Pittsburgh Pirates decide on player contract options

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen will continue playing for the Pirates. (credit: Courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr Wikimedia Commons) Outfielder Andrew McCutchen will continue playing for the Pirates. (credit: Courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr Wikimedia Commons)

With the Pittsburgh Pirates recently announcing that they picked up outfielder Andrew McCutchen’s 2018 option and declined pitcher Wade LeBlanc’s and catcher Chris Stewart’s options, many people have begun speculating what the Bucs plan to accomplish in the offseason. Let’s break it down position by position.

Pirates pitching was up and down in the 2017 season, but it never seemed to be a consistent problem. The Bucs have a number of young, up-and-coming pitchers like Trevor Williams, Steven Brault, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, and, if he can prove himself, Tyler Glasnow.

It’s likely that the Pirates will try and save money by sticking with their home-grown group, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they make a move for a veteran pitcher like Michael Pineda. Pineda is coming off Tommy John surgery, so he may not be ready to throw in time for spring training, which may give Glasnow another chance to prove that he’s ready to throw in the major leagues.

Stewart’s option being declined leaves the job of catching up to Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz. With Cervelli’s constant injuries, Diaz saw a fair amount of playing time last season. Hopefully, the pair will split duties behind the dish more evenly, so as to relieve some of the strain on Cervelli.

The infield seems to be mostly locked down, with Josh Bell set to start at first base, putting an end to a streak of one-season starters at that position that stretched back to 2009. Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer seem set to hold down the middle infield. The Pirates only big question mark sits at third base.

The Pirates have been holding on to hope for the return of Jung-Ho Kang, who didn’t play in the 2017 season after being unable to secure a work visa in the US. David Freese, nominated for a Gold Glove at the hot corner, isn’t a bad replacement, but at 34, Freese just can’t thrive as an everyday player. The Pirates need a power-hitting third baseman to take the weight off Freese’s shoulders and get some power back into the otherwise weak hitting lineup.

One great grab would be Mike Moustakas. He’s coming off of a 38-home run season with the Royals, so he’d fit right in to complement the power of Bell and McCutchen. Moustakas is, however, slated to make a bit more than what the Pirates have ever offered, so it’s unrealistic that the Bucs grab him. Someone a little cheaper would be Todd Frazier. He’s got a solid glove and hit 27 home runs last year.

The Pirates’ outfield seems to be locked and loaded as well, as long as McCutchen doesn’t get traded. The starting three have good support from the bench in players like Jordan Luplow, Sean Rodriguez, and Adam Frazier.

Some bullpen help will definitely be needed. Homegrown players like Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas seem to have more than earned their spots into the pen after performances last year, but the Bucs need more depth than what they have now. Pat Neshek is up for free agency this year and could serve as a solid setup man for Felipe Rivero. Jake McGee, a lefty, could be another decent option to help out.