The Pittsburgh Pirates have steadily improved this year, but are we at the end of the long rebuild yet?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had eight notable prospects make their MLB debut in 2022. They’ve cut much of the dead roster weight from last year, and the beginning of this year, and are starting to show signs of being a quality major league team that could compete for a playoff spot. But is this the end of the rebuild?
The Pittsburgh Pirates started this rebuild back in the 2019-2020 offseason. Their first big trade to kick things off was by trading Starling Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for two prospects: Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone.
During the shortened 60-game season, they made some minor trades like sending Jarrod Dyson to the Chicago White Sox for international bonus pool spending (which helped them net Po-Yu Chen), but the rebuild would really get rolling in the 2020-2021 off-season.
During that offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon, netting eleven total prospects between their three big trades. The rebuild continued into the 2021 season as they traded Adam Frazier for Jack Suwinski, Tucupita Marcano, and a relief prospect, Tyler Anderson for Carter Bins and Joaquin Tejada and Richard Rodriguez for Ricky DeVito and Bryse Wilson.
The last big trade they made was sending Gold Glove backstop Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins for three players. The first was Zach Thompson, who was a surprise rookie in 2021. The other two were right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas and outfield prospect Connor Scott. After that, the league went into a lockdown, and the Pirates haven’t made any trades of note since then.
The Pirate farm system is still stacked, but many of the prospects have already come up and made an impact. Just look at their game one lineup compared to some of their recent lineups. When the Pirates faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 7th, they had Cole Tucker starting in right field, Hoy Park lined up at second base, Kevin Newman on the other side of second, and Yoshi Tsutsugo starting at first.
When the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs on June 21st, Oneil Cruz was manning shortstop with an outfield consisting of Bryan Reynolds, Bligh Madris, and Jack Suwinski. Michael Chavis has been the starting first baseman for quite some time now (although he’d still greatly benefit from a good platoon partner), and although Park is still at second base, the platoon of Tucupita Marcano and Diego Castillo was defending the keystone before Marcano went on the COVID-IL.
Their late-June line-ups vs. early-April line-ups are just a testament to how far they’ve come as a team in just a few months. But that doesn’t mean the rebuild is over, more or less just in its final stages. To put it simply, it’s the beginning of the end rather than just the end. The Pirates are likely going to trade Ben Gamel if he’s healthy. He’s become a spare piece to the roster now that Bligh Madris, Jack Suwinski, and Cal Mitchell are in the majors. Not to mention that Tucpita Marcano can play the outfield, Ji-Hwan Bae has played a decent amount of playing time in centerfield over the past two seasons, and they called up Travis Swaggerty earlier this year to play a few games. Jose Quintana might also be dealt.
Plus, the Pittsburgh Pirates still have a handful of prospects waiting in the wings. Double-A Altoona currently houses the likes of Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero, Matt Gorski, Matt Fraizer, Carmen Mlodzinski, and a handful of other notable prospects. The Pirates recently promoted Mike Burrows to Triple-A, and he should make his debut later this year. Cody Bolton has had a quality season at Indianapolis, and he’ll likely make his debut very soon. The same can be said about the aforementioned Bae.
The Pittsburgh Pirates rebuild might not be over, but we’re definitely at the beginning of the end. The team is showing clear improvement, and they’re only getting better. With the upper levels of the minor leagues chock full of prospects, it’s only a matter of months rather than years until we can definitively say that we’re at the end of the rebuild. By this time next year, we might be looking at the offical end.