Anyone that is currently-or has ever been-a homeowner can most assuredly empathize with the fact that at some point repairs will need to be made, items will need to be replaced and renovations/remodeling will ultimately be undertaken. Even if your house is initially turn-key, these types of projects will eventually take place if you live there long enough. It is inevitable. It is also inevitable that some of these undertakings will become more invasive and possibly last longer than expected.
At that point you will stand back, evaluate the situation and make a plan of attack as to how to proceed next. With Major League Baseball and it’s owners having locked out it’s players at 12:01 AM on December 2nd, putting a halt to any Big League transactions, now feels like the perfect to look at Ben Cherington and Company’s current rebuild in the same manner.
Since arriving in Pittsburgh in November of 2019 Cherington has overhauled nearly the entire MLB Roster and Coaching Staff, as well as the Baseball Operations Department in both the Majors and Minors; all while stocking the Farm System from top to bottom, which has become universally ranked within the Top 5. As far as the 40-Man Roster is concerned, the Pirates only have 14 players left who were in the organization before Ben showed up, and one lone staff member in Bullpen Coach Justin Meccage.
If they are on the roster, or in the system, Cherington wants them here; at least for now. If they are part of the staff, front office or development department, the same can be assumed.
In the past week, we as Pirates Fans have learned that no one is safe from being a part of Cherington’s larger plan as Jacob Stallings was traded to the Marlin’s; and maybe less surprisingly that veteran pitchers Chad Kuhl and Steve Brault were given their walking papers.
Left are the two untouchables-Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds. But, even there long term future in Pittsburgh is not set in stone. Reynolds has four arbitration years, including the current one, before he is no longer under team control; which to me means, at most he is here through 2024 because there is no way anyone in their right mind is letting a player of his caliber walk for free. That’s why an extension is so important, once again to me.
With Ke’Bryan, there is a little bit more time as he doesn’t become arbitration eligible until 2024; yet, without an extension that has him on the team for only an additional year without a long-term deal.
Nevertheless, until the new CBA gets signed, any extension talks are on hold; as are any possible changes that could happen to the 40-Man, so I only makes sense to focus on the team as it is currently constructed-and contracted.
After the flurry of moves so far this off-season the same number of positions are locked down as there were in the final game of 2021. Reynolds still sits in Centerfield, Hayes is at Third, Yoshi Tsutsugo has replaced Colin Moran at First and Roberto Perez, rather than Stallings, is behind the plate. Obviously you could throw in Ben Gamel in left and Kevin Newman at Shortstop due to their contract tenders; however, one thing you can’t do is point to any area of overwhelming improvement. At Second Cole Tucker is penciled in very lightly, while Anthony Alford and Greg Allen have the inside track at the Right Field gig. Also, not overwhelming.
When you move to the mound, it is a cluster of as many as 11 pitchers who will go into Spring Training with at minimum an outside shot of making the Open Day Rotation; and not a proven one in the bunch. The bullpen, well, it’s a mess outside of David Bednar. There’s no kinder way to put it.
Cherington has said that he still wants to add a starter, so there’s that. Still, I wouldn’t look too far beyond another Jose Quintana prove you still have something left in the tank type of deal.
Sure, you can point to Roansy Contreras or Miguel Yajure as contributing in the upcoming season on the bump, along with Oneil Cruz, and hopefully one of the many outfielders with the bat; although no one can realistically predict just how much to expect.
Coming off a 101 loss season, there were expectations of some immediate improvement. How could there not be? Yet, as the off-season quickly approaches Christmas-with a potential rush to solidify the roster following the CBA being settled-I can’t lie; I am more than a little bit disappointed. And, I can’t see much happening between now and March 31st.
I understand the project is far from done, but if it were me, finishing up something around the house, I would at least be questioning how much longer it’s going to take.