Your Pittsburgh Pirates news feed has no doubt been blown up by constant reminders of how the Pirates have essentially farmed out productive pitchers to playoff teams. Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton made headlines during the ALDS. Daniel Hudson has been solid throughout the playoffs - no runs allowed through 5 2/3 innings of relief. Cole has continued his dominance in the ALCS - throwing 7 scoreless in Game 3 against the Yankees.
Losing all of this pitching talent could be dismissed if what remained of the Pirates pitching staff was equally (or even nearly) as talented. It isn't, but it's not just about the pitchers. There seems to be a ceiling, a rather low one, to how good a Pirate pitcher can be. A lot has been written on the opposition to the Pirate's pitch-to-contact philosophy. So, I won't belabor the point, but it is relevant when considering how the Pirates should address their starting pitching this off-season.
Winning teams have shown that, in order to win, you need an ace (or three) in the rotation. The Pirates are no exception. So, conventional wisdom would say that this off-season, the Pirates should spend all or most of the money allocated towards free-agency on starting pitchers. You probably just scoffed at the idea of the Pirates spending money, but remember that the Bucs had over $20 million on their payroll allocated to players who are no longer on the team. So, they have some considerable cash to spend just to get back up to 2019's low starting number.
Considering the struggles the Pirates have had at pitcher, it feels like a no-brainer for them to spend big to fix it. However, considering their track record with pitchers, it probably wouldn't be a worthwhile investment. Let's say the unthinkable happens and the Pirates are able to get Gerrit Cole to come back to Pittsburgh. Do you think he would play like the 2019 version or the 2017 one? My guess is that it's somewhere in the middle. It would feel a lot like buying a Lamborghini and putting a V4 in it. You may have paid for a Lambo, but you're getting the performance of a Ford Taurus. Why not just pay for the Taurus?
It's a sad reality, but until the Pirates change their approach (or their administration), their probably better off accepting mediocrity in their rotation and banking on outscoring opponents. I'd contend that acquiring power bats should be the approach.
Here's a list of current free agents. Some of the players on that list will re-sign with their current teams, but there's some names on there that the Pirates should consider.
Anthony Rendon would be a pipe dream, but wouldn't he look great in the lineup? Yasiel Puig or Nick Castellanos might be a little bit more realistic. And there are other names on there who could improve the lineup as well.
I get that this doesn't feel like a winning formula - it probably isn't. But, neither does the team spending precious dollars to fix a position they have a pattern of breaking.
The Pirates absolutely need an ace. I just don't know that they are capable of having one.
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