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Demilio: Despite Activity, Pirates Offseason Has So Far Been a Letdown

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Ben Cherington, Pittsburgh Pirates

Let’s recap all of the notable moves for the Pittsburgh Pirates so far this offseason.

General manager Ben Cherington executed a pair of trades that have netted the Pirates two major leaguers. Left-handed starter Marco Gonzales was acquired from the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations.

Not long after that, the Pirates acquired outfielder Edward Olivares from the Kansas City Royals for a minor league infielder.

In free agency, the Pirates have been even more active. As expected, they brought back Andrew McCutchen for the 2024 season. Reigning World Series champion Martín Pérez was signed to a one-year deal to help the starting rotation. The Pirates filled their void at first base by signing Rowdy Tellez, who had been non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers earlier in the winter.

Most recently, the Pirates added to their bullpen by agreeing to a one-year, $10.5 million deal with veteran left-hander Aroldis Chapman. That agreement is still pending a physical.

You can’t knock the Pirates for inactivity. They’ve been busy over the last couple of months as the offseason kicked into high-gear.

However, while Chapman’s deal is the largest free agent contract handed out by Cherington, it’s largely been more of the same from the Pirates — at least so far.

Sure, the moves the Pirates have made have helped, at least marginally. There were obvious needs in multiple areas on the roster, and some of those needs have been filled.

However, the Pirates have yet to land a player who pushes the needle in a significant way. Other than fan-favorite McCutchen, Chapman is the most notable name brought in this winter and he will help make an already-strong bullpen unit even stronger. But it simply hasn’t been enough.

During Cherington’s tenure, the Pirates have yet to sign a free agent to a multi-year contract. It felt like this was the offseason for the organization to get out of their usual spending habits and make a more substantial commitment financially.

Sure, it’s easier said than done, and the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t exactly the most desirable landing spot for a player free to sign anywhere given their recent track record.

But neither are the Kansas City Royals, who are coming off of a 106-loss season. However, the perceived reputation hasn’t stopped the Royals from making some fairly significant additions. Notably, Kansas City landed starting pitchers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha for a combined $77 million. Lugo’s $45 million over three years is larger than any free agent contract in Pirates’ history.

The Cincinnati Reds, another smaller-market team, have not shied away from spending this offseason either. Since the start of December, the Reds have handed out well over $100 million in free agent contracts.

For the Pirates, the offseason has looked eerily similar to what has come to be expected. Considering the team won 14 more games last year than they did in 2022, that’s pretty discouraging.

The good news for the Pirates is that the cold winter is not over yet. They are still looking to make further additions — certainly in the rotation and anywhere else they deem fit.

But with spring training quickly approaching, the Pirates are running out of both time and options with each passing day.

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