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Pittsburgh Pirates offseason Q&A: Part two

Thanks for the submissions!

Pittsburgh Pirates v. Cincinnati Reds Photo by Aaron Doster/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Hey everyone! Time for part two of this little Q&A I’m doing. Loads of good questions to get to.

“Do you think any position other than shortstop is being discussed for or with Oneil Cruz?” - Ernie H

Nope, he’s a shortstop until he proves that he isn’t, and he hasn’t proved that he isn’t yet. Even coming off the injury, that’s not a conversation they’ll even think about having until they see how it goes in MLB games over an extended period and he’d have to be pretty dang bad or re-injure that same ankle for them to have that conversation.

I was very encouraged by the work he was doing this past spring with infield coach Mendy Lopez where he worked on how he moves his feet to set up for throws quite a bit. I think the team felt there was a lot of progress made.

“What do you do with Andujar?” - fhm_machinist on Twitter

I would non-tender him, and I think this is what the team is going to do also. I know some of you believe in this guy, but let's just take a step back and examine his place on this roster.

He’s not an option at first. If the team saw him as one, he would have gotten into an MLB game at first base for them by now. He’s just dreadful defensively anywhere you put him. The little run he had at the end of the season was nice, but being decent in 90 PAs isn’t doing it for me when he’s been largely awful and injury riddled the last five years.

You could maybe sell me that there is something there with the bat. There’s not a lot of swing and miss in his game — the bat to ball skills are there — but he also swings at a ton of pitches he should be laying off of, and he doesn’t get a whole lot of lift on the ball like he was when he had success in 2018.

Even if you do believe in him, his role is already occupied and then some by multiple players who have given you more to be confident in. He’d have to beat those guys out for MLB playing time. Are they really going to pay $1.5-1.7 million in arbitration money to a backup designated hitter/fifth outfielder again?

Maybe they tender him and give him a shot in camp, but if he doesn’t make the team, it could cost them a couple of million. What the guy really needs is consistent MLB playing time, and I don’t see an easy path to that here out of the gate.

Trevor Bauer? - multiple

Look, I’m not going to get into a case as complex as this one because I’m not a lawyer, I can’t tell you what any of the cases he’s settled or the cases he still has pending really mean. I will say that I don’t think a five-minute YouTube video posted by Bauer necessarily proves or disproves anything beyond a shadow of a doubt, and yes, I did watch it.

What I do know is this. His behavior on social media and interactions with fans frequently became childish and toxic, people have talked about him as a clubhouse cancer for years, he hasn’t pitched in an MLB game since June 28th in 2021, and he’ll be 33 by opening day of 2024.

This has so much potential to blow up in their face in so many different ways. I wouldn’t sign him, and I don’t think the team is willing to take that risk either.

Do they have a shot/will they sign anyone from Japan or Korea? - multiple

It’s fun to dream about this sort of stuff, but no, I doubt it.

Starting with Korea, they did sign Jung-Ho Kang, but he was signed to an $11 million deal. A middle infielder coming off the kind of seasons he had in the KBO would take significantly more money to sign today. It’s a different market now.

The last time they signed anyone directly from Japan was then 38-year-old Masumi Kuwata in December of 2006, who had barely pitched at all the year prior and did not go through the posting process.

Kodai Senga signed without fee this past offseason, as he had reached the nine years required in NPB to become an international free agent to avoid posting. For players that do require them, fees can easily run into eight figures. The Boston Red Sox had to pay $15.4 million to the Orix Buffalos to sign Masataka Yoshida, on top of the $90 million they agreed to pay Yoshida. They can and have run higher than that too.

Here’s how it works. Once a player is officially announced as posted by the office of the commissioner, said player has 45 days to negotiate a contract with any MLB team. Posting fees are currently based on the amount of guaranteed money in the contract signed. Fees are structured as follows:

20 percent of the first $25 million, 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any additional money on a contract worth more than $50 million.

So, when the Red Sox signed Yoshida to a $90 million dollar contract, they paid $5 million, plus $4.375 million, plus $6 million. Giving you the roughly $15.4 million dollar posting fee.

Japanese pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Shota Imanaga and Korean center fielder Jung-Hoo Lee will all be going through the posting system this offseason. So not only will the Pirates have to outbid other teams, they have to be willing to pay the posting fee.

They did send a scout to watch Yamamoto pitch this season, but I wouldn’t put too much faith in that sort of thing. Most teams have international scouts all over the world. Scouts evaluate players, it’s kind of their job. Maybe they make a run at Imanaga, maybe.

“You’ve been very vocal about Ortiz’s issues this season. Do you still have faith he can become a good SP?” - Nick Cammuso on Twitter

Like everyone else, I was wowed by the raw stuff he displayed at the end of 2022. A four-seam fastball that can hit triple digits with crazy run in towards a right hander and away from a lefty? A slider that flashes plus plus? Yes, please. Obviously, there was work to be done. He needed a real third offering and the control left a lot to be desired.

But he came out this year showcasing less velocity, worse stuff and the same exact control issues. He had some of the worst hard contact rates in baseball, and the swing and miss just wasn’t there. He didn’t look any better working out of the pen either. What happened? I’m not sure.

The team felt he wasn’t applying himself as well he could. It played into his mid-season demotion. That could mean any number of things. I don’t have specifics there, just that I was told at the time that the demotion wasn’t entirely performance based.

I’ll give him that I think the change up improved massively. It went from kind of a joke offering at the beginning of the year to looking just nasty at times down the stretch.

I think he needs that extra velocity and stuff back to be successful. He’s still in the mix for one of the last rotation spots this spring, but faith is a strong word.

“How would you split catcher reps between Davis, Rodriguez, and Delay going forward?” - Logan on Twitter

I wouldn’t. Not that I think the ship on Henry Davis at catcher has totally sailed, but the sails are being unfurled.

He should have gotten the chance to catch this season in MLB, but for whatever reason, the chance didn’t come. His catching skills are dubious at best, but the bat took off this year and got him promoted to MLB.

His movements are loud, his framing is really bad, and his hands are practically made of stone back there. He sometimes has trouble just simply catching pitches.

They drafted him for his bat, and he had so little time in MiLB to learn how to play the most complicated position on the field to play. I’m not surprised that side of his game is in the state that it's in.

They asked him to adjust to a new level of play, learn a new position and keep working on his catching all at the same time. There are all kinds of advanced meetings for catchers, and Henry was involved in all of them. Henry is a workaholic, but it got to a point where I think he got overwhelmed whether he felt that way or not.

He probably has a better chance of being a passable right fielder than he does of becoming a decent catcher. Endy’s catching is significantly more advanced, and he has a lot to work on to.

Maybe ABS comes in a few years and mitigates one of his major shortcomings. What matters most is that Davis hits like he is capable of hitting at this level, I would like for that to be the sole focus.

All right, that wraps it up. Thank you for all of your questions! I couldn’t have possibly hoped to answer everything that was submitted, so hopefully we can do this again sometime soon.