Cherington talks youth movement, future

July 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Justice delos Santos’ Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There’s no month quite as frenetic as July.

There’s the All-Star Game festivities. There’s the three-day MLB Draft. There’s the Trade Deadline. Then, with the Pirates in particular, there’s the decision to promote Top-10 prospects Endy Rodríguez, and  to the big leagues.

After Paul Skenes’ introductory press conference on Tuesday, general manager Ben Cherington discussed the team’s youth movement, the Trade Deadline and the status of a certain 6-foot-7 shortstop.


A year ago, the Double-A Altoona Curve featured Peguero, Priester, Rodríguez, Henry Davis, Nick Gonzales, Carmen Mlodzinski and Jared Triolo. On Monday, they suited up for the black and gold together for the first time, an important step in the Pirates’ rebuild.

The flow of players who have debuted in the past month and a half has been dizzying. Six of the seven aforementioned players made their debuts. Peguero made his debut last season, but considering it was only a one-game cup of coffee, this is the first time he’ll get a true extended run.

In response to the rash of promotions, Cherington was asked if there was an intended message. Cherington simply said the team is “trying to get better.”

“We believe there [were] players in Indy that had done enough to earn the callup and help us be better,” he said. “That’s all it is. Nothing intended beyond that.”

Making the Majors is one thing, but performing in the Majors is another. As best evidenced by Mitch Keller, progress is seldom linear. The aforementioned rookies will all have their own development curves, and Cherington emphasized that there are bumps and learning curves to be experienced.

“There’s a lot of young players on this team,” Cherington said. “I think we have more games played by 24-and-under players [than] any team in baseball. Not every one of those young players is going to improve and advance in the same way, but we need some of them to. We need a good chunk. We need to give opportunity in order to see if that can happen. I think we’re seeing improvement. I really believe in the staff’s ability to help us do that and we need more.”

Trade Deadline

With the MLB Draft in the rearview mirror, Pittsburgh’s brass will now, for the most part, shift its attention to the Trade Deadline. With a 41-54 record, the Pirates will likely be sellers.

“We’ve still got some time to go. Unfortunately, it’s been a difficult patch and that’s hard,” Cherington said. “I believe we can play better than we have. I believe that the team is capable of playing better. Talk is cheap; we have to do it. We’ll see where it lands us in a couple weeks. Wherever we are on July 31, it’s not going to change, bigger picture, our focus. We’re trying to get good as fast as we possibly can and that will guide our decisions.”

Similar to the last two seasons, the Pirates employ several veterans on one-year deals who stand out as trade candidates. That list includes first baseman Carlos Santana, designated hitter Ji Man Choi, left-hander Rich Hill and catcher Austin Hedges. Andrew McCutchen fits the description of a trade candidate as well, but after an emotional homecoming, McCutchen stated his desire to win in Pittsburgh amidst trade rumors.

“I don’t think about it,” Santana said. “If something happens, I cannot control it. The only thing I can control is how prepared I am to play every day. If it happens, I’m fine. This is baseball. … I like it here. I’ve had a great experience here.”

Teams will typically get lumped into “buyer” or “seller” categories, but Cherington pointed out that clubs don’t definitely have to be one or the other.

“It doesn’t have to be black and white, binary, whatever,” Cherington said. “You can do a combination of things. One might look a certain way, one might look like another, but it adds up in a way that pushes us forward and gets us closer to being competitive in the way we want to. It could be that. It could be any number of things. We just don’t know. I think what we need to do is stay open-minded and really think about where the team is right now, what players do we have, either already on the team or in close proximity. What are the gaps that we have between where we are and being good? And can we use the Deadline as a way to fill those.”

Cruz's timing

doesn’t appear on track to return from his fractured left fibula in August, and the question of when he will return remains up in the air.

“I don’t know exactly what date we’ll see him,” Cherington said. “This is a significant injury that he’s recovering from and he is recovering and he’s doing really well. As you all see, he’s starting to do baseball activity. There’s the physical recovery and then there’s getting back into baseball skills and doing things the way he wants to do them with an ankle that went through a significant injury. So, there’s been adjustments along the way to the timing.”

As far as baseball activities go, Cruz has resumed playing light catch and taking grounders while on his knees, but not much else. He’s not running and he’s not hitting. Cruz will require a rehab assignment when he’s ready to return to game activities. The question of where and the duration are both yet to be determined.

Cherington expressed his belief that Cruz will play in Major League games this season, whether it’s in August or September.