Pittsburgh Pirates

Trades, position changes and more 2021 resolutions for the Pirates


Trades, position changes and more 2021 resolutions for the Pirates | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette >> 0; var thisArg = arguments.length >= 2 ? arguments[1] : void 0; for (var i = 0; i this.length) { return false; } else { return this.indexOf(search, start) !== -1; } }; }else{ console.log(“DON’T POLYFILL INCLUDES”); } ]]> <![CDATA[ pgStoryZeroJSON = {“status”:”ok”,”articles”:[{“storyID”:”202101040069″,”title”:”Trades, position changes and more 2021 resolutions for the Pirates”,”subTitle”:””,”deckline”:””,”kicker”:””,”teaser”:”What sort of resolutions can the Pirates make in 2021? They might not involve spending a bunch of money, but they still should matter.”,”teaserTitle”:””,”byCredit”:”0″,”author”:”By Jason Mackey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette”,”endStory”:””,”commentsEnabled”:true,”commentsCloseDate”:””,”contentModified”:”Mon, 04 Jan 2021 12:30:33 -0500″,”rights”:”0″,”pubDate”:”Mon, 04 Jan 2021 12:55:32 -0500″,”expirationDate”:”Sun, 31 Dec 0000 19:00:00 -0500″,”body”:”

The Pirates should resolve in 2021 to quintuple their payroll and compete with the San Diego Padres for National League supremacy. They should anchor their rotation with Trevor Bauer and inject some offense into their lineup by luring George Springer, DJ LeMahieu and Marcell Ozuna to Pittsburgh via free agency.n

What, a little too far-fetched? Think it might be the champagne talking? Fine.n

If the Pirates can’t break the bank — not sure they could dent it from their current position — then let’s focus on a few more reasonable things they can do in 2021 to push this whole thing forward a step or two.n

  1. Maximize return for Joe Musgrove and Adam Frazier … but don’t wait.n

Seriously, the market for both of those players has been reasonable, if not — in Musgrove’s case — fairly fertile. The time to act is now, before the season. Waiting only adds injury risk to the mix, and years of control should matter here the same as they did for the Josh Bell trade, no?n

  1. Resolve to resist the urge to trade Jameson Taillon, too.nTeams have certainly been calling on Taillon, believing they can buy low and bank on his bounce-back from a second Tommy John surgery. But the Pirates would be best-served to make their own bet on a player who should get his choice between starting the season- or home-opener.n

If the Pirates let Taillon pitch and he fares well, then make it known he’s available, but not until that time. Sure, the Pirates risk another injury and getting nothing in a potential trade — Taillon has one year of arbitration eligibility left and likely won’t be here beyond that — but the potential upside is too good to ignore.n

  1. Since the day he was hired as Pirates general manager, Ben Cherington has made one resolution after another regarding helping players improve. Spring training will offer an important marking point for some of those goals.n

This particular resolution involves a player who could mean a whole heap to their starting lineup in Anthony Alford. Plucked from the Blue Jays last year, Alford could potentially become the Pirates’ starting center fielder in 2021.n

He’s also the poster boy for what the Pirates want to become: an organization capable of poaching another team’s prospects, players who either didn’t get a chance or never realized their full potential, and making that happen here.n

4. The next resolution on the Pirates’ list starts and ends in right field, and it has a couple of important prongs.n

Start with Oneil Cruz. Assuming the Pirates are correct and his offseason issues are limited to a fatal car crash, Pittsburgh should have Cruz ditch shortstop and switch positions.n

Cruz is still extremely raw, and the process could take time. But with six errors in 12 starts this winter, plus lingering questions about the consistency of his defense and the possibility that the Pirates will have a hole in right field, it’s time to find out if Cruz is capable of filling it.n

5. The other important thing the Pirates should promise themselves is that, no matter what, they need to figure out how to get something, anything for Gregory Polanco.n

It’s a tall task, mind you. The market for players making $11 million who are hitting less than their body weight (.153 to 235) but striking out at a greater percentage than their age (37.4% to 29) can’t be terribly good.n

But perhaps with a decent start, an opposing team might be willing to give up a minor league player — doesn’t even have to be a prospect — for Polanco. That could save the balance of his 2021 salary, plus a $3 million buyout after the season.n

6. Another resolution should be a personal one for Cole Tucker — to find a position. And, no, we don’t mean next to Vanessa Hudgens, although it’s hard to dock Tucker points there.n

Shortstop, center field, right field … something has to stick. And it’s getting to be about that time for the 2014 first-round selection, when it’s reasonable for a team and its fans to expect consistent production.n

Tucker will begin the season competing with Kevin Newman and Erik Gonzalez for the starting shortstop gig. Consider this a prediction that he comes out on top, with Newman bumping over to second and taking over for the departed Frazier.n

7. A summer of Pirates baseball isn’t complete without the appropriate fixation on the Next Big Thing, a tradition unlike many others for the franchise.n

Last season, it was Ke’Bryan Hayes, whose jersey represented a perfect, post-Christmas swap for those outdated Josh Bell ones. But in 2021, it’s much less clear.n

Max Kranick was added to the 40-man roster this offseason and could pitch in the big leagues. Cody Bolton, a 22-year-old who had a 3.28 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings with Class AA Altoona in 2019, represents an interesting choice, too. Bolton throws 97 with terrific movement and sink, and he turned heads in 2020 at the Pirates’ alternate training site.n

Cruz would require a lot of development fast, the same for recent first-round picks such as Travis Swaggerty (2018) and Quinn Priester (2019).n

But for a team in the Pirates’ situation, make no mistake: They’ll have and need a Next Big Thing. The fun part will be identifying that player.n

8. The last Pirates resolution will happen in mid-summer, at the MLB draft.n

Though they’re certainly loathe to explicitly say anything of the sort, this is clearly a rebuild. (Or build, reboot, reconstruction, restoration, renovation or whatever other ridiculous word you want to throw around. Let’s just say it’ll take a few years.)n

An important pit stop during said journey will occur when they have the chance to select pitchers Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter, high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar or perhaps another player who nudges himself into top-pick consideration by that time.n

In the back of pretty much every Pirate fan’s mind is the nagging worry that they won’t actually draft the best player available for fear that it will cost too much to sign him. Call it Daniel Moskos Disease.n

In 2021, the Pirates must hope they’ve found a vaccination for this, along with COVID-19 so fans — along with their money — can return to PNC Park, the gate revenue helping the sport get back to normal while Pittsburgh uses this season as an important pivot point in whatever it is that you want to call this thing.n

Jason Mackey: jmackey@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.n

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