With the Pittsburgh Pirates gaining the services of one outfielder while almost simultaneously losing the services of another, the team once again has an opening in the outfield. Who should receive the majority of the innings in the outfield during the next few weeks?
The Pittsburgh Pirates were in great shape for a few days when Starling Marte returned and the team had their starting outfield together for the first time since mid-April. But now the team is without Gregory Polanco, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury that could very well keep him off the field for more than 10 days. If the team is going to be without Polanco’s services for what sounds like more than two weeks, they will need to find someone to fill in for him while he is on the mend.
If not outside help…then who?
The trade deadline is less than a week away, so there is a chance that the Pittsburgh Pirates will look to bring an outfielder into the mix via trade. But if the team decides to use an internal option in Polanco’s absence, they should use this opportunity to further evaluate Jose Osuna by having him see the majority of the playing time. Adam Frazier should receive playing time while Polanco is hurt, and if Osuna struggles Frazier should assume more of the innings.
One of the reasons that Osuna is the preferred candidate over Frazier is that he offers more in the way of power, something the team will miss with Polanco on the shelf. Sure, at the time of his injury he only had nine home runs, but Polanco was starting to heat up before he reinjured his hamstring. In his last eight games, he had eleven hits with four doubles and a home run to go along with a slash line of .367/.367/.600.
Osuna has clubbed five home runs this year and has an ISO of .203, well above Frazier’s .098. He also leads Frazier in OPS this season, .741 to .710. Frazier does a much better job of getting on base with an OBP of .345 to Osuna’s .290. Osuna’s current walk rate is much lower compared to what he did in the minors in recent years, so it is more likely that he would have an OBP of .320-.330 if he was receiving more playing time.
What about Frazier?
The team has favored Frazier when it comes to occasional starts in the outfield this season (his 51 to Osuna’s 31). Frazier received the start on Monday in San Francisco to kick off the three game series, so perhaps the Pittbsurgh Pirates’ plan to give most of the playing time to Frazier until Polanco is ready to return.
The trade deadline is less than a week away, so there is a chance that Pittsburgh will look to bring an outfielder into the mix via trade
However, the recent surge by the Pirates to get back into the playoff discussion means that they need to think about the potential makeup of a postseason roster.
One of the side effects of Marte’s return is that he is not allowed to participate in the postseason. So in the event the Pirates find themselves playing in October, they are going to need a full time outfielder for the playoff run. As mentioned, there is still time to swing a trade to bring someone in, but the next few days would be a good opportunity to give Osuna a condensed tryout for the role.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in need of an outfielder while Polanco heals and in the postseason if they are fortunate enough to make it this year. The team should use this opportunity to really see what they have in Osuna and he if seems to be more of a bench player rather than a full time outfielder, they still have some time to swing a trade with another team. Plus, they always have the option of working out a deal with another team after the deadline, but that will mean the player in question will have to pass through waivers first, which is not always a given.