Pittsburgh Pirates look to fill team needs during Winter Meetings

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

MLB’s Winter Meetings kickoff in Las Vegas this evening the Pittsburgh Pirates will be looking to fill a few holes this week.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headline the players that will be discussed during this week’s Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. There are sure to be bidding wars over these two players with the possibility of signing them very high while all general managers and agents come together in one place for the next few days.

Spoiler Alert: The Pittsburgh Pirates will not be one of the teams bidding on Harper or Machado. That doesn’t mean that the team will be quiet this week. There are some team needs that are sure to be discussed and a certain player that is going into the last year of his contract that will sure to be a topic for the Pirates’ front office.

That player is Francisco Cervelli. The Pirate backstop is going into his third and final year of his deal with the Pirates. He is due to make $11.5 million this season, making him the highest paid player on the Pirates payroll going into 2019.

The time to deal Cervelli is now due to the fact that he had an above average year offensively by his standards. Cervelli hit a career high 12 home runs for the Pirates in 2018. However, injury problems hindered him yet again. Catching just 94 games last season, Cervelli was on and off the disabled list pushing 28-year-old Venezuelan Elias Diaz into action.

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Diaz also had a career year, hitting 10 home runs and catching in 70 games for the Pirates. While Diaz can still improve defensively as well as his handling of the pitching staff, his performance makes Cervelli expandable.

In trading Cervelli, the Pirates can free up some salary space for other team needs including the shortstop position, as well as replacing Edgar Santana and looking to add a left-handed middle reliever. The Pirates could also go for a starter to sure up the rotation with Chad Kuhl on the shelf after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

As far as the shortstop position goes, the Pirates let Jordy Mercer walk after the 2018 season. Mercer played 117 games for the Pirates last season and boasted a .997 fielding percentage while being the quarterback of the defense.

Mercer has been a lock in the Pirates infield this decade holding a career 7.5 WAR. Last season Mercer posted a 0.1 WAR for the Pirates. As most know, Mercer also was not the most gifted with the bat in his hands. Look for the Pirates to get a sound defensively player and a little more offense in his bat in signing a new shortstop.

As stated before, another player the Pirates must replace is reliever Edgar Santana. Santana, like Kuhl, underwent Tommy John surgery and will be rehabbing in Bradenton this season. As a rookie, Santana pitched 66.1 innings in 2018 and recorded 54 strikeouts while doing so. He posted a 3.26 ERA and was a huge part of the success the Pirates’ bullpen had in leaving inherited runners stranded.

The Pirates front office has pulled a lot of the right strings when it comes to bullpen arms. With the help of Ray Searage, look for the bullpen to be a strength for the team yet again.

As reported on Saturday by our website, the Pirates are interested in adding a starter, including Arizona’s Robbie Ray. The Diamondbacks look to be in a selling state after losing the face of their franchise in Paul Goldscmidt. Ray would provide some stability in the rotation after posting a 1.35 WHIP in 2018 and 165 strikeouts in 123.2 innings.

Ray was an All-Star in 2017 while with the Diamondbacks and could be yet another quiet pitching pickup that could come up large for the Pirates.

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The Winter Meetings are the most exciting week in the middle of a long offseason for baseball fans. Continue to stick with us at Rum Bunter for all the up to date Pirate news not only throughout this week, but throughout the 2019 season as well.