5 Pittsburgh Pirates Storylines to Follow During Spring Training

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5 Pittsburgh Pirates Storylines to Watch in Spring Training

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Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been extremely inactive so far this offseason. Rather than filling their needs by deciding to spend money on the free agent market or finding a trade partner, the team seems to be content with filling their needs internally.

Some people feel the need to defend the Pirates' front office simply because they went to the postseason in 2013. "They have earned my trust" is what they say. Well guess what, folks? Just because they did great last offseason doesn't mean they will this time.

Adding Edinson Volquez and Chris Stewart while re-signing Clint Barmes doesn't really qualify as notable offseason moves. Last offseason, the Pirates were successful because they weren't afraid to dip their toes into the free agent market.

They needed a catcher after the terrible 2012 season Rod Barajas had, so they quickly scooped up top free agent catcher Russell Martin. They needed a few pitchers, so they added several pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Vin Mazzaro, Jeanmar Gomez and Jonathan Sanchez. All the pitchers they acquired last year were reclamation projects to a degree and most worked out other than Sanchez.

The Pirates' front office is one of two things right now, it seems, and neither are good: Over-confident or stupid. They have gained a solid reputation with "fixing" broken pitchers. A.J. Burnett, Liriano, Grilli and Melancon are all recent examples. It almost seems like the Bucs would rather sign a risky pitcher like Volquez than spend any significant money on a safer option. No matter how good pitching coach Ray Searage is he won't be able to fix everyone.

Spring Training is just around the corner and it is approaching rapidly. Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks. Heading into Spring Training, the Bucs have some legitimate questions that need answered.

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5. Who's the Fifth Starter?

Who's the Fifth Starter?
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke or a surprise candidate? Who will it be? As it appears right now, Volquez is the leader simply because the Pittsburgh Pirates inexplicably paid him $5 million for one season. Locke is probably the odd man out, but if someone pitches well in Spring Training -- like Brandon Cumpton for example -- it wouldn't be a huge shock to see him surpass Volquez and Locke for the fifth starter job.

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4. Who's on First?

Who's on First?
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

One real need. The Pittsburgh Pirates needed to use some funds to bring in one legitimate upgrade, and they didn't do it. Instead of signing a free agent or trading for a proven first baseman, the Pirates took a bunch of flyers or failed minor league first basemen and unproven players. As we stand on Feb. 1, it looks like Andrew Lambo and Gaby Sanchez will platoon at first base.

Related link: Terrible strategy for Pirates' first baseman search

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3. What's Going on in Right Field?

What's Going on in Right Field?
Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

This situation is fairly straight-forward. It's most likely going to be a combination of Jose Tabata, Travis Snider and Jaff Decker in right field until top prospect Gregory Polanco is ready to be called up. If Polanco crushes opposing pitchers in Spring Training, will he get a shot to start on Opening Day? Probably not, but it's definitely something the Pittsburgh Pirates shouldn't be afraid to try.

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2. Will the Pirates Trade a Reliever?

Will the Pirates Trade a Reliever?
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

There have been rumors all offseason that the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade a reliever from their extremely deep stock of bullpen arms. They haven't done so yet, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

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1. Where Are All the Extensions?

Where Are All the Extensions?
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Starling Marte, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez have all been the subject of several extension rumors this offseason. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates extend anyone prior to the start of the 2014 season? Marte is the only player the Pirates should focus on extending at this point. Walker won't be a free agent until after his age 30 season, and Alvarez is a Scott Boras client. Boras likes his clients to hit free agency anytime they are close to it -- to extend Alvarez, it would take much more money than the Pirates can handle.

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