First Pitch: Extending the Future Window

When will the window open for the Pirates?

Is it going to be sooner, on the backs of players like Mitch Keller, Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, and Ke’Bryan Hayes?

Is it going to be later than that, when younger guys like Tahnaj Thomas, Quinn Priester, Liover Peguero, and others in the lower levels start to arrive in the majors?

Or is it that period in the middle, when both groups could be impacting the majors?

The latter group will mostly be starting in Low-A and below in 2020, which means it could be 4-5 years before they reach the majors in a way where they can help the Pirates contend.

The former group should all be up in the majors at some point this year, with the first three guys on that list likely making the Opening Day roster. However, most of those guys will be close to free agency by the time the lower level prospects are arriving.

The Pirates could find a way to win with either group. The challenge is finding a way to win with guys from both groups, which further increases the chances of the Pirates getting back to contending. This can be done two ways. The first is for the lower level prospects to speed their way to the majors, which is something that should only be done on merit.

The better way is to extend people from the first group and keep them around for when the second group arrives. The Pirates appear to be attempting that, discussing extensions with at least four of their young players, per Ken Rosenthal. Those players are Hayes, Newman, Reynolds, and Joe Musgrove.

Newman is under control through the 2024 season. Reynolds is under control through 2025, at which point he’ll be a free agent entering his age 30 season. Musgrove is only around through the 2022 season right now, so any extension would focus on his final two arbitration years, plus any free agent years they can get.

The most interesting case here is Hayes, who has yet to spend a day in the majors. If Hayes signed an extension, the Pirates could bring him up whenever they wanted in 2020. The alternative would be keeping him down at the start of the year until he gets an extra year of control.

They’re not playing for anything in 2020, so there’s no need to rush Hayes up for this season if the alternative is an extra year in the future when they might be contending.

If Hayes were under contract for the long-term, his years of control would be set, and the Pirates could spend the 2020 season getting him adjusted to the majors, with no concern for service time. Hayes already has MLB quality defense, and might benefit from daily hitting work with Rick Eckstein at this point in his career.

The Pirates have a payroll that will be below $60 M to open the 2020 season. They could use that to front-load some of the extensions, especially with a case like Musgrove. This would save money for future years when the team might be in a better position to contend.

We’ll see if the Pirates can get any of their young players signed to an extension. Hayes is the most intriguing to me, and you can’t argue with the Pirates’ choices for the other guys they are targeting.





By John Dreker

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one transaction of note.

On this date in 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Neal Heaton to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder Kirk Gibson. Heaton was 32 years old at the time. He had played three years in Pittsburgh, two as a starting pitcher, before spending the 1991 season in the bullpen. He had a 4.33 ERA in 42 appearances and 68.2 innings that year. Gibson was just shy of his 35th birthday and he hit .236 with 16 homers in 132 games for the Royals in 1991. Gibson had asked for a trade once the Royals told him he would serve in a backup role for 1992. Just 16 games into the season with the Pirates, Gibson was placed on waivers and said he would likely retire. He didn’t play again in 1992 but returned for three more seasons with the Tigers from 1993-95. Heaton was released in late July by the Royals after 31 relief appearances. He pitched one game for the Brewers later that year, then 18 games for the Yankees in 1993, before retiring.

Tike Redman, outfielder for the Pirates from 2000-01 and 2003-05. He was a fifth round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1996 amateur draft. He debuted in the majors in 2000 and hit .333 during a mid-season nine-game stint, yet it took him until the next May to make it back. Redman hit .224 in 37 games for the Pirates in 2001, then spent all of 2002 at Triple-A. He was finally recalled on August 1, 2003 and would hit .330 over the last 56 games of that season, earning a full-time job for 2004. In his best year in the majors, Redman hit .280 with 65 runs scored and 18 stolen bases in 155 games. He was unable to repeat the performance in 2005, with his average dropping to .251, while drawing just 19 walks in 135 games. He also stole just four bases all year. Following the season, the Pirates sold him to the New York Mets. His only other big league experience was 40 games with the 2007 Orioles. He played pro ball until 2011, last seeing time in the Mexican League. He played 1,953 games as a pro, 432 in the majors. His brother Prentice played in the majors with the 2003 Mets.

John Cangelosi, outfielder for the Pirates from 1987 until 1990. The Pirates acquired him from the White Sox at the end of spring training 1987 in exchange for relief pitcher Jim Winn. Cangelosi played his first full season in the majors in 1986. He hit just .235, but he had 71 walks and 50 stolen bases. He was used mostly as a pinch-hitter during his four seasons in Pittsburgh, playing 349 total games, while getting only 663 plate appearances. He hit .275 his first season, then watched his average drop each of the next three years, down to .197 in 1990. Cangelosi stole 48 bases while in Pittsburgh. The Pirates released him following the 1990 season. He spent 1991 in the minors, 1992 with the Rangers, 1993 in the minors, then spent parts (or all) of the next seven seasons in the majors with four different teams. He played 1,038 major league games, hitting .250 with 154 stolen bases.

Art Herring, pitcher for the 1947 Pirates. He pitched six seasons in the majors (1929-34) before going to the minors. From late June 1934 until August of 1944, he spent a total of just one month in the majors (1939 White Sox). Once he got back at age 38 in 1944, he managed to get another four seasons of Major League service, including 1947 for the Pirates. Pittsburgh purchased his contract from the Dodgers in October of 1946. Herring made 11 appearances out of the bullpen for the Pirates, pitching a total of 10.2 innings, with an 8.44 ERA. He allowed runs in three of his last four outings before being released in late June. He signed with the Cardinals organization and finished his career in Triple-A later that season. He won 162 minor league games and had a 34-38, 4.32 record in 199 Major League games, 56 of them as a starter.

Jack Mercer, pitcher for the Pirates on August 2, 1910. He was just 21 at the time, having already played four seasons in the minors, but that one appearance for the Pirates would be the last game of his big league career. He threw one inning, allowing no runs on two walks and one strikeout. He was a project of Pirates manager Fred Clarke, who believed he had a natural ability that could lead to him being a great pitcher if he had the ambition to work on his control. Mercer was once credited as pitching for Fort Wayne of the Central League in 1912, and a long time ago his records included an appearance for the 1912 Cardinals, but both have been changed over the years. The 1912 player was a man named John Mercer.

Walter “Judge” Nagle, pitcher for the 1911 Pirates. He began his Major League career with the Pirates on April 26, 1911, after spending the first six seasons of his pro career in the minors. He pitched in relief that first game and picked up the win, then pulled off the same feat the next game. Three innings into his mlb career he had two wins to his credit. A week later he started his first game. While he allowed 10 hits, he pitched a complete game and gave up just one run, collecting his third career victory. He lost his next start five days later, but picked up his fourth and final win with the Pirates on May 15th when he allowed five runs during a three inning relief appearance. After going 4-2, 3.62 in eight games, he was sold to the Boston Red Sox on June 21st. He pitched five games for Boston before returning to the minors for two seasons, retiring after a sore arm left him unable to pitch. From 1908-1910, pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, he won 20+ games each year (69 total).

Edward “Dad” Lytle, second baseman/outfielder for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He has no known minor league records before the age of 27 in 1889, and he played just 16 Major League games, all in 1890. He began the 1890 season in the minors, making his big league debut on August 11th with the Chicago Colts, who were playing the Alleghenys. Lytle played right field and went 0-for-4 that day with a run scored. The next day he was with Pittsburgh, playing 15 straight games before his Major League career ended on August 28th. With Pittsburgh he hit just .145 with no RBIs in 55 at-bats. Lytle never played on a winning team in the majors. The Alleghenys beat the Colts during his one game, then lost every game he played for them. In fact, from July 28th until September 3rd, Pittsburgh won just one game, on their way to a 23-113 record. Lytle played another ten seasons in the minors following his only brief stint in the majors.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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