Pittsburgh Pirates: There Could Be More Spending Next Offseason

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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While the Pittsburgh Pirates have been active this offseason, could we see even more activity from the front office following the 2023 season?

The Pittsburgh Pirates 2022-2023 offseason has been one that fans should be optimistic about. On the free agent side of things, they’ve added Carlos Santana, Jarlín García, Rich Hill, Austin Hedges, Vince Velasquez, and the big one, Andrew McCutchen. In trades, they’ve acquired Dauri Moreta and Connor Joe and then acquired Jose Hernandez in the Rule 5 Draft. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the team has spent just over $30 million (excluding Moreta, Joe, and Hernandez since none of the three were arbitration-eligible or free-agent signees).

Now ~$30 million is not very much in the grand scheme of things. The New York Mets are going to pay Justin Verlander $43 million AAV alone. But for the Pittsburgh Pirates, this is really opening the checkbook for free agents and other acquisitions. Just last off-season, they only spent about half of the total they’ve spent this year, clocking in at just $16.225 million. While the 2020-2021 off-season was abnormal for obvious reasons, they only spent $2.5 million.

It’s been a slow but steady increase in payroll over the last three seasons. But with the team looking much more improved heading into 2023 and the Pirates looking to start bringing up some of their best prospects, could they continue this steady increase in the 2023-2024 offseason?

It depends on how the roster looks at the end of the season. Some potential gaps in the roster could fill themselves. For example, the arrival of Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis could ensure the Pirates have a strong catching tandem for years to come. First base could be an issue, though Malcolm Nuñez could help ensure a solid option, and the outfield could be safe with Reynolds (if he isn’t traded), Jack Suwinski, and Ji-Hwan Bae, with one of Cal Mitchell, Canaan Smith-Njigba, or Travis Swaggerty filling out the 4th/platoon outfield role.

It would be nice to see the Pittsburgh Pirates go out and sign a lower-cost but still solid roster addition. Someone like Tyler Mahle would give the rotation a quality anchor, and C.J. Cron could be the guy who solves first base for more than one year. Neither is the top player at their respective position or the top player at their position on the free agent market, but both are easily in the Pirate price range if they decide to spend $35-40 million next off-season in free agency.

The trade market is harder to predict, given the amount of fluctuation year-by-year, but the Pirates could afford to deal a prospect or two. I’m not saying they should mortgage the future, but there certainly could be an opportunity for the Pirates to bring in some proven or semi-proven MLB talent through a trade. 

Even if the Pirates only spend a similar amount to this year, the most important thing is they’re mindful of how they use their resources. The 2016 and 2017 Pirates spent a similar amount but finished the year with 78 and 75 wins. Instead of putting money into two or three notable names, they spread the money out to below-average and replacement-level players like Juan Nicasio, Daniel Hudson, John Jaso, Ryan Vogelsong, Jeff Locke, Jon Niese, Neftali Feliz, Wade LeBlanc, and Josh Lindbloom. This strategy may work now because the Pirates are looking to finish off a rebuild, and it gives them the opportunity to either go for it or sell, but they need commitment once the prospects are here.

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Either way, the Pirates have seen their spending increase from less than $3 million to over $15 million and now over $30 million. Now that’s not to say they’re going to nearly double their spending again, but is it unreasonable to expect maybe a $5-10 million increase next offseason? Absolutely not. If anything, that is what the Pirates should do next offseason.