The mini-season is winding down and, believe it or not, it’s not long before the Pirates will have to make some roster decisions. Well, not long in game terms, anyway. Other teams will be in the post-season and, once that’s over, the Pirates will have to make some decisions. In some cases, they ought to be making a few of those decisions now. After all, they’ve said this season would be devoted to evaluating what they have. Logically, it’d make sense for them to be evaluating players who might be around next year.
By my count, there are 39 players currently on the 40-man roster. The official site lists 38, but doesn’t include Austin Davis, who according to MLB.com is on the 10-day injured list, so he has to be on the 40-man. There are also nine players on the 45-day injured list who’ll have to be added back to the 40-man after the post-season: Chris Archer, Nick Burdi, Michael Feliz, Clay Holmes, Jameson Taillon, Luke Maile, Phillip Evans, Anthony Alford and Kevin Kramer. They’ll have to clear eight roster spots in order to do that.
A few players will definitely be gone. Derek Holland and Keone Kela will be free agents. Archer’s option undoubtedly won’t be exercised. The Pirates no doubt would love to ditch Gregory Polanco’s salary, but it’s guaranteed for 2021 and nobody is going to take that money off their ledger. So that makes five spots to clear.
There aren’t a lot of really obvious candidates to come off the roster, and by that I mean guys they’d obviously want to drop now, at this stage of the big evaluation experiment. (As opposed to guys who could be dropped without the team being hurt — there are lots of those.) The most obvious deletion would be Yacksel Rios, whom they already dfa’d once. It’s also hard to believe they’d want to pay arb2 salaries to both Luke Maile and John Ryan Murphy. In fact, it’s hard to believe they’d want to pay one to either.
Even if they drop both catchers, that’d leave a couple of spots that’ll have to be cleared. In addition, they may want to add Jandel Gustave to the roster. He’s on a minor league contract that runs through next season. Jason Mackey thinks that means they’ll probably call him up this year. I’m not sure I follow that; it seems to me it’d be an indication that they don’t plan to call him up this year. But if they do, that’s one more spot that’ll have to be cleared.
Which brings us to the point: They have a whole lot of very marginal players they supposedly want to evaluate, and very little time to evaluate them. So it makes no sense for them to expend that very limited playing time on guys who have no future with the team. It especially makes no sense for Holland to be throwing several innings every 3-4 days. A bunch of pitchers have clearly earned a look for next year. Others look marginal at best, but if the Pirates are serious about evaluating them, you’d think they’d want as much of a look as they can get: Nick Tropeano, Tyler Bashlor, Dovydas Neverauskas, Brandon Waddell.
They also need to stop fooling with J.T. Riddle. With Kevin Newman, Adam Frazier, Erik Gonzalez, Cole Tucker and Ke’Bryan Hayes available, and Phillip Evans clearly having earned a look next year, Riddle should have played himself off the roster. And the Pirates will need to make a call on Jose Osuna, who still has a lot to prove and who’s going to be arb2 or arb3, depending on how the calculations work out. They might as well give him some ABs the rest of the way.