Ben Cherington has done a rather thorough job of off-season shopping.
The Pittsburgh Pirates general manager signed Carlos Santana and traded for Ji-Man Choi to fill big holes at first base and designated hitter. Cherington added Connor Joe in a trade, and he can also fill both spots as well as the corner outfield positions.
Catcher Austin Hedges has been landed in free agency to cover another sizable void. Right-handed starter Vince Velasquez and left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia are expected to bolster the pitching staff.
However, with Christmas fast approaching, it’s not yet time for Cherington to stop. The Pirates, after all, have gone 142-242 over the past three seasons.
The Pirates need more pitching and there are eight pitchers in free agency – four starters and four relievers – who would look good under the tree by Sunday morning and just might even be affordable.
First, the starters:
Johnny Cueto – Yes, he probably still has nightmares about that 2013 National League wild card game at PNC Park. However, the 36-year-old can still pitch as evidenced by his 3.35 ERA last season that offset an 8-10 record in 25 games for the Chicago White Sox. Cueto would also be a good role model for the Pirates’ young Latin-American pitchers.
Michael Wacha – Everyone remembers his dominant performance as a St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie against the Pirates in Game 3 of the 2013 National League Championship Series at PNC Park. The 31-year-old has struggled with injuries pretty much ever since then. However, he was 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 23 starts with the Boston Red Sox in 2022.
Zack Greinke – The 39-year-old has 223 career wins, which would give him immediate gravitas in the Pirates’ inexperienced clubhouse He was just 4-9 in 26 starts for the Kansas City Royals last season but his ERA was a solid 3.68. Greinke can be a bit eccentric but that might liven things up a little bit.
Rich Hill – At 42, he is still an effective pitcher, going 8-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 26 starters for the Red Sox last season. Hill is also considered a great teammate and is one of the most well-respected players in the game. It doesn’t hurt that he is left-handed.
And the relievers:
Matt Moore – He would be a good fit on a roster with just two lefties in Garcia and Rule 5 Draft pick Jose Hernandez. A move to the bullpen last season with the Texas Rangers did wonders for the 33-year-old as he had five saves and a 1.95 ERA in 63 games.
Brad Hand – Another lefty who could bolster the bullpen. Now 32, Hand isn’t the same pitcher who has five 20-save seasons to his credit. However, he did notch five saves and a 2.80 ERA in 55 games last season while helping the Philadelphia Phillies reach the World Series.
Adam Ottavino – If the Pirates want a veteran reliever who makes a major impact on his younger teammates, this is their man. The 37-year-old can still get people out, too. Ottavino had three saves and a 2.06 ERA in 66 games for the Mets this year.
Michael Fulmer – The American League Rookie of the Year in 2016 with the Detroit Tigers, Fulmer has made a successful conversion to the bullpen. He pitched in 67 games last season with the Tigers and Minnesota Twins and had three saves and a 3.39 ERA.