Pittsburgh Pirates: Top Five Items Wanted For Christmas


Sep 23, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates players react after defeating the Atlanta Braves to secure a post season spot at Turner Field. The Pirates defeated the Braves 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

With the Black Friday rush presumably fading into the rear view mirror, it seems appropriate to discuss what the Pittsburgh Pirates want most for Christmas this year ahead of the 2015 season.

1.  Another Quality Starting Pitcher

Let’s be honest.  It is highly unlikely that the trio of Vance Worley, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke are all going to be performing optimally for any single extended period of time throughout the season. Really, that’s the latter half of the Pirates starting rotation absent another arm to join A.J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole.

Consider the large leap the Pirates’ starting rotation takes with the addition of either Edinson Volquez or Francisco Liriano and try to convince yourself the Pirates are poised for another playoff push without such an addition. They aren’t.

Locke and Morton have both faced injuries. Morton’s “plus stuff” is frequently absent, though fairly shiny at times admittedly. Locke loses his mind the 2nd half of the season at times. Worley is somewhat unproven.

It’s a big roll of the dice just to save a few dollars. If any one of those guys fail to perform or sustain an injury, you’ve got a few guys at AAA Indy to fall back on, but why do that when there’s a better option?

The Pirates must sign either Liriano or Volquez to enjoy success in 2015.

2.  A Reliable Solution at First Base


That’s the averaged triple slash line of Gaby Sanchez, Travis Ishikawa, and Ike Davis in 2014. They combined to hit 18 home runs. That’s not horrible from a power standpoint, but the batting average is too close to the Mendoza line for my expectations of a corner infielder.

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Ishikawa is gone, signing with the San Francisco Giants last season. Davis is gone, signing with the Oakland Athletics last week. This leaves Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo, not the most formidable of a platoon. My colleague wrote an article shortly after the Davis’ signing explaining why the door is now open for Pedro Alvarez — and it is, to a point. Alvarez, a left-handed batter, is awful against lefties. Sanchez, a right-handed better, is awful against right handed pitching.

This paves the way for a pretty solid platoon situation. For a moment, consider that this was in place during the 2014 season. The triple slash would have been .250/.324/.435. That would be a welcomed improvement using in-house resources.So, what do the Pirates want for Christmas regarding this? Well, mainly, they are going to want a healthy and circa 2014 Josh Harrison.

This is mainly because of the depth chart at 3rd base. Alvarez is listed #2. If Harrison sustains an injury, Alvarez is the back-up, which exposes defensive liability and dismal full-time output (specifically against left-handed pitching).

3.  A Neil Walker Contract Extension

Many outlets say that this isn’t needed at this time, instead allowing him to consume the arbitration-eligible years of his contract prior to signing to an extension. This can be good and bad, but with the way that Walker’s career is progressing, it seems that he will be difficult to sign if the trend continues. Signing him now could save the Pirates some money over the long term for an above average 2nd baseman.

Walker is eligible for free agency in 2017, but if he has another solid season in 2016, he will be outside of the Pirates’ price range long term.

4. Increased Attendance at Piratefest

Admission is free this year for the first time in its history, so there’s a good chance it will be packed. Increased attendance essentially guarantees increased exposure to their product from an advertising standpoint. Plus, the fees they are charging for interviews actually benefit Pirates’ Charities, so that’s a good thing.

5.  Good Health for Francisco Cervelli

With the departure of Russell Martin, the Pirates are losing a huge offensive cog rolling into the 2015 season. Pirates’ management obviously believes that Cervelli may be the answer, and for all intents and purposes, he may very well be. He won’t give you the type of offensive power output that Martin would have, but he will contribute in other areas, both offensively and defensively.Offensively, Cervelli boasts a career triple slash of .278/.348/.371. He won’t hit a lot of long balls, but he will still be an offensive factor.

Defensively, Cervelli is renowned for his pitch-framing ability.  I don’t buy into it, but it’s a statistic to look at.  Cervelli is essentially being touted by the media as a sort of pitch framing wizard.  Sure, he’s definitely well above average, but someone on the Pirates’ roster is not too far from him — Chris Stewart.  That aside, it’s an area where Cervelli will contribute if he can remain healthy.

He’s also going to throw out some would be base-stealers.

If Cervelli remains healthy, the hole that Russell Martin leaves behind isn’t nearly as large.

It’s not that much of a stretch to see Santa bring all of this for the Pirates in 2015.  By far, the biggest stretch with the largest upside would be the first base platoon situation, but there must be a reality some place where this will happen.  It looks too good on paper for it not to.

Conversely, the riskiest with the largest upside is Cervelli’s health.  It’s unknown what he can do when he stays healthy for an entire season.  His numbers look good when he’s healthy but he seems to lack the capacity for avoiding injury.

As with all things, time will tell how this list plays out.  For now, like a spoiled rich kid, let’s just assume the Pirates will get all of these items for Christmas….and more.