When asked about the state of the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this month, General Manager Ben Cherington indicated that new faces will be joining the starting rotation next season.
In the same conversation, he omitted his plan for increasing payroll, if at all, and said that he doesn’t believe focusing on payroll in a town like Pittsburgh “is the right thing to focus on,” since “a winning team is not going to be built in a way like other places.”
Cherington did allude to possibly bringing in some different names in an attempt to bolster the rotation, which ranked near the bottom in almost every statistic last season. Additionally, he indicated that the Pirates’ payroll could increase anywhere from $20 to $30 million over the offseason.
This does pose the question: who could the team sign or trade that isn’t awful and doesn’t break the bank?
Let’s look at some possibilities.
Free Agent Signing: LHP Martin Perez
I’ve always been intrigued by Martin Perez and I’m not sure why.
This past year was arguably the best of his career, going 12-8 with 169 strikeouts and a 5.17 WAR in his return to the Texas Rangers. While he hasn’t had the best numbers during his career, drastic improvement is apparent, and the Pirates could capitalize on that this offseason.
Martin Perez is a strikeout generator pic.twitter.com/c1Y8WRv8c7— Rangers Nation (@RangersNationCP) July 30, 2022
If Cherington can sign him to a two-year deal to be a backend rotation guy, this could be one of the more underrated signings of the season and, surely, one of the best in his tenure with the Pirates.
Free Agent Signing: RHP Joe Ross
We all know Ben Cherington loves former first-round draft picks and getting them at little to no cost. Joe Ross fits that criteria.
The right-handed Ross is coming off his second Tommy John Surgery, which could lower his free agent stock and make him a prime trade bait candidate. In an article by Federal Baseball, Ross’s rehab status during a rebuild for the Nationals could affect his chances of rejoining the team, despite manager Davey Martinez verbally wanting him back.
So ... Joe Ross is back and his slider is NSFW. pic.twitter.com/XdanreXEl7— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 24, 2017
Ross last pitched in 2021 and collected a 4.17 ERA in 108 innings while striking out 109 and walking just 34 hitters. This makes him an instant improvement over the likes of J.T. Brubaker and Zach Thompson.
Ross’s 2022 deal was worth $2.4 million, according to Spotrac, so signing Ross to a one-year deal for that amount isn’t too ridiculous.
Trade: RHP German Marquez
I’ve seen this name pop up across my Twitter feed for a couple years now, with good reason, but I have trouble believing the Pirates could pull this one off without selling some quality prospects.
This doesn’t mean I’m against it, though.
German Marquez didn’t have the best year with the Colorado Rockies, going 9-13 with a 5.00 ERA, but he posted a 2.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio, according to Baseball-Reference, which is the best mark in his career.
German Marquez pitched an immaculate inning! pic.twitter.com/mDaBikYQas— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) August 9, 2018
While his price tag is low, the Rockies will need a quality package for him. Some names I’ve seen in possible trade scenarios include Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero, which would baffle me if we dealt them. Then again, I’m not Ben Cherington.
I wouldn’t say he would be an ace for the Pirates, considering we have Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz and Mitch Keller who, for lack of a better term, have shown they could be ace-material.
Improvements need to be made and getting an established right-handed pitcher in a core of young arms is a need. Marquez could fit that role, especially if Cherington wants a guy around for multiple years. If you can get Marquez for an offer that doesn’t resemble the package dealt for Chris Archer — yes, I went there — then go for it.
These are just a couple names the team could consider for this offseason. My guess is that they sign someone to a “prove it” deal and flip them at the deadline again, but maybe Cherington actually has a plan to improve the team this year.
Lastly, I do not believe they will re-sign the following players: Jose Quintana, Tyler Anderson, Chad Kuhl, or Jameson Taillon.