It’s the holiday season, and Santa Clause has got a toy for… you know where I’m going with this. We’re still in the midst of Christmas time and the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day full of joy, family, presents and holiday magic.
The holidays are a great time to make a list and check it twice for great gift options under the tree. Presents in the form of free agents and trade acquisitions to improve teams in baseball. What would be under the Pittsburgh Pirates tree? Now that Christmas has passed and you might have some extra money and gift cards to spend, where do you want to add? For the Pirates, three glaring issues still remain.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Pirates still need to improve their starting rotation. Minus Johan Oviedo for the season and JT Brubaker for at least half while recovering from Tommy John, the offseason opened with Mitch Keller as the only dependable starter on the 26-man roster.
Additions of Marco Gonzales (trade) and Martin Perez (free-agent deal) will help the middle-to-bottom portion of the rotation with the potential to regain No. 3 or even No. 2 starter form. Gonzales is a former Opening Day starter for the Seattle Mariners, and Perez was an All-Star for the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers. One of Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, or Luis Ortiz has to find their stride, right?
Not many options remain on the free-agent market. Lucas Giolito signed a two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox this week and eliminated another potential option. Frankie Montas joined the rival Reds on a $16 million deal for one year. That’s the type of deal we haven’t seen the Pirates willing to deploy with a viable starter. Names like Domingo German, James Paxton, Michael Lorenzen, Sean Manaea, Chase Anderson, and Jordan Montgomery still remain. A reunion with Vince Velasquez would help bolster the team post All-Star break as he recovers from Tommy John. The Pirates have also been linked to Cuban righty Yariel Rodriguez (26), who has been utilized as a starter and reliever but doesn’t have front-of-the-rotation upside. Manaea or Lorenzen might be the best bet if a trade doesn’t materialize. Don’t count out a deal for a starter with a few years of control like what was floated around weeks ago.
Endy Rodriguez missing the entire 2024 season doesn’t just create questions at catcher, but also now in right field. 2021 No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis will enter spring as a catcher and factor alongside Jason Delay behind the plate. Davis saw much of his playing time in right and never started a game at catcher. Injuries played a factor in the Pirates’ decision not to utilize him there, but now need to deploy Davis’ services at his natural position.
Could a healthy Andrew McCutchen start games in right? It makes sense from a McCutchen and Pirates standpoint to get him some work in the field. Connor Joe, Ji Hwan Bae, and Jared Triolo have position flexibility. Edward Olivares is a fascinating acquisition from Kansas City with some of the best power in the American League last year in a limited sample size. The Pirates could even add another utility-type player with good bat skills, like Whit Merrifield, or bring back Adam Frazier. How about a reunion with Austin Meadows? That would be a fascinating gift in 2024. Keep an eye on Randal Grichuk or Michael A. Taylor as possible options.
Clarity at Second Base / Add to Bullpen
Rowdy Tellez and potentially Connor Joe will see a bulk of playing time at first base. Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales, Bae, and Triolo are options at second base. Clarity at second would answer a few questions depending on if someone convincingly wins the job when the team leaves Bradenton. Triolo may also play some first again. The Pirates probably won’t add to an already crowded position group.
You can never have too much pitching. The bullpen found a few potential mainstays in Jose Hernandez, Dauri Moreta, and Carmen Mlodzinski. Teaming them with David Bednar and Colin Holderman gives the Pirates five guys to count on. Hernandez had his ups and downs and probably isn’t a 7-8-9 type pitcher, but a jam-buster like Ryan Borucki. Tons of relievers are still on the market, including Michael Fulmer, Carl Edwards Jr., Liam Hendriks, Pittsburgh native Derek Law, Nick Wittgren, Brad Hand, Matt Moore and Wandy Peralta.