Offseason Outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have money to spend this offseason, but their team has more holes than free agency can possibly fill.

Guaranteed Contracts

Contractual Options

  • Paul Maholm, unranked SP: $9.75MM club option with a $750K buyout
  • Chris Snyder, Type B catcher: $6.75MM club option with a $750K buyout
  • Ryan Doumit, Type B catcher: $7.25MM club option for 2012 and $8.25MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
  • Ronny Cedeno, unranked SS: $3MM club option with a $200K buyout

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The Pirates hired GM Neal Huntington in November 2007, and this year we finally saw light at the end of the tunnel.  The team won 72 games for the first time since '04, and was enough of a contender to justify acquiring Lee and Ludwick while taking on their salaries.  In September, the Pirates rewarded Huntington with a three-year extension that included a club option for 2015.

Huntington's first order of business will be making decisions on the options of Maholm, Snyder, Doumit, and Cedeno.  Snyder and Doumit are easy choices to decline.  Maholm's $9MM net price seemingly doesn't work for the Pirates, but they can check with other teams before making that decision official.  Just by virtue of his ability to play shortstop for 130 games Cedeno is worth $2.8MM in a technical sense, but the Pirates might prefer to use those starts in an attempt to find a long-term answer.  The safe move would be to pick up Cedeno's option but leave the starting job as an open competition.

Look for the Pirates to make more cuts at the non-tender deadline, with Pearce, Wood, and Ohlendorf on the bubble.  The five arbitration eligible Pirates relievers figure to stay, so the team's bullpen is in good shape for 2012. 

The Pirates have four favorites for the rotation, though the group features a low-strikeout trio of Karstens, Correia, and Morton after James McDonald.  SI's Jon Heyman says the team is looking for starting pitching.  I'd expect another stopgap acquisition like Correia.  The Pirates need bulk innings after their rotation provided the fewest in the National League in 2011.

The Pirates' search for a short-term first base solution led to $5MM spent on Overbay and a few million more on Lee.  The team has interest in signing Lee, otherwise Huntington can look into Casey Kotchman, James Loney, or outside-the-box options like Raul Ibanez or Josh Willingham.

Questions don't stop there:  the Pirates have needs at catcher, third base, and right field.  Huntington will likely be thinking short-term at catcher, so maybe someone like Ramon Hernandez or Rod Barajas could draw the Pirates' interest.  A new, more affordable contract for Snyder would also work.  Michael McKenry and Jason Jaramillo are internal options.

The Pirates hope Alvarez can shake off his awful season, and again, they won't be adding any big names at his position.  Right field is likely to be handled internally, as Alex Presley has earned a shot and Jones may still be in the mix.  The Pirates have money to spend and needs to fill, but I'm still not sure free agency offers much for them.  They could afford Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, but the best remaining years of those prime free agents will not coincide with the Pirates' window of contention.

The importance of Huntington's tinkering pales in comparison to the importance of locking up Andrew McCutchen.  The center fielder has a case for a six-year deal in excess of $50MM.  Additionally, the Pirates also have interest in locking up Neil Walker, though that would be a much smaller, team-friendly type of deal.

The first two-thirds of the Pirates' season was different and fun, and it resulted in a 20% increase in attendance.  Otherwise, the playoff bid didn't change much, as the team faded well before the stretch-run and is still is years away from transforming into a serious threat.  The team is still trying to get to .500 for the first time since 1992, though I don't think .500 should be any kind of goal.  Huntington has expressed a willingness to trade prospects, but I'm guessing he'd only do so to fill a long-term need.  It's taken too long, but he's building the team the right way.  It would be a shame to see hard draft slotting instituted, as it would severely limit the Pirates' best route to sustained success.

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16 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates"

3 years 10 months ago

They need to get rid of Huntington and promote Ty Brooks to GM!

3 years 10 months ago

They need to get rid of Huntington?

Really..please explain?

3 years 10 months ago

Huntington may have expressed a willingness to trade prospects, but the next one he trades will be the first one.

3 years 10 months ago

Its funny someone said that because Ty Brooks would actually be a very interesting option.

And c’mon guys, wake up. I have been on the Huntington bandwagon for a while, but I’m really starting to question him. After 4 years and coming up on his fifth year, where we are is just not acceptable.

3 years 10 months ago

Where did you expect the Pirates to be? Huntington took control of a small to mid market team with a weak farm system and a culture of losing that goes back more then a decade.In a division with two superior run franchises, The Cardinals and The Brewers,a big market franchise in The Cubs, and  franchise that has draft a hell of a lot better in The Reds, I can’t see The Pirates who were far behind the eight ball when Huntington started being any better than what they are.

3 years 10 months ago

I personally can’t wait for the Pirates to return to respectability. They were so dominant prior to the early 90’s.

eugene tober
3 years 10 months ago

The Buccos haven’t been a dominant team since the 1970’s in the NL East.

3 years 10 months ago

What about the runs with Bonds and Bonilla in the late 80s?

eugene tober
3 years 10 months ago

Maybe I’m just nostalgic but baseball was just more competitive in the ’70s. Because there way too many  teams now.  

3 years 10 months ago

they had good runs in 90, 91, 92

3 years 10 months ago

sign prince!!!  we need the power and the mojo.  signing him shows we want to win. we get him more guys will become interested.

c–snyder or another FA

get 1 free agent pitcher and this team wins central next year.

3 years 10 months ago

I’ve been saying this for a while now and i will repeat it again: EXTEND ANDREW McCUTCHEN NOW!!
The Pirates can be a solid team if:
Pedro Alvarez can find his stroke. Our team was productive when he was on fire at the end of 2010.
Resign Paul Maholm
Resign Derek Lee
Resign Ryan Doumit to be Starting Catcher (he was hitting great down the stretch, then trade him at the deadline)
Add another Starting Pitcher because Ross Ohlendorf wasn’t effective this year (too much risk; wilson and sabathia are unlikely, but we can pick up a #2 guy.

3 years 10 months ago

“It’s taken too long”?

I don’t think there’s any question that Huntington’s evaluation of major league talent can be improved (see: Lyle Fecking Overbay, Aki Iwamura, and in a sense, Jose Bautista), but the fact is the Pirates gambled and lost on several young players (Andy Laroche, Lastings Milledge, Jeff Clement, Brandon Moss, etc.).  Sometimes highly-touted prospects don’t work out; it’s just more noticeable when free agent acquisitions (Ramon Vazquez, Ryan Church, Matt Diaz, and the aforementioned Overbay) likewise flame out.

3 years 10 months ago

FA’s that make sense for the Bucs are players that provide depth and rebound candidates on the cheap… Kubel has power, is still in his 20s, can play both LF and RF.  Bedard would be a nice fit in Black’n’Gold if he was able to stay healthy, and would help solidify the rotation with a higher K ratio than any current SPs, plus the likelihood of a statistical bump from a transition to the NL.  Carlos Guillen is a dark horse choice, but he possesses a solid bat, can play all IF positions, and would come at a reasonable price.  I like Pittsburgh’s internal options at Catcher, but a cheap gamble on bringing Navarro back to the NL would be a low risk/high reward move if they wanted to move Jaramillo.

3 years 9 months ago


3 years 9 months ago

Frankly, I’d like to see them go after someone young and blocked at his position, like the kid in Cincy, (excuse the spelling, because it’s probably wrong) Yonder Alonso.  If I’m not mistaken, he’s a true firstbaseman being forced to play the outfield because of Votto.  Settle for Barmes at SS because the position is so thin.  Get one inning-eater #2/3 starter who can get 6 or 7 strikeouts a game, every game.  Then wait for the kids, with fingers crossed.  I’m still ticked off that they didn’t take the SS Machado (again, spelling?), who some compared to Alex Rodriguez when they had the chance.  Pitchers are so risky.