Week In Review: Pirates Quiet in Free Agency, Busy with Awards

Last week we started a new feature called “Week in Review”, which surprisingly reviewed the weekly articles on the site and the weekly news surrounding the Pirates. It can be difficult to keep up with everything over the off-season, especially with other sports going on. Below is a summary of all of the top stories from the past week, making sure you didn’t miss anything.

The weekly review wouldn’t be complete without a reminder to pre-order our 2014 Prospect Guide. The book will be released in mid-December after the Winter Meetings. This weekend I finished updating all of the player information in the book and adding stats for all of the players in the system. That’s over 150 players, finishing up a huge amount of work for the book. By the end of next week I’m hoping to get the reports finished for the top 50 prospects, as well as some of the prospects in the additional section. Right now the book is on schedule.

We’ve been doing a weekly Prospect Rewind, looking back at previous reports from previous Prospect Guides. This week we looked at Justin Wilson, and whether his future should be in the rotation.

Andrew McCutchen was named the NL MVP this week. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Andrew McCutchen was named the NL MVP this week. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Pirates Take Home Some Awards

The MLB awards season wrapped up this week, with the Pirates taking home two awards. Andrew McCutchen was named the NL MVP, while Clint Hurdle won the NL Manager of the Year award. On Thursday I looked at McCutchen, wondering how long he could post MVP numbers. Not many players consistently perform at the levels we’ve seen from McCutchen the last two years. He definitely has the tools and the talent to continue at those levels. If he continues with these performances, he’ll be seen as one of the best in the game.

The Pirates didn’t take home all of the awards. Neal Huntington was the runner up for Executive of the Year. He should have won that award. Ben Cherington of the Red Sox won, although I pointed out why the Red Sox going from “worst to first” isn’t as impressive as what Huntington did for the Pirates.

Still Quiet on the Free Agent Front

The Pirates still haven’t heard anything from A.J. Burnett. He’s still deciding whether he wants to return to the Pirates or retire. They have been making calls on high upside starters. The Pirates have had success the last two years finding bounce back starting pitchers. Burnett was one of them, and they added another this past season in Francisco Liriano. So it makes sense that they would go back to the well once again, especially since their success in this area is due to a good combination of an approach between their pitching coaches, scouts, and stats department. Earlier this week I looked at the best bounce back free agent starting pitchers.

**Pirates Open to Discussing an Extension With Neil Walker. I still think this is a bad idea, since Walker is already under team control for the next three years and through his age 31 season.

**The Phillies signed Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal. That removes one option for the Pirates in right field. Of course the early off-season news on Burnett and Byrd, combined with the lack of early moves from the Pirates has started the early off-season panic.

**The Pirates also have a need at first base. There were rumors on Ike Davis and Mark Trumbo this week, but none of the rumors said the Pirates were involved with either player.

**Baseball Prospectus Looks at 12 Bargain Free Agents. On Wednesday I looked at the recent trend by the Pirates of spending on hitting and saving on pitching. It will be interesting to see if they go for bargain hitters, or if they pay competitive prices for the guys they want on the open market.

**The Pirates did re-sign three Minor League Free Agents.

**Free agency related: Frank Coonelly is fighting for small market teams against the Yankees.

A New Hitting Coach

The Reds hired Jay Bell as a bench coach this week, which opens up the hitting coach spot for next year. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing for the Pirates, or whether it’s just neutral. They didn’t have the best offensive results last year, so it won’t be hard replacing Bell. It’s not a bad thing to lose Bell, unlike how it would be if they lost Ray Searage. They’re expected to stay internal in the search for a hitting coach. That could mean 2013 assistant coach Jeff Branson.

Instant Replay in 2014

The MLB Owners approved instant replay for the 2014 season. It is expected to go through the player’s union and the umpires with no issues. Fortunately the system dropped the idea of having a certain number of challenges based on innings. The previous plan was rumored to have one challenge available in the first six innings and two challenges the final three innings. The new plan has two challenges, with no restrictions on innings.

Winter League Highlights

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up this week. John Dreker has the 2013 Arizona Fall League Season Recap, with notes on Jameson Taillon, Alen Hanson, Alex Dickerson, and all of the other performers in the league.

**Gregory Polanco lost his on-base streak early in the week. He returned to hitting throughout the rest of the week, including a big game on the same day that Jerry Sands hit a three run homer.

**Harold Ramirez is off to a good start in the Columbian league.

**Here is a good look at catching prospect Jin-De Jhang, who is playing in Taiwan this winter.

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I love this feature, Tim, for those of us that can’t check in every day during the off season. Thanks.

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