Owner: Bob Nutting, $1.1 billion
World Series Titles: 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, 1979.
Greatest Player: OF Roberto Clemente
Division: NL Central
Payroll: 28th, $60,787,500.
2022 Result: 62-100, tied with Reds for last.
General Manager: Ben Cherington.
Manager: Derek Shelton, 52; Record: 142-242, 0 titles.
Home Field: PNC Park, capacity, 37,898.
Key Additions: Ke’Bryan Hayes is exactly a new addition, rather a sign that the Pirates might think they have finally assembled enough talent to move up in the NL Central standings and it’s time to make serious commitments. After a solid season, the Pirates made the Hayes the highest paid player on the roster, signing him to an eight-year, $70 million extension. The 26-year-old third baseman is expected to lead the Pirates as they seek to win more than 70 games for the first time since 2018.
Key Losses: There really haven’t been any key losses – yet. That could change any time, and almost certainly will change before the trade deadline. Brian Reynolds signed a two-year, $13.5-million extension that neither side is happy with. The 28-year-old center fielder is coming off a career-high 27 home run season. He’s been durable and productive since making it to Pittsburgh in 2022. The Pirates are going to have to spend big money when he becomes a free agent, which they won’t do on a 30-year-old. Teams in larger markets that are in win-now mode have been eyeing this situation for the last two years. The odds of Reynolds finishing the season in Pittsburgh are up there with buying the winning lottery ticket. O.K., maybe that’s a little extreme.
Key Injury: One of the deals that has paid off big time for the Pirates was the trade that brough closer David Bednar to Pittsburgh from San Diego. The cost was high – start Joe Musgrove – who has been terrific with the Padres. When is a trade a win-win-win-win? This one was. The Padres got a top line pitcher. The Pirates got an elite closer. Musgrove, who grew up outside of San Diego in El Cajon, got to go home. Bednar, from Pittsburgh, also got to go home. Bednar, 28 missed 45 games last season with a sore lower back. Backs, like hamstrings, are tricky business. You never know when it’s going to start barking again. Bednar has added yoga to his workouts and says he’s ready to go. The Pirates would be wise to monitor his workload.
Prospect alert: Termarr Johnson is a bit of an outlier. High school second baseman usually aren’t considered top prospects. But the 18-year-old is such an elite talent that the Pirates took him fourth overall in the 2022 Draft. His bat will get him the bigs sooner than later, but Pirates fans may not see him in Pittsburgh until 2025. They will love what they see. Although he played shortstop in high school his arm speed and strength are a better fit for second.
Scouting Report:Over/Under Wins: 67.5, fourth place in NL Central.
Pittsburgh fans live and die with the Steelers, which is good for the baseball franchise. They can go about a complete rebuild without a lot of public outcry. Pittsburgh fans might be reminded the Pirates are still playing in the Steel City.
Slowly, painfully the Pirates have assembled an intriguing, perhaps electric, group of young players. Hayes should anchor third base for rest of the decade. Rodolfo Castro, 23, began his Major League career by homering in his first at bats. Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Castro. Oneil Cruz is the 6-foot-7 shortstop - yep, a 6-7 shortstop. Which makes Cruz the most intriguing of the young Pirates.
He was charged with 17 errors last season. Castro was charged with 13. Hayes, 11. That’s not exactly a vacuum cleaner infield. But all three have dizzying athletic talent. If the Pirates, under McCuthen’s guidance, can clean up their game, while progressing at the plate, this could be a really fun team.
Which brings us to pitching. Roansy Contreras is just 23 and already considered the ace of the staff. That’s heady stuff. He went 5-5 last season with 86 K’s in 95 innings and 3.79 ERA. Mitch Keller began to show the stuff that had the organization so excited a few seasons, despite his 5-12 record. Consider the 3.91 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 159 innings.
Veteran Rich Hill, 42, must look around the bullpen during throwing sessions and wonder if he just got beamed back to the minors; or the minors came to him. He is expected to do for the staff what McCutchen hopefully will do for the position players.
The Pirates are probably at least one season away from moving up in the NL Central standings. But what if by the end of the season Steeler’s fans find themselves talking about the Pirates? Crazier things have happened.
BetBasics Best Bet: The Pirates are predicted to finish fourth in the NL Central, a full nine games behind the Cubs and there’s no reason to believe this band of youngsters can overtake them. This season is all about the young players gaining experience, confidence and continuity. The man who might lead the way is veteran left fielder Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen played his first nine seasons in the Steel City before being traded to the Giants. He resigned with the Pirates. The 36-year-old with the perpetual smile is being charged with leading the clubhouse and teaching this young team about winning and conducting business the right way. He probably won’t finish with the gaudiest stats, but we like McCutchen to win team MVP.