The ‘pen taking shape
UPDATE: The Pirates have agreed to terms with Brendan Donnelly, as per Dejan Kovacevic. The contract details are not known yet, except that it will be a 1 year deal.
UPDATE Again: Jerry Crasnick says the deal is worth $1.5M with incentives that could push it to $3M. I had speculated in the morning (in the post below) that it would be $1-1.5M, and I expected it to be about $1-1.2M with incentives that took it to $2M- depending on how easily accessible the incentives are, this seems a little high.
According to reports, it looks increasingly like the Pirates will sign Octavio Dotel. Since my last post on the bullpen composition then, some things have changed. DJ Carrasco has been signed to a minor league deal, which would seem to be a pretty good effort from the front office, as Carrasco had a pretty good year in long relief. Carrasco also has a clause that says he can earn up to $1.2M with $0.95 M in base pay, if he makes the big league team. If I am not mistaken, I believe he also has an out-clause if he doesn’t make the team, but I couldn’t find a reference at the time of writing. So what do the signings mean for the composition of the pen?
I am going to assume that Dotel will be signed here- for some reason, the signing of Dotel has dragged itself out, and that is not a good thing as far as the Pirates are concerned. If it seems likely that Dotel will be signed, I’d rather they sign him as soon as possible, while taking one of Anthony Claggett, Argenis Diaz and Brian Bixler off the roster (that’s my order of preference). It appears that the Pirates have an almost-agreement (whatever that means) with Dotel for slightly under $3M, and the longer this drags on, the greater the chances of someone (read: Cardinals, Giants, Cubs) swooping in with a better offer.
In any case, let’s assume Dotel is a Pirate. Then, Dotel, Hanrahan, Lopez and Meek are almost locks for the pen. DJ Carrasco would be a favorite too, but signing him to a minor league deal gives the Pirates the opportunity to test him against Jakubauskas in Spring Training. This also means that the loser among Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen for the 5th starter spot will almost certainly be in AAA to start the season. FWIW, I prefer McCutchen over Hart at this point, but I also think Hart has more upside, and time in AAA might be more beneficial to him.
Assuming the overcrowded bench does not change what has become a norm in baseball, the Pirates will go in with 7 in the bullpen. Dotel, Hanrahan, Meek, Lopez and Jakubauskas/Carrasco make 5. There has been considerable talk of a third reliever, and plenty of speculation, and it now appears that Brendan Donnelly could be the guy. Donnelly has been pretty good for a while save his 2008 season, and it would be a good addition. Clearly, Huntington is intent on building a pen that can be expected to not give away the game if the starter goes 6 and leaves with a lead. To that end, the signings of Dotel and Donnelly would be big boosts. If Donnelly gets signed that’s 6 in the pen.
If Donnelly does sign, I’d expect the last spot to go to one of the many lefties who have non-roster invites to Spring Training. In my mind, the favorite would be Burres, although Jack Taschner or Justin Thomas could also be the ones in. If Donnelly doesn’t sign, I would expect Steven Jackson to take his spot. Jean Machi and Brian Bass should also have a shot, though.
Now, Buccofans estimates the 2010 payroll to be around $32.5M before DJ Carrasco was signed. If we also add Dotel at $3M, then the payroll goes to about $36.5 M. How much would Donnelly get? Probably under $2M and likely somewhere between $1-1.5M. Let’s go with 1.5M and say that puts the payroll at $38M.
Further, it appears there have been trade talks that have delayed the signings of relievers, because the Pirates were hoping to use the trades to open up roster spots and avoid having to give up players. These could be small trades such as those of DY, Moss and (oh yes, please!) Vazquez, or they could be bigger ones like Maholm, Doumit or Duke. I am guessing, at this point, that its the former. If we could get anything of value for DY, Moss or Vazquez, that would be awesome-more likely minor league players with low probability of making an impact in the majors. It seems overall that the Pirates are not really thinking of adding starting pitching at this point. If Maholm/Duke is dealt, though, suddenly the depth gets lower, with 2 of Hart/McCutchen/Lincoln in the majors, and really one backup in AAA. Of course, we could use Karstens, Vasquez or Burres, but I don’t think anyone has any illusions about the results there. Donnie Veal is the one unknown in AAA, but I expect it will take him at least a year in AAA, if his command in the majors last year was anything to go by.
I don’t know at this point how much salary space the Pirates have, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them have a go at one of the starting pitchers still available. Earlier in the season, Justin Duscherer would have been my favorite, but now that he’s gone, I do think the Pirates should do the due diligence in seeing if Sheets/Bedard/Doug Davis can be had. I imagine we’d have the flexibility to reach about $50M in payroll, and $6-7M a year might just do it for Sheets or Bedard- likely not for Davis, but why not give a call?
Finally, I expected trades of some of Duke, Maholm and Doumit. It seems that there are talks with DY, Moss involved as well. While I still expect some to be moved, I am surprised nothing has happened so far- at this point, I don’t know what to expect. It seems that management is content to wait till June at least with Duke/Maholm/Doumit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if things happen earlier too. Should make for an interesting leadup to Spring Training!