The Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of Major League Baseball will be heading to the Winter Meetings this Sunday. What could be on the agenda for Ben Cherington and company?
This coming Sunday is a big day for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of Major League Baseball. All the teams across the MLB will be sending representatives including managers, General Managers, and other front office personnel to San Diego for the 2019 Winter Meetings. The meetings technically start Monday, but the team’s get there and begin preparing on Sunday night, with the meetings going from Monday to Thursday morning. The Winter Meetings always have the potential to be the most active period of the offseason and could be again this year.
In the last few years, the Winter Meetings have been relatively slow due to teams being less willing to give out large contracts to veteran free agents. However, this year has a chance to be different. First off, there have been plenty of notable moves already this offseason. In addition to that, plenty of teams nontendered arbitration-eligible players, nearly doubling last year’s amount, putting plenty of other intriguing free agents on the open market. With so many players available there could be a lot more action.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates, this will represent their first Winter Meetings under a new regime since 2008. Neal Huntington was always somewhat active at the Winter Meetings, usually making some smaller signings and some trades. It will be interesting to see how Ben Cherington and new assistant General Manager Steve Sanders go about things.
So what could the Pittsburgh Pirates look like by next Wednesday when the Winter Meetings conclude? Well, there are a few things that seem certain with the team having a couple of obvious needs. However, many more rumors will pop up over the course of next week.
When looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates needs it seems likely that they will acquire a catcher at the meetings. Heading into the offseason, the catching position was the most glaring hole on the offensive side of things. Jacob Stallings proved to be a serviceable big-league catcher, but Elias Diaz regressed big time on both sides of the ball. Then, a couple of days ago, it was announced that Diaz would not be tendered a contract, showing that the new regime did not view him as a viable option.
With that move, it seems obvious that Cherington believes he will be able to acquire a catcher at some point in this offseason. This could be done via free agency or in a trade. Catchers like Jason Castro, Austin Romine, and Robinson Chirinos are available. They could also look at the trade market for a new backstop. One thing that seems certain, the team has a plan on how to fill the hole.
Speaking of the trade market, the Bucs could be very active on it at the meetings. The team has one of the most valuable trade assets this offseason in outfielder Starling Marte. Marte is a five-tool outfielder who is coming off a career year. Not only is he one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball, but he also has two years of control at $11.5 and $12.5 million over the next two seasons.
The free-agent market is weakest at the centerfield position. There are not really any notable players available other than Kevin Pillar, whom Marte is a better player. If a team is looking to add an impact centerfielder that will make a difference on both sides of the game then they likely will be interested in Marte. With a friendly contract, there should be no limitations on the teams that could be interested. There has already been a lot of speculation about the Mets, and teams like the Phillies, Braves, Padres, and others could show interest as well.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to move Marte it very well could be by the end of the Winter Meetings. Other players the team could look to dangle in trade talks are Keone Kela, Chris Archer, Richard Rodriguez, and even potentially Josh Bell. Obviously, those potential moves will also effect who Cherington looks to acquire.
The Winter Meetings are getting closer and closer and with that the hot stove will start to heat up. The Pittsburgh Pirates roster and organization could look very different this time next week. Be sure to check back for the latest news and rumors.