First Pitch: Roster Decisions Loom for Pirates Tomorrow

The Pirates will have some decisions to make by 5pm tomorrow.  That’s the deadline for adding players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.  The roster is full now, so any additions will require subtractions.

I went through the possible additions earlier.  I won’t repeat it all here.  The possibilities are more limited this year than usual, as there’s a gap in the system between players who’ve already been added and ones who aren’t eligible for the R5 draft yet.  (Things will pick up quite a bit next year with Mason Martin, Travis Swaggerty, Cal Mitchell, Cody Bolton, Liover Peguero and Tahnaj Thomas becoming R5 eligible, maybe joined by some strong, second-time candidates.)  The only no-brainers this year are Rodolfo Castro and Max Kranick.  Blake Weiman, depending on his health, and Braeden Ogle seem likely candidates to me.  For some reason, the beat writers seem to think little of either, but the Pirates brought Ogle to the training camp at Altoona, so I’m not sure they’d agree.

That leaves some of the lower level pitching prospects, mainly Santiago Florez, Noe Toribio and Osvaldo Bido.  There’s also Travis MacGregor, who hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game since 2018.  Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has maintained that there probably won’t be much action in the R5 draft this year because there’s been no opportunity to scout players.  That would argue against the Pirates needing to add any of the lower level guys.  Then again, the roster has so much random flotsam that the only downside to adding such players is the fact that the team will have to start burning options while they’re still far from the majors.

The process of clearing spots involves two separate tracks, which complicates things a little.  There are players on the roster — far too many — who maybe should be dropped because they’re just not that promising and also might clear waivers.  And then there are arbitration-eligible players who have to be tendered contracts by December 2.  Some of the latter will be departing because the Pirates won’t want to pay them what they’ll cost.

It’s probably not all that likely that the Pirates will non-tender arbitration-eligible players just yet, simply because there are so many other candidates.  Tyler Bashlor, Austin Davis, Carson “Dragmire” Fulmer, and Sean Poppen would cover the needed openings unless they expand their protected list to one or more of the lower-level pitchers.  For some reason, a couple of the beat writers list Nick Mears as vulnerable, but that makes no sense.  The one arbitration player I could see them non-tendering this early is Jose Osuna, because he’d have no trade value and there’s really no way to see him fitting onto the current roster.

The other non-tender candidates are probably Trevor Williams, Erik Gonzalez and Michael Feliz.  I could see the Bucs dropping all three, but I imagine they’ll want to explore their options further before they do so.  Conceivably, any of the three might draw some minimal interest in trade, like for international slot money.*  It’s also possible the Pirates could trade, say, Joe Musgrove or Richard Rodriguez, in which case they might want to hang onto Williams or Feliz.  By December 3, though, it seems very likely that 6-8 names will be gone from the 40-man roster.

*Picking up a bit of international money certainly served the Pirates well in helping them sign Solomon Maguire.  As an aside, I can’t imagine the Pirates spending $594,000 on any Australian player in the Rene Gayo days.  Junior Vizcaino, on the other hand, seems willing to pull the trigger when opportunities arise to get players they really like, as with Maguire and Ji-Hwan Bae.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of that.


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