Let’s look at some easy calls first. Junior Fernández, Jeremy Beasley, Eric Stout, Peter Solomon, and Beau Sulser are hanging onto a roster spot by a thread. While Yohan Ramirez didn’t do terrible, he also didn’t do well enough to earn a roster spot over the prospects who are more deserving of his spot. Junior Fernandez may average out in the high-90s, but he also has a career 14% walk rate in 54 major league innings.
Nick Mears is a reasonably notable potential subtraction from the 40-man. It wasn’t that long ago Mears was considered the Pirates’ best relief pitching prospect. However, multiple injuries and a lack of improving command have not helped the right-hander. He has decent stuff, but his inability to locate gets in the way more often than not. Like Fernandez, it’s not a lack of stuff but a severe lack of location.
Duane Underwood Jr. is the Pittsburgh Pirates likeliest non-tender candidate. The reliever posted a mediocre 4.40 ERA and 1.448 WHIP. Don’t be fooled by his 2.92 FIP, as the right-hander had a 3.91 xFIP. Underwood struggled in the second half of the season, and while he has decent stuff, he’s been too inconsistent to prioritize him over another pitching prospect.
On the position player side of things, the Pirates will likely DFA at least one of, if not both, Ali Sanchez and Zack Collins. If the Pirates protect Sabol and Rodriguez, both Sanchez and Collins will not hold onto 40-man roster spots.
There’s also a decent chance the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade Kevin Newman this off-season. The infielder is coming off a solid, albeit unimpressive, season in which he batted just .274/.316/.372 with a .303 wOBA and 94 wRC+. He provided roughly average defense at second base and shortstop, combining for -2 defensive runs saved but zero outs above average. The second base free agent market is bare bones thin, so the Pirates might be able to find a team in need of 2B depth willing to trade for Newman.
In total, that’s eleven total roster spots the Pirates could clear. At least eight depth players will almost certainly not make it through the roster crunch. If the Pirates are looking to shop Newman, they’ll probably do it before the deadline to finalize 40-man rosters so they can open up another spot.