As players begin to filter into Spring Training 2.0/Summer Camp/MLB “The Re-Mix”, bloggers and media members alike have taken to giving Pittsburgh Pirates Fans something very similar to grasp onto…HOPE. Hope that Ke’Bryan Hayes will be standing at third base when the season begins, hope that one or more free agents will be headed to Pittsburgh and most of all, hope that the Pirates have a legitimate shot at the playoffs or maybe even more in this shortened season because anything can happen. I am not trying to rain on anyone’s parade or tell you that these ideas are out of the realm of possibilities. However, I am a realist; which means I naturally temper my expectations and prepare myself for the mostly likely scenario.
On March 20th, almost immediately following the shutdown of the MLB season, Hayes had been optioned down to the AAA Indianapolis Indians to supposedly get more regular at bats. Now I know that during this time it was thought that both the MLB and MiLB seasons were only going to be delayed, so this belief still holds some weight and causes people to speculate about Hayes getting these at bats in the majors. On the other hand it seems as if the original assessment by General Manager Ben Cherington and his staff concerning Hayes was that he was not ready for everyday play in the MLB, so how does this position change in a 60 game season? Honestly, it wouldn’t as the player pool in Altoona is permitted to conduct intra-squad games as part of their continued preparations. Ke’Bryan would be able square up against the likes of Cody Bolton, Max Kranick, James Marvel, Nick Mears, Braeden Ogle, Cody Ponce, Aaron Shortridge and others on a regular basis, while receiving consistent hitting instruction from Jon Nunnally. In essence this would execute the original plan of Hayes working on his approach at the plate to bring his bat up to speed with his glove and based on comments from Derek Shelton about a lack of competition at third base, it appears that this is going to be the case.
For now the Hayes versus Moran debate has been all but settled, but it once again brings to light an underlying theme within the Pirates Fanbase of unhappiness with the current construction of the roster and if changes aren’t going to be made with players in the clubhouse, why not bring in more free agents? Sure Chris and I placated some of this outrage by adding Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett to our Pirates Roster in the Bucs In The Basement Virtual Season, but we realized this was just a fantasy and realistically Chris just wanted to prove that he was right about wanting to pick up Gennett in the off-season.
Since there was a little bit of a lay-off in between the shutdown and the restart many may have forgotten or better yet, tried to forget the free agent moves that Pirates made in the off-season. However, just because they might not have been the moves you were in favor of, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Outfielders Guillermo Heredia and Jarrod Dyson, Catcher Luke Maile and Utility Man JT Riddle were all added to the roster via free agency. Throw in Pitchers Derek Holland, Robbie Erlin and Hector Noesi, Catchers John Ryan Murphy and Andrew Susac, Third Baseman Phillip Evans and OF Socrates Brito on Minor League contracts. These are the Pirates Free Agent Acquisitions for the 2020 Season; for better or worse, so can we please stop talking about the free agents that are still available. Baring any extreme set of circumstances; including injuries and/or illness, the roster and player pool have been set. The Pirates are happy with who they have in camp, so we need to accept this as reality.
Another piece of reality that we as Pirates Fans should become accustomed to is that this continues to be a building year for the organization. Sure in a shortened season “anything is possible”, but is it feasible to expect the Pirates to take down the likes of the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals, etc. in a five or seven game set on the way to the World Series? The same bloggers and media members that would have you buy into this, are the same ones that are unhappy with the roster construction; playing both sides of the fence. In all actuality, even in a shortened season the Pirates still only have a minimal chance of making the playoffs and an almost non-existent shot at a World Series Championship.
Of course am I not ruling out or saying that I wouldn’t be excited by over performance, it just shouldn’t be the expectation. For me the expectation for this season is individual growth of certain players, along with assessment of others in order to determine who will be a part of the organization’s future. This may not be as exhilarating as talking about a potential playoff run and honestly giving false hope, but it was the outlook and plan prior to the season and in my mind not enough has changed to do anything other than stay the course. This is my hope.