9-17-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
It’s kind of a vague question isn’t it?
When covering a team you can sometimes get so caught up in what they probably will do that you forget you have your own mind and it’s time for the word should to creep in. Last year for instance I knew they would only bring in guys to compete for an outfield spot, but I also thought they should target a guy like Ben Gamel, and yes, I named him specifically.
Instead they trusted Polanco and Reynolds, ok batting .500 so far, and stuck with Alford as a possibility. They added Brian Goodwin on a veteran tryout contract that had a baked in out clause and picked up a waiver claim in the form of Dustin Fowler.
So on and so forth as the season progressed. Ka’ai Tom, Troy Stokes Jr., I’m almost positive I’m not thinking of everyone, not that I’m trying.
Point is, there’s a difference between telling you what I think they’ll do and telling you what I think they should do, and that’s what this is all about.
Must Have Additions
New Backup Catcher – The no passed ball record is cute, and the defense of Michael Perez at the plate has been admirable by the club, but .143 or whatever god awful figure it is after his dismal performance yesterday has no place on a club like this. Jacob Stallings will be back despite a whole bunch of you overthinking this thing, and while he’s not ancient, it’s a lot to ask to expect two straight seasons of no IL trips. To me this is a clear upgrade opportunity, and Carter Bins isn’t ready and quite frankly hasn’t shown he’s even on his way yet since being acquired.
This needs to be a guy who can comfortably play 50 games and hit .200. I’m not asking for Gary Carter here. Sorry at some point, Perez just isn’t good enough.
Corner Outfielder – Now this one is tricky. Bryan Reynolds is the only lock in the entire outfield, and next season the AAA picture will shift to more viable candidates working there way up. Travis Swaggerty in my mind has to play at least a little AAA before landing a gig. I’m not sure how you could go into next season thinking Alford is a lock.
Start by retaining Ben Gamel. He’s arbitration eligible, and exactly what you’d hope to find on the open market anyway. He also provides a low water mark for prospects, want to be a Pirates player, you must be at least this good to ride this ride.
See about retaining Yoshi Tsutsugo, I’d much prefer him as a DH option but he’s worked hard to improve in right field and honestly, his bat makes him look better out there.
If for some reason they can’t retain him, I’ll probably just write something about how silly it was to bring him in first of all, but in that case I’d strongly advise grabbing another, someone like Michael Taylor.
Another option is to take a flyer on someone who could really be fun. Cody Bellinger has stunk out loud for LA, and he’s not getting regular playing time. The former MVP and Rookie of the Year has been lost, but he has 2 years of arbitration left and I think could be acquired on the cheap. The Pirates need to clear some 40-man headaches anyhow so see if LA will take anyone off your hands and let Bellinger bring some of that Championship Swagger to a place that has none. If he is ultimately what he’s become, he’s Polanco, if he is what he was, the Pirates get a cheap star and a huge trade chip should they so choose. Win, win.
A Veteran Starter – I’m not naming names here, but someone not unlike Anderson was for the Bucs. Hey maybe I’ll name one, how about go and get Tyler Anderson again? Only this time give him 2 years.
He was steady, healthy, and absolutely solid as a bet to give you 5 innings every time out. That might price him out of town, but he seemed to genuinely like his role here and maybe he’d embrace it more if he knew he was going to get to settle in.
Bullpen Help – Has to happen. Either convert some starters like Crowe, Kranick, whatever, or find some guys in free agency, probably both, but they have to get better here.
Purge the Washouts
AAA must turn into a real training ground and members of the 40-man have to have a much more viable chance to help this club.
2022 isn’t going to start much different than it looks right now, the difference will be when they need an outfielder instead of pouring over the waiver wire they’ll be able to call up a Cal Mitchell, Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba type and that’s what will make next season more fun.
In order to do that, the Pirates are going to have to say goodbye to quite a few guys that simply aren’t part of the plan. We should start to see some of this in December when the club has to protect a bunch of guys and to make room they’ll part ways with a whole bunch of dead weight. Some of this culling might even be premature, but bringing this much talent into the system has to go somewhere.
Some of these guys will wind up finding success elsewhere so if you’re one of the many fans who love to gloat every time the club makes a ‘mistake’ you’ll be plenty happy.
I know some of you are all done with Shelton, but the team isn’t, and honestly I’m not sure how you could be either, he hasn’t had much to work with, and he hasn’t really shown us how he’d handle a non COVID influenced pitching staff. It’s just too early.
That said, I think they need to bring in another dedicated pitching assistant, it’s time for another voice in the room.
Obviously they’ll need a hitting coach, and I’d recommend replacing the assistant as well. Time for a clean slate.
This team isn’t going to be remarkably better in 2022, but youngsters will improve and by the end they’ll have real prospects getting their first taste. That to me sounds fun, but it might not show up in the win column. Again, I could blow smoke up your rear but this is how I see it going, and while I’d strategically add some pieces, I wouldn’t go insane, the pitching just won’t be there and looking at the Free agent board, I don’t even see it there if they spent 60 million acquiring it.