10-19-22 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter
On November 15, 2019, Robert Nutting hired Ben Cherington to be the Pirates new GM, officially kicking off a rebuild. Year 3 of this rebuild has been….shall we say, not good? How’s year 4 going to look, you may ask? Good question.
As frustrating as this season has been to stomach, and it has been frustrating, it is par for the course in year 3 of a rebuild. Here are some examples of year 3 rebuild records-
2013 Astros 51-111 2021 Orioles 52-110 2019 Marlins 57-105 2019 Mariners 68-94 2020/2021 Rangers 22-38(.367) then 60-102 2010 Pirates 57-105
It’s tough to watch, but year 3 is often that in-between phase where most of the good vets are gone and some of the talent is arriving, but the rest are mostly seat warmers.
And while I don’t expect the Pirates to be a playoff contending team in ‘23 (nobody should) I do expect better things. I expect them to be fun. I expect them to be better and to get better every week. I expect to see the plan come into full focus.
But what I really expect is for GM Ben Cherington and his staff to have a more aggressive off-season. The time to add to the roster has come, and GMBC should leave no stone unturned in doing so. If he does it with a good free agent signing, do it. If he needs to make an interesting prospect for prospect trade, do it. If he needs to tap into his now deep farm system and trade for a vet, then do it.
So here it is, my first ever attempt at putting together an off-season for my beloved Pirates. I will try to be realistic here, even while being aggressive. In other words I won’t be screaming to sign an Aaron Judge or to trade for Julio Rodriguez or Shohei Othani. I’m also not going into the economics side here, needless to say that all the moves I will suggest should fit the Pirates financial straints.
Away we go!
In the Beginning…
Let’s start with the guys on the 26 man roster as it currently stands. The guys I think shouldn’t be back, I’ll highlight in red, the players I’m not sure about in orange, and the green to the group that they could open the year with.
I think it will paint a good picture of how much work lies ahead for BC and his staff.
C-Tyler Heineman S-Roansy Contreras
1B-Zack Collins S-Mitch Keller
2B-Rodolfo Castro S-JT Brubaker
SS-Oneil Cruz S-Johan Oviedo
3B-Ke’Bryan Hayes S-Bryse Wilson
OF-Bryan Reynolds RP-Will Crowe
OF-Cal Mitchell RP-Manny Banuelos
OF-Jack Suwinski RP-Chase De Jong
DH-MIguel Andujar RP-Duane Underwood JR B-Diego Castillo RP-Colin Holderman
B-Tucapita Marcano RP- Zach Thompson
B-Kevin Newman RP-David Bednar
B-Jason Delay RP-Yohan Ramirez
As we can see there’s a lot of red and orange up there. Some of the names could still have some growth left in them and some will find a home right here in Pittsburgh. But all in all there’s a lot of spots up there that need an upgrade. Not to mention some of the green up there could be on the move, as nothing is written in stone.
Another thing to keep in mind with the ‘23 roster? The opening day 26 man roster will not be the finished product. The Bucs will have some top talent that will hopefully be joining them at some point during the ‘23 season, so they will be working towards a roster not starting with the year out with THE roster. Why? Service manipulation, it’s annoying I get it. And I hope one day the Bucs can see that an Endy Rodriguez is ready and should start the year in Pittsburgh, unfortunately I don’t think they will. The Pirates are not alone in this philosophy, every team does it, sure there are some exceptions. i.e. Julio Rodriguez, but most of these prospects will be called up past the magical super2 date(early to mid June). This year is still in the “rebuild” category, but it’s the other side of the rebuild. So I feel I have to present where they start, and where they end, right?
Wheelin’ and Dealin’
Catcher – With Endy Rodriguez kicking the door down and Henry Davis just behind him I don’t see a lot of big name guys picking up the phone when the Pirates call. I get this isn’t what fans want to hear, but the move here?
- Sign Roberto Perez. He’s expressed interest in returning to Pittsburgh and would be a tremendous tudor for Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis. It’s possible the Bucs could sign 2 catchers, as my dream of Endy starting in Pittsburgh is about as likely as me being President, but I think some in-house options like Delay or Heinenman are viable until Endy gets the call.
1B – Now that Chavis has been DFA’d 1B is a hole. I’m just not a Zack Collins fan and sure Miguel Andujar is now a Bucco, but do we see a 1B there? Not so sure. Rodolpho Castro has gotten some innings at 1B, and that is an interesting concept and one that could be explored as the off-season unfolds, but is this the best plan? I’m a no there. Time to explore the options, the move?
- Sign Trey Mancini. The 30 year old would instantly add power, veteran leadership and a little position flexibility. He won’t be cheap, but he won’t cost $30 million a year either. This could be a fantastic jump start for the off-season and give the fans a much needed jolt. GMBC might have to throw a few extra shekels at Mancini to convince him and they should be willing to make that kind of commitment.
Starting Pitcher – The Bucs have a budding star in Roansy Contreras and a guy that finally appears to be getting it in Mitch Keller. Beyond that? Well your guess is as good as mine. Could they like TJ Brubaker or Bryse Wilson a lot more than we do? Johan Oviedo? Sure, and I imagine at least one of these guys will take some turns at some point in ‘23.
The Bucs do have 2 promising starters closing in on making their debut, but there’s a catch. Michael Burrows and Quinn Priester will absolutely need to have some controlled innings as they build their pitch count up.
Then there’s Luis Ortiz, who made his debut at the end of ‘22 season. I am sure a lot of Bucco fans will be screaming to start the year with Luiz Ortiz in the opening day rotation. While I would be interested in seeing that, it’s important to consider, Ortiz has been a pro for just 3 years(he was not one of the off-site players in 2020). Ortiz getting some polish in AAA is not just likely, it’s probably best. The move?
- Sign Sean Manaea. Not only would Manaea give the Bucs a needed vet, he would also provide the much needed left handed help every team needs. Although he’s coming off a down year he won’t be cheap, LH never are and there’ll be a good deal of competition to get the rebound candidate. This is the kind of splash this front office needs, go get the left hander!
The Buccos Bullpen has had a pretty bumpy go this past season, and honestly this has not been a bright spot of this front office so far in general. That said there are a lot of bodies in the system and I don’t think they go heywire, but I do think they bring in a vet or two. The Moves?
- Sign Archie Bradley and Taylor Rodgers. There are plenty of options for the BP but these two are as attractive as any I can put together. Both have a good past and both are financially viable for Mr. Nutting.
OF – Ok, did anyone who’s read my stuff here think they’d get out of this article without seeing a trade? No chance. The Bucs system seems to have a good deal of options for OF in the minor leagues, but I’m not sure there are any actual answers. It’s time for Cherington to reach into that deep system he’s built. The move?
Mariners get- Ji-hwan Bae 2B. Cal Mitchell OF and Carmen Mlodzinski SP
Pirates get- Jarred Kelenic OF, Emmerson Hanock SP.
When suggesting these trades you never know how a team like the Mariners feels about a Jarred Kelenic. Once a sky is the limit can’t miss prospect he now has the look of a change of scene candidate. Since returning to the Mariners Kelenic is slashing .180/.293/.420 it’s about time to give the kid a second chance somewhere else. If I’m BC I’m making this call and the Bucs have a few 2B that they could invariably send to SEA. Kevin Newmn, Tucapita Marcano, Nick Gonzales and obviously Bae. I’ve used Bae here and I think this is a workable deal for both sides.
It’s possible the Mariners still love Kelenic, but looking at the results so far suggests it could be time to move him and getting a Cal Mitchel back could be enticing to Jerry Dipoto.(I wonder if they’d prefer Travis Swaggerty?). This is where the Bucs upgrading from Carmen Mlodsinski to Emmerson Hancock comes into play. Hancock is closer to the majors than Carmen and likely attractive to Cherington.
Kevin Newman – Speaking of the devil, the middle of the infield at PNC has a lot of kids pushing Newman out of the way. He no longer looks to be the future, but with his bat playing there could be a few teams that will want him. The move?
Orioles get- Kevin Newman 2B
Pirates- Seth Johnson SP
Seth Johnson was once a top prospect, now old for his level. But I wonder if moving him out of the rotation and into the pen, ala Tanahj Thomas, could be the key to getting back on the path. I can see the Bucs getting another low level prospect here, but with Johnson being a former top prospect I would be pleased adding him to the system.
Let’s leave it at that, simplicity is sometimes best.
The Hard Part
In the offseason the Pirates are bound to get phone calls on OF Bryan Reynolds and closer David Bednar. The FO has expressed interest in extending Reynolds, and they should commit to that and get it done, however I can see some deals making sense for Bednar if they listen.
LA Dodgers get-David Bednar closer
Pirates get-Andy Pages OF, Maddox Burns SP, Nick Robertson RP
The Dodgers didn’t give a roster spot to Craig Kimbrel in the NLDS and Kenley Jansen just is in Atlanta. Enter David Bednar.
Andy Pages is the main attraction here, the tough part is he isn’t ready to start the year in Pittsburgh. He’s close, and that power is really attractive. The guy that looks ready is Nick Roberson, a FB/SL combo guy that could help in the back end of the pen early next year.
I get it’s hard to give up Bednar for an OF that isn’t ready just yet. But Andy is just 21 and ready to start 2023 in AAA. The power has developed already. Looking at an Reynolds-Kelenic-Pages OF is why I would make this move if I’m Ben Cherington, that’s an OF that will be able to handle the confines of PNC Park and smack the hell out of the ball while doing it!
C- Roberto Perez S-Roansy Contreras 1B-Trey Mancini S-Sean Manaea 2B-Rodolfo Castro(earned a look) S-Mitch Keller SS-Oneil Cruz S-JT Brubaker 3B-Ke’Bryan Hayes S-Johan Oviedo OF-Jarred Kelenic RP-Nick Mears OF-Bryan Reynolds RP- Colin Hoderman OF-Miguel Andujar RP- Wil Crowe DH- Jack Suwinski RP- Manny Banuelos B- Diego Castillo RP-Chase De Jong B- Tucapita Marcano RP- Archie Bradley B- Tyler Heineman RP- Taylor Rodgers B- Blake Sabol (gets a chance) RP-Yohan Ramirez
The opening day roster looks like a competent squad, but at some point the next wave hits. That’s when the fun part begins!
Sometime in July
C- Endy Rodriguez S-Roansy Contreras 1B- Trey Mancini S-Sean Manaea
2B-Nick Gonzales S-Mitch Keller
SS-Oneil Cruz S-Luis Ortiz
3B- Ke’Bryan Hayes S-Mike Burrows/Quinn Priester OF-Jarred Kelenic RP-Johan Oviedo OF-Bryan Reynolds RP-Colin Holderman
OF-Andy Pages RP- Nick Robertson
DH-Henry Davis RP- Nick Mears
B-Tucapita Marcano RP- Archie Bradley
B-Diego Castillo RP- Taylor Rodgers
B-Rodolfo Castro RP-Max Kranick B-Miguel Andujar RP-Yerry De Los Santos
You’ll note I listed Burrows and Priester in the same line above, as I think we see them up and down according to workload and controlling the innings will be fun to watch.
Some of the opening day roster guys will likely have some trade value as the youngsters find their way to PNC Park, so hopefully we have that to talk about this as these guys start to get moved.
I also toyed around with the idea of some bigger trades, like putting together a deal for Pablo Lopez of the Marlins. And while I certainly would love to see something like that I feel a Manaea deal is a solid way to go. Either way GMBC needs to make some things happen and he needs to start doing it now. It’s time to back the car out of the driveway and get it on down the road!
There you have it! Join the conversation, let me know what you’d like to see the Buccos do on Twitter.