First Pitch: 2019-2020 Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason Primer

With the World Series coming to an end last night, the 2019/2020 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 nine players on the 60-day disabled list and two open spots.

Here are the players who are on the DL: Chris Archer, Nick Burdi, Kyle Crick, Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, Jameson Taillon, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Martin, Gregory Polanco

Chisenhall can be released, but the Pirates will need six more roster spots to activate everyone else.

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:

Starling Marte – $11.5 M club option, $2 M buyout

Chris Archer – $9 M club option, $1.75 M buyout

Tom Koehler – $1.25 M club option

I think Marte and Archer are guaranteed to be kept. I don’t think the team would dump Archer for nothing, since he has more value through a trade, or by rebuilding his value next year, or by literally doing anything other than buying out his option year. Koehler will almost certainly be declined, and I’m not sure if there’s a buyout on his option year.

November 20th marks the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters for the 2019 Rule 5 draft. That’s going to be interesting for the new GM, as it will probably be one of his first moves, and will involve trying to quickly assess which prospects to keep and which to get rid of. 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 2019 Rule 5 draft, held on December 12th.

Arbitration Eligible Players

Teams have until December 2nd to tender offers to their arbitration eligible players for the 2020 season.  The Pirates have ten players who are eligible for salary arbitration this year. Here are the players, and their projected arbitration prices, according to MLBTR:

Keone Kela – $3,400,000

Michael Feliz – $1,200,000

Jameson Taillon – $2,300,000

Elias Diaz – $1,400,000

Chad Kuhl – $1,400,000

Adam Frazier – $3,200,000

Joe Musgrove – $3,400,000

Josh Bell – $5,900,000

Trevor Williams – $3,000,000

Erik Gonzalez – $800,000

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.

Under Neal Huntington, the Pirates were 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 trend among teams to strengthen negotiations pre-filing. It will be interesting to see how the new group approaches this, especially with so many arbitration eligible players this year.

Free Agency

October 31st 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 three players who qualify for free agency: Lonnie Chisenhall, Francisco Liriano, and Melky Cabrera. 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 5th.

The big topic during this period will be the qualifying offers for the pending free agents. Teams have five days to decide if they will make a qualifying offer to departing free agents. This year the offer is $17.8 M for one year. If the player accepts that offer, the team gets him for the 2020 season on that deal. If the player declines and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick in the 2020 draft.

The Pirates will have a difficult decision to make with Chisenhall.


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 GM meetings are November 11-14, which means the Pirates have about a week and a half to hire a GM in order to have a GM at the GM meetings. The owner meetings are November 19-21.

The Winter Meetings take place on December 9-12.  The Winter Meetings usually mark the time when free agency starts to heat up. However, the last two years have seen things delayed, where most moves didn’t start taking place until late-January, and some free agents were signing as late as mid-March.




By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on Halloween, plus there is a trade of note from 1973. Starting with the oldest player first…

Hardie Henderson, pitcher for the 1888 Alleghenys. He won his first start in Pittsburgh, then they dropped four straight before they dropped him. Henderson saw his career end at age 25 after six seasons in the majors. He finished with an 81-121 career record, including a 25-35 mark in 1885 when he led the league in losses, hits, earned runs and walks.

Harry Smith, catcher for the Pirates from 1902 until 1907. Smith played sparingly with the Pirates over his six seasons, hitting .202 over 178 games. He played a total of ten years in the majors, hitting .213 with two homers in 343 games. Smith threw out 48% of base runners during his career.

Ray O’Brien, outfielder for the 1916 Pirates. He played 16 mid-season games for the Pirates at age 21, which ended up being his only big league experience. He hit .211 with three doubles and two triples. His minor league career was slightly more impressive. He was a career .308 hitter over 20 seasons, collecting 3,152 hits in 2,780 games. He had 642 doubles and 186 triples.

Dee Fondy, first baseman for the 1957 Pirates. He joined the team mid-season from the Chicago Cubs in a four-player deal, then was dealt in the off-season to the Cincinnati Reds in an even up swap for slugger Ted Kluszewski. Fondy hit .313 in 95 games with the Pirates and .286 with 69 homers in 967 games over eight big league seasons.

Yamaico Navarro, utility fielder for the 2012 Pirates. He hit .160 in 29 games with Pittsburgh, while playing five different positions. He played 79 games in the majors over four seasons, seeing time with four different teams.

On this date in 1973, the Pirates traded catcher Milt May to the Houston Astros for pitcher Jerry Reuss. This ended up being a one-sided deal that worked out three times for the Pirates. They got 61 wins and 1,005 innings out of Reuss before trading him for Rick Rhoden, who would put in 79 wins and eight seasons in Pittsburgh, before he was dealt to the Yankees for Doug Drabek. May on the other hand, was a decent catcher in the majors over 15 years, who played four years in Pittsburgh and returned to the team in 1983 to finish his career.