The Pittsburgh Pirates had a disappointing 2016 campaign. They finished 25 games out of first in the National League Central, and five games under .500. A down season from Andrew McCutchen limited the offense, and injuries sunk the pitching staff. However, the Pirates are still a young team. If they can get their guys right and make the necessary offseason moves, they could be right back in the playoff hunt in 2017.
Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Offseason Needs
Re-Sign Ivan Nova
When the Pirates traded for Nova from the New York Yankees, few people thought much of it. Nova had been a failed starter in New York, and it seemed unlikely he would amount to much more in Pittsburgh. That proved to be far from the case. Nova stepped into a bullpen that was feeling the effects of the massive void left in the wake of Mark Melancon‘s departure to the Washington Nationals. All he did was post career best number and provide a steadying, reliable presence, even if he didn’t match Melancon’s abilities.
While this free agent market is relatively weak, it does feature a plethora of quality relief pitchers. While Nova’s services will be desired around the league, the wide availability of relievers as good or better than him will drive his asking price down. They’ll have to pay him more than he’s getting now, but the Pirates should be able to get him back on an inexpensive deal.
Find a Bat or Two
The Pirates offense was anemic. Just one batter drive in more than 80 runs, and no one reached the 30-homer mark. McCutchen led the team in hits and home runs, and at the same time posted some of the worst offensive numbers of his career. Starling Marte was a bright spot, but there was little else to get excited about.
The Pirates have to get McCutchen right, but they also need to find at least one more bat to insert into their lineup. The top guys, like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mark Trumbo, may command too high a price for Pittsburgh’s tastes. One option they could look into is Ian Desmond of the Texas Rangers. Desmond set career highs at the plate in 2016, helped in part by a new atmosphere and a new position. He can play multiple positions and, assuming his season wasn’t a fluke, commands a quality bat. Texas did extend him a qualifying offer so he won’t be too cheap, but he could give the Pirates the boost they need.
Get the Pitchers Healthy
There’s no doubting the raw talent of Pittsburgh’s pitching staff. Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow could be a powerful 1-2-3, and all are still very young. However, before they can reach their full potential as a rotation, they have to get and stay healthy.
In 2015, Cole was one of the top pitchers in baseball and a Cy Young candidate. Just a year later, injuries limited him to just 21 starts, the fewest since his rookie season, and limited his effectiveness when he did take the mound. Taillon’s major league debut was delayed by injuries for years. He finally got there in 2016, but couldn’t truly shake the injury bug.
If the Pirates don’t think their guys can stay healthy, then they’ll find to find outside help for their rotation. Unfortunately, there the starting pitching market this offseason is all but completely barren. The few available starters will get contracts well above their actual worth due to the limited selection of arms. Unless Pittsburgh wants to make a trade, they’re stuck with what they have. That’s not a bad thing, considering the potential of their pitchers. But they have to find a way to keep their guys on the mound if they want to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.