Inbox: What does OF look like moving forward?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions

August 14th, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Corey Dickerson, left, celebrates with right fielder Gregory Polanco, right, and center fielder Starling Marte after the Pirates defeated the Colorado Rockies 4-3 in a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)David Zalubowski/AP

I like that we went for it with the Chris Archer trade, but it was tough to see go. What's our outfield look like going forward now? Do we have to extend Corey Dickerson for next year?
-- Bill W., Pittsburgh

Archer did indeed come at a high cost -- Meadows, and a significant prospect to be named later -- and the Pirates did not part easily with Meadows. The rookie was their first-round Draft pick five years ago, and we all saw his talent on display during his first few weeks as a big leaguer.
But the Pirates still have a strong outfield without him. Dickerson and are first and third on the team in Wins Above Replacement, according to, and is having the best offensive season of his young career.
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Marte's contract is guaranteed through next season, and the deal includes club options for 2020 and '21. Polanco's extension runs through '21, with club options for '22 and '23. They're not going anywhere anytime soon. And it now seems more likely that Dickerson will come back next season as well.
Dickerson, earning $5.95 million this season, will be arbitration eligible for the last time next year. So the Pirates don't have to offer Dickerson a contract extension to bring him back next year, but they would have to do so if they wanted to keep him beyond 2019. Whether that happens probably depends on his interest in reaching free agency and the Pirates' belief in their internal options.
The last few seasons, the Pirates have lacked upper-level outfield depth in the Minors aside from Meadows, so it was hard to see their "outfield of the future" without him. That has changed over the past year, however.
has struggled in Pittsburgh, but his Minor League numbers are too good to ignore. , acquired in the trade, earned a midseason promotion to Triple-A after dominating in Double-A. , acquired in the trade, is hitting .288/.369/.424 in Double-A despite fracturing his hamate earlier this season.
The Pirates have a number of intriguing outfield prospects in the lower Minors as well, including first-round Draft pick Travis Swaggerty, Calvin Mitchell, Lolo Sanchez, Conner Uselton and Jared Oliva.
Please help me understand why the Pirates called up a rookie like to start in the middle of a postseason race. Did the starters really need rest that bad?
-- Joe H., State College, Pa.

It was a surprising move, and obviously it didn't work out on Friday as Holmes gave up seven runs and didn't finish the third inning. I completely understand the backlash because it looked like the Pirates weren't putting their best foot forward when every game matters.
Their primary motive wasn't based on Holmes or Friday's game, though. They wanted to provide extra recovery time for the three starters who pitched at Coors Field last week: Joe Musgrove, and Archer. The decision seemed to be specifically about Musgrove and Taillon, as Archer already would have had an extra day to rest with Monday's off-day.
In an appearance on general manager Neal Huntington's weekly radio show, assistant GM Kevan Graves cited "biometric data" from the club's training staff and anecdotal evidence that indicated starting pitchers have a harder time recovering after pitching in the Mile High City's thin air. This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing, either, as they put the plan in place shortly after the All-Star break.
So while the decision backfired in a big way on Friday, they're taking the long view on how it will impact their rotation the rest of the season.
"Time will tell, certainly," Graves said Sunday on KDKA-FM. "A big part of it was putting these guys in a position to succeed coming out of their start in Coors Field as well as over the final six-plus weeks of the regular season. We'll get a feel for that over these next few starts."
Nice to see the Pirates with an outside shot at the playoffs this year, but I'm really excited about next year. Who will be the Pirates' fifth pitcher? Can they ditch ? And are Kevin Kramer and/or Kevin Newman ready to start next year, or will the Pirates be shopping for middle infielders?
-- Jason D., Richmond, Va.

There could be a bit of a logjam in the rotation next season. Taillon, Musgrove, Archer, and will all return. Nova remains under contract. will be out of Minor League options. Top prospect Mitch Keller will be knocking on the door in Triple-A.
So maybe it would make sense to deal from that depth and move Nova before his contract expires. Rotation depth can disappear in a hurry, however, and the Pirates clearly value Nova's experience and ability. Since coming back from the disabled list in early June, the veteran right-hander has a 3.88 ERA and the Pirates have won eight of his 11 starts.
As for the "Seinfeld" infield duo, I think it'll be ready next year after spending this season in Triple-A. Both guys have played well for Indianapolis, and the Pirates have to put them on the 40-man roster this offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. I actually wouldn't be surprised if they're called up next month, but that could depend on where the Pirates stand in the Wild Card race.