Pirates Discussion: A Refreshing Change of Pace

There are multiple avenues available for organizations to acquire talent. One of those avenues is through free agency, which has not often been the Pittsburgh Pirates path of choice.

In terms of volume, the 2021-2022 off-season was actually one of the most active for the Pirates when they signed seven players to major league contracts for a combined $16.225M guaranteed. That amount is almost equal to the total amount spent over the prior four off-seasons combined in guaranteed major league contracts that comes to $16.55M.

In the 2016-2017 off-season, the Pirates only signed two free agents — Ivan Nova and Daniel Hudson — for a combined $37M guaranteed that broke down to roughly $14.167M in AAV. The previous off-season the Pirates handed out less in guaranteed, $22.4M, but was $18.4M in AAV mostly due to another instance of volume with six free agents signed and John Jaso receiving two years at $8M.

The Pirates signing of Carlos Santana for one year at $6.725M in the grand scheme of things isn’t a lot, but to a team like the Pirates, it’s a shift from their norm. That is already more guaranteed in a single off-season than three of the previous five off-seasons. If they were to sign a Kyle “Not Kirk” Gibson for more than $1.2M, it would be more than four of the five previous with the 2021-2022 off-season being the lone holdout.

Overall, and especially over the past five years, this is not an area we’re used to as fans. It’s refreshing. There was the “Trade We Can Hopefully Soon Forget” that brought in Chris Archer, but even that was proceeded by the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen just prior to the 2018 season.

Even at this moment, fans still fear that the Pirates could trade Bryan Reynolds. But with that, there’s been rumors of the Pirates seeking to add. That the Pirates have had conversations with free agents like Kyle Gibson. That Ben Cherington wants to improve the 2023 roster.

This isn’t to say we should expect a contender. There is still a lot of areas the Pirates need to improve upon for that to happen, which was an area covered during Thursday’s Roundtable: Can The Pirates Have a Winning Season in 2023?

Question becomes whether they’ll seek to add any significant free agents or trade acquisitions from now till the beginning of the season. Even the term “significant” is relative. Was adding Ji-man Choi and Carlos Santana significant? The answer to that is subjective whether you focus on the fact it’s an upgrade from players like Bligh Madris, Diego Castillo, or Ben Gamel receiving first base repetitions, or in comparison to what value an above average everyday first baseman like Jose Abreu provides.

The Winter Meetings begin this Sunday and there will surely be plenty of rumors going around. This could be a time where Ben Cherington has face-to-face conversations with other GM’s and decides to pull the trigger on a trade or two, and it could also be a time where he decides to sign another free agent.

Time will tell, but for the time being, the beginning of the off-season has had a little more positive outlook than has become expected over recent off-seasons.

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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SouthernBuc

I expected to see at least one Reynolds thread in the responses. In the spirit of everybody is tradable for the right price, it would be fun (at least for me) to see what package our Prospect writers thought would make the Pirates pull the trigger. I don’t want them to trade Reynolds and I don’t think anybody will meet their price but what if somebody did offer a couple top 40 league wide prospects (or recent top prospects who are now in MLB). Or 2 Top 40, 1 top 100, and another interesting player. I think this becomes a real conversation at trade deadline or next off season if there is not continued good progress from ‘key’ prospects.

DangerWilRobnsn

They’ve lost 100 games or more the last two years and it would have been three if not for COVID. Remind me again what the new CBA rules are regarding penalties for deliberate tanking? If they have the opportunity to lose 100 more in 2023 without it adversely affecting their subsequent draft, it’s going to happen. Everything else is just lipstick on a pig from a planning perspective. Can they overperform? Sure, the 1997 Freak Show proves anything is possible, but it remains highly unlikely.

Anthony

Tanking has context and needs to be viewed within the financial constructs of the game. This word was effectively created out the strategy employed by both the Cubs and Astros, the latter being the most egregious. These are two teams with abundant financial resources, far more abundant than the Pirates. Technically, I don’t think it’s even possible for the Pirates to “tank” unless they spent about $10M on MLB payroll.

EightMenOut

why even follow a club that you believe is tanking and not rebuilding? Rebuilding small market clubs don’t sign free agents until the 2-4 rebuilding years are near completion. Signing Santana for 6.7 million very early in the off season is not a sign of tanking. It remains to be seen how serious they are as the off season progresses.

Catch_22

In addition to Gibson and Q, BC mentioned they’re interested in Gallo.

leefieux

Gallo’s OPS+ has been horrible the last two years. Of course, that’d fit right in with our perennially weak offense, so there’s that.

Catch_22

2021 he had an OPS+ of 122

If there’s a hitter built for PNC, it’s Gallo.

leefieux

Yeh, I was looking at the 2021 splits…lousy in Texas AND last year.

bianco599

Darryl Ward? I expected way more river bombs from him. Maybe Gallo can launch a few. I’d be down with him signing even without understanding those numbers.

NMR

The don’t award you more runs for hitting it further over the fence, my dude, and Joey don’t need any help from a short porch.

You’re looking for the left-handed JHay. A dude with fringy power but an ability to pull the ball in the air. The years JHay yoked em down the line he was a star, the years he peppered the big part of the field he was a role player.

Catch_22

That’s valid. We already have the lefty JHay in the system, albeit a better hit tool.

Are you against bringing in Gallo?

NMR

Hell no I’d love signing him even more than I loved Vogey.

AdministrativeSky236

LH bodes well for PNC park though a RH Gallo would be the absolute complement outfielder for our roster

Catch_22

You sign Cutch and Gallo…that would be fun

Wilbur Miller

Well, that’d be entertaining at least.

Catch_22

I’d give him a one-year deal and sell him on the short porch in right and launching baseballs into the river.

Let him have RF and see what happens.

Wilbur Miller

I imagine he wants a one-year deal to re-establish himself. From his perspective, the Pirates should be a perfect fit.

leefieux

I’d rather keep Suwinski out there in RF. He was better offensively and not bad with the glove. Not a HUGE Suwinski fan, but at this point, I’d rather go with youth.

bianco599

Always good to have a Polish guy on the team. Especially during the pierogi race.

Catch_22

Put Jack in LF and Gallo in RF. Problem solved.

Gallo will be 29 for the entire 2023 season.

Last edited 1 month ago by Catch_22
Anthony

That’s a lot of K’s to voluntarily put in your lineup!!

roberto

Question. I keep seeing statements that Endy won’t break camp with the Bucs. Explain why, please. What areas of his game need more AAA time?

skliesen

Besides development issues, which I’m certain are legitimate, Endy, nor any other highly prized prospect, won’t ever break camp with the big club due to MLB rules. And the Pirates have demonstrated repeatedly they will avoid an extra year of arbitration by keeping them down past the projected Super 2 date.

As such, unless Endy signs an extension before June 15, don’t expect to see him play anywhere but in Indy.

EightMenOut

more AAA time? he basically has had no time so far. He is 22, has only 138 ABs in AA, and just 23 in AAA, and he is a catcher. Why would you put him on the MLB team without giving him 100-200 more ABs in AAA? People wanting to see Endy start the season on the MLB team are very likely just plain wrong. You could delay his positive contributions to the MLB team by bring him up on opening day and then sending him down 6 weeks later due to poor hitting. At any rate, it would be bad management to assume you don’t need a legit hitting and fielding proven MLB catcher on the team on opening day, and that right now is not Endy. Sure, if he is doing great in AAA then you move him up, but that can’t be your default position.

SouthernBuc

I was debating how to respond and I like your thoughts. I want to highlight your last sentence ‘that can’t be your default position’. I am not sure they will find a legit hitting catcher (I think 20 teams are looking for that), but finding a mediocre hitting catcher who would seem like a good partner for Endy when that day comes would be nice. If Endy continues to rake in spring training and continues in AAA then he forces the issue. Then the Super 2 debates begin. And to anger folks more… unless Pirates are looking like a real playoff team – low odds – then keeping him down for Super 2 is the correct organizational thing to do IMO. Most teams do it but there have been examples when they did not(I believe always playoff type teams). Players had a chance to negotiate it out and it didn’t seem to have any real priority as an issue for the players union. They did add something for super performers.

leefieux

He needs ‘time’ so that we can get an extra year of control. Plus there is that Super Two thingy.

skliesen

Can’t blame Pirates for keeping them off the OD roster to gain the extra year. Super 2 just reeks of greed though.

john_fluharty

This is basically what I was going to say

Catch_22

Pretty weak troll game, Amigo

roberto

I simply asked a question. There was no game. If nobody has an answer, maybe it becomes something else.

NMR

Answer the counterfactual:

What, specifically, about Endy Rodriguez indicates he is capable of being the first catcher in modern baseball history to successfully skip AAA?

The history of the game inarguably shows that 99.9% of prospects and all catchers benefit from AAA development time.

What logic does it possibly make to invert that probability?

Last edited 1 month ago by NMR
James_Robert5

Realmuto is the best catcher in the game and he spent most of a weekend in AAA

13 PA total

James_Robert5

There are tons of catchers who didn’t spend much time in AA/AAA – McCann, Pudge, Mauer, etc.

IMO the bigger issue is that he hasn’t spent much time at catcher at any level

In 4 minor league seasons he’s only caught 1333.2 innings or less than one full MLB season

NMR

And was replacement level for his first full season in the bigs.

MB21

I do hope they continue to explore the free agent market. Not doing so over the past few years has not only led to even worse seasons (and unwatchable products) on the field but has also ignored another avenue to add talent (either by keeping or trading them). There aren’t many other teams that have so consistently refused to test the market year after year.

Wilbur Miller

They supposedly have an offer on the table for Gibson. Unless he’s looking for a pillow contract, I have to think it’s for 2-3 years. Very curious to see whether that happens next week.

EightMenOut

It is also positive to see them trying to do this early in the off season, rather than waiting for the leftovers in February. I would be happy if they land someone on a 3/30 or 2/24 deal, but seeing Eflin signed for 3/40, I’m guessing pitchers are upping their prices right now.

skliesen

Unfortunately the DeGrom deal for 5 years will impact how many years Pitchers want as well. The large market teams just got an even bigger advantage over small/mid market teams in pursuit of guys like Manaea, Heaney, and maybe even Gibson this winter with the announcement DeGrom got 5/185 with an additional option year.

joebaseball

GREAT. Starting Pitching is crucial to Pirates getting better this year and building on.Then get Quintana back ad Bucs could have a winning season.

Wilbur Miller

Among other things, two guys like that could help buttress the bullpen. The Pirates hopefully wouldn’t feel like they had to structure the pen around the possibility that the starter gets knocked out in the first four times a week.

leefieux

While I LOVE Q, it’ll take more than him, even if you include Gibson, to have a winning season. They need bats and Santana/Choi, while better (hopefully) than what we had in 2022 did not move my Bucco needle that much.

RAS TN

Amen…it’s a shame that the posters on Pirate blogs have lowered the bar so low that they get excited about signing 2 players who are decent but are not going to be players that will lead the Pirates to the promised land and can throw in Gibson or Gallo. Together might achieve an additional 5-7 wins…big whup…

Pirates do not need any more 1-year wonders if a player is worth signing then it should be for a minimum amount of 2 years and an option, if not longer…

Tomkatf14

I probably have Stockholm Syndrome, but to me the bats are less needed than legit SP. First, I think Key and Reynolds will both be better offensively. I think we can have some faith Suwinski can hit, as can Castro. We should get tons of power from middle-infielder. Catcher-assuming it’s Perez-will be poor offensively and 1B/DH probably average. Could use a legit extra OF bat if we’re assuming Bae provides solid offense. The point is there is hidden upside with position players and I didn’t even mention Cruz or any other prospects up by June.

I’m not sold that this is an above-average rotation yet, which has been the conventional thinking. Keller pitched well. Is he better than a 3.75 ERA? Doubtful. Is Ro better than a 3.75 ERA? Doubtful. Is Brubaker better than a 4.5 ERA? Doubtful. Is Oviedo or the other guy at AAA surefire starters? I think the rostered pitchers tossed near what we can hope for them. Little upward trajectory. QP and Burrows can help, but if we have 15M more to spend I’m spending 14M of that on SPs and 1M on C and trusting that the bats improve

leefieux

Hayes has had two back to back seasons with OPS+ in the 80s. I am genuinely curious what gives you optimism that he’ll be any better than that?

Reynolds had a down year and still led us in OPS+

Agree, we need faith in Suwinski and Castro. Not sure that I have that type of faith, tho. You’ll have to have double faith for the both us. 🙂 🙂 They both K too much and unless that changes, what you see is what you get. I LOVE Bae, and I hope he dupes what he does at AAA. But, even if he does, that isn’t gonna be enough. Not by a long shot.

We had (without checking) one of the worst offenses in the Majors last year. It needs LOTS of help.

Last edited 1 month ago by leefieux
k1rainey

re: Hayes. youth and hard hit%

leefieux

Well, I hope that you’re correct, because, offensively, he has been extremely disappointing..

roberto

Why do the Bucs need a catcher? This is a reframing of my earlier question. I certainly agree that additional competent starters would be helpful.

madlock5

The ump will get irritated when he keeps getting hit by the ball because he doesn’t have a catcher squatting in front of him.

Last edited 1 month ago by madlock5
leefieux

We just need a placeholder.

john_fluharty

We need a veteran catcher who’s good defensively and calls a good game that can start for now then act as mentor and backup to Endy.

leefieux

And Perez, Barnhart or Stallings fit that bill perfectly as placeholders.

john_fluharty

Works for me

piratemike

First time I heard it called a Bucco needle!

leefieux

Well, I have other sports needles that sometimes need moved, so I had to clarify it. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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