The Pirates have added a pair of arms to their rotation this offseason by signing Martin Perez and acquiring Marco Gonzales, and they also just completed their long-expected deal to re-sign Andrew McCutchen. During this morning’s media availability to discuss the McCutchen deal, Cherington noted that his club hopes to add more starting pitching (Twitter link via Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
The free-agent market still contains a bevy of veteran starters who could likely be had on relatively affordable short-term deals — James Paxton, Jakob Junis, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Noah Syndergaard and Spencer Turnbull among them. However, Mackey reported yesterday that a trade for rotation help was a likelier outcome. Of even greater note, he suggests that the Bucs could change pace at this stage of the building process, looking to consolidate several young players into a trade for a rotation arm with multiple years of club control remaining.
For a Pirates team that has far more frequently been the team trading away a veteran for a package of several young players, it’s a notable departure (and, for fans, likely a breath of fresh air). In particular, the Bucs have a glut of infield options on the 40-man roster but little place to put them all — assuming Ke’Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz have the left side of the diamond locked down for the foreseeable future, that is.
Nick Gonzales, Jared Triolo, Liover Peguero, Alika Williams and Ji Hwan Bae could all factor into what looks like an open audition at second base, but there aren’t enough at-bats for that group to go around. The Bucs aren’t going to get a high-end starter for one of those players alone, but any of the bunch could conceivably be packaged with other young talent to bring in a more immediate starting pitching upgrade.
Much of the focus on the pitching trade market has been on one-year rental options like Shane Bieber, Corbin Burnes and the since-traded/extended Tyler Glasnow, but there are other arms with multiple years of club control who could potentially be available. Dylan Cease is the likeliest such pitcher to change hands, but each of Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, Michael Kopech, Brady Singer, Jose Urquidy and (to a lesser extent) Framber Valdez has been mentioned in trade rumors of some degree dating back to the summer deadline. The Mariners are also an oft-speculated club with pitching to spare, though president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has downplayed the possibility of moving one of his many interesting young arms. There are surely other names being discussed throughout the league.
Regardless of how the rotation pursuit plays out, the Pirates could have multiple moves yet in store. Cherington also indicated that his club might explore the market for catching help, which is only natural after the unfortunate news that Endy Rodriguez will miss the 2024 season following Tommy John surgery. Former No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis could be in line for a full-time audition now, and the Pirates also have also signed Ali Sanchez to a big league deal. Jason Delay is on hand as a reasonably experienced backup, too. But if Davis struggles and/or there are injuries among that trio, the depth doesn’t look great.
As is the case in any given offseason, there’s no shortage of veteran free agents who could be had on a short-term deal. The trade market also bears a handful of options, ranging from change-of-scenery candidates (e.g. Joey Bart) to underwater contracts (e.g. Christian Vazquez) to out-of-options players who may not fit their current club’s Opening Day roster (e.g. Ben Rortvedt).