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After a brief hiatus, it is once again Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag time here at Rum Bunter
Who are candidates to be fired by the Pittsburgh Pirates this off-season? Who will be the Opening Day starter in 2020? And more in this week’s Pirate mailbag.

As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week and participated. Especially with the team currently being at rock bottom. Now, let’s dive in.

Who gets the axe?

— Penny Streets (@Burghfan4life) September 23, 2019

There will be changes this off-season. That is not a question. The question is what/how many changes will there be?

Do no count on general manager Neal Huntington losing his job. Rather or not he should lose his job is a discussion worth having, but it is unlikely to happen. That said, it is likely that there are shake ups in the front office.

Look for Huntington to make changes, potentially vast ones, within the Pirates’ scouting department. Multiple minor league coaches have already lost their jobs. Director of player development Kyle Stark and director of minor league operations Larry Broadway could be in hot water as well.

The MLB coaching staff is where the most changes can be expected.

The big question is will Clint Hurdle return as manager? My gut says no. After everything that has happened both on and off the field this season the Pirates need to go in another direction. Hurdle may also be burnt out and a mutual parting of ways would not be a surprise.

Even if Hurdle returns, his coaching staff will likely look much different. It is hard to envision pitching coach Ray Searage returning with how poorly the pitching staff has performed this season. The same can be said about third base coach/infield instructor Joey Cora.

There is a lot of work to be done this off-season. People will lose their jobs. They absolutely have to. It’s going to create an interesting off-season for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

If Huntington and Hurdle are fired at the end of the season. Who are your top choices for GM and Manager?

— Reid Family (@family_reid) September 23, 2019

So, if the Pirates do move on from Huntington and/or Hurdle, who could be options to replace them?

A rising star in front office circles that could be a great GM option is Chaim Bloom. Currently, Bloom is the vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. Few small market teams have had sustained success the way the Rays have, so tapping into their front office would be a logic choice.

Cleveland Indians assistant general managers Carter Hawkins and Matt Forman could make sense as well. St. Louis Cardinals vice president and assistant general manager Michael Girsch is a name that has long been viewed as a future GM.

While they are a big market team, there is no team in baseball better run than the Houston Astros. Houston assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, baseball ops manager Brendan Fournie would be worth a call as well.

Sticking with the big market theme, Los Angeles Dodgers vice president of baseball operations Josh Brynes is another future GM.

Circling back to the Astros, bench coach Joe Espada would make a strong managerial candidate. Another name worth calling would be former Marlins and Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Ex-Pirate shortstop and hitting coach Jay Bell, who is currently managing the Yankees Triple-A affiliate, would be a name worth monitoring too. Indians first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward should be candidates, too.

Who is opening day starter

— NJG (@NJG89869471) September 23, 2019

This is an interesting question. With 2019 Opening Day starter Jameson Taillon set to miss all of 2020 after undergoing his second Tommy John Surgery, there is no slam dunk option to take the ball for the Pirates on March 26th in Tampa Bay.

This could change based on what the Pirates do this off-season, but right now the top two options would appear to be Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove.

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Yes, Archer is coming off the worst season of his career but he is a veteran that has started on Opening Day before. He will also be looked upon to be the leader and anchor of the pitching staff in 2020.

After starting the 2018 season on the injured list Musgrove made his Pirate debut in May of that year. Since then, he has been a workhorse for the Bucs. In 50 games with the Pirates (49 starts) Musgrove owns a 4.31 ERA and a 3.77 FIP in 279 2/3 innings of work. These are not the numbers of a staff ace, but he is a strong middle of the rotation pitcher who will take the ball every five days and more times than not give your team an opportunity to win.

Between the two, Archer would be the likely choice.

The 2019 Pirates set out with a very, very thin margin to have success. After seeing how that turned out, do you think ownership will be motivated to spend semi-adequate funds for 2020?

— OffseasonBlister (@OffseasonBliste) September 23, 2019

This will likely hinge on what the Pirates’ plans are for 2020. Will they look to compete? Or does the team commit to a rebuild?

Going full rebuild may be their best course of action, especially if a new GM is brought it. If this is the case than you can expect to see players such as Archer, Keone Kela, and Starling Marte, among others, shopped and likely traded. There also will not be much of an incentive to add MLB quality depth to a team that is rebuilding.

If the team attempts to compete in 2020 then they are going to have to spend money. This team needs a lot of pitching help, a lot. They also need help at catcher, in the outfield, at third base, and at second base. That’s a lot of holes to fill.

NEXT: Pirates Should Pursue Kean Wong
That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions. Also, do not be afraid to ever ask a question either on Twitter or on Facebook.

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