The Winter Meetings seemed like it could have been an exciting week for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Instead, it left their fans with probably more angst.
This will honestly be a complete 180 from last week’s positive outlook article.
Things kicked off the Saturday just before meetings began with Bryan Reynolds requesting a trade. As would be expected, this lead to a whirlwind of rumors and potential suitors, as has become the norm during all big trading periods, like the winter meetings and trade deadline. It didn’t appear as there were any out of the ordinary talks during the meetings.
From Sunday through to the Rule 5 draft, there really weren’t a lot of talk or rumors surrounding the Pirates. Kyle Gibson had been linked to them before last weekend, but he was in agreement with the Baltimore Orioles before meetings even began.
With most of the big ticket names on the market still available, a lot of the news surrounded where “Arson” Judge or one of the many shortstops were going to sign. Mid-level name after mid-level name slowly began to sign deals. Mike Clevinger agreed with the Chicago White Sox on a one year $8M deal that included a $12M option with a $4M buyout for 2024, receiving $12M guaranteed. Rather shortly after inking Jacob deGrom to a massive contract, the Texas Rangers signed Andrew Heaney to a two year deal for $25M with incentives that could bring it to $37M. Jose Quintana joined the New York Mets for two years and $26M.
Tuesday is when the Pirates made their biggest “splash” bringing in two veteran arms. First they finally added a left-hander to the 40-man, Jarlin Garcia. This was an overall positive sign as it checks two boxes: bullpen and LHP. The Pirates later in the day came to terms with free agent pitcher Vince Velasquez. Time will tell whether they view Velasquez as a rotation piece or bullpen addition, but ultimately it is more of a shoulder-shrug signing.
The biggest news of the week came Tuesday evening when the Pirates walked away from the inaugural Draft Lottery with the 2023 MLB Draft first overall pick. As it stands, the Pirates are going to have a very quality group to choose from at the top of the draft. A lot will change from now till the draft, but there is probably a good 5-6 players in the running (not counting any potential dark-horses like Jackson Holliday who jumped in previous draft). This also means they will have a larger bonus pool — Ethan’s update as of December 8th — to work with.
Wednesday rolled around and brought about what has become Pirates fan’s favorite topic to argue: the Rule 5 draft. With the third selection, the Pirates ended up adding another LHP to their bullpen, selecting Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Jose Hernandez.
With the very next selection, the Cincinnati Reds selected, this is going to be tough for me to write, Blake Sabol. Fortunately he was quickly flipped to the San Francisco Giants which lessens the blow of possibly having Blake raking against the Pirates in Great American Ball Park.
I’m sad, but I’m happy for Sabol. I’ve enjoyed watching him grow from a very raw looking centerfielder for the West Virginia Black Bears, to debuting in Bradenton out of extended Spring Training where the ball exploded off his bat, to a top five hitter in the Double-A Eastern League among OPS. I’d like to see him come back, but I hope he succeeds in San Francisco.
The minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft is where things got crazy. The Pirates added two players while losing eleven. Tim Williams and John Dreker broke down all of the players gained and lost throughout the entire Rule 5 draft.
In total, it was a rather quiet week for the Pirates. That in itself is what has become the bulk of my personal angst. Ben Cherington says, “We want to continue to add.”, and going as far as saying they have the financial flexibility to add “if we wanted to or the right matches lined up.” But where are moves that show that is the case? Where is the transparency that they claim to covet?
There does seem to be a trend of players signing closer to home with Heaney going to Texas — he’s from Oklahoma — and Trea Turner to Philadelphia, whose wife is from New Jersey. That aside, there has been quite a few deals that one would think are within budget of a team who claims to have a desire to add and the “financial flexibility” to do so. Obviously free agents also signed deals to go to clubs they felt would be competitive, but the Pirates’ star player just asked for a trade, and they continue to sit on their hands.
Joe Musgrove signed a VERY team friendly deal this past July to stay in his hometown of San Diego because they’ve continued to show effort, even while being of the league’s smallest markets. Their market is near identical to the Pirates. Why would Reynolds want to sign an extension, even if just for market value, to remain with a club whose front office has been doing the bare minimum, even after voicing their desire to begin flipping the script?
We’re left to often read the tea leaves in trying to determine the organization’s approach. Pirates fans have been waiting for the Pirates to do something, anything, that bucks their usual trends. Over the last few seasons, management hasn’t seemed to be very keen for developing contingencies, or fallback plans. So far this off-season, after kicking things off with some minor intrigue, the Pirates have seemingly settled back into their business as usual.
This is Cherington’s fourth off-season. We’re reaching — or have reached — the point where the fruit’s of their labor should begin presenting itself. If they’re entering another season of struggling with a collection of fringe players/prospects and a litany of consistently existing issues, then what has changed? Bringing in a new front office led many to believe they were going to be more forward thinking, or in the least, catch up to the rest of the league. You could say there’s more potential or promise, as we generally hold a higher value of prospects we’ve personally watched grow. But have the Pirates actually gotten better to this point?
Song of the Day
Yes. I went there.
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.