With the 2018 World Series in the rearview mirror, what better time to review the timeline for the 2018-2019 Pittsburgh Pirates’ offseason?
Welcome to Bucco Breakfast, a new daily morning feature designed to help you through the offseason. Each day we’ll roll out a quick topic designed to spark conversation as well as provide some interesting baseball reading from around the web.
Despite popular belief, the Pittsburgh Pirates have in front of them a potentially exciting 2019 season. The decisions made between now and the April 1st season opener can either tip the scales towards the club making another playoff run or doom them to another middling season. Here’s the dates to watch for this offseason.
Free Agency Begins - (Five days after World Series ends )
Players who may be eligible for Free Agency must file within five days of the Series’ end. One quirk that many don’t realize is that this five-day window also serves as a time in which a club can negotiate with its own players before the gates open.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ lone truly un-tethered free agent is Jordy Mercer. Though there is a small chance that the club may bring him back in a mentorship-type role, his days manning shortstop for Pittsburgh are likely over.
Josh Harrison and Jung Ho Kang are expected to become free agents as the club is likely to decline their player options — $11.5 Million for Harrison and $5.5 Million for Kang. Pittsburgh is likely to attempt to re-sign Kang to a more team-friendly deal.
It goes without saying, but the Pirates will not be tendering a $17.9 Million qualifying offer to any of the three.
60-Day DL Reinstatement - (Five days after World Series ends)
All players on the 60-day DL must be reinstated back onto the club’s 40-man roster. As it stands, the Pittsburgh Pirates have only Chad Kuhl officially placed on the 60-day DL. Gregory Polanco (shoulder) and Edgar Santana (UCL) are both set to miss significant time of course, yet both were never officially placed on the 60-Day. Pittsburgh has two spots open on the 40-man as of this writing.
November 4 - Gold Glove Awards Announced
The Pirates’ lone finalist for a Gold Glove this year comes in the unlikely form of Corey Dickerson. His chances to win are slim. But hey, even the fact that he is nominated is a major win for a player whose defensive reputation was poor at best.
November 5 - BBWAA Awards Finalists Announced
BBWAA Awards finalists will be announced on November 5th. The Pittsburgh Pirates will not be featured. Actual award announcements are as follows:
- November 12 - Rookies of the Year Announced
- November 13 - Managers of the Year Announced
- November 14 - Cy Young Awards Announced
- November 15 - MVP Awards Announced
November 8-15 - Japan All-Star Tour
No Pirates will be featured, but the All-Star tour is always a cool event. More info can be found here.
November 26-29 MLBPA Executive Board Meeting, Dallas
Many people feel that this MLBPA meeting lays the groundwork for the winter meetings. I’m not so sure of that, but hey. It’s a thing that people think.
November 30 - Non-tender deadline
Unlike years previous, the Pirates will have few decisions to make as to tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Dickerson, Keone Kela and Michael Feliz represent the entirety of Pittsburgh’s arb-eligible personnel. All three are expected to have contracts tendered.
Note: Many different sources list Ryan Lavarnaway as being Arb-eligible as well. An equal amount of resources state the opposite. For now, I will disclude him from this discussion.
December 9-13 - MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas
The Big Enchilada hits Vegas this year. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates gamble and make a splash? Probably not, though the club is set up to be much more active in Free Agency than last off-season.
Pittsburgh could be active on the trade front; However, it would require some shifting in thought among the club’s current crop of prospects. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneill Cruz and Cole Tucker could serve as viable trade chips should the club feel it needs to shore up other areas. Corey Dickerson and Ivan Nova could also be actively shopped, Dickerson less so considering Polanco’s injury.
Last year’s January trades involving Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen taught us one thing: Even if whispered moves are not consummated at the meetings, solid groundwork can be firmly be laid.
December 13 - Rule 5 Draft
Everyone’s favorite crap-shoot will return for another round at the tail end of the winter meetings. The Pittsburgh Pirates can lay claim to the best Rule 5 pick of all time in Roberto Clemente. Recent Pirates’ brass has attempted to find a gem over the past two seasons, selecting Jordan Milbrath in 2017 and Tyler Webb in 2016. Both were returned to their original clubs.
Of course, the flip side of the Rule 5 draft is figuring out which prospects the Pirates must protect. Here is a great link to the complete Rule 5 rules; For the sake of brevity let’s cut to the chase and see who the Pirates will need to add to their 40-man:
- SP Mitch Keller: Duh.
- INF Cole Tucker: It is hard to believe that Tucker has already spent enough time in the organization to qualify for Rule 5, yet here we are. Even if he had not done just enough at Double-A to keep the faith among prospect watchers and even if he had not been having a productive stint in the Arizona Fall League, Tucker would have been protected as a former first round pick who is more or less on schedule.
- OF Jason Martin: His fantastic performance at Altoona offsets his initial struggles in Indianapolis, and seeing him in the bigs as a depth option in 2019 is unlikely yet not out of the question
- SPs J.T. Brubaker and Brandon Waddell: Ah, here is where things get interesting. Both pitchers stepped up to Triple-A this season. Brubaker pitched to a 3.10 ERA across 119 innings at Indy while Waddell was knocked around a bit to the tune of a 4.19 ERA in 81.2 innings. Though Waddell is a lefty, Brubaker would likely be protected over him if push came to shove.
It is important to note that of these five, only Keller would have a realistic shot at being selected for the MLB-portion of the Rule 5. Others listed here would be candidates for the minor-league portion of the proceedings.
January 11 - Exchange of Arbitration Figures
As stated above, the Pirates have three arb-eligible players. This date serves as the effective date for clubs and agents to exchange desired salary figures.
February 1-20 - Arbitration hearings held
Should the club be unable to come to terms with any of the three, the club and player reps will go before the arbitration panel. The process can get ugly.
February 13 - Pitchers and catchers report
Ah, the timeless feeling of having baseball right around the corner. That feeling will return to fans on Feb 13th, as pitchers and catchers begin to report.
February 18 - Full squad report day
That feeling will be cemented when the rest of the club reports.