The Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t known for being big spenders in the world of Major League Baseball free agency, and that likely won’t change any time soon, even under the new regime of general manager Ben Cherington, but that doesn’t mean that Cherington doesn’t think about how free agency impacts the Pirates.
Asked about free agency as part of a larger discussion about the development of players and what will happen once the Pirates are in contention once again by Pirates broadcaster Joe Block on his weekly radio show Sunday, Cherington said that because free agency is important to the Pirates players, it needs to be important to the Pirates, too.
“Major league free agency is certainly a part of [development] too.” General manager Ben Cherington said on Sunday. “Simply put, our ability to help players reach another level is critical, and we are focused on that every day. We want as many guys as possible to put themselves in a position to earn more money. That’s good for them and good for the Pirates.”
With the Pirates trading a number of veteran players before and during the 2021 season, there aren’t a lot of players on the club that message will apply to soon. The only current Pirates slated to hit unrestricted free agency after this season are injured pitcher Trevor Cahill and reliever Chasen Shreve. Struggling outfielder Gregory Polanco has a club option that is not likely to be picked up. After the 2022 season, pitcher Chad Kuhl, outfielder Ben Gamel and infielder Wilmer Difo will likely have reached free agency.
But beyond that, players that are currently thought of as core members of the team will hit free agency with regularity, starting with Colin Moran after 2023. Of course, extending players isn’t anything new for the Pirates. Former general manager Neil Huntington locked up Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and even Polanco to long-term deals. Two out of the three proved to be pivotal pieces in the playoff runs in 2013-15.
It remains to be seen if Cherington will be able to — or wants to — execute the same kind of strategy with young potential stars such as Ke’Bryan Hayes — who has reportedly rebuffed contract extension offers — and Bryan Reynolds.