In 2023, the Pirates Should be Aggressive

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. 

Bats Pitching

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!

Bullpen Help?

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. 

The move?

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!

Opening Day

Bats-                                                                  Pitchers-

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

Bats-  Pitchers-                                                         
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           

Final Thoughts

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.


4 thoughts on “In 2023, the Pirates Should be Aggressive

    1. I considered Abreu and I do wonder if he will be considered, he’d be a good name to look at. I went with Mancini as he’s younger and dds that position flexibility the Bucs seem to like. Thanks for taking a look!


  1. Hey Dan, Bae certainly looks the part, I agree. But part of me wonders how the FO views his role? Bae was fantastic all season in AAA, bettering his AA numbers(which were good) and it took all year for them to cave and call him up. Bae plays a nice CF and 2B so they can make room for him for sure, but I can’t get past how long they waited before calling him up, makes me wonder if he could be a kid on the move.


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