Rebuilding the Pittsburgh Pirates – Year Four

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Rebuilding the Pittsburgh Pirates – Year Four

Baseball

Rebuilding the Pittsburgh Pirates – Year Four

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General Manager Ben Cherington enters his fourth season as the head of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the time to begin to see results is now. In his first three seasons as the GM, Cherington has seen his teams notch records of 19-41 (COVID-shortened season), 61-101 and 62-101 for a combined record of 142-242 (.370 win percentage). While these seasons were full of forgettable players who were acting as placeholders while the youth worked its way through the system, it was still an excruciating watch for Pirates fans.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel could finally be in sight. The Pirates saw major prospects Oneil Cruz, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski and Roansy Contreras find a permanent home in MLB during the second half of the season, while other prospects such as Luis Ortiz (#29 prospect), Ji-Hwan Bae (#11) and Johan Oviedo made brief appearances at the end of the season.

The time is now for the majority of the youth to see normal playing time at the big-league level. Numerous other highly thought of prospects are ready to break through this season as well. These players include right-handed pitchers Mike Burrows (#8) and Quinn Priester (#3), the aforementioned middle infielder Bae and the starting arms of Ortiz and Oviedo. The Pirates also have two of the most promising prospects in baseball, both at the catching position. Henry Davis tops Pittsburgh’s prospect list and will begin the year in AAA Indianapolis. The Pirates also have Endy Rodriguez (#6), who many in the business believe is Pittsburgh’s best overall prospect yet is still ranked sixth on the farm.

Pittsburgh fans could also see the emergence of middle infielder Liover Peguero (#4), who was acquired for Starling Marte from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Nick Gonzales (#5) could find himself as a late-season callup if he can re-find his bat after a below-average 2022. A few other players a bit farther off are two-way player Bubba Chandler (#7), 2022 first overall draft pick Termarr Johnson (#2) and left-handed pitcher Anthony Solomento (#9).

With the prospects situation sorted out, this season’s team needs to be examined. Cherington had a busy offseason making a total of eight major-league additions while subtracting eight players who had somewhat-consistent MLB roles at some point last season.

The subtractions made by Pittsburgh included starting pitchers Zach Thompson, Bryse Wilson and Miguel Yajure, utility player Diego Castillo, infielder Kevin Newman, outfielder Ben Gamel and catchers Roberto Perez and Tyler Heinaman.

Cherington began his offseason additions by acquiring first baseman/designated hitter Ji-Man Choi from Tampa Bay. The GM would add a second first baseman/designated hitter in Carlos Santana next. With the first base platoon set, Cherington looked to the mound. Veteran pitchers Vince Velasquez and Rich Hill were signed as free agents to add stability to the young rotation. The next area Cherington addressed was the bullpen with the signing of left-handed pitcher Jarlin Garcia. Role player and former Pittsburgh first-round pick Connor Joe was acquired from Colorado and defensive catcher Austin Hedges was brought in.

Just when it seemed like Cherington had his initial 2023 roster, Pirates fans experienced the most exciting thing to happen to their team since 2015: the re-signing of Andrew McCutchen. This signing not only brought back the most influential Pirate of the century, but also solidified an outfield looking for a third starting member. 

Before breaking down possible lineups and rotations for the 2023 Pirates, the Bryan Reynolds situation needs addressed. The Pirates and Reynolds were reportedly working on a long-term extension this offseason, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. The Pirates reportedly offered the outfielder a six-year, $75 million contract. This mirrors the new contract for Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy. 

However, Reynold’s camp was looking for a contract in the neighborhood of seven-to-eight years and $150-$165 million. This contract would be comparable to Atlanta’s Matt Olson. On December 3, 2022, Reynolds made public his request for a trade from the team. The Pirates’ asking price is reportedly astronomically high (which makes sense) and there are no trade partners at the moment. While the 27-year-old wants out, Pittsburgh has no obligation to trade him as he will not become a free agent until after the 2026 season. It appears Reynolds will be on Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster.

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