Looking ahead to 2024
Contreras is still a young pitcher. He did not turn 24 until November, and as recently as early last season still had plus stuff, highlighted by a slider/curveball combination that appeared to have the potential to develop into one of the best in baseball.
Giving up on Contreras would be a mistake. However, due to being out of minor league options, sending him to Triple-A Indianapolis to work on things to begin the season is not an option. Due to this, the Pirates face a tough decision with Contreras.
Could they move on from Contreras, leave him off the Opening Day roster, and designate him for assignment? Sure, it's possible, but it's not likely. There would almost assuredly be a team who would claim Contreras believing they can help him right the ship.
Assuming that is not the option the Pirates go they must make a decision on using Contreras either out of the bullpen or out of the starting rotation to start the season. Right now, the Pirates still have two spots open in their starting rotation. Without any strong in house options, it is easy to envision Contreras starting the season in the rotation.
Where Contreras begins the season could prove to hinge on how he performs/how his stuff and control look in the spring. If Contreras appears to be struggling mightily in those facets, then he may start the season in the bullpen.
Regardless of what decision is made, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to face a tough decision this spring with Contreras. As for Contreras, even though 2024 will be just his age-24 season, he may already find himself at a crossroads for his career.