Because it's the off-season, and because there's nothing much better to do, I thought I'd invent a problem and let the good folks at Bucs Dugout decide what to do about it. This is definitely an elaborate hypothetical, but I tried to keep the events more or less within the realm of possibility.
Without further ado - What should the Pirates do under the following circumstances:
It's 5:00 PM on Sunday, June 15. The Pirates just dropped the rubber match of a 3 game series with the Marlins in particularly heart breaking fashion, with Gerrit Cole pitching the losing end of a 1-0 complete game after giving up a first inning homer to Giancarlo Stanton. After losing two of three to Miami, the Pirates record sits at 40-29, tied for second in the Central with the Reds and two games back of the Cards. The Pirates are off on Monday, but the next 13 days feature 3 vs the Reds, 3 @ the Cubs, 3 @ the Rays and 4 vs the Mets.
Gerrit Cole's tough luck loss is a microcosm for the season so far. After AJ Burnett's retirement, the Pirates signed Josh Johnson to a 1/$8 million contract. Unfortunately, Johnson has been on the DL since mid-April, and his return in 2014 is questionable. Wandy Rodriguez has been unable to return as well. However, Stolmy Pimentel has pitched very well since moving up from the bullpen, striking out over a batter an inning and mostly keeping the walks under control. In fact the entire rotation has been excellent, with Liriano and Cole picking up where they left off in 2013 and Charlie Morton throwing lots of groundballs to properly shifted infielders. Even Jeff Locke has pitched well, sporting a 3.89 ERA that is not far from his 4.19 xFIP. The bullpen is doing its Shark Tank thing again, with Grilli, Melancon and Watson providing a lockdown back-end.
The problem has been the offense. Andrew McCutchen is producing at a clip similar to his MVP season, but the rest of the team's hitters look lost. Pedro Alvarez got off to a horrific start, but he's finally maybe sort-of beginning to show signs of life. Jordy Mercer has been overwhelmed by a full time role, and was splitting time evenly with a re-signed Clint Barmes. However, after Neil Walker went on the DL with back issues, Mercer has been getting most of the starts at second with Barmes at short. Russell Martin is still providing tons of defensive value, but his hitting has taken a step back from 2013. Starling Marte, like Andrew McCutchen, is producing numbers very similar to those he put up in 2013.
The big problem has been the 1B/RF Black Hole of Destruction. After failing to find a solution in the FA/trade market, the Pirates have decided to go with a Gaby Sanchez/Andrew Lambo platoon at 1B. After a torrid spring training, Jose Tabata "won" the RF job outright. Unfortunately, Lambo has struggled for most of the season, Sanchez has far too many ABs against RHP, and the platoon has failed to produce at first base. Jose Tabata has been...Jose Tabata. He's put up a .290/.320/.390 triple slash to go along with defense that can best be characterized as "adventurous."
Down on the farm, it's been more of the same for the Future-Bucco Factory. Glasnow is pitching great, though he's "only" striking out 11 batters per nine this year. Meadows, McGuire, Kingham and Heredia are all performing nicely. Alen Hanson has gotten off to a great start, leading many to speculate that he doesn't have much longer in AA. Tim Williams has already written 6 rapturous articles describing the exploits of Michael de la Cruz in Spring Training/Extended Spring Training.
The only real bad news is that Gregory Polanco is off to a somewhat slow start. After he was hit on the hand by a pitch in the Dominican League, and his power numbers are way down as he recovers from hamate surgery. His offensive numbers are down across the board, his BB% is down and his K% is up. Many scouts think he's pressing, trying to do too much. He's not playing badly, but he hasn't "earned" a promotion by any stretch of the imagination.
That's bad news, but it's being overshadowed by the talk of minor league baseball - Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon. Bell is off to a phenomenal start on the year. Not only has he hit 13 HRs, he's already logged 29 doubles. His K% is down and his BB% is up; for every strikeout, he's drawing a walk. He's sporting a 45 game on-base streak. There's no other way to put it: Josh Bell is a beast. But it's debatable that he's the top prospect in the system because of what Jameson Taillon is doing in Indianapolis. After a superb Spring Training in which he failed to allow a run (leading many to call for him starting the season in Pittsburgh), Taillon has simply been dominating the International League. He has not allowed more than 2 runs in any start, he's walking less than 2 batters per nine and striking out a ridiculous 13 strikeouts per nine. Scouts are falling all over themselves to praise his curveball, and his fastball seems to have gained a MPH or two. Pirates fans are gathering pitchforks and torches with plans to overrun Neal Huntington's office until he brings up Taillon.
So I ask you, fellow Bucs Dugout frequenters: In this contrived, highly hypothetical scenario (solid SP with no real holes, strong BP, weak hitting, Black Hole of Doom at 1B, Polanco down/Taillon way up) how would you like to see Neal Huntington and Co. proceed?