*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. If the Pirates don’t get Jon Lester, many believe it will be because of their reluctance to include Josh Bell who the Red Sox covet badly. The talk in baseball circles is if the Pirates believed Starling Marte was a sure thing, then the appetite might be there to include Bell in a win-now move but Marte isn’t and you can’t argue with that mindset. Ken Rosenthal reports the Red Sox are also likely to trade John Lackey. Some feel he makes more sense for the Pirates because of the $500,000 club option Lackey has next season.

2. People can nitpick Josh Harrison’s ability to hit all they want, but he passes the eye test and the guy can hit. There’s no question about that. Is he going to be a consistent .290-.300 hitter, most likely not, but Harrison isn’t someone who can only hit fastballs down the middle. He’s hitting all over the field and last night’s homer on a 3-2 sinker on the outside of the plate shows how well he has developed.

3. Pedro Alvarez will sit again today for the Pirates. The Pirates say he’s benched because of playing performance not trade related. If Alvarez stays put, how long before super agent Scott Boras starts spouting off about how the Pirates are handling Alvarez? Things are about to get serious and the Pirates are certainly willing to move Alvarez. Pittsburgh coaches want to play Josh Harrison at third base on a more regular basis. Either move Alvarez to first base or trade him. There are few hitters available with his type of power.

4. It’s certainly not ideal for an NHL team to take a player to arbitration who has never played for them. That’s the situation Pittsburgh will be looking at with Nick Spaling tomorrow if there’s not a breakthrough in talks today and both sides avoid arbitration. One league executive said these type of situations usually favor the players and the same executive said, “you don’t want to go to arbitration with Newport,” the powerful agency that represents Spaling. Few agencies have the resources they do and Newport does such a great job of selling their players worth in cases, this executive said.

5. Jim Rutherford constantly saying the Penguins saved money in the James Neal trade has never added up. Patrick Hornqvist carries a $750,000 cap hit less than James Neal but Nick Spaling is going to cost at least $2.25 million against the cap this season and possibly north of $2.5 million if Spaling gets a favorable ruling. Whose to say Jason Megna at $894,000 and who averaged 0.819 Goals/60 5 on 5 wouldn’t have been a much better bargain than Spaling at $2 million+?
It will be very interesting how the Penguins attack this hearing, assuming it gets there. They will surely make a strong argument on Spaling’s poor possession numbers compared to comparable players, but it’s unknown how arbitrators value advance analytics right now or whether they even take them into account. Pittsburgh just doesn’t have a great case because they barely know the player. They will have a tough case to argue things like the overall contribution of the player to the team’s overall success or failure of the club last season or primary things like special leadership qualities or appeal as a member of the team (heart, grit, etc) because Spaling didn’t play for the Penguins last season. Jim Rutherford’s gracious comments about how good of a player Spaling is, can’t be used against the Penguins during the hearing.
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