A guess at the Pirates' 25-man roster

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Spring training doesn't start for another month, and a lot can happen between now and the beginning of April. But just because I like thought problems like this and it's fun to talk about them, here's a stab at what the Pirates' 25-man roster might look like coming out of camp. Right now, I count 21 players as being exceedingly likely to win jobs if they're healthy, which means that there are only a few open spots. Here are those 21 players.

C Russell Martin
1B Gaby Sanchez
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
3B Pedro Alvarez
OF Starling Marte
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Jose Tabata

C Chris Stewart
SS Clint Barmes

SP Gerrit Cole
SP Francisco Liriano
SP Wandy Rodriguez
SP Charlie Morton
SP Edinson Volquez

RP Jason Grilli
RP Mark Melancon
RP Justin Wilson
RP Tony Watson
RP Vin Mazzaro
RP Stolmy Pimentel

Who knows whether Rodriguez will be ready, but let's assume he will be. Given Volquez's guaranteed contract and the fact that Jeff Locke has an option remaining, that sets the rotation, with Locke heading to the minors to start the season. Pimentel is out of options, and Neal Huntington has said he'll almost certainly make the team, as he probably should.

That leaves four spots, likely three position players and one reliever. I'm still convinced the Pirates will do something to address their first-base issue, so let's say one spot goes to a first baseman to be determined. If not, it will probably go to Andrew Lambo or Chris McGuiness.

The Pirates typically like to carry two spare infielders. Josh Harrison is on the 40-man roster, played reasonably well last year, and can fake his way around at least five defensive positions, so that seems like an easy call. That Chase d'Arnaud still has a 40-man roster spot is a little surprising, and the only other infielder on the 40-man who I haven't yet mentioned is Alen Hanson, who will be in the minors. The only non-roster invitee who deserves much consideration for the last infield job is Robert Andino, but I can't really see the Pirates carrying another defense-only guy when Clint Barmes is already on their bench.

That leaves one bench job, which will likely go to an outfielder. Travis Snider is still out of options and was tendered a contract, so he's probably the favorite, but I can't believe the Pirates will cling too tightly to him. Jaff Decker, Lambo and Chris Dickerson -- all of them left-handed -- could get consideration. The Pirates don't seem to care too deeply about Lambo, but I could easily see Decker (who has two options remaining) win the job with a good camp.

I suppose it still isn't impossible that the Pirates could re-sign A.J. Burnett, which could bump Edinson Volquez out of the rotation. That would mean he'd likely head to the bullpen, which would then be full. If that, or something like it, doesn't happen, Bryan Morris or Jeanmar Gomez will likely win the last bullpen job. Both are out of options. As helpful as Gomez was last season, he's essentially a replacement-level guy, and wouldn't be a huge loss. Morris wasn't even replacement-level last year, but the Pirates used him in lots of high-leverage situations, and even I admit he has upside. So he probably has the inside track. If everyone stays healthy, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Pirates trade a reliever this spring.

Using this configuration, the Pirates will have good depth in Triple-A this year, with Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton, Phil Irwin and Jameson Taillon available if they need a starter, Jared Hughes and Duke Welker if they need a reliever, Tony Sanchez if they need a catcher, Lambo and McGuiness if they need a first baseman, Andino if they need an infielder, and Decker, Lambo, Dickerson and Gregory Polanco if they need an outfielder.

Here's the 25-man roster as I see it now.

C Russell Martin
1B TBD
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
3B Pedro Alvarez
OF Starling Marte
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Jose Tabata

C Chris Stewart
1B Gaby Sanchez
SS Clint Barmes
UT Josh Harrison
OF Travis Snider

SP Gerrit Cole
SP Francisco Liriano
SP Wandy Rodriguez
SP Charlie Morton
SP Edinson Volquez

RP Jason Grilli
RP Mark Melancon
RP Justin Wilson
RP Tony Watson
RP Vin Mazzaro
RP Stolmy Pimentel
RP Bryan Morris

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