The Pittsburgh Pirates Show They Are Rebuilding, Not Tanking

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Look, I understand the past several seasons have been tough for Pittsburgh Pirate fans.  When the Pirates announced a couple weeks ago that any cancelled games on our season ticket package would be refunded as ticket credit instead of cash, my Dad stated, "why would we want credit for the early games?  The early games will be the only ones the Pirates are still in the race. When we get around to using the credit, they'll be out of it."  I'm paraphrasing, but it was something along those lines.

My Dad is one of the biggest Pirate fans I know.  He attended World Series games with his mom long before I was even a thought in his mind.  He also is not a particularly negative Pirate fan, as some fans seem to relish in the negativity.  My Dad is just a realist and understands the Pirates are in the middle of a rebuild, and a playoff push is unlikely this season.

However, in my opinion, the Pirates are doing everything right in this rebuild, without going full tank.  

Coming out of the lockout, the Pirates had enough personnel to field a team this season.  They could have ran with Yoshi Tsutsugo, Michael Chavis, and a combination of their outfielders to fill this season's DH role.  They also had plenty of starting pitchers.  While not the most talented bunch, and some still very young, the Pirates had enough to make a full season.  Cody Flavell mentioned all the different names floating around in his Mitch Keller article earlier this week.

After Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears went on the 60-day IL, the Pirates were short on bullpen arms, but bullpen arms can come from anywhere, right?  There's a plethora of minor leaguers and down-the-line free agents that could be brought out for slaughter in the dog days of August, when the season starts slipping away.  

My point with all of this, is that the Pirates could have sat tight, fielded a lousy team, and guaranteed a draft pick in the new draft lottery.  They also could have done what the Cincinnati Reds are doing and traded big names like Bryan Reynolds.  

However, as Dejan Kovacevic reported on DK Pittsburgh Sports' Daily Shot of Pirates on Wednesday, not only are the Pirates not interested in trading Reynolds, but both sides are interested in an extension of the All-Star in the future.  

Also, the Pirates went out and got, the now best power bat in the lineup, Daniel Vogelbach, a potentially very good starting pitcher in Adonis Medina, and a decent bullpen arm in Heath Hembree.  And didn't trade Bryan Reynolds.

These are exactly the types of moves they need to make in order to have a successful rebuild.  They need to subsidize the young and rising talent with veteran free agents on one-year deals.  And claim potential talent off waivers, who are generally risk-free.  

Then, instead of tanking away the season, you are at least allowing the possibility of several players overachieving, and actually putting a good season together.  Plus, with these veterans coming in on one-year deals, there is very minimal risk with a huge upside.  

What if Daniel Vogelbach finds his power from 2019, just three seasons ago, and hits around 30 homeruns? At just 28 years old, you now have a guy you could extend and have your DH set for the next 2-4 seasons. 

Combine this with potentially solid seasons out of Yoshi Tsutsugo, Michael Chavis, Cole Tucker, and Kevin Newman.  Then, what if Bryan Reynolds remains the same great hitter we've seen in 2019 and 2021.  

It actually makes for a very decent lineup.  Especially if Oneil Cruz gets a real shot at big league at-bats.  That's a lot of if's, but if's are better than impossibilities.

The other course of action could have been to tank.  Rely on who you had, trade Bryan Reynolds for more prospects, and add nothing to the bullpen and rotation.  But they didn't.  And this to me shows they are at least on the precipice of success.  

The Pirates are subsidizing their emerging talent with low-risk signings that could potentially emerge as productive ball players until the youngsters are ready to take on the full-time load.  It's what they did with guys like Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett, and they're doing it again now.

You can disagree, but I'm very excited by the moves the Pirates have been making, and have not been making in regards to Reynolds.  To me it shows they are definitely rebuilding, while not fully tanking.