As pitchers and catchers get set to take the field in Bradenton, the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen still has too many left-handers

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a problem with their bullpen, even as first official workouts for pitchers and catchers begin today.

I have examined the issue of too many southpaws in the pen before and it is clear that the Pirates have to move one of their left handers before the season starts.

Felipe Rivero isn’t going anywhere, so that leaves Tony Watson and Antonio Bastardo as the team’s most attractive left-handed trade chips.

After a down season last year, Watson’s value isn’t as high as it may have been before and if he begins the season as the Pirates closer, the organization is banking that Watson ups his value again by the time the trade deadline rolls around. That’s when you will likely see the trigger pulled on a Watson deal.

The bigger question is – why haven’t the Pittsburgh Pirates been able to swing a deal for Antonio Bastardo, a certainly capable left-handed reliever?

The Obvious Choice

Bastardo is the obvious trade candidate, yet there haven’t been any serious rumblings about any sort of deal involving the eight-year veteran.

Yet I have a feeling the Pittsburgh Pirates will open up the season with a glut of left-handers as the club has reasons to hold onto Bastardo.

The first of which is Bastardo is affordable. While is contract this season is for $6.625 million, the New York Mets are paying an undisclosed portion of that. We can reasonably infer that it is at least half of the eight-year veteran’s salary.

Bastardo isn’t coming off of a great season, allowing an .816 OPS against lefties last year, but he’s held them to a .636 OPS and .193 batting average for his career. The PIrates are hoping he bounces back in 2017.

Not A Specialist

Despite some appearances over the last few seasons that say otherwise, Bastardo is more than just a specialist.

Last season Bastardo actually fared better against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .705 OPS and a .220 batting average.  Over his career, those numbers are .625 and .213. Add all of that up and throw in the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates say they are willing to eat a chunk of his contract in the right deal and it is a wonder why they haven’t moved Bastardo at this point. A lot of the factors listed above should interest potential trade partners.

By not moving him, it signals that Watson is likely to begin the season as closer. It really doesn’t matter what handed closer the Pirates use, but if Watson is closing, the two left-handed arms to help bridge the gap to the ninth inning will be Rivero and Bastardo.

Thus, it is very clear that the biggest reason why Bastardo hasn’t been moved is the Pirates plan on having a role for him, at least entering spring training. And there is the fact that the return on Bastardo won’t be anything significant to begin with so there hasn’t been any pressure to get a deal done.

There are also a couple left-handed relievers on the market still looking to sign with teams, including former Chicago Cubs Travis Wood, who just signed yesterday.

All of those factors mean Bastardo will have a home in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen, at least for now. If he bounces back and puts up numbers more resembling his career splits then the Pirates could have a nice effective arm in the bullpen.

Things will get more complicated if Webb and LeBlanc show they should be on the Opening Day roster.

If that happens, we could see a deal before the regular season begins, but chances are Bastardo will be on the roster and will be a chip general manager Neal Huntington looks to move at the trade deadline.

Image credit – Flickr Creative Commons

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.