Pittsburgh Pirates: What's Left to do This Offseason

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks
Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had an active offseason, but what's left for them to do before spring training starts?

For once in what seems like forever the Pittsburgh Pirates have made a real effort to improve the Major League roster this offseason. The most notable acquisitions were bringing back former MVP and fan favorite Andrew McCutchen, as well as adding Rich Hill, Ji-Man Choi, and Carlos Santana. They also added Austin Hedges, Connor Joe, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Hernandez, Vince Velasquez, and Dauri Moreta.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, they’ve added just over $30 million to the payroll (excluding the non-arbitration eligible additions or free agent additions, which were Moreta, Hernandez, and Joe). That’s nearly double the amount they spent last off-season ($16.225 million). 

While the veterans have helped patch some glaring holes, there are also a ton of prospects coming up in the system. At the 40-man roster deadline, they added Jared Triolo, Colin Selby, and Endy Rodriguez. Not to mention the myriad of other prospects at Double-A and Triple-A, such as Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero, Luis Ortiz, and many more, who could potentially impact the 2023 season.

Pirate fans will finally have something to look forward to next season. But there is still about a month and a half before players start ramping things up for spring training. So what have the Pittsburgh Pirates addressed, and what is there left to be done for the team before they start heading down to Bradenton?

Let’s first look at how they fixed the glaring holes. First base depth was essentially non-existent heading into the offseason, as Zack Collins was atop the team’s first base depth chart. Since the end of the regular season, Santana and Choi have been added to significantly help the team's first base depth. Although Connor Joe is primarily an outfielder, he has plenty of time at first base to where he could play it semi-regularly. Triolo has said he is willing to play both positions on the right side of the infield, and the team also has Malcolm Nuñez stashed away at Triple-A. 

Relief pitching has also been improved. The first addition was Moreta. Although Moreta did not have an impressive rookie campaign, there were also many positives to draw from it. Hernandez, their Rule 5 Draft selection, adds a young, talented left-hander to the mix. García has consistently been a solid LHP reliever, posting an ERA+ of 108 or greater since 2019.

Velasquez could start the year out in the bullpen. But adding both Velasquez and Rich Hill gives the Pirates flexibility with JT Brubaker and Johan Oviedo. Plus, the addition of Colin Selby to the 40-man roster shows the team has confidence in the right-hander, who had a breakout 2022 campaign.

Catching was also a glaring hole, and they’re essentially going with an all-defense route. That makes sense, given the roster has plenty of young arms who should feel confident with the outstanding defense that the guys they’ve brought in bring to the team. Austin Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers of this generation, and Tyler Heineman provided great defense with the Pirates last season.

Hedges had +8 Defensive Runs Saved and +4.4 framing runs, last season while Heineman had +5 DRS and +4.8 framing runs. Just don’t expect either to provide any value with the bat. Hedges had a 42 wRC+, marking the fourth season in a row he’s had a sub-50 wRC+, and Heineman only had a 57 wRC+.

So what else could the team do? I still think adding another more proven veteran left-handed reliever would be nice. García was a strong addition, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on Hernandez. I personally like Hernandez and think he can be a good reliever, but I, as well as many others, also said the same thing about Luis Ovideo in 2021. He is a Rule 5 Draft pick, and those kinds of players are often a complete shot in the dark.

While the free agent market isn’t nearly as lucrative as it was back in November/December, there are still some decent free agents out there, especially on the left-handed relief pitching market. Andrew Chafin is still unsigned after posting a 2.83 ERA/134 ERA+. He’s consistently been a quality reliever, as 2022 marked the fifth straight full season in which his ERA+ was at least 119, and the fourth time in five seasons he’s been at least 30% better than average at limiting runs. Matt Moore is coming off an outstanding season with a 1.95 ERA. While the sustainability of Moore’s season is much more questionable than Chafin, he still would be a nice addition. Will Smith also had an outstanding second half. Even a lower-cost option like Zack Britton, Brad Hand, Jose Alvarez, or even bringing back Manny Banuelos would be a nice extra line of defense in the pen.

Now with McCutchen brought back, the team will need to figure out whom to eliminate from the 40-man roster. The overall roster is improving, but the Pirates could swing a trade with someone like Ryan Vilade, Travis Swaggerty, Duane Underwood Jr., or Chase De Jong to clear up that roster spot. The return likely wouldn’t be outstanding, but it could add a semi-decent prospect or major league player to the roster.

Next. Could Cutch bat leadoff?. dark

Aside from potentially adding some organizational depth through minor league signees, the Pirates have added depth in the places it needs it the most. While the team should still consider another potential relief pitcher, preferably a left-handed one, there is no glaring need on the roster anymore.