Pirates Discussion: The Roster is Taking Shape

This may sound redundant to some of the articles you have been reading lately, but the Pittsburgh Pirates roster is slowly getting better. The calendar is about to flip to 2023, and the Pirates have mostly filled their area of needs.

That isn’t to say that they couldn’t stand to add in a couple more spots. There haven’t been any eye-popping moves up to this point, but the floor of the roster is creeping upwards.

At this juncture, the best chance of “wow” factor is going to come from internal development. I do believe there is an emphasis of bringing in various veterans from different backgrounds. This mimics a lot of what the Pirates have brought in, in terms of their minor league depth.

For what it’s worth, a lot of the recent players designated by the Pirates and then subsequently claimed, have then been designated again by the claiming club.

A strong defensive catcher mostly speaks for itself. Austin Hedges is closing in on 5,000 innings caught at the big league level. 2022 saw him as the battery mate for 2020 Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, and for a young up-and-coming power arm in Triston McKenzie. Hedges caught 28 of Bieber’s 31 starts, and 13 of McKenzie’s 32 starts. Hedges had largely been Cal Quantrill’s primary catcher, even going back to their days together in the San Diego Padres organization. Both were packaged together in 2020 along with Josh Naylor for Mike Clevinger.

What I also believe is that they’re focusing on bringing in a level of “veteranosity” that is looking to help their prospects assimilate to MLB in a more peaceful transition. I have seen a handful of callbacks to the late season antics of Rodolfo Castro, but I believe they want the personality of the players to exist while staying focused.

I would personally like to see the Pirates show some more personality on and off the field. This can be seen with the acquisition of Miguel Andujar dressing like a Pirate, or Carlos Santana dancing just before being introduced.

It is a game in the end, and I feel there is nothing wrong with players enjoying themselves. Playing loose.

In recent years with players like Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds, or Colin Moran, if they showed a wry smile it felt as, “WOW! They must be ecstatic right now!”

If you’ve seen clips from winter leagues or from college games, it can sometimes feel like a completely different game.

The Pirates will see an influx of international talent in the upcoming season. With pitchers like Johan Oviedo and Luis Ortiz already having made their debuts, along with position players Ji-Hwan Bae and Liover Peguero each getting a cup of coffee.

One of the most fun and exciting players to watch is sky rocketing catching prospect Endy Rodriguez. If you saw Bae’s post-game interview, he isn’t camera shy. So I do feel there is a sense of bringing in “Do things the right way”, while also staying loose. Rich Hill even once imitated Kip from Napoleon Dynamite while reading out the Chicago Cubs lineup.

Bringing it back to the floor of the roster, I think that Pirates fans may still often misdirect their anger in what exactly is considered a competent big leaguer. Sure, Hill is considered “old”, but he’s been very consistent at being worth roughly 2 WAR year-by-year. He isn’t Justin Verlander — who is closing in on 40 — by any means, but Hill has been around long enough to have seen it all. He’s going to have a wealth of knowledge to pass on to Pirates pitchers. Just take this quote from a LA Times article in September of 2020:

To combat a pesky blister that sent him to the injured list twice in the last month, Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler sought the advice of an expert, Minnesota left-hander and former teammate Rich Hill, whose 3½ years in Los Angeles (2016-2019) were marred by blisters on his pitching fingers.

Hill, 40, would do anything to speed the healing process — he tried laser therapy, drinking apple cider and vinegar, and urinating on his hand to harden the skin.

Mitch Keller and JT Brubaker both took steps forward last year with each posting near 2 WAR seasons. Keller inched out Brubaker 2.1 fWAR to 1.9 fWAR, with 15 more innings pitched. Both had FIP’s and xFIP’s under four. Hill could provide strong guidance in helping each of them further grow within the rotation.

The Pirates had six pitchers — including Jose Quintana — make 137 of their 162 starts last season. Chances are that this was an anomaly, as the Pirates should have more depth now in the event they want to supplant a struggling starter with someone from Triple-A.

Roansy Contreras will likely begin in the Opening Day rotation, with young starters Oviedo and Ortiz ready to step in early in the season, when needed. Then there are arms like Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows that could be ready by mid-season.

It’s fair to say that there are still plenty of question marks heading into the season, but I think it’s also fair to say that things are beginning to take shape for the Pirates heading into 2023.

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.

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cabbo80

Sure am excited about this team…young talent alone is a good reason to tune in. Could really care less about how many free agents we do or don’t sign as I love watching young home grown players take over and make this team their own. Negative posts against ownership are short sighted and certainly not in line with backing your hometown team, especially when it’s potentially going to be our best season in a long time. Get on board guys.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

In before “Nuttingbot”

jaygray007

thinking about how difficult it would be to NOT field a good team in 2024. I’ll probably re-post these ideas later cuz this post is a day old.

The only players projected to make any real money next year are Kebryan – getting a pay CUT from his current 10 mil down to 7 mil – and Bryan Reynolds, who will probably get, what, 11 mil in arbitration?

im sure Keller and Brubaker will get bumped into like, idk, i’ll just say 4 mil each.

some guys will be in arb, but these bumps wont be huge. let’s just say that they let Andujar go and keep Underwood, Bednar, de Jong, and Crowe for, lets say 5 mil total for the sake of this exercise.

Hayes + Brubaker + Reynolds + Keller + Underwood + Bednar + de Jong + Crowe is like 31ish million, give or take.

rest of the roster is basically lg minimum guys. let’s say that costs 13 million.

That’s a 44 million dollar roster that looks solid enough. it’d be so easy to add a few good players and be a good team that is still cheap.

TNBucs

Somewhat related, I’m hopeful that Murphy’s extension with the Braves will help re-open extension talks with Reynolds. Similar ages, similar value last year, similar years of control, … Reynolds has been the slightly better player as measured by WAR, but not by so much that he should expect an extension much different than what Murphy just signed. Of course we don’t know how much of Reynolds decision will be based on money and how much will be based on wanting to play for a winner, and if the latter is important, whether he thinks the Pirates are heading in that direction.

Anthony

I was surprised when I saw the numbers on Murphy’s extension too. He has progressively gotten better each year and is strong defensively, providing a low risk, high floor probability as your worst case scenario. He just popped a +5 WAR, and the FA years on his deal are valued at $15M. Seems like he left a lot of money on the table. What am I missing here?

jaygray007

i just… dont care about extending reynolds. i simply want them to put a team around him.

i simply dont have a strong opinion on whether signing him for 20 mil per year for his age 32 – 35 seasons (or whatever) is a good idea.

just win while he’s here, and have a good team when he’s gone too.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

I think I said here a few days ago I was hoping Murphy’s extension would cool Reynolds’ jets a bit. I hope it works out that way. Would be fun to see him, Crews and Suwinski in the same OF in 2025.

skliesen

Definitely should be a Hot Stove season for BC to go after quality FA’s instead of the low upside quantity of FA’s he’s obtained this winter.

jaygray007

it’d be nice!

i get why he felt the need to spend the limited funds in the way that he has, but i really hope things take that next step next winter.

jaygray007

note, all of this projected payroll for 2024 stuff is really back-of-napkin quick math and im sure Ethan would get better numbers, but i’m just making the point that the team should be solid with no additional money spent and should be really good if they spend even just CLOSE to what they should be.

jaygray007

Spitballing…

LF Reynolds, CF Bae, RF Suwinski+Platoon Partner
3b Hayes SS Cruz 2b Gonzales, 1b lets just say Nunez, C Endy DH Davis

Roansy, Keller, Brubaker, Ortiz, Priester

The FA market next year is pretty weak for hitting and pretty good for pitching, IMO.

we can debate of who would actually be smart to add, but i could see something like Darvish for 25, Snell for 25, and then deal a brubaker and OF depth for a good 1b being a valid offseason, and Ortiz back to AAA as important depth. Spend money on different things if you’d like. i’m just making a point.

Heck, offer Ohtani 55 per yr and make Davis and Endy alternate at C and 1b and make that the only move. idgaf.

Depending on the salary of that 1b, that roster is probably under 110 million. they spent more on players in the mid 2010s, and that’s without even factoring in inflation (110 million in 2015 was more valuable than 110 million in 2024)

Last edited 28 days ago by jaygray007
skliesen

I’m a big fan of young players having mentors on the team to guide and direct them on how to be successful. Hedges, Choi, Santana, Velasquez, and Hill all will provide value to the team the SABR nerds can’t quantify, but will show up in the W/L record. Hopefully they acquire a veteran MI bench player to mentor Cruz & Castro. Andrelton Simmons seems like a good fit.

TNBucs

Overall I like the additions, but in an ideal situation I’d want that leadership to come from young veterans like Reynolds, Hayes, Keller, and Bednar, along with the manager. But Hayes, Keller, and Bednar are still getting established, Reynolds seems to lead by example more so than being a “clubhouse/dugout” guy, and I remain skeptical about Shelton’s leadership. So the additions seem necessary and are welcome.

I think they’ll work, but I’ve seen similar moves backfire. For it to work, the veterans will need to perform well enough that the young players feel like they’re helping the team on the field as well as in the clubhouse. For example, A.J. was great because he helped on the field and in the clubhouse whereas a guy like Matt Morris was never going to get any traction in the clubhouse because he was so bad on the field.

skliesen

Certainly no guarantee these signings will have the desired effect. I’d even say it’s close to a guarantee one or more of them will backfire. However by spreading the available FA $$$ to a handful of veterans, rather than just one or two “better” FA’s, BC has increased the odds at least a couple of the veterans will meet or exceed expectations.

Anthony

When there are less holes to fill on the roster and uncertainties in the lineup, I think you’ll see FA spending transition to higher quality players on multi-year contracts. To me, this build-rebuild has been extremely methodical and telegraphed (and slow); it’s the “I only want to do this once” approach.

TNBucs

I am also hopeful that signing Santana shows that they’re fine with players showing their personalities. Plus, while I thought demoting Castro was too severe, I also credit Shelton for playing Castro just about every day once he returned even though Castro played with the same flair.

GreenWeenie

Just leave your cellphone in the dugout. 🤣

ricramer

Would love to see another veteran starting pitcher brought in.

Zack

Cueto is still available, right?

Wilbur Miller

They’ll sign one more guy and it’ll bring the FA total to about $30M, or exactly the amount of the one-time cash bonanza. Stands at about $25M now, I think. And – surprise! – it’s all one-year deals. Even Garcia’s team option has no buyout. When’s the last time you saw that?
This whole offseason has been a cynical exercise in using Bob’s mad money to pretend they’re really interested in improving the team. Everything else is just marketing BS.

DanInNC

Constantly bringing up this narrative is getting old. Whether true or not, I am tired of hearing it in every single thread.

Anthony

If this is your grande thesis, then why didn’t payroll go up by $50M in 2018? Is the new market inefficiency using BAMtech proceeds on payroll for one-year deals? Are the Pirates innovators now? The funniest part though is your $30M marketing theory, especially after how you’ve criticized this owner for being irresponsibly cheap. Now, all of a sudden and completely void of how this team has operated for the last 15 years, they’re going to purposely flush $30M down the turlet on players they don’t think will improve the team. Bob’s really gonna show us LOL.

Maybe the more logical and reasonable explanation for one-year deals is the FACT that this team will graduate more than half of their top 20 prospects by early-2024. Maybe this approach gives them more flexibility to reallocate resources to FA and potential extensions next offseason when they re-evaluate needs.

Wilbur Miller

Your unending faith in this owner and FO is touching, but hopelessly out of step with reality. In what alternate reality have you been following the Pirates since, uh, forever? Or has your job as an intern on Federal St left you too little time to keep up?

Anthony

You nailed me Wilbur, ya’big internet bully!

Please continue to bore us with your asymmetric takes and conspiracy theories.

ArkyWags

I know that whenever someone uses all caps to type fact, they’re pretty knowledgeable and we should listen! The idea too that more than half of their top 20 prospects will graduate by early 24 is laughable.

PirateRican21

I’m trying to figure out how not spending the previous $50 million from Bam is a favorable argument……

Anthony

BAMtech was an asset, and payroll is a liability. Competent business owners don’t turn assets into liabilities, they turn assets into more assets. Or, they use assets to pay down debt to reduce liabilities and increase equity.

Born4rf

If we sign 2 more Hills and another Velasquez we might be able to be worse than we were in 2022. We didn’t sign one player who should start on a good team. In my dreams these guys are signed to keep a bunch of rookies in Indy until June. In my nightmares BC is scared of the axe and willing to trade the future for veteranocity in hopes of a 500 record.

GreenWeenie

Don’t think BC is worried about getting fired.

ricramer

How about Minor or Pineda on the cheap? Hell, why not Miley or Grienke or even Cueto?

b mcferren

I´d support a Quantrill for Bryan Reynolds trade

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Ng is desperately trying to find a CF. Almost sent Edward Cabrera out for Trevor Rodgers and she’s talking about Trent Grisham too.

It’d be difficult to pass on a package of Cabrera, Meyer (TJS in August so he’s out until prob May 2024 but could be a contributor in 2025 rotation) and say Jacob Berry as a future DH/1B candidate.

b mcferren

Eury or noNg

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Eury is worth Reynolds 1 for 1.

b mcferren

would be fine with that

steve_zielinski

Having an Ace helps playoff teams. Arrietta, MadBum, Wainwright have left their mark on the Pirates during the last playoff run. That’s why I hope the Pirates trade for one. Eury Perez is my wish for prospect.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

If they won’t do Eury, this is the best other idea I can come up with:

Screenshot 2022-12-30 at 21-52-08 Trade Simulator » Baseball Trade Values.png
PirateRican21

Trade Meyer for Luzardo and I’m on board!

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

That’s three injured or injury prone pitchers and a DH/1B guy who’s a few years off. Don’t _love_ it.

AdministrativeSky236

Miami, texas, and LA are all teams that seem to have need and reason to bid for reynolds, which are all intriguing to me. SF would be too if they decide to really join the NL west arms race

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Yankees as well, right?

AdministrativeSky236

Hmm they intrigue me most if volpe were to be in the convo, which sadly they wont. Maybe a 3 teamer to get some pitching involved. They have plenty of reason to get involved

ArkyWags

Miami and Texas seem like the best options if the return they’re desiring is young pitching. Miami has ready made MLB pitching, but I don’t know if they’d send two for Reynolds with Meyer out for the year. Texas has a pretty good system, with a good mix of pitching and some interesting outfield prospects too.
The Yankees are a wild card. Reynolds fits them for sure, but they don’t have the young pitching to fit, so I think they’d have to bring in a third team to make it fit.
One team I really think should make a run at him is Cleveland. They’re stocked with pitching and manage to churn out quality arms. Add in a slew of other interesting prospects, and they’d be a great fit. Finally, I think it makes sense for them. Detroit and KC are still in the wilderness, Minnesota is in the middle, and Chicago basically short-circuited their rebuild with poor decisions and hiring a geriatric manager. Securing Reynolds gives a serious boost to their offense and probably makes them a heavy favorite for the division for the next few seasons.

b mcferren

maybe Mayer with Boston?

Scam likely

Have a feeling Oviedo will be in rotation from day one.

Zack

From day one he would provide more value than Velasquez. I hope he gets a shot to break camp in the rotation.

b mcferren

Brubaker is the one who everyone is hoping that Velasquez replaces for April/May innings

sewer2001

“Everyone?” I think not. JT is a legit back end starter with a plus plus slider that gives him real upside. Tired of the JT hate. It’s just wrong headed.

ArkyWags

No one hates JT. He’s a back end starter, which is fine. If you can improve on him, you do so. That’s easier said than done though.

b mcferren

everyone can´t stand the guy

just lets the game get away from him too often after looking so gritty

we can do a lot better than this bum

roberto

”This bum?” Show some respect. He’s an excellent athlete.

b mcferren

meh – overpaid and we have better options

we want a pitcher

not a belly itcher

GreenWeenie

B Mc acting like JT stole his girlfriend.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Velasquez is a guy you don’t even sign if you don’t have a plan to completely rework him.

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