Pirates 'comfortable,' come what may in 2018

Club could eye contention or focus on rebuild next season

December 14th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Pirates arrived at the Winter Meetings on Sunday night, it was unclear whether they did so as buyers, sellers or something in between. As they hurried home Thursday morning, their status is still up in the air.

The Bucs made a handful of minor moves during the Winter Meetings, claiming infielder off waivers, then acquiring two young relievers in the Rule 5 Draft. Most of their time and energy was spent evaluating the market for potential trade candidates like , Josh Harrison and .

"Our general mindset remains the same. Our goal is to get this club back to the postseason as consistently and frequently as possible," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Depending upon what we're able to do in this market, that goal may be '18, that goal may be '19. We'll see where we're able to go."

What's next

At some point, the Pirates must pick a lane. Are they building around McCutchen and Cole and going for it next season? Or are they dealing their assets, taking a step back in 2018 and looking to contend in '19 and beyond?

"We're still working through both, and we're comfortable being able to go in either direction," Huntington said. "The market has been awfully slow to develop, and that continues."

The market for relievers took off this week, but the activity involving starting pitchers and position players has been slower. That is one reason the Pirates continue to wait.

The Yankees and Twins, both rich in young talent, are among the teams rumored to be interested in Cole. McCutchen should draw varying levels of interest from any team looking for an outfielder, including the Giants, Dodgers and Blue Jays. Harrison could help just about any team as a super-utility man.

If those trade talks present the opportunity to acquire a haul of controllable prospects who supplement their existing young core, the Pirates will deal their veterans and focus on 2019. If other clubs' offers don't meet their demands, they can add around the margins this offseason and take one more shot with what they have next season.

Huntington ruled out the idea of standing pat and reevaluating their situation before the Trade Deadline. The Pirates will preach patience for now, but they won't be idle all offseason.

"If we believe our best impact on this organization is to roll this club back out for '18, the goal would be to win. It wouldn't be a toe in the water to see where we are in July," Huntington said. "The goal would be, 'Let's let this club roll out and be as good as it can be.' If we're in a position to add in July, that would be fantastic."

Rule 5 Draft

The Pirates acquired a pair of hard-throwing right-handed relievers, Jordan Milbrath and Nick Burdi. The Bucs selected Milbrath from the Indians with the eighth pick, then dealt $500,000 in international bonus pool money to the Phillies in exchange for Burdi, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't pitch until late 2018. Pittsburgh lost no prospects in the Major League phase.

GM's bottom line

"It's all about maximizing our opportunity to get back to the postseason and then stay there as many times as we can with a chance to win. That's the decision process we're working through right now, and that's a good spot to be in. We're not looking at 'all-in' or 'all-out' because we believe this is a good group to build around. Is that focus '18, or is it a little beyond that?" -- Huntington