Three Things the Pirates Have to Do This Offseason to Keep This Rebuild On a Successful Path

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rebuilds are a part of Major League Baseball.  Whether the Pittsburgh Pirates front office will admit to it or not, the Pirates are in the middle of a rebuild.  Effective rebuilds have three qualities to them.

  1.  Finding young players at the major league level that can be veteran presences during the expected window of success
  2.   Stockpiling young talent through the draft and trading away veterans that will not be a part of the future
  3.   Using the word “rebuild”

To meet these points, the Pirates need to do three things this offseason to appease the fans and continue on the path of rebuilding a contending baseball team.

Extend Bryan Reynolds

There was one constant in the years leading up to the Pirates last great window of success and the successful seasons during that window.  This constant was former Pirate center fielder Andrew McCutchen.  A rebuilding team needs at least one of these types of players to have an effective rebuild.

I would characterize Cutch as that veteran presence in the clubhouse, that developed into a major leaguer with the team, and became a solid foundation that the club could build around.  And the Pirates did build around him, despite what some fans believe.  They provided weapons like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Russell Martin, among others, through free agent signings that led to three really great years for the ball club.

Interestingly enough, Bryan Reynolds, who was brought to Pittsburgh through the trading of Cutch, could be that next guy for the Pirates.  For the most part, he has developed into a big-leaguer as a Pirate, has an above average glove in centerfield, and is still young enough to be with the Pirates during their success window.

If you exclude the 2020 season, which I am doing pretty much for all intents and purposes, Bryan Reynolds is batting .302, while also adding 40 homeruns and 156 RBI in a little over 1.5 season’s worth of at-bats.  He also has incredible plate discipline with a .377 and .382 OBP in 2019 and 2021 respectively.  Even if you include 2020, where he struggled mightily, Reynolds sports an outstanding .846 OPS. 

Reynolds is the real deal.  Now, the Pirates could play out Reynolds’ arbitration years through 2025 and take the cheaper path.  However, ball players feel a sense of commitment from the team when they are extended through arbitration and granted guaranteed long-term contracts.  It would also show the fans a real commitment to this rebuild.  

The rebuild will never work if there are not at least one or two veterans around that grew up in this organization.  Do the right thing and extend Reynolds this offseason.

Sign Yoshi Tsutsugo to a One-Year Deal

As mentioned above, the second aspect of a rebuild is stockpiling as much young talent through the draft and trades.  Unfortunately, and mostly due to GM Ben Cherington already doing so, the Pirates are short on veterans to trade.  Therefore, the Pirates should employ the same strategy they did with starter Tyler Anderson in this past offseason.  The Pirates signed Anderson for a cheap $2.5 million, one-year, contract and took a calculated risk. 

The Pirates figured if Anderson performed well, they would have a valuable trade piece at the July trade deadline.  If Anderson did not perform well, one-year and $2.5 million is not devastating to the organization.  Sure enough, the risk paid off and Anderson was coveted at the trade deadline.  

After a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies fell through for failed physicals on Philly's end, the Pirates sent Anderson to the Seattle Mariners.  In return, the Pirates received minor league catcher Carter Bins and right-handed pitcher Joaquin Tejada to add to the young talent stock.  This same strategy could work with Yoshi Tsutsugo. 

While I think many fans want the Pirates to resign Tsutsugo as an actual asset for the Pirates future, this is not likely.  Yoshi is 29 years old, and despite his success with the Pirates so far, he really has not performed consistently in his time in Major League Baseball.  Most of Yoshi’s success came very early in his career when he was an All-Star for the Yokohama Bay Stars in the Nippon Professional Central League.  Before joining the Pirates, he was batting under the Mendoza Line (.200) for his career in the MLB.

However, he has caught fire during his time in Pittsburgh and is quickly becoming a fan favorite.  He could certainly continue his success into next season.  This is why, even at 30 years of age, the Pirates should resign Yoshi to a one-year contract, at any value under $5 million.  His potential trade return could be better or equal of what the return was for Anderson, making the risk of the deal worth it in the long run of this rebuild.  It would also please some fans to have Yoshi on the roster going into the 2022 season.

Use the word “Rebuild”

The Houston Astros employed a rebuild strategy that I feel is risky and difficult to pull off, but smart.  They had several meetings with season ticket holders where they were transparent and very real with the fans.  They outlined their rebuilding plan and said flat out, “this team will be very bad for a few seasons.  However, if you stick with us, we will deliver a championship contending team.”

The hard part was delivering on this promise.  And whether you want to take away Houston’s championship because of the cheating scandal, that is neither here nor there.  The point is, the Astros front office was transparent with their fans and delivered on a plan.

This is why the Pirates have to use the word “rebuild”.  What are they waiting for?  Do they think that using this term will drive fans away from attending games?  Look around PNC Park, they’re not coming.  So outline your plan to us and give us hope for success in the future.  Otherwise as fans we have no choice but to speculate if the organization really has any plan at all.

Conclusion

In my opinion, to keep the team on the path of a successful rebuild, those three things have to happen this offseason.  Extend Bryan Reynolds to show the fans you have faith in the long-term viability of this rebuild.  Sign Yoshi Tsutsugo to a one-year deal, not only because he is a fan favorite, but because there will be value there at the trade deadline next season.  And finally, use the term “rebuild” to show you’re being transparent to the fans.

Also, on a side note, replace the scoreboard.  Relative to other ballparks it's awful and the only bad part about PNC Park.  Spend the couple million you’ve saved for years on payroll and give us a nice jumbo HD scoreboard like most fans around the country get to enjoy.  End tangent.  Go Bucs!

 

 

 

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