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A (Very) Early Look at the 2019 Pirates’ Roster

What names may Clint Hurdle have to fill in the lineup with for 2019?
Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

Even though the standings don ?t mathematically proclaim it, all the Pirates have left to play for the rest of the season is honor and an attempt to avoid a third consecutive losing season. Many fans will watch the rest of the games play out, enjoying baseball while there ?s still baseball to be played, while others have already turned their eyes to the offseason, eager to see what the team will do to improve next season.

I definitely fall more toward the latter camp. Back when I played Madden and MLB The Show, I would simulate entire seasons just so I could team build ?make trades, draft picks, manipulate the cap ?that ?s what I ?ve always been more interested in. So, it wasn ?t out of character when I started looking toward an estimated payroll for 2019 a few weeks ago. I believe we ?re holding off on that for a little, but since many have already started speculating what the roster may look like next season, why not assess where it currently sits, looking at contracts, service, options, and other official roster jargon to determine where the Pirates stand and what they may look like come 2019.

Ground Rules

First, I will only be assessing players currently on the 40-Man Roster and in the organization ?no free agent signings or trades. That ?s not because I foresee a repeat of last offseason, but because I don ?t like to play Nostradamus. I also anticipate the team trying to solidify the infield, but I deal in absolutes, so I ?m building an entire roster only from players that are currently in some level of the system.

Currently, the Pirates have a full 40-Man Roster, with two players on the 60-day DL. That means there are 42 players that could find their way on to the team next year, along with options in the minors.

Let ?s start with players set to depart:

Pending Free Agents

Jordy Mercer

This list was trimmed by the recent release of Sean Rodriguez and trade of Adeiny Hechavarria. While I wouldn ?t be surprised if the Pirates brought Mercer back, I am assuming they do not, so we ?re down to 41 players.

Team Options

Josh Harrison

Jung Ho Kang

One option I actually thought the team would pick up was David Freese ?s; however, he was traded to the Dodgers, so that conversation is moot. As for the two remaining, I see no real reason to pick up either club option for 2019. Harrison is simply not worth the $10,500,000 at this point in his career, and Kang hasn ?t played in the major leagues for two seasons now, so he ?s a huge wildcard. I could see them bringing Kang back on a significantly reduced ?or even minor league ?contract, but for this purpose I ?m assuming both are gone, leaving the roster at 39.

Guaranteed Contracts

Chris Archer

Francisco Cervelli

Starling Marte

Ivan Nova

Gregory Polanco

Felipe V zquez

All players listed have contracts extending at least through 2019, and while I could see the team putting feelers out for Nova and possibly Cervelli, I ?m going to leave them on the Opening Day Roster for 2019, keeping the number at 39.

Arbitration Eligible

Corey Dickerson

Michael Feliz

Keone Kela

Ryan Lavarnway

Dickerson will be entering his third and final year of arbitration, Kela his second, while Feliz and Lavarnway would be in their first. If Lavarnway ?s service time from Baseball Reference is correct, he would be accruing just enough days this season to push him over three years of service and into arbitration. If it ?s not, he ?d still be a Super Two player and eligible for year number one of four of arbitration. To be honest, I didn ?t take the time to calculate Lavarnway ?s service time myself because it doesn ?t matter; he will not be on the team next year. He ?s out of options and is at best the fourth-string catcher right now. He was only brought up to serve as third catcher while Elias Diaz is out, and he will surely be non-tendered this offseason to clear room on the roster. I ?ve already spent too many words on this topic, so let ?s move on.

Kela is a no-brainer, while Dickerson is quite close to being considered one. I could see the Pirates trading him, I could see them extending him, but I don ?t see him being non-tendered. After a subpar season, I could see reasons why they wouldn ?t want to keep Feliz around, but he still has one option remaining after this year, and his first-year arbitration salary shouldn ?t be exorbitant, so let ?s say he opens with the team next spring. That puts us at 38 players, with more fun to come.


Everyone Else

All remaining 29 players from the 40-Man Roster are pre-arbitration, so barring any new money in the form of extensions, these players will be roster filler on minimum contracts for the team. That still leaves the roster at 38, but it ?s time to add some players.

Rule 5 Draft Eligible

J.T. Brubaker

Mitch Keller

Jason Martin

Cole Tucker

There ?s no need to get deep into a Rule 5 Draft explanation, but it ?s basically a measure that was originated to keep teams from hoarding gaggles of productive players by making certain prospects available via draft to other teams after a certain amount of years. We ?ll leave it at that, but please ask any questions in the comments and I ?ll be happy to answer.

The Pirates already protected players such as Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer ?and to a much lesser extent Tanner Anderson, Alex McRae, and Pablo Reyes ?by adding them to the 40-Man during the season. Reyes was also eligible for Minor League Free Agency after the season but no longer is because he was called up. Of note, Taylor Hearn would have also been eligible, which may be one of the reasons he was seen as tradeable by the team.

The players listed above are eligible ?Martin for the second time, everyone else for their first ?for the draft if they aren ?t added to the reserve list. As top prospects, Keller and Tucker are sure to be protected, while Martin and Brubaker aren ?t as certain; however, I foresee the Pirates adding them as well for fear of losing their rights.

Additional players such as Tyler Eppler, Eduardo Vera (Minor League Free Agency eligible), Adrian Valerio, Brandon Waddell, and Christian Kelley are solid prospects, but ultimately not worth protecting when the Pirates need so many spots for first-year players already.

Adding all four players puts the roster at 42, so some spots need to be cleared.

Out of Options

Nick Burdi*

Elias Diaz

Nick Kingham

Max Moroff

Nik Turley

Let ?s get this out of the way first; Burdi is not out of options; he is a Rule 5 player. Burdi was selected by the Phillies from the Twins in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft before being acquired by the Pirates for international slot money. If the Pirates want to keep Burdi ?s rights he needs to open the season on the active roster ?barring injury ?and spend at least 60 days there before he can be optioned. Therefore, I ?ve included him in this group, as the effect is the same, just not the label.

Being out of options means a player can ?t be sent to the minors without first having to clear waivers, so they need to occupy a spot on the active roster to prevent the possibility of losing them. I believe Diaz and Kingham are shoe-ins, while Moroff ?seeing as he has yet to be included among September call-ups ?may not be. I definitely see a DFA in Turley ?s future, as a drug suspension and injury combo have kept him off the mound all year. That would leave the roster at 41, so one more spot needs cleared before calling it a day.

Options to Designate for Assignment

Tanner Anderson

Jesus Liranzo

Max Moroff

Alex McRae

Dovydas Neverauskas

I know I already stated why Moroff would be a possibility, but I believe the Pirates have to pare down some of their excess, mediocre pitching. Both Anderson and McRae should easily pass through waivers and be outrighted to the minors, clearing the final spot needed. While those four names are basically interchangeable, I would like to see Liranzo get a chance.

I could see Chad Kuhl opening the season back on the 60-day DL because of lingering injury issues (hopefully not Tommy John), possibly making this discussion moot. However, the 60-day DL doesn’t come into play until the start of the season, so an offseason move would have to be made in the interim, so Tanner Anderson seems the most likely.

Final Roster


Bell, Cervelli, Dickerson, Frazier, Marte, Moran, Newman, Polanco


Diaz, Kramer, Moroff, Osuna


Archer, Musgrove, Nova, Taillon, Williams


Burdi, Crick, Kela, Kingham, Kuhl, Rodriguez, Santana, V zquez

Rest of Reserve List:

Agrazal, Brault, Brubaker, Escobar, Feliz, Holmes, Keller, Liranzo, Luplow, Martin, McRae, Neverauskas, Reyes, Stallings, Tucker


There you have it, a 40-Man Roster for your 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates, using only in-house players. Was it worth 1,500 words? I ?ll let you be the judge. Let me know what you think of my roster in the comments, or discuss your own.


Ethan is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. An Accountant by trade, Ethan is passionate about the business of sports and won't apologize for enjoying it more than the actual games. He's a believer in analytics, hasn't played a game since little league, and can be contacted via Twitter @EthanHullihen

5 Comments on A (Very) Early Look at the 2019 Pirates’ Roster

  1. We were all hoping Polanco would break .500 SLG this year. Kang slugged .516 two years ago and was ready to play SS for the Korean WBC team in 2017. A .500+ SLG SS upside? Letting him go without seeing what he can do when healthy would be very dumb. Especially for a mere $5M. Lumping him in with the other non-elite vets (Freese, Mercer, Serpico) would be a tragic mistake by management.

    • Yes, but as the post states, he hasn’t been able, by a combination of health and personal conduct, to see big league action in two years–and both his health and personal conduct have been long-term issues. I think the suggestion of declining his option and bringing him back for less money makes all the sense in the world.

  2. About the only quibble with this list, which I feel is all but spot-on, is possibly the inclusion of Moroff; if the Pirates don’t think Newman is ready to be the placeholder until Tucker is ready, I think there is a strong possibility of Mercer coming back on a one-year deal (I can’t believe anyone is going to give Mercer a multi-year contract), at which point Moroff is third in line in the utility infield pecking order. That said, there are a lot of moving parts in that scenario, so this list is pretty much a 40-for-40.

  3. I think Mercer will be back to tutor Newman or still win the job. I look for Moroff to be gone or simply play at Indy. I would put Luplow on the 25 man roster since they need a fourth outfielder and right handed bat. He brings more upside than Moroff in my opinion and has nothing left to prove at AAA. Either he is ready or he is not a major league player.

  4. I ?d be shocked if Mercer came back. Newman is a first round pick that did his tour of duty in the minors. Time for him to play.

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