1. The Pirates have checked in on the availability of Houston Astros right fielder Hunter Pence. In an ideal situation, Pence is the long-term bat the Pirates are said to covet but what are the chances of the Astros dealing him and are the Pirates willing to center a deal around one of their top pitching prospects?
According to reports, the Astros would have to be overwhelmed and major league sources say that a trade of Pence is more likely this winter then this season.
Even if that’s the case, there’s nothing wrong with the Pirates establishing an open line of communication.
Pence is the type of player the Pirates need to decide to go all in for, even if it means dealing significant assets in their system.
By significant assets, that means showing a willingness to discuss Stetson Allie as the center piece of a package either this year as a player to be named later or this winter.
The 20 year old is widely viewed as a probable reliever and a long-term project, who some scouts feel could be at least four years away.
Scouts I’ve talked with this week believe the Pirates are in the position where the only untouchables in their system should be pitchers Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia and Gerrit Cole (Not signed).
Scouts believe several mid-to-top tier prospects like Allie, Starling Marte, Tony Sanchez and even Jose Tabata at the major league level, should be in play for a long-term bat, who can be under team control for at least two to three years.
The Pirates regard Allie as one of their elite four prospects but they need to look at their window of opportunity as now. This is a division where St. Louis could be losing Albert Pujols via free agency and the same for the Milwaukee Brewers who figure to lose Prince Fielder.
2012 could be the Pirates year to make some serious noise, even before potential top of the rotation starters Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon arrive to the majors in 2013-2014.
Through free agency, the Pirates have little to no chance of acquiring a player of Pence’s ability who most importantly is under team control through the 2013 season.
Pence, 28, would give the Pirates a .300 hitter, 20-25 home run – 90 RBI player and a second All-Star outfielder to team with Andrew McCutchen.
If Pedro Alvarez comes around, the Pirates would have a core of four hitters in Pence, McCutchen, Walker and Alvarez who would rival anyone in the National League Central.
2. The Tampa Bay Lightning locked up Steven Stamkos to a five year – $37.5 million deal today. A cap hit of $7.5 million is excellent value for the next five years.
The Stamkos contract has started talk of Sidney Crosby’s next contract. Crosby can sign a new extension on July 1, 2012.
If both sides look to stay in the 5-to-7 year range as GM Ray Shero is said to not be a big fan of deals longer than 7 years, It’s hard to imagine Crosby taking any deal under $9 million per season.
The current CBA expires in September 2012 and there is a push to limit contracts in the next CBA to possibly 5-to-7 years at the max.
3. If anybody can come up with valid reasons why Peter DeBoer is a better option in New Jersey then Michel Therrien, feel free to come up with them.
Therrien who was believed to be a leading candidate for a second straight year, was by-passed by the Devils once again.
This off-season was a big blow to Therrien’s future as an NHL coach. Teams are going for young up and coming coaches and Minnesota, New Jersey were two viable landing places for him with Chuck Fletcher in Minnesota and the Devils being high for sometime on Therrien.
It’s probably going to be a while before we see Therrien behind another NHL bench, which is a shame as he deserves another shot.
4. With Pirates seeking an 8th inning set-up man and lefty reliever, It was hard not to think that Joe Beimel’s career with the Pirates was on the line when he came on to pitch to Jay Bruce with the bases loaded in the 7th, and fell behind 2-0 before striking out Bruce with an hanging breaking ball.
5. The Pirates went into tonight’s game with their pitching staff ranked 29th in the majors in strikeouts. Shows how valuable their improvement on defense has been this season.
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