By Jared Lankes
The Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco suffered yet another injury to his hamstring this weekend in Toronto. And by the looks of it, he will likely hit the disabled list for the third time this season. It has been reported by some outlets that Polanco isn’t only seriously injured, but he was also seen hugging teammates after sunday’s contest, speculated to mean that he will not make the trip to Milwaukee with the team which could prelude a DL stint. How long Polanco will be out is still up in the air, but depending on how long it is expected to be could influence how the Pirates handle filling the void. Here, I will discuss some of the potential ways to fill the void depending on how things shake out.
1) Stick with what is on the roster:
It is very plausible, almost likely, that the Pirates stick with what is currently on their roster. The Pirates have four guys, good or not, that can play in the outfield. These guys being John Jaso, Jose Osuna, Adam Frazier, and the newly acquired Sean Rodriguez. The Pirates could certainly see the bevy of options they possess and just choose to stick with it. I mean, they did just that when Marte was out during his suspension and when Polanco was hurt the previous two times, and that was before they acquired another option in Sean Rodriguez. They could also play Harrison in the outfield a bit and show off some Frazier or Rodriguez at second base, or even get Moroff some reps at second base as well.
2) Get help from AAA:
There are a couple outfielders in AAA that could help in some sort of capacity. While Meadows is still rehabbing on his way to getting back to AAA, he could be an option upon returning, but I can’t envision that. This leaves Danny Ortiz, Chris Bostick, and Jordan Luplow. Danny Ortiz is a career minor leaguer, so it shouldn’t be him. Bostick is intriguing, but like all the other extra outfield options they currently have on their major league roster, he is an infielder by nature. This leaves us with Jordan Luplow. Luplow, a guy who has barely been in AAA a month, has been dominating at every level the last few seasons, including making AAA look like the little leagues. He was called up to the majors for a few games just a couple weeks, and while he went 0-9, he did not look overmatched. While he may not be ready, maybe the Pirates think he is developed enough to be given a look. However, in my opinion, if he will get called up, I think he has to be given the opportunity to play everyday. He can’t be sitting on the bench five times a week not getting many at bats. That is no good for him. They would have to let the guy play more often than not, and I cannot see the Pirates giving him a majority of at bats over the guys they have right now.
3) Find external help:
One of the things that has killed the Pirates this season is not having a true 4th outfielder. As I said before, they have an array of options, but many of them are infielders by nature and are guys that don’t prioritize playing outfield. With the Marte suspension, the Polanco injuries, and everything seemingly going wrong with Meadows, the gaping hole of no other true outfielder option is huge, and with Polanco hurt again, we see that gaping hole once again. If the Pirates, who are 4.5 games back of division lead as I am writing this, really believe they have a chance at this thing, maybe they find a way to fortify their roster even more by acquiring an outfielder to assist with Polanco out and make the bench stronger when/if he gets back. This would also provide cover if the Pirates would make the playoffs and Marte would be ineligible at that juncture. Given the way the position player market is, maybe the Pirates can find something that fits.
In my estimation, I can definitely see them just sticking with what they have. The reason for this is because, through everything that has happened this season, that is precisely what they have done. I cannot envision a sudden change in direction like that unless it is said that Polanco is out for the season, and even then the realistic chances this team wins the division are slim at best. It is hard to prepare for the postseason or winning a division when a team is currently below .500, four games back, and in fourth place. If Pirates were in 1st place or 2nd place and only one or two games back, it would become much easier to make that move. Truth is that another outfielder to replace what they currently have or to just fill-in for a bit will not make much of an impact at all. I think it is a much safer bet for the Pirates to stick with what they have and/or call up the young talent from AAA and let them show themselves off.