Recapping The Pirates’ Offseason


Recent Pirates trade acquisition Ji- Man Choi does the stretches for a ball during the 2020 World Series. Photo Credit: Sporting News

The 2023 Pirates offseason will be remembered for the deal that will bring Andrew Mccutchen home to Pittsburgh for possibly one final year. The return of Mccutchen will most likely come to define the Pirates upcoming season, but the Pirates have made a few deals that have altered their Major League team more than in previous years.

Free Agents

Carlos Santana

The largest position player Free Agent acquisition by the Pirates this offseason, besides Mccutchen, is the 36- year old First-Baseman Carlos Santana. Santana was signed on a 1 year 6.75 million dollar deal. Although a switch hitter, Santana has consistently hit better against left handed pitching. As he ages, Santana’s splits seem to be trending towards the extremes, making him likely a platoon bat, who can be above average against left handed pitching.

Rich Hill

In their first signing of the new year, the Pirates made the move to sign another veteran, in Left- Handed Pitcher, Rich Hill. The 42- year old has been signed to an 1 year, 8 million dollar deal. With the Pirates, Hill will be playing for his 12th team in his long career, and will become the oldest player in the league. Although Hill possesses one of the slowest Fastballs in the Majors, that will only decline in velocity as he ages, he has been able to use his looping curve, and crafty pitching to be an effective starter late into his career. 

Austin Hedges

Austin Hedges, a 30-year old catcher, joined the Pirates on a 1 year,  5 million dollar deal. Hedges has been a near league average catcher with the Padres and Guardians. The Right Handed hitter will most likely split time at catcher with switch hitters Tyler Heineman, and Endy Rodriguez. This move gives the Pirates more depth at the catcher position than they have had since they traded Gold-Glover Jacob Stallings to the Marlins in the 2021 offseason.

Jarlin Garcia

The PIrates used the free agency market to acquire some pitching depth as well. Lefty Reliever Jarlin Garcia was signed on a 2.5 million, 1-year deal, with a future club option. The 30- year old will provide depth at the middle of the Pirates Arm Barn. 

Vince Valazquex

The Pirates also boosted their starting rotation with the signing of 30-year old Vince Valazquez on a 1 year, 3.15 million dollar deal. Valazquez could fit near the top of the Pirate’s rotation, and has been relatively consistent throughout his career

Trade Acquisitions

Ji- Man Choi

The Pirates acquired the First Baseman and DH in a trade with the Rays. They had to give up a Minor League pitcher, Jack Hartman, who spent his 2022 season in Single A, and was a 4th round pick in 2020. In return, the Buccos acquired a player who, after giving up switch hitting in 2020, and becoming a full time left- handed hitter, has destroyed right- handed pitching. When joined with lefty killers Andrew Mccutchen, and Carlos Santana, manager Derek Shelton could potentially have lots of options for creative lineup construction at DH and First Base. Choi will also likely benefit from the banning of the shift, as he faced the shift in 84 percent of his Plate Appearances in 2021, and hit better when not facing it. 

Connor Joe

The Pirates gave up another Minor League pitcher in Nick Garcia, to reunite with the 30- year old Connor Joe, who was originally drafted in 2014 by the Pirates. In Joe’s 2021 rookie season, the primary outfielder became a key player for the Rockies. Although his hitting regressed last season, he maintained his high walk rate and elite plate discipline. He will not be able to hit for as much power as he did in Colorado, due to lower elevations, but if he can continue getting on base, his positional versatility could allow him to consistently feature in a flexible Pirates lineup.

Who is Gone?

This offseason also saw the Pirates depart with some notable contributors, to make room for the new additions. Outfielder Ben Gamel, and Catchers Roberto Perez and Tyler Heineman all elected Free Agency. Utility Player Hoy Park was traded for Red Sox pitching prospect Inmer Lobo. Reliever Bryse Wilson was traded to the Brewers for cash. Zack Thompson, the pitcher acquired in the 2021 trade that sent Jacob Stallings to the Marlins, was traded to Blue Jays for Outfield Prospect Chavez Young. Utility Player Michael Chavis was Designated for Assignment, and given a minor league contract by the Nationals. Pitcher Junior Fernandez was DFA’d, and eventually found himself with the Blue Jays. In order to make room for Mccutchen, the Pirates also DFA’d Outfielder Miguel Andujar, although it is likely they could retain him on their Triple A roster.

The longest tenured Pirate to be traded this offseason, was Shortstop Keven Newman, who took over the starting role in 2019 from Jordy Mercer, but recently saw his playing time limited by the emergence of O’Neil Cruz. Newman was traded to the Reds for young Reliever Dauri Moreta. In an interview, GM Cherington praised Moreta’s success in the Minors, and pointed to the Pirate’s young Shortstop depth as reasons for the trade. The Pirates also moved Deigo Castillo, another Middle Infielder/ Utility player to the DBacks, for another reliever, in Scott Randall, further making room in the infield for the next crop of Pirates prospects.

The Situation With Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds has been one of the lone bright spots on the Pirates for the last 4 years (disregarding his 2020 season). After having a major breakout 2021 season, Reynolds has become, in my opinion, a top 5 Center-Fielder in the game. His ability to play outstanding defense, while becoming a very consistent hitter, makes him a very valuable player. As inevitable, it seems, with Pirates players who perform well, there has been trade speculations about Reynolds, who will be arbitration eligible in 2024, and a Free Agent in 2026. 

The speculations were only accelerated when it came out that Bryan Reynolds had requested a trade from the Pirates, and after the Pirates signed Andrew Mccutchen.

Despite this, it is becoming more and more likely that Reynolds will not be traded before the start of the season. MLB Insider, Jon Heyman, a rival executive has complained about the price the Pirates are currently asking for Reynolds, saying the Pirates are demanding a “Juan Soto type return,” referring to the 2022 trade deadline deal, which gave the historic return of the 23-year old Soto (and former Pirate Josh Bell), whose value is much higher than Reynolds. If the Pirates are seeking this high of a price tag for Reynolds, it is unlikely he will be traded this offseason, but he remains likely to be traded by the deadline. 

Outlook for 2023

After this offseason, it is hard to say the Pirates did not improve from last year. The Pirates offseason strategy focused on boosting their outfield depth, and acquiring players that allow them to play lineup advantages. They have also moved Middle Infielders to gain relief depth, possibly making room for prospects like Liover Peguero and Nick Gonzalez.

As is becoming a pattern for the Pirates, no large moves were made that could put them in immediate playoff contention. Despite this, the Pirates find themselves in an NL Central division full of teams with many flaws, and holes in their rosters. When Opening Day on March 30th rolls around, this Pirates team will have as much of a shot as they have had in awhile, and whether this team can take a leap forward will soon be revealed.