Pittsburgh Pirates Off-Season Needs

Over the last two weeks I have reviewed each of the positions on the 25-man roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates, focusing on the 2010 season, as well as a look to the future at each position.  Based off of that analysis, here is how I see the 2011 25-man roster, heading in to the off-season.  For the positional analysis, click on the links for each position.


The long term option at the position is Tony Sanchez, although he won’t be up until mid-2012 at the earliest.  The Pirates have Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit under contract for 2011.  Snyder will only cost around $2.75 M, since Arizona sent $3 M in the trade that brought him to the Pirates.  He will also be the starter over Doumit.  It would be nice if the Pirates could trade Doumit this off-season, ridding themselves of his $5.1 M guaranteed salary, although it’s unlikely any team would trade for him.

First Base

This is one of the holes on the 2011 team.  They have Garrett Jones, although Jones was poor against left handed pitchers last year, and might be used best as a platoon player.  This is an area where the Pirates could afford to look to the outside for help.

Second Base

Neil Walker stepped up in 2010, putting up numbers that made him one of the best offensive second basemen in the game.  If Walker can get anywhere close to his 2010 production at the plate, he will be a huge asset for the Pirates, especially if his defense at the position improves.

Third Base

Pedro Alvarez is the short term solution here, as the Pirates have no one that can immediately move him to first base.  Moving him to first in 2011 would just create a hole at third base, which could be harder to fill.  Moving Neil Walker over to third to fill that hole steals time from Walker that he could use to develop his long term skills at second base.  Hopefully Anthony Rendon has a good year, and the Pirates draft him as their long term solution for third base in the 2011 draft.


Ronny Cedeno was a below average shortstop in 2010, but the Pirates don’t have any replacements for him to start the year.  Pedro Ciriaco could be a possibility if Cedeno continues to struggle with his consistency issues on defense, although Ciriaco is a defense only option.  The options on the free agent market are mostly in their mid-30s, making them potential shortstop versions of Jeromy Burnitz.  The trade market might provide answers for an upgrade, but shortstop isn’t a position where teams are overly willing to deal young talent.  The Pirates could have an internal option in Chase d’Arnaud, possibly as early as June 2011.

Left Field

Jose Tabata will take this position in 2011.

Center Field

Andrew McCutchen is the starter in center field.

Right Field

Just like first base, right field is a problem area.  The Pirates have a lot of first base/right field options, although none have stepped up as a guaranteed starter.  I’d prefer to add an external option at first base, and go with a Garrett Jones/Lastings Milledge platoon in right field.


Ryan Doumit will take one spot.  Assuming the Pirates don’t keep a backup catcher outside of Doumit, they will have four more spots.  One of those spots would go to a platoon player if they had a platoon situation at first base or in right field.  Pedro Ciriaco or Argenis Diaz should take up the middle infield bench spot, and I prefer Ciriaco.  That leaves a need for an outfielder, and another infielder.  The Pirates have plenty of outfield options, and I’d probably go with John Bowker from the group.  I’d also keep Andy LaRoche around as a backup to third base, and potentially second base, hoping to avoid a potential repeat of the Jose Bautista situation.


The rotation was the biggest problem this year, although the Pirates have help on the way in Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, and Justin Wilson, possibly as soon as June.  Paul Maholm has a rotation spot locked down, due to his $5.75 M guaranteed salary.  Ross Ohlendorf and James McDonald are the only two pitchers who have locked down a spot due to their performance.

Zach Duke will likely be non-tendered this off-season, leaving Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln for the final two spots.  While the Pirates have the 2010 Altoona rotation on the way, I’d prefer to see them add a starting pitcher this off-season, using Morton as the fifth starter to begin the year, with Lincoln working out of AAA, and coming up as the first reserve if anyone gets injured, or if Morton continues his struggles.

The Altoona pitchers all have the skills to make it to the majors, but they can’t be counted on for guaranteed production, especially not right away.  Adding a starter helps to ensure that the Pirates aren’t depending on these guys to have immediate success.  If the group of Lincoln/Owens/Morris/Locke/Wilson results in a crowded rotation, the Pirates can solve their “problem” by trading a guy like Maholm, possibly filling a need at another position (first base, right field, shortstop).


The Pirates have the back of the bullpen set with Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.  Chris Resop also surprised this year, and could be a good 6th/7th inning guy if he repeats his performance from August and September.  I’d like to see the Pirates bring Chan Ho Park back after what he did with the team the final two months, as he can also provide emergency starter depth, and has historically been better in the National League.  Jeff Karstens should also get a spot as the long reliever/emergency starter.

That leaves two bullpen spots open, or three if the Pirates don’t bring Park back.  They have a few internal options, such as Joe Martinez and Wilfredo Ledezma.  The spots being filled won’t be extremely important, so the Pirates can take the same approach they took last off-season, which yielded guys like Javier Lopez and D.J. Carrasco to fill the middle relief innings.  I’d like to see them go with Martinez, and Ledezma interests me with his ratios.  They might have to add one external option, but overall the bullpen shouldn’t be a problem area to address.

The Needs

-A first baseman or a right fielder (I doubt they can upgrade both)

-Shortstop (Could be possible to upgrade via trade, although it wouldn’t be horrible if they gave Cedeno one final shot)

-Rotation (Two starters would be optimistic, but I think they can, and should, add at least one starter)

-Bullpen (Not a huge issue, but some middle relief depth, and possibly one middle reliever for the major league roster)

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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