Trib: Pirates Bowing Out Of Relief Market?

It's been a while since we've had enough links to even be able to do one of these link-roundup posts, but today, there are a few:

-P- Rob Biertempfel says the Pirates are no longer in the running for Brian Fuentes and says the relief pitching market has gotten so tough that the Bucs could just give up, and instead depend on guys like Scott Olsen, Danny Moskos, Tony Watson, and Aaron Thompson to fill lefty relief spots.

Sticking Olsen in the bullpen would be fine with me - he probably isn't among the Pirates' best five starters anyway, and he doesn't have much experience as a reliever, so there's some chance he'd have success in the bullpen. And while I'd prefer the Pirates have a better second lefty candidate than Tony Watson, I do think he could be at least decent as long as Clint Hurdle makes sure he's facing mostly lefties.

As for Moskos and Thompson, ugh. I won't belabor the point, but I have no faith in Moskos whatsoever, at least not right now, and particularly not after his collapse in Indianapolis last season. If that poor stint at AAA were the first or even second uninspiring stretch of his career, that would be one thing, but it isn't. In fact, the good results he got at Class AA last year stand out as much on his stat line as the Class AAA collapse does. ZiPS projects him to have a 5.37 ERA this year, with about one walk for every strikeout - cannon fodder, essentially.

As for Thompson ... no. Just no. He has almost no experience above Class AA, and he spent the 2010 season putting up a 5.80 ERA at that level last year. If Thompson can even be replacement-level this year, I'll be shocked. If he winds up in the major-league bullpen at any point in the first couple months of the season, then the Pirates planned very poorly, because in order to clear roster space for him, the Pirates had to designate Wilfredo Ledezma for assignment. I'd rather have Ledezma than any of the four potential bullpen lefties Biertempfel lists, and frankly it isn't close.

The Ledezma DFA made no sense, but ... fine. That's water under the bridge, I guess. But if Biertempfel's reporting is accurate and the Pirates really are about to throw up their hands and go into camp with Olsen, Watson, Moskos and Thompson as their top bullpen lefties (and I guess you could throw Justin Thomas, who isn't mentioned, in there too), then Neal Huntington either very seriously misjudged the market or simply didn't care that he was throwing away the only lefty reliever he had who appeared likely to be helpful.

True, the Pirates probably won't have more than two lefties in their 'pen to start the year and could begin with as few as one, but if someone like Moskos is third on the organization's depth chart for lefty relief, for example, he will probably end up pitching quite a few innings in the majors this year, and there's no indication yet that he should. We could see the Bucs get creative later in the season with someone like Justin Wilson in the 'pen, but until then, here's hoping the Pirates can find some room in their budget for a mediocre lefty like Tim Byrdak or Ron Mahay. Neither of them are better options than Ledezma, but whatever. I'm rarely a huge fan of the idea of a team in the Pirates' position signing veteran mediocrities, as my reaction to the Lyle Overbay trade showed, but in this case, the Pirates don't even have enough major-leaguers available to fill the spots they'll need to throughout the season.

-P- The Washington Wild Things are having a banquet on Wednesday, and Jim Leyland, Kent Tekulve, and Lanny Frattare will be there.

-P- The Bradenton Marauders' YouTube channel has interviews with manager Carlos Garcia and pitching coach Mike Steele (thanks to OnlyBucs for the link). The Steele interview, in which he talks about the difference between coaching a college team and coaching in the minors, and about the particular problems of coaching a Class A+ team, is particularly interesting.

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