Ah yes, another season of watching this franchise spin it's tires and not accomplish much is gearing up for another season. There's some old faces that got added to go with the young guys who are now starting to at least play at a major league level. I think this team will avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 2019 (let's face it, the 2020 team would have lost 115 games if allowed to play a full season), but I don't see them avoiding 90 losses. Let's take a look at what we will all be watching this summer(that is if the RSN system doesn't completely collapse and make it impossible for fans to watch games without a ticket to a game).
Catcher: Austin Hedges was brought in to continue to bridge the gap between Jacob Stallings and either Endy Rodriquez or Henry Davis, whichever one of them is the better catcher long term. Hedges brings in a career batting average of .189 and career OBP of .247. Yes, less than 1/4 of the times he goes up to bat will result in him getting on base. Fun shit from Cherington. Hedges and Endy are the only two on the 40 man roster. Jason Delay and Tyler Heineman are still here as well but are NRIs, so we will see which one of them is going to be the backup catcher while Endy is sent to the minors in order manipulate service time, oops, I mean continue to develop.
1B: I'm starting to think the Pirates have this philosophy that one way to get good is to bring in players from good teams. Ji-Man Choi fits the bill with that. He's a good enough hitter while it'd be best to ignore his defensive stats. Same with Carlos Santana, just ignore his defensive stats. And his .192 batting average with the Mariners last year. I guess he could work out if they stick with him batting against mostly LHP. Choi might be best served only batting against RHP. We will see if this works out for the Pirates at 1B. But once again, still looking for that permanent 1B since Stargell retired.
2B: Kevin Newman got the most starts at 2B last year. The Pirates wisely decided to not let Shelton waste our time with him at 2B and traded him for a relief pitcher from the Reds. That seems like a perfectly good trade return for someone like Newman. In his place steps Rodolfo Castro who looks like a lot more interesting and younger player than Kevin Newman. I expect that Castro will get most of the starts at 2B this year.
SS and 3B: O'Neil Cruz and Ke'Bryan Hayes. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Cruz is more fun to watch hit rather than field, but hopefully he will improve his fielding. Hayes is more fun to watch field than hit, but hopefully he will improve his hitting. I hope that the angry Yinzer fanbase will someday get over Hayes eating sunflower seeds during a play he had nothing to do with. I'm sure most of them want Michael Chavis and Kevin Newman back. Starting to remind me of all the dumbass fans wanting Jack Wilson and Doug Mintcabbage back almost a decade and a half ago.
OF: The Pirates entered 2023 with 2 outfielders who are mostly acceptable. Bryan Reynolds is the more acceptable one although it's anyone's guess about how long he will stay in Pittsburgh. Then there's Jack Suwinski who doesn't seem to do much away from PNC Park so he probably is begging the Pirates to keep him around (go check out his home-road splits on baseball-reference). With Ben Gamel leaving, the Pirates needed to make a big splash for the OF and they made it happen, bringing back a fan favorite, a guy who seemed to belong in a Pirates uniform: Connor Joe is finally back!!! Oh yeah and they brought back that Andrew McCutcheon guy too. I think that's how it's spelled. I put this post through the Bob Smizik spell check program so it should be right.
DH: I keep forgetting that the DH is in the NL now for good. I find it silly that they complain about the length of games but then add the DH to the NL games which seemed to make AL games take longer for most of my life. Anyways, we got Cutch, Choi and Santana to fill this role when they're not playing another position.
SP: It looks like the Pirates will be having a rotation of Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller, Rich Hill, JT Brubaker and Johan Oviedo. Keller and Brubaker are the only two guys who started the year in the Pirates rotation last year. Keller improved from 2021, Brubaker continues to be Brubaker. On good teams, they'd be a #5 starter or long relief guy. Contreras looked fine last year and will hopefully be a long term part of the rotation. Having just turned 23, it'll be interesting to see what he can do this year. Rich Hill is the oldest baseball player in the majors this year. The important thing is that he fills a need for now, which is eat innings while not giving up 10 runs a game. Johan Oviedo is the most interesting starting pitcher to me. Would love to see what he can do pitching a full season and I'm hoping he can make the St. Louis Ratbirds look stupid for trading him away. Just like Andy Van Slyke.
RP: There's Bednar and not much else. As I said earlier, I like the Kevin Newman trade and the return is Dauri Moreta. This guy had a terrible early part of the season, went back to the minors and then returned to pitch in the majors. He had a 9.88 ERA in the first month of the season. After returning in mid-June, he had a 2.92 ERA the rest of the year although he was sent back down in late July and didn't return for another month. If he has things figured out, it will be nice to see what he can do. Chase DeJong, Duane Underwood Jr. and Wil Crowe are all back too. So the bullpen hasn't had any major upgrades since early October.
Manager/Coaching staff: Shelton is back again. The guy who is barely a marginal improvement over Clint Hurdle. I'd like to think they could do better but who would be lining up to take this job? Don Kelly might be an improvement if allowed to manage, but I don't know if a team that losses a lot would just take an internal option when looking for a new manager. Andy Haines and Oscar Marin are still here as hitting and pitching coaches. So yeah, just more of the same old stuff here.
General Manager/Front Office: Ben Cherington is still here. He probably should be "on the hot seat". But instead he's just here hanging around and trying to improve the team with little evidence so far showing he's improved anything at all. The Pirates have a much improved farm system, but it's hard to tell if it will produce anything. Recent articles I've read place the Cardinals farm system ahead of the Pirates. So yeah, keep working on that I guess.
Ownership: A sucky ownership for a sucky team. Seems about right. He made himself the big hero in the return of Cutch. Yeah great, Bob. The real question is if this time he will spend money to keep the team good, if this rebuild actually works. Because he really didn't last time. Fool me once, shame on you. If you fool me, you can't get fooled again.
Commissioner: The bumbling idiot who looks like a guy who doesn't like baseball and doesn't care about anything other than making money. He's the perfect owner's bitch. And for 17 years now, they've done nothing about the MLB.TV blackouts. I'm still stuck with 6 teams blacked out here in Iowa, only two of which (Cubs and White Sox) are available on local cable. If you want to watch Cardinal, Brewers, Twins or Royals, be ready to shell out over $100 a month for DirecTV satellite. You can't even get it on DirecTV streaming. Ready for strikeouts and walks via pitch clock violations? Bring in some crappy NFL refs to call the delay of game penalties.
The rest of the NL Central: The Cardinals look like they won't miss a beat even after losing Pujols and Molina to retirement and are poised to take the division again, especially since Wainwright will be back and Willson Contreras is there now. Unless of course the Brewers get their shit together and start winning. The Cardinals also have one of the best farm systems in baseball because of course they fucking do. After the 2021 fire sale, the Cubs are not looking great. They lost their catcher but then got a big name shortstop and the 2019 NL MVP, which doesn't count for much. The Reds suck, like the Pirates. So hey, we aren't alone and they might have a worse owner than the Pirates. Or at least a dumber one who can't stop from alienating fans by saying stupid shit.
Pirates prediction: 72-90, 4th place ahead of the Reds, behind the Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs.