Thanks, everyone, for your questions. Here's the second round of answers.
EasternPABucsFan: Commentators last night on MLB Network were suggesting that the Pirates pick up Ian Desmond and it would be a good fit. I totally disagree. Thoughts?
First, as I'm sure you realize, that's never going to happen. Even as a hypothetical, though, I'm mostly with you. Jordy Mercer sometimes gets a pass with Pirates fans that he hasn't yet proven he deserves, but I'm not sure Desmond is the answer. First, he would cost the Bucs their top draft pick (which is now up to No. 23 overall, thanks to the Orioles' signing of Yovani Gallardo). Also, his recent performance has been worrisome. Desmond was a four-win player in 2012 through 2014, but even in 2014, he suffered a huge increase in his strikeout rate, and that continued to rise last year. He could once be depended on to hit .270 or .280 in any given year, but if he's striking out close to 30 percent of the time, those sorts of averages seem very unlikely going forward. He still has power, and he's a decent defender, but at age 30, I'm not sure he's worth a significant investment, especially with the loss of a draft pick. He's better than Mercer, but not by as much as one might think.
PittsburghFanatic1933: With the emergence of young bucks Elias Diaz and Reese McGuire, will this be Francisco Cervelli’s last season in a Pirates uniform?
It looks that way, particularly after the Pirates extended Chris Stewart. Cervelli also has said he and the Pirates didn't discuss an extension this winter. It's not impossible the Bucs could still extend Cervelli and then treat Diaz as a trade piece, but I doubt it. The plan, then, seems to be for Stewart to back up Diaz in 2017. That sounds like a downgrade, but then again, that's what we thought about the Bucs going from Russell Martin to Cervelli.
SaberBall: With the rest of the industry catching up to, or becoming aware of, some of the Pirates’ advances (defensive shifts, pitching inside, catcher framing, etc.), what sector of the game do you see the Pirates next finding a market inefficiency?
If I knew that, I'd probably be employed by a team somewhere, but I'll mention something here that I've mentioned before -- I wonder whether the Pirates might be trying to glean an advantage by drafting or otherwise acquiring players who are smart. I've been startled by how sharp a lot of current Pirates minor leaguers are (including recent early-round draftees like Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman and Connor Joe, the selections of whom many Pirates fans approached with skepticism). From talking to minor league coaches, it's clear that an extremely underrated aspect of prospect development, especially at the lower levels, is having players who are willing to listen and capable of implementing changes to their games. Low-level minor league coaches don't take that sort of thing for granted at all. It's probably especially true that intelligence is important now that the Pirates' strategy at the big league level involves strategies that can seem counterintuitive to players and that require a high degree of collaboration between players, coaches and the front office.
PedroPower: Do either Chad Kuhl or Steven Brault make more than three big-league starts this year?
I doubt it. The depth the Pirates have to start the year isn't great (as you can tell when you hear Ray Searage mentioning Kyle Lobstein and Wilfredo Boscan at every opportunity). But it's hard to see Kuhl or Brault getting starts in the first half of the season, and when the second half rolls around, the Pirates will have Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon available. There's also Trevor Williams, whose level of experience is similar to that of Kuhl and Brault. Neither Kuhl nor Brault have significant experience at Triple-A yet, and I don't think the Pirates will have much reason to rush them to the big leagues.