Here’s an intriguing question: in the Pittsburgh Pirates case, is the 25-man roster always the best 25 players?
This is a fun time of year. The beginning of another baseball season is almost upon us. One of the topics that is continuously discussed now is the formation of the 25-man roster. The past several years there has been a thought that regardless of all other facts, the best 25 players should be on the roster when the season starts. Admittedly, at first glance the idea has a lot of merit and sounds good as a sound bite for a sports radio talk show. However, when you look at things a little deeper, the idea seems to fall apart.
Younger Players Need Work Too
It’s a story that is almost as old as baseball itself; the fans feel the hot prospect should be on the major league roster. The general manager feels otherwise and, stating the player needs “more work,” he starts in the minor leagues. More often than not the general manager is right as we Pirate fans have seen most recently with Gregory Polanco. Granted Polanco is no longer a prospect, but I think it is abundantly clear if he had one more season in the minor leagues, it would have been better for him.
Here Comes the Money
There is a very real point to be discussed about the money factor, something near and dear to Pirate fans everywhere. For a team that has limited resources like the Pirates, this is a real concern and will be until there is a magic revenue solution. Monetary concerns are not just about the number of years of control for prospects. Consideration also needs to be given to players the Pirates signed and had to be placed on the 40-man roster. Like it or not, to paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, money can change everything.
As we all know, because the Pirates play in mostly National League parks, the pitcher is required to hit. As a result, sometimes you need to do things like make double switches. In order to do that, you need players that have positional flexibility. And if you have a good prospect who can only play one position, that player doesn’t have the flexibility needed for a bench role.
Finally, injuries play a part in not having the best 25 players on the roster. With the Pirates having Jung Ho Kang, Jared Hughes, and potentially Mike Morse on the disabled list, this prevents the Pirates from having their best 25 on the roster for the beginning of the season.
Although it sounds good to always have the best 25 players on the roster, they are not always the right 25.