The 2018 Pirates are not a good baseball team. Shocking I know. They also aren’t a terrible baseball team or even an interesting baseball team which makes it extremely difficult to follow them at the moment. There is no shortage of people to blame for the current state of the ball club but my focus is on what the team needs to do moving forward.
1, Commit to a direction
A large part of the Pirates problem has been their unwillingness to actually decide on what they want to be. Do they want to compete in the short term or do they want to look ahead to the future. It appears the time has finally come where the decision has been made for them. The team needs to turn its focus towards the future.
2. Bring in some new voices
Look I felt after last season it was time for Huntington and Hurdle to go but the club opted for a different direction. However this isn’t necessarily a call for them to go. If the team wants them to stick around fine (wouldn’t be my preference but whatever) but their advisors/assistants/the people who have their ear are in dire need of a shake up. A new hitting/pitching coach and some new player development people sounds like a good start to me.
3. Remove the clutter
Any player on the current roster who isn’t going to be an asset to the club in 2020 should be traded or released. This isn’t just talking about pending free agents like Harrison, Freese, Cervelli, etc but also borderline depth guys like Schugel and Smoker. There is just no need for these guys.
4. Sort through the remainder
The team has a decent assortment of marginal talent and over the next year and a half an attempt needs to be made to find out which of the players in that group are actually useful piece. Is Josh Bell an answer at 1B? What about Will Craig? A similar discussion can be had at virtually every position.
5. Aim for a window
The economics of baseball prevent the Pirates from having a realistic shot of building a sustained winner. That is just the way it is. The Pirates have to try and carve themselves out a window of some sort. Right now the most promising window for the Pirates probably rests with prospects such as Oneil Cruz, Cal Mitchell, Shane Baz, Cody Bolton and Travis Swaggerty. All of those guys are far enough way that anything can happen but right now that is probably the best collection of talent the Pirates have. Adding a few college picks high in the next draft or two to supplement the group would be a good idea.
6. Be prepared to take an opportunity
Its no secret this past offseason was very slow. If that should happen in the next year or two the Pirates need to be prepared to take advantage of it. They choose to sit this past off-season out but with a good bit of money coming off the books the next year or two could be a great time to try and find a good value. A 3-4 year deal for a starting pitcher and/or an infielder could go a long ways to patching up potential weak spots for the window the Pirates should be aiming for.
7. Take advantage of the window
If the team somehow manages to open a window they need to do what they can to take advantage of it. Trade away prospects, stretch the budget for a year or two. Yes this likely means we will see a sharp drop off in both payroll and talent once the window closes but the Pittsburgh market has made it abundantly clear that they see no difference between a 115 loss club and an 85 loss club.
8. Show they’ve learned something
The Pirates made a bunch of good moves for a few short years but have since shown an unwillingness to adapt to the realities around them. The most important thing of all which basically summarizes all previous 7 points is the team needs to show they have learned the need to be adaptable and adjust course on the fly when necessary.