2017-2018 Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason Primer

With the World Series coming to an end last night, the 2017/2018 offseason officially begins today.  Here is a quick primer of all of the offseason topics.

40-Man Rosters

Teams must reinstate players from the 60-day disabled list no later than five days after the end of the World Series, getting their rosters down to 40-men.  The deadline this year is on Monday.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have just one player on the 60-day disabled list (Josh Harrison), and one open spot. So they don’t have a decision to make here.

Teams must also make decisions on option years no later than 11:59 PM EST on Saturday night.  The Pirates have decisions to make on the following players:

Andrew McCutchen – $14.5 M club option, $1 M buyout

Chris Stewart – $1.5 M club option, $0.25 M buyout

Wade LeBlanc – $1.25 M club option, $0.05 buyout

McCutchen’s option will definitely be picked up. I could see Stewart and LeBlanc getting declined, due to cheaper options at each position.

November 20th marks the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters for the 2017 Rule 5 draft.  Here is a look from the summer at the Rule 5 decisions the Pirates need to make. We will have an update this week. Teams can make changes to the 40-man roster after November 20th, although they can’t add any new internal players to the roster between November 20th and the 2017 Rule 5 draft, held on December 14th.

My prediction of the 2018 40-man roster can be found here, minus the Rule 5 additions.

Arbitration Eligible Players

Teams have until December 2nd to tender offers to their arbitration eligible players for the 2018 season.  The Pirates have four players who are eligible for salary arbitration this year. Here are the players, and their projected arbitration prices, according to MLBTR:

Jordy Mercer, 3rd Year – $6,500,000

Gerrit Cole, 2nd Year – $7,500,000

Felipe Rivero, 1st Year – $3,100,000

George Kontos, 3rd Year – $2,700,000

Once offers are tendered, the two sides (the team and the player) will work to reach an agreement.  If no agreement can be reached, the two sides file for arbitration, during the first two weeks of January.  Once they file for arbitration, the two sides exchange salary figures around the third week of January, and have their salary arbitration hearing during the first three weeks of February.  The sides can reach a deal outside of the arbitration process at any time before the actual hearing, even immediately before the scheduled hearing.

If the negotiations do reach the hearing, both sides will argue their case for the salary they submitted, and the three person arbitration panel will determine which salary is more appropriate for the player.  All decisions made by the panel are final, although the club and the player are free to re-negotiate the deal.

The Pirates are a file and trial team, which means if a deal isn’t worked out before players officially file for arbitration, then they will go to a hearing. This is a growing trend among teams to strengthen negotiations pre-filing.

Free Agency

November 2nd at 12:01 AM EST marks the beginning of a five-day period in which teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their players who qualify for free agency.  The Pirates have two players who qualify for free agency: Joaquin Benoit and John Jaso. Pending free agents can have general discussions with other clubs during this five-day period, but can’t discuss contract details or sign with a new team until 12:01 AM EST, November 7th.

The big topic during this period will be the qualifying offers for these players. Teams have five days to decide if they will make a qualifying offer to departing free agents. This year the offer is $17.2 M for one year. If the player accepts that offer, the team gets him for the 2018 season on that deal. If the player declines and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick in the 2018 draft.

This obviously doesn’t apply for the Pirates’ free agents this year.


The two notable meetings that take place in the offseason are the GM/Owners meetings, and the more popular Winter Meetings.  The first two meetings provides an opportunity for the General Managers to meet face to face, and possibly start discussions on potential trades.

The Winter Meetings take place on December 10-14.  The Winter Meetings usually mark the time when free agency starts to heat up.

  • The Pirates always sign a bunch of guys named Moe during the off season hoping one of them is worth something.

  • Predicted Pirates Free Agency Moves:

    The team signs a 30+ year old declining starter who plays multiple positions and can ‘solidify the bench’ as well as a reliever (or two) who has a ‘real chance to rebound’.

    • “The team signs a 30+ year old declining player who can handle multiple positions and can ‘solidify the bench’.”

      Didn’t we already do this last fall?

  • There it is. Every year my favorite PP article.

  • Could you update the Pirates Future Payroll page? It has a 40 man roster but Nicasio, Gosselin, Hutchison, Jaso and Benoit are still on it.

  • Looks like the Angels locked up Justin Upton – who has been playing for approximately 27 seasons and is still just 30 years old – to a 5 yr deal at roughly $21m AAV.

    Seems like a fairly decent Cutch comp at this point in their careers.

    • terrygordon30
      November 2, 2017 1:51 pm

      Correction, Upton has only played 22 years. It just feels like 27.

    • That contract seems cheap when I think about Neil Walker making 17.5 mil last year. If upton keeps doing what he has been the deal is a bargain, especially considering they didn’t pay for any years after 35.

      • Yeah, really comes down to how much you trust 2017…Walker was actually worth 1 WAR *more* than Upton from 2012-2016, but Upton’s power exploded last year.

        These contracts are funny, man. Folks were calling his original contract with the Tigers dead money before his first year was up, then in Year 2 he earns an extension that’s rightfully seen as completely reasonable, if not cheap.

        • Oh to be a 30 year old mlb player right now and have a .280 and 20 HR season. You can set yourself up for life with a decent year.

    • Wow…in 2021 the Angels will have $53M commited to Upton and Pujols and Mike Trout will be gone.

  • 5 cents for LeBlanc’s buyout…?

  • I am sure that both free agents should receive the qualifying offer, so that when they sign with a team in another country the Pirates can receive a bag of apples as compensation. Let me be the first to say good-bye to them both.

  • Completely off topic but did anyone try YouTube Live for the WS?

  • No matter what NH does this offseason, I predict a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth – probably some of it from me. I am really curious to see which direction they take.

  • And NOW the season for which I subscribe begins…

    • Obviously we have a ton of stuff during the season that no one else has, but I love our content comparison in the offseason. Every other outlet shuts down, and we’re still trying to provide new information on a daily basis. I can’t remember the last time I saw an article from other Pittsburgh media about the Pirates.

    • I guess I should have said, the ML portion of why I read this site! I really enjoy this site and try to reference/quote and push subscriptions throughout the year (yes, Paul?)

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is an excellent overview of what is coming up in the next few months. I do see some trades, though. NH will need to create some payroll space.

    • We have one of the lowest payrolls we shouldn’t have to slash anything. i just read that KC is going to offer qualifying contracts to three of there big free agents, They have no fear of those guys actually excepting and welcome the picks if they don’t.

    • It’s not about cutting payroll, it’s about getting good prospects in return for guys who are nearing the end of their contracts.

  • Tim, I’ve heard in the past that some file and trial teams are willing to work on multi-year deals after arbitration is filed for but not single year deals. Do you know what the Pirates stance is on that?

  • I have a feeling we will not recognize this team come April.

    • I’m just the opposite…I think that it will be all too recognizable.

      • I hope your wrong

        • I’m with Lee on this.
          I can see the Pirates doing as little as possible
          with the only news being the Pirates picking
          up Cutch’s option… That’s all folks.

          Sorry, I’m still depressed.

      • SufferinBuccotash
        November 3, 2017 8:25 am

        Have to agree. I see Nova being dealt and a couple of reclamation starters being signed, and that’s about it.

      • Yup…the Pirates had a choice after 98 wins in ’15…go all-in and try to stay competitive against the Cubs, or blow it up and go for a quick rebuild. Instead, the team didn’t do much of anything except making incremental moves to lessen the talent on the field without moving anyone big enough to get an return worth building with.

        After the debacle of ’16, the Pirates could have moved some minor league ‘talent’ or dipped their toe in the FA market in an attempt to be competitive in ’17…instead it, pretty much, stood pat.

        No reason to think the Pirates will change their off season strategy now…

      • I agree completely. Significant changes, if any, will be made at the deadline if the FO thinks it can’t contend with this group. I don’t think they’ll have the $$ available to add to a team that needs a piece or two.

  • I could see an opportunity for Cutch to play two more seasons here. If he is not traded and puts up another lackluster but decent say 3.5 WAR season in 2018, we could offer him the arb amount (say $18 million) and he could accept it.

  • Hold on to your butts. I think this is gonna be a really weird and active offseason.

    • michael schalke
      November 2, 2017 10:29 am

      I agree with you. NH knows he needs to shake things up and believe he will. Don’t be surprised if Cutch, Cole and Harrison are dealt.

      • I would expect that as well as Cervelli and Freeze if anyone will take them. I have felt the 4 year contracts received by both NH and CH suggested we are going for a complete rebuild and the length of the contracts were to protect them though the pending bad times. I am no sure thats not a smart thing if we can get a lot of top end prospects near the majors.

        • I think they have to tread carefully with the tv contract coming up. I know they say will never overspend but if they ever did it would this year/next year.

      • Shaken, not stirred.

      • If they are trading Cutch, Cole and Harrison, may as well go all in and trade Rivero, Marte and Polanco since none of them would be very valuable to a 90 loss team.

    • GM NH doesn’t have the stones to shake things up. It will be a typical off season. The Pirates wanted to make, were in on player X, but the other team wanted too much.

    • I hope you’re right, but I’m not sure they will do much of anything beyond trying to shed salary.