Inbox: Pirates have more moves coming?

Fans ask about roster makeup, future of Bucs closer role

January 27th, 2016

Do you see any more moves for the rotation and bench? -- Seth H., Ellwood City, Pa.

Earlier this week, I asked Pirates GM Neal Huntington where their roster stands with Spring Training drawing near.

"We're always looking for ways to improve the organization and more specifically the Major League roster. That said, without getting very creative, the majority of our heavy lifting is done," Huntington said. "We've expended the majority of our resources. We'll continue to find ways to add a little bit here, add a little bit there, and if an opportunity to add a lot presents itself, then we can be opportunistic."

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They could still use a left-handed reliever, and they'll probably continue to bolster their depth at every position.

The Opening Day rotation likely will be Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong, with Juan Nicasio a possibility. By midseason, that group should include Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon.

The projected Triple-A rotation has a ton of young talent, led by Glasnow and Taillon, but what if their big league starters can't stay as healthy as last year, especially early on? They could probably stand to add a little more proven rotation depth, and their recent interest in veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo, as reported by's Mark Sheldon, makes sense in that regard.

Their bench is pretty well set, too. When Jung Ho Kang returns, their reserves should be Michael Morse, Chris Stewart, Sean Rodriguez, Jason Rogers and a middle infielder (Pedro Florimon or Alen Hanson, possibly non-roster invitee Cole Figueroa).

I love Cutch and Marte, and Polanco is due for a big year. But who's the Buccos' fourth outfielder? Who fills in if one of them gets injured? I liked Keon Broxton and Jaff Decker but they're both gone. -- Marc M., State College, Pa.

The Pirates don't currently have a true "fourth outfielder" on their roster, and I don't necessarily expect them to add one. Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco can play center, so they're technically covered in the nightmare scenario of Andrew McCutchen going down.

Rodriguez and Josh Harrison can play the corner spots well, and the Pirates could send John Jaso, Rogers or Morse out there in an emergency.

Jake Goebbert has played all three outfield positions, and outfield prospect Willy Garcia is on the 40-man roster and could be called up to fill a similar role. So there may not be a designated fourth outfielder, but the Pirates have plenty of options to choose from.

Any chance the Pirates will trade Melancon and use Feliz as the closer? Very risky approach, but a thought. -- @PiratesFaithful

Highly unlikely. At this point, it's looking more and more like Mark Melancon will be Pittsburgh's closer in 2016. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Pirate City in about three weeks, and Melancon is still a Pirate.

For all the work the Pirates have done this offseason to create a strong and versatile bullpen, it doesn't look quite as good without Melancon in the ninth inning. Melancon and setup man Tony Watson have been two of baseball's most valuable relievers over the past few years, especially if you take the Win Probability Added statistic into account.

As for Neftali Feliz, I'd expect him to pitch in more of a setup role. Watson would be the more likely choice to close out games if Melancon were injured or traded.