With the season right around the corner, this is an exciting time right now for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have begun baseball activities and the team is starting to mold the pieces together. It has been a busy offseason, but I do like how the offseason went. Two key players, Neil Walker and Pedro Alverez are no longer on the roster. Neil Huntingdon did a nice job acquiring somebody for Walker before letting him go. As of February 24, Pedro Alverez is still a free agent. Yes he would make a perfect American League DH, but I think at this point he is willing to play for whomever.
J.A. Happ signed a large contract with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. Happ was one of those players Pirates fans fell in love with last season. He had an All-Star like finish to 2015 and really helped Pittsburgh earn a National League Wild Card. A.J. Burnett (Batman) return last year was nothing but magical. The organization, team, and fans all loved AJ and the leadership he brought to the team. A World Series ring would have been an exclamation point to his career, but I still respect him so much as a player.
The outfield is shaping up to look better than ever. The Pirates didn’t really make a big splash with any acquisitions to back up the 3 studs. Last week they made an interesting move as they signed Matt Joyce. Joyce has shown signs of power and legitimacy, but he still has to earn his spot on the roster. Matt would become the 4th outfielder and first substitution if Polanco or Marte would be out. I thought this was a good pickup since Pittsburgh didn’t lose anything with the risk.
Utility men Sean Rodriguez and John Jaso could end up playing divides for Pittsburgh down the road. With Kang still not 100%, I expect Rodriguez to see significant time at third base. Rodriguez proved last year he is willing to play anywhere and Hurdle loves to move him around. Jaso was signed to work 1st base with Michael Morse. Jaso also can play outfield and is another utility man Hurdle has to use. I like the resigning of Rodriguez, but I have to wait and see how Jaso produces before we can comment on the pickup.
Jason Rogers came over from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade for Keon Braxton. Rogers can see time at third or first base, but is another option at third until Kang returns. Pittsburgh has an abundance of outfielders including Willy Garcia, Harold Ramirez, and Austin Meadows. Trading Braxton was smart since Pittsburgh needed some help now in the infield. Jake Goebbert was also brought along to help fill the first base hole. Goebbert hasn’t played a lot of games, but he could see a significant bench role if he makes the 25-man roster.
Since Tony Sanchez was designated for assignment, his era as a Pirate is over. This leaves room for Elias Diaz to continue to get better while playing in Triple-A. Chris Stewart was giving an extension over the winter and I feel it was much deserved. Stewart has had a few good years being the backup catcher and lately Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. Chris has hit the ball decently well and always seems to hit doubles!
Pittsburgh has had a unique offseason. They potentially have 5 first basemen (Jaso, Rogers, Goebbert, Morse, and Rodriguez), but this is a good thing. I also think this is an odd year because the infield is adjusting to playing without Walker, Ramirez, Alvarez but adding Kang, Harrison, and whoever starts at first. With the amount of depth Pittsburgh has they should be able to compete in every game.