The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the middle of a rebuild (if we can even call it that anymore) and there are some clear holes in the team’s roster. They have clearly improved over the past three years, with 2021 and 2022 yielding back-to-back 100-loss seasons, while 2023 saw the club improve to a 76-86 record, but still 16 games back in an ever-improving NL Central. I do believe there are pieces in place to improve upon again this year, but the team will be fighting tooth and nail if they can’t fix their pitching rotation.
We saw the Pirates employ 12 starting pitchers this year, and as the record dictates, it was rocky for most of the year. Mitch Keller was clearly the team’s best asset, earning an All-Star nomination and leading the team in wins. Keller’s 4.21 ERA is nothing special, but there were times where the offense could not help out any of its pitchers and the guys on the mound got caught up in trying to bring the team back. Outside of Keller and maybe the now-injured Johan Oviedo, there was nothing significant out of the rotation.
With the off-season in full swing it’s abundantly clear the Pirates need to work on these struggles from the mound and trying to bolster their depth at the position. They started fall off by trading RHP Cody Bolton to the Seattle Mariners for cash, which to me says that the team may clean house a little bit and try to have as much room and money for any incoming trade and free-agency targets. There are several players in free-agency that could be real promising for the team.
Michael Wacha is coming of a 14-4 season with San Diego where he posted a 3.22 ERA. Wacha, Seth Lugo and Mike Clevinger are all pitchers that could make an immediate impact on the Pirates and who the team might not have to break the bank for.
What we saw from the team in 2023 was the start of all of the Bucs’ high draft picks start to turn a profit, as there was a revolution of young players being promoted to Pittsburgh in hopes that they could make an impact on the big stage. There was largely mixed results, but guys like Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester could still have a hand making their presence known in 2024.
Looking at the state of the team now, I think it’s very likely that we see similar moves for the team next season as guys like Paul Skenes and Jared Jones make the jump early on to add more depth to the starters. Roansy Contreras also likely gets another shot.
I try my best to reel in my optimism for this team, but I cannot ignore the fact that there is a great example laid out for the Pirates, and that is the Arizona Diamondbacks. Fresh off of a World-Series appearance, many could not have predicted that path for Arizona after years of struggle finally paid off.
The key to this squad and how we can see similar results for the Pirates, and that is the way that team was built. Arizona in recent history has not signed any marquee free-agents, still holding a rather modest payroll. But through years of quality draft picks, along with smart moves in trades and free-agency, they created a rather organic team that has exceeded all expectations set before them.
The Pirates are not the biggest spenders, but there are players in their reach that they can sign that will perform better than most of the guys we currently have on the team. General Manager Ben Cherington has a championship pedigree with the Boston Red Sox, so he knows what a winning team is supposed to look like. While we are still likely another year away from seeing this rebuild start to pay off, the Pirates should be optimistic of the upside they have moving forward as they attempt to rebuild a bottom-tier rotation.
Let us know in the comments what you think the Bucs should do to help their rotation in 2024!