Most of the offseason is now behind us, and the majority of the Pirates’ offseason is too. Here’s a look at transactions the Pirates have made near the end of the offseason in recent years. The suggest that a major move is still possible, but it might be unlikely, as the Pirates have only made one deal in February or March in the past five seasons that qualifies as a really big one.
2016: Signed Cory Luebke to a minor league deal (2/11); signed Matt Joyce to a minor league deal (2/20); signed David Freese to a one-year deal (3/11).
The Joyce deal turned out to be significant. It didn’t necessarily look like that big a deal at the time, although it became clear pretty quickly that Joyce did have the inside track on the Pirates’ fourth outfielder job. The Freese signing was an opportunistic move that paid off.
2015: Acquired Arquimedes Caminero from the Marlins (2/4).
Caminero was basically a waiver claim — the Marlins had designated him for assignment the previous week. He was out of options, though, and the Pirates did stick with him for about a year and a half after acquiring him, thanks to the promise of his ridiculous velocity.
2014: Acquired Vance Worley from the Twins (3/24); acquired Keon Broxton from the Diamondbacks (3/26).
These were both minor moves of the sort that usually take place as teams set their major and minor league rosters at the end of Spring Training, but both players turned out to be useful. (Broxton, alas, only turned out to be useful for the Brewers.) Worley was a reclamation project, and he didn’t look like a particularly important one, even by the modest standards of Pirates acquisitions — the Twins had outrighted him a few days before, meaning that the Bucs didn’t even bother to put in a waiver claim on him before acquiring him. He’d had two pretty good years with the Phillies before struggling in Minnesota, though, and he ended up being decent enough in two seasons with Pittsburgh.
The Bucs also added Ike Davis in April with the hope that he’d help at first base. He didn’t, but that move was a much more significant one at the time than either the Worley or Broxton additions.
2013: Signed Francisco Liriano to a two-year deal (2/8).
This one is a bit misleading, as the Pirates had agreed to sign Liriano significantly earlier but had to rework the deal after an offseason injury. (A sentence I wrote at the time: “In any case, the Pirates will now add Liriano to their rotation picture, which also includes A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson.” Shudder.) Other than the Liriano deal, the Pirates didn’t do much in February or March 2013, unless you think Brandon Inge was a key to their success that year.
2012: Signed Juan Cruz to a minor league deal (2/1); acquired A.J. Burnett and cash from the Yankees for Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones (2/19).
Now we’re talking. The Burnett trade was in the works a long time before February, but that’s when it was finally consummated. Burnett, of course, was one of the keys to the Pirates’ transition from a losing franchise to a winning one, although it’s worth noting that his acquisition wasn’t nearly as significant as, say, a Jose Quintana trade would be, since the Yankees were really just dumping his salary. Cruz got decent results in the Pirates’ bullpen but was released in August anyway.