After yesterday’s 16-hour bargaining session between MLB and the MLBPA, a new CBA could be agreed upon as soon as today. Or not. I’m not exactly sure. Let’s just skip to the part where a deal is reached. Whether that happens today, days from now, or in weeks, it will eventually happen. I think.
When the lockout ends, there will be an all-out free agent frenzy that almost immediately takes place. Of course, the Pittsburgh Pirates won’t be in the market for any real difference-makers such as Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, or Trevor Story (because they're the Pirates).
That said, they do have holes on the roster. They also have a payroll equaling less than some individual player salaries. Pittsburgh should be willing to spend at least some money. The spending won’t be immense, but I do think the Pirates could sign another player or two. These deals will be of the one-year variety, probably equaling around $5 million. Think Jose Quintana (one-year, $2 million) type deals.
The following players listed, in my opinion, could be signed on the cheap. They could also fill holes on the roster.
*All stats are from the 2021 season.
Travis Shaw: 250 PA, .200/.286/.373, nine home runs, 78 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR
Daniel Vogelbach: 258 PA, .219/.349/.381, nine home runs, 101 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
Colin Moran: 359 PA, .258/.334/.390, 10 home runs, 98 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR
All three of these first basemen hit left-handed. That would make them all a logical fit to slot into a platoon situation with Michael Chavis. None of these players are great defensively and could split time with Yoshi Tsutsugo at first base and DH. The real question is, would you rather add one of these players or just roll with Yoshi and Chavis themselves? It’s a valid question as none of the players listed above are particularly great.
I don’t see Moran coming back to Pittsburgh, as he was non-tendered by the Pirates before the lockout began. Shaw, who in his prime was a solid hitter, hasn’t put together a full 162-game season since 2018. If I had to pick one of these three hitters, it would be Vogelbach. Similar to Tsutsugo, Vogelbach draws a nice amount of walks (career rate 15.7 percent). He has some power as well and would immediately slot in the middle of the Pirates’ batting order. Although Vogelbach has never hit higher than .220, his combination of power and patience would make the Pirates’ offense better.
As it currently stands, the Pirates’ Opening Day outfield consists of Ben Gamel, Bryan Reynolds, and Anthony Alford. At the moment, the only other true outfielder that could crack the Opening Day roster is Greg Allen. Players like Chavis, Cole Tucker, or Hoy Park could also fill that role if needed. The question once again is, would you rather roll with that or sign one of these players?
Alex Dickerson: 312 PA, .233/.304/.420, 13 home runs, 97 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
Kevin Pillar: 347 PA, .231/.277/.415, 15 home runs, 90 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR
Lewis Brinson: 290 PA, .226/.263/.376, nine home runs, 74 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR
There are a ton of outfielders like these currently on the market. Guys like Jake Marisnick, Gerardo Parra, Daniel Santana, plus our old friends Jarrod Dyson and Brain Goodwin all remain unsigned.
Part of me wouldn’t mind bringing in a Dickerson or Pillar to add a veteran presence to the clubhouse. As cliche as it sounds, I do believe it can make a difference. Part of me also wouldn’t mind taking a chance on a former highly touted prospect such as Lewis Brinson. That said, Brinson might just be the outfield version of Jeff Clement. Are any of these options marginally better than Alford? I wouldn’t say so.
If I had to pick one of these players, it would probably be Pillar. He would fit nicely in left field and relieve Reynolds in centerfield when needed. As we know, he is tough as nails. To me, he seems like a pro’s pro.
Right now, the Pirates have a plethora of starters with a chance to crack the teams’ 2022 rotation. They are Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Jose Quintana, Bryse Wilson, Wil Crowe, Miguel Yajure, Max Kranick, Dillion Peters, and Zach Thompson. Roansy Contreras is also knocking on the door and will be up soon. If I had to guess, some order of Keller, Brubaker, Quintana, and Thompson are locks to make the rotation. Should the Pirates add to that mix?
Some of the affordable free-agent pitchers include Tyler Anderson, Brett Anderson, Michael Fiers, Martin Perez, and Mike Foltynewicz. Other than maybe bringing Tyler Anderson back, none of these other pitchers excite me.
Overall, the Pirates are in a stuck position right now. They aren’t good, that much is obvious. They also aren’t willing to spend on notable difference makers. That is even more obvious. The potential free agents listed above could make this team slightly better (and that’s the slightest of slightly), but would it even be worth it?
Unless the Pirates suddenly change their tune and add real Major League talent that costs real major league dollars (and I don’t see that hell has frozen over quite yet), I wouldn’t mind just rolling with what they’ve got. Bryan Reynolds is this team’s centerpiece and star. Ke’Bryan Hayes is the league’s best defensive third baseman. If he can be above average offensively, he will be an All-Star. Oneil Cruz, Travis Swaggerty, and Contreras are coming soon. Other top prospects are not far behind.
The story of this upcoming season will be determined by the likes of Alford, Park, Tucker, Chavis, Gamel, Tsutsugo, Allen, Kevin Newman, and every pitcher on this team. The hope is that maybe a few of these players can prove themselves as viable Major League contributors.
To put it bluntly, this team is already mucked up with enough questionable talent. In my opinion, there is no real need to muck it up even more with a few not-great free agents.