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Ask BD: Should the Pirates exceed their international pool?

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks, everyone, for the questions, and keep them coming.

WheelingWVBucksfan: What kind of future do you see for Pedro Alvarez?

Right now, obviously, he's still on the free agent market, which surely says something about the way teams see him, but not everything. He's hardly the only established big-leaguer still available, and anyway, one of the problems he currently faces (in addition to the problems with his game, which have been chronicled extensively here) is that there just aren't a lot of good fits for him in the American League. That is, his extended stay on the market probably isn't entirely due to how his ability is perceived. In the next month or so, he'll land somewhere, and his power should continue to tempt teams for the next couple years. Still, it's hard to see a great future for him past age 30, due to his defense and his issues making contact.

Joe9195: In the past, the Bucs flaunted MLB's guidelines for draft pools. Why do they seem reluctant to do so for the international pool?

That's a great question. Rene Gayo prides himself on finding talent in hard-to-reach areas, and talent that doesn't necessarily cost a fortune. He's shown that he's pretty good at it, too. But there's no reason you can't do that and pursue the higher-profile guys.

And of course, one of the main penalties for blowing past your pool allotment in one year is that you can't sign anyone for more than $300,000 the next two years. There's also a tax, but that's it. Given Gayo's preferred M.O., then, it would make a ton of sense for the Pirates to pick a year to go nuts on high-profile players, then let Gayo do his thing with lower-profile guys the next two years. Other teams, including the Cubs, have shown a willingness to throw caution to the wind, signing many of the top talents while exceeding their pool. Their current top prospect, Gleyber Torres, is a product of a huge 2013 spending spree where they spent big money in terms of the international amateur maret but didn't generally pay a ton in comparison to what MLB talent costs. There's no obvious reason the Pirates shouldn't be doing what the Cubs did, since, unlike with the draft, the penalties for exceeding your pool aren't severe. It's weird that they've never tried it and it's rarely discussed. It is possible that they're just waiting for the right time to do it.

Joey Mooney: Will we have any posts on how the Pirates look this spring and anyone down there covering them from Bucs Dugout?

I plan on watching many of the game broadcasts, but I'm not going to be in Bradenton. Wilbur often heads down there, but I haven't talked to him about it yet.

FrankRestly: Who will pitch the most innings for the Pirates major league team this year, Ryan Vogelsong, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow or Nick Kingham?

Glasnow. Taillon and Kingham are returning from injury, and I'd be surprised if an older, past-his-prime player like Vogelsong stayed healthy and effective the whole year.

PedroPower: Why should Michael Morse have a roster spot on this team? He seems redundant with Jason Rogers, who projects better, and if Matt Joyce plays well I really don’t see room for him.

Morse and Rogers' skill sets overlap to a great degree, and you're right -- especially if Joyce makes the team, there's no room for both of them. I too prefer Rogers, but he's optionable, and Morse isn't. Since neither one of them would be an everyday player, and the difference between them doesn't project to be huge, I can understand keeping Morse on the bench and using Rogers as depth. There's also the fact that the Pirates seem to prefer veterans for bench spots, which -- it is what it is.

PedroPower: Who gets the last spot in the bullpen, assuming the first six are filled by Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Juan Nicasio, Jared Hughes, Arquimedes Caminero and Neftali Feliz?

My guess is Rob Scahill, who has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster. It could easily be a surprise pitcher, though, particularly if one of the five potential lefty relievers in camp on an NRI does especially well. There's also the possibility that someone gets hurt, or Nicasio is needed in the rotation, and the Pirates have more than one opening.

Yung-Han: Will we have two 100-game losers this year in the NL? Does that mean the Pirates will have to win 90+ again to get even a have chance at the Wild Card?

I'm uncomfortable projecting that any single team will lose 100 games, but there are six teams in the NL this year (the Braves, Phillies, Brewers, Reds, Rockies and Padres) that could be very bad, and yes, that should make more wins than usual available to the contenders. For it to take 90-plus wins to get a Wild Card spot, three non-division winners would have to get at least 89 wins. That seems unlikely, but not impossible -- the 2013 Rangers, for example, won 91 games and missed the playoffs after losing a play-in game. Probably the most likely scenario in which that would occur in the NL this year is if one of the bad teams becomes a 2013-Astros-level disaster and dumps 15 more wins than expected to the rest of the field.