The Pirates are emerging from the depths of their rebuild with some young stars and decent veterans leading the way.
After another season of struggles, the Pittsburgh Pirates look to make some improvement in 2023. The Pirates appear to be in a rut and downturn, finishing 62-100 in 2022, in a tie for the bottom of the NL Central barrel. However, this season’s lineup carries some real upside, meaning there could be some cautious optimism in the Steel City. Let’s now take a look at what lies ahead for Pittsburgh this season.
Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview and Off-season Recap: Transactions
The Pirates’ website has a full list of the team transactions during the offseason, but here are the highlights.
Key Additions –
- Acquired first baseman Ji-Man Choi via trade from the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league pitcher Jack Hartman.
- Signed first baseman Carlos Santana in free agency Nov. 29, 2022.
- Signed pitcher Vince Velasquez in free agency Dec. 13, 2022.
- Acquired third baseman Connor Joe via trade from the Colorado Rockies for pitcher Nick Garcia
- Signed catcher Austin Hedges in free agency Dec. 20, 2022.
- Signed pitcher Jarlin Garcia in free agency Dec. 28, 2022.
- Signed pitcher Rich Hill in free agency Jan. 5, 2023.
- Signed outfielder Andrew McCutchen in free agency Jan. 20, 2023.
Key Subtractions –
- Traded shortstop Kevin Newman to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Dauri Moreta.
- Catcher Roberto Perez left in free agency for the San Francisco Giants.
Overall, it appears the 2022 offseason was a busy one for the Pirates. Even though they still have one of the smallest payrolls in MLB, Pittsburgh brought on a number of big leaguers in free agency, which is a departure from previous years. The rest of the NL Central had made key additions of their own, so a group of aging veterans likely won’t be enough to win.
Looking Ahead to the Regular Season
There’s no better feeling than a homecoming. And that will certainly be the case for Andrew McCutchen. Cutch spent his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh black and gold, and he made many memorable moments. He was the NL MVP in 2013, made five All-Star teams, and won a Gold Glove and four Silver Sluggers. Now 36 years old, he and 43-year-old Rich Hill are some of the grizzled vets that will be the leaders of a relatively young team.
Cruz Continuing to Blossom
One of the big names to watch on this Pirates team in 2023 will be shortstop Oneil Cruz. He immediately put the league on notice when he hit the hardest ball in Statcast history at over 122 mph in August last season. And this year, the 23-year-old is hoping to put together a 30-30 season, a feat not accomplished since Cedric Mullins of the Baltimore Orioles pulled off 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2021. Cruz definitely will be a big-time power threat, and his speed makes him a blur on the basepaths.
Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview – Lineups/Rotation/Bullpen
Opening Day Lineup
Catcher – Austin Hedges
First Base – Ji-Man Choi/Carlos Santana
Second Base – Rodolfo Castro
Third Base – Ke’Bryan Hayes
Shortstop – Oneil Cruz
Left Field – Andrew McCutchen
Center Field – Bryan Reynolds/McCutchen
Right Field – Jack Suwinski
Designated Hitter – Santana
Bench – Ji Hwan Bae, Connor Joe, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Endy Rodriguez, Jason Delay
Wil Crowe, Chase De Jong, Jose Hernandez, Colin Holderman, Duane Underwood Jr, Dauri Moreta, David Bednar
On paper, this team doesn’t appear to make a lot of noise. But, in a fairly weaker division, the Pirates could be a dark horse candidate and perhaps even make their first playoff appearance since 2015.
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