Calling all ghosts and goblins of Halloween’s past. It’s spooky season with the end of October upon us and treats being dished out like millions of dollars in MLB free agency.
Playing competitive baseball down the stretch, like the Pirates did this year eliminating the Cubs and Reds, possibly means good things for next year’s club. Despite a plethora of optimism and in the spirit of Halloween, let’s look at three things that should scare Bucco fans looking ahead to the offseason.
Oneil Cruz Not Being 100 percent in 2024
I truly thought Oneil Cruz would play again this season after being injured on Easter while sliding into home place. The gruesome ankle injury kept the 6-foot-7 shortstop out for the season after only nine games. The initial timeline projected a late-August return for the 25-year-old that later was pushed to September and ran its course into the offseason.
While Cruz was seen hitting live BP during the final week of play, his mobility and game readiness remained in question. It’s fair to ask, due to his height, position, and type of injury, if Cruz will be back to 100 percent at the infield’s most critical defensive position. I’m not speculating and saying it WILL be a major issue, but some concern should be felt until Cruz works his way back into live-game action, learns how to slide and we get a chance to see him steal bags and round the bases once again. It’s only a slight concern, but something to monitor during the winter and spring.
Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester Come with Significant Question Marks
I don’t even want to begin with the scare-o-meter that should be set with these three starting pitchers. Maybe at a 7.5. Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester were looked at as potential long-term options in the Pirates rotation for years to come. Now? The first two are definitely leaving much to be desired, and Priester didn’t provide much of a good first impression. The numbers speak for themselves.
Contreras - 19 G, 11 GS, 68.1 IP, 3-7 record, 32 BB, 55 SO, 6.59 ERA, 1.57 WHIP
Ortiz - 18 G, 15 GS, 86.2 IP, 5-5 record, 48 BB, 59 SO, 4.78 ERA, 1.70 WHIP
Priester - 10 G, 8 GS, 50 IP, 3-3 record, 27 BB, 36 SO, 7.74 ERA, 1.70 WHIP
Playing the odds, one of the three should become a fairly decent pitcher and bounce back. Which one? Take your pick. Contreras lost several mph on his fastball, Ortiz walked 11 fewer hitters than he struck out, and Priester ballooned in an inning or two in each start where a crooked number was routine. The Pirates need these three right-handers to find their form. If all are able to do so, the sky’s the limit for the Bucs’ rotation.
Ben Cherington Dressed Up as Neal Huntington
This would be a scary sight. Let me explain. Ben Cherington SHOULD take a big swing like Neal Huntington did in 2018 in landing Chris Archer. He SHOULD be aggressive this offseason and make a big move. But… he must make the right one. The Archer deal set the Pirates back a few years, not just because of how bad he performed, but the talent the Bucs gave up. Yes, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Boz have had little to decent success in the Majors while battling injuries; you frankly never know.
Cherington shouldn’t be afraid to add and deal a prospect or two for a valuable first baseman or front-of-the-line starting pitcher. I’d be more inclined to give up pieces for an arm you know Derek Shelton can deploy after or in between Mitch Keller and Paul Skenes. The Pirates should not be scared of past results warranting future failures and pass their best Halloween candy (trade chips) they don’t see fitting on the current roster to supplement areas of need.