3 best tools acquired by the Pirates this offseason

Pittsburgh Pirates v Miami Marlins
Pittsburgh Pirates v Miami Marlins / Brennan Asplen/GettyImages
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For small-market teams such as the Pirates, the offseason rarely features a splashy free-agent signing, a player who can single-handedly turn a game or a season around. Rather, the winter months in Pittsburgh feature wheeling and dealing as the front office attempts to solve a puzzle. What areas of the team do we need to bolster? What players feature a tool or two that can help us take the next step forward?

With this in mind, here’s my way-to-early ranking of the top tools picked up this offseason.

As noted by Ethan Fisher yesterday, the Pirates have bought into a patient approach at the plate, and as of Thursday, they rank second in the Majors in on-base percentage. In other words, the recipe for success in the first few games of the season has been “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.” 

Michael A. Taylor has been the epitome of this concept. Take Monday’s win over the Nationals, for example. Taylor led off the eighth inning with a bunt single and moved to second on a sac bunt by Alika Williams. On a 2-0 count, Taylor broke for third, and Connor Joe promptly smashed a line-drive double on the hit-and-run. Taylor easily scored, and the chances of the Pirates winning the game rose 22.9%.

Taylor’s top sprint speed in 2024 is just 26.7 mph, compared to 28.7 in 2023. Pirates fans shouldn’t be too concerned by this dip. Frankly, aside from that bunt single and a few infield hits, Taylor has had little cause to show off his wheels. Fifty percent of Taylor’s contact has been “hard hit,” according to Statcast (meaning, an exit velocity of 95+ mph). When you hit the ball that hard, you likely aren’t breaking a sweat making it to first base. Similarly, only one of Taylor’s fielding opportunities has had a catch probability lower than 95%. In other words, it’s been a laid-back start to the season.

When the Pirates need the speed, though, it’ll be there. Even at age 33, Taylor has the baserunning IQ and fielding acumen to be at the right place at the right time.