In baseball, a slow off-season is the norm. The off-season is called the hot stove season because it resembles water heating up. You turn on the burners, then you wait. And you wait. Then you see a few bubbles. Then suddenly, the water is boiling and you’re ready to go.
It feels like the Pirates have had a slow off-season thus far. No, it hasn’t been slow in the sense that they haven’t made any moves. Aside from all of the usual waiver claims and minor league free agent deals, they’ve signed A.J. Burnett and traded for Francisco Cervelli. That’s pretty active, considering we haven’t even reached the month of December yet.
What feels slow is the lack of rumors. There’s nothing saying who the Pirates are looking at, with the exception of trying to retain their own players. That doesn’t mean they aren’t looking at anyone. We heard nothing about Burnett until he signed. There was nothing on Cervelli until the trade was completed. It’s like you walk into the kitchen one day to find a boiling pot of water on the stove.
That’s kind a trend for the Pirates. When they signed Edinson Volquez last year, it just happened. There were no rumors connecting them to Volquez. It was the same thing for Francisco Liriano the year before. The Russell Martin signing had some advanced notice, but only by about a day. The original A.J. Burnett deal was the rare exception, where it seemed like we got a new update everyday for a month until the deal finally happened.
The Pirates are good at keeping things under wraps until they’re just about to be official. But I think this situation goes beyond the Pirates and their preferences. They are in on starting pitching, and I think it’s safe to say that they won’t be going after Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or James Shields. That puts them in the market for one of the second tier arms like Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, or Ervin Santana. It seems that all of those guys are waiting for the top three guys to set the market. That’s just based on rumors earlier in the off-season about McCarthy, saying just that, and the lack of rumors for that group.
There hasn’t been much movement for the top tier of free agents, although that could be changing soon. There were rumors today that the Chicago Cubs were looking at Jon Lester with a six-year, $135 M deal. Usually the market starts to heat up around or before the winter meetings, which take place in about two weeks. I’m guessing by the end of the winter meetings, we’ll start hearing about the market for the second tier of pitchers, and maybe even see some of them signed.
Until then, we may be stuck in this slow period for the Pirates, with a lack of rumors, and maybe a few more deals that come out of nowhere.
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