The Pittsburgh Pirates are set.
Many want to see the Pirates make a splash before the start of Spring Training, but it won't happen. As long as the team continues to follow the same business model, their previous success won't lead to an increase in spending. Plus, unlike teams in previous years, the need for an upgrade anywhere on the diamond is not pressing. We're no longer talking about entering the season with Jeff Clement at first base or Andy LaRoche at third base. The Pirates are for real, and the foundation and supporting cast are currently in place.
Could the team fall short of the postseason? Sure. Could the platoons at first base or in right field fail to pan out? Of course. But there is no reason for the Pirates to not give Andrew Lambo, the team's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, the initial chance alongside Gaby Sanchez. There is no reason for the Pirates not to allow healthy Jose Tabata, who tore up the baseball down the stretch, and healthy Travis Snider, a former top prospect and the 7th highest rated clutch hitter in 2013, to split time in right. Even if the pair fails to produce, top prospect Gregory Polanco will be ready to join the Pirates as soon as needed.
Looking at other parts of the diamond, third base is set with Pedro Alvarez and Jordy Mercer will get the majority of playing time, as he should, at short with Clint Barmes getting an occasional start. Neil Walker will be at second and Russell Martin will be behind the dish. NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte will patrol two of the three outfield spots. The bench will consist of the member of the Tabata/Snider and Lambo/Snachez platoon that isn't starting, plus Chris Stewart as the backup catcher. The other two spots belong to Barmes and the Bucs 25th man, Josh Harrison. The bench is full.
The starting rotation and bullpen are both overflowing with guys who deserve to be pitching in high-leverage situations or receiving starts. Even though Jeff Locke regressed, you'd be hard pressed to find a team that wouldn't allow him to be their fifth starter. On the Pirates, he will likely be demoted to long relief. Stolmy Pimentel is out of options, so the team will have to keep him in the pen, even though he was extremely impressive as a starter in AAA last year. Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez could both falter, or Charlie Morton could regress, but the Pirates have a solid contingency plan already in place. Plus, A.J. Burnett could still decide to return.
The Pirates rarely went out and spent a lot in terms of prospect or money to acquire players when they were barren. Now that they have a wealth of talent, they don't even have a reason.Tags: Baseball, MLB, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Pirates