Poll: The Pirates' biggest offseason priority should be: Relief pitching (0%) Starting pitching (83%) Catcher (17%)
Bill Brink: Welcome to the final chat of the season.
Mark C.: Have you gotten any word yet on any players the Pirates might be targeting this offseason via trade or FA?
Bill Brink: Not many specifics yet, but pitching -- both starters and relievers -- and a catcher seem to be atop the list. They're open to bringing back Rod Barajas, but they'll look around. It's sounding more and more like they'll non-tender Jeff Karstens, so they'll look to sign or trade for a starter.
Ken: Do any players work with Hurdle in Pittsburgh in the off season at the ball park? Is there an indoor htting cage?
Bill Brink: There is an indoor batting cage, but players don't work out at the ballpark in Pittsburgh. McKenry worked with Hurdle during instructional league play last year. Most players have an indoor facility near their offseason home, or live in warm enough weather that they can work outside.
jayhawk67: Starting rotation for next year?
Bill Brink: Burnett, Rodriguez, [free agent/trade], McDonald, McPherson.
Mark C.: Can you honestly envision a scenario where the Pirates start the season with Michael McKenry as the starting catcher?
Bill Brink: I could, because I watched the PIrates run Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas out there in 2011, but I don't think the Pirates would settle for that as a best-case scenario.
Assuming the Pirates don't accelerate Tony Sanchez before he's ready, they'll have to look outside the organization for a No. 1 catcher and I expect them to be aggressive in that search based on what they've said and what I've heard. But, good catchers are hard to come by and we know they won't overpay to lure one to Pittsburgh, so they may end up with McKenry playing 100 games.
Bill Brink: Kinda sparse on questions, I guess the way the season ended isn't conducive to talking Pirates? Although as I found out the hard way running this morning because of the cold weather it is definitely football season...
Mark C.: Has Bob ever officially came out in support of Frank Coonelly's statement that the entire management team will be reatianed? Has he came out in support of Coonelly himself?
Bill Brink: No and no, and that's a good point. Nutting could fire Coonelly at a moment's notice, or overrule him and fire members of the front office. Nutting would then have to honor the rest of those contracts and find (and pay) a new GM, who then has to pick his assistants, scouts, player development staff and manager. The manager then picks his coaching staff.
The further we get from the end of the season, the more I find this unlikely. This process takes time, and will hamper the team's ability to sign free agents and make trades this offseason. But nothing surprises me with this team.
jayhawk67: I like Jeff Karstens I think it would be a mistake to let him go. Your thoughts?
Bill Brink: Karstens made $3.1 million in a season that he missed good portion of due to two different injuries. He will get a raise this season based on service time. He is an effective starter when healthy but they may be worried about the combination of escalating salary (in a year where Walker, Jones, McDonald and Hanrahan will all get big raises) and injury risks. I can understand those concerns, so while from a skill standpoint it may not make sense the reasoning stems from a return-on-investment and injury standpoint.
KK: Russel Martin in Pittsburgh?
Bill Brink: He made $7.5 million this season and is entering free agency. The market will probably allow him to sign for more than the Pirates will pay, and if the Yankees, a contender every year, want him back, he will probably choose to go back.
Will: How disappointed is the team with Tabata? What a fall off. Will he get another serious look? I noticed yet another negative with him last month--clowning around after surprising himself with a decent catch.
Bill Brink: The team was plenty disappointed with Tabata. He didn't hustle, misplayed balls in the outfield and had poor at-bats. He looked like a different player when he came back up, though, so he will likely earn a chance in the unmitigated mess that is the Pirates' corner outfield situation.
JamesinNYC: Has the Best Front Office in Baseball been evaluated by ownership already? Or is it a given that Huntingdon and the rest come back?
Bill Brink: It looks increasingly likely that Huntington will not be fired. Nutting has not weighed in, but I don't believe Coonelly backs the baseball ops guys without clearing it with Nutting first. The evaluation, though, is ongoing. The brain trust is in Bradenton as we speak meeting to discuss the season.
JamesinNYC: Rod Barajas should not have been the everyday catcher but was, at best he should have caught Burnett and Rodriguez. I got to listen to a lot of out of town announcers and they all ripped Rod for basically closing his eyes and swinging as hard as possible. What couldn't the manager of the PBC see that everyone else could?
Bill Brink: We asked Hurdle about this in Chicago: Basically, at what point do you cut your losses with Barajas? He said the Pirates' internal studies of pitcher-catcher stats showed Burnett and Rodriguez did much better with Barajas than McKenry, and that took precedence over his lack of offense. Why he continued to catch the other pitchers remains a mystery.
Mark C.: Might sound funny, but could you see the Pirates talking to Melky Cabrera in the offseason? Could be a 1 year kind of deal where he attempts to re-establish himself in the market.
Bill Brink: I don't think so for two reasons: He will probably get a better deal somewhere else, despite the testosterone suspension. The negative publicity might not be something the Pirates invite given the negative view of the front office by most of the fans. To their credit, the Pirates don't make decisions on what other people think, so I wouldn't rule it out, but I find it unlikely.
Bill Brink: What else we got? Last chat of the season! Until the winter meetings, at which point I'll be so hopped up on caffeine and Nashville country music I may not make any sense.
Bill Brink: That's assuming I currently make any sense.
Mark C.: How many do you think the Pirates win next season, never too early for a prediction...
Bill Brink: I predicted 75-87 before this season and I'm sticking with that for 2013.
JamesinNYC: Will you do another chat around winter meetings?
Bill Brink: Yes. Maybe around lunchtime after the Rule 5 draft Thursday so I don't have to interrupt the chat to cover the Pirates signing Josh Hamilton or something.
Norman: Bill, do you think MLB has become like the NHL in terms of its post season--that is, no reason to watch if your team's not involved?
Bill Brink: I'm probably a bad person to ask on that, because I watch both the NHL and MLB playoffs if my team isn't involved, I love both. Still say the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best postseason (tied with March Madness). But it can be tough to stay up for the long games, and some people may not want to follow players they know nothing about because they play on the opposite coast.
pghfaninstl: Hey, Bill. I may have missed this earlier, but what is Walker's current condition? Will he need surgery on his back?
Bill Brink: He told me before the season ended that surgery was a very remote possibility. He has a herniated disc, and those heal with a combination of rest and strengthening the muscles in the core (abs, obliques, back, hips, quads/hamstrings). Trying to come back and play on it prevented the disc from healing. He should be good to go for spring, but these issues can linger, so we will have to watch it his entire career.
Mark C.: Did you see the article in the Boston Globe Sunday that had the Pirates connected to Josh Hamilton? Now that would be a story ...
Bill Brink: I did. I have to disagree, I don't think the Pirates are in play.
Jim in VT: Has the FO given any indication as to the financial ceiling for free agents this winter?
Bill Brink: They haven't, and usually don't do so publicly, but we get a better idea from conversations after the non-tender date what their commitments are and how much they might have to spend. That takes place at the end of November.
KK: Sign Chase Headley, move Pedro to 1st. What do you think?
Bill Brink: Gonna have to trade for Headley, and the Padres' asking price was high enough at the deadline that they didn't move him. I don't see the Pirates paying the prospects for him.
BillL: Is Josh Harrison playing in the Dominican? I think he's the perfect candidate. Just raise the batting average and you have an ideal player off the bench. Great hustle this year.
RE: Will the Pirates stand pat with Barmes at SS in 2013? If so, ugh.
Bill Brink: He's the starting shortstop.
Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.
Hal: Lennon or McCartney?
Bill Brink: Paul.
TW: Hitting coach for 2013 - within or outside?
Bill Brink: Outside.
Mark C.: Francisco Liriano as the number 3 starter?
Bill Brink: Nope, too expensive in first free-agent year.
Bill Brink: Also, please send me Q and A questions that I can answer on the PBC Blog. They can be about the Pirates or baseball in general. If you include your name and hometown I'm able to publish them, so make sure to do so.
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