Vote in the poll below to let us know who you think is the Face of the Pirates for our Face of the MLB tournament.
In case you don’t know already the teams in the NL central are the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, and Reds.
1: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have re emerged as one of the powers on the National League. The reason I think the Bucs will win this year is the Cardinals have weakened. Another reason is they have the pressure of having a winning season off their backs. Now they can focus on going further in the playoffs and winning the division. If they pick up a solid starting pitcher on the free agent market they can make a serious run for the World Series. They basically have the same team as last year (minus Garrett Jones, and possibly A.J. Burnett) so I think they can make a repeat playoff appearance.
2: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals will miss Carlos Beltran’s power in the lineup, but knowing the Cardinals’ organization, they will find a way to stay in the playoff race. I think their key will be power hitting first baseman Matt Adams, and newly acquired Jhonny Peralta. If Matt Adams can start the 2014 season where he left off in the playoffs, he may be able to fill the hole left empty by Carlos Beltran. Peralta will definitely be an upgrade at shortstop over Daniel Descalso. Peralta has 2.8 WAR rating over Descalso’s 0.2 . Because of the always solid starting rotation and new additions, the Cardinals will stay in the division race.
3: Milwaukee Brewers
Surprise! The reason I think the Brewers will finish in third (with the Reds not far behind) is that Ryan Braun will be playing with a fire under his butt, trying to win the fans back, and if he has a solid year that would be a huge boost (needless to say). With the energy of Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, and Matt Garza, and the veteran presence of Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, and Jonathan Lucroy I think the Brewers have enough to possibly compete in the division/wild race.
4: Cincinnati Reds
I have no doubt that the Cincinnati Reds can finish higher than I predict them to, but I just don’t see it happening. The Brewers are re-stocked, the Cardinals are almost always good, and the Pirates are pretty stacked. But that doesn’t mean they can’t compete. They have a solid starting rotation with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Homer Bailey. They also have one of the best left handed hitters in the league in Joey Votto, and one of the better defensive players in the league in Brandon Phillips. But one of the wild cards with this Reds team is who is going to get traded before the season starts. Brandon Phillips has said he would like to be traded, and Homer Bailey’s contract expires at the end of the season and GM Walt Jocketty has said he will not re-sign him at the end of the season.
5: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are the only team in the central not fit to compete this year. I think they will do better than last year, but not enough to get out of the NL central basement. But don’t worry, the Cubs time will come. As a Cubs fan I am very excited for the future.
What’s the deal with A.J. Burnett? Free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett has been on and off about talks of retirement. Now 37, the Pirates have mostly given up hope on the right-hander returning. “We’d love to have A.J. back, but right now we’ve turned the page and we’re heading to Bradentown (Fla.) thinking he’s not going to be with us,” club president Frank Coonelly said, but they are leaving the door open and have made it clear they are financially able to have Burnett return for 2014. Coonelly continued, “but if he surprises us and calls up tomorrow and says he wants to pitch again, we’d love to have him.”
The Pirates’ current rotation, without Burnett, is Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, and Edinson Volquez. Burnett would fit in somewhere near the top of the rotation, possibly above or below Liriano. Burnett posted a 10-11 record last season for the Pirates, with a 3.30 ERA in 30 games. His ERA was amazingly above his career average, which measures in at 3.99, and, in fact, matched his career best when he was with the Marlins in 2002. Burnett also led the Pirates with 191 innings pitched accompanying 209 strikeouts.
It would appear that Burnett is still in his peak years, even at the age of 37. He posted the highest K/9 last season of his career, with 9.8. Burnett gave up a mere 0.5 HR/9, a career best.
Burnett could definitely come back to the Pirates for 2014, be a #1 or #2 man, and get work done. It’s just about whether or not he wants to.
In December, the Pirates declined Burnett’s $14.1M qualifying offer, which would have entitled them to a drat pick. The Pirates signed former Reds’ pitcher Edinson Volquez to a one year, $5M deal, which was a good pickup for them. Burnett was the highest paid player on the Pirate’s roster last season, making $16.5M, but Coonelly said the team has some room financially to bring him back.
“If he surprises us and he calls tomorrow and he’s as passionate and competitive and as determined as he was for the first two years that he was with us, we would be thrilled to have him back,” Coonelly said. “And we have the flexibility to bring him back.”
Sources say the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies have taken interest in Burnett if he decides not to go back to the Pirates, but it appears it is either going back to the Pirates for one year or calling it quits for Burnett.