Coming off of the exceptional 2014 Pirates season where they achieved the playoffs for two years straight,they head into the offseason where rumors about trades and signings buzz around the MLB. The question is whether playoffs will happen for a third straight year. As the Winter Meetings from San Diego fades into memory and Piratefest gives way to playoff hopes for the Steelers, Pirates fans take stock of the local sports team that has brought the most joy (and maybe least pain) to its fans. In my opinion, the Pirates will reach the same success as the last two years, due to players that the Pirates acquired and the other moves across the division.
The biggest loss that the Pirates have taken is reported to be Russell Martin. Carrying the team in the backstop and making legendary hits, Martin was an exceptional player in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He will be immensely hard to replace because good catchers are very rare in the MLB, due to lack of talented players. The Pirates this year will either go to a new addition, ex-Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart, a veteran catcher that has been with the Bucs for recent years.
Other players lost or traded include Ike Davis, Joely Rodriguez, Justin Wilson and Clint Barmes, even though in my opinion losing Barmes was an advantage to the Bucs. Overall, the Pirates spent the majority of their money after signing three pitchers.
Ex-pirate A.J Burnett, fellow ex-Philly Antonio Bastardo, and returning pitcher Francisco Liriano are the primary storyline for offseason additions so far. The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Burnett for a small price of 8.5 million and took a 4.25 million dollar pay cut just so he could return to the Bucs to a 2015 winning season.
The Pirates division, the NL Central, consists of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St, Louis Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Chicago Cubs, have all also lost and gained players in the offseason. All of these teams in my opinion could be contenders for a division title or a wild card spot next season, a now surprisingly competitive division. I believe the Pirates will have an upper hand on all of these teams.
First, the Cardinals are always a playoff contender and has been a roadblock for the Bucs in recent years. The Cardinals have not made many moves over the offseason that would convince me that they would have a great year this year. One tragic event that will definitely affect the Cardinals is the death of young phenomenon Oscar Taveras.
Another roadblock for the Bucs has been the Reds. The Reds last season at the beginning of the season were coming on strong and riding the Pirates all the way through July. However, after the All- Star break the Reds kept on losing and losing until at the end of the season they were in fourth and twelve games back from the Pirates. Adding on to this dilemma the Reds lost many aces in their pitching core including Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon in a trade where, in my opinion, acquired minor pitchers will not impact the Pirates throughout the season.
The Milwaukee Brewers have not made any impacting moves in the offseason that would make them a better team in any way and I believe the Pirates will have no problem beating them in the division this year, despite the many tough games played between these clubs the past few seasons.
Now lastly to the main phenomenon of the offseason, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, after having a losing record for which feels like a century, might have a chance this year due to amazing pickups in the offseason. First the Cubs picked up the legendary coach, Joe Maddon, who will definitely benefit the Cubs in the upcoming season. The Cubs also signed Jon Lester who was the target for a lot of teams to pick up. However the Chicago Cubs managed to pull it off and sign him for six years and he will be troubling for any team that faces him.
The offseason is practically over and players are going to be going to warmer climates for Spring Training. The Pirates will make it to the playoffs for the third season in a row even though it will be tough in an incredible division to be number one.
Overall Grade: A
The Pirates will most likely make it into the playoffs for a third consecutive year due to the main pickups in the offseason that will strengthen their team overall and improve our overall stance in the division.