Pirates should look to pillage great free agent market
The 2018 Major League Baseball free agents include superstars like Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, or Manny Machado. Normally, players like those three bounce around the top of the league, but rumors say that teams that spent their time during the 2018 season at the bottom could attempt to make a big move to increase their chances of making it to the postseason next year.
Like always, the big names will take up most of the media attention, but following the moves of smaller market teams, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, is still worth doing. Aside from declining Josh Harrison’s option, the only other move of notice that the Bucs have made is their signing of Jung-Ho Kang to a one-year contract. That move alone gives the Pirates a bit more depth on the right side of the infield, which is one of their most glaring needs for 2019, as veteran shortstop Jordy Mercer became a free agent and rookie Colin Moran struggled through the majority of his 2018 season at third base.
There’s still more work to do, of course. With Gregory Polanco out for the first half of the season while he recovers from a shoulder injury, along with Edgar Santana and Chad Kuhl losing the entirety of the 2019 season to Tommy John surgery, the Pirates have more than a few holes in their lineup. The glaring one was in the infield, where rookies Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman look replacement-level at best in their month with the club in September. Neither corner infielder, Moran or Josh Bell, showed the power that top management expected from them.
The Kang signing helps on the left, and Bell likely just fell into a bit of a sophomore slump, so the concern is not about first base, but the middle infield is worrisome. Adam Frazier may end up filling a role in right field and on second base, but manager Clint Hurdle said that he was likely going to stick at second base, so a veteran signing in someone like Manny Machado would fill that void and more. The Pirates aren’t the kind of team to spend so much money on one player, so someone like Brian Dozier might help out in Pittsburgh. His market value isn’t going to be too high, especially with the top players already in this blockbuster free agent market, and he could be signed for multiple years, supplying a solid defense.
Right field is also an interesting spot for the Pirates. They could take the leap and try to shake things up with a vet signing there like Matt Joyce, who enjoyed a stint with the club in 2016, one of the best of his career. Perhaps a guy like Hunter Pence from the San Francisco Giants would do well in the smaller right field at PNC Park. In terms of signing more players for the outfield, re-signing Corey Dickerson to a multi-year deal here might be prudent.
The Yankees have mentioned that they’re giving up on the much-maligned and inconsistent pitcher Sonny Gray, and New York has dealt the Pirates players like that in the past, ones they’ve seen enough from and are willing to dump for some prospects. Francisco Cervelli and Ivan Nova come to mind. Trading some assets for a guy with that much upside would go a long way to solidifying our rotation if our other starters goes down. The Bucs bullpen looks to be solid, in my opinion.
If the Pirates end up doing something in free agency, I’ll be surprised, but seeing as they traded for Chris Archer and Keone Kela at the deadline this past season, it might be a new leaf for the Buccos. After the unloading of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last offseason, we’ll just have to wait and see what they end up doing. The Pirates might push the envelope and try to win this season, who knows?