In one week, pitchers and catchers will trickle into Bradenton for the first workout of the year and while the Pirates have stocked up on some new talent, there are several players that fans would consider “valuable” for the team.
Before we take a look at who could make an impact this spring, let’s first look at the term “value.” In recent years, the Pirates have brought in veteran leaders who were valued for their clubhouse leadership. Last season, it was Rich Hill, Carlos Santana and Austin Hedges, all of whom were cited for making an impression on the younger players.
Meanwhile, the organization brought in several notable players over the 2010s to make an impact ON the field, like Russell Martin, A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, and Corey Dickerson.
Now the Pirates are on the verge of opening their competitive window and it looks like they’ve tried bringing in players who are a hybrid of on- and off-field leaders.
But who among them could make the biggest impacts?
The 32-year-old Perez is coming off a decent season with the Texas Rangers, but his impact could really be felt off the field.
Having played with the Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins over the course of his career, Perez was an affordable rotation piece that could help lead the young core by disclosing how his past teams - especially Texas - can reach the World Series, even if their payroll doesn’t resemble anything like the juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers.
That leadership starts in Spring Training. Rehashing Hill from an earlier paragraph, his impact was immediately felt in Bradenton, especially with Johan Oviedo.
Hill was teaching the latter how to have more command on his off-speed pitches and it showed itself during the season.
Perez could do the same with guys like Quinn Priester and Roansy Contreras, both of whom struggled with command last year and could benefit from veteran guidance.
Once a foe, Chapman still has plenty in the tank and could be the final key piece for the Pirates’ bullpen headed into 2024.
After posting a 3.09 ERA in 2023 between Texas and Kansas City, Chapman slots in as the Pirates’ possible seventh or eighth inning guy but can also come in for a spot save every now and then.
He still generates whiffs and ground balls over 40 percent of the time and while he’s no longer in his prime, he can get his four-seam fastball over 100 miles per hour.
Some platforms, including iTalk Studios, believe Chapman’s addition could go a long way for the Pirates.
While more of an on-field impact, Chapman could bring a winning mentality to the clubhouse as well as different perspectives, like winning several world championships and playing on a rival at the height of the Pirates/Reds rivalry in the early 2010s.
And if the Pirates don’t fare well in July, he could net a decent return in a trade.
I mean, did you expect it to be anyone else?
Cutch would not have re-signed with the Pirates if they weren’t trying to win, and that’s a fact. Given that he was with the last group of playoff teams between 2013-15, Cutch knows what it takes to get to the postseason and with a team of scrappy players to boot.
From day one of Spring Training, Cutch is going to instil a winning mentality in the Pirates’ locker room... that is, if he hasn’t already.
It’s possible that Cutch will gather the veteran leaders (Perez, Chapman, Tellez) and some of the returning players (Reynolds, Hayes, Suwinski) and get everyone on the same page before things get underway. Implementing the “underdog mentality,” maybe even bringing up the fact that everyone thinks the Pirates will finish near, or at, the bottom of the NL Central.
Heading towards the tail end of his career, Cutch wants to win and with his original team. His value extends farther than what he brings to the field. His experience, winning mentality and ties to Pittsburgh makes him the MOST valuable Pirate headed into Spring Training.
But that’s what I think... tell me who YOU think will be valuable headed into 2024?
Who do you think will be the most valuable Pirates player headed into Spring Training?
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