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Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason Q&A: November

You asked, I tried my best to answer.

Connor Williams

Hey there and welcome to the offseason! You have questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates, I might possibly have some semi-competent answers for you. Let’s get into it.

What are your thoughts on the Henry Davis situation with him focusing this offseason on C and not RF? - Nick Cammuso on Twitter/X

I answered an extremely similar question last month, it generated a lot of good responses, so I think it’s worth looking at again to address some of those.

I find the Pirates handling of Henry Davis to be, in a word, bizarre. There were clear signs he might not stick at catcher when they drafted him, that’s fine. They took him number one overall because he was the best college bat available in a year with no consensus number one overall pick, and it let them spread around their money to ensure they got high quality talent later in a draft system that is functionally hard capped.

His development with the bat predictably ended up completely outpacing his development defensively. They were really forced to use him in right because his catching was just simply not at a major league level.

OK, everything up until this point is mostly fine by me, where I begin to really take issue is that Davis was participating in all the extra work catchers have to do while not catching at all. Advanced meetings, catching bullpens etc. it's an extreme amount of work to be doing for something you’re not using. That kind of borders on being a distraction in my eyes.

The situation has been compared frequently by fans to keeping Oneil Cruz at short and bluntly, it’s not a good comparison. As questionable as Cruz is at shortstop, he is far and away a better shortstop than Davis is a catcher.

Davis’s framing is awful, he doesn’t block well, and his hands are so bad back there he has trouble sometimes simply catching pitches. As in he drops pitches that arrive at home plate on the fly. I have never seen a Major League catcher have that issue.

They said he was going to catch more down the stretch this season post trade deadline, he didn’t. Now they’re saying he’s coming into next season ready to catch. Endy Rodiguez is way more advanced defensively already than Davis will likely ever be. Unless he comes into camp looking miraculously improved, I don’t get it.

Who is the player that you least want to sign (realistically) in FA? - JhugsOaty on Twitter/X

I’ve seen people guess that Alex Wood could end up with the Pirates this offseason. Can’t say I’m too fond of the idea. A soft tosser who doesn’t generate much swing and miss anymore and had pretty poor walk rates this year. Didn’t last long in the rotation but did OK working out of the pen.

He’s good enough at preventing hard contact I suppose. He was pretty good once upon a time, but I don’t see many traits here to base a reclamation project on.

If you had to guess, who on the Pirates is a lock for the rotation, and who might the Pirates sign this off-season? - HayesOnBase on Twitter/X

Mitch Keller and Johan Oviedo are your only true locks for the opening day rotation. I’m looking for them to sign two starting pitchers and let the fifth spot be an open competition in spring training between the arms they already have on hand.

As for who they might be, Lucas Giolito and Luis Severino seem like they would be good fits for multi-year deals at reasonable prices. Pitchers such as Jack Flaherty, Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez or even Hyun Jin Ryu could also be decent acquisitions for what they need to achieve in 2024.

I would love to see them go higher and really push what the limits of what they’re comfortable with in terms of AAV by making serious attempts to sign a pitcher in the vein of Eduardo Rodriguez.

They’d assuredly get beat out if a larger market with a nigh infinite budget decides that any particular player is their guy and they’re willing to overpay to get him, but I’d like to see them at least show legitimate interest.

What path are they going to take at first base? Joey Votto? - multiple

Well, it depends on how they view what they have at or close to the MLB level internally. I really don’t know how they could look at what they have there and come to the conclusion they don’t absolutely need to add. (No, they aren’t moving Henry Davis there)

I think the most likely option is a free agent signing and reunion with Carlos Santana. Santana has been vocal about wanting to come back to the Pirates and is coming off a very adequate year of production where he hit 23 homeruns while driving in 86. Plus, his very good defensive play was enough to be named a gold glove finalist.

Carlos carries an immense amount of respect in an MLB locker room, he is THE guy you want around a young team looking to make that next step. He’s mentioned that he and Oneil Cruz have plans to work out together this offseason.

The flip side of that coin is Santana is going to be 38 by opening day. You can never be sure how close to the cliff you are once you get into this age range with players. The 23 homers and 86 RBI he produced this year is probably the absolute best-case scenario moving forward.

As vocal as Santana has been about returning, the team might feel differently. They may not want to end up in the exact same scenario one year from now, needing a 1B and having to look externally.

While the market is thin, there are options out there. Jeimer Candelario and Rhys Hoskins chief among them if they really feel as if they need to go a tier above Santana and sign a multi-year deal. Although I don’t see this as likely.

Candelario is coming off a solid season with the Nationals and Cubs where he posted an OPS of .807 and Hoskins is looking for a pillow contract coming off of an ACL tear in spring training.

Yeah, I know, I know. I previously said Hoskins wouldn’t leave Philly, but he didn’t get a qualifying offer and Phillies’ GM Dave Dombrowski told media that Bryce Harper will be manning first moving forward. I’ll gladly eat my words here if it means the market for bats is any better.

Options on the trade market include players such as Brandon Drury of the Los Angeles Angels and Seth Brown of the Oakland Athletics. If you want to get really crazy, I can’t imagine Oakland would be totally unwilling to listen on Ryan Noda who posted a 123 WRC+ in 2023 with excellent batted ball peripherals.

As for Joey Votto, who is a free agent after the Cincinnati Reds declined his option for 2024, he’ll turn 41 towards the end of next season and has put up below replacement level production in each of the past two injury shortened campaigns. It might be time to go be a family man and enjoy retirement.

The relatively unceremonious end to his Reds tenure that didn’t happen on his terms and perhaps the end of his career emphasizes just how special the Pirates’ reunion with Andrew McCutchen has been and will hopefully continue to be.

What’s gonna happen with Triolo long term? He’s so good at 3rd it hurts. - Object_Joel on Twitter/X

He sure is. Jared Triolo won the MiLB gold glove for third base back in 2021 when he was at high A Greensboro and his glove remained a large part of his value in 2023 at the MLB level, posting 1.7 fWAR in 54 games.

Fortunately for the Pirates and maybe unfortunately for Triolo, they also have the 2023 gold glove winner and platinum glove hopeful over there in Ke’Bryan Hayes. Hayes just got finished putting up a stellar second half, hitting .299 with a .335 on base and a slugging percentage of .539 post all-star break.

Hayes isn’t going anywhere, luckily third isn’t the only position Triolo plays well. He cleared the bar defensively at both second and first.

Thats all fine and dandy, but none of that matters if he doesn’t hit. I love the patience (17.3% walk rates in AAA, 11.5% in MLB), but don’t like the K rates as he moved from AA to AAA and then MLB (26.5% and 30.1%). He hits a metric ton of line drives so his BABIP is going to be higher than most, but it was an unsustainable .440. For context, the National League batting champ and premier contact hitter Luis Arraez had a BABIP of .362. It’s not like Triolo was hitting the cover off the ball either.

As he progresses as a hitter, I think we’ll see those K rates drop a little, but it’s fair to question how much power was really added with his mid-season stance change and be concerned about how much BABIP regression we’ll see. He should be in the mix coming into camp for the starting second base job.

I’ve been critical of the team trying to make seemingly everyone have some kind of versatility at multiple positions. I’m perfectly fine with them doing it here, long term I think his value lies in being able to play all over the diamond.

Who are the best players that were Pirates but aren’t remembered as Pirates? - Snow_Squid on Discord

Off the top of my head and in vague order of descending quality here’s a top 6.

  1. Hank Greenberg
  2. Dazzy Vance
  3. Luis Tiant
  4. Goose Gossage
  5. Chuck Klein
  6. Kenny Loften

I think if you want to throw Maury Wills and Tim Wakefield on the end of that list I certainly wouldn’t complain. I’m sure I missed someone obvious anyways, fun question.

(Edit: BAH, I completely forgot about Wilbur Wood. Wood put in several downright herculean efforts by today’s standards in the early 70s. Seriously go check out his baseball reference page if you’re unfamiliar if only to see how different pitching used to be.)

Alright well, that’s a wrap! Let's do this again next month! Thanks for all the submissions!