I’m a bit confused by how the Pittsburgh Pirates are handling some of their September roster spots.
The team cut loose Gregory Polanco recently, allowing them to give opportunities to players who have a chance to be on the team in 2022.
Around the same time, they’ve added Yoshi Tsutsugo to be a regular starter, and brought up Shelby Miller to transition to the bullpen.
Tsutsugo is putting up monster numbers so far. Miller had a good debut in the Pirates’ bullpen last night.
It makes sense that the Pirates cut ties with Polanco, as he was not having good results.
However, neither Tsutsugo nor Miller is under contract beyond 2021.
The consistent trend here is that the Pirates are giving playing time to players who are performing well.
The inconsistent trend is that the Pirates are reducing playing time for players who will not be around beyond 2021.
That makes me wonder the endgame for Tsutsugo and Miller.
Both players could be used by the Pirates in 2022.
They could us Tsutsugo at either first base (as an alternative to paying Colin Moran arbitration) or in the outfield, where depth is thin. In general, they could use Tsutsugo’s bat anywhere, assuming this isn’t just an extremely good hot streak.
Miller can be used out of the bullpen in 2022. The Pirates need plenty of depth there. Honestly, it’s not as big of a deal to use Miller right now, since I’m sure the Pirates are going to want to reduce innings for their pitchers who will be around next year.
Is this just a trial for players to win a spot and a contract with the Pirates in 2022? If so, what advantage do the Pirates have in signing someone like Tsutsugo after this season, outside of exclusive negotiation rights at the start of free agency?
Perhaps there’s some goodwill involved. The Pirates gave Tsutsugo the opportunity in the majors after he was relegated to Triple-A by two organizations. Maybe that will swing Tsutsugo in the Pirates’ direction when those contending teams come calling for his recent surge.
Or, perhaps the goodwill is for players in general. Tsutsugo and Miller need opportunity to show they can play in the majors. The Pirates are one of the few teams right now who could provide an opportunity to these two, without having to worry about losing games if neither player works out.
For a team who would benefit more from losing and improving their draft position, that seems like a one-sided deal for the players.
Unless this opportunity results in the players returning beyond 2021.
That’s something I’d like to see happen with Tsutsugo. The Pirates definitely have the money to spend. They have the need. They have the goodwill from giving Tsutsugo an opportunity when others wouldn’t.
If that’s the endgame, then it wouldn’t be confusing at all.
I’m on the road for the next week, covering games for the end of the season.