August 15, 2022

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Pirates have options for post-Deadline uncertainty

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PITTSBURGH — In approximately 48 hours, the Pirates will send out a group of 26 ballplayers, who will attempt to win a baseball game. What will that group look like? That will be determined in the next 47 hours. And odds are, when 6 P.M. EST on August 2nd rolls around, the Pirates team that takes the field against the Brewers will look different than the one that lost 8-2 to the Phillies at PNC Park on Sunday.

“I feel like all year our clubhouse has looked kind of different, with guys coming up, guys going down and things like that,” said third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes. “You can’t really think about it too much. I know for me, you just got to come in and do your job every single day and find ways to get better and find ways to help the team win.”

The Trade Deadline looms for the Pirates as it does for all 30 teams. There are cracks in the concrete, but the dam has yet to truly cave to a flood of trading activity. That moment may come soon. Regardless of Pittsburgh’s level of activity, though, there are several players currently in the Pirates’ system who could be important big league contributors once the deadline dust settles.

At the top of that list is reliever Colin Holderman, who the Pirates acquired from the Mets in exchange for Daniel Vogelbach. Holderman was subsequently optioned to Triple-A after being acquired, a move which essentially allowed the Pirates to showcase their current crop of relievers to potential suitors. Once the deadline passes, Holderman stands in line to be promoted. 

The bullpen certainly needs Holderman’s assistance. Pittsburgh’s bullpen posted a 5.21 ERA across 93 1/3 innings in July, one of the worst marks in the league. On that front, Holderman projects to provide assistance. 

Prior to being dealt, the rookie sinkerballer posted a 2.04 ERA and 2.27 FIP across 17 2/3 innings for the Mets. Those numbers are all the more impressive given that Holderman was thrown into higher leverage situations as the season progressed.

On the subject of rookies, there’s also the matter of Roansy Contreras, who should be back up in Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.

The Pirates have said that Contreras, who missed about two months with a right forearm strain last year, was optioned earlier this month in an effort to reduce his workload. Contreras started for the Pirates on July 7, and upon being sent down, he did not pitch in another game until July 26 for Indianapolis, where he threw two innings. On Sunday, Contreras went three innings for Indianapolis, allowing one run and striking out five batters. The right-hander will continue to build up in Triple-A, but regarding a timeline, general manager Ben Cherington said there is “no magic number.”

“He’ll build his pitch count up, probably sort of similar to what Spring Training looked like,” Cherington said on 93.7 The Fan on Sunday. “It was two innings the other day, it’ll be three and 45 [pitches] or whatever next time out, and we’ll go from there.”

Along with Holderman and Contreras, Yohan Ramirez, Cam Alldred and Cody Bolton are worth monitoring. Ramirez, who hasn’t allowed a run in four outings for Indianapolis, has the slight upper hand on Alldred and Bolton, as he is currently on the 40-man roster. Given the bullpen’s shortcomings, the Pirates could stand to benefit by casting new characters.

On the position player side, outfielder Jack Suwinski and utility man Tucupita Marcano are knocking on the door in Indianapolis. Marcano is hitting .362 over his last 14 games. Suwinski is posting a .982 OPS with four home runs over his last 10 games. Canaan Smith-Njigba, currently on the 60-day injured list with a fractured right wrist, could get consideration as well. Considering how Pittsburgh’s position players fared in July, the club could use an injection of youthful exuberance.

Coming into Sunday, the Pirates’ position players had an fWAR of 0.0 in July. The bats were eerily quiet. This month, Pittsburgh’s batters hit a combined .211/.280/336. In trading Vogelbach, the Pirates have lost one of their few consistent offensive threats. Pittsburgh needs juice, and maybe Suwinski and Marcano can provide.

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