TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. The Pirates could go into their four game series Thursday night with the St. Louis Cardinals at worst, 5 games out of first place. The series could have huge impact on how aggressive the Pirates are in bolstering the roster. Their philosophy of looking to the future isn’t going to change as top prospects Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Josh Bell will remain off limits no matter what, but if the Pirates go into the All-Star break 2-3 games out of first, it should set them up to stay within striking distance of the Cardinals by the July 31st deadline and that’s where the temptation will surely be there to add a player or two that could push the Pirates past the Cardinals.
2. The Pirates biggest needs right now is the bench and right field. One option, though, would be to go out and get an impact starting third baseman, move Jung Ho Kang into a utility role and make Josh Harrison the starting right fielder once he returns in mid-to-late August. That said the Pirates should be aggressively looking at short-term right field options and they are.
One intriguing option is a player in the opposite clubhouse tonight. Padres outfielder Justin Upton in the final year of his deal, would provide that type of Marlon Byrd element the Pirates got in 2013.
Upton who hit 29 home runs and drove in 102 runs last season, is batting .259 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs this season. He’s currently playing in left field but has lots of experience in right, where he was primarily a right fielder until moving over to left on a full-time basis with the Braves in 2014. Upton has been poor against lefties this season, hitting .190, but batted .286 against lefties in 2014.
The Pirates had strong interest in Upton during the 2012 season and aggressively tried to acquire him that summer when he was with the Diamondbacks, so there’s been an attraction to him in the past from the Pirates brass.
3. Mark Melancon converted his 26th straight save Tuesday night with a scoreless ninth and Melancon hasn’t allowed a run in almost two months, May 11th to be exact. Melancon’s transformation as one of the games best closers, at least this season, has been something to watch. He has little of what teams often look for in a closer. He doesn’t throw in the mid-to-high 90’s, doesn’t have that fear factor about him but baseball is a results business.
What’s going to be interesting with Melancon 4-5 months from now is whether he becomes the exception when it comes to the Pirates willing to pay big money to a closer. Making $5.4 million, the season Melancon is having, he’s going to get around $8 million in arbitration next season.
4. Francisco Cervelli has hit .375 this season vs lefties but was scratched (managers decision) from the lineup Tuesday night in favor of Chris Stewart. Could that start becoming a bit more of the norm?
Cervelli has started to dip a little over the last five weeks, hitting .255 since June 1, though, he has 15 RBIs during that span, but Chris Stewart has been very good this season.
Stewart has a batting line of .302/.337/.384 on the season and is a career .297 hitter with the Pirates. Prior to joining the Pirates, Stewart was a career .214 hitter.
Remember all of the fuss about Tony Sanchez having a great spring training? The 27 year old is batting .214 in Triple-A this season.
5. When did Jim Rutherford start souring on Kasperi Kapanen?
It was during the second round of the AHL playoffs against a very good Manchester team. Training camps are often bad barometers on young players and once Rutherford watched Kapanen more closely during the AHL playoffs, his view of him as being able to have an immediate impact in the Penguins lineup as early as the 2015-2016 season quickly changed, according to sources close to the situation.
Some in the organization believe Kapanen is going to be a very good player but Rutherford started to have some pause that Kapanen was not as close as he initially believed. That made him comfortable in moving him as the main piece in the Kessel trade.