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Pittsburgh Pirates

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Projected WARMarket Value

14.6 131


13.6 122


3.5 32


Projected WAR by grouping is from Fangraphs’ depth charts.
Historically each win is worth ~$9 million on the free agent market

Projected Team

  • Josh Harrison, 2B
  • Corey Dickerson, LF
  • Starling Marte, CF
  • Josh Bell, 1B
  • Gregory Polanco, RF
  • Francisco Cervelli, C
  • Colin Moran, 3B
  • Jordy Mercer, SS
  • Ivan Nova, RHP
  • Chad Kuhl, RHP
  • Trevor Williams, RHP
  • Jameson Taillon, RHP
  • Joe Musgrove, RHP
  • Clint Hurdle

Health Check

“Are they launching a rebuild, like the Astros, or something less? The Pirates themselves maintain that they’re just retooling with a view toward returning to contention by 2019 at the latest. That doesn’t mean, though, that the offloading of salary won’t continue. By many accounts, the Pirates had trade discussions about infielder Josh Harrison, who owns their second-highest salary. Those went nowhere due to the mostly static trade market during the winter. The Pirates’ highest-paid player, catcher Francisco Cervelli, might also have been the subject of trade discussions were he not coming off two injury-plagued seasons. They could still become trade targets this coming summer if the Pirates aren’t in the race, as could Starling Marte and several lesser, but highly paid (by the Pirates’ penurious standards) players like Ivan Nova, David Freese and Sean Rodriguez.

The answers to continuing questions about the team’s direction will be heavily influenced by players acquired in the McCutchen and Cole trades. Four of them — third baseman Colin Moran, starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, and relievers Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick — figure to play roles on the major league team this year. None of the four has an established, major league track record. Moran muddled along for several years as a disappointing first round draft pick before he put together a big partial season (ended early by an injury) in Triple-A last year. The Pirates’ most obvious hole is at third, so Moran will have his chance to fill it. Musgrove, who struggled as a starter for the Astros last year, will try to replace Cole in the rotation. Feliz and Crick have electric stuff, but have to overcome gopher ball and control problems, respectively, to fulfill their potential as late-inning, shutdown relievers.”

—Bucs Dugout

Key Player

From Sean Burnett to Joel Hanrahan, to Mark Melancon, to Felipe Rivero, the Pirates keep leveling up with unpopular (at the time) trades of quality relievers.

A live arm coming up in the Rays’ and Nationals’ systems, Rivero actualized his top-shelf reliever status with a dominant first four months of the 2017. After falling back to earth in August and September, Rivero figures to return to being an elite reliever in 2018.

Clint Hurdle used Rivero creatively early in 2017, and even once Tony Watson lost a hold on the closer’s job in June. However, the manager slowly reverted to a more traditional usage pattern for his left-handed closer. Four- or five-out saves, though, are still on the table moving forward.

Rivero chose the nickname “Nightmare” for his Players Weekend jersey, and he has a fastball that touches 100, a wipeout slider and a nasty changeup. He already was the most electrifying player to watch on the Pirates roster, a status further cemented after offseason trades of beloved Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. He’s gotten the closer’s entrance video and all the excitement that comes with that status, but it’s his stuff that should keep people fired up for him in 2018.

Now signed to a four-year, $22 million deal with a couple club options tacked on, Rivero gives the Pirates their desired financial flexibility, and he should be around a few more years — probably until he’s traded, to much chagrin, for a younger, better reliever. It’s unlikely, though, that they’ll ever find a more exciting pitcher to watch.

—Eli Nellis, Bucs Dugout

Best Case

We’re optimists, not miracle workers. Please remember that when you wonder why we’re not envisioning a thrilling go at a wild card for the Pirates, and are instead suggesting that, after trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates need to hope Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove and the kids they already had around can show that it was right to hit reset instead of trying to add one more time.

Worst Case

Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove and the kids the Pirates already had around do not show that it was right for Pittsburgh to hit reset instead of trying to add one more time. Also, the Major League Baseball Players Association wins its grievance against the Pirates for failing to reinvest revenue-sharing dollars into the roster, so then we know the first part of this section is not just true hypothetically, but also legally true!