At least in their own little world, the Pittsburgh Pirates have won the offseason.
The Pirates did not add any top-of-the-line free agents like Aaron Judge. They didn’t come close to going on a spending spree like the New York Mets’ $500-million splurge.
Yet the Pirates made most of their headlines for the right reasons during an offseason that officially ends Tuesday when pitchers and catchers report for the start of spring training in Bradenton.
The Pirates added respectable players to their roster. That’s a good sign after fielding some downright embarrassing lineups the last two seasons while losing 101 games in 2021 and 100 in 2022.
The most popular move was signing Andrew McCutchen, bringing a franchise icon home five years after trading him.
The Pirates did more than that, though. Also in free agency, they added left-hander Rich Hill, right-hander Vince Velasquez, lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia, catcher Austin Hedges and designated hitter Carlos Santana. They also traded for first baseman Ji-Man Choi and first baseman/outfielder Connor Joe.
Those moves might not be enough to bridge the large gap between a 100-loss team and a contender. However, it should at least ensure the Pirates are respectable.
Respectable sounds pretty good following four consecutive last-place finishes in the National League Central. The Pirates have at least built a smidgen of goodwill with their bedraggled fans, especially by bringing McCutchen back.
Now, this isn’t to say Bob Nutting is the frontrunner for the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year Award. He is still the most disliked figure in Pittsburgh sports.
And the bit of trust the Pirates have won back from their fans is still in a fragile state.
On the eve of spring training, center fielder Bryan Reynolds is still on the Pirates’ roster. That comes a little more than two months after he asked for a trade following an impasse in negotiations over a contract extension.
The Pirates have expressed they do not desire to trade Reynolds. That makes sense because they would lose a lot of leverage in talks if they acknowledged he absolutely had to be sent away.
Word has it that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bryan Reynolds seem to have put their differences aside.
That really doesn’t come as a surprise, though. It would have been shocking if the mild-mannered Reynolds reported to spring training and created a stir. The trade demand also seemed more like an agent ploy than a wish on Reynolds’ part.
I had a conversation with Reynolds on the next-to-last day of last season and he expressed his belief that the Pirates’ rebuilding process was coming along more quickly than their record indicated. I had no reason to think Reynolds was lying e because it isn’t in his nature.
Reynolds is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ best player. Trading him during spring training or even during the season would negate most – maybe all – of the goodwill the Pirates gained through the McCutchen signing.
If the Pirates really want to build on their positive momentum, they should reopen talks with Reynolds’ camp and see if there is a way a long-term deal could be worked out.
The Pirates need Reynolds. Just as importantly, I will continue to believe Reynolds wants to remain in Pittsburgh until I hear otherwise come straight out of his mouth.
The sides were reportedly $50 million apart when talks broke off. It’s a sizeable gap, for sure, but a bridgeable one with enough give and take from both sides.
Getting a deal done sometime during spring training would be a great way to carry the momentum built this winter into the season. Heck, it might even help Nutting begin to change his image of being the cheapest man in baseball.