Here's what Pirates still need to add this offseason

December 1st, 2022

This story was excerpted from Justice delos Santos’ Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Pirates are, on paper, arguably a better team now than they were at the beginning of November. They acquired Ji-Man Choi via trade. They signed Carlos Santana to a one-year deal. They traded Kevin Newman to the Reds for an interesting relief arm in Dauri Moreta, clearing the way for the budding youth movement up the middle. With the Winter Meetings looming, these moves might just be the beginning.

“Well, there’s more we’d like to do,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “I think it’s more about wanting to improve in 2023 and take a step as a team. We think it’s time to put our effort into doing that. We’ve got some flexibility to do that. Again, could be looking at trades. Could be looking at other free-agent options. It’s hard to predict exactly what opportunities land.”

So, what does that “more” entail? On Tuesday, Cherington pinpointed the rotation and bullpen as places the Pirates would like to add depth. Cherington also added that the Pirates would like to add depth on the position player side and “continue to lengthen the lineup out if we can, and look at free agency and trade possibilities to do that.” In sum, Pittsburgh wants to add and add.

The Pirates have foundational pieces in both their rotation and outfield. Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller and JT Brubaker anchor the rotation, while Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski will hold down the outfield. Johan Oviedo, who the Pirates stretched out to take on a starters workload upon coming over from St. Louis, has a strong chance of making the rotation as well. The Pirates could look internally to round out their rotation and outfield, but adding a couple external depth at both position groups stands to make the team better in the present without compromising pathways for the youth.

It will be interesting to see how -- and when -- the Pirates go about addressing their situation at catcher. Ali Sánchez and No. 6 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) Endy Rodriguez, the only catchers on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, have played a combined seven Major League games -- all played by Sánchez. Given the quantity of options on the free-agent market, as well as the possibility that Rodriguez and No. 1 prospect Henry Davis could get the bulk of reps by season’s end, perhaps the Pirates prioritize starting pitching and outfield, two position groups which don’t have as much depth on the free-agent market.

The Pirates, in time, will also need to add left-handed pitching to the mix. As of now, the Pirates don’t have any left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster. But when asked about the team’s lack of southpaws, Cherington emphasized a focus on acquiring the best and most versatile pitchers possible, as opposed to acquiring lefties for the sake of doing so.

“Ultimately you want the best guys you can get. If they end up being more right-handed, that's what it'll end up being. We need to be open-minded about it. The Astros’ bullpen was all right-handed,” Cherington said. “There are examples of teams that have done really well with a very right-hand-tilted pitching staff. Over time, we would have an interest in having left-handed pitching on the team. We don't want to force it to the point where we're skipping past someone who might be better because he’s right-handed."