The Pittsburgh Pirates' front office is finally fully-staffed and ready for the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 9-12. While Ben Cherington has his brain trust in place, don't expect big plays for the Pirates' new general manager in San Diego.
If you look back to the last time Cherington spent a first winter as a GM, it was pretty quiet despite him leading an equally under-performing organization. His big move that winter for the Red Sox was to bring Mark Melancon to Boston in a trade that sent Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick to Houston. It wasn't a small move, but it certainly didn't meet the appetite that a frustrated fan base demanded.
Cherington rather held tight for a season, surveying his new club, getting to know player's strengths and weaknesses before making a slew of moves in 2013 that resulted in a World Series championship. That is a reasonable approach, and one I would expect from Cherington this month. Pirate fans may be looking for big moves that will contribute to 2020 success, but the reality is that Cherington hasn't been in Pittsburgh long enough to have a fully-developed plan. Like his first year in Boston, it may take a year before he really knows what direction he wants to take this team.
This isn't to say Cherington won't be active during the Winter Meetings. Maybe he will make some moves. Maybe those moves will make headlines. We just shouldn't expect it.
Trading Starling Marte is the most realistic move I could see him making. Cherington may prefer to keep his star center fielder until the picture is clearer, but time is in the Pirates' favor when it comes to Marte. Both his age and his years of control will never be more favorable to an interested team than they are right now. With plenty of teams in need of an upgrade at center field, the market for Starling Marte should be hot and may result in a deal that could make losing one of the Pirates' most popular players more palatable.
In addition to that possibility, Cherington will likely be looking for someone to help stabilize the catcher position in Pittsburgh. It was perhaps the Pirates' weakest link this past season, and has only gotten weaker after Elias Diaz was not tendered a contract. While Diaz was a negative WAR player, he was a warm body at an already thin position. His exit leaves only Jacob Stallings in the system as a major league-ready catcher. The catcher market has been the busiest of all positions this off-season, but there are still plenty of capable backstops available, and the Pirates were probably not all that interested in the high-priced veterans anyway. I wouldn't be shocked to see a reunion with Russell Martin, or, perhaps, a trade to bring Reese McGuire back.
Starting pitching is certainly an area that needs addressed, and, while the higher-priced arms may be out of reach for Cherington, there are some who could bolster the rotation at a reasonable cost. Michael Wacha sticks out to me as a player who may need a change of scenery. His fastball velocity hasn't been the same since his best year in 2015. He could use a new pitching coach to help reinvent his game a bit.
It will be interesting to see what approach Ben Cherington takes in San Diego. There still hasn't been a clear indication on where he believes this team stands along that continuum of a rebuild. Remember his four pillars: identify, acquire, develop, and deploy. Perhaps, he feels that all the Pirates need to do to have success is to be better at those last two. Maybe he needs a year to know for sure. I don't know. I'm just happy it's Ben Cherington representing the Pittsburgh Pirates in San Diego this year.
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