Tonight Gerrit Cole pitched Game 5 of the NLDS. He wasn’t on the Opening Day roster. He joined the team mid-season. He didn’t look like an ace until the final month of the year.
Next year the Pirates have Gerrit Cole for a full season, and hopefully at the level he’s been pitching over the last season.
Starling Marte had a 4.6 WAR in his first full season in the majors. Andrew McCutchen had a 3.5 WAR in his first full season in the majors. Marte might not see the same improvements to MVP levels that McCutchen saw, but even if he stays at the current levels, he’s fine.
Marte will be back next year for his age 25 season. Oh yeah, McCutchen will also be back, at the age of 27.
The Pirates used 12 starting pitchers this year, and eight of them had a 3.59 ERA or better. Out of that group, Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Jeanmar Gomez, Brandon Cumpton, Kris Johnson, and Phil Irwin are under team control. Wandy Rodriguez will most likely be back, and A.J. Burnett could return.
Also, the Pirates could add Jameson Taillon at mid-season 2014, just like they added Gerrit Cole this year. Nick Kingham is a dark horse candidate to join the rotation. And Kyle McPherson, Stolmy Pimentel, and Justin Wilson could be darkhorse candidates for the rotation, or used as depth. In short, the rotation should be good once again, and very deep.
The 2013 team was built on defense. Russell Martin was a key behind the plate. Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte provided a great combo in the outfield. And then there were the defensive shifts.
None of that is going away in 2014.
The biggest complaint about the 2013 season was that the offense was weak, and streaky at times. The Pirates had pitching and defense, but the hitting was lagging behind.
The 2014 season could see Gregory Polanco join the outfield by late July, upgrading the offense and the defense. For more immediate help, the Pirates will have a lot of money to spend due to National TV revenues, an increase in attendance, and playoff revenues. Even if they bring back A.J. Burnett, they could afford a hitter or two.
The 2013 season was just the beginning for the Pirates. Most of what led to the success in 2013 will return in 2014. The 2014 team will get a mid-season boost from Jameson Taillon, and possibly Gregory Polanco and Nick Kingham. The team has money to spend, and could boost the offense over the off-season. And in the long-run, they’ve got a great farm system that could lead to waves of potential impact players beyond 2014, such as Tyler Glasnow, Alen Hanson, Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, and plenty of others who will keep this team loaded with talent.
The 2013 season was great, but the best is yet to come. The Pirates might not make the playoffs next year, as that’s never a guarantee for any team. But they will be in position to contend for the playoffs for the foreseeable future, and that’s all you need from a team.
Links and Notes