First Pitch: The Pirates Have Added Veteran Leaders Who Can Play

Andrew McCutchen is 36-years-old.

Carlos Santana turns 37 in April.

Austin Hedges is a 30-year-old catcher.

Rich Hill will turn 43 before the season begins.

This isn’t an article that is going to speak negatively of age. You won’t get such a take from this 39-year-old blogger.

Collectively, the Pittsburgh Pirates are paying these four veteran players just shy of $25 million dollars on one-year deals for the 2023 season. As Ethan Hullihen broke down yesterday, the current payroll estimate is $72.5 million.

The Pirates are clearly shifting to a new phase of their rebuild, and as I wrote heading into the year, I could see them having a winning season in 2023. I think the addition of McCutchen pushes them closer to this possibility.

I’ve written about how I think the Pirates have needed veteran leadership in the majors. All four of the above players will provide that leadership in the form of sharing their experience with younger players, but also with their upbeat attitudes across the board.

Leadership is one thing.

Performance on the field is another.

The Pirates will need the latter in order to have a winning season.

All four of these players have a shot at average starter production, especially considering the unique roles they could play with this team.

HEDGES PAVING THE WAY FOR ENDY

If we’re comparing FanGraphs WAR values, Austin Hedges is the least valuable of this group. He’s been around replacement level the last three seasons, with a 1.5-2.3 WAR the previous three years.

Hedges will provide value behind the plate, where he’s been one of the best defenders in the majors. His work with the younger pitchers this year will have lasting impacts in their careers. Most importantly might be the transition this summer from Hedges to Endy Rodriguez.

The Pirates number one prospect, Rodriguez should be in the majors by mid-season. Hedges will ease that jump to the majors by giving Rodriguez a mentor to learn from. Rodriguez is the type of person who learns quickly, so just like the pitchers, his work with Hedges this year will produce long-term lessons.

Ideally, by the end of the season, the Pirates have a solid 1-2 combo, with Hedges as the strong defensive backup to Rodriguez, the National League Rookie of the Year.

I said ideally.

KEEPING SANTANA’S LEGS FRESH

The Pirates have made a lot of additions at first base and designated hitter this offseason. They added Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana in the span of a week, then later traded for Connor Joe.

Santana seems like he will split time between first and designated hitter. Last year he played 76 games at first and 50 as the designated hitter. He put up a 1.0 WAR in 506 plate appearances.

Choi spent most of his time at first base last year, playing 98 games. Joe spent more of his time in the outfield, but played 24 games at first base and 27 as the designated hitter.

You need to fill 162 games at first base, regardless of what you do at DH. If Joe plays the same amount of games this year at first, that would reduce the need for Santana and Choi to play on the field by 36 games total, compared to their combined 2022 totals.

This might help Santana in a big way, as the reduced workload on the field will keep his legs fresh, which could help his bat be more productive as the designated hitter.

RICH HILL LEADING THE ROTATION

Rich Hill is entering his age 43 season and still producing.

He’s had around league average numbers the last two seasons, putting up a 1.7-1.8 WAR. the lefty should get a boost pitching in PNC Park.

The Pirates also added Vince Velasquez to their starting group this offseason, and he could provide leadership of his own. The rest of the starting group includes Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and JT Brubaker.

Hill’s leadership and shared knowledge among this young trio of pitchers will be huge for their careers. His ability to provide reliable innings every fifth day will take the stress off of them to lead the way in 2023.

There will be a lot of younger pitchers arriving from the minors this year. Luis Ortiz and Johan Oviedo highlight the early-season candidates. Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows lead the prospects who could arrive around the middle of the season.

The Pirates will have a very young rotation, especially in the second half. There’s a chance that Hill gets pushed out at the trade deadline, considering all of the options.

There’s also an argument to be made that he would be more valuable keeping all season for his leadership and stability, compared to any trade return he’d get at the deadline.

ANDREW MCCUTCHEN

The Pirates have so many outfield options.

Yet, they didn’t have any standout starters prior to bringing back McCutchen. I’m not sure that McCutchen adds a reliable starter, but he will add to the overall mix.

Right now, that mix includes Bryan Reynolds, who was acquired in 2018 in a trade for McCutchen.

It also includes Jack Suwinski, who could benefit from platooning with Connor Joe.

McCutchen played 53 games in the outfield last year, along with 82 games at designated hitter. The Pirates also have Miguel Andújar and Cal Mitchell to factor into the outfield mix, along with an assortment of prospects in the upper levels of the minors.

If you dig through the archives of this site, you’ll probably find me lamenting back in the day about how the National League didn’t have the designated hitter, which couldn’t allow for players like McCutchen to finish their careers in Pittsburgh. The DH is here, and the Pirates are taking advantage of that with these veteran additions. It could allow McCutchen to finish his career in a Pirates uniform.

McCutchen and Santana should both see extensive time at DH, where Andujar and Joe could factor into the mix when they’re not backing up other positions.

McCutchen can serve as a leader to the outfield, where the Pirates will hope that a full-time starter emerges alongside Reynolds. Santana likewise, would serve as the leader of the infield.

What I like about these additions is that they all add players who will help to stabilize weaker positions, while adding leadership throughout the team, and not really blocking any prospects who emerge. That’s a difficult needle to thread, and the Pirates seem to have done it.

Now if they could get a veteran reliever to pair with David Bednar, this would look like a sleeper winning team.

PIRATES SIGN 22 INTERNATIONAL PROSPECTS

The Pirates were aggressive on the first day of international signings, reaching agreements with OF Jun-Seok Shim and RHP Raymond Mola, who both rank among the most notable prospects this year.

They also added seven players out of Venezuela, and 16-year-old RHP David Matoma from Uganda. In addition to those signings, John Dreker has reports on 12 more players.

Be sure to bookmark our International Signing Tracker, which we’ll keep updated with every signing that is announced throughout the year.

SUPPORT OUR WORK

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Next week on First Pitch, I’ll outline the site content plans for the 2023 season.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Pirates Prospects Weekly is returning to a full schedule this week. We’ve got an article drop tomorrow, a column from Wilbur Miller on Wednesday, the return of Roundtable on Thursday, and a new format for the Pirates Discussion on Friday.

FUQUAY VINYL PLAYLIST

I decided to take a break for a few weeks, recapping a very busy 2022 on the site, and preparing for a bigger 2023. Mostly, that break involved getting away from screens as much as possible, listening to music, and writing on my non baseball projects.

I made this playlist two weeks ago to start the New Year and have been rocking to it since.

WEEKLY PIRATES QUIZ

Spoiler Alert: One of the answers to the quiz below is mentioned prominently in this article.

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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.

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NMR

Veterans on one-year deals makes a ton of sense right now in the league. Very possibly the most UNDERvalued asset in baseball.

The pendulum swing so far in favor of any 22 yo w a pulse that all the sudden we forgot that the old dudes still getting work can actually PLAY. Hopefully they target better ones when they eventually decide to really try, but this is far from some fatal strategy in my book.

Believe it or not, you will at some point have to actually try. Handing half the roster to kids who haven’t earned anything ain’t gonna cut it.

jaygray007

plenty of interesting relievers remain

Jacob Barnes (33)
Archie Bradley (30)
Jhoulys Chacin (35)
Alex Colome (34)
Jharel Cotton (31)
Tyler Duffey (32)
Jeurys Familia (33)
Michael Fulmer (30)
Ken Giles (31)
Chad Green (32)
Jandel Gustave (30)
Will Harris (38)
Heath Hembree (34)
Jeff Hoffman (30)
Ian Kennedy (38)
Corey Knebel (30)
Dominic Leone (31)
Reyes Moronta (30)
Jimmy Nelson (34)
Darren O’Day (40)
Wily Peralta (34)
Luis Perdomo (30)
David Phelps (36)
Alex Reyes (28)
Garrett Richards (35)
Hansel Robles (32)
Sergio Romo (40)
Hirokazu Sawamura (35)
Bryan Shaw (35)
Joe Smith (39)
Craig Stammen (39)
Hunter Strickland (34)
Luke Weaver (29)
Matt Wisler (30)
Jose Alvarez (34)
Zack Britton (35)
Andrew Chafin (33)
Aroldis Chapman (35)
Ross Detwiler (37)
Brad Hand (33)
Jared Koenig (29)
Jake McGee (36)
Matt Moore (34)
Sean Newcomb (30)
Daniel Norris (30)
Dillon Peters (30)
Caleb Smith (31)
Will Smith (33)
Justin Wilson (35)
Alex Young (29)

jaygray007

i think it makes all the sense in the world to try to come to a contract agreement with Endy, throwing him into MLB right away.

i understand the risks, but i think this particular situation has enough potential benefits to counter them. these three factors dont come into effect for every good prospect in AAA. It’s at least relatively rare for all 3 to be in play.

1) this team looks like it’s trying to get better and extract a winning season. Endy over Heineman helps that.

2) the 40 man. Endy is already on the 40, and heineman isnt. a 40 man spot not given to heineman is a spot that they can give to someone else. not the biggest deal, but that does have a dollar value.

3) the draft pick comp for ROY awards. Endy is in that top tier of guys who project to debut, and starting in MLB helps that.

4) the time with hedges is probably as developmentally beneficial as time in AAA would be

5) this team could use that flexibility. Given that Bae and Castro are the only “backup SS’s”, a 3rd guy who can play 2b in a pinch would be nice.

Last edited 11 days ago by jaygray007
NMR

Completely unnecessary.

MB21

Ya know… this offseason got us talking again!

Some money has been spent – and we like to debate if it was wise.

The optimists and pessimists both have something to talk about.

Somebody WANTED to sign with the Buccos (and he happened to be Cutch – my teenage kids’ favorite player)

Now if we can just see some good baseball and some winning baseball!

Last edited 11 days ago by MB21
rcountryman8660

I would love to see BC sign David Phelps as a veteran bullpen arm.

leefieux

Look at what we’ve added and compare it to what the Cubs have added. I guess we’ll see how much these veteran leaders have left in the tank. Color me cautiously pessimistic. 😎😎😎

Y2JGQ2

Do we only get credit for improving if we improve more than the Cubs? there is a balanced schedule now so honestly, who cares what the cubs did.

b mcferren

Kevin Newman and Blake Sabol were the biggest acquisitions made by the Reds

robertkasperski

Blake was immediately traded to the Giants.

leefieux

Oh boy…we might finish ahead of the Reds.

skliesen

Hope springs eternal and all that, but I’m pretty excited for this season.

Veteran leadership- Check
5+ WAR Players in their prime – Check
Young stars in the making -Check
Dependable Closer – Check
Solid Rotation-Check
Depth in AAA – Check
Reliable Set up & Middle Relief- ???

Let’s Go Bucs!!!

leefieux

At least until spring or June when reality sets in. 🤠🤠🤠

skliesen

Even you “realists” must admit there’s at least a sliver more hope.

Back on November 1st, I just wanted BC to show us he’s trying to win. I’d say he’s doing that.

leefieux

Comparecwhat we’ve brought in to what the Cubs brought in. I see some over the hill vets, hoping to recapture some youthful magic. I hope it happens, but I am cautiously pessimistic.

skliesen

The Cubs play in a different sandbox than the Pirates when it comes to FA. Blame MLB/MLBPA for the economics of the game.

Even with that being said, this optimism is based on hope for a new winning attitude players like Choi, Hedges, Cutch, Hill, Andujar & Santana bring to the clubhouse. All of them know what it takes to compete for a division/league/WS title. I’m hoping these guys will be the supporting cast the young talented players like Reynolds, Hayes, Cruz, Keller, Contreras, Rodriguez, and others can model themselves after on and off the field.

In short, you’re not seeing the big picture like I am. Time will tell which one of us is right.

adicesa14

Contrary to your “cautiously pessimistic,” I’m cautiously optimistic, but years of Pirate fandom allow me to understand your pessimism. This team is certainly not a ‘cinch’ contender, but it is improved, at least on paper. Everything skliesen listed is potentially true. Additionally, the Pirates have added balance, i.e., a left-handed starter and right-handed hitters so they won’t be handicapped with no versatility. This team is better.

Y2JGQ2

Unlike most fans, I’m here to watch the kids play and grow into this…..i don’t care how we play this year as long as all our major prospects keep getting better. Do I think we win 72-75 games this year? sure, but i don’t care. I care about Mitchell and Suwinsky and Cruz and Bae and Castro and Rodriguez…. if they all continue to get better and we lose 90, who cares.

NMR

Man if only there were baseball leagues where one could enjoy prospects WITHOUT intentionally allowing the major league club to suck.

adicesa14

As a ‘watcher’ of the kids (I live in Florida), I agree with all of this, but I recall that on this site “player development” has been raised as an issue on numerous occasions, and in my opinion, it’s been a problem. Adding competent, contributing veterans is a component or tool for the ‘kids’ development. It’s teaching by example. It also doesn’t hurt that ‘Cutch’ is part of that effort.

docdon385

I get where you’re coming from but as someone once said,”nothing succeeds like success.” Both losing and winning can be contagious and a team has to learn what winning feels like if it’s going to keep getting better. I certainly want the prospects to get chances and get better but there’s nothing like winning to motivate and encourage both the young and not so young. Call me greedy, but I want prospect development AND a winning season. Let’s go Bucs.

steve_zielinski

Agree — but bringing Cutch home was the right thing to do.
If retires at the end of the coming season, imagine the send off he will recieve in his last home game!

skliesen

Imagine if the healing waters of the Allegheny River invigorate Cutch to be a 3-4 WAR player and he signs another team friendly deal next winter.

He’s only 36 after all.

Wilbur Miller

Not really news, but the official site lists some more int’l signings on the transactions page, so I guess they’re official. Includes Cristian Jauregi, whom I’m gonna try to stop referring to as the Cuban guy.

postal911

Last I checked, the vegas win total was 65.5 for the Pirates so Vegas is not a fan of adding old players to this roster 😉 I think the Bucs will reach 70 wins, maybe more if the AAA guys come up and do well. A ton of things will need to go way above expectations for this team to see 81 wins.

jaygray007

Fangraphs Steamer has them at 75.5. While projections arent perfect and dont factor in things like July Selloffs, im smashing the over on 65.5

postal911

I like the over also unless they deal Reynolds for prospects that won’t be ready this year.

jaygray007

even then, they’d probably only lose maybe two wins from the projection. Planting Bae in CF is a downgrade, but certainly wouldnt account for 10 wins. and that doesnt even factor in any part of the trade return providing positive value this yr. i’d still smash the Over.

leefieux

70 is my personal high water mark. I figure at least a couple of these vet guys might have something left in the tank. But, not much.

Y2JGQ2

They don’t need to: You have a young castro, rodriguez, cruz, contreras, mitchell, suwinsky, nunez…..I’d rather the vets struggle and and focus on the kids. These players are going to be how we win 80-85 games in 2024, 2025. If you don’t believe in them, you should be very pessimistic, well beyond 2023.

Scam likely

Suwinski weird Stat, he had 19 hr and accounted for 30 rbi’s and had 8 rbi’s in the rest of his plate appearances, so he will need to get some more hits with men in scoring position.

Wilbur Miller

Probably help to have some guys in scoring position to begin with.

john.benedict

Who are we?

Park-1
Yoshie-3
Chavis-4
Vanmeter-4
Knapp-1
M Perez-14
Tucker-2
Cheng-6
Marsinick-5
Knapp-1
Madris-3
Heineman-5
Newman-1

The chosen 13
Contract 50 G

MISSION- Shelty bats us behind Suwinski, we eliminate scoring opportunities and are paid by the number of runners we LOB

Cocktailsfor2

Bah. You speak in riddles.

leefieux

What was his BA with runners in scoring position, tho? Probably pretty low, so having runners on may not be a valid excuse. But, I’m ‘digging’ your on base cynicism.😆😆

Y2JGQ2

Suwinsky is a low BA guy, who has a lot of shifts against him so he is bound to improve regardless

emjayinTN

One of the reasons why RBI’s and Runs Scored are regarded as a product of a team effort and not just the individual.

Wilbur Miller

You got a team full of guys who mostly just hit HRs and strike out (mostly the latter in the Pirates’ case), you’re gonna have guys with 15 HRs and 22 RBIs.

SouthernBuc

And we have a major league full of players who just hit homeruns or strikeout much to my chagrin. And you are spot on … Pirates last year were more strikeout.. not so much homeruns.

Anthony

And how many of those HRs were a result of the short porch in RF at PNC Park?

robertkasperski

Hopefully with the revamped lineup, there will more chances for him to hit with at least one runner on. Should give him a bit more protection in the batting order than he had seen last year.

Wilbur Miller

Speaking of the lineup, is it silly to wish they’d bat Cutch leadoff for the home opener?

robertkasperski

Sounds good to me too! Get everyone wound up the first time up for the Bucs!

SouthernBuc

I like that idea. I am hoping this year there will be for very good reasons some balancing of nostalgia / honoring and oh by the way also trying to win some and most importantly developing some players.

Mtgj

This team will go as far as the pitching, specifically the bullpen take them. I believe that this teams record will correlate really close with the bullpen. If the bullpen ranks 13th in baseball, then I think their record will be right around 13th best. If their bullpen is one of the worst in baseball again, then the pirates record will be one of the worst. Hopefully guys like de los santos, underwood, selby, moreta, and the lefties can have good years and be part of a good bullpen.

NorCal Buc

Barry Bonds 413 ABs .223 BA, 16 HR, 746 OPS 48 RBI. 
Oneil Cruz 312 ABs .231 BA, 17 HR, 743 OPS 53 RBI.
(1st year stats)

For the Pirates to field a championship team, we need at least one or two players to have legitimate All Star years, like 21, 8, 39, 24, and 22 have had over the past 50 years. Guys who led the league in categories.

We CLEARLY will field a more imposing line-up, simply by allowing all of the young players to not be pressured to carry the entire offense. With the additions of veterans, would Oneil, Hayes, Reynolds or Bae (and Cutch) be capable of having .300+ seasons with other leading factors?

Pitching? How much will Hedges and Rich Hill effect the young staff and its development. Do we have at least two pitchers capable of winning > 15. Will the offense enable starters to pitch to 3 or 4 runs and still have a lead? Who will augment Bednar at the back of the rotation, as slam-shut late inning relievers.

Lastly, will the “10th man” buy into a team with Bae, McCutchen, Oneil and Reynolds leading the way. Will the place be rocking once again?

I was looking forward to this type of reasoning NEXT YEAR. I’m thirlled to ask these questions this winter!

emjayinTN

Three of the 2023/24 kids with excellent BB/K, OBP, and SLG rates are Ji-Hwan Bae, Endy Rodriguez, and Malcom Nunez –

Ji-Hwan Bae, 48/80 BB/K, slash of 289/362/430/792 OPS at AAA

Endy Rodriguez, 60/101 BB/K, 323/407/590/996 at A+,AA,AAA

Malcom Nunez, 69/102 BB/K, 262/367/466/833 OPS at AA/AAA

The veterans acquired will allow these 3 young prospects to develop at a more reasonable pace in 2023, and it would not be shocking to see Bae at 2B/UT alternating with Rodolfo Castro early in 2023. Rodriguez around July, and Nunez possibly after the trading deadline if he continues to hit and field at 1B.

Y2JGQ2

this isn’t 2005, noone cares about .300 What we do care about is OPS over .750 for Hayes, for Cutch, for Castro- For Cruz you would like .850, for Bae I think you focus on OBP over .350……

Anthony

Even OPS is misunderstood. Everyone cites it, but few know how it’s weight (on SLG) makes it a near meaningless stat.

Just look at Cruz, Suwinski, and Castro. Their 2022 OPS hides A LOT of problems. Collectively, they shorten your lineup, i.e., easy outs, with an occasional HR or 2B.

wOBA is by far the best tool for hitters.

ArkyWags

Most people know that about OPS that it overrates slugging. It’s an interesting short hand stat, but you’re right there are better ones. I’ve always been partial to wRC+.

Last edited 11 days ago by ArkyWags
leefieux

Comparing Bonds’ first year to Cruz’s is just silly talk.

Y2JGQ2

Cruz is the most talented player we’ve had since Bonds, and its not even close. Its not silly at all.

Anthony

The issue is that Cruz will never even stiff Bonds’ early career numbers if he can’t drop his K-rate by at least 60% and nearly double his B-rate. This is not realistic, and it’s the main reason why BA, HRs, OPS, and RBIs are garbage stats. The ability to get on base, and more importantly, not give up an out, are extremely underrated.

ArkyWags

Homers as a garbage stat is an interesting take to day the least.

Anthony

They don’t really mean much without context, but people often cite them while also making other unrelated inferences.

Suwinski and Cruz are prime examples. HRs prop SLG, which props OPS, but both have major issues and are not very productive hitters. I’m hoping this has to do with a combo of protection and synergy in the lineup. We shall see 👀

Last edited 11 days ago by Anthony
ArkyWags

One could say that about any number or metric though, right? You need context with them all the time. You know what doesn’t help with advanced metrics? Telling people that certain metrics are garbage. Explain why wOBA is the best, if you think it is.
As far as Cruz and Jack, they’re talented but flawed hitters. If I’m looking at FG right, the league average for wOBA us .310 in 2022. Cruz was at .320, Jack at .311. Not great, but certainly not bad either. We will see if they can get the K’s under control a bit.

Anthony

Ummm, that’s the point; wOBA (and xwOBA) provides context (and some predictive capabilities) in a world where everyone is so focused on results (like HRs, RBIs, etc.). Chasing results will likely end in disappointment.

ArkyWags

Ok so you’re talking context within the metric, I was referring to it within your argument.

john_fluharty

One of the Pirates announcers used to say
the quickest way to kill a rally is to hit a home run. I forget who. Probably Bob Walk.

NorCal Buc

The silly numbers speak for themselves.

leefieux

What are they speaking? 🙂
That it is silly to compare them? 😜😜

Anthony

This team would be markedly better with just AVERAGE on base skills and defense. It’s really that simple.

Last edited 12 days ago by Anthony
emjayinTN

It is, but it’s a long, long, long way from 61 Wins to 81 Wins for a group of individual players who have never played together. I think the hitting and defense will be better in 2023 – hard not to be better than the last 3 years – but it will all come down to how well the pitching develops.

If every aspect of the game improves, we will still be behind every team in the NL except for the Reds and possibly the Rockies. If we can improve by 10 more wins in 2023, it will be a positive first step.

1979andCounting

Keep in mind that Bednar missing nearly 2 months was a huge loss causing us to lose approx. 6 ballgames that he would have saved (give or take) …..that Crowe (mainly) and others blew. So a 67 win team improving to 81 is more reasonable than you might think.

Anthony

I think you’re downplaying just how bad this team was last year. They were absolutely dreadful. I could easily see a 15-18 game improvement, assuming they can keep within striking distance in the first half of the year.

Y2JGQ2

haven’t played together? most of our youngsters have been playing together for 3-5 years

richard.deal

I agree. It’s one thing to say you’ll be competitive, and a completely different ballgame to say you have a shot at the World Series. Next year I think they’ll put up a fight and win somewhere between 75-80 games. I guess that’s competitive, but still a long way to go to actually win a division and really compete for the post season.

robertkasperski

Side note Frank Thomas, Pittsburgh Native and former Bucco has passed away at the age of 93

Last edited 12 days ago by robertkasperski
leefieux

I honestly had no idea that he was even alive. I thought he had died long ago. 🙁🙁

b mcferren

January 30, 1959: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Whammy DouglasJim Pendleton and John Powers to the Cincinnati Reds for Smoky BurgessHarvey Haddix and Don Hoak.

dvannice

I’m not sure about the leadership part, but Chapman would be nice to pair with Bednar.

robertkasperski

I dunno ( in my best Lou Brown Voice) He has been heading in the wrong direction the last couple of years. Kind of scares me that is is quickly running out of gas and not sure I would want him in the clubhouse

Last edited 12 days ago by robertkasperski
b mcferren

yeah but he´s probably got a boost from pitching left handed in PNC park

…just checked

he has a 0.75 career era in PNC over 24 innings

Y2JGQ2

Almost all when he was still extremely dominant.

Zack

Surprised it isn’t 0.00 based on how demoralizing it felt every time he took the mound in a game we had against the Reds…

robertkasperski

24 innings and mostly against some ugly Pirates hitting.

SouthernBuc

I like the veterans that have been added but feel we may be one over our limit. When Cutch was signed I didn’t see a strong need for Joe anymore. It is nice (and likely safe) to think these veterans will allow for a better record this year. But (and nobody is saying this) this is not a championship team. There is no way to really measure this but I would still rather lose 4 or 5 (not 10 or 20) more games this year and see real development then feel happy with 80 wins because our veterans had good years.

While the ‘tryout’s at the major league level are frustrating (and there were a lot last year), at some level they still need to occur and hopefully with players we feel have better odds at succeeding. However, many players don’t hit the ground running and need to learn and adjust at the Major league level. If we don’t allow for some ‘tryouts’, I feel quite confident we will be posting about ‘those that got away’ because we were busy playing Joe et al. and not continuing with some tryouts.

tventimiglio

Injuries will take care of the “abundance” of OF. Suwinski needs to start in AAA.

Anthony

I was actually more impressed with Suwinski’s glove than his bat. He was utterly atrocious at the plate last year.

tventimiglio

I think there is a long term place for Suwinski. He needs time to work on his pitch recognition and more to cut down on the strikeouts. The power is real. He was called right up from AA. Saying that he has things to work on is not the same as saying that hes’ a failure. He may very well be the FT RF in 2024.

SouthernBuc

This is spot on. I get some angst when I read people are assuming he will be the starting RF. Quite frankly if he looks in spring training like he looked in the 2nd half of the year, it will be hard to not send him down.

However, he has legit tools as at least a platoon very good defender. He should be a leader in the clubhouse to start, but I feel he just looked so lost for atleast 1/3 of the season and that continued in AAA. He has time on his side, Let’s get him fixed (if still needed) and let him be all he can be.

If I was a betting man I will say he will look back to normal in spring training and will be manning RF regularly to start the year.

Y2JGQ2

I think Jack HAS to be given the opportunity to win it though, and if he has improved on the things he needed to, he should be given that job day 1.

Anthony

With all of their options, I’m not sure I’d rely on Spring Training stats to tell me whether he has improved or not…(cough cough) Diego Castillo.

What WILL help him tho, is the fact that he showed extremely well on defense last year.

Last edited 11 days ago by Anthony
Anthony

Word!

roberto

Agree with the first sentence. Disagree with the second.

Catch_22

Hopefully the addition of these vets will help negate the slew of negative WAR players.

The tryouts of marginal prospects at the MLB level last season was the toughest season that I’ve ever endured.

They gave tryouts to Tucker, Chavis, Diego, Hoy Park, Madris, VanMeter, Cal Mitchell and Marcano. Collectively, this group somehow contributed -3.4 wins. That’s negative. The only 2 that remain from this group are Mitchell -0.6 & Marcano -0.1.

It appears the tryouts are over!

tventimiglio

I’d like to see Suwinski start off in AAA. He has a ton to work on at the plate. If I’m building the roster I have Bae in CF, Brey in LF and a rotation including Cutch, Joe, Andujar and Mitchell for RF/DH. I say Mitchell vs Suwinski because he hit at every level in the minors without the swing and miss issues.

You prompted some thought about the FB/DH role(s). This year, more than most we have a pretty interesting puzzle for Shelton to piece together. If you look at RF/1B/DH/4th OF/5TH OF we have a ton of guys that should see a decent amount of playing time and be expected to contribute. It’s up to Shelton to maximize their opportunies and performance.

Cocktailsfor2

“ It’s up to Shelton to maximize their opportunies and performance.”

Welp…

Catch_22

You guys and Cal Mitchell. Suwinski actually earned a spot with his play last season, Cal hasn’t earned sh*t.

Bae in CF. This is tryouts at the MLB level. Bae is a super utility player, not an everyday CF’er at the highest level of baseball on the planet.

SouthernBuc

Look at the AAA stats and say Cal Mitchell didn’t earn a shot. Did he succeed right away in the Majors – he did not – but how is that so unusual. Up to now he has shown a very good ability to adjust and succeed.

As for Suwinski, he was actually pretty bad for a long spell.

I personally think they should both be in the majors as they are exactly the type of ‘tryout’ that a team like the Pirates need to be holding.

ArkyWags

That’s the thing about fringe prospects though. They shouldn’t get a year or more to see what they got. They have to show something right away. Jack did, Cal didn’t in 2022. And Jack was bad for a spell, went down, and came back ok. This is subject to change of course, because prospects like this don’t necessarily get a lot of rope.

tventimiglio

No, Jack did nothing in AAA and was horrible on his return. Honestly, I think you’re confusing the 2 in September. Look at their splits on the stats pages.

ArkyWags

Cal came back up and did ok in September, which doesn’t hold as much weight. He was better, but it still only got him up to a wRC+ of 179. Not really a strong case for him and he plays the outfield like someone they pulled out of the stands.
Jacks numbers are pretty much the same; per B-R he went down in July at .198/.288/.428 and ended at .202/.298/.411 after coming back up at the tail end of August.

SouthernBuc

I should have made my first post only as I don’t think I am as far from you (Arky and Catch) as it sounds.

I want both Suwinski and Mitchell in the majors because Suwinski hit (although I am not in full agreement that he was ever ‘ok’ after his bad spell) and Mitchell I still believe earned a longer look given his AAA success (VanMeter had 600 ABs of failure in the Majors prior to Pittsburgh). Neither were 5 star prospects but there is now a collection of vets that may be taking more at bats that I think Shelton will be compelled to provide.

tventimiglio

Suwnski’s line in Sept/Oct was still only 217/325/392/716 with SO of 37%. Hardly okay performance and that’s when he “improved.” Mitchell, during the same timeframe after getting recalled hit 267/361/373/734 with SO of 21%. Anyone that claims that he didn’t play better after being sent down and recalled is mistaken. Additionally he bashed at AAA. Suwinski only had 117 AB in AAA in 2022 and none prior. His line there was an ugly 214/285/419 with over 41% SO.

Catch_22

You’re cherry picking and using Sept stats.

Suwinski was a league average bat by wRC+ right at 100 and worth 1.8 fWAR in 372 PA

Cal Mitchell was 21% worse than league average with 79 wRC+ and was worth -0.6 fWAR

I think Cal is better than he showed last season, but he’s earned nothing. He’ll get another chance this season, but he needs to hit and hit a lot to stick.

tventimiglio

The argument was the Suwinski figured things out when he cam back up. Now it’s using those stats is cherry picking. Cant have it both ways.

Catch_22

I certainly didn’t argue that.

I’m saying that Jack had a better season, and the objective evidence backs that claim.

I’m not just looking at Sept stats (cherry picking) I’m looking at the entire season.

ArkyWags

Cal played better in September, no question. It still wasn’t anything special and it’s when teams are calling up guys to get a look at them to see if they belong in the majors (kinda like Cal!). Couple that with the fact that Cal is awful on defense and Jack (surprisingly) was not, I like Jack more right now.

Anthony

Agreed, Cal had a strong finish to the season after he was recalled.

Catch_22

Objectively speaking, Suwinski was miles better than Mitchell. They’re not even in the same conversation.

Mitchell right now should be viewed as depth…AAA depth. He was objectively bad in the majors.

You want to know who else tore in AAA? Josh VanMeter who has a 114 & 175 wRC+ in his first taste of AAA

1979andCounting

There are a ton of pieces on the 40-man, but it will be pared down to 13 position players heading north. So it’s not any different of a puzzle as any other year. Nine guys in the lineup, 4 on the bench. Joe and Mitchell probably not among them.

Catch_22

I’d bet a beer that Joe is safe to crack the Opening Day 26.

1979andCounting

Ha, you’re on! I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s DFAed this week to open a spot for Cutch. I think they have to keep Andujar ($1.5M guarantee, 3 years younger) over Joe.

JimEastTennessee

Rich Hill Is my dark horse candidate for a mid-season “addition” to the bullpen.
You heard it first here…

John Dreker

That quiz needs more time, especially with scrolling. Got 44 before it ran out

jimmyz

I got 30. The really early ones I’m pretty hit and miss in terms of remembering and my brain did that thing where it refused to accept incoming thoughts about the ’93-2000 Pirates so I took waaay too long to come up with Al Martin. I tried Orlando Merced three times before I thought of Al.

robertkasperski

I got 31 before I ran out of time

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

A Matt Moore or Andrew Chafin signing would move things into “pretty interesting” territory.

JimEastTennessee

but the funds are not likely there…

robertkasperski

funds could be there but would Chafin or Moore be willing to sign here given their ages? I would think that they would want to go to a team closer to competing if possible. Maybe on will take the money if they don’t get a suitable offer from a contender.

JimEastTennessee

I’d like to see Chafin sign. Man, If there would only be a veteran guy to fill the late inning set-up position…I’d ALMOST adjust my prediction to an 82-win season. (and the forest fire that raged from the Pittsburgh dumpster fure might start to be contained…)

robertkasperski

I hope that they would sign Chafin or acquire another solid pen arm. I don’t think either is going to come soon as Chafin is most likely holding out for someone in the top 10 teams to come calling and teams are going to trade an extra pen arm later in the off season to guard against injury. If they can get a good pen arm then we have a shot of at least 500 unless they get a ton of injuries.

Anthony

They definitely need a 1b option for the bullpen.

Danatural08

Good to have you back Tim.

fwiw i had my best year of baseball as a 37/38 year old. Normally the more you do something, the better you get…just gotta hope these guys can avoid the injuries – sometimes that’s what gets the vets out of the league, a lingering injury that they’re used to playing thru negatively affects their performance, then they’re labeled old & past their prime, & out of the league quick.

mpg43952

Agreed, it will be a big year for the medical staff, too. Keep ’em on the field and out of the trainer’s room.

tventimiglio

I think it will be more of a challenge with the Pitchers. When you think about 1B, RF, DH and backup OF you have Cutch, Andujar, Joe, Mitchell, Suwinski, Ngiba Smith, Choi, and Santana. I think using ther IL may be a way to keep everyone involved without wearing anyone out.

Anthony

There is talk of a possible six-man rotation.

Wabbit_Season

Bring
…It
……On

SouthernBuc

First I heard this… not doubting you, just wondering where this came up.

Anthony

Jason Mackey, on a very recent podcast

Altho, he also inferred on the same podcast that some of his Reynolds reporting was based on his own assumptions and that “no one specifically told him they were false.”

Not sure I really agree with that style of reporting, especially when he tried explaining the BR extension offer. It was something like, “their extensions seem to follow $10M increments, starting with McCutchen’s $50M extension. It only makes sense that BR’s extension would be $10M higher than Hayes.” So, he obviously reported 6/$80M and “no one specifically told him it was false.”

He lost a lot of credibility with me after that comment. I would likely lose all of my credentials, and be sued, if I were to base my professional opinions on that type of unsubstantiated speculation.

robertkasperski

That is what the Dodgers did with pitchers for a couple of years. Makes sense.

Darkstone42

Several of these guys have already expressed excitement at the idea of mentoring young players. The clubhouse could have a healthy, positive dynamic this year, and that will go a long way to building a winning culture.

I also really like the idea of Cutch bookending his career in Pittsburgh, each stint marking the team’s return to the playoffs. First as the star, then as a mentor and support player. It would just feel right.

But yes, they need another reliever this year. Maybe even two. The last thing a team growing into a winner needs is for the bullpen to blow their leads late and discourage them.

Cobra

I think this is what separates this offseason from some of the head-scratching borderline infuriating pickups in the past couple offseasons. Jarrod “Ain’t Too Much Out There Right Now” Dyson. Did Derek Holland really want to be here? And what conceivable upside was there in bringing on JT Riddle, Josh Van Meter or Kai Tom? Unless of course that upside was tanking.

At least with this crew you have decent OBP, great attitude and maybe beat-the-shift veterans who seem to “fit” better. Maybe this actually is the long-awaited bridge year.

In terms of picing up another reliever, as long as they don’t stubbornly insist on Velasquez in rotation — Velasquez can be that answer. Oviedo is a more intriguing short-term SP anyway

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