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Inbox: Time for Bucs to make a splash?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers questions from Pirates fans
MLB.com

Will this be the year that the Pirates' front office goes for it and makes a splash with a free-agent signing and/or a big trade?
-- Anton H., Chattanooga, Tenn.

That's what fans want to see after back-to-back losing seasons. An "all-in" move is bound to generate interest, which might spark the Pirates' declining attendance. But I see no reason to believe this will be the year the Bucs make that kind of "splashy" trade or signing.

Will this be the year that the Pirates' front office goes for it and makes a splash with a free-agent signing and/or a big trade?
-- Anton H., Chattanooga, Tenn.

That's what fans want to see after back-to-back losing seasons. An "all-in" move is bound to generate interest, which might spark the Pirates' declining attendance. But I see no reason to believe this will be the year the Bucs make that kind of "splashy" trade or signing.

So much of their roster is set to return, so much of their core is under control and so much of their projected payroll is already accounted for. If they hope to contend, the most important thing they can do is get more out of the talent they already have.

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Their offseason hinges on whether or not they trade Andrew McCutchen and whether or not Jung Ho Kang is granted a work visa. If they keep McCutchen, I'd expect only minor moves -- perhaps a fourth outfielder and bullpen depth. The loss of Kang might prompt the Bucs to upgrade their infield.

As for impact free agents, it's always going to be a matter of salary and risk vs. reward. They'd have to commit a huge percentage of their payroll to one player in order to outbid big-market/high-payroll clubs. In this market, "big" moves typically come via trades.

But considering the Pirates' current obligations and constraints, addition would first require subtraction. General manager Neal Huntington would probably have to move one of their core players -- someone like McCutchen, Francisco Cervelli or Josh Harrison -- in order to take on any sort of significant salary.

Huntington and Co. could get creative to upgrade or overhaul the roster, but given their resources, I think most of their moves will be on the margins.

Is the Pirates' rotation still developing, or has mostly everyone already hit their highest potential? They seem a little bit too unpredictable to be able to contend.
-- Logan A., Slippery Rock, Pa.

Still developing. Everyone in the clubhouse agreed their rotation will be better next year based on their experience and development this season.

Gerrit Cole showed encouraging durability and incredible stuff with mixed results. Jameson Taillon's season was interrupted by cancer. Ivan Nova was brilliant for 3 1/2 months, then brutal in the second half. Tyler Glasnow remains a wild card, but you have to be encouraged by Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl's second-half reinvention and Steven Brault's Triple-A/September success.

For all their ups and downs, the Pirates' 4.47 rotation ERA ranked seventh in the National League. Even with the 60 homers allowed by Cole and Nova, they permitted only 116 on the season -- third-fewest in the NL. Amid their inconsistency, the starters showed signs of promise.

Video: PIT@MIA: Nova fans seven in a three-hit shutout

With Cole, Taillon, Williams and Kuhl onboard, and Glasnow and Brault pushing for a spot in the rotation, and Nick Kingham and Mitch Keller in the wings, is there any chance the Bucs will dump Nova's salary to use the money for a free-agent hitter?
-- Jeff K., Lancaster, Pa.

That would definitely free up enough payroll to add elsewhere, but I'm not expecting it. If Glasnow had established himself or Taillon had repeated his rookie season, it might be easier to move Nova. As it stands, they have a ton of depth, but very little proven depth.

Cole was their only starter to throw 200 innings. Williams was the only one to post an adjusted ERA+ more than five percent above the league average. Nova, despite his downturn, was second on the team with 187 innings in 31 starts. He was outstanding from August 2016 through July 2017, and his salary ($9.167 million each year for '18 and '19 seaons) remains reasonable.

The Pirates will likely move at least one young starter into the bullpen, and while they were fortunate to only need seven starters this season, depth can disappear in a hurry. With a young pitching staff, there's value in Nova's dependability -- especially if they think they'll see more of the first-half version of Nova in 2018.

Shouldn't the Pirates at least make an effort to keep John Jaso for at least one more year? Personally, I feel he is more valuable than given credit for.
-- Joe S., Owensboro, Ky.

Joe, I've got some bad news for you: Jaso has likely played his last Major League Baseball game. As he told us after Game 162, he's leaning toward retirement. He seems ready to move on to the next phase of his life: a "simple" existence on his sailboat.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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