By Jason Shetler
On Friday, I asked you guys on Facebook and Twitter to send me Pirates questions for the first “Bucco Nation Mailbag” of 2017. Thanks to all who sent in their questions, and with that, let’s get the ball rolling.
What are your thoughts on Tyler Glasnow making the rotation out of ST? And if not, when should we see expect to see him? And how long should Austin Meadows be at Indy before he is ready for The Show? – Scott from Pittsburgh, PA
Glasnow will certainly have a chance to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. While he does have the most upside compared to the other options (Drew Hutchison, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams), command is the biggest issue for him right now. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for Glasnow to start the year in AAA to try and improve his mechanics. He would likely be the first to be called up in the event of an injury. In regards to Meadows, it’ll most likely hinge on whether or not they contend this season. He would replace Andrew McCutchen, if the Pirates sell and move Cutch around or at the trade deadline.
Is Drew Hutchison going to be the 5th starter just to save face on the Francisco Liriano trade? – Joey from North Hills, PA
There was a good amount of criticism when the Pirates dealt away Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez in the Liriano deal last year, and it didn’t help matters that Hutchison pitched poorly when he arrived to Pittsburgh. That being said however, if Hutchison performs well in ST, then you can’t say he was just given the spot because of the trade. Also, the Pirates have depth with their starting pitching where they wouldn’t hesitate to replace Hutchison.
If Jung-Ho Kang is forced to miss a significant portion of the season due to his legal troubles, what are you more in favor of: David Freese starting at third or Adam Frazier at second and moving Harrison to third? – Rich from Coraopolis, PA
Personally, I would go with Freese at third base, because at the very least, he’s a league average third baseman. Not to mention how well he performed in Kang’s absence last season. Also, Frazier appears to be better suited in a utility role, and would be a downgrade at second base defensively, if they moved Harrison to third. With Harrison, he provides above average defense up the middle of the infield alongside Jordy Mercer.
Do you still see any late signings or trades? And do you see Angel Pagan or Coco Crisp coming in cheap even though at bats will be minimal? – Brian from Dunbar, PA
Not sure if they’ll sign anyone else at this point. Pagan or Crisp are possibilities, but I think Neal Huntington would prefer Frazier as an internal option, as someone who can play the outfield as a fourth option, among his other positions. A trade could happen during the Spring, as it relates to amount of arms in the bullpen. The Pirates had Antonio Bastardo on the trade block earlier this offseason, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they still try to move him, especially with the number of lefty relievers they already have.
If they are in contention in July, do you want John Jaso & David Freese ending the season with the Pirates or should they be a part of trade deadline deals to bolster the team for a run at the playoffs as two veterans that can be cheap additions to a bench elsewhere? – Craig from Coraopolis, PA
Should they contend this season, Jaso and Freese are likely to stay in Pittsburgh all year. Since both are bench players now, there wouldn’t be a huge return to help out on the big club. The only way I see one or both getting dealt is if the Pirates find themselves in seller mode and acquire prospects back in return.
What do you think of Cutch’s message to the fans? Is the threat of a trade still there? And what’s your opinion on his move to right field? – Jess from Canonsburg, PA
The message undoubtedly showed his affection for the Pirates fan base, as well as the city of Pittsburgh. Very class move on his part. I think trade talks have simmered off right now, but they’ll probably return, especially if the Pirates aren’t in a position to contend this year. The decision to have Cutch playing right field is the proper move in my opinion. His defense in center field has shown decline the past couple seasons, and Starling Marte has more than enough range to cover ground in center.
Do you think the Pirates have done enough to compete with the good teams in our division? – Kevin from Pittsburgh, PA
If we’re talking about the Pirates challenging the Cubs for the NL Central in 2017, then the answer is a clear no. However, it was good to see them bring back Ivan Nova for the rotation and sign Daniel Hudson to help bolster the bullpen. The Pirates still have a good enough core in place to at least compete for the Wild Card again.
Do the Pirates have a chance to be a playoff team this year? And what is the main key to being successful this year? – Steve from Lakeland, FL
Barring any significant injuries, the Pirates certainly have a chance to be a playoff team in 2017. The main key is no doubt with the rotation. If Gerrit Cole can show shades of his 2015 form, along with Jameson Taillon taking a big step forward, and Ivan Nova and Chad Kuhl being reliable innings eaters, then the Pirates should be in a good place. The bullpen should be an improvement as a whole, and the offense is still good enough.