Sprenten's Takes: What should have been

The Pirates had offseason needs, first and foremost was resolution of manning 3B, second was sorting out the problems of organizational depth with our Catchers, and third was filling in the RF spot while Polanco was rehabbing to start the season. Most fans thought shortstop was an area of huge concern, it's not and shouldn't have been a huge concern. Neal Huntington agreed with fans, and sent Jordan Luplow packing along with Max Moroff for Erik Gonzalez and 2 Minor League Pitchers. Tanjah Thomas was one of those Minor League Pitchers and it looks like Huntington was trying to fill the void let with organizational pitching depth after the Archer trade. In two trades we had completely punched a hole in upper level OF depth to acquire a less powerful version of Max Moroff. We resigned Jung Ho Kang after granting him free agency, a move which I applaud, but then the capstone to Huntington's offseason was signing Lonnie Chisenhall who hasn't really proved himself serviceable for an NL lineup especially since 2016 by playing below average defense and being often injured, although he has hit well, but there is no DH in the NL. Those veterans we sign for veteran minimums don't count, every team signs veterans to minor league deals in the offseason. Replacing Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer were the easiest thing this team could do with their internal options in Frazier, Newman, Reyes, and Kramer with Cole Tucker moving up to AAA. However, we left the cupboard bare as the only thing we did with our catching depth is addon more out options options with Steve Baron. Meanwhile, Jacob Stallings is lighting up AAA again while the 10 Million and change Francisco Cervelli is still behind the plate with Elias Diaz spelling him only on ocassion.

What happened is as predictable as what happened in the Archer trade, Luplow has almost as many homers than all of our OF combined, although Moroff is now in AAA after showing he's not much more than Gonzalez has been for us. Newman and Tucker are now manning the SS out of sheer luck that Egone who should be called BEGone injured himself and Marte on a popfly to shallow center. So what did the organization have to do, it has had to dip into the minor league ranks and bring up Jason Martin at the beginning of the season once it became apparent Chisenhall was going to be sidelined and Corey Dickerson couldn't make it past the first week of play and then Bryan Reynolds was called up once BeGone collided with Marte. Reynolds has played well and Martin did not so Reynolds stayed when Polanco came back. Now if the organization wouldn't have made the BeGone trade it's very likely we would never have seen Reynolds as neither Tucker nor Newman likely slams into Marte at full speed on that play. Despite sending Luplow away and Chisenhall being IL'd, the Pirates have done ok in the OF with Melky Cabrera, Reynolds, Martin, and J.B. Shuck. Is it perfect? No, but it passed and it should be a reminder why good teams don't sign 30+ year old often injured players to nothing more than minor league deals.

If you want to see how to play the offseason game look at the Indians as an example, it hasn't been exactly pretty for them, but we essentially traded RF with them for added cost to acquire a pitching talent about 5 years away from seeing an MLB roster. The Indians have finally figured it out because they just keep rotating players through and eventually settled with Mike Freeman as their utility backup about two weeks earlier than we went with Jake Elmore, and Luplow likely earning an almost everyday spot in any of the OF spots Tito wants to put him. The most troubling part is while the Indians haven't given up on CarGo yet, they will and may do it sooner than we will with Kang at 3B where we are still a disaster. The Pirates would be on the plus side at 3B if Moran's bat and arm along with Kang's range, reaction, and glove resided in the same physical human body. The problem is they don't and can't so it's time to move on to something else. So now we have Newman already making his first MLB start at 3B, which was probably his first start at 3B since little league if not ever. I would take Newman at 3B if he can show he can make the plays in the field, at worst he's Moran's bat. Kang's hitting is so bad right now we could play our pitchers over Kang and probably come out on top. Elmore was slugging away in AAA, that's great, he's 32 and always has been an awful fielder. Why Elmore and not Jose Osuna and Kevin Kramer who once again are also slugging away in AAA? We know Hayes is the near future at 3B, what we need is serviceable now at 3B, if that is some combination of Osuna, Reyes, Kramer, and Newman for now then let it happen. It's time to move on from Moran and Kang, just as it is time to move on from Cervelli.