Where does the rotation go from here

I’m going to write a bit more about Kevin Correia in the fairly near future (I think it’s very interesting how his pitch selection and batted ball profile changed when he went from the Giants to the Padres and I think that’s worth investigating a bit), but I haven’t had time to mine the data yet. Until I get there, I think it’s worth looking at the Pirates’ rotation after yesterday’s moves and trying to figure out where it goes from here. 

Let’s start with the obvious question: are the Pirates done? They’ve been connected to a ton of pitchers this off-season and as recently as about 11:00 last night they were connected with Kenshin Kawakami and they were still coming up in connection to Justin Duchscherer yesterday afternoon. I would guess that they probably won’t try a trade for Kawakami at this point (unless the Braves want Ryan Doumit, in which case the Pirates will probably take whatever they can get), though I wouldn’t rule out a Duchscherer signing if only because the Pirates seem to really like the guy. But that hasn’t happened yet, so as we stand today the Pirates rotation breaks down like this: 

Definitely in:
James McDonald, Ross Ohlendorf and Kevin Correia. McDonald and Ohlendorf are the only two pitchers that weren’t terrible last year and obviously the Pirates intend for Correia to be in the rotation. I don’t think there’s much besides injury that will change this. 

Probably in, pending the next two months:  
Paul Maholm. I don’t think the Pirates are necessarily looking to trade Maholm right now, but if they keep adding pitching he’s going to be the first guy to go. It’s already pretty likely that 2011 is his last year with the club (he won’t be worth his $9.75 million option in 2012) and you can occasionally get a team to overpay for decent lefty rotation help. There’s a chance he’ll be more valuable in June or July, though, so the Pirates may be a little slow to deal him at a low-water mark over the winter. 

Fighting for a spot: 
Scott Olsen, Charlie Morton, and Brad Lincoln. People freaked out about the Olsen signing yesterday, but you know what? I’ll be shocked if he’s in the rotation to start the year. Morton and Lincoln are both better than Olsen is, and the Pirates are probably going to open 2011 with Wil Ledezma as the bullpen’s only lefty. Aaron Gleeman was right in pointing out that Olsen has some extreme righty/left splits and at $1 million for a year, there shouldn’t be any problem dropping him into the bullpen. It’s one thing to say in December that he’s going to compete for a spot in the rotation because you want to put some pressure on Brad Lincoln and Charlie Morton, but it’s another thing entirely to really put him in the rotation. Morton might eventually end up in the bullpen, too (his infamous electric stuff would play well there if he can’t get himself together as a starter), but I don’t think they’re ready to shift Lincoln there quite yet. In any case, I think a Duchscherer (or Francis) signing means a Maholm trade rather than a rotation without Lincoln or Morton or Olsen. 

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.