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Ask Bucs Dugout: Should the Pirates extend Francisco Cervelli?

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

Pat_Meares: Would you look to extend Francisco Cervelli in the offseason?

It wouldn't hurt to ask him what it would take, but probably not. The Pirates control Cervelli for 2016 in what will be his age-30 season, and they shouldn't be in any rush to go further than that. Aging patterns for catchers are brutal, and Cervelli has already had hand, hamstring and concussion issues in his career. And if there's any position besides pitcher where the Pirates are capable of finding cheap, effective talent, it's catcher.

In fact, the series of decisions that brought Cervelli to Pittsburgh might demonstrate why the Pirates shouldn't extend him. Last year at this time, we were asking whether the Bucs should extend Russell Martin. They didn't, and that's worked out just fine. Martin is having a good season in Toronto, but he hasn't been nearly as strong as he was in 2014, either offensively or behind the plate, and the Jays will have him on their payroll for four more years. The Pirates ought to try to find the next Cervelli (whether that's Elias Diaz or someone else), rather than extending the one they have.

IAPHDBuccosFan: What do you see as the future for Chris Stewart? The reason I ask is because he has kind of become Gerrit Cole's personal catcher. Do you see the Pirates as being the type of team to keep Stewart around to please Cole, or do you see them parting ways in the future to bring up the catching prospects in the farm system?

The Pirates will likely keep Stewart because he's effective and cheap, and I don't think Cole has much to do with it. The $2 million or so Stewart is set to make next year is nothing for a catcher with his framing ability. Also, the only prospect who's really relevant to the discussion is Diaz. Tony Sanchez might come off the 40-man roster at some point in the near future, and Reese McGuire and Jin-De Jhang are both a couple years away. Diaz has two options left, so my guess is that the Pirates will go with Cervelli and Stewart next year, with Diaz waiting at Indianapolis. Cervelli and Stewart will both be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, which will set Diaz up to become the starting catcher in 2017.

Dan H: Who do you see getting the majority of the Pirates’ plate appearances at first base in 2016? Josh Bell? Pedro / Walker? Someone else? Outside acquisition?

There are a few interesting options. I think Joshua Choudhury is working on an article about Alvarez and Walker, so I'll save some of that for him, but I think it's unlikely the Pirates will retain Alvarez. His offense is good, but not good enough to offset his defense, particularly given that he won't be cheap. The Bucs probably won't want to promote Bell until at least June. Until they do, I like the idea of using Walker at first against righties as a way of improving the Bucs' infield defense and clearing space for Josh Harrison and Jung-Ho Kang. Michael Morse, who's under contract in 2016, could potentially play first against lefties. That would leave the Pirates' infield a bit thin, but it would only be temporary.

There will be full-time options available this winter, but only a couple. Adam Lind, who's eligible for free agency after 2016, would be a good patchwork solution if the Pirates can convince the Brewers to trade him. And, of course, there's Byung-Ho Park, who I would think the Bucs would consider. Unfortunately, Kang's success might knock Park out of the Pirates' price range, and he'd also block Bell in the long term.

SammyKhalifa: In the June draft, does it really matter if you draft 11th or 28th?

Maybe not every year, and maybe not in every situation, but generally, sure. For example, last year, the Hardball Times found that a pick in the 11-15 range had a 23 percent chance of producing 10 or more WAR before free agency and a 41 percent chance of 3 or more WAR, while a pick in the 21-30 range was about half as likely to produce those values. There are seasons like 2009 (when the Pirates picked Tony Sanchez no. 4 overall) where there doesn't appear to be a huge difference between, say, picking fourth overall and picking 20th. But if you want to see a draft where it made a big difference whether you picked 11th or 28th, look at 2005. The Bucs got Andrew McCutchen at No. 11, and at No. 28, the Cardinals got ... well, actually, they did get a good player in Colby Rasmus, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza also went in that range. But you can see that there was a big gap between picking 11th that year and having to wait until even a few picks later.