Pittsburgh Pirates Not Projected To Sign Any Top 50 Free Agents By MLB Trade Rumors
By Noah Wright
With their yearly release of the top 50 free agents list, MLB Trade Rumors projects the Pittsburgh Pirates signing no top 50 players.
Every offseason, the highly regarded and popular baseball news site, MLB Trade Rumors, releases their list of top 50 free agents for readers. Along with their top 50 list, they also include where they project the players to go, and for how much. Recently, they released their 2020-2021 list. Nearly a year ago today, they released their 2019-2020 top 50 free agents list with predictions where the Pittsburgh Pirates were predicted to sign Kole Calhoun for 1 year, $6 million and Drew Smyly for 1 year, $3 million.
Obviously, the Pittsburgh Pirates did not sign either as Calhoun signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for 2 years $16 million and Smyly signed with the San Francisco Giants for 1 year $4 million. However, the offseason wasn’t a normal one for the Bucs as they completely restructured the front office and coaching staff, and new general manager Ben Cherington’s first goal was more of trading Starling Marte than it was signing free agents.
This offseason, MLB Trade Rumors does not proejct the Pittsburgh Pirates to land a single top 50 free agent, which shouldn’t be a surprise for most. Free agency looks like it’s going to be as slow as ever this year given the revenue losses for teams with no sales coming in through tickets, concessions, or any other restaurants, gift shops, or vendors within the stadium. Even usually big market teams are going to be reluctant to spend.
A good example of this reluctance is when the Cleveland Indians recently put Brad Hand, a top three finalist for American League Reliever of the Year for 2020 and who has the third most fWAR among southpaw relievers since 2017, on waivers. Even though Hand would have been owed $10 million if his option was picked up, Hand was able to pass through waivers, unclaimed by all 29 other teams, and eventually had his option bought out for $1 million.
The Pittsburgh Pirates also aren’t in a position to spend on free agents either. Last year, the Bucs ended up last place in the MLB with a 19-41 record. Granted, they saw many players on the injured list, but few were truly going to change the tide of where the Pirates were heading. Plus, finishing last will be more beneficial than finishing anywhere else in the standings.
Their goal for 2021 should be similar to 2020: compete for a top 5 draft pick selection. Their window of opportunity doesn’t start to open until 2022 or 2023. Currently, many of their prospects aren’t projected to reach the majors until around then, so right now needs to be used as a time to give fringe guys a shot like Will Craig, Cole Tucker, and many of the relievers we saw used last season a shot to prove themselves.
But just because they likely aren’t projected to sign any top 50 free agents doesn’t mean they will be going completely silent this off season. The Pirates already have a handful of pitchers who are departing the franchise in Keone Kela in free agency, have already lost Nick Tropeano and Brandon Waddell through waiver claims, and recently designated Dovydas Neverauskas for assignment. Not to mention non-tender or other DFA candidates like Kyle Crick, Austin Davis, Tyler Bashlor or Sean Poppen.
Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams could start the 2021 season on different teams. After struggling in a second season in a row, Williams is a non-tender candidate. Musgrove on the other hand had a great season and has tons of trade value. He’ll likely be shopped during the winter. However, if the Pirates part with Williams and Musgrove, they’ll be losing a lot of innings. Since 2018, Musgrove and Williams are the only pitchers to have at least 300 innings pitched in a Pirate uniform.
Getting a veteran innings eater should be on the Pirates’ to-do list. Many of the arms on their top 50 list are projected to sign for less than $8 million. Rick Porcello, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ are all projected to make around $5-$6 million in 2021, and are ranked within the top 50. Even if they aren’t going to be spenders, they could at least kick the tires on some innings eaters, especially if they trade any of their current starters. Afterall, it would be nice to have a guy in the rotation you can count on for 180 or so innings and 30-33 starts.