Cherington on 1st year, Bucs' changes, future

Pirates looking to fill farm director vacancy after reassignment

September 30th, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- When reflecting on his first season as the Pirates’ general manager, Ben Cherington referenced a famous quote from President Dwight Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

“Been reminded more than ever this year that it’s about planning and not plans,” Cherington said Wednesday. “Planning is something that adjusts every day. You just do all the time. If you try to set plans in a year like this, you’re probably going to be redoing them the next year.”

No, this wasn’t an ideal environment for Cherington to begin the process of building what he hopes will be a more competitive club in Pittsburgh. The Pirates had fewer games to assess their Major League roster, no games to evaluate their Minor League system and an unending list of challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. They finished with a 19-41 record, saw many of their established hitters struggle and were beset early and often by pitching injuries.

So, what will Cherington take from this season?

“I suppose that we’re always searching for more answers. We’re always trying to learn, and there’s never a season where you learn as much as you want to. You’ve just got to keep learning,” Cherington said, hearkening back to the tone he set during his first offseason on the job. “So this was a different kind of season, but every team faced the same thing, and I do think we learned a lot from watching our guys and working together. We learned a lot in watching the team, how the team finished up and competed there during the last few days of the season. We learned a lot. We’re still learning a lot this week as we go through exit meetings. The learning will continue all offseason.”

Cherington and manager Derek Shelton touched on a number of big-picture issues during a 38-minute Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday. Here are some of the most newsworthy topics they covered:

Front office movement
Cherington didn’t overhaul the Pirates’ front office last offseason, making it a priority to evaluate Pittsburgh’s existing personnel rather than rushing to clean house. There will be changes this winter, though, specifically in the club’s player development department.

The Pirates reassigned senior director of Minor League operations Larry Broadway to an unspecified role within the organization, according to sources, so they are looking for a new farm director to help improve their player development process. There could be more “reorganization,” as Cherington put it, in other areas of their baseball operations department as well.

“Larry and I have talked about that, and [I] look forward to working with him. He’s got a ton of talent. We’ve talked about, maybe this is an opportunity to start doing some different things for the Pirates, so we’re in the middle of that conversation,” Cherington said. “I would expect there would be some change in the leadership in player development.”

Coaching staff changes?
After the Pirates’ final game of the season, Shelton said he didn’t expect any changes to his coaching staff. Shelton said Wednesday that he and Cherington will continue to talk about their staff, noting only that they “asked all of our coaches to go home and reflect after this season.”

“I’m really encouraged by a lot of what went on with our Major League staff,” Cherington said. “We’re still in the middle of reflecting on the season, talking to staff about their own reflections on the season and just looking for ways forward.”

It’s possible that bench coach Don Kelly could be of interest to the Tigers, who have a managerial opening after Ron Gardenhire retired. So could assistant hitting coach Mike Rabelo, who served as a Minor League manager for Detroit.

Draft order
While the order for the 2021 MLB Draft has not yet been set by Commissioner Rob Manfred, the Pirates expect they will receive the No. 1 pick after finishing the season with the Majors’ worst record. Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker is widely considered the top prospect in the 2021 Draft class.

“We haven't gotten any official word on Draft order. I don't have any reason to believe that it wouldn't be based on reverse order of record,” Cherington said.

Prospect camp
About 50 Pirates prospects are taking part in an instructional league-style camp at the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla., and Cherington said they hope to begin playing games around mid-October. The Pirates have done their best to create a bubble-type atmosphere, with everyone involved staying in the Pirate City dormitories.

“It’s really important for us. We appreciate the support to do that. Not every team’s doing it, and we are, and that means a lot,” Cherington said. “It’s also just a great opportunity to connect with guys and make sure we’re in a good spot going into the offseason with some really important young players, that we have a really clear picture of where they are going into the offseason, whether that’s a new Draft pick or international player or someone that’s been in the organization.”

Cruz update
Asked about shortstop prospect , Cherington said the Pirates have “no reason to believe he wouldn’t be available for Spring Training, full participant.” Cruz, 21, was involved in a fatal crash in his native Dominican Republic earlier this month in which his car collided with a motorcycle, and all three people on the motorcycle were killed.

“It’s a tragic accident, and our hearts go out to the victims. And ‘accident’ is the word to emphasize. There is no indication or any piece of evidence that we’ve seen that suggests it’s anything but an accident,” Cherington said. “Oneil is a young player and a young person now that has been through something very traumatic, and we’re going to continue to work with him, support him through it. He’s been incredibly cooperative throughout this, done everything that’s been asked of him, so that’s all the information we have right now.”