The Pittsburgh Pirates have begun to finalize their opening day 25-man roster, and two of the cuts were rather surprising.
Jose Osuna and Kyle Crick were optioned to Indy. Kevin Siegrist has been reassigned to minor league camp. Big news for the ‘pen and bench.
— Liz Bloom (@BloomPG) March 26, 2018
Crick had long been thought of as a shoe-in for the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. He was the lone piece with major league experience that came over in the McCutchen trade, and his 32.1 innings in the big leagues combined with his skillset helped many reach that conclusion.
Alas, Crick’s performance in Spring Training could not be ignored. Across 11 innings (10 games), Crick was rocked for 13 hits, seven earned runs and our walks. Hitters hit .310 against him, and he never appeared to be on solid footing. There is no reason to think that Crick won’t be a mainstay with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he will now have to force the club’s hand to get there sooner.
As Rob Biertempfel notes, the candidates for a likely eight-man bullpen are down to just a few names:
#Pirates bullpen situation: Smoker (lefty), Neverauskas, Santana and Milbrath vying for three gigs in what wll be an eight-man bullpen on opening day. Smoker is best bet, I'd wager. Milbrath and that crazy good GB% is intriguing enough to keep.
— Rob Biertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) March 26, 2018
Josh Smoker has previously left fellow left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich in the dust, and Kevin Siegrist is the latest lefty to leave the team’s 25-man. Siegrist’s signing amounted to something a bit more than the team taking a flyer on him — Siegrist did have a solid major league resume prior to his troublesome 2017 season — but in the end, others purely outperformed him. Siegrist’s velocity — down to the high 80s/low 90s — likely played a role as well.
If we were to handicap the race at this point, Smoker is a lock to make the club. Despite his so-so spring, Milbrath has an inside track as well. Putting money on Edgar Santana might be a smart play. Santana’s stuff has some serious life, with a plus-fastball and slider that carry fantastic movement. While Dovydas Neverauskas has the makings of an effective major league reliever, Santana has better stuff and better swing-and-miss ability
UPDATE: Nope. Milbrath has been put on waivers, according to Bill Brink:
Mixed in with today's roster moves: Jordan Milbrath is on waivers.https://t.co/3E3NNiRHYN
— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) March 26, 2018
Milbrath has enough talent to warrant a waiver claim. If by some reason he clears waivers, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have to offer him back to the Cleveland Indians as he joined the club as a rule 5 pick.
What about Osuna?
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Osuna had an excellent spring, slashing .327/.370/.673 and flashing serious power potential. He slugged five dingers in 49 ABs, collecting 16 hits overall. With the club carrying a short bench and leaning towards 13 pitchers, Osuna was likely to be the odd-man out. That notion is sure to irk Pirates fans, who let us know how they feel about the young slugger in a recent Twitter poll:
Which would you rather see?
— Pirates Breakdown (@pbcbreakdown) March 24, 2018
The counter-argument is that Osuna can receive regular at-bats and playing time at Triple-A Indianapolis, which carries the added benefit of more time to spend learning third base. Osuna looked serviceable at the hot corner in limited action during the spring sessions, but the Pittsburgh Pirates would likely feel much more confident with him there after more reps.
It will be interesting to see how the club approaches Osuna as a depth option. If the team performs well out of the gate, the temptation might be to leave well-enough alone and continue to roll with a revamped, reinforced bullpen. As it stands, the only potential non-injury position player roster churn that could affect Osuna’s call back would be the play of Adam Frazier. Frazier has the trust of the organization, but one wonders if Osuna could be a quick callup should Frazier struggles early.