First Pitch: What to Expect From the Pirates This Offseason

The MLB Winter Meetings will take place this week, with teams meeting remotely this year due to COVID-19. It’s going to be interesting to see how the events play out this year, with the new meetings format, and MLB teams likely cutting off spending in the wake of the shortened 2020 season. My guess is that we could be headed for a quiet week.

Last month, I recapped the entire organization, with over 30 articles breaking down the past and future of each position in the organization. Check that link for the full list of articles and recaps. With the Winter Meetings starting today, here’s a breakdown of each position and what to expect from the Pirates this offseason.

Catcher: Jacob Stallings will have the starter role, and Martin Perez will likely be his backup. I’d expect the Pirates to make some moves to add depth. I’d be surprised if they added a starter over Stallings.

First Base: Josh Bell and Colin Moran are the options here. There’s always a chance the Pirates could move one of these guys, but they wouldn’t be trading at high values in either case. I don’t expect much activity at first base.

Second Base: It will be interesting to see what they do with Adam Frazier. They could move him to left field and have Kevin Newman or Cole Tucker at second base. They could keep Frazier at second. I could also see Frazier as a trade option. That’s about the only potential offseason movement I see from this position.

Shortstop: Erik Gonzalez seems to have an inside track to the shortstop position in 2021, and Kevin Newman would likely end up the starter if Gonzalez moved somewhere else. I could see the Pirates adding a backup infielder to the mix, while looking to boost their depth in the upper levels of the minors.

Third Base: Ke’Bryan Hayes full rookie season. Phillip Evans as the wild card backup option. This is going to be a fun position to watch, but probably quiet during the offseason.

Outfield: Combining three into one, I’d expect the Pirates to add some sort of outfield depth. Right now their outfield would be Bryan Reynolds in center, Gregory Polanco in right, and Anthony Alford or Adam Frazier in left. That outfield could be okay, I guess, with average or better starters. That seems like the upside here. Phillip Evans could also be an option in the outfield. Cole Tucker, too? The point is, all of these guys have questions, and outfield is far from locked down. I’d expect the Pirates to address that in some way this offseason.

Starting Pitching: The top of the rotation is set with Mitch Keller, Jameson Taillon, and Joe Musgrove. There’s a chance they could trade Musgrove. I personally think that would be a mistake, as Musgrove looks like a breakout candidate. I’d bank on that happening over trying to trade him for the highest return now — which would likely come from the teams thinking he’s a breakout candidate. Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, and JT Brubaker are guys who could compete for the final two spots, or piggyback a single spot. Cody Ponce could join them in a piggyback role.

I think it would be smart for the Pirates to try and focus all of their resources into a reclamation project like Corey Kluber. You don’t need to spend a few million on a bench player for a non-playoff team. You don’t need an average starter who is an innings eater — taking away innings from guys like Brubaker. You don’t need an established starting outfielder, although that’s another area the Pirates can offer opportunity. The Pirates would get the best value by adding someone like Kluber, boosting their value by the trade deadline, and benefitting long-term from the return. It’s a risk, but there’s more upside to this than spreading out the same amount of money across 4-5 bullpen, bench, and average starters at best.

Bullpen: I’d expect the Pirates to add here, and perhaps even subtract. I’d put Chris Stratton, Geoff Hartlieb, Sam Howard, Kyle Crick, and perhaps JT Brubaker, Cody Ponce, and Blake Cederlind in the mix for 5-6 spots, but that would still leave a need for depth, so that you don’t rush Nick Mears up to the majors again. Richard Rodriguez is a lock for a bullpen spot, assuming the Pirates don’t move him. I’d expect them to bring in some guys on waiver claims, minor league free agent deals, and perhaps target a traditional closer at a value by dangling the 9th inning role.

What do you expect from the Pirates this offseason? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

The 2020 Prospect Guide returns to print for our tenth  we are releasing two variant covers, featuring Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Visit our shop to order these extremely limited items!

 

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