if they kept him.

But if Woodley is cut, he needs to be replaced. The leading, but far from ideal, candidate is Jason Worilds, who, after three disappointing season, has played extremely well with seven sacks in 10 starts. Worilds will be a free agent after the season.

What do the Steelers do?

Do they buy into what has been barely more than a half-season of stellar play by Worilds -- after three disappointing years -- and pay him the big money it will take to keep him from free agency in March? Or is Woodley, despite his injuries, a more certain commodity and therefore the way to go?

If you’re the GM, what do you do? And how much do you pay Worilds, if he’s your choice?

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With the free-agent signing yesterday of Eric Chavez by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Pirates list of legitimate candidates to fill their role as a platoon first baseman against right-handed pitching has dwindled down to trade partners only. There are free-agents still available but none that well fit the Pirates’ needs. And that would include the oft-mentioned Kendrys Morales, who not only is mostly a DH but who also would cost the Pirates a No. 1 draft choice.

The three trade candidates most often mentioned are Ike Davis of the Mets, Mitch Moreland of the Rangers and Justin Smoak of the Mariners. Here are their ages, their 2013 batting lines vs RHP and their career batting lines vs. RHP.

Davis, 26: 2013 -- .222/.356/.371 -- .727. Career: .256/.356/.471 -- .827.

Moreland, 28: 2013 -- .227/.300/.452 -- .752. Career: .258/.325/.463 -- .788

Smoak, 27: 2013 -- .260/.361/.477 -- .839. Career: .229/.323/.397 -- .720

All will be free agents in 2017. But Davis, as a Super 2, already is in arbitration and made $3.25 million last season, which means he’d be considerably more expensive. Smoak had the best 2013 season but also the worst career numbers. Davis has the best career numbers, but the worst 2013 season.

These players will not come cheaply. They can’t be had, for example, for Travis Snider and Josh Harrison. Here are the Pirates top 12 prospects, as ranked by MLB.com.

Jameson Taillon, RHP; Gregory Polanco, OF; Alen Hanson, SS; Austin Meadows, OF; Luis Heredia, RHP; Tyler Glasnow, RHP; Josh Bell, OF; Reese McGuire, C; Nick Kingham, RHP; Barrett Barnes, OF; Tony Sanchez, C; Wyatt Mathisen, C.

Among more experienced players, Jeff Locke, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson also would be considered trade candidates.

Which first baseman would be your preference? Who would you trade to get him?

Or would you prefer the Pirates stand pat at this position and use Andrew Lambo as the platoon to Gaby Sanchez?

•••

Suppose that some time shortly after the New Year, A.J. Burnett informs the Pirates he intends to pitch in 2014 and will give them first option for his services. Keep in mind that by signing Edinson Volquez the Pirates so much as filled their rotation. Burnett would move Volquez and his $5 million salary to the bullpen.

Do you pay Burnett:

$8 million?

$10 million?

$12 million?

Tell him thanks but no thanks?

I haven’t spoken directly to Colbert or Huntington but I’m sure they’d appreciate any help you can offer on any or all of these problems.


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