Our guest blogger is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux.
Question 1 – When will the team see dividends from trading veterans?
Matt: I’m not sure whether this refers to veterans they’ve already traded or veterans they’ll be looking to trade this season. As far as the former, I definitely think Lastings Milledge (who came from Washington in the Nyjer Morgan deal) will be in the Opening Day lineup, as will Jeff Clement, who was part of the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell package. Andy LaRoche (part of the Jason Bay deal) looked pretty good down the stretch in ’09. At only 26, I think he’s a good “sleeper” for 2010. Most of the other meaningful prospects who the Pirates have acquired via trades the last couple seasons are at least another year or so away.
Eugene: I think the Pirates will start seeing some of the young players next season. Jose Tabata will need a full season in Triple A. Jeff Clement will be given an opportunity this year, but I see him improving with some of the other guys coming along, specifically Pedro Alvarez. They’ll have to decide what to do with 3B at that point – LaRoche, Walker, Alvarez.
As for the road ahead for the Pirates front office. Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen are probably the only players in the whole organization who are totally off-limits. With Alvarez, LaRoche, Clement, Steve Pearce, and Garrett Jones all vying for at-bats at 1B, 3B, and LF, we could see one of them get dealt at midseason (or whenever Alvarez arrives for good in Pittsburgh). Since all are fairly young, if they play decently, the Pirates might be able to get somebody very useful in return. Akinori Iwamura and Octavio Dotel could also help build organizational depth if shopped to the right contender at the deadline.
Question 2 – What will the rotation look like?
Matt: Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, and Paul Maholm are locks for the Pittsburgh rotation. They aren’t exactly Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, but last season they combined to give the Pirates 92 starts, 585 innings, 30 wins, and a 4.15 ERA. Obviously, such a rotation isn’t going to lead you to the glory land, but compared with most Pirates staffs of the last decade, that’s downright dominance. No member of this trio is older than 28 and, as such, there’s a chance they could even be a little better in 2010. The fourth an fifth spots remain a nightmare free-for-all. Based on what we’ve seen so far this spring, I’d say Charlie Morton and Daniel McCutchen are the leading candidates.
Eugene: I agree with Matt. Duke, Ohlendorf, and Maholm. I like Charlie Morton as well for the 4th spot. The 5th is an open competition.
Question 3 – Which players are the best options to be traded this year?
Matt: If Octavio Dotel pitches well as the Pirates closer, it’s a safe bet he’ll be somebody else’s set-up man come July. I think it’s also likely that Garrett Jones, Andy LaRoche, or Steve Pearce will be moved to make way for Pedro Alvarez. Akinori Iwamura and Bobby Crosby will both be on the block, if they prove themselves healthy. Duke and Maholm with both be eligible for free agency at the end of 2011, so their time in Pittsburgh may be short-lived as well.
Eugene: The Pirates will check the interested on all guys with one year deals – Dotel, Iwamura and Crosby are possibilities. They could also check on Duke and Maholm, since both are coming to the end of their controlable time.
Question 4 – How far back will the Pirates finish the season? Is it a foregone conclusion that they will be in last in the NL Central?
Eugene: They’ll end up about 15-20 games back. They are a young team and this will have growing pains. I do think they are moving in the right direction and could be in a spot the Brewers were about 5-7 years ago.
Matt: I’m honestly not convinced that the Astros have a better team than the Pirates, so I think it is possible that they could drag themselves out of the cellar this year. However, if they are selling everything that isn’t nailed down by mid-July, they’ll probably again finish back of Houston. I could see the Pirates getting to 70 wins for the first time in six years, but the real renaissance for PIttsburgh baseball is probably at least a couple years away.
Tags: 30 Teams in 30 Days, Baseball, Baseball Preview, Pittsburgh Pirates