I had a well–timed dream yesterday that I discovered the Pirates signed an undisclosed player to a $330 million contract, but I couldn’t figure out who the player was. I did every thing I could to solve the mystery. I took to Twitter, sent messages to people normally more in the know than me, but got nothing in response. It was a weirdly tense dream, but before I got my resolution, one of my dogs decided 3:00 a.m. seemed like a reasonable time to go to the bathroom.
I’m not sure what aspect is more disconcerting about my story. It can’t be a good sign that I’m dreaming of Twitter nor am I excited that my soon to be eleven year old dog is getting a case of old, annoying, sleep depriving dog bladder. Or is it that there is almost no chance that the Pirates will sign anyone to a deal that’s twenty percent of the value I dreamed of this offseason?
The winter meetings start today and no one is expecting the Bucs to compete in the Manny Machado / Bryce Harper main event with Rob Biertempfel reporting in the Athletic. Pittsburgh could focus on the early undercards at shortstop and relief pitching. It’s not out of the question that the Pirates could do some subtracting as well as adding this week. Personally, I’d like to also see an upgrade for the middle of the rotation. However, I’m expecting a quiet trip to Vegas.
I don’t think the Pirates will be the only quiet team. Considering the marquee unsigned free agents headlining the class of 2019, I’m surprised we’ve seen as much movement as we have already. The trade market has been extremely active thanks to aggressive clearance sales in Seattle and Arizona. Those teams could sell more, but they’re down to the fixtures in Seattle. Harper, at the moment, has the free agent crop of starting outfielders hanging in the balance, while Machado has the infield on lockdown. If one of those gets their deal and sets the market, we could see a windfall of deals. If they don’t, the free agent hitter front could remain in an arctic freeze. With Patrick Corbin signing his lavish deal with the Nationals, I do think we could see some action on the pitching side of things.
I’m not normally a big fan of building through the free agent market, nor do I think a team should feel pressured to make moves based on what other teams have done in their division. However, this offseason the Pirates need to make some kind of a splash. They have one gaping hole at the short stop position that, at the very least, they need to address. Nick Ahmed seems like another likely piece to move in the Diamondbacks fire sale, and I think he’d be a perfect fit for the Pirates. If that’s the route they decide to go, this week seems like a logical time for a move to occur. Ahmed is light hitting, but oh-so-good with the glove. Personally, I have a strong preference for Jose Iglesias, but I think the Pirates might balk at the relatively modest $7-10 million per year deal I suspect he’ll require. Ahmed will make considerably less and fit better into the Pirates budget over the next two years. Of course, if the Pirates go the free agent route to fill the hole, they may need to move a little faster than their normal just-before Spring Training signings. The shortstop market doesn’t have much at the high end, or much depth. However, the Pirates should have some options in Freddy Galvis or a reunion with Jordy Mercer, though that seems unlikely.
The Pirates have depth at the catching position, and if they’re comfortable moving forward with Elias Diaz as their primary guy, Francisco Cervelli could be traded as surplus. Personally, I like having two good catchers as even the most durable still take a day off every third day. Of course, durability, or lack there of, could easily be a reason to shed the $11.5 million due to Cervelli this season. The front office could move him this week, but it certainly wouldn’t be viewed favorably if the ever popular Venezuelan leaves. The Nats and Rays have already made moves at catcher, but even with the buyer pool thinned the Pirates will have some likely dance partners. The Athletics could bite if the Pirates include some financial assistance in the deal. Even after trading Yan Gomes, the Indians could be interested in bringing on Cervelli if they decide not to join #TeamFiresale this offseason. The Dodgers or Rockies are likely the cleanest partners to deal with as they have need and won’t balk at taking on salary.
In my ideal world, the Pirates move Ivan Nova with a plan to add another starter. I have no problem with Nova, and I think he is an excellent fifth starter. If the Pirates feel compelled to shed salary before improving the club in other areas, I’d prefer to see Nova’s go than Cervelli’s. Honestly, anyone looking for a cheap starter to plug into the fourth or fifth slots could be a player for Nova. A return trip to New York, this time to Queens, makes sense. The back of the Mets’ rotation was a mess, and while Nova won’t fix Steven Matz, he’ll stabilize a weak spot.
If the Pirates do make a move this week, I think we could see them add to the bullpen. They’re rumored to be in the market for another lefty. Alex suggested Manny Banuelos as a bargain basement acquisition for a young reliever. Justin Wilson could be a higher end option though I’m not sure if they need to go so big. Resources could be better utilized elsewhere. Dan Jennings and Jake Diekman could be more reasonable options.
Again, I’m expecting a pretty quiet week in Vegas on all fronts especially if one of the big guys signs somewhere. If the Pirates do add, I’d expect something relatively minor. If they subtract, it could be a controversial move to send Cervelli elsewhere. I suspect the Pirates will stand firm and wait for the bargain deals to come their way later in the offseason. This probably isn’t the best course as depth is limited in key positions of need like shortstop, but hopefully, the Pirates surprise us.