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Inbox: What's plan for Bucs at shortstop?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers questions from fans
January 4, 2019

I really wanted to see the Pirates sign Troy Tulowitzki. He would have been a perfect fit to give the kids time to develop, and if he played like the old Tulo, I would have gone to more games to see him. What do they do now at shortstop?

I really wanted to see the Pirates sign Troy Tulowitzki. He would have been a perfect fit to give the kids time to develop, and if he played like the old Tulo, I would have gone to more games to see him. What do they do now at shortstop?
-- Ron G., Pittsburgh

I agree that Tulowitzki would have made a lot of sense for the Pirates, Ron. But they were apparently one of many teams in on the veteran shortstop before the Yankees officially reeled him in Friday.
Tulowitzki was the ideal blend of low cost -- the league minimum, which made him a low-risk option despite his injury history -- and high upside (if healthy). That's kind of the neighborhood where the Pirates have lived this offseason. Jungho Kang, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jordan Lyles were all low-cost signings with the potential to produce at a higher level -- Kang if he shakes off the rust, Chisenhall if he's healthy, Lyles if his pitch-usage adjustments lead to improved results.
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Where do the Pirates go from here? They have pretty much the same set of options they did a month ago aside from Jordy Mercer, who's now a Tiger.
Their internal choices are Erik Gonzalez, a slick fielder who hasn't had a chance to play every day in the Majors, and Kevin Newman, a well-regarded prospect who struggled late last season. The top trade candidate is probably still Arizona's Nick Ahmed, but it doesn't sound like the D-backs are interested in a full rebuild, so the asking price could remain high.
The glove-first free agents capable of starting are still out there: Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria. There might be more of them than there are shortstop jobs available, which would work in the Pirates' favor if they're interested. But I do think it's fair to wonder if the Pirates project Gonzalez to be a similar player (at a lower cost) if he's given an opportunity to play regularly.
The New York Post reported that Pittsburgh has interest in Galvis, who hit 45 homers (albeit with a .681 OPS) over the past three years. He'd be an upgrade; Galvis totaled 2.3 WAR last season, while Pirates shortstops combined for minus-0.7 WAR.

You talked about Adam Frazier as the second baseman, but I don't think he's got the glove to handle it every day. If they don't get anyone else, who else is ready to take the job?
-- Jon B., Greensburg

I think Frazier is going to be fine, for what it's worth, especially if he gets to focus on playing one position. He improved defensively late in the season -- at the end of a year that began with him reporting to Spring Training as the presumptive Opening Day left fielder. He'll have more time to prepare this year. His bat is still his best asset, anyway.
That said, I'm also optimistic about Kevin Kramer's future. His timing was off last September, but the guy is going to hit -- and there's data to validate his success in Triple-A. I think he'll be a solid defender at second, and his versatility on the infield should help him crack the roster again soon.

What will happen to Jose Osuna next season? I still think he's a really good hitter with pop and he'll show it if Clint Hurdle would play him every day. Let him play first and see what he does.
-- Kevin R., Altoona

Usually the "Let Osuna play every day" arguments pop up when he's raking in Spring Training, but we'll do it early this year ...
The Pirates have proven their willingness to give part-time players more of an opportunity when they earn it in the big leagues. Frazier worked his way into their plans, for instance, and Pablo Reyes was another example last September. Osuna is a slick defender at first base, and he worked his tail off the past few years to be playable at third base. But he has hit .231 with a .681 OPS in the Majors, so he's not going to push past Josh Bell or Colin Moran on the depth chart.
It looked like there would be a chance for Osuna to claim David Freese's old job as a backup corner infielder, but Kang's return (as strictly a third baseman) complicates that position.
That said, it seems like there is still an opportunity for Osuna on the bench this year. There isn't a clear backup for Bell at first base, unless Francisco Cervelli takes that role when he's not behind the plate. There isn't really an obvious fourth outfielder for the Opening Day roster, either, so that could create an opening for Reyes or Osuna.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.