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Ask BD: Could the Pirates trade an outfielder for starting pitching?

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here's my first round of answers to your questions. Thanks, and feel free to keep them coming.

Lightskin350: If the Pirates fail to land a quality starting pitcher in free agency, can you see them moving either Gregory Polanco or Starling Marte for one? I ask because I have heard this twice on the MLB Network about a Marte to Cleveland deal for one of their many good starters. I hope not.

I can see why they would talk about it, since Marte is somewhat comparable to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco in the quality of his play and the amount of team control he has remaining. But while I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of an outfielder-for-starter deal, I wouldn't let it keep me up nights. As good as Salazar and Carrasco are, pitchers are the much riskier commodity, and the Pirates know that. Also, the Bucs currently have needs offensively as well as in their rotation, particularly given the talent they've already lost this offseason, so dealing one of Polanco or Marte for a starter would address one need but create another. I could see the Pirates engaging in this kind of trade talk in a year if Austin Meadows performs well at Altoona next season, however.

Brian Cartwright: Why give $2.5 million to Sean Rodriguez when a slightly higher average annual value, over two years, could have probably gotten Hyun-Soo Kim, whose projected wOBA is 60 points higher?

Kim, for those who don't know, is a 27-year-old first baseman and outfielder who hit .326/.438/.541 for the Doosan Bears in the KBO last year and just agreed to terms on a two-year, $7 million deal with the Orioles. On paper, I agree that he would have been a much better use of the Pirates' money. But this offseason has shown that, despite Jung-Ho Kang's success last year, MLB teams still have considerable skepticism about KBO players, or at least about the KBO players who were available this offseason -- the total amount the Twins will pay Byung Ho Park is fairly small, and the Lotte Giants didn't even receive a bid for Ah-Seop Son or Jae-Gyun Hwang, both of whom had good seasons last year. There's still a lot about KBO players that isn't known, and if Park and Kim have good seasons in 2016, a lot of the lingering skepticism will melt away. But if the Pirates, who apparently scout in Korea pretty extensively, are bearish on these guys, they probably have good reasons, particularly since it appears other teams are bearish too.

As for Rodriguez, the Pirates plainly aren't employing him based on his projected wOBA, which I'm sure is terrible. They're paying him for his versatility, and, probably, for his contributions to team chemistry. We're only talking about $2.5 million and a bench job here, and it might well be that Rodriguez's intangibles are worth enough to justify the cost. I'm not a huge fan of Rodriguez's on-field abilities, but there might well be something there that outsiders don't see every day.

Pat_Meares: The Pirates are in a great situation right now. Andrew McCutchen, Marte and Kang are signed to very cheap deals. Gerrit Cole is pre-arb, and Francisco Liriano is signed to a pretty cheap deal as well. They don’t have any long-term commitments that are holding them down, like a Joey Votto or Homer Bailey situation, and if the farm system is as good as the experts say it is, they should have quite a few guys coming in the next few seasons who will make league minimum. Isn’t this the perfect time to take a bit of a risk and sign a solid third starter for a price they wouldn’t normally be willing to go ($15 million annually)? Are they that strapped for cash that they can't take a single moderate risk?

Obviously, we're never going to get an answer to that last question. I suppose part of the Pirates' response to the previous one might be that the now-maligned Bailey deal, which is six years and $105 million, isn't that different from the proposed $15-million-a-year starting pitcher contract. If the Bucs have as much flexibility now as it appears they do, it's partially because they've avoided risky long-term commitments.

Of course, that isn't where the discussion should end. Not having an expensive long-term deal gone bad on your roster isn't praiseworthy if the only reason you don't have one is that you avoid them altogether. This offseason would be the perfect time for the Pirates to take a risk on a heftier commitment -- particularly, as some of you pointed out in the comments, given that this year's free agent market is a lot better than next year's. The Charlie Morton deal, which cleared some salary and opened a spot in their rotation, suggests there's still a possibility they reach higher than usual for starting pitching. Let's hope they do.

Impliedi: Michael Morse should be fine if he’s the everyday first baseman, right? I mean, it seems the general feeling is that the Pirates look for a platoon or upgrade, but it seems to me that even if 2011 Michael Morse is pretty much a pipe dream, but if you get 2014 Michael Morse, that seems to be a pretty productive player.

Sure, but what are their chances of getting that player? Morse has had two very poor seasons in the last three, and he'll turn 34 before the start of the season. His ability to hit for average seems to be diminishing, which makes sense given his age. He turned out to be more useful than I thought he would be for the Pirates down the stretch, but I don't think the Pirates can count on him to be a regular at this point. For what it's worth, Steamer has him at .248/.308/.404 next season; ZiPS has him at .243/.301/.406. Those lines are okay for a bench player, but not for someone who's supposed to be an everyday first baseman.