The Pirates don’t have a good team right now.
It’s been described as “A hodgepodge of nothingness.”
Dennis Eckersley on the Pirates (roster construction, payroll, etc):
"You talk about a no-name lineup. There's no team like this."
"This is a hodgepodge of nothingness."
"It's ridiculous. It really is. Pathetic." pic.twitter.com/qwPBnmkDTD
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 17, 2022
It’s very clear that the Pirates are tanking right now for anyone who has paid attention.
They’ve shown no effort the last few offseasons to upgrade the team short-term, and have focused on trading away their best short-term players. They’ve poured their focus into the draft and acquiring lower level players for their rebuild. They’ve spent very little on the MLB team in the process.
I wrote yesterday about how the Pirates need to get aggressive in free agency to start filling team needs. Right now, they’re relying on prospects to fill the gaps on the roster, and they don’t have their best prospects in the majors. The ones they do have in the majors are struggling to adjust, as is normal for prospects making their debut.
In yesterday’s article, I mentioned how the Baltimore Orioles are looking to significantly increase their payroll this year. Their plan is to be aggressive in free agency, and to target expensive contracts.
The Pirates took a similar approach under Neal Huntington in 2012 and 2013, the last time they entered into a contending run. They added the “expensive” A.J. Burnett from the Yankees, and got more aggressive in free agency with the additions of Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano.
Their free agent additions under Cherington haven’t been bad, but they’ve been mostly geared toward cheap value. The upside there is a Jose Quintana or Tyler Anderson starter who can complement a rotation. That clearly hasn’t been enough to get the Pirates out of the basement.
Granted, the Orioles are ahead of the Pirates in their current rebuild. The Orioles added their General Manager one year prior to the Pirates adding Ben Cherington. The change for Baltimore came after a 115 loss season although their following three years produced 108 and 110 loss seasons. They’ve clearly been tanking.
That hasn’t been the case this year.
The Orioles currently have a winning record, while thus far successfully transitioning 2019 first overall pick Adley Rutschman to the big leagues. They have a young roster that is producing a positive run differential, and it only makes sense to add in that situation.
The Pirates might be in for another tanking year, based on how things look right now.
As “hodgepodge of nothingness” as their roster seems, they do have talent. The problem is that the Pirates haven’t seen a Rutschman type debut. In fact, Rutschman would be the MVP on this Pirates team by fWAR, which is a sad comment for a roster sporting former top 100 prospects like Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Mitch Keller, and more.
This team has talent, but it’s still in the form of “potential talent” and not “current talent.”
The Pirates are mostly waiting for Cruz, Roansy Contreras, Jack Suwinski, and other prospects to fill important holes on this roster, while relying on Hayes and Keller type young veterans to step up and be the star players the Pirates need them to be.
There are a lot of “ifs” involved with the Pirates having a winning season next year. It’s disconcerting to see this team seemingly not care, with a total lack of hope coming from the resulting record. Especially when every bump or bruise to one of those above players seemingly puts this entire process at risk.
Unfortunately, this is what is to be expected when a team is clearly tanking.
Even more unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait to see if this tanking process will be worth it.