Breaking down Bucs' non-tender candidates

November 29th, 2021

The Pirates are not in a position to go after the premium free agents. Their participation in the Hot Stove may be limited this offseason. But there are still plenty of important roster moves to be made, and maybe none more interesting than those ahead of the non-tender deadline on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh’s top prospects moved up the ladder last season after a year without Minor League action due to the pandemic, and those awaited arrivals in the Steel City will require roster space. One way to clear that is to non-tender more experienced players, and there are a few candidates on the Bucs’ roster.

For this preview, let’s stick to the arbitration-eligible players, as there are plenty of arguments to be made in this group alone. Listed alongside their cases are their MLB Trade Rumors salary projections in arbitration.

MLBTR projection: $3 million

Like Brault, Kuhl has only pitched more than 100 innings in one season, but he had a lengthy layoff after having Tommy John surgery in 2018. Last season, the 29-year-old right-hander was on pace to get there, but a positive COVID test and a move to the bullpen afterward limited his total. He posted a 4.43 ERA as a starter, which is right around the 4.44 ERA for his career. The Pirates need innings, and Kuhl could easily give those to the team.

My guess: Tendered

MLBTR projection: $2.2 million

There are seven players on the Pirates’ 40-man roster who have played at least one game at the MLB level in the middle infield, and two more who will be waiting in the wings at Double-A or higher. In the face of such competition, Newman has not made a strong case for a starting job due to his limited bat. His .574 OPS marked the only sub-.600 OPS by any qualified Major League player last season, following a .556 OPS in 44 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The silver lining is his defense, which earned him finalist honors for an NL Gold Glove Award, but there are higher-upside players on the depth chart.

My guess: Non-tendered

MLBTR projection: $2.2 million

Stratton did not get off to a strong start last season, with 10 runs (nine earned) allowed in 13 1/3 innings during April. However, he morphed into one of the Pirates’ most versatile bullpen arms, capable of covering multiple innings or closing -- and in one case, both (a 3 2/3-inning save on June 4). Given how poorly some of the Pirates’ relievers did -- especially down the stretch with a 4.85 ERA from August through October -- and his veteran status, it seems like a fair price for the Bucs to pay.

My guess: Tendered