Pittsburgh Pirates: 3 Players Who Won't Be Back in 2015
The Pittsburgh Pirates aren't known for making huge acquisitions in the free-agent market most offseasons, and this winter likely won't be any different.
It is a franchise built on a deep farm system, one where cultivating young talent is always the priority in front of signing big names to lucrative contracts.
Such is the motto of a baseball organization that resides in a small market, one not able to financially compete with its peers when it comes to free agency.
With names like Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Charlie Morton already under long-term contracts, and other names like Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez still in limbo, the front office figures to have some tough decisions to make on where to spend its money.
Unfortunately for these players, the Pirates’ money likely won’t be coming their way in the winter.
The fanbase is likely to go nuts when Martin leaves town, given his stellar performance over the past two seasons. Martin’s worth to the team cannot be measured simply in offensive statistics, despite the fact he’s hitting .290 this season and currently finds himself batting third in the lineup in McCutchen’s absence.
Likewise, his worth cannot be measured by the fact that he tossed out 40 percent of baserunners last season who attempted to steal, a number that sits at 39 percent this year.
Rather, the Gold Glove-winning Martin brings immeasurable reliability to the team’s pitching staff. He is consistently regarded as one of the league’s best pitch-framing catchers and has a great rapport with every pitcher on the staff.
It’s not a stretch to say Martin has been a big part of the baseball resurrection in Pittsburgh over the last two seasons, which is why it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye.
As Bleacher Report’s Dan Mennella reported in the offseason, Martin is by far the best of the bunch in terms of catchers who will be free agents in 2015. Names like Geovany Soto, Ryan Doumit and A.J. Pierzynski likely won’t command high salaries or bidding wars from teams.
Martin signed a two-year, $17 million deal to come to Pittsburgh in 2013. He will be heading into his age-32 season, which means Martin likely will be looking for a contract that will take him into retirement.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bob Smizik, the Pirates can expect to have to pay Martin more than $10 million a season to keep his services here long term, something that’s just not going to happen.
But, face it, the chances of the Pirates signing Martin are legitimately somewhere between slim and none. And this is not about the Pirates being cheap. Martin will be the best catcher available in free agency and eligible to sign with any team.
The front office probably views Tony Sanchez as the catcher-in-waiting despite serious concerns about his defense. It might just be that 2015 will finally be his year, as Martin is likely to jump to whatever team offers him the most money to close out his career.
The Pirates might have to bid farewell to another player who was instrumental in helping the team escape from two decades of losing baseball.
Francisco Liriano won the National League Comeback Player of the Year in 2013 for his efforts in anchoring a Pirates rotation that was one of the best in baseball. The reclamation project compiled a 16-8 record with a 3.02 ERA in 2013 while helping the Pirates win their first playoff game in 21 years.
This season has been a bumpier ride for Liriano, who’s spent his fair share of time on the disabled list. His earned-run average is beginning to fall after several strong starts in a row, but Liriano still holds a 3-8 record with a 3.82 ERA
Liriano is making $8 million this year, a number that is sure to rise during free agency in the offseason.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jerry Micco, it will take at least $10 million a year to bring Liriano back to the Pirates. However, that number would represent a bargain for the Pirates, who likely would have to sign Liriano to a multiyear deal.
Unfortunately for fans, according to Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the 30-year-old Liriano likely won’t take a bargain deal and will find a more lucrative offer in free agency.
There are two other important free agents on the roster -- Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez. Because the Pirates have pitching depth, it is unlikely they will be involved in bidding for these players, and if they are, it’s not likely they’ll win the contest. Liriano and Volquez also are gone.
Thankfully, losing Liriano likely won’t be a death sentence for the Pirates. They have a bundle of young, promising arms currently on the team or thriving in the minors. The team will need all the help it can get with pitching, considering another arm currently in the rotation likely won’t return next season either.
Another of pitching coach Ray Searage’s reclamation projects, the Pirates signed Volquez to a $5 million deal this offseason to help fill the hole left by A.J. Burnett. He has performed admirably as the team’s fifth starter, compiling a 9-7 record with a 3.70 earned-run average. His nine wins lead the team.
The 31-year-old Volquez is another player who will be hitting the free-agent market and, like Liriano, is likely to command more money than the Pirates want to offer. As is also the case with Liriano, Volquez isn’t getting any younger in a league that doesn’t favor aging pitchers.
Look for him to take the biggest offer on the table, which most likely won’t be coming from Pittsburgh.
That doesn’t mean some people aren’t clamoring for the front office to re-sign Volquez, despite the fact the team has young arms ready to take his place.
Tom Smith of Rum Bunter said he thinks the front office should reward Volquez for his contributions to the back end of the rotation.
"Volquez was one of the worst pitchers in Major League Baseball. The reclamation project was a success, now it’s time to deliver a contract to Volquez and make sure the perfect back of the rotation starter stays with the Bucs."
Volquez has shown moments of brilliance in 2014, but he’s also shown moments of utter confusion and a lack of control. Look for the team to spend its money elsewhere when the time comes to re-sign him.
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