PITTSBURGH -- How much money do the Pirates technically have guaranteed toward next season’s roster? $0.
Of course, that will change quickly in the offseason. All but one of the Pirates listed below are arbitration eligible or pre-arbitration eligible, which means they aren’t on guaranteed contracts, but they are under team control and their salaries will be set before the new season begins.
The big question is: Who is in an interesting position with respect to their spot on the club next season? Despite how controllable Pittsburgh's options are as it tries to accelerate its contending window in the next season or two, there are a few in precarious situations entering the offseason.
Here’s a breakdown of the key contributors to the Pirates’ roster, where they stand this offseason and what may be on the horizon.
Jacob Stallings (second-year arbitration eligible): The expectation is that Stallings will remain the Pirates’ starting catcher in 2022, with his calling card of exceptional defense and a good relationship with the team’s young pitching staff.
Michael Perez (first-year arbitration eligible): Perez is controllable, and the Pirates’ top catching prospects are a ways away from being ready. Expect him to stick on the roster despite some trouble on offense in his scattered playing time.
Colin Moran (second-year arbitration eligible): Moran, who ended the year on a month-long skid, is not a long-term fit in the cleanup spot, sporting an average OPS+ for the Pirates (101). Plus, he’s at a position where multiple other players could plug and play. But he’s respected as a veteran, has as much power as anyone on the roster and is in some ways a player-coach in hitting.
Yoshi Tsutsugo (free agent after the World Series): The good news: Tsutsugo showed flashes of the strong player he was in Japan while with the Pirates. The bad news: He doesn’t fit defensively at many spots, he’s a free agent and there are 29 other teams who will give him a look due to his uptick.
Michael Chavis (pre-arbitration eligible): Chavis was acquired from the Red Sox and impressed in his short stint around a right elbow injury. It's safe to pencil him into the lineup next season.
Ke’Bryan Hayes (pre-arbitration eligible): It was not a great year for the young Hayes offensively, but he’s the fit of the future at third base. His Gold Glove-caliber defense remained steady when he was healthy in 2021.
Kevin Newman (first-year arbitration eligible): The Pirates’ shortstop situation is an interesting one. With a handful of players making a case to get time at the position in 2022, Newman is a potential non-tender candidate after a second consecutive down season at the plate (.574 OPS in 148 games). But his defense and Erik González’s election of free agency may change things.
Cole Tucker (pre-arbitration eligible): Tucker finally got a shot to show what he’s worked on at the Minor League complex and at Triple-A Indianapolis for an extended period in the final month of the season, when he posted a .720 OPS in 27 games over September and October. It would be hard to see him non-tendered, but he has to prove himself again this spring.
Wilmer Difo (third-year arbitration eligible): Difo was designated for assignment during the season then selected again shortly after. Despite his solid production off the bench, the Pirates’ crunch of young talent looking for opportunities may point to a parting, but it’s unclear as of now.
Anthony Alford (pre-arbitration eligible): Alford struck out so much to begin the year that he was designated for assignment before April had closed. He returned stronger in the second half, as he’s still looking to generate more extra-base hits and stolen bases, but it may have saved his Pirates career.
Ben Gamel (third-year arbitration eligible): Outside of Bryan Reynolds, Gamel was arguably the steadiest offensive contributor, as he rarely went through skids and consistently found ways to draw walks. But some top outfield prospects have reached Triple-A Indianapolis, so the corner outfield spots will be open competition.
Bryan Reynolds (first-year arbitration eligible): Reynolds: the most locked lock of all locks on the Pirates’ roster. The only question is whether anyone will challenge his hold on center field, thought that is unlikely right now.
Steven Brault (second-year arbitration eligible): After straining his left lat, Brault made seven starts this season before reaggravating the injury. He’s effective when healthy, but can he stay healthy for a full season?
JT Brubaker (pre-arbitration eligible): The first half was a sign of what Brubaker is capable of at his best, but by the end injuries and homer trouble hurt his season.
Wil Crowe (pre-arbitration eligible): Crowe made the most starts of any Pirate in 2021, and he has one of the deeper mixes of pitches in the rotation. But his results were inconsistent, so he still has to prove himself in his second full season.
Mitch Keller (pre-arbitration eligible): Keller said after the season that he knows nothing is going to be handed to him. He will come into Spring Training fighting for a rotation spot after a bumpy first full season.
Dillon Peters (pre-arbitration eligible): Peters doesn’t have high velocity, but he possesses a strong changeup that helped him have the best -- albeit short -- year of his career, with a 3.71 ERA in six starts. As a southpaw in a rotation with few lefty options, his odds are good of finding a fit, most likely in the back end.
Bryse Wilson (pre-arbitration eligible): The Pirates believe that Wilson, whom they acquired from the Braves in the Richard Rodríguez deal, has the stuff to be a Major League starter.
Anthony Banda (pre-arbitration eligible): Pitching coach Oscar Marin said Banda made a strong impression and worked himself into contention for different spots next season.
David Bednar (pre-arbitration eligible): Odds are that Bednar will be the closer next season, even if it's not as a traditional ninth-inning guy.
Sam Howard (pre-arbitration eligible): Howard was nasty in the first half, but he had trouble preventing runs and dealt with injuries in the second half. As a lefty, he should get time to return to earlier form.
Kyle Keller (pre-arbitration eligible): A 6.48 ERA in 32 appearances this season made Keller one of the relievers at risk of not cracking the Opening Day 2022 roster.
Chad Kuhl (third-year arbitration eligible): Kuhl had a 4.43 ERA in 14 starts, then had a 6.75 ERA in 14 relief appearances as the Pirates said they wanted to build him back up while seeing what his strong pitches -- especially his slider -- could do out of the bullpen.
Nick Mears (pre-arbitration eligible): Mears was given high-leverage opportunities, but he allowed a .386 opponents batting average in 21 such at-bats. He seems more likely as a middle reliever, but a 5+ ERA means he has much to prove.
Luis Oviedo (pre-arbitration eligible): Oviedo is likely headed to the Minors to begin the new season, when the Pirates intend to stretch the 2020 Rule 5 Draft pick into a starter.
Cody Ponce (pre-arbitration eligible): The Pirates have all but tabbed Ponce as a long-relief guy for the time, but Marin said they haven’t ruled him out as a starting option in the future.
Chasen Shreve (fourth-year arbitration eligible): Shreve is in his final year of arbitration after posting a 3.20 ERA in 2021 -- his best mark since his first full season in 2015 with the Yankees (3.09).
Chris Stratton (second-year arbitration eligible): The most versatile arm in the bullpen, Stratton has given the squad a veteran presence, and got closing opportunities late in the season.
Duane Underwood Jr. (pre-arbitration eligible): Underwood had a strong August (1.17 ERA in 15 1/3 innings) before his season ended due to right shoulder inflammation. A controllable arm that the Pirates traded for last offseason, he should pair with Ponce as the most-used long relievers.