Before we get into the WHYGAVS 2014 Preview Week Extravaganza, there were two pieces of news from yesterday that I think are important to touch up on this morning (yes, that's code for, "I thought yesterday's basketball games were pretty depressing and don't have as much work done on the first preview piece as I'd like).
The first is that the Pirates have been trying to sign Starling Marte to an extension this winter. They've made him two offers and, to this point, he's apparently rejected both of them. I've thought for a while that the younger group of players (specifically Marte and Gerrit Cole, though including Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco as well) make for better extension targets than the two guys that Pirate fans tend to focus on every winter (Walker and Alvarez), so this is hardly surprising news. At Bucs Dugout, Charlie wrote that the Braves' crazy winter of extending players is likely moving the needle on these sorts of extensions and I think that he's probably right on that front. Really, it was just a matter of time; I've found myself realizing more than once this winter that even if Edinson Volquez is completely terrible this year, $5 million for him isn't technically more than his market value. Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen is likely to contribute more value to the Pirates than Volquez is in all of 2014 just by putting on his pants this morning, but he's only making $7.25 million this year. Obviously the market was going to correct some of these pre-arbitration deals.
That being said, I wouldn't worry too much about the failure of the sides to agree on anything just quite yet. Marte is still two years away from even starting arbitration, and McCutchen's negotiations had a number of starts and stops before a deal finally got done. The danger for the Pirates here, I think, is that while Marte has some flaws in offensive game right now, he's also made some pretty big strides at the plate in the last couple of years. If he becomes even a little bit more patient as a hitter without giving up average or power, he's going to become almost as valuable offensively as he is defensively, and that will make him an expensive player. Still, I'm guessing that there's middle ground here to be found and the Pirates and Marte will eventually find it.
The other news is that Jameson Taillon has some elbow discomfort, which is obviously terrifying for a couple of reasons. The team is currently saying it's a "minor" injury that doesn't involve ligament damage, but they're also seeking a second opinion. It's unfair to anyone to speculate further at this point, but it's a safe bet that the Pirates will play it safe with Taillon whether it's a serious injury or not. The best predictor of elbow injuries is a prior elbow injury, so he's not likely to take the mound again until the team is 100% sure he's healthy with little prospect of re-injuring the ligament. If you had him penciled in for a June debut (and I think that more or less all of us did), well, that seems like a long-shot at this point. This casts and even starker light on the rotation depth; if Taillon isn't available until the late summer, Edinson Volquez, Stolmy Pimentel, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke, and Brandon Cumpton may have to shoulder a heavier load during the first half of the season. Hopefully that group is just splitting two spots between them, but that's still plenty of reason to be nervous.