Pirates notebook: Rodriguez’s value soars but Bucs have options | TribLIVE.com
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The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez hits a sacrifice fly in the first inning against the Nationals on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, at PNC Park.

Sean Rodriguez has put himself in position to get a hefty raise this offseason on the free-agent market.

He most likely won’t get it from the Pirates.

Rodriguez went into Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals batting .264 with a carer-high .864 OPS. A super-utility player who has played 133 games, Rodriguez has a personal-best 18 home runs.

“Sean’s just done a remarkable job,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “The defensive versatility and the impact, it’s hard to measure.”

Rodriguez, 31, is making $2.5 million this year. This winter, he could seek to double his current annual salary in a two- or three-year deal.

“We’d love to have Sean remain in a Pirate uniform,” Huntington said. “Given what he’s done this year, we would fully anticipate that there’s going to be quite a market out there for him.”

The Pirates will have cheaper options to fill Rodriguez’s spot next season.

Manager Clint Hurdle has said Adam Frazier is being groomed to fill a super-U role. Fellow rookie Alen Hanson also could fit as a rover next year.

“As we sit here today, (Hanson’s) best role will be (as) a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner threat off the bench, a player who can bounce around the diamond,” Huntington said.

Hanson, 23, will be out of minor league options after this season.

McCutchen to left field?

Andrew McCutchen has a minus-12.3 defensive value this season, per Fangraphs. His minus-2.2 defensive WAR ranks last among everyday center fielders in the National League.

Will McCutchen give way to Starling Marte next year and move to left field? Huntington’s answer left plenty of room for speculation.

“At times, Andrew has played as good a center field as he’s played since he’s been here,” Huntington said. “Going gap to gap continues to be a strength for him. There seems to be more balls hit over his head this year. Some of those are my (fault), based on the pitchers we put on the mound.”

Management is optimistic that McCutchen’s recent turnaround — he took a 12-game hitting streak into Sunday’s game — will carry over to next season. Switching to a less challenging defensive spot could help.

“We’ve got to sit down and evaluate a lot of things,” Huntington said.

Planet of the aches

Marte remained out of the lineup because of a cranky lower back. Marte was examined again by doctors Saturday, but the Pirates did not announce any change to his day-to-day status.

With seven games to go, it seems likely Marte will not play again this season.

“It continues to be muscular in nature,” Huntington said. “His body seems to not cooperate with him. The last thing we want to do is put a player in harm’s way. And if he can’t go, he can’t go.”

Jordy Mercer returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a sore right forearm.

Francisco Cervelli, who was struck on the wrist by an errant pitch Saturday, was out of action Sunday.

The Pirates already have shut down Gerrit Cole, Chris Stewart, A.J. Schugel and Josh Harrison for the rest of the season.

Huntington is concerned about the unusually high number of late-season injuries. This offseason, his lieutenants will look for a reason.

“It is something we’ll explore” he said. “Having to play every game with your playoff life on the line for an extended period of time can put additional stress on guys. We had an odd schedule, with a long stretch of time with no off days or no days away from the park because of rain outs, then four off days in July and a lot of travel. We’ll evaluate it and dig deep and see if there are things we can do better.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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