Inbox: Should Frazier take over at second base?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions

August 27th, 2018
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter (13) slides into second as Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier (26) throws on to first to complete a double play on a ground ball by Yadier Molina in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)Keith Srakocic/AP

When are the Pirates going to consider to be their everyday second baseman? Josh Harrison is obviously struggling, and they can't overlook the production of Frazier since being called up.
-- Adam S., Zelienople, Pa.

In case anyone has overlooked Frazier's production since he was last called up, take a moment to appreciate the numbers. He's hitting .354 with a .400 on-base percentage, a .634 slugging percentage, four home runs, 17 RBIs and only 14 strikeouts in 90 plate appearances since July 25.
Frazier has started six of Pittsburgh's past eight games, half of them at second base. I wouldn't expect the Pirates to make a permanent change right now, unless Harrison's bothersome left hamstring forces him to stay off the field. But then it gets interesting.
Harrison's contract includes a $10.5 million club option for next season or a $1 million buyout. The 31-year-old has been set back by injuries this year, no doubt, but his production has slipped after an All-Star campaign in 2017. That $10.5 million salary would be a significant chunk of the Bucs' '19 payroll.
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So let's say the Pirates move on from Harrison. Unless they add someone through a trade or free agency, Frazier has to be considered the front-runner to start at second base next spring, right? No. 7 prospect Kevin Kramer will be in the mix at some point, but Frazier has a longer track record -- and the Bucs don't often hand Opening Day jobs to rookies.
Frazier struggled earlier this season, but only after being optioned to Triple-A in June did he realize his mechanics had been off all year. Frazier's challenge in the past has been his defense, not his hitting, but he might benefit from consistent work at one position. And he could out-hit some defensive deficiencies, anyway.
Frazier was the Pirates' Opening Day designated hitter this season, and their Opening Day left fielder a year ago. He very well could make his third straight Opening Day start at a different position next year in Cincinnati.
Who could be called up from the Minors when the rosters expand on Saturday? Not many options, but more interesting is if A.J. Schugel, Nick Burdi and get added to the 40-man roster, then who gets designated for assignment? The Pirates have a numbers issue.
-- Cliff S., Pittsburgh

After Cliff submitted this question, the Pirates outrighted Schugel to Triple-A Indianapolis. So, he's no longer on the 40-man roster and, presumably, not being considered as a September bullpen option.
In the past, the Bucs have made their callups in waves. There's one group right away to provide necessary depth, like a third catcher (), another bench bat and additional relievers. Then there's another group after the Triple-A season ends. They'll do the same this year.
There are some obvious candidates like Stallings, infielders and and outfielder . is already up, and it'd make sense for to gain more experience. and have been up before and should be back, and would give manager Clint Hurdle another lefty in the bullpen. Tanner Anderson, and round out the group of Triple-A pitchers on the 40-man roster.
Predicting the future of has proven to be a difficult exercise, but he's still on the roster. If he's healthy enough to play before the end of the season, they might as well see what they have. I wouldn't be surprised if Kramer and super-utility man Pablo Reyes get the call to join in the Majors, but the Pirates would have to clear a roster spot for both.
That brings us to Cliff's point about the Bucs' roster crunch. Their 40-man roster is full, and they have to activate Burdi, the Rule 5 Draft reliever finishing his Tommy John rehab, or offer him back. They might be able to push back their decision on Kuhl if he's not ready to pitch next month.
But if the Pirates want to activate Burdi or add someone like Kramer, they'll have to remove somebody. They could attempt to move pending free agents like , or (unlikely), or try to pass some Triple-A pitching depth (guys like Neverauskas, Anderson, McRae, Liranzo or Boshers) through waivers at the risk of losing them.
That 40-man crunch will continue in the offseason, by the way, as they protect players -- including top prospect Mitch Keller -- from the Rule 5 Draft.
What will happen with Francisco Cervelli/Elias Diaz next season? Hard to keep both out of the lineup. Plus they have two good catchers in Indy.
-- James P., Goose Creek, S.C.

Cervelli is guaranteed $11.5 million next season, and Diaz is under club control through 2022. I don't think either catcher is going anywhere next year, and if that's the case, you'll see a division of playing time like this season.
They've been two of the Pirates' best hitters, so it is tough to keep them both out of the lineup. I wonder if you'll see Cervelli get more work at first base, where he's made four starts, to back up Josh Bell. Perhaps they'll look for a third catcher -- someone who plays elsewhere but can capably catch as well -- who would allow Hurdle to aggressively use Cervelli or Diaz as a pinch-hitter.
Stallings and have played well for Indianapolis this year, but I don't think either would push the Bucs to drop Cervelli or Diaz given the success they've had. Some might suggest the Pirates trade Cervelli, considering his salary, but I don't think they'd get a return that would match Cervelli's value on the field.