Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

By Gary Morgan – 11/7/22 – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Busy week, both for me and baseball. The World Series just wrapped up with Houston grabbing another title, and with the last out came the official start of the offseason. In fact, would you believe we’ve already had our first offseason trade? That’s right, the Rockies acquired Dylan Spain from the Atlanta Braves for Sam Hilliard.

Hot stove season is upon us and tomorrow, our first 2-guys talkin’ piece drops to get it going.

Let’s have at it.

1. Important Dates

This offseason is gonna keep us moving, no doubt, but let’s start right here with a quick look at what’s coming and when.

November 8th through the 10th – GM meetings. This doesn’t mean they’ll all wheel and deal, but when 30 GM’s get together, hey, let’s just say they might do what they do. They’ll be taking place in Las Vegas this year.

November 10th – Depending on contract language, the vast majority of contract options have to be decided on.
This is also the date where teams must offer qualifying offers to free agents.
Lastly, this date is when Free Agency officially begins.

November 15th – All teams must add players eligible for Rule 5 protection to their 40-man. We’ve been talking about this, but that’s how quick it’s coming.

November 18th – Non-Tender deadline. This is when all players eligible for arbitration must have a tender or become free agents. Many of the decisions here, will really be made on November 15th. If a player survives the 40-man for the 15th, chances are they’re being tendered.

November 20th – Free agents must accept or reject qualifying offers on this date.

December 5th through 8th – Winter Meetings in San Diego. Some of what happens here the base will have been laid back in the first GM meetings.

December 7th – That’s right. Right in the middle of the Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft will take place. Expect a whole bunch of minor moves in the days leading up to this.

January 13th – Teams and players who are eligible for arbitration submit figures if they haven’t already agreed to terms.

January 15th – 2023 International Signing Period.

Enough to digest? I think so.

2. You Should Want Better

I’m conflicted at times. At least once a week someone asks me “Will the Pirates re-sign Ben Gamel?”

Now, I like the guy, and the player, but really, shouldn’t you and the Pirates for that matter want better? I mean folks, Ben was a 0 WAR player in 2022.

Further, most of these same people are completely convinced that Kevin Newman, a 1.1 WAR player shouldn’t be retained no matter how cheap he is.

Hey, that’s being a fan I suppose, you like who you like and I get it, but we’re talking here about a player who even on this team isn’t a lock to beat out a rookie, I’d like to see them sign someone even with a 2.0 WAR figure. Someone who could actually be a starter if they needed to be for a while.

It doesn’t really matter, it’s not like they’re listening to our conversations and making judgements based on what they hear, but even through the lens of Nutting being cheap, you can hope for better than Gamel pretty easily.

3. Keys to a Turnaround

Talking about subjects like this, man it’s so easy to just dumb them down to PLAY BETTER!!!, or SPEND MONEY!!! Of course those two things are there and accurate, but lets talk about what’s here, and where real improvement needs to come from.

Starting Rotation – The Pirates have Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, JT Brubaker, Johan Oviedo, Zach Thompson, Mike Burrows, Quinn Priester, Bryse Wilson and I’m sure they’ll sign someone. Keller needs to hold serve, Roansy needs to take a step, JT needs to crap or get off the pot, Johan needs to prove it can translate. Of all these things, to me, nothing is more important than Roansy Contreras not regressing. He’s been written in pen since Spring of 2022 for damn near everyone, but Contreras must take a step in 2023. Do that and 2 days every rotation this team has a damn good chance, that’s improvement.

Outfield – Someone other than Bryan Reynolds needs to be a star. Jack Suwinski needs to strike out less and keep the power growing. Andujar has to look like it’s 2018, Mitchell has to swing like he has in spells. When I really sit back and look, I’d say Suwinski has the most on his shoulders. He must improve as a hitter and more than anything, prove he can hit lefties too.

Bullpen – The Bullpen will improve simply from having everyone back from the IL, but more than that, this bullpen needs to define and stick to roles. Not every spot in the pen is created equal and not every guy can do every task. Watch/Earn/Deploy.

4. Loaded Free Agent Board Again

Last year was seen as an insane free agency period for short stops, well, wait for this one. Look at this list of names likely to be on the board. Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, Xander Bogaerts (if he opts out), Carlos Correa (very likely to opt out), damn, that’s a list.

The Dodgers are likely to land one of them for sure, but there is just so much talent at short stop around the league it’s truly insane. Gone are the days of slick fielding judy hitters, in are the days of best player on the field being the captain of the infield too.

Storylines are going to really get crazy this offseason. You all know Arron Judge is likely on the move (San Francisco doesn’t plan to miss BTW), but quite possibly there is no story more intriguing than what the Angels do with Shohei Ohtani. He’s signed for 2023 for 30 million, and a free agent in 2024. The likelihood he gets dealt this winter is sky high, and while he could go anywhere for the right price, only a select few could afford what he’ll require in free agency. How do you valuate a player with MVP stats at the plate and Cy Young Stuff on the mound? 50 million? How long? Can he keep doing this for 3 more years? 5 more?

Juan Soto is likely going to get 20 million in arbitration this year, likely even more next year. If the Padres find they can’t extend him (psst, probably can’t) when do they trade him? This year? Next year? The stakes get higher and higher every year for some of these mega stars getting tossed around the league.

5. Get Better, Needs to Look Better

I’m saying this now, knowing full well that the Pirates don’t have an opportunity to start showing that until March, but it just strikes me that “Get Better” is becoming a catchphrase and not a positive one.

I don’t blame the Pirates for using it, because of course it’s true, the players do need to get better, the coaches need to get better, the development system needs to get better, but 2023 has to be the year we start to say, they got better here, they got better there.

Expanding the coaching staff to provide focus on defense is a positive step toward that, at least it shows the recognition that in order to achieve it there must be different steps taken.

Bottom line, by the end of 2023, Get Better will still be there, but lets hope there’s some Got to go along with it, if not, every fan has a right to officially wonder if they’ve simply bought another mantra that isn’t anything more than a time buying mechanism.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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