Insider Only Daily 5: Neil Walker could solve one issue for Pirates; On talk of Russian winger for Malkin; Anisimov for Perron?


*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*

1. A major discussion in Pirate circles from now until the deadline is whether they go out and make that major move that can put them over the top. Neal Huntington’s philosophy is never going to change, don’t kill your system for one potential playoff run, basically don’t take the risk the Oakland A’s did last summer.
Despite the Pirates play for David Price and Jon Lester last summer, they never put Austin Meadows, Josh Bell or Tlyer Glasnow in play and those three will be off-limits once again but should they or even a Gregory Polanaco be considered for the right deal?
The Pirates have the system where they can realistically go out and get anybody they wanted that’s available and financially they could afford a $20 million a year player if they wanted. Giving up the farm for a rental like Johnny Cueto makes zero sense but what they need to do is identify players with control over the next three to four years that can be major game changers with this current core. That’s where the willingness should be to put a key asset into play they normally would be against it.
You might only have Andrew McCutchen for three more years, Gerrit Cole for four more years.
Pitchers who fit the profile are likes of Cole Hamels, Chris Sale.

Neil-Walker-388x2582. What is the Pirates biggest need for this season? Adding a 4th outfielder will be a priority going into the deadline but no matter the position, what the Pirates could use is another professional hitter. Not someone who smashes 30+ home runs but hits .235, a Marlon Byrd type of hitter/move from 2013 is what they could use to solidify the lineup. What’s interesting is the Pirates have that player on the roster in Neil Walker. If Walker can get going in the second half, problem solved.

beachum3. There is becoming less and less optimism that the Steelers, starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum will be able to find common ground on a new contract between now and start of season. The Steelers plan to try to work out an extension prior to camp, but a year away from unrestricted free agency, Beachum is putting himself in position to be a $9-$10 million a year tackle. The franchise tag this season was $12.9 million.
Steelers coaches love Beachum but don’t think the front office will have the stomach to meet Beachum’s expected market price. That said, this is the first time in years Ben Roethlisberger has actually had some stability at the left tackle position and when you just gave your QB another $100 million contract, you find a way to get it done and do what’s possible. Beachum is more important to sign than many realize.
Will be interesting to see how this plays out as the Steelers have some big time players to take care of between now and the 2016 season.
Cam Heyward will be getting paid this summer, a deal that will likely be at least 5 years, $50 million, David DeCastro, Le’Veon Bell are going to get big time deals next summer, especially Bell, and Antonio Brown will likely put more pressure on the franchise next summer to re-do his deal.

anisimob4. The talk of the Penguins wanting a Russian winger for Evgeni Malkin has been out there for months.
Jason Mackey of the Trib wrote a column today arguing that finding a Russian to pair with Malkin makes sense. I will respectfully disagree.
Simply put, wanting to get Malkin a Russian winger is silly, just as David Morehouse and others in the organization feeling the need to have a local player on the roster.
Malkin is no longer 20 years old. He is pushing 30 years old, been in the United States for almost 10 years, he doesn’t need Sergei Gonchar holding his hand and teaching him the ropes of life in America like when he was a young player.
This talk of bringing Gonchar on board even in a front office role isn’t going to change things in that Penguins room or make Malkin perform better in the playoffs. Having Bill Guerin involved this past season didn’t work out as players and coaches were annoyed with front office members being around, taking players to the side, and so on before games when it’s normally coach/players time.
Guerin will now be seen less in that role this coming season after the feedback from players wasn’t positive when Jim Rutherford conducted his end of the season meetings with players.
What’s interesting is last summer the Penguins didn’t pick Malkin’s mind on what he wanted, never consulted with him on them trading his best friend away, suddenly this summer they feel it’s important to make him comfortable and happy.
Malkin was best friends with James Neal and did everything together off the ice. Neal is Canadian by the way. Getting Malkin a Russian teammate isn’t important to him, despite the Penguins thinking.
The Penguins focus should be identifying players whose style will mesh well with Malkin not where they’re from. If there’s a player who happens to be Russian that fits then okay, but going out of their way to add a Russian player for the sake of adding a Russian player to make Malkin happy off the ice isn’t smart management.
Apparently, though, the Penguins feel Malkin needs someone he can relate to for him him to buy into a more defensive role?
[“The Penguins will pay to get Malkin a winger he can skate alongside, joke with and relate to. Should that relationship work, the Penguins’ hope is that Malkin will be willing and able to assume more responsibilities defensively, much like Sidney Crosby did this past season.” — Tribune-Review]
Okay then.

5. Malkin’s supporting cast (linemates) has not been the issue in recent years, that’s a myth the Malkin crowd likes to put out there. It’s just now the Penguins are back to square one in finding the right fits for Malkin that Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis are aging, not ideal top-6 players anymore, and Patric Hornqvist is a better fit with Sidney Crosby.
Malkin ended the 2011-2012 season with Steve Sullivan, James Neal as his wingers, 2013 lockout shortened season with Jarome Iginla, James Neal on his wing, and the 2013-2014 season with Jussi Jokinen, James Neal. In the salary cap era, you’re not going to do much better in constructing a second line when your drafts have been horrible at the forward position.
In the past they were able to put some pretty good talent around Malkin on the second line come playoff time because of Kunitz/Dupuis overachieving and being ideal fits with Crosby.
This has David Perron being heavy discussed in internal meetings this summer. The Penguins love the skill set and are intrigued of a top line of Perron – Crosby – Hornqvist, but some in the organization feel Perron is the piece to get a different type of winger/forward to play with Malkin and go with the Penguins style of having two-way players.

There continues be lots of rumblings around the league of there being a deal to be made between the Penguins and Blue Jackets with David Perron going to Columbus and Artem Anisimov to Pittsburgh who the Penguins could play on Malkin’s wing or anchor the third line center spot.
A player like Anisimov on Malkin’s line is intriguing from the standpoint that Malkin could focus less on his defensive role. The Penguins are never going to get Malkin to transform into Anze Kopitar like they want him to.
If that’s the type of center they want behind Crosby, then go trade Malkin for Patrice Bergeron or David Backes.
The Penguins have approached the Malkin camp about their feelings towards Anisimov, Semin and others, a source says. The Russian stuff is legit and Anisimov is one of the few, maybe the only one, that actually makes sense to pursue, regardless of where he’s from.
Perron – Anisimov was discussed by Edmonton and Columbus last season but the Blue Jackets wanted to hold off and Anisimov got injured and Perron would eventually be traded to Pittsburgh. The Blue Jackets interest in Perron remains high I’m told but my sense is Rutherford would like to try to get Anisimov without moving Perron.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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