After a strong season and productive trade deadline changed the mindsets of many Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans, general manager Neal Huntington now has a chance this offseason to build upon a strong 2018 season
In January 2018, the relationship between the Pirates organization and fanbase hit an all-time low with the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. However, after 161 games, there is a different tone in the air heading into the winter. A lot can change in nine months.
This year’s strong finish and particularly active trade deadline created a unique feeling of excitement and optimism heading into the 2019 season. Neal Huntington has a chance to capitalize and he can’t afford to pass it up.
This offseason is Huntington’s most critical. Luckily for him, the situation is much different than previous years. The core of the roster, especially the pitching staff, is very promising and under team control for the foreseeable future. Also, they have the ability for added financial flexibility with Josh Harrison ($10M), Jordy Mercer ($6.75M), and Sean Rodriguez ($5.7M) potentially all being removed from the books.
Jameson Taillon , Trevor Williams, and Joe Musgrove took considerable steps forward in 2018 to solidify the staff whose team ERA ranked fourth in the National League post All-Star break. Not to mention, Chris Archer, the man Huntington acquired in part for his team-friendly contract, closed the season with an improved September. Ivan Nova is a worthy back-end of the rotation starter, but with young arms behind him, he could also serve as an intriguing trade chip and $8M salary clearance.
The loss of Edgar Santana for 2019 due to Tommy John surgery is a hit, but this bullpen has the skillset to remain one of the strongest in the league. Huntington could look to add another formidable arm to join Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez.
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Corey Dickerson (.300/.330/.474) had an overall impressive year with the team and will continue to be a crucial piece next season. Adam Frazier made a strong case for becoming an everyday player and will join a worthy core of returning players such as Francisco Cervelli, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell, Elias Diaz, and potential super-utility man Pablo Reyes.
Huntington has intentionally developed a deep team-controlled roster to compete now and in the coming years. Of their core, the only Pirates not controlled through at least 2021 are Dickerson (2019), Cervelli (2019) and Kela (2020).
This team needs a middle infielder, power bat, and potentially a bullpen arm. However, the team’s current situation allows Huntington to approach needs more aggressively and effectively this offseason.
In past years, team and payroll limitations were more restrictive on what moves Huntington was capable of making. For one of the first times in his career as Pirates GM, Huntington has a promising long-term core in place and the financial flexibility to bring in players to immediately address needs.
Now he needs to do just that.