The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2022 season was an improvement over their 2021 season — by just one game.
The Bucs finished 2022 with a record of 62-100 after going 61-101. Last year, the Pirates finished in last place. This year, Pittsburgh catapulted to… tied for last place.
Back-to-back 100-loss seasons marked the first time since 1953-54 that has happened to the franchise. If we’re being honest, it probably would have been three straight seasons had the 2020 season not been limited to 60 games due to the pandemic.
That year, the Pirates finished with the worst record in the major leagues, a mark of 19-41, good for roughly a 51-win pace.
It can only go up from here, right?
For the Pirates’ sake, they better hope so. Fan interest in the big league club is arguably at an all-time low. That’s saying something considering the Bucs went through two decades of losing seasons from 1993 until their memorable run in 2013.
This past year, only 1,257,458 fans made their way through the gates at PNC Park — fourth-lowest in the major leagues.
Often times, there seemed to be more opposing fans than fans wearing black and gold. Just look at the season-ending three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week.
On a positive note, the Pirates had significant contributions from a handful of young players who look promising moving forward.
Oneil Cruz flashed his 30-home run potential, which was accompanied by elite sprint speed and a cannon for an arm.
Jack Suwinski was tied for the most homers among National League rookies with 19. Rodolfo Castro showed promise at the plate.
On the pitching side of things, Roansy Contreras again showed why he was arguably the Pirates’ top pitching prospect at the beginning of the season.
Johan Oviedo and Luis Ortiz both flashed upside in small samples out of the Bucs’ rotation.
Even so, this will be an important offseason for the Pirates. They need to show a commitment to winning, in some form or another.
That commitment can come in a variety of ways but it needs to be clear and convincing.
One way, and arguably the most telling way would be to lock up some of the younger core to long-term extensions.
Bryan Reynolds again was the Pirates’ best player this year and has previously expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh.
Mitch Keller took a big step forward this season and he could be another candidate for a contract extension.
Then there’s Cruz. The 24-year-old is still a ways away from hitting the free agent market, but his asking price only figures to go up as he gets more experience at the big league level.
While extensions for younger players are surely a positive step, the Pirates will need to supplement those younger players with veteran leadership.
The Pirates need help in a number of areas. Both the bullpen and starting rotation are in need of an upgrade. Catcher and first base were both black holes this season. The Bucs could also maybe think about adding another outfielder.
It’s time for that to change. The Bucs need to be aggressive this winter and look for significant upgrades within their price range — or even exceeding it a bit.
There can be no more excuses. The Pirates need to be better in 2023 and they need to make it known that’s the plan heading into the winter.