The Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as most other teams, will likely pick-up many minor league deals to fill-out their minor league rosters.
Although the Major League Baseball season may be on hold, the Minor League Baseball season will go on. All minor league teams are scheduled to start the season at their regular times. Triple-A games will begin on April 5th, with Double-A, High-A, and Low-A to start on the 8th. However, prospects on the 40-man roster will not be allowed to play minor league ball because of the lockout.
This means that you should expect the Pittsburgh Pirates and most other teams to make a flurry of minor league deals over the next few weeks. Every team likely had plans to option a few of their 40-man roster spots to the upper-levels of the minor leagues to at least start the season, but now will not have that opportunity.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates, that means they can’t option some of their most talented prospects. The highest-end ones that likely would have at least started the season at Double-A or Triple-A were Roansy Contreras, Oneil Cruz, and Liover Peguero. Peguero was slated to be Nick Gonzales’ double-play partner at Altoona but will now have to wait until the end of the lockout to get playing time in. Although they would have only spent just April at the very most at Triple-A, both Contreras and Cruz are now stuck as well.
But there are many other prospects on the 40-man that now can’t get minor league play in. Jack Suwinski, Travis Swaggerty, and Canaan Smith-Njigba were all projected outfielders for Indianapolis. At least one or two of Diego Castillo, Hoy Park, Cole Tucker, and Rodolfo Castro likely were going to find their way to Indy as well.
There are also a few pitchers besides Contreras that could have been optioned to start the year. Luis Oviedo was a Rule 5 pick who needs more seasoning. Another hard-throwing relief prospect in Blake Cederlind is coming off Tommy John surgery, so he’d likely would have been sent to Triple-A. Wil Crowe and Max Kranick also had a fair possibility to start the season at Indy.
Because all of these talented names won’t get a chance to start the season on time, the Pirates will essentially need to find placeholders until further notice is given. There are two ways the team could approach minor league signings. The first is to sign some guys just for depth like Albert Almora, Brock Holt, Dexter Fowler, Delino DeShields, Tim Locastro, to Travis Jankowski. The other option is to sign some potential bounceback candidates or low-cost/low-risk veterans like Matt Carpenter, Jed Lowrie, Andrelton Simmons, Aaron Sanchez, Jake Lamb, or Matt Duffy.
Whatever the Pirates decide to do and who to sign, I’d expect many minor league free agents, low-cost/low-risk veterans, and major league depth players to be picked up over the course of the next few weeks. The Pirates are far from the only team who added talented prospects to their 40-man roster.