The Pittsburgh Pirates will have some interesting roster decisions to make next week. Two minor league players have out-clauses, allowing them to escape from their contracts on June 1st if they’re not added to the major league roster. Those players are Doug Slaten and Jose Morales.
Slaten, a left-handed reliever, has been on fire in Triple-A. The 32-year old has a 0.36 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched. He gave up a solo homer in his first outing of the season, and hasn’t given up a run since, spanning 24 scoreless innings. His ratios aren’t the most dominant, but get the job done, with a 5.3 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9.
Jose Morales, a catcher, has been getting most of the playing time behind the plate in Indianapolis. He has a .313/.384/.391 line in 64 at-bats. There’s not much power, but he’s hitting for average and getting on base at a good rate. The 29-year old has 218 career at-bats in the majors, with a .289/.365/.344 line, again with no power but good hitting skills.
The decision to keep either player would be tough, as there’s not a need in Pittsburgh. Slaten is just a bullpen guy, profiling as a middle reliever. The bullpen hasn’t been a problem for the Pirates this year, and there aren’t many players who you could justify removing from the active roster.
Morales profiles as a backup catcher. Michael McKenry doesn’t exactly have the position locked down with his .694 OPS, but his heroics over the last week could make a switch difficult.
If there’s one player that would make more sense to protect, it would be Morales. The Pirates have plenty of bullpen depth, so they could afford the loss of Slaten, even with the left-hander refusing to give up a run. If one of their catchers go down, the depth in Triple-A is pretty thin with Morales gone. Eric Fryer would be the second best option, and while his defense is good, his .427 OPS raises a problem.
The Pirates might have to make a decision in the interest of depth, rather than worrying about whether McKenry or one of the bullpen arms deserves to be in the majors. There is less urgency with Slaten, which means it would make more sense to make this decision with Morales. They’ve got a spot open on the 40-man roster, so the addition of Morales wouldn’t be an issue, outside of optioning McKenry down to Triple-A.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates won 3-2 against the Cubs on a walk off hit by pitch. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at Hague’s first walkoff.
**Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson has a four hit night.
**Live game reports: Wilbur Miller covers Altoona.
**The minor league schedule for 5/27: Jameson Taillon on the mound.