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Pirates Considering Looking Outside Organization for Relievers

John Perrotto reports that the Pirates will consider looking outside the organization for relievers:

The pitching has been so disappointing that General Manager Neal Huntington said Sunday he is looking outside the organization to strengthen the staff and would be amenable to a trade, waiver claim or free-agent signing.

Pirate Revolution had an interesting article recently about playing time issues that could work in the Pirates' favor, and those issues affect relievers as well, as they did when the Bucs acquired Tyler Yates last spring for Todd Redmond.

While the Pirates obviously ought to seriously think about any move that might improve the team, there are a couple of dangers to acquiring players now. First, if you trade for someone, you have to give something up. The Yates trade, for example, has been maligned quite a bit here. I don't want to overstate my problems with the trade, because mostly I think Redmond is a polished prospect and a flyball pitcher who is unlikely to have much success in the majors, but a team like the Pirates should have to receive very good talent to even give up the chance that someone like Redmond might help for several years, and Tyler Yates doesn't get the job done.

Another problem is that the Pirates have a number of marginal relievers they risk losing if they don't make the team. Sean Burnett and Craig Hansen are out of options, and Donald Veal will be lost if he doesn't make the team as a Rule 5 pick. None of the three have had encouraging springs--Burnett has a 10.80 ERA, Hansen has a passable ERA but has ten walks against eleven strikeouts, and Veal has a nice ERA but has eleven walks against five strikeouts.

I could see the Pirates getting rid of Veal or Burnett, but I think Hansen will make the team. Yates, Matt Capps and John Grabow are in, too, and Evan Meek is also making a strong case to be included (although he's currently shut down with a tired arm). That only leaves two spots for other pitchers. So the Pirates' ability to add an extra reliever may be closely tied to their decisions about whether to keep Veal and/or Burnett--it's just a numbers game, and they could have a pretty bad bullpen this year simply by being unwilling to part with these guys.

So any reliever acquired from outside the organization will force the Pirates to make decisions about which players they want to keep in the organization. I liked Veal as a Rule 5 pick, but he's shown enough of the same old problems that I think it's probably time to send him back. And Burnett is maxed out as a low-leverage reliever. Fans will probably be upset if the Pirates dump him (remember the ridiculous controversy over his not making the team out of Spring Training last year?), but he doesn't help the team much with his pitching.