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Looking Ahead: Pirates Still Have Work To Do Post-Lockout

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Pirates Ben Cherington Draft

Major League Baseball is currently in day two of the lockout, putting a pause on all Major League offseason activity. As the league and the union look to negotiate through matters to resume baseball activity, the Pirates should be planning out their next steps once they are able to make transactions once again.

It was a busy month for Ben Cherington and the Pirates. The team signed three free agents – left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana, catcher Roberto Perez and reupped with Yoshi Tsutsugo on a deal to bring him back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates also swung a big trade with the Marlins, sending backstop Jacob Stallings to Miami in exchange for three players. Additionally, the Bucs claimed outfielder Greg Allen off waivers from the Yankees.

Stallings wasn’t the only player leaving the Pirates as Colin Moran, Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl are all now currently on the free agent market. So what’s next?

Starting Pitching Help

When speaking to the media earlier in the week, Cherington said that the team will look to add another starting pitcher through free agency or via trade. Even after inking Quintana, the Pirates feel that bringing in another veteran arm to help anchor the rotation is necessary. In addition to Quintana, Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Bryse Wilson Dillon Peters, Wil Crowe, Miguel Yajure, the newly-acquired Zach Thompson and some others are the candidates to break spring training in the Pirates’ rotation.

One scenario that hypothetically could be in play for the Pirates is a six-man rotation. The Pirates have good depth among their starting pitchers but for the most part, the bunch is largely inexperienced. Limiting innings and getting looks at more pitchers could benefit the Pirates in 2022 and beyond.

Bullpen

David Bednar will likely serve as the Pirates closer in 2022 but outside of that, the bullpen has a lot of question marks. The Bucs tendered a contract to Chris Stratton who is a reliable veteran presence amongst Pittsburgh’s relief options. Outside of those two, the bullpen options consist of guys with lackluster track records (Anthony Banda, Sam Howard), inexperience (Nick Mears) or guys coming back from injuries (Duane Underwood Jr.).

One option for the Pirates is Richard Rodriguez, who was non-tendered by the Braves this week. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that the Pirates have definite interest in bringing back their former closer.

Backup Catcher

After the Pirates made his deal official, Perez is currently the only catcher on the Pirates 40-man roster. The internal option, Michael Perez, is still with the organization after being designated for assignment, but would the Pirates really want him back with the big league club after his struggles in 2021?

The free agent market for catchers is, to put it lightly, weak. Acquiring a catcher through a trade is an option, as is selecting catcher in the Rule 5 draft – which will be postponed due to the lockout. Regardless, the Pirates will need to bring in another catcher to serve as the backup to Perez.

Power Bat

It still seems likely that the designated hitter will be making its way to the National League starting in 2022. Even with Tsutsugo back in the mix, the Pirates have a hole either at first base or in a DH capacity – whichever role Tsutsugo would spend less time in. The Pirates ranked dead-last in home runs in 2021, and only one player returning (Bryan Reynolds) posted double-digit home runs (24).

Extensions 

While the Pirates have spent $11M in free agency this year, this offseason to date has consisted of shedding a fair amount of salary as well. With the payroll flexibility – and I’m using that term lightly, the Pirates could look to extend some of their core moving forward. Reynolds is a prime candidate to extend this offseason and players like Ke’Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz are potential candidates as well.

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