First Pitch: What to Expect From the Pirates This Week? Good Question

The MLB winter meetings begin tomorrow, which means we could see some of our first moves from Ben Cherington. We should at least hear some rumors about what the Pirates might be thinking about doing, giving an idea of the direction they should be headed in.

Because Cherington was hired late in the process, and because winning in 2020 doesn’t seem like a priority, I wouldn’t say there’s a rush for the Pirates to make moves. I’d expect most of their biggest moves this offseason to be selling, and they should be in no rush to move anyone unless they get the proper return.

The Pirates don’t have a ton of trade value, which is something you’d expect from a team that finished with 93 losses in 2019. The guys who are capable of bringing the biggest return are Starling Marte, Josh Bell, and maybe someone like Adam Frazier. There are other guys on the team, like Gregory Polanco, Chris Archer, or Keone Kela, who would benefit from getting a chance to raise their value in Pittsburgh in 2020.

There are some needs for the team in 2020, most notably at catcher, and also in the rotation. I feel the Pirates would be best suited going for long-term value in these positions. They will get more benefit trying to find someone who might be able to help at any position in 2022 or beyond than they’d get trying to find the best available catcher for 2020.

I think the most important thing we could learn or see from the winter meetings this week is a defined plan for the Pirates. They’re under no obligation to spell out their intentions or plans to anyone. But right now everything we know about what they’re going to do is based on speculation, and pointing out what appears to be obvious moves for them to make from the outside.

In the past I’ve been able to write up a winter meetings preview, knowing just about everything the Pirates would be focused on. This year? There’s a lot of mystery involved, and no one really knows anything about what to expect. That should certainly make this an interesting week to follow.

We’ll have full coverage and analysis of all of the news. We’ll also have more updates this week on Pittsburgh Baseball Network. We just released the 2020 Prospect Guide, and will have updates to the book if any big moves take place. Keep checking back throughout the week for all of the updates.




By John Dreker

Busy date for trades of note, so I’ll keep the recaps brief for each one. We also have four former Pirates born on this date.

On this date in 2005, the Pirates traded pitcher Dave Williams to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for first baseman Sean Casey and cash. Casey had batted over .300 five times in his career to that point. He lasted with the Pirates just 59 games before being traded to the Tigers. He hit .296 with 29 RBIs before the trade.

On this date in 1977, the Pirates teamed up with the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Texas Rangers to complete a four-team, 11-player trade. The Pirates gave up Al Oliver and Nelson Norman in the deal while getting back future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven from the Rangers and outfielder John Milner from the Mets. Blyleven would win 34 games over three seasons in Pittsburgh and add another two wins during the 1979 postseason, helping the Pirates to their fifth World Series title. Milner hit .263 with 34 homers and 149 RBI’s in 417 games over five seasons in Pittsburgh, while posting an impressive 150:97 BB/SO ratio.

On this date in 1948, the Pirates traded infielder Frankie Gustine and pitcher Cal McLish to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Cliff Chambers and catcher Clyde McCullough. Gustine was an all-star for three straight seasons prior to the trade but he played just 85 more big league games. He played 1,176 games over ten seasons in Pittsburgh. McLish had a 5-11 record over parts of two seasons with the Cubs then went five years between major league appearances. Chambers threw a no-hitter with the Pirates in 1951, the first in team history since 1907. McCullough played three seasons for the Pirates and he hit a career high .297 in 1951.

On this date in 1947, the Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers hooked up for a six-player deal with three players from each team involved. The Pirates traded infielders Billy Cox and Gene Mauch, along with pitcher Preacher Roe to the Dodgers for outfielder Dixie Walker and pitchers Hal Gregg and Vic Lombardi. The trade was a win for the Dodgers, Roe went 93-37 in seven seasons in Brooklyn after going just 34-47 for the Pirates. Cox had the second best career following the trade playing seven years for the Dodgers. Walker had two good years with the Pirates before he retired, batting .306 in 217 games but his best years were behind him at that point. He was 37 at the time of the trade, a four time all-star who received MVP votes in seven seasons while with the Dodgers including a second and third place finish.

On this date in 1939 the Pirates traded pitcher Bill Swift to the Boston Bees for pitcher Danny MacFayden. Swift had been with the Pirates since his rookie season in 1932. He won at least 11 games in each of his first five seasons in Pittsburgh and a total of 91 wins over his eight seasons. MacFayden was a 14-year veteran with 125 career wins at the time of the trade. Despite strong credentials on both sides, neither did much for their new team. Swift won just four more major league games over his last three seasons, while MacFayden went 5-4 3.55 in 35 games in his only year with the Pirates. He was released following the season and pitched just 15 more major league games.

Jim Pagliaroni, catcher for the 1963-67 Pirates. He played 490 games for the Pirates, hitting .254 with 49 homers and 185 RBIs. His best season came in 1965 when he played a career high 134 games. He hit 17 homers that season and drove in 65 runs, both career highs. He reached double figures in homers for six straight seasons. After the 1967 season, Pagliaroni was sold to the Oakland Athletics. He finished out his 11 year big league career, two seasons later with the Seattle Pilots, during their only season in existence.

Jack Rowe, shortstop for the 1889 Alleghenys. He was a star player back in the day, before hitting .259 in 75 games for the Alleghenys. They purchased him from the Detroit Wolverines as part of a package deal that included pitcher Pete Conway. Rowe hit .286 career in 12 seasons, scoring 764 runs and driving in 644 runs in 1,044 games. His brother Dave spent seven seasons in the majors as a player, two as a player/manager.

Kid Camp, pitcher for the 1892 Pirates. In 1891, Camp pitched 459.1 innings for Seattle of the Pacific Northwestern League. The next season, he made his debut in the majors for the Pirates, getting one start and three relief appearances before returning to minor league ball. Camp pitched 21 innings, allowing 23 runs (16 earned), finishing with a 0-1, 6.26 record. Camp had one other brief trial in the majors, going 0-1, 6.55 in three games(two starts) for the 1894 Chicago Colts(Cubs). That 1894 season would be his last in pro ball under unfortunate circumstances. At the age of 25, Camp passed away a month prior to the 1895 season. His brother Lew Camp pitched three seasons in the majors, the last in 1894 as a teammate of Kid.

Charlie Wacker, pitcher for the Pirates on April 28, 1909. In his only appearance for the Pirates, and his only big league game period, Wacker threw two innings in relief, giving up two unearned runs on two hits and a walk. He came in during the seventh inning of an 8-2 loss to the Cardinals and finished the game for the Pirates. The 25-year-old, 5’9″ lefty, got his big league chance after going 27-8 in 1908 for Evansville of the Central League. He returned to the minors soon after his one game and played until 1911, finishing with a 76-54 record over five minor league seasons.