Sports Illustrated Ranks The Pittsburgh Pirates 18th In Power Rankings

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Jordan Luplow /

The Winter Meetings have completed, and some teams have made moves to improve for the 2018 season.  Gabriel Baumgaertner of Sports Illustrated released his 2018 power rankings last week.

The Angeles signed Justin Upton earlier on in the offseason, and have recently added Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and Shohei Ohtani.  The New York Yankees fleeced their former shortstop and current Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter for Giancarlo Stanton, a deal that was a clear salary dump.  The St. Louis Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, also a deal that appears to have been a salary dump.  The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves swapped bad contracts to help Los Angeles lower their payroll to help them try to reset their luxury tax.  The Phillies signed Carlos Santana to a three-year deal worth $60 million, a move that likely puts Rhys Hoskins in left field.  The San Francisco Giants acquired Mr. Ray himself in Evan Longoria for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, and two pitching prospects.

The offseason has been mostly slow outside of those moves.  Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and J.D. Martinez are all still free agents.  The Pirates have held conversations with the New York Yankees about Gerrit Cole, and will likely listen to all offers on Andrew McCutchen between now and Opening Day.  The offseason is still young and more moves will be made, but it’s still nice to where clubs rank according to national media outlets.

After the Pirates finished 2017 with a record of 75-87, David Schoenfield of ESPN ranked the Pirates 13th in his rankings.  Sports Illustrated, however, has them a little lower, ranking Pittsburgh 18th.  Baumgaertner writes that,

"“Like the Orioles, the Pirates feel like a team that missed their window. Their future hinges on whether they trade Andrew McCutchen, who saved his 2017 season with a .305/.391/.533 and 19 home runs over his final 102 games, and Gerrit Cole, the staff ace who stumbled to a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2017. The Giants could use a player of McCutchen’s dynamism, but may not have an attractive enough trade package. The Yankees want Cole, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is rumored to be targeting top prospect Gleyber Torres, which might be too tall an ask for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.They have a promising young first baseman in Josh Bell, a struggling 25-year-old outfielder in Gregory Polanco and the talented Starling Marte, who served an 80-game suspension in 2017. Outside of that, it’s an unreliable rotation (even if it’s mastered by the game’s best pitching coach in Ray Searage) and a lineup that finished 28th in total offense.”"

The Pirates ranking 13th and 18th in two major outlets isn’t a real surprise.  Fangraphs currently projects the Pirates at 81-81, three games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second wild card spot.  The team projects to be average, and with a little variance going their way, the club could see themselves making a push to be in the one game wild card.  However, with a little variance going against them, the Pirates could see them picking in the top 10 of the draft once again.

Next: Remembering the Joel Hanrahan Trade

The Pirates rotation currently is projected to produce a 15.1 fWAR, eighth best in baseball, according to Depth Charts.  That appears to be a strength of the club heading into the new season, though a trade of Gerrit Cole changes that.  It’s the offense that is the key.  As Baumgaertner noted, the club finished 28th in runs per game, scoring just 4.12, and despite Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco looking to hopefully play 140 or more games this season, it’s an area where the Pirates have yet to address.  Add this together and you get an average team, something seen in the projections and seen in the power rankings from both ESPN and now Sports Illustrated.