What Will the Pirates Look Like in Three to Four Years?
I wrote yesterday that Pittsburgh Pirates' general manager, Ben Cherington, has a few years to build a roster that can contend by 2023 or 2024. So, I thought it would make some sense to take a look at what that team would look like. This is only as it stands now. I won't be projecting future moves, although we know they are going to happen. I just want to show the group of players who are being built upon so that this rebuild can be put into perspective.
It isn't essential that Pirates move guys like Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, and Mitch Keller. None of them will be free agents before 2025. So the Pirates can hold onto them and let them lead a young team in 2023/24. Depending on how well they play over the next few years, this may be an opportunity for Bob Nutting to keep his word and open up that wallet some for a few extensions. This may seem to be the right opportunity to, as he put it, "put the foot on the gas."
Now, I'm going to go position-by-position and try to represent what the Pirates' system currently has at each. I'll leave the bullpen out of this because it's difficult to project who will even be a part of it.
- Will Craig
- Mason Martin
- Cal Mitchell
I left Josh Bell off this list, because I doubt he will be a Pirate in 2023. Cal Mitchell is currently an outfielder, but he feels a lot like Bell to me, a guy who is going to make a name for himself with his bat rather than his glove and will be significantly worse defensively than some of his peers. The outfield could be crowded with defensive stars in 2023, and I don't see Mitchell looking very good out there.
Mason Martin may have the most potential of the three at the plate, but would give up quite a bit defensively to someone like Craig.
- Kevin Newman
- Adam Frazier
- Ji-Hwan Bae
This, as it stands now, is a loaded group. Frazier has a solid bat and was a Gold Glove finalist, Newman looks like he could win a batting title some day, and Bae has been shooting up the prospect list even faster than he swipes second.
My guess is that at least one of Newman or Frazier are moved before this time. It will be probably be Frazier as he is going to need an extension to remain on the team beyond 2022, and, given the strength the Pirates have here, it probably won't make sense to give it to him.
- Cole Tucker
- Liover Peguero
You've probably noticed that Oniel Cruz, the Pirates' #3 prospect isn't up there. Just scroll down. I doubt he stays at short. It would be fun to see his arm in one of the corner outfield spots and I think that's where he lands. Tucker's future with the team will depend on his progression over the next couple years. He projects well, but Ben Cherington didn't trade Pittsburgh's longest tenured player for a shortstop for nothing. Peguero was brought here to play. So, Cole Tucker will need to step up.
- Ke'Bryan Hayes
- Robbie Glendinning
Outside of Hayes, the organization doesn't have much at third. I think Glendinning could carve out a role as a utility infielder on this team, and I don't think it's a mistake that his usage at third increased drastically this season in Altoona. I would expect Ben Cherington to add some young competition to this group in case the concerns with Hayes' bat and Glenndinning's ability to play third become a reality in Pittsburgh.
- Oniel Cruz
- Travis Swaggerty
- Bryan Reynolds
- Gregory Polanco
- Sammy Siani
- Jared Oliva
- Lolo Sanchez
This could turn out to be another loaded group. As I mentioned, I don't think Oniel Cruz sticks at short considering there are other, more proficient fielders available at that position. I would be surprised to see Polanco stick around, but his contract takes him through 2023. One thing this group has plenty of is speed. Oliva, Sanchez, and Swaggerty all boast plus speed. This group will need to be trimmed down some, but that could happen naturally over the next couple years.
- Jacob Stallings
- Jason DeLay
- Deon Stafford
The Pirates' organizational weakness at catcher is well-documented. I'm higher on Stallings than some and he won't be a free agent until 2025, but considering he is the only option, there needs to be a strong effort to add talent here. It doesn't have to happen immediately. Stallings will play admirably enough to give Ben Cherington some time to get the right guy(s), but it needs to happen.
- Mitch Keller
- Joe Musgrove
- Trevor Williams
- Chad Kuhl
- Steven Brault
- Brennan Malone
- Quinn Priester
- Braxton Ashcraft
- Tahnaj Thomas
- Max Kranick
- Cody Bolton
It's a long list, but that's not a bad thing. Great choices come from great options, and the Pirates should have plenty of options. Musgrove, Williams, Kuhl, and Brault will all need extensions to remain on the team. Judging by the amount of names here, it's doubtful they all do. Keller, Malone, and Priester could turn into a nice three-headed monster at the top of that rotation. We may see some of these names in the bullpen as well.
This is the list I keep written on a spreadsheet to help display what the Pirates have and how these trades impact their future. One thing I get out of this is that the Pirates need a catcher, some extra pop somewhere in the lineup, perhaps an insurance policy for Ke'Bryan Hayes, and, of course, more pitching. You can never have too much pitching.
There are some names I left off, mostly pitchers who I see as likely bullpen arms, and, as I wrote yesterday, Ben Cherington has plenty of time to change this up.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife