Over the past few weeks, the Pirates have shown life beyond some of the original expectations; especially when it comes to the near shutdown nature of the game once it reaches Pittsburgh’s bullpen. However, there is no mincing of words even as they reached beyond the .500 mark; this is a rebuild plain and simple; not one that necessarily sells off every piece not nailed down after 2023 or 2024, but at the very least stays true to the original plan, and doesn’t change course due to a winning record after only around 14% of the season has been completed.
Sure this has been fun, and could continue to be off and on for the remainder of the season; and in all honesty I hope it is as far as competitiveness, and specifically individual growth are concerned.
The Pirates are, as currently constructed, are not built to do anything more than compete, on a game to game basis; all the same they could find themselves in a one run game, or just as quickly in a 10 run deficit. Some of these possibilities have easily, and often, been clouded by the overall performance of their relievers; which many people have not let us forget.
Clearly this is a strength of the ball club, but in the long run it has very influence on the long term success of the Pirates. We have to be impartial in this situation, as we recognize that contending teams aren’t built around a bullpen. Contending teams obviously need a strong bullpen, but I don’t see it as a place where the groundwork is laid. Undoubtedly, there are some pretty straightforward trade candidates or pieces that are marked as potential members of the rotation, or at minimal, long relief option; however, in all actuality it is safe to predict that less than a handful of these guys can maintain their current production over the next couple of years.
In looking at the current roster, this train of thought can be replicated over and over again. As we move forward, decisions have to be made concerning many other players; with a select few locked and loaded moving foward, and many with a year or so left to determine their future with the club.
However, I have been told there is depth, so I shouldn’t be worried. Nonetheless, I have yet to see much of this outside of pitching; specifically when they have a non-outfielder playing left field and batting second, usually reserved got the team’s most consistent hitter, batting .115 over the last week. But, why not keep him in that spot for the past 11 games without question.
In the infield, Kevin Newman hasn’t been able to get his average up over the Mendoza line since April 13th; with continuous weak contact, outside of his homer on Sunday. But once again, who will take his place if he sits? Unfortunately, the questions at this position, and the outfield, do not have any immediate or even impending answers because at the moment I don’t see any players pounding on the door to force Ben Cherington’s hand to give them their shot.
This is not a harsh judgment or a declaration that things will eventually go south, but this is the reality that the Pirates exist in; in conjunction with the frustrations of a lifetime, diehard Pittsburgh Pirates fan. The current rebuild is happening for a reason, and in all actuality, many reasons. They don’t have to have all the answers right now, but they better have them when push comes to shove a couple of years down the road.
Now, on a side and final note, for Pirates Fans who want Keller to go back to AAA; what do you want him to work on, what can he prove that he already hasn’t at that level and do you remember what they- the previous regime-did to Keller early on in his MLB career?
Mitch Keller either fixes the problem, or he doesn’t, but it the solution doesn’t have to come this year. Ideally, it would, but with almost two full seasons before he is guaranteed a pay bump with arbitration, and real decisions need to be made, it’s sink or swim; not only for Keller, but a number of other players on the Pirates current roster.