If Done, the Pittsburgh Pirates Had a C+ Offseason

Photo credit: WPXI

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A tweet was making its rounds through Pirate fan talk last week from a Twitter account titled "MLB Nerds", that graded and ranked the offseason for each of the National League Central teams.  This has become quite the trend with Twitter accounts trying to bait people into interaction with sports-related lists they know will spark debate.  And it works. 

And it's not so much the list that I cared about.  Because honestly, who cares what the MLB Nerds have to say?  I actually like their account, but who cares about any of these lists until the season actually starts?  They're not real.  Nothing matters until the games start and we start to actually see which teams are good and which teams are bad.  These lists dictate nor prove nothing.

What surprised me is the amount of Pirate fans who went into a frenzy over the C+ grade.  They feel that the Pirates' offseason should be graded much higher than a C+.

To those fans I ask....Why?

First of all, a C+ is not a failing grade.  It's an average grade.  I mean C's get degrees, right?  And I think it's fair to say the Pirates had an average offseason.  I'd even go as far as saying that's generous.  Because objectively speaking, relative to the other teams in the league, the Pirates didn't really do much to move the needle.  Especially on a national level.

They did improve in both the corner outfield spots and at first base relative to the last season's Opening Day roster, but they could not have gone down in those areas.  And a few of the potential starting pitchers they added have loads of major league experience, but they're well passed their primes.  The Pirates also brought back the most popular Pirate in the last 50 years.   However, they also failed to extend the contracts of any of their players which the Atlanta Braves seem to do five times per offseason. 

So improvement?  Yes.  But did the Pirates do everything they could to fill their holes?  No.  

Let's take a look.

The moves actually affecting the Major League team were as follows: 

Of all those moves, what really jumps off the page?  Is it the 36 year-old designated hitter who is coming off his worst season?  Because Carlos Santana could benefit from the banning of the shift last season, but he's still had three pretty lousy seasons since being named an All-Star in 2019.

What about Ji-Man Choi?  I mean he's certainly better than Yoshi Tsutsugo and Michael Chavis, but he's nothing more than a platoon over at first base.  He is also coming off one of his worst seasons as a big leaguer so far.  Additionally, Choi's offseason elbow surgery is already making waves with the Pirates holding him out of the World Baseball Classic.  Is Choi a B or better signing?  I don't think so.

Connor Joe?  Connor Joe had 31 extra base hits playing for Colorado.  Where the altitude is supposed to make the ball go further.  Also, he may seem young, but it's only because he's only been in the bigs for three years.  He's actually 30.

And in the world of spin rate and increased velocity, is it Rich Hill that is supposed to raise the offseason grade to above average?  Is the soon-to-be 43 year old the A+ signing for the Pirates?  He is serviceable at best.  Hill will eat up some innings and put together about 10 decent outings, but he's not an above signing in any circumstance.  Especially at $8 million which seems like an overpay at his age and lack of durability.

The Pirates also didn't address their giant hole at catcher.  Austin Hedges is no better than any of the no-namers they ran out there last season after Roberto Perez was injured.  Hedges may provide less offense than if the Pirates still batted the pitcher in the last spot.

Now, I did absolutely love the Andrew McCutchen signing at this point in his career and at this point in the Pirates rebuild.  I don't usually put a lot of stock in "veteran presence", but Cutch is a different story.  He really can change a locker room.  But we can all objectively admit he is passed his prime, right?  At best, he's a 25 homerun, 80 RBI, guy.  However, because it's Cutch, I'll give that signing an A-.  

So that's it.  You all tell me.  What move brings that above a C+?  Actually, what move brings it up to a C+?  The Cutch signing?  Sure, I'll give you that.  Otherwise, I think C+ is actually pretty generous.

But also, the Pirates didn't necessarily have to have an A+ offseason in regards to moves made.  The offseason between the 2015 and the 2016 season needed an A+ offseason.  They needed a few free agent signings that would fill holes.  

Luckily, this season most of the improvement will come steps taken by the youngsters.  Castro, Contreras, Cruz, Keller, and Suwinski should all take steps forward as starters.  There should also be several players who debut this season that will improve the team.  So it's okay to not have an A+ offseason this year, but let's not argue that they did.  Objectively they did not.