Pirates shed payroll, re-invest in draft picks

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Much was made of the Pirates dumping a bunch of salary at the trading deadline, as they parted with relatively high-priced veterans Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, John Grabow, and Adam LaRoche after previously dealing away Nate McLouth and Eric Hinske. Together those moves saved the team $7.3 million from the Opening Day payroll of $55 million, which didn’t sit well with some fans.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly even felt the need to defend the organization by explaining that “the savings are not nearly as large as some believe.” By itself slashing payroll is something that fans should absolutely question, particularly when the team involved is in the midst of a 17th straight losing season and has a nine-year-old ballpark that in theory was created to help support larger salaries. However, in this case the Pirates turned the money saved by dealing veterans into bonuses for hard-to-sign draft picks.
After paying the MLB-recommended slot price of $2.5 million for No. 4 overall pick Tony Sanchez, the Prices went significantly over slot to sign sixth-round pick Zach Von Rosenberg for $1.2 million and eighth-round pick Colton Cain for $1.1 million. In all they handed out $3.4 million to four high-school pitchers who dropped to them because of concerns about their bonus demands and ended up spending a grand total of $8 million on this year’s draft class.
Obviously only time will tell whether those above-slot signings will pay off, but investing $8 million in a bunch of high-upside prospects has a much higher likelihood of turning the Pirates into a long-term winning team than spending the same money on guys like Sanchez, LaRoche, Wilson, and Grabow. If the goal is to build a consistent winner rather than simply snapping the streak of losing seasons, Pirates management made the right call.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.