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Rule 5 Musings

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Cleveland Indians
Tick tock.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Oh, Ashton Goudreau, we hardly knew ye.

The Pirates picked up the young right-hander off waivers from the Colorado Rockies on November twenty-sixth, only to place him on waivers themselves on Monday. Goudreau wasn’t out there for long, getting pretty promptly scooped up by the Baltimore Orioles a few hours later.

With Goudreau’s departure, that brings the Bucs’ current roster number to thirty-eight, since infielder Will Craig was DFA’d, then outrighted to AAA Indianapolis. It is now practically a certainty that Ben Cherington is planning to pick up someone in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. A hundred thousand dollars and a roster space is a small price to pay, even for Bob Nutting.

Will the Rule 5 pickup necessarily be a pitcher, though? My colleague Robert Kelley outlined Cherington’s plans for the 2021 Pirates bullpen yesterday, and pitching gets you at the very least to the postseason, but the Bucs have other needs—namely, more outfield depth and something other than patchwork at catcher.

Gregory Polanco, the Pirates’ 2020 problem child, is not having the best winter ball season right now. Through Sunday with nine games played, he’s gone 4-for-37 with two walks and eight strikeouts, albeit with two homers. Oneil Cruz has only played in three games, going 3-for-13, but under his personal circumstances and his lack of playing time last year, some slack should be cut. There should definitely be hope that Polanco will bounce back and that Cruz will improve as his at-bats add up—and plans to strengthen the outfield should that not happen. Cole Tucker looks to have been only an experiment out there, and with Adam Frazier the most likely to be on the move and Kevin Newman poised to take his place, the Pirates will need Tucker at least as a stopgap at shortstop.

I still like the idea of Cherington using the Rule 5 pick for the Cardinals’ AAA catcher, Julio E. Rodriguez. Jacob Stallings’s performance was one of the few highlights of the 2020 season, but he’s 31 now (or will be on the twenty-second) and it’s hard to tell from this vantage point if last season was a fluke. Michael Perez (not to be confused with Michael Feliz like I did last week, oops) is an unknown quantity as well. Cherington can play patchwork with the pitching staff, but not so much with position players, particularly the ones who work most closely with pitchers.

As everything is right now, it’s all speculation. I don’t think Ben Cherington’s going to be doing a major amount of wheeling and dealing, but he’s not going to sit quietly behind his monitor, either.