Starting Pitching:
AJ Burnett is retired. JA Happ is free agent. Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke aren’t all that good. That leaves us Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. Luckily, the Pirates will have a group of starting pitchers in the farm system that can hopefully stay healthy next season and contribute to the major league squad. These include Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Brandon Cumpton. It would also include Casey Sadler but he recently underwent Tommy John surgery.

The Pirates will need to sign a starter or two to bridge the gap of when some of those guys get called up. The Pirates will not, not, not sign a top flight starter such as David Price or Zack Greinke so get that idea out of your mind now.


JA Happ is option number one. He pitched beautifully for the Pirates and was probably the best pitching acquisition of the trade deadline. Bringing him back is a must and although he pitched so well for the Pirates, shouldn’t cost more money than the Pirates can afford. If they sign Happ, it would not be out of the question to go after one more mid-rotation starter, especially if they save money by non-tendering Walker and/or Alvarez.

Jeff Samardzija would be a great pickup. He had a pretty bad season with the White Sox and would be a great buy low type player. The guy still has great stuff and with a sprinkle of Ray Searage magic, could be back to being a top of the rotation starter. If they chose to go another route, Justin Masterson would also be viable option. Masterson fits the bill perfectly in terms of Pirates pitching philosophy. Induce ground balls. Masterson’s sinker does just that. Yet again, after being pretty ineffective the past two seasons, Masterson would be a nice buy low option. In the end, whatever starting pitcher the Pirates decide to sign will be solid, because Ray Searage.

Every winter it’s the same thing. The Pirates sign or trade for a random relief pitcher and they succeed. See Arquimedes Caminero, Vin Mazzaro, Jeanmar Gomez, the list goes on and on. The question this winter will be what the Pirates do with Mark Melancon. Melancon won the reliever of the year award and was fantastic this past season recording 51 saves. That being said, relief pitchers are tremendously expendable and Melancon’s trade value is the highest it will ever be. He is arbitration eligible and will probably make around 10 million dollars next year.

Trade him. That money would be much better used to throw towards a starting pitcher. Tony Watson is more than capable of being the Pirates closer and is comparable if not better than Melancon anyways. This is a no-brainer to me. Plenty of teams need a shut down closer and the return on Melancon would be better now than it would ever be.

Here’s a food for thought. The Pirates dealt Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox in exchange for Melancon, Jerry Sands, Ivan De Jesus Jr., and Stolmy Pimentel in 2012. Melancon was the only player in the deal that was actually useful to that Pirates and he wasn’t even the focal point in the deal. If the Pirates had traded Hanrahan the offseason before, when his trade value was at its peak, the return would have been greater. The deal didn’t end up being bad for the Pirates but it could have been better. Don’t make the same mistake with Mark Melancon. Cash out now. Bullpen pieces are replaceable and cheap. GM Neal Huntingdon has been a wizard when it comes to adding good, reliable, cheap bullpen arms and that trend will continue.

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