Bucs facing big roster decisions this winter

November 3rd, 2022

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With the World Series nearing completion and the offseason around the corner, now is a good time to go over a couple of logistical questions.

The offseason, of course, is far more than just signing free agents and making trades. Arbitration? Non-tenders? Rule 5? Let’s break it down here:

Which players are free agents? Will the Pirates re-sign them?
The two main Pirates who will enter free agency are and .

Beginning with Gamel, it seems very unlikely that a reunion is in store. With a plethora of young left-handed outfielders, the Pirates will likely let Gamel walk and stick with their in-house options.

A reunion with Pérez, however, appears far more likely. Pérez was praised by coaches and players alike for his veteran leadership and ability to guide the pitching staff. The catcher was limited to 21 games due to a season-ending hamstring injury in early May, but remained around the team and continued to provide guidance. Along with his value as a player and veteran, Pérez could serve as a bridge to the future as Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez make their way through the Minors.

Which players are arbitration-eligible?
The Pirates have six arbitration-eligible players: Mitch Keller, Kevin Newman, JT Brubaker, Robert Stephenson, Duane Underwood Jr. and Miguel Andújar. Newman and Stephenson are entering their second year of arbitration while Keller, Brubaker, Underwood Jr. and Andújar will reach their first. Newman and Stephenson received $1.95 million and $1.28 million, respectively, in their first year of arbitration.

Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?
The prospects who are guaranteed to be added to the 40-man roster are Endy Rodriguez, Mike Burrows and Malcom Nunez.

With several non-tender candidates (see below), adding those three to the 40-man roster should not be difficult. From there, decisions will need to be made. Among other prospects who will be Rule 5-eligible are catcher/outfielder Blake Sabol, outfielder Matt Gorski, infielders Andres Alvarez and Jared Triolo and right-hander Tahnaj Thomas, all of whom performed well last season and could even factor into next year.

Going down the list even further, infielders Aaron Shackelford and Dariel Lopez, outfielders Matt Fraizer and Rodolfo Nolasco and right-handed pitchers Cody Bolton and J.C. Flowers will also be Rule 5-eligible.

When is the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?
Nov. 15.

Who might be a non-tender candidate?
With Rule 5 protections and free agency in mind, there are a couple of players the Pirates could non-tender should they need to clear space. That list includes catchers Ali Sánchez and Zack Collins, left-hander Eric Stout, righties Jeremy Beasley and Miguel Yajure, as well as infielder Hoy Park. Newman might be a non-tender candidate if the Pirates want to lean into their youth, but he could have value on the trade market as well.

When is the non-tender deadline?
Nov. 18.

What kind of help do they need in free agency? Whom might they target?
The Pirates’ biggest need in free agency is at first base. Pittsburgh’s first basemen combined to hit .206/.264/.337 with 17 home runs in 2022. By season’s end, the Pirates didn’t have a primary first baseman on their roster. On the free-agency front, Jesús Aguilar and Carlos Santana are a pair of veterans who will hit the open market and may fit Pittsburgh’s budget. Miguel Sanó could be another option, as the Twins will likely buy out his $14 million club option, making him a free agent as well.

Along with first base, the Pirates could also stand to add arms in both the rotation and bullpen, namely veterans who can serve as mentors as younger players come into their own.