By Jared Lankes
Jeff Locke is coming off twirling an absolute gem in Miami. He pitched a complete game allowing 3 hits but faced just one over the minimum. It’s the best he’s ever looked in any start on the major league mound. While he gets a lot of criticism, there are still many, including myself, that maintain that he is a quality 5th starter in the MLB. Put him up against many other 5 starters in the MLB, and he stacks up very well. It’s unfortunate that people want him to do things a 2-3 rotation pitcher does. But I’m not here to defend Locke today. Instead, I want to talk about his unclear and foggy future with the Pirates organization.
It has been reported that the Pirates intend to use Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and Chad Kuhl in the rotation when they get called up. If they all get called up this year, which may not happen, there is a definite rotation crunch. Pirates would have to remove rotation guys they currently have. Juan Nicasio is the obvious one to go first as he was never intended for a long stint in the rotation. The second guy out would be a decision the Pirates need to make, and Locke would certainly be discussed. He would be easier to move out than Francisco Liriano or Jon Niese.
Locke probably wouldn’t go to the bullpen though. It seems more likely the Pirates would trade him despite history showing they don’t like to trade away quality rotation depth. However, chatter around the league has it that Locke has a decent amount of trade value. Pirates might use this rotation depth in a trade this time around because of the value Locke has. He is a cheap, controllable, backend rotation pitcher that many teams covet.
However, all this can only work if the young guys perform either this year or next year when they get called up. If they aren’t effective out of the gate, then Locke gives the Pirates nice insurance. Pirates will have a good amount of flexibility in this rotation soon, and that is a very good thing. So, be grateful the Pirates have a better 5th starter than many teams have to give them that flexibility once the young guys get to Pittsburgh.
I don’t know whether Locke will be dealt or not, obviously. All I know is that the rotation will be deep and filled with quality guys that can give the Pirates a chance to win nearly every time they take the hill. If an 8 or 9-man rotation was a possibility, the Pirates could certainly do that if they wanted to. That’s how deep they are. It’s quite a good problem for a major league team to have, especially when pitching gets you way further than hitting ever will.