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Pirates’ roster appears mostly set

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

With pitchers and catchers now less than a week away, the Pirates’ roster appears largely set apart from some battles around the edges. That’s assuming no significant acquisitions, of course, but the Pirates appear content to do no more than tinker around the edges of the roster. So here’s a look at where the roster may stand right now.

Starting Eight

The starting eight looks like:

C: Francisco Cervelli
1B: Josh Bell
2B: Adam Frazier
3B: Colin Moran/Jung-Ho Kang
SS: Erik Gonzalez/Kevin Newman
LF: Corey Dickerson
CF: Starling Marte
RF: Lonnie Chisenhall

Moran and Kang will probably start off in a platoon, but Moran could start losing playing time if he plays as poorly as he did last year and if Kang recovers from his long layoff. Gonzalez and Newman appear set to battle for time. The one variable is a possible platoon partner for Chisenhall.

Bench

The bench is a bit less set, with perhaps just three players being locks at this point:

Elias Diaz
Kang/Moran
Newman/Gonzalez

You’d have to think Pablo Reyes is at least a near-lock for a spot and might be a candidate to platoon in right. If so, a lot of players could battle for the fifth bench spot, although it’s possible there won’t be a spot to battle for. That’ll depend on whether the team decides to indulge Clint Hurdle’s fetish for managing the bullpen or Neal Huntington’s fetish for preserving marginal assets. They could carry eight relievers, or “only eight relievers,” as Hurdle probably sees it. Or they could carry Jacob Stallings, who’s out of options, as a third catcher. Considering that the Pirates lost three upper level catchers (Ryan Lavarnway, Jin-De Jhang and Jackson Williams) and added only one (the good-glove, no-bat Steve Baron), they may need to hang onto Stallings unless they sign another catcher.

Assuming, though, that there’ll be a fifth bench spot, these guys could compete for it:

Jose Osuna
Kevin Kramer
Nick Franklin
J.B. Shuck
Patrick Kivlehan

The most logical piece would be a right-handed hitting outfielder who can also play first. The team needs a backup at first other than Cervelli and Chisenhall (who’s played exactly 77.1 innings there each in the majors and minors), and possibly a platoon partner for Chisenhall. That would favor Osuna or Kivlehan (who can also play third). Shuck, however, has an ominous level of veteranosity and has played a lot in center, and the Pirates have never been averse to bench players who can’t hit.

Rotation

The starting rotation appears set, absent injuries or a poor spring showing by Jordan Lyles:

Jameson Taillon
Chris Archer
Trevor Williams
Joe Musgrove
Jordan Lyles

The fallbacks at this point are Nick Kingham and Steven Brault, which doesn’t seem like enough.

Bullpen

Five bullpen spots are easy, with Kingham out of options:

Felipe Vazquez
Keone Kela
Richard Rodriguez
Kyle Crick
Kingham

The last two or three spots are wide open and may depend heavily on how the veterans who’ve been invited to camp look in the spring. The possibilities are extensive:

Brault
Nick Burdi
Dovydas Neverauskas
Michael Feliz
Tyler Lyons
Brandon Maurer
Francisco Liriano
Nik Turley

Burdi has to spend the first two months of the season in the majors for the Pirates to retain him. It’s possible, though, that they could work a trade with the Twins. If they don’t keep him, he’s unlikely to get through waivers — there’s a reason the Pirates effectively had to trade up to get him in the Rule 5 draft — so the Twins are unlikely to get him back. Lots of teams are in a position to carry a talented pitcher for two months, so the Pirates have some leverage over the Twins.

Of the three recently signed veterans, Liriano and Maurer have opt-out clauses; that possibility hasn’t been reported one way or the other with Lyons. Feliz, Neverauskas and Brault all have options, and Turley is on a minor league deal with (as far as I know) no opt-out, which won’t help their cases. The last bullpen spots may come down to whether one of the veteran lefties looks better than Brault and whether Maurer can beat out Burdi.