Pirates Prospects Daily: Sixty-Two or Eighty-Three Wins?

Would it have been better if the Pittsburgh Pirates won 75 games in 2022?

I’m asking you to think about that question for a minute.

*****

At this point in the offseason, I think an argument can be made that the Pirates have strategically improved their roster in a way that will lead to an increase of at least ten wins over the 2022 team.

In Tuesday’s article drop, I broke down how those wins might take shape, with the biggest potential coming from a seemingly very likely six-win swing at first base and designated hitter.

The Pirates might be preserving a few of the wins that Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski provide in the outfield, by surrounding them with better depth.

I also think that Austin Hedges will do some great work with the pitching staff, and wrote about why in my column this week.

The Pirates lost 100 games in 2022. They barely ended up with the third worst record in the game. That helped them move up two spots in the draft by winning the inaugural MLB Draft Lottery.

The moves they’ve made so far have helped to stabilize the roster. It’s difficult to imagine them winning more than 81 games with just these moves alone. Fortunately, they do have payroll space, and are looking to add.

If the Pirates added a veteran starter and an outfielder, I think this could be a team that can post a winning record in 2023. That might sound absurd, considering this team looked horrible last year. It wouldn’t be unheard of, as the Orioles went from 110 losses to 83 wins in the span of a year, just this past year.

It didn’t take much for the Pirates to get to the point where I could see them getting 75 wins. They probably could have done the same last year, with more of a focus on adding players during the offseason. While more wins might have made fans feel better about the appearance of progress, it’s becoming clear that rebuilding MLB teams don’t see a value in aiming for wins 63-75.

And why should they?

You don’t get a trophy for having less than 90 losses.

The money you spend to make that 62 win team a 75 win team could be bankrolled for a later year, possibly taking 82 wins to a playoff spot.

So, I ask again: Would it have been better if the Pittsburgh Pirates won 75 games in 2022?

And, why does it make sense this year?

As Anthony Murphy wrote last night, the Pirates have a large wave of prospects arriving in the next year. Do you want those players coming up on a tanking team? Or, do you want them arriving onto a team that is playing to win every night, with the chance to push for a winning season in September?

The former might get another high draft pick.

The latter might create an environment that boosts those young arrivals and smooths their transition to the majors.

I have to think it’s a lot easier for a prospect to arrive on a winning team, where they can just fit in — versus “Hey, Oneil Cruz? Please immediately be a star and carry a team as a rookie, thanks!”

Ideally, at this time next season the Pirates are still working from a low payroll, due to filling so many spots internally with players from their farm system. Perhaps that would allow them to strategically spend their way next year into a playoff run in 2024.

First, let’s see how they finish the offseason.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**In this week’s Roundtable, we each picked our favorite prospect story from 2022.

**The Pirates are reportedly looking for starting pitching in return, if they were to trade Bryan Reynolds.

**The Pirates announced six minor league free agent signings, including two names we haven’t heard before.

**Oneil Cruz appears to be done for the winter. John Dreker has an update in the latest Pirates winter report.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony wrote about the next wave of prospect to hit Pittsburgh.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

In our latest Roundtable, we each picked our favorite prospect story in 2022.

Prospect Roundtable: Who Was Your Favorite Prospect Story in 2022?

Jeff Reed will have the latest Pirates Discussion Friday at noon.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Subscribe
Notify of
75 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
pittsburghbob69

Merry X-mass everyone!! All I want for X-mass is an above .500 season and a Pirates Wild Card birth.

jsdspud

At some point they have to start building a winning team. It is difficult to go from 62 to 83 wins in one year. They need to add a veteran or two in the right spots, SP and OF come to mind quickly, to try to get to 75 wins. Then raise payroll again next offseason so that they can try for the mid 80’s and a possible playoff spot. I haven’t paid to attend a game since 2018 and won’t until they stop tanking.

RAS TN

Blue Jays Acquire Daulton Varsho From D-Backs For Gabriel Moreno, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Scratch BlueJays and Reynolds…

ArkyWags

Yep, there go through Jays as a suitor.

Last edited 1 month ago by ArkyWags
redwards60

Hopium attempt article….I predict another 100+ loss season which will be even more likely once they give Reynolds away in yet another one sided trade.

Y2JGQ2

Tim never takes Hopium. This article is pure common sense. Does it makes sense to believe that these prospects and rookies will all get worse? Or injured? I mean, sure that’s possible, but that is not the most likely event. We’ve lost noone of value, we’ve actually gotten better from cutting some negative WAR players- young players get better, top prospects arrive, and we made some small additions which add value, and there isn’t even any debate on that. This team “should” improve 5-10 games assuming they don’t trade Reynolds, even if they do nothing else. Thats not hopium, Its math

joesolo6181

seeing is believing.

skliesen

Like it or loath it, Pirates won’t meaningfully invest to win until prospects prove they can win. If you expect him to bet on the come, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

This is why Player Development is most important component to organization success.

jaygray007

Once the prospects prove they can win, they’ll just say “look, we just won without spending” and then not also spend.

I hate them

They should have gotten payroll over 100 and tried this yr. I hate them.

Y2JGQ2

No, he’s right. This is what they did last time. They aren’t going to ever spend big, but they will get someone via a trade that might help us win now, just like they tried to the last time we were competitive. I wouldn’t see it this year, but 2024, if we are playing .500 or better at the all-star break, we won’t be sellers.

emjayinTN

In 2021 and 2022 the Pirates loaded the Roster with at least 6 to 8 FA’s of questionable MLB talent. But, once signed, the team has committed to play them, and play them we did. I keep mentioning the number of Plate Appearances wasted like this.

Right now, count the number of signings BC has made since the end of 2022 and tell me when and where the prospects are going to get their chance “to prove they can win”?

If Malcom Nunez starts off strong in AAA is he going to get AB’s as a 1B in MLB before August? We now have Vilade and Andujar to whom we have committed something. Will they start at AAA – can’t happen, so they get PA’s and then how many PA’s are left to be shared by Suwinski, Mitchell, Smith-Njigba, Marcano, Bae, etc.? Gorski, Triolo, and others also.

BC continues to keep the balls in the air with aging veterans. Maybe we have it ass-backwards – maybe they are the prospects in his mind!

Y2JGQ2

Catcher was never going to be a position where prospects were playing in 2023, neither was 1st base. Signing 1 outfielder at a low price doesn’t really say anything, Connor Joe does not qualify as a “veteran” he has 2 options remaining. Those outfield prospects were never expected to amount to much, but they will absolutely be able to fight Joe for the 3rd starteer position, and what is Suwinsky struggles? Cal Mitchell will get his opportunity. Nunez was never going to see the field this year, but at the trade deadling, its easy to see Carlos Santana being dealt to a contender which opens up a spot. This is how it goes. Injuries also happen. You can’t have all your depth and bench being rookies.

skliesen

I’m pretty much on the same page. We can all agree BN will always leave us wanting more.

b mcferren

this year is going to be a lot of fun – this offseason has been rife with distractions of players who just fill holes but here are something´s that are possible

Cruz his 50 homeruns

Keller or Contreras have sub 3 era´s

Bednar has a sub 2era

Any one of these dudes wins ROY: Bae, Nick, Tank, Endy, Priester, Burrows, Malcom,

Y2JGQ2

Cruz hitting 50 is really not possible. Nor is any of those guys winning ROY since they won’t get up here early enough to do so

endofline

The owner has very little interest in winning games and this management team seems in over their collective heads. I expect more years of disappointment for Pirate fans.

docdon385

Send this question to one Robert Nutting and try getting a response from the one person who can actually do something about it. There’s really no need to do that however, and of course he wouldn’t respond even if asked directly, because we already know the answer. He’d simply shrug his shoulders because he doesn’t care as long as his bottom line looks good.

Y2JGQ2

The Dodgers put up a financial loss of 180 million dollars last year and got bounced in the first round. I think owners would rather make money and i can’t blame them

ArkyWags

Who did you hear that from? Bob Nightengale or Jon Heyman?

Y2JGQ2

It shouldn’t be hard to confirm if you are interested.

NMR

lol

leefieux

The mark to beat is NH’s 72 in his 4th year. I am taking the under.

emjayinTN

It’s just the 4th year – that’s all that counts? NH came in after the Pirates had already wandered the desert for 15 years of sub-500 ball. BC came to a team that was over .500 (82-79) just 2 years before he started, and the Pirates were a playoff team as recently as 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Since BC took over, the Pirates have 3 straight years of winning percentages in the 300’s – .317, .377, .383. It may not be his fault – it may be HIS Manager, but since that was his call, it’s on BC regardless. And, he signed him for 4 years – maybe there were a lot of other teams searching for a sharp guy like Derek Shelton, but I doubt it. He fit everything Ben was looking for – cheap, available, and a yes man.

Y2JGQ2

The winning percentage is irrelevant if you don’t make the playoffs. There is no reason to have incremental increases in wins which just leaves you with worse draft picks, don’t you understand that? There is a reason why teams like the Astros tanked multiple years. gather the best picks spend the least amount of money for 3 years or so, and then propel out of it. The first three years the wins-losses are irrelevant…..look at the talent of the top 30 prospects today vs. 5 years ago, look at the depth of overall talent. That’s phase 1, next year starts phase 2, which is figuring out which players to keep, and which to trade to fill holes at the major league level as we look to get back to the playoffs in 2024.

ArkyWags

How many teams do you think go from 60 wins and at the bottom to 90 in one season? Even the example you used (Houston) went from 50 wins to 70 in 2014 before they went on to contention. It isn’t like flicking a switch.

So if the first three years, the W/L record is irrelevant, when should we see some progress? This year, right? The old regime collapsed in 2019, and BC took over in 2020. If they don’t get to 70 wins this year, that’s a massive red flag. Because you damn well know they’re not gonna spend to get out of the hole if the young guys don’t progress.

emjayinTN

I hear ya – that all makes perfect sense. Why do we have to wait for next year? I thought coming off of the results in 2022 when there were so many of our young prospects getting unplanned significant exposure that building upon that in 2023 would be the best approach. Sort of a confidence builder – like we believe in you.

I cite the winning percentages as a way of asking “can we do any harm by allowing these kids to play?” Some 30 something veterans can help – Santana at 1B and Hedges at C – they will help our prospects at those positions develop. After that – play the kids – don’t waste another year.

Last, sign Bryan Reynolds, whatever it takes.

RAS TN

I believe that also under 72, my only question for 2023 is will the rookies actually show improvement???

leefieux

…And will those that come up show promise?

MB21

This is a little ridiculous. If young rookies would excel more on a winning team (who wouldn’t?), then why didn’t they shoot for a winning team last year? There were tons of rookies debuting last year. Or why not the year before? It’s okay to bring Hayes or Cruz up during losing years but not Endy or others? This is the same old “Pirate way” – the owner and management finding ways for the fan (or analysts) to justify their losing, penny-pinching ways.

They actually have some decent rookies or minor league players this year but they did last year, too. Why not simply spend even a fair amount for a small market team and just try to win games with better players? Velasquez, Joe, and Choi/Santana? Give me a break! Signing one or two good players could make a tremendous difference.

leefieux

‘Why not simply spend’? Therein lies the crux of the problem.

Y2JGQ2

I agree. Spend for veterans and then trade them for prospects. Use the money towards building. That isn’t the pirate way though, they save save save save save. spend a little, then save save save save

jaygray007

Another angle here is that if I was a free agent next winter, I’d feel a bit more likely go go somewhere that won in the high 70s and has some momentum.

Heck, I still think they should be adding more wins to the roster.

It wouldn’t be that hard to get into the 81 win zone, and once you’re in the 81 win zone, that puts 88 wins within the error bars.

jaygray007

Re the line about bankrolled savings to the next year.
I really don’t think that’s how corporate budgeting works, and even if it was, I don’t think the pirates do it.

Payroll might increase 20 mil in 24 but it won’t be because they saved 20 mil in 23. It’ll be because they think 24 can fund 80.

I think the payroll in 24 will be the same whether it ends up at 60 mil or 70 mil this yr

jaygray007

I think its been a really long time since we have seen an owner treat their team like a hobby instead of a business, as Cohen is doing. Cohen is very very much an outlier. Itd be kinda weird to act like he’s the norm.

There’s 29 other teams who operate with a goal of profit, and ideally safe lower risk profit. 29 other gms who are handed a payroll number that is their limit for a year, probably calculated from projected revenues.

Itd be easy to operate in the “bankroll” way in OOTP but I just don’t see most owners doing that in real life. These ghouls want steady profits

Last edited 1 month ago by jaygray007
jaygray007

And I think the thing that gets me is that they should be spending 120 with or without “bankrolling” . Bankrolling shouldn’t be necessary

endofline

Not sure how you came up with 120 million. Looking at other teams in our market segment, that seems a little high to use as a baseline.

jaygray007

I picked 120 because they were in the 110 to 120 range back in the mid 2010s.

Don’t ppl always point to MIL as a good comparable to pgh? Mil pushed 140 last yr.

Scam likely

Wins our nice but isn’t more important that guys like Endy,priester,Bae, Ortiz, Borrows, and maybe Davis come up and hold their own or even in some cases excel. The prospects will eventually have to be thrown in the deep end and perform.

Zack

The thing we don’t know is if players like Profar, Peralta, Kluber, Cueto, etc would even be willing to sign with the Pirates. Shoot maybe the Pirates are only capable of signing players that: 1. Can’t find a spot elsewhere, or 2. Get a ~120% offer from the Pirates.

That being said, I don’t have trust in the front office to make aggressive deals that move the needle. Would absolutely love to see it happen today, tomorrow, or next Thursday. They have the talent. A couple aggressive moves could push them into competitiveness.

robertrodrigues

I agree with Wilbur. There is very little effort to make a significant change on this team short of the fringe guys. It always seems to be the attitude of “catching lightning in a bottle” to win and not building and SPENDING to create a winner. Nickles Nutting is the bane of owners because he has no desire to build a winning franchise. He wants to simply provide entertainment and look good with Pirate Charities.

joebaseball

So, is the added pitcher going to be Trevor Bauer on a one year deal? Fans may not like that move

leefieux

Will ANY team sign Bauer or will he be blackballed?

AdministrativeSky236

I hope blackballed, I really do

john_fluharty

Forgive my ignorance, but what did Baur do?

roberto

Consensual sex that turned into assault. A pattern of.

voteforpedro

This is oversimplifying it. Tanking makes sense so you can load up as many high 1sts as you can to bring talent in. That being said there was a good free agency class and there were a lot of good options that would’ve fit to make sure the prospects coming up fit into a good culture so they can win faster and develop good habits. Bringing in Clay Bellinger or Gary Sanchez or Jose Quintana or Jean Segura to fill some of those holes would make this team better and add a level of professionalism that you can’t get from the low quality they are bringing in. I’m not saying they should be bringing in top guys, but there is some talent that they could’ve and should’ve added at this point in the rebuild.

SBRO

The season-long tryouts and pre-planned bullpen experiments have to be a thing of the past if they’re going to sniff 75 wins. Unfortunately, with 9 OF and a whole bunch of unoptionable fungible bullpen arms on the roster, it sure looks like we’re in for more of the same, at least for a couple months.

Wilbur Miller

These pronouncements about wanting to add players are always comical. They’re obviously intended to make fans think the Pirates are trying to find reasonably priced players who, with some luck, might actually be good. Mackey, for instance, started speculating about guys like Wacha and Miley. But that’s not what this means. It really means bottom-of-the-barrel guys who, if anything, make the team worse rather than better. Like adding Knapp, VanMeter, Hembree and Marisnick last March. They’re just looking for bodies, not major league players.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wilbur Miller
SBRO

Move the needle or stabilize the floor? Needle movers are multi-year contracts at 8-figure AAVs, and I don’t see Nutting giving the green light to that.

I could see at most a Wade Miley/Danny Duffy signing and for the position player, either a guy who can play multiple positions like Brian Anderson or Cesar Hernandez, or a defense-first OF like JBJ. This in addition to the NRI SS they’re almost certainly going to sign in January.

Wilbur Miller

They’ve already spent about $20M on guys who maybe moved the needle from 100 losses to 96. They invested a lot (by Bargain Bob standards) in a non-serious effort. Why would they suddenly get serious now?

Wilbur Miller

I don’t. Hedges is a downgrade from Delay/Heineman. Velasquez will cost them a win or two. And Choi and Santana have a high risk of turning into Yoshi. I think +4 is the ceiling.

esd4

Delay and Heineman are still with the team, so if you’re trying to compare this year to last year, the question is whether Hedges/Endy/Bins(?) is better than Perez/Perez/Knapp. I think it is, and ZiPS agrees, if you’re interested in injecting a bit of objectivity into your opinion. If the question is whether Hedges is better than Delay or Heineman going forward, the answer is: sort of. ZiPS has Hedges at 0.8 WAR in 318 PA, Heineman at 0.9 WAR in 208 PA, and Delay at -0.2 WAR in 255 PA. So about a win worse than Heineman per 600 PA, but two wins better than Delay per 600 PA. So if you think of Hedges as replacing Delay on the 26-man roster, it’s a small but significant improvement. Again, these numbers are only for if you want some bit of objectivity to influence your opinion.

As far as Choi, Santana, and Yoshi go, one really cool thing about the ZiPS release this year is that it included 20th and 80th percentile projections, so you can actually get a sense of the likelihood of extreme outcomes. The 20th percentile outcome (according to ZiPS) for Santana is 0.3 WAR in 516 PA. For Choi, it’s -0.2 WAR in 396 PA. Yoshi put up -1.3 WAR in 193 PA last year. So, no, Santana and Choi do not have a “high risk” of turning into Yoshi. But again, that’s only if you allow a tiny smear of objective mustard to ruin a perfectly good subjectivity sandwich.

Wilbur Miller

I don’t guess you noticed that ZIPS supports my view that they’ve improved the team only marginally at best. The guy who actually did the ZIPS numbers on Santana:

He doesn’t help the Pirates win now and signing him only hurts them in winning later; plate appearances are a resource just like money, and playing Santana instead of someone else who could possibly have a future with the team is wasteful.

Wilbur Miller

FG certainly isn’t buying the upgrade, defensively or overall.
As for the intangibles, this FO has been selling intangibles for three years now. All it’s produced is a string of 100-loss teams. We’re just in the realm now of it-can’t-be-identified-or-measured, therefor-it-must-exist. The starters made a lot of progress with Delay and Heineman catching. Hedges just fixes what isn’t broken. The idea that Hedges’ magic veteranosity will make a huge impact in the W/L record is fantasy.
Choi and Santana aren’t likely to be as bad as Yoshi, but the risks of collapse are way beyond what anybody seems to want to acknowledge. It may have already happened with Choi. With Santana, there seems to be a baffling inability to process the incredibly simple facts that he’ll be 38 and he hasn’t been good since 2019. The risk of collapse is extreme.
Generally, what I’m seeing is a tendency to mistake ceiling for floor with these guys.
The Pirates’ problem hasn’t been a lack of veteranosity, it’s been a FO and manager who don’t care and put bad players on the field. The only times the team has shown any signs of life have been when the veterans were all hurt or were gone and more talented players took their place. Better players is the only solution to the team’s troubles.

Wilbur Miller

Holy crap, Santana is a 1B/DH with an OPS+ the last three years of 93, 81 and 100. His wRC+ isn’t any better. On what planet is that not bad? And that’s his ceiling.

Wilbur Miller

OAA has Choi as below average for his career. Santana has been a little above avg. the last few years. That doesn’t change anything at all.

ArkyWags

Austin Hedges: tries hard, works well with others. Couldn’t hit a bull in the ass. Are his intangibles any different than the ones we heard about Stallings?
I’m sure Hedges has great intangibles. How else has he been able to keep a job in the majors running wRC+ under 50 since 2019. We always hear how wonderful a guys intangibles are if they can’t hit.

ArkyWags

I’m sure you wouldn’t be rationalizing Hedges that way if he didn’t hit like a pitcher. How come lots of other catchers can take care of the intangibles you mention and and not completely embarrass themselves at the plate? No one’s saying intangibles are meaningless. But they have much less impact if you’re completely devoid in one area of the game like Hedges.

roberto

Catcher performance is scoutable, it’s just not easily quantifiable.

jon6er

Lets do the math, Additions +4 – Sheltie Manager – 8 comes out to – 4

Y2JGQ2

shelties been the manager so its the same negative 8 as last year, you can’t add it again

ArkyWags

They got maybe five wins with the gas cans they signed for the rotation/pen, and the 1B/DH combo. That’s more than four. Great. Hedges basically removes any value he has defensively because he’s a zero at the plate. For a similar budget, they could have signed Q or Manea and then Kiermaier for the OF.
I wouldn’t hold up the Orioles as some beacon because they increased their win total by 30. Their story is still being written; they could easily slide back 10 wins into the low 70’s.

NMR

Speaking of frustrated fans, imagine rooting for the O’s this winter…

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop

WEDNESDAY: Opinions

THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments

75
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x