BRADENTON, Fla. — One week from today, the Pirates and the four players who remain eligible for arbitration – Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Garrett Jones – exchange their desired salary figures if they have not already agreed on a contract.
This is not a barrier, nor is it secretive. Most teams have a good idea of what their players will ask for, and agents have a sense of the team’s submission.
The exchange provides us with a better idea of what the team’s payroll will be, or at least the payroll of the players currently on the 40-man roster. If the Pirates can solve the Francisco Liriano riddle, which looks less likely as time passes, the payroll increases. If they sign another pitcher to replace Liriano, the payroll increases.
If the Pirates don’t sign Liriano – which, it stands to reason, will happen if Liriano does not agree to a re-negotiated contract, likely for less money – I still expect the Pirates to trade for or sign another starting pitcher. They have compiled depth in case of injury with Zach Stewart, Vin Mazzaro, Jeanmar Gomez and Andrew Oliver, but all of those options carry risk. Their lineup remains mostly intact from last year, and it showed that when firing on all cylinders – not a given – it can contend in the NL Central. To do so, though, the pitching must match.
In today's Post-Gazette: Recent additions search for opportunity.
Mini-camp ends today, and some of the players started heading home Thursday. The week-long camp hosted a good portion of the 40-man roster as well as some who are not on it (including Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole), the major league staff and minor league coordinators, the front office and the scouting staff. The coaching staff played paintball Thursday; no word yet on the winners and losers. Unfortunately, the mini-camp doesn’t tell us much about position battles, or the readiness or talent level of the roster. At least I got the jump on bad spring training Twitter pictures with a dark, long-range, out-of-focus shot of Charlie Morton throwing long toss. It looked better on the iPhone.
Some information gathered this week will roll out as we move closer to spring training. I will try to host a chat next Tuesday to recap the winter and move us forward toward the spring.
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