5 Questions Pittsburgh Pirates Must Answer During Spring Training
5 Questions The Pittsburgh Pirates Need Answered in Spring Training
After going to the playoffs for the first time since 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans had high expectations heading into their first potentially exciting offseason in over two decades. Unfortunately, things haven't worked out as they had hoped -- to this point, at least.
The Pirates had a great opportunity entering the offseason to make a statement and prove to their fan base that they are serious about winning. Instead of doing anything to make that statement, the Bucs decided to play it safe and pretty much stayed in-house to fill all of the team's holes.
There are few holes on the Pirates' roster, and only one is truly glaring. At first base, the Pirates lost Justin Morneau and Garrett Jones to free agency -- Morneau signing with the Colorado Rockies and Jones signing with the Miami Marlins. They now appear to be stuck with unproven rookie Andrew Lambo and Gaby Sanchez. Sanchez is actually a great right-handed hitting option for the Pirates' first base platoon with a career .300/.399/.496 triple-slash line and a 145 wRC+ vs. RHP.
Lambo, however, is far from a sure thing. In double-A and triple-A in 2013, Lambo struck out in 24.3 percent and 26.4 percent of his plate appearances respectively. In his 33 MLB plate appearances last season, he struck out in 33.3 percent of his plate appearances with one home run. Lambo did hit an amazing 32 dingers in the minors last season, but there is certainly no guarantee he will ever be able to duplicate that at the MLB level.
With Spring Training approaching very quickly, Pirates fans will have plenty of questions they want answered prior to the start of the 2014 regular season. To find out five questions that I want answered while the Pirates are in Bradenton, Florida, continue reading through the following slideshow.
5. Will Starling Marte Get An Extension?
Starling Marte was a great extension candidate entering the offseason, and nothing has been done in that regard so far. Considering that Marte was signed for a mere $85,000, he may be open to take a bit of a cheaper deal to get some financial security. If the Pittsburgh Pirates can buy out all of Marte's arbitration-eligible seasons, as well as 1-2 free agent seasons, it would make a lot of sense for them to work out some type of extension.
4. Which Reliever Will Be Traded?
There are no guarantees that the Pirates will trade a reliever, but they have made it clear that it is very possible they will move one prior to the regular season. All offseason, rumors have suggested that the Pirates will trade a reliever. What we don't know, however, is who. Justin Wilson's name has been floated around, but to trade him, the Bucs would need a very good return.
3. Is Gregory Polanco As Good As Everyone Says He Is?
Minor league experts have been raving about the skill set of Gregory Polanco for the past two seasons. Polanco sort of came out of nowhere, going from completely off the radar to one of the top 20 prospects in baseball in just two years. Some scouts say that he has the potential to be the best of the Pirates' outfielders -- and they already have two of the best in baseball, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.
2. Will the Pirates Upgrade the Rotation?
Having a full season of Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole is going to do wonders for the Pirates' rotation. Unfortunately, with the likelihood of A.J. Burnett not returning, it looks like Jeff Locke or Edinson Volquez will be the fifth starter. That isn't a good look, Pirates. Locke fell apart in the second half of 2013 after having a lucky first half, and Volquez is terrible. The Pirates should seriously consider adding someone like Bronson Arroyo if Burnett decides to play elsewhere in 2014.
1. Who's On First?
Gaby Sanchez is the right-handed hitting first baseman in the platoon, but are the Pirates really going to stick with Andrew Lambo as their lefty? There are certainly options on the trade market, mainly Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland and Adam Lind, but for the Pirates to pull the trigger on a trade, the prices for the players will have to come down.