Three underrated extension candidates for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been fairly proactive in securing their young core for the long haul, but they have some less ovbious players they should still pursue deals with.

Aug 20, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Ryan Borucki (43)
Aug 20, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Ryan Borucki (43) / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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Edward Olivares

One of the biggest new additions the Pirates made from this past off-season was acquiring Edward Olivares from the Kansas City Royals. The Pirates acquired Olivares for next to nothing, as the only thing they had to surrender was Devivis Nadal, a minor league utility man who struck out about a third of the time at A-Ball. Olivares, meanwhile, has had two very solid seasons with the bat in 2022 and 2023, flying under the radar, and could make even more strides in 2024 with the Bucs.

Last year, Olivares batted .263/.317/.452 with a .329 wOBA, and 105 wRC+ through 385 plate appearances. The outfielder provided the Royals' line-up with some pop, going yard a dozen times with an above average .185 isolated slugging percentage. He is also not prone to striking out with just a 16.6% K% and 22.9% whiff rate. However, he also isn't prone to drawing walks either. He posted an identical 5.7% walk rate in both 2022 and 2023. 

Olivares was outstanding in the second half of the year. After a slow first half, Olivares ended the year, batting .299/.355/.528 with a .376 wOBA and 138 wRC+ through his final 138 plate appearances of the year. He still kept his strikeouts to a minimum with a 15.9% K% but was walking slightly more frequently at a 6.5% clip. Olivares had six home runs and 11 doubles, leading to a .223 isolated slugging percentage. 

Olivares struggled defensively with Kansas City, having -11 defensive runs saved and -7 outs above average. But there are some reasons to believe he could improve in 2024. The first is that he has good speed. Olivares was in the 83rd percentile of sprint speed last year at 28.6 feet/second. The second is that he has a powerful arm. Olivares' throws from the outfield averaged 91.4 MPH. Only 40 players' throws averaged 91+ MPH last season. Lastly, he's going from the cavernous Kauffman Stadium, which has some of the deepest dimensions among all MLB parks, to PNC Park. That's not to say that PNC doesn't have its deep points, but it's smaller compared to Kauffman.

The Pirates have control of Olivares until 2026 if they so choose.

His first free agent year will be 2027, whether that be with the Pirates or someone else. Olivares is currently only in his age-28 season, meaning he'll only be 31 when he hits free agency. I think now would be a good time to extend Olivares. He's still fairly young and has many positives right now. Of course, that's also a reason for Olivares to wait it out. But there are enough positives for the Pirates to pursue a possible extension with Olivares over the next year. An extension to buy out his arbitration years, plus two or three seasons into free agency, would lock down Olivares for a decent amount of time.