Post by John Toperzer
Daniel Hudson: What were the Bucs thinking when they signed Hudson to a two-year, $11 million deal last winter? Even discounting two Tommy John Surgeries, Hudson registered a 5.22 ERA and 1.44 WHIP for Arizona in 2016. Admittedly, his 3.88 FIP showed he might fare better in different circumstances, but the Pirates don’t pay any relievers $5 million per, especially not set-up guys. Whoever was responsible for Hudson’s signing should have to pay his salary. That move made no sense when it was announced, it still doesn’t. If another team bites on a trade offer I’d be shocked.
Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass has more stories than the Empire State Building. He’s talked about pitching to the Cubs’ Billy Williams as if he never got him out. A look at the numbers show he wasn’t that bad against Williams. Okay, so the Hall of Famer did take Blass deep seven times in 87 plate appearances – that’s bad, but he “only” hit .313 against the righty. The way the humble Blass talks about it, you’d think he let Williams bat .500 off him. Blass isn’t in too bad company with the dingers. Bob Gibson (10) and Gaylord Perry (9) are the only hurlers to surrender more home runs to Williams. The left-handed slugger batted .477 against Jerry Reuss (in 54 plate appearances) and .415 off Bob Purkey (in 46 PA). He also went 3-for-4 with two dingers off someone named Lafayette Currence. Blass struggled with Williams, but he wasn’t the only one.
Outfielders are apparently a dime a dozen on the market right now. The more Andrew McCutchen’s trade value drops, the better the chance Pittsburgh keeps him. Dumping his salary would be a public relations nightmare and if you hadn’t noticed, the team’s offseason hasn’t been a great one. There’s little doubt Huntington would prefer to move Cutch, but I’d be surprised if he was okay with getting only pennies on the dollar. Hindsight is 20/20, but upping the offer to acquire Washington’s OF prospect Victor Robles last winter would’ve been the move to make. McCutchen is the single greatest reason for the Pirates’ renaissance. At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked if the two sides come full circle and agree on two-or-three year contract extension at an under-market price. After all, Cutch named his newborn son “Steel.”
If the Pirates trade Gerrit Cole, then it’s my hope they get a stud pitching prospect back for him. The lure of major-league ready position players like the Yankees’ outfielder Clint Frazier and third baseman Miguel Andujar is great. Andujar would fill the third base void, dashing Ke’Bryan Hayes’ hopes, and just about any team could use Frazier. Add to the fact that Frazier and Pirates hopeful Austin Meadows are good friends drafted in the same draft and same first round and there’s some synergy.
That said, high-end starters are among the scarcest commodities in baseball. If the Pirates have a chance to get a package including pitcher Walker Buehler from the Dodgers, then they have to consider it. Hopefully the Pirates’ scouting department will do its due diligence on whichever players they consider. That sounds like a simple notion, but I still remember driving to Altoona after the team traded Freddy Sanchez for pitcher Tim Alderson, only to be disappointed by Alderson’s mid-to-upper 80s fastball. Alderson never did make the majors while Sanchez helped the Giants win the World Series in 2010.
It looks like the St. Louis Cardinals dodged another big contract landmine when the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton. Back when the Cards were close to re-signing Albert Pujols for approximately $200 million, the Angels came out of nowhere and offered $240 million. That moved really saved St. Louis’s hide. Pujols has had trouble staying on the field with his bad foot.
Stanton could’ve tied up the Cards’ resources for the next several seasons while spending his many summer trips to the disabled list. To his credit, Stanton did play in a career-high 159 games in 2017, but he played more than 123 games in only two of seven prior campaigns.
The Pirates reportedly offered Russell Martin around $60 million for four years after the 2014 season. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Toronto inked the Canadian to a five-year, $82 million deal. In three seasons with the Blue Jays, Martin has slashed .232/.335/.417 and has started only 314 of 486 games.
Elias Diaz shored up his major-league status with some nice efforts in September. That said, some Pirates reporters continue to rave about his defense but I’m not quite there yet. He’s got a strong arm, which is more than all but Russell Martin can say in recent Pirates’ catching past. All too often, however, he attempts to backhand low and outside breaking pitches to right-handed batters rather than moving his whole body. The jury is out on Diaz but he has only Francisco Cervelli ahead of him on the current depth chart. Here’s to hoping he can take that next step.
Speaking of catchers, I can’t see any team giving Chris Stewart another shot in 2018. Maybe if Gerrit Cole added “general manager” to his moniker, then he’d get another chance, but I can’t remember another player who struggled so much on the field. Catchers sometimes make great coaches and it’s time for Stewart to get on with his life’s work.