The Pittsburgh Pirates Have A Long Off-Season Ahead Of Them
By Marty Leap
It is shaping up to be a long, difficult off-season for the Pittsburgh Pirates
It goes without saying the 2019 season has not gone according to plan for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the 2019 season has been a season from hell. As a result, owner Bob Nutting and the Pirates have a long off-season ahead.
Why is Nutting singled out? Because tough decisions need to made. The decision to make sweeping changes to the coaching staff, starting with manager Clint Hurdle, is one that should have been made weeks ago. A, as of now, 21-45 record after the All-Star Break and the amount of clubhouse issues should be a nail in Hurdle’s coffin.
However, in addition to Hurdle and his staff, Nutting needs to take a long, hard look at general manager Neal Huntington. A strong argument can be made for Huntington to be fired. If he is not, then Huntington must make changes. Members of the scouting department, as well as top assistants such as Kyle Stark and Larry Broadway need to be shown the door.
What has happened with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season both on and off the field is unacceptable. People must be held accountable for this, and that all starts at the top with Mr. Nutting.
Regardless of who is managing the Pirates in 2020. Regardless of who constructs the roster for the 2020 season. There is a lot of work to be done with this roster.
The pitching staff is a total and complete dumpster fire. Joe Musgrove is a very good middle of the rotation starting pitcher. That’s not a problem. The problem is he is – by far – the team’s best and most reliable starting pitcher entering 2020. Chris Archer will likely be back in 2020, but there are serious question as to what kind of pitcher he will be moving forward after a career worst, and injury shortened, campaign in 2019. Trevor Williams has struggled all season, Steven Brault is not very good, Mitch Keller had yet to live up to his lofty expectations, and Jameson Taillon will miss all of 2020 due to Tommy John Surgery. The team could receive a boost from the returning Chad Kuhl, though.
Then again, a new pitching coach and philosophy could go a long way for this staff. Especially pitchers such as Archer, Keller, and Kuhl who all possess electric stuff.
As for the bullpen, the team’s best reliever has become Keone Kela…. who is likely to be traded this off-season due to issues with Kela in the Pirate clubhouse. The same goes for Kyle Crick, although Crick was terrible in 2019 after a great 2018 season. Right now the Pirate bullpen is set to be anchored around Michael Feliz, Richard Rodriguez, and the returning Edgar Santana in 2020. It goes without saying that will need to be addressed.
Looking around the diamond there are plenty of questions as well.
Kevin Newman will be at shortstop in 2020. Josh Bell will anchor first base, and Bryan Reynolds and Starling Marte will each have a spot in the outfield. After this, it is anyone’s guess.
The Pirates will give a healthy Gregory Polanco every opportunity in right field, but can he get back to the player he was before destroying his shoulder last September? At third base Colin Moran has been a below league average hitter with a 94 wRC+ and a .316 wOBA this season, but the team’s best option may be to roll with Moran until top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes is ready.
Pirate management remains high on second baseman Adam Frazier. However, Frazier has been a league average at best hitter this season with a wRC+ of 99 and a .324 wOBA. If there is a new regime in town then Frazier’s role could change as well.
Catcher. Well…. catcher is a total and complete train wreck. Not adding a legitimate MLB catcher this off-season is not an option for the Pirates.
There is also the option to blow it up and go full bore rebuild. If that happens, then Marte is all but guaranteed to be traded as he is only under team control through the 2021 season. Bell is a name that could be floated in trade talks as well if the Bucs decided to completely nuke things.
Honestly, nuking things is likely the team’s best options. The odds of the Pirates competing in 2020 are about zilch. Due to this, they would be best served to trade away players such as Kela, Marte, and Bell to net pieces that could help the Pirates be contenders two or three years down the road.
Whoever the Pirate GM is this off-season, there is a lot of work to be done. The team needs help with the starting rotation, in the bullpen, at catcher, at third base, and potentially in the outfield. Due to this the team’s best option may be to blow it up and go for a full scale rebuild. Either way, it will make for a long and interesting off-season for the Pirates.