Here's where Pirates stand ahead of 2022

March 11th, 2022

Now that the new collective bargaining agreement has been finalized, it’s time to play ball.

In November and December, the Pirates made a lot of moves to get ready for the 2022 season, one they hope sees the growth of some of their top prospects into big leaguers as they continue to prioritize player development. Some moves brought in established MLB talent, while others sent well-known Bucs to the free-agent market or other teams.

Let’s look back at what Pittsburgh accomplished and what may remain before the team begins its new season.

What deals have already gotten done?
From the free-agent market, the Pirates acquired two big pieces for their 2022 battery: Left-hander José Quintana and catcher Roberto Pérez, both earning one-year deals. Quintana fits the mold of a Tyler Anderson-style acquisition as a veteran who can mentor the younger pitchers, hold his own while covering innings and could be used as a trade piece at the Deadline. They also re-signed Yoshi Tsutsugo, who was briefly a free agent but will now be the team’s primary first baseman.

Pérez’s acquisition by the Pirates was contingent upon the club dealing catcher and clubhouse leader Jacob Stallings to the Marlins for three players. It is the lone trade the Pirates have made this offseason.

The only other deals that affected the MLB roster were the waiver claims of outfielder Greg Allen (Yankees) and right-hander Eric Hanhold (Orioles), though Pittsburgh was active in seeking Minor League free agents.

Which of their free agents have already signed elsewhere?
Shortstop Erik González signed a Minor League deal with the Marlins. Right-hander Enyel De Los Santos, who pitched in only seven games for the Pirates, signed with the Guardians. Right-hander Cody Ponce, a swingman option in 2021, has agreed to terms with the Nippon-Ham Fighters, per reports out of Japan.

The list of free agents yet to sign is long: Steven Brault, Trevor Cahill, Taylor Davis, Chase De Jong, Wilmer Difo, Kyle Keller, Chad Kuhl, Colin Moran, Shelby Miller, Chasen Shreve and Shea Spitzbarth.

What are the biggest remaining needs, and who might they target to fill these holes?
There are plenty of positions the Pirates could strengthen, but only one that is a clear need: Backup catcher. General manager Ben Cherington said Michael Perez, the backup catcher in 2021, will enter Spring Training in competition for that spot. Jamie Ritchie, who was signed to a Minor League deal, is also in that battle. Meanwhile, Cherington said “we’ll keep looking” for other options.

Another corner outfielder could bolster that rotation, but the pickup of Allen, alongside Ben Gamel and Anthony Alford, gives the Bucs a serviceable group.

Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?
There are a lot of them, so it’s easy to say yes, there’s a chance. But it likely won’t be with any of the established players who are looking for consistent playing time; Tsutsugo was the only player in that category expected to re-sign. Kuhl will look for a starting role with another team, and Moran will likely be blocked out by Tsutsugo and the first-base options the Pirates have developed through their focus on positional flexibility. I’d expect any further re-signings from this free-agent group to be on Minor League deals, similar to Clay Holmes’ situation before last season.

Are there any players they are looking to trade?
It’s doubtful that there are. If so, they’re probably on the smaller side. The Stallings trade will likely be the biggest swap the Pirates will make this offseason, though they will listen to almost any offer. The player with the most trade value, Bryan Reynolds, is so valuable and has so many years left on his contract that the haul for him would have to be astronomical. Kevin Newman hasn’t hit well enough for him to be a strong trade chip. Most of these options from last season have already been traded or are now free agents.

What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
There are only four players left on the roster who were arbitration-eligible heading into the offseason: Gamel, Newman, Reynolds and Chris Stratton. Gamel and Newman agreed to one-year deals in November to avoid arbitration, while Reynolds and Stratton were tendered contracts.

MLB Trade Rumors projects that Reynolds will get $4.5 million in arbitration, which would make him the second-highest-paid player on the team behind Pérez ($5 million). Stratton is expected to get around $2.2 million.

How many open 40-man spots are on the roster?