The Pittsburgh Pirates have two paths they can take this offseason, and the decision revolves around what they do with Bryan Reynolds.
Reynolds has been the topic of early trade rumors. You could expect a big return if he was actually dealt. That return would likely be bigger than any trade the Pirates have made to date. When combined with all of their trade efforts over the last year, it would add the final boost to the rebuilding efforts, setting up the organization with a very young and talented farm system that is just starting to arrive in the majors.
Such a move would extend the Pirates’ window of contending, which currently looks limited due in part to the years of control from Reynolds.
The Pirates have Reynolds under control through the 2025 season. They’re unlikely to contend with him in 2022, and their best shot of contending is hoping that the young prospects who arrive in 2022 and 2023 can build up a team around him.
We’ve seen that approach before, with the Pirates turning to prospects in 2016. Development issues aside, what we should learn from that season’s bridge to the future was that you can’t and shouldn’t rely on prospects.
Unfortunately, the Pirates are so far away from contending that they have no other choice but to rely on prospects. They will need guys like Oneil Cruz, Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, Liover Peguero, and Henry Davis to work out and lift this team to a point where free agency makes sense.
Right now, if the Pirates kept Reynolds, they’d have to turn to free agency or trades for MLB-ready talent to build around him. The latter is a process that has never really worked for the Pirates, and essentially involves a lesser return for lower perceived risk. The team probably won’t have the budget to build through free agency.
The Pirates are left dependent on prospects, and with that dependency, they might as well go all-in and add whatever prospects Reynolds can bring to the mix. I’m not sure if trading Reynolds would greatly impact their timeline.
They would still be unlikely to contend in 2022. They might be able to contend in 2023, depending on how the prospects do.
The silver lining is that if Reynolds was gone, we could see a youth movement, with a lot of exciting players breaking into the majors in 2022.