The Pittsburgh Pirates have watched their National League Central rivals from St. Louis add three starting pitching over the last week or so. Many were hoping for the Bucs to make some deals buy now. However, the Cardinals also have been probably too aggressive in trying to fix their glaring issue from the 2023 season. They are committing close to $50 million for three new starters—Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and the recent addition, Sonny Gray.
No one expected the Pittsburgh Pirates to be in on Sonny Gray, although they should/could have been. However, names like Lance Lynn and more specifically Kyle Gibson made a lot of sense for the Bucs. Gibson landed a 1-year deal worth $12 million while Lynn agreed to a 1 year deal worth $10 million. Both of those dollar numbers definitely fit into the price range the Bucs should at the very least be shopping in.
Sonny Gray, the standout of the trio, shone with a remarkable WAR of 5.2 during his tenure with the Twins, marking a career-high. However, his previous three seasons averaged closer to 2 WAR. Lance Lynn, entering his age 36 seasons, struggled with a career-low WAR of 0.5, prompting concerns about how much he has left in the tank. Meanwhile, Kyle Gibson's peculiar season, marked by an ERA nearing 5, surprisingly resulted in a WAR of 2.6. Not an overly impressive number but not bad either.
Amidst the Cardinals' proactive pitching acquisitions, the Pittsburgh Pirates face a crucial decision. Is the hefty investment in the Cardinals' new arms a cause for alarm, or should there not be as much concern about their rotation even with the additions? It is fair to question if the Pittsburgh Pirates Front Office will do what it takes to add quality. However, the Cardinals have spent a lot of money on pitchers who are not necessarily glaring upgrades to their rotation.
Even with payroll flexibility this offseason and glaring needs, the Pittsburgh Pirates still need to operate in a cautious manner.
No one wants this team to hand out a contract that the team will use as an excuse down the road. For instance, say the Bucs would have given Gray that 3-year deal worth $75 million. Gray is 34 years old and coming off his best season in nearly 5 years. Is this a wise investment for the Pittsburgh Pirates? Yes, they are adding pitching and pitching that is better than what they have, but there is also a very good chance that the wheels fall off before that contract is done. Fans should know that unless the team can dump a bad contract (I.E. Francisco Liriano fiasco), then a cheap small-market team is going cry that they are financially handcuffed by said bad contract.
Now in terms of Lynn and Gibson, there are plenty of other veterans that will be in the same neighborhood as them two. Yes, they should help stabilize the Cardinal's rotation, but the Bucs cannot tie up $22 million in two starters over the age of 35 who regressed in 2023. So while the Cardinals are signing starting pitching, it should not be a concern to the Bucs. Overall the Cardinal rotation still has a lot of question marks including at least 2 of their 3 new arms.
So while I agree with the "Wake up Ben" tweets to an extent, in the grand scheme of things the offseason is still very young. The Cardinals are being aggressive and spent nearly the bucs current payroll on 3 aging arms. The Pittsburgh Pirates need to answer and add to their starting rotation as well. That has not changed, and they need to be aggressive too. Still, they need to be more calculated in their approach, when they hand out the kind of money the Cardinals are currently it has to be for true impact players.