Justin K. Aller
The Pirates must decide what to do with starting pitcher Jeff Karstens.
The Pirates must decide whether to tender contracts to eight arbitration-eligible players by late Friday night. Here they are:
Third time: Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens
Second time: Garrett Jones, Charlie Morton, Chris Resop
First time: Neil Walker, James McDonald, Gaby Sanchez
Walker, McDonald, Jones and Hanrahan will almost certainly be tendered contracts (even though Hanrahan will be relatively expensive, perhaps around $6.5 million).
Sanchez and Resop are good bets to be. Neither will cost much. Sanchez isn't any great shakes, but he has utility as a platoon partner for Jones, and it would be strange if the Pirates gave up on him so soon after trading a first-round pick for him last July.
Morton will likely be non-tendered. After having Tommy John surgery last season, he probably won't be able to pitch until mid-summer, and there's no guarantee he would be any good even then. It wouldn't be surprising if the Pirates re-signed him to a minor-league contract or perhaps an incentive-laden major-league deal.
That leaves Karstens. Assuming the Pirates don't make a bizarre decision on Garrett Jones or someone else, the Pirates' decision on Karstens will likely be their most controversial move. There have been rumblings that the Pirates will non-tender him due to his fragility -- he only pitched 90 innings last season. The problem is that he's been surprisingly good whenever he has been healthy, and the Pirates have a great deal of uncertainty in their rotation. If it were my decision, I would offer Karstens a contract. If the Bucs don't, and they have something else up their sleeves, that might be fine, but I would feel a little anxious about their rotation without Karstens there.