The Winter Meetings have come and gone without the Pittsburgh Pirates making any major deals. Even though deals are often consummated after the meetings conclude, what can the just-completed sessions tell us about the club?
The Pittsburgh Pirates left the 2017 Winter Meetings with a couple of intriguing arms acquired through the Rule 5 draft and a related trade…..and that’s about it. Oh, and a catcher acquired through Rule 5 as well.
Though it is important to note that trades and signings are often completed after the Winter Meetings, if we were to take just the Pirates’ activity throughout the sessions on their own, what would it tell us about the club?
There is still no direction
The biggest takeaway is that the Pittsburgh Pirates might still have yet to pick a direction for the club’s foreseeable future.
This point was likely underscored by comments from Huntington after the Rule 5 draft:
Neal Huntington basically said the Pirates have yet to determine which direction they'll go this offseason — add for 2018 or retool for 2019 and beyond. "Depending upon what we’re able to do in this market, that goal (postseason success) may be ’18, that goal may be ’19."
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) December 14, 2017
I have not doubt that Huntington did not want these comments to be indicative of a waffling front office that can’t figure out if it has a chance to contend in 2018 or not. A quick gauging of Pirates fans’ reaction to the team’s inactivity shows that many wish the club would commit one way or another to either putting resources towards the teams’ 2018 campaign, or selling off key parts.
Gerrit Cole is likely to be traded before the season; Andrew McCutchen? Not so much. Josh Harrison? Who knows.
Of course, the biggest development from the sessions is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are very likely to trade Gerrit Cole before the offseason is over.
Pirates Breakdown has been in touch with industry sources with knowledge of Cole trade talks all during the meetings. As it stands right now, the feeling around the industry is that the Pirates will now look to shop Cole more aggressively. After starting the winter meetings in a “passive listening” mode before accelerating to “listening intently,” ultimately landing at actively putting together desired packages from interested clubs, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now clearly in the driver’s seat for a prized controllable starting pitching target.
At this point, it would be highly surprising if Cole starts 2018 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen, on the other hand, is a near-lock to begin 2018 as the team’s centerfielder. The utter dearth of any trade talk surrounding McCutchen at this year’s meetings is a firm indicator that the club will wait until closer to the trade deadline to determine if they want to actually deal him.
After much scuttlebutt of multiple teams interested in acquiring Josh Harrison, the trade market for the Pittsburgh Pirates fan favorite is stagnant for now.
The team is probably not done looking to fill needs.
The Pittsburgh Pirates went into the meetings with a clear need to add left-handed bullpen help. With apologies to Steven Brault, that need is still there, and should be explored over the coming weeks. They also have a self-stated need for a veteran fourth-outfielder, and as the market churns on, there should be some bargains to be had, perhaps in the vein of the David Freese signing in 2016. Though the club has repeatedly implied a considerable comfort level with their in-house staring pitching, the lure of a low-cost arm such as Jaime Garcia might be too much for the team to dismiss.
Though fans are understandably upset over the lack of activity from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the meetings, the offseason is far from over.