A recent interview with Pittsburgh Pirates’ general manager Ben Cherington revealed a lot about the current direction of the club, and Cherington’s intentions.
In a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post l-Gazette, Pittsburgh Pirates’ new general manager Ben Cherington shared some statements regarding the team’s current position, and their approach to a ‘rebuild’.
"“We are not tearing something down to start over. We are simply taking a team that wasn’t good enough, or wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be last year, but has a group of players that has a chance to be much better, and we’re trying to build off of that.”"
Cherington isn’t wrong in his assessment about the Pirates’ current roster. The current core consists of young players with tons of potential such as 4th place National League Rookie of the Year finisher Bryan Reynolds, middle infielders Kevin Newman, and Adam Frazier, and All-Star first baseman Josh Bell. That seems like a good core to build off of, especially with the upcoming talents of Cole Tucker, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and the emergence of Mitch Keller.
In Cherington’s defense, he hasn’t gone full tank. If you go full tank, you trade off every asset with value. Rookie, all-stars, anything with value is on the trading block. So far, the only names we have seen thrown around are ones that likely won’t play a role with the Pirates the next time they compete.
Outfielder Starling Marte was clearly out the door at the season’s end in 2019, and it was only a matter of where he would end up. Most of the names that have been brought up are either on the last year(s) of their current contract, or will have expiring contracts when the Pirates are looking to return to Buctober. This is the case with Bell, Frazier (both are free agents after the 2022 season), and relief pitcher Keone Kela (free agent after the 2020 season).
Cherington also compared the Pirates to the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays, which in some ways, we are. Most of the Jays’ players then, like Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar, Troy Tulowitzki, and J.A. Happ probably weren’t going to be factors the next time they were in competition again. Especially speaking that both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were free agents the following off season. However, I think the biggest detractor to his statement is the fact the Jays finished with an 89-73 record in 2016, and were able to make it to the American League Championship Series. However, now the Blue Jays have one of the best young cores in MLB, which is something else Cherington brought up.
The general manager went on to add the following two statements:
"“If we look at 2019-20 and beyond, we’re not rebuilding something that was in place in 2019. We are just trying to keep building. A good chunk of players who were on the team last year will be on the team this year, and they really do have a chance to be part of that next winning team. We’re just trying to build toward that.”“I’m a fan too. I was a fan before I ever did any of this. I understand what it feels like to be mad, to be frustrated, to want to see something different, to want to see performance. We want to be aware of that, certainly.”"
This should be a breath of fresh air for Pirate fans. So far, I believe Cherington is making an honest effort to get this team back into contention as soon as possible. The Marte trade has honestly grown on me. Although I would have liked to get back a piece that was closer to MLB ready than either Liover Peguero or Brennan Malone are, both have a very high ceiling and a lot of potential. More so than many of the names in the D-Backs system currently. Don’t forget that they were able to sign a 16-year-old outfield prospect with the international money they acquired in the deal as well.
Plus, look at all the depth Cherington added. One of the biggest issues Neal Huntington had was a lack of willingness to add depth. So far, the Pirates have added seven different players to minor league deals or cheap one-year contracts after Cherington got a late start on the job. In comparison, Huntington made all of 11 total signings-in the past two off seasons, combined.
One of the last things Cherington stated in the interview was the following:
"“We also have to try and be disciplined, to look at the things we need to do every day to get better to get to that winning team. There’s not a shortcut to that anywhere in baseball. While I believe our payroll will increase over time, we’re not going to be able to buy all of those wins in free agency. We’ve got to create a lot of those wins internally, either through player improvement or with good acquisitions — good trades, good development, good drafts, etc.”"
Baseball is a game about patience. The most patient batters are usually some of the best. This also relates to the front office. It’s going to take a few seasons before we see another playoff game in Pittsburgh, but we’ll get there sooner rather than later. Cherington also seems to have more money at his disposal than Huntington did, or at the least is more willing to spend it. We can improve our team through free agency, but much of it is going to rely on many internal factors, who we get in trades, and who we get in free agency.
Cherington will never say that the Pirates’ are ‘rebuilding’. It doesn’t matter if you are Ben and traded away Marte, or Derek Jeter and traded away your entire outfield in the matter of a month and a half. No front office personel in baseball will ever say “yea, we’re just gonna tear it down and do a rebuild”. However, I do think Cherington has good intentions and is making an effort to try and get this team back to Buctober for longer than 3 seasons.
Please note: all the quotes are taken directly from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article written by Jason Mackey. If you would like to read Mr. Mackey’s thoughts on Ben Cherington’s statements, you can read them here: Ben Cherington explains why the Pirates aren’t going to ‘rebuild’