The Pirates shipped eight players out today, leaving just one cut left to be made before the Opening Day roster is set. Virgil Vazquez, Jason Davis, Chris Bootcheck, Jeff Salazar, Andy Phillips, Garrett Jones, Denny Bautista, and Eric Kratz were all cut this morning, leaving one spot left in the bullpen to decide.
These moves mean a few things; Craig Monroe and Luis Cruz are all but assured of spots now and Jeff Karstens is locked in as the fifth starter. I was a bit surprised to see both Vazquez and Davis go, but my guess is that the front office wants to keep both of them starting for now, and thus the demotion. Similarly for guys like Phillips, Jones, and Salazar, another roster spot has to be opened for them to make the team over, say, Nyjer Morgan, and the Bucs don’t risk losing them if they don’t make the roster like they would if they cut Monroe. We can debate the merits of keeping Monroe aboard, but the fact is that if he’s awful we can get rid of him and bring one of these guys up to fill the hole and it’s unlikely that a ton of damage will be done.
That leaves four bullpen spots to be taken by Craig Hansen, Sean Burnett, Jesse Chavez, Don Veal, and Evan Meek. With those relatively limited options, I don’t think the Bucs will risk losing Burnett or Hansen on waivers and if they were going to dump Veal back to the Cubs, they’d have done it already. That means the choice is between Meek and Chavez. I think Meek is probably a better reliever and since they’re giving him a chance to pitch after both arm troubles and an ugly bout with the flu, my guess is that the team prefers him to take that spot. We should find out soon.
The other remaining question is whether or not an external move is coming. DK indicates that Huntington is working on a couple fronts, but nothing seems imminent. There are a few options out there (keep an eye on MLB Trade Rumors today, Jeff Keppinger, Robert Andino and Hayden Penn (same trade), Edward Mujica, and Ross Gload have already moved today) and Huntington could pull something off by the end of the day.