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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Pirates Weekly Discussion: Who Would Sign in Pittsburgh?

We’re inching closer to the official end of the MLB season and the opening of Free Agency.

One of the hotter discussion points is, “Who would want to sign in Pittsburgh?”

Let’s break down what the Pirates have to offer to players, and what they don’t.

Playing Time

When Jarrod Dyson signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in February of 2020, he was pretty blunt with his response on why he signed in Pittsburgh:

“Ain’t too much out there right now,” Dyson replied when asked why he signed with the Pirates. “You would love to explore, but at the same time, you have to take what you can, take the good with the bad and roll with it. Make the most of it.”

This touches on one of the first aspects of playing time. It would be an area for a player that may be looking to have a bounce back season. Some recent positive examples would include Tyler Anderson, Jose Quintana, and Daniel Vogelbach. Anderson and Quintana both had track records of being productive big leaguers at one point in their careers, whereas Vogelbach was someone who was mostly sub-replacement over the course of his career.

A team like the Pirates, as they stand, offer the ability for a player to receive an immediate starting position as opposed to a player having to battle for a spot on the opening day roster. There may be a position player that teams are offering a bench or platoon role to that the Pirates can step in and say, “We have first base wide open and it’s yours”. Say there is a starting pitcher that had recent struggles and teams are considering them as a bullpen option. The Pirates can give the opportunity for a starting rotation spot.

Financially

This is rather self explanatory. Free Agents want to get paid.

Without this falling into the abyss of arguments over parity and the depth of one such owner’s pockets, the Pirates probably could take a shot at a higher tiered free agent. That is very unlikely for a myriad of reasons (excuses if you want to use that term).

Jon Gray, as an example, signed with the Texas Rangers in the 2021 off-season for four years and $56 million. I feel that’s easily a contract the Pirates could afford. All things equal, if Gray had the choice between Pittsburgh and Texas on the same contract, I would have to imagine he chooses Texas, unless he secretly really loves bridges.

As it stands, Pittsburgh isn’t likely a desirable location until they make it so. In the hypothetical scenario, would offering Gray an extra million per year gain his favor? Would it have taken offering $64 million or maybe just an additional year? We’re not in the room and it’s hard to know what it may exactly take. Someone like Gray may want to sign closer to home — he’s from Oklahoma — which plays a role (wanting to be closer to home is at least mentioned in rumors for some players).

Andrew Heaney had a rough 2021 season, and followed it up with an effective but injury-plagued 2022. He is someone the Pirates could potentially outbid other teams by offering a longer length of contract.

Winning

Players with multiple suitors are likely to prioritize winning. Whether that is a team that’s recently shown success, or is showing signs of life into entering their “window” of success. The latter is the area I believe the Pirates should be focusing on. It’s an area where the front office becomes salesmen and need to pitch free agents on their vision.

In 2021 the Detroit Tigers were coming off of their fifth straight losing season. Their team was not good, but they had a trio of intriguing arms coming off their first extended look: Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning. The excitement for their position players was Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo, and the Tigers also had one of the top farm systems in the league with two top-five prospects in all of baseball: Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene.

One of the biggest moves, in my opinion, was extending Jonathan Schoop in August of 2021. At this point, Schoop wasn’t his 2016 or 2017 form, but he was a stable veteran. It isn’t a splash move by any means, but it’s the appearance it gave off. In November the Tigers traded for veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart to timeshare with Eric Haase.

The first big move the Tigers made was signing free agent Eduardo Rodriguez — who was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive five years and $70M — to a five year deal that maxed out at $80M. Next was signing Javier Baez to a hefty six year $140M deal that is very unlikely for the Pirates to do. We could go into what happened thereafter with Baez and Rodriguez not living up to expectations, Torkelson struggling, and the Tigers having a worse 2022 season than 2021, but the Pirates have to take some risks eventually.

Putting It All Together

I want to emphasize everything that lead up to the point of the Detroit Tigers signing Eduardo Rodriguez. By that point, Miguel Cabrera had become a very, very expensive paper weight. Detroit is far from a desirable destination. They were a “loser franchise”.

As I’ve said before, I believe the Pirates have the makings of a league average rotation beginning with Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, and Roansy Contreras. They have quality veteran players in Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes. They have one of baseballs most exciting (if even still raw) young players in Oneil Cruz. The farm system is going to have a plethora of upper level talent entering the 2023 season.

Sell free agents on this vision. Sell them on the thought that they could be a piece in something bigger, on growth. Make an early trade or signing that shows they’re serious about transitioning out of their everlasting rebuild.

Are Quintana and Roberto Perez serious about returning? Sign at least one of them, quickly. A respected veteran showcasing a desire to play in Pittsburgh would be a positive influence. Make a needle moving trade that may have been discussed at the deadline by packaging some upper level prospects.

The longer the front office waits, the less of a chance of bringing in any potentially quality free agents. The longer they wait, the less of a chance they have of building a more competent roster.

+ posts

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.

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1979andCounting

Holy S–t!! P2’s very own Ethan made the front page of The PPG today Oct. 26! Not the Sports front page, but A-1 Front page! Congrats Ethan! …….I know you don’t want the job on Federal Street…..but BC would let you work remotely, or hybrid a couple days a week! Someone should post the link, that’s above my pay grade.

AdministrativeSky236

Saw a trade on BTV, suwinski for Pratto (17.8 for 15.8). In theory, by their metrics we could add a flier/lottery ticket to make values very even. I know our outfield is far from settled, but I like this as a rare need-for-need young player swap that could work out very nicely for both teams. Pratto as a 70 grade fielder would look mighty nice on the other end of some of those Cruz throws

AdministrativeSky236

This is a good point, and I guess mostly goes down to their projections of everyone involved. Do they think between cal, canaan, swags, gorski, sabol, bae, etc. that they have 2 starting caliber OFs and is the upgrade to pratto worth what they think jack can be. Also depends on how confident they are in nunez to hit and field enough at 1B. These are probably questions above our paygrade, but it was an intriguing possibility to think about

b mcferren

we could always sign right handed Andrew McCutchen to play right field

EightMenOut

A question about the finances – will putting a better product on the field come close to paying for itself, and maybe more? Are there some numbers out there that baseball teams are known to use?  For example, if the Pirates go into the FA market this year and get two decent starting pitchers on 2 year/12 million a year contracts, then that is adding $24 million a year to payroll. Let’s say that allows the team to hover around the .500 mark, increasing fan interest through out the year, and that raises attendance by X people per game.  If you assume that a person spends on average $100 on tickets/food/drink/parking/souvenirs, then per every 1000 people of average increase attendance, revenue goes up $8.1 million per year. And most of that revenue is profit, as a lot of the costs are already fixed. So to pay for those two FAs, you need to increase average attendance by 3000, and, of course, you can do quite well if the team is very successful, is in contention for the playoffs, and average attendance jumps up 6000 per game (an additional half million for the year). Point being, if you spend money on pitching this year, you are very likely to get most of it back, with a chance of actually making incrementally more than you spent. Pirate attendance is down over 1 million from its peak.  So by not putting up a team that is playoff calibre, the Pirates are losing 100 million in revenue (?), so again, even if you are “cheap and greedy” (and I’m not saying Pirate management is) you are really not making more money by refusing to add FAs smartly.

Anthony

I’ve advocated for this concept in the past as well. The Fan Cost Index (FCI) for the Pirates in 2022 was $199.23, which is the average cost for four tickets, parking, and concessions. So, basically double your attendance estimate as your revenue estimate is 2x.

I do know that there are escalators in their lease where the sports authority gets a higher percentage of rent based on attendance and revenue thresholds; however, the amount is likely nominal at these levels.

Nonetheless, I do agree that they are leaving money on the table from an economies perspective. However, I think they’re so risk averse that they would NEVER budget based on a YoY attendance increase of 500k, and honestly, I don’t think a lot of other owners would either. This could however be part of BC’s plan, although I’ll believe it when I see it.

john_fluharty

You make a good point but I don’t think the average fan is paying out a hundred bucks, especially if you’re coming with a family.

AdministrativeSky236

This is a great point, and something I have also wondered about. It seems Bob wants a year of attendance > spending to open the wallet at all, but he should also just know that attendance will increase when we get better regardless. Additionally, Nutting could scoop places like mike’s beer bar or others that are similar so he gets a double income boost with a better team and thus more attendance

Anthony

I agree; he’s more of a bad businessman than he is greedy. He’s not making the money 99.9% of people speculate, and anyone who would be remotely interested in purchasing this franchise would immediately want to know how they could increase revenues. Their is only one way until they can renegotiate their local media contract and potentially purchase ownership in the RSN, and it’s through increasing attendance (and prices).

SufferinBuccotash

That depends on your definition of businessman…..

If you could put minimal effort into something and every year you make millions of dollars on it anyway, some people would call you a great businessman….

Y2JGQ2

Honestly- the last thing we want to do is keep any of these kids from playing. We know what happened with Hurdle. If you signed a veteran- any veteran, that is whom was playing. We need a first baseman that can actually play first base and hit, and we could use one solid ACTUAL outfielder, and we could use a halfway decent catcher on a 2 year deal. Besides that, we need pitching, a starter, and a couple relievers. Our relievers were beyond awful this year, and that’s fine, but next year we want to start to improve.

EightMenOut

Reynolds is a solid actual outfielder. Suwinski as a 23/24 year old, in 106 games hit 19 home runs, wRC+ of 100, and WAR of 1.8 (Fangraphs), so that qualifies as actual, I would think. After that you need 1 (or maybe 2 if Suwinski’s numbers go down) more outfielder in Andujar, Mitchell, Swaggerty, CSN, and maybe Bae, and then other options that may surprise in AAA this year. It isn’t a sure thing outfield, but very doubtful that is where money should be spent. First base and starting pitching, yes, FA improvements would be very helpful.

AdministrativeSky236

I like this point a lot. Is a RH outfielder a need in a dream world? Absolutely, but knowing spending will be a minimum I would rather throw an extra few million at pitching or 1B and bank on internal improvement in the OF. There’s plenty of young guys who can go earn themselves playing time if they work their ass off this winter to improve on a deficit or two

roberto

A RH outfielder is absolutely needed. Versus LHP Suwinski had a wRC+ of 47; versus RHP it was 122. That’s almost as extreme as Vogelbach.

EightMenOut

Not sure a 24 year old left handed hitter should be declared a platoon player after 106 games in the majors.

bianco599

Each time I look at this article I want to pound some of Stevie Wonder’s favorite beer. Not trying to be offensive because I have mass respect for the man. Just reminds me of an old joke.

The Gunner

I’ll go out on a limb and predict this offseason will be pretty uneventful.

hoffmark83

Isn’t always?

The Gunner

Ha ha……yep!

postal911

I agree. It will be similar to last year. 1 scrub catcher, 1 down and out sp, maybe 2 washed up rps on minor league deals and a 1b that is either washed up or is a failed former “top” prospect.

hoffmark83

Don’t forget the 3 dozen or so waiver claims they will make

The Gunner

Unfortunately, I agree with your summary

SufferinBuccotash

Sadly, so do I.

Expect the least and be pleasantly surprised with anything over it.

joesolo6181

The team needs to sign a winning player and manager. People that will hold the team accountable when they screw things up. Without such leadership this team will flounder.

postal911

That’s why I’m not a fan of the tear everything down and start over plan. Young players need quality veterans around them to learn and to take the pressure off. I believe a lot of struggles we’ve seen is because these young guys are trying to do too much because the team is always behind or on the pitching side, guys are nibbling because they know the offense is bad. They really need to take a step forward in free agency and start building something.

Anthony

If I was a betting man, I would speculate that they have about $25M – $30M (in 2023 payroll terms) to spend in FA and extensions. Less than what I would have expected but def more than 2022.

roberto

My sense is that they have at least double that capacity, but I agree with Mtgj that the FO may think it’s premature.

Anthony

I’m referring to what their actual expense will be, not capacity. In this part of the rebuild cycle, I would agree that payroll capacity > actual.

I’m assuming a 20% increase in total payroll expenses, slightly above last year’s 15% increase. $114M total payroll expenditures – $45M current per Ethan – another $2.1M minor league contracts – $20M retained salary/bonuses – $16M MLB benefits share – $1.67 pre-arb bonus pool = $29M FA and extensions.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony
Mtgj

I think rizzo, Heaney and 2 solid relief pitchers makes the pirates an instant contender, Unfortunately I think that management still thinks the pirates are a year away and aren’t going to try to win until next offseason. I hope I’m wrong because I’m so ready for meaningful baseball in Pittsburgh, but everything I have seen indicates otherwise.

mikeschalke

Why in God’s name would Rizzo sign with the Pirates?

Y2JGQ2

Realistically it doesn’t matter. If we sign someone useful, we can trade them so it doesn’t matter if we are 1 year away or not.

NorCal Buc

Go after Quintana, Roberto Perez, Carlos “Black Magic Woman” Santana for 1B and STARLING MARTE to CF! Simple.

Then sprinkle in some bona fides young alent, and we have a playoff contender!!

JoeNastasi

Perez will never have another healthy month in his career. A hamstring kept him out 5 months this year & he’s barely had a healthy month before that. His playing future is very, very bleak.

jeffw3000

I like signing Perez, and Quintana. I do wonder if Quintana is still willing to come back here, without testing the Market. He really had very good year. He pitched better for the Cards than with us. With the Cards he never gave up more than 2 earned runs. I could see someone paying him more than the Pirates would.

I do not like signing Santana. He is 36 in the downside of his career. If you ignore the short 2020 season, he has not had a good or even decent season since 2019, and he will continue to get worse. I would not be against getting Marte back, but I do not see why the Mets would trade him now. He is making $21 million a year. If the Mets trade him I sure they would want us to pick up a huge portion of that salary. I doubt the Pirates would want Marte, who is 33 under that.

1979andCounting

F.A.s can sign 5 days after the W S. But I’m wondering if negotiations can start now during the playoffs? Seems it would be near impossible to police that…..GMs talking to agents. I gotta believe it’s happening now.

Wilbur Miller

The Dyson comments are incredibly revealing, and very much a reality check. In the Hodge ‘n Podge alternate universe, sub-replacement veterans are vital to show the young players “how to play the game.” In the real world, they’re just crappy players desperate to hang on for as long as they possibly can.

The long-term goal of turning the team into a winner is irrelevant to guys like Dyson. If anything, it’s anathema to them, because a team trying to win wouldn’t employ them. They’re just getting by and, if they’re “teaching” the young guys anything, that’s it. You don’t “lead” just by being 4-5 years older than some guys. You lead by doing what Quintana did, on the field. Who in their right mind is going to listen if some guy batting .170 or .150 or .040 tries to tell them how to hit? Should they even listen?

The Pirates haven’t been building a winning atmosphere. They’ve been building a “qualify for my pension” atmosphere.

pikebishop65

I made a similar point last season during the Will Craig fiasco play! One of the things that got me about that fiasco of a play is probably just how things are in the clubhouse of a bad team, that everyone expects to be bad and probably will be bad.

What amazes me about that play is that you didn’t have every veteran on that play screaming “Touch First Rook!!!!” “Touch the F**king bag!” Someone in that infield had to know what to do.

I can only imagine, there is bad karma and chemistry on teams like this. The veterans know the rookies are trying to take their jobs, as opposed to breaking in on a good team, and the level of quality of these veterans most know they could be out of baseball soon, so they probably don’t help the young guys as much.The young guys probably don’t get to know the vets as they realize they are the future and most of the vets won’t be around much longer.

I don’t know, maybe I am thinking about it too much, but someone should have yelled “TOUCH THE F**KING BAG MEAT!” on that play.

skliesen

I just want BC to try his best to win with whatever payroll budget Nutting gives him. They definitely need a LHSP and a 1B.

Hopefully the LHSP they sign will be signed for more than 1-year. As for the 1B, I’m expecting a veteran on a 1-year deal who can be flipped at trade deadline.

Probably best to expect any other signings to be of the bargain basement variety.

The big question mark is will BC trade from his prospect depth to fill one of the holes on the roster.

TNBucs

Mackey made a good case for Carlos Santana in a column this week. I was skeptical, but between his on-base skills, that many of his outs were hit into the shift which will be banned, and his potential for mentoring our young players from the DR, I’d like this move.

Anthony

He’ll be 37 next year and coming off two of his worst playing years. He’s also wasn’t a full-time defensive player last year. I’d rather spend twice the money and get a bonafide middle-of-the-order bat in J. Abreu. He’s not a spring chicken either, but he’s still extremely productive. I can see him prob signing with a contender for a very reasonable contract.

Y2JGQ2

at 1st base? sure why not.

AdministrativeSky236

If yinz could sign just one free agent to fix all our woes, who would it be?

NorCal Buc

Starling Marte, or trade for him.

Let him retire here

TNBucs

Taijuan Walker? Sean Manaea? Zach Eflin? Taillon? None of these guys would fix all our woes, obviously, but add one of these guys to Keller, Contreras, Brubaker, and Oviedo/Ortiz and we should be in almost every game.

Y2JGQ2

A lefty would be a wise investment

bianco599

I like this idea. Manaea had a rough year. Not sure of all the numbers but he was on a team expected to compete. Maybe he could come to the Burgh and relax and do his best at being above average.

skliesen

This is a trick question. Not even Aaron Judge and Clayton Kershaw would fix all our woes.

I think they should prioritize LHSP. I think Quintana would work best, but I’m not expecting a reunion.

Y2JGQ2

If they were going to ever prioritize LHSP, they’d draft some. This front office has no imagination and doesn’t value real world advantages of lefties. a 40 year old Sean Burnett could make this team otherwise

SBRO

The last time the Pirates were ready to convert from tanking to competitiveness was the 2011-2012 offseason. The prior year, they were still signing free agents on the cheap, a Correia here, an Overbay there. As surprise contenders at the trade deadline, they picked up Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, picked up Grilli off the scrap heap and signed Tabata to his extension.

Going into 2012, they went to work on (for them) legitimate free agent contracts: Barajas ($4M), Barmes (2/$10.5M), Bedard ($4.5M), signed all of their key arb-eligibles, and then went out and traded for Burnett and extended Cutch. Those FA signings hit both the financial and the playing time notes. Bedard had battled injuries over the previous 4 years but was good when healthy. Barajas was in his nomad phase as an older catcher and the Pirates gave him a raise over what he had made with the Dodgers. Barmes hit free agency as a 33 year old who could still pick it and pop it, and the Pirates may have been top bidder there as well. There were other FAs available in the dollar bin, but Huntington decided to skip that aisle and went for the next quality level up (and yes, Barajas was a disaster and Bedard didn’t pan out after a good start, but the process was there).

Most notably, all of these free agent deals were signed early: Barajas on Nov 10. Barmes Nov 21. Bedard on Dec 7. They didn’t wait out the market to pick from the leftovers.

I know we’re looking at a different front office, and it’s a decade later, but I think this is the best blueprint we should hope for this offseason: 3 early sign, non-bottom-feeder free agent signings (SP, OF, C), a key trade (1B) and a key extension (Cruz or Reynolds).

Last edited 1 month ago by SBRO
James_Robert5

I think this is the right approach

I’d like to see a few more extensions

roberto

Extension Check List: insanely talented, scarily driven, and really, really needs the financial security. Candidates?

James_Robert5

Keller
Contreras
Brubaker

Reynolds
Cruz
Suwinski

Bae
Castillo
Mitchell

Castro
Bednar
Endy

Henry Davis
Nick G
Priester

Ortiz
Oviedo
Burrows

Todd

If Pirate scouts do their job finding FA talent is not difficult. Determine who you want most,
pick the position needed (C, 1st B, SP and RP) Finding players to fill these rolls is not
difficult. Make a fair offer and go from there

roberto

Aaron Judge would sign with the Bucs for $300 million over 10 years. Want to do that? The Bucs could afford it, and it’s not your money. Carlos Correa would accept a slightly richer deal. On board?

pikebishop65

Pujols Albert, signed by the Angels, Los Angeles to a 10 year deal (at that time) the richest in baseball. During that time, even when paired with the best player in the game and a pitching/hitting freak of nature during most of that deal, made the post season ONE time, and got swept 3-0!

roberto

Is that a no?

Retire21

Damn …. that would inflate the 2023 on-field payroll all the way to 75 Mil …. blasphemy

roberto

I’ve been accused of that before, so I will stay in KC. Not many blasphemy trials here.

docdon385

This entire discussion hinges on what Pirate ownership and management’s real intentions are. What is this vision they are supposed to sell? They’ve kept it pretty well hidden so far whatever it is, and it’s hard to sell a secret. Do they really plan to build a contending team or are they happy with winning a few more games and pretending while continuing to make a lot of money doing so? You say they have to take some risks eventually, but that only applies if their plan is to actually win.

So far there’s been very little to indicate that winning is a priority. I might start believing when Cherington stops signing cast offs and starts trying to attract and pay good players if that ever happens or more importantly if Nutting will ever let it happen.

Y2JGQ2

Trevor Bauer? The dodgers would love to get rid of him and pick up most of his salary

pikebishop65

Cherington has basically been upfront about the last two seasons being hitting bottom, and then rebuilding. He has also said they were going to sign and trade for pitching. This year better see at least one, and probably two, major league average starting pitchers on the roster in 2-3 year deals (see Bedard, Burnett in 12) or you will see attendance measured in 3 figures next April.

RAS TN

Gamel, Chavis leads a cast of thousands…

Y2JGQ2

solid role players on playoff teams- just clogging up the roster when there is talent in the minors. Sadly, there was none at first base. Probably should have gamel play at 1st

roberto

But was the talent ready for MLB? I’ve been promoted prematurely, and it didn’t go well.

Y2JGQ2

well judging by the power numbers we’ve seen from our rookies, i’d say yes. The problem is more that they aren’t able to focus on hitting cause our moronic management is constantly trying to get people to play positions that aren’t natural for them instead of trading the talent that we don’t need for talent we do need. An organization with a brain, and 4 prospect 2b trades 1 of them for a Ib prospect that they don’t have……..not us.

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