This is one in a series of articles where the PBN staff list their top free agents the Pirates should target this offseason.
The Major League Baseball free agent market officially opened on Monday evening. The Pittsburgh Pirates, like the other 29 teams across the league, will look to free agency to fill out their major league roster.
Entering the winter, the Pirates’ biggest needs are clear. First and foremost, the starting rotation will need to be addressed. Pittsburgh finished the season with only two full-time members of the rotation in Mitch Keller and Johan Oviedo.
The Pirates also have a hole at first base. In recent offseasons, the Pirates have looked for modest one-year deals to help fill the void at the position in Yoshi Tsutsugo and Carlos Santana. While Santana could be of interest again this winter, it might be time for the Pirates to explore the possibility of a multi-year deal to add some stability.
Other areas the Pirates could look to address include the bullpen, a veteran second baseman and a defensive-oriented outfielder.
With only three targets to be named, I had to be selective in who I chose. Here are the three free agents I think the Pirates should explore signing.
Before we really dive in, Candelario could wind up with a larger contract than the Pirates are comfortable giving. The soon-to-be 30-year-old is likely looking at a three or four-year deal that could take the total salary well past the largest free agent contract ever handed out by the Pirates.
With that being said, Candelario makes a lot of sense for the Pirates to help fill their void at first base, even if most of his defensive reps have come at the hot corner.
First base wouldn’t be a totally new position for Candelario, who has appeared in 85 games there in his career. He’s held his own with two defensive runs saved and a .990 fielding percentage. The fact that he is capable at the hot corner should also appeal to the Pirates. They have a preference for defensive versatility, and he could spell Ke’Bryan Hayes at third when needed.
With the bat, Candelario has been well above-average for three of the last four seasons. From 2020-21, he posted a wRC+ of 140 and 119, respectively. After a disappointing 2022 in which he posted a 78 wRC+, he rebounded nicely in 2023 with a mark of 117.
This past season in splitting time between the Nationals and Cubs, Candelario combined to slash .251/.336/.471 with 39 doubles, 22 home runs and 70 RBIs. That’s the kind of production the Pirates could use at first base for years to come — if they’re willing to spend for it, that is.
As stated earlier, starting pitching is the biggest area of need heading into the offseason. In Lorenzen, the Pirates would be getting a steady, if unspectacular, addition to the rotation to offer some stability.
Since converting to a starting pitching role in 2022, Lorenzen has gone 17-15 with a 4.20 ERA, good for a 101 ERA+.
This past season, he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career with the Tigers. While in Detroit, he posted a 3.58 ERA in 18 starts before being traded to the Phillies. With Philadelphia, Lorenzen threw a no-hitter but faded down the stretch. He totaled a career-high 153.0 innings on the year.
Lorenzen has an admiration for Pirates all-time great Roberto Clemente and wore No. 21 for many years because of him. Maybe Lorenzen will get to call Pittsburgh home, too.
Even with someone like Lorenzen in the fold, the Pirates could look for more rotation help.
Michael A. Taylor
My final target for the Pirates may not address their biggest need, but it should be an area they are looking to upgrade.
The Pirates’ outfield defense a season ago was bad. Probably even worse than you might guess. As a collective, Pittsburgh’s outfielders combined for a minus-33 defensive runs saved showing. That was the second-worst in baseball to only the San Francisco Giants.
Jack Suwinski is better suited for a corner outfield spot. Flanking him, Bryan Reynolds in left and Henry Davis in right put up poor defensive numbers.
Taylor won a Gold Glove while with the Royals in 2021. Last season with the Twins, he was responsible for five DRS in center field.
In Taylor, not only would the Pirates be getting a strong defender capable of playing all three outfield spots, but they’d be getting a much-needed platoon option to pair with Suwinski.
Though Taylor only hit .220 with a .720 OPS last season, he did slug a career-high 21 home runs and stole 13 bases. He’s also been much better agaisnt lefties in his career — a .746 OPS against southpaws compared to a .657 OPS against right-handers.
Taylor would be an ideal platoon option for the Pirates and Suwinski. Plus, he could serve as a late-inning replacement on defense and hold is own as a starter when needed.