Thanks, everyone, for the questions, and keep them coming.
Thomas R. Fielder II: Should Jameson Taillon basically have to force his way to the majors this year, with anything less than spectacular results meaning he stays in AAA all year, preserving dollars and years of control and helping him stay healthy? Or should he be first man up if he’s playing merely decently, and be a starter as soon as he is healthy and the Super 2 threshold passes?
After this year's Super 2 threshold, I don't think money or years of control will be a huge concern. Otherwise, the Pirates wouldn't promote Taillon until June 2016, which seems an excessively long time. That written, Taillon has only six career starts at Triple-A, and he's coming off a significant injury. The Pirates aren't likely to rush him, particularly since they'll have enough depth not to need him in an injury emergency.
Pat_Meares: The Pirates contract with Root Sports ends after the 2019 season. A certain outfielder's contract with the Pirates ends in 2018. Assuming the Bucs are good for the next few years, they should be getting a big increase in local TV money with their next deal. Could they have enough money to lock up Andrew McCutchen and not have it hurt the future if he regresses?
If the Pirates sign McCutchen long-term and he regresses, that hurts them regardless of what their payroll is, doesn't it? Obviously, a more lucrative new TV deal could help the Pirates re-sign McCutchen, but they already control him through what's likely to be his entire prime, and four seasons from now, there might be better ways to ensure the Pirates remain competitive than signing a great player through what are likely to be his decline years. I love McCutchen, but unfortunately, long-term contracts and sentimentalism mix very, very poorly. Let's revisit this in a few years.
Pat_Meares: Can you explain (or hypothesize) why a guy like Radhames Liz got a major league deal, yet guys who have big-league track records, like Chris Perez, only secure minor league deals?
Clearly, there was more demand for Liz's services, and the Pirates think Liz will be better than someone like Perez. As with Jung-Ho Kang, it's hard to know what to make of Liz based on his track record, but if the Pirates think Liz will be better than Perez, I wouldn't bet against them. Liz has very good stuff and is capable of starting, and the Pirates' track record with pitchers like Liz has been exceptional lately. Perez is more of a known quantity, and what we know isn't good, even given his closer pedigree -- via fWAR, he has been below replacement level in each of the past two seasons, and he's never had a season in which he's been a full win above replacement.
Incidentally, I passed 420 words in this article while writing this answer, which seems appropriate.
Doug.Haid: Thoughts on Neil Walker losing arbitration? With Kang and Alen Hanson on the way, will he be dealt and if so what for?
The Tony87: When Walker's contract expires with the Pirates, do you think they'll re-sign him? What if we let Pedro Alvarez depart and switch Walker to first base, what kind of contract would Walker receive? Wouldn’t he have more value as a second baseman?
Arbitrators assess player value so differently than outside analysts do that it's very difficult to figure out exactly why Walker might have gotten $8 million instead of $9 million, but I'm happy about the result, because it should help keep his salary down in 2016 as well as this year.
For those who don't know, Walker is eligible for free agency after 2016. I could see the Pirates dealing Walker next offseason, or maybe even this summer in the somewhat unlikely event that they fall out of contention. I'm not sure they need to, however. The best path at this point might be to keep him, enjoy a couple years of his late prime, and then extend him a qualifying offer after 2016 if he keeps hitting. Walker's good, but he isn't so good that a qualifying offer wouldn't put a significant dent in his market, given his age. There's also the fact that he'll likely have to move off second base at some point within the next couple years, which might further limit his market. I wouldn't be surprised if he played first or third for the Pirates in 2016. Kang, Hanson and Josh Harrison could all impact Walker's desirability to the Bucs in the next couple years, but right now it's hard to say exactly how, since Kang and Hanson are such wild cards.
Long4Willie: Beyonce or Beck?
I like both and couldn't care less about the Grammys, which are essentially a long commercial. More to the point, though (and sorry, Long4Willie, for what's about to become a vituperative response to your perfectly innocent question), most of baseball writers' core audiences don't care what they think about things that aren't baseball. I say that as someone who loves baseball writers, particularly beat writers, and respects all the work they do -- Bucs Dugout has wandered into that territory in the past couple years with David Manel at most of the home games, and I know from working with him that beat writing isn't an easy job at all.
That said, I sorted through hundreds of Grammy-related tweets by baseball writers last night, baffled that anyone who has thousands of followers because of their baseball writing would foist dozens upon dozens of half-formed opinions about music on those thousands of followers who just want to know what, say, the Royals are up to. If you wanted to know about music, you'd follow musicians or music writers, not some guy who obviously hasn't followed music since Born in the U.S.A. came out, wouldn't you? Newspaper writers, in particular, have followers primarily because they have access to teams due to their affiliations with their papers. The fact that writers use Twitter as a platform to both break serious news and to offer trivial running commentary on topics about which they know very little makes no sense. A lot of the baseball-related work beat writers do is fantastic. I'm often in awe of their abilities to tell stories and get the most out of players. But Twitter trivializes what they do. Future generations of media historians will look back upon this era with fascination and bafflement.