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When the Pirates find a new GM, he or she will need to determine how to address some of the impending position battles involving their top prospects.

The 2019 season was quite a journey, and the kids were on display. Young talent like Bryan Reynolds, and Kevin Newman grabbed the headline mantle directly from Josh Bell as he cooled off toward the end of June and geared up for his first All Star game appearance.

I often pictured a proud Clint Hurdle pushing the woes of his pitching staff and growing injured list out of his mind, while smiling and mumbling the famous words of his movie counterpart in Major League, “There’s a couple of potential All Stars in there.”

2020 promises to provide more of the youth injection, so let’s take a moment and see if we can broach the subject of where they fit. Of course, injury is sometimes the mother of opportunity as young Mr. Reynolds discovered last season, but for the sake of this look, we’ll assume the healthiest roster in the league.

Ke’Bryan Hayes – 3B

The Runddown: Hayes is a defensive wiz at the hot corner, as my colleague noted on multiple occasions. A late 1 round pick (32 overall) in 2015, Hayes has shown positive strides with the bat but hasn’t shown the power many hoped would develop. He was hampered by injury last season for Indianapolis, but still hit .266 with 10 HR in only 432 at bats. A welcome sight for the Pirates top prospect.

Players to Leapfrog: Colin Moran, Jose Osuna

My Thoughts: The Pirates were one of the very worst teams in baseball defensively last season. This on a team that featured a Gold glove finalist 2B (Frazier), a former Gold Glove winner (Marte), and a steady LF (Reynolds). If you watched more than a dozen games, you would have seen that Moran’s defense at third was a weakness.

So, the question for Hayes is, can his defense and offensive potential outweigh the emergence of Moran who became a consistent contributor on offense in the heart of the order? Osuna has at least proven he is a very solid bench option and defensively superior to Moran as a 3B and 1B. His position flexibility will make him hard to replace. I believe we will see Hayes starting the season with AAA. Hayes is too good to last long down there and will find a way to the MLB club in 2020. The defense is just too impressive and much needed.

Cole Tucker – Middle Infield

The Runddown: Early in the season Cole Tucker was called into duty as the Pirates were bitten by injury at the Short Stop position. He was electric from the start, he smiled and flashed the speed and energy we saw during spring training. Defensively, Tucker took charge of SS and provided stability, but his bat went cold after a very nice start, ultimately leading to his demotion as the roster found their way out of the medical tent. His call up in September provided little opportunity for playing time as Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman were arguably the best hitters in the lineup down the stretch – both competed for tops in the league in batting average.

Players to Leapfrog: Newman, Frasier, Eric Gonzalez, Kevin Kramer

My Thoughts: Middle infield is a position of strength for the Bucs. I see no way Newman and Frazier don’t go into 2020 as penned in starters. However, every team needs a solid middle infielder to provide insurance on the bench and that could very well be Tucker’s spot. He has some hurdles, and not his ex-coach, namely Eric Gonzalez and Kevin Kramer. Gonzalez showed some of what the Pirates hoped he would be as the season wound down. He is entering his first season of arbitration. That’s a whole lot of control to cede for any club, let alone the traditionally frugal Pirates. Kevin Kramer worked in the outfield last season but even that could be a crowded spot with Gregory Polanco expected to return. Tucker will have to earn it in Spring Training, but it may be a numbers game.

Will Craig – 1B

The Runddown: Will has steadily moved up the ranks in the minors. Last season he belted 23 home runs for the Indians, while providing Gold Glove-quality defense. His power has emerged, and the pop is real.

Players to Leapfrog: Josh Bell, Jose Osuna

My Thoughts: Craig will have some real challenges making the club out of camp. His defense and bat look ready for the show but, being stuck behind Josh Bell who rarely takes a night off unless forcibly removed, he won’t find many at-bats off the bench. At 24 the Pirates really need to find another position for him or run the risk of wasting this intriguing prospect.

In previous seasons you could set your watch by what Neal Huntington would and wouldn’t do, but those days are over. We no longer look at these prospects as potential replacements for salary dumped stars, but as potential pieces in a rebuild. When the Pirates find their new GM and manager, they won’t be coming in to the completely bare cupboard. Perhaps some of these position battles will enable the club to make some moves to improve the pitching staff. Or maybe we’ll have a couple younger Pirates make a run at Rookie of the Year.

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Misfortune has followed the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Erik Gonzalez to the Dominican Republic.

The utility infielder fractured his left foot this past weekend while playing winter ball. It is his second bone break in the past seven months after he fractured his clavicle April 19 in a collision with Pirates center fielder Starling Marte in a game at PNC Park against the San Francisco Giants.

A surgical procedure was performed Wednesday by Dr. James Sferra at Allegheny General Hospital to fixate and stabilize the fracture. Gonzalez is projected to resume full baseball activities in 10-12 weeks, the Pirates announced.

The first injury cost Gonzalez 3½ months of the 2019 season. He rejoined the team Aug. 3. He was limited to 53 games and 142 at-bats while hitting .254 with one home run and six RBIs.

With Santo Domingo of the Dominican Winter League, he was hitting .250 in 11 games.

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Adam Frazier had a fantastic year for the Pirates. He flashed a gold glove-caliber glove and his usual steadiness at the plate. But, with the Pirates in a rebuild, it may make sense to move him to a contender.

Rumors swirl this time of the year, as surely as my wife will bust out the Christmas tree after the last Trick-or-Treater leaves with a handful of chocolate. Dominoes will start to fall as the Pirates answer the bell on hiring their new GM, but we needn’t wait for that to identify some potential Pirates’ trade scenarios.

The Pirates have some big chips to be sure, Starling Marte, Chris Archer, and Josh Bell to name a few. Each of them are options to move in an effort to rebuild a roster so that the Pirates can compete in arguably the most competitive division in baseball, the NL Central.

I’d like to touch on one such member of the roster, Adam Frazier. Frazier transitioned last season from “super utility” player to everyday second baseman, he started the season as the penned-in leadoff hitter and played gold glove-caliber defense. For much of the season Frazier didn’t look comfortable at the plate. However, for a player like Adam, that adds up to a .278 average with 10 HR and a 2.7 WAR. Those numbers don’t reflect someone who was uncomfortable with a bat in his hands.

So why am I suggesting the Pirates trade Frazier? Simple, the Pirates must trade someone of value in order to expect value in return, and with Cole Tucker waiting in the wings, a replacement with potentially minimal drop off seems plausible. Players like Frazier can be spark plugs and that intangible is worth considering, but that role too is one Mr. Tucker can amply fill.

I wouldn’t happily give up on him. I’m a believer in what he brings to the table and I still think he has sneaky power that could emerge as he becomes more comfortable putting it on display. When he really gets a hold of one his bat speed creates arguably more raw power than anyone not named Bell or Marte.

During the preseason, I opined that Frazier would be in the conversation for batting champ and I still hold that as the level his potential has the capability of taking him. His compact, quick swing is perfect for a player who thrives on contact and his frame make his strike zone measurably harder to target.

The long and short of it is, Adam is an established big-league talent with a proven track record and under team control through 2022. That is very attractive to the GMs of the world and the perfect type of player to help a club right now. A trade would return some much-needed prospect depth for the Pirates organization.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several players the Pirates could consider moving but first they must identify when the window can feasibly open and who we’ll see when we look through it. Make no mistake, trading one of the only bright spots in an otherwise bleak defensive unit doesn’t leave much to spark optimism for 2020, but the Pirates need to be thinking more along the lines of being prepared for all the chips to fall into place near the arrival of players like Quinn Priester.

The way I see it, building toward an arbitrary date is useless unless you can identify several players you believe will be there when it arrives. Quinn is ahead of schedule in many ways as my colleague pointed out in his prospect update. Without pushing him, I believe 2022 is a reasonable landing spot for his debut. This would put the window somewhere in the 2022-2024 seasons. Decisions are shaded by this window, anyone who will be here due to team control and fills the role they play in a fashion the Pirates believe will contribute stays. Anyone who won’t be here, either extend them or move them. Its not a romantic way of looking at building a baseball team, but it is practical. Its also what turns “we want to win a championship” from empty words, to a real possibility.

In all likelihood the future is not now for the Pirates but moving Frazier to a contender for Single or Double A prospect pitcher could go a long way toward ensuring the future has a chance of shining bright, maybe this time the brightest the sport has to offer.

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PITTSBURGH – Ben Cherington made his first official roster moves as Pirates general manager on Wednesday, adding five prospects to Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Facing Wednesday night’s deadline to set their roster, the Pirates selected the contracts of third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, shortstop Oneil Cruz, first baseman Will Craig and right-handers Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce.

• Pirates Top 30 Prospects

To make room for those additions, the Bucs designated four pitchers for assignment: Dario Agrazal, Montana DuRapau, Luis Escobar and Williams Jerez. Pittsburgh ended the day with a full 40-man roster as Cherington’s real work begins.

The annual Rule 5 Draft will take place at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Dec. 12.

What makes a prospect eligible for the Rule 5 Draft? Players signed at age 18 must be added to the 40-man roster within five seasons or they become eligible if left unprotected. Players signed at 19 or older must be protected within four seasons. This year, that generally meant international signings or high school Draft picks in 2015 had to be protected along with college players taken in the ’16 MLB Draft.

There was no doubt the Pirates would add Hayes and Cruz, two of their top three prospects. Craig, Cederlind and Ponce were also at risk of being selected if left unprotected.

Hayes, the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, is the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 36 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The slick-fielding third baseman is coming off an uninspiring offensive season for Triple-A Indianapolis. After a solid showing in Double-A Altoona, Hayes hit .265/.336/.415 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs in 110 games for Indianapolis this year. The 22-year-old could be ready for the Majors soon, but Pittsburgh might prefer to have him prove himself offensively back in Triple-A to start the year.

Pirates’ Top 5 prospects
Nov 21st, 2019 · 1:00
Pirates’ Top 5 prospects
Cruz, acquired from the Dodgers as part of the Tony Watson trade in 2017, is the Bucs’ No. 3 prospect and ranked 57th overall, according to MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old is a fascinating prospect, from his size (6-foot-7) to his defensive future (currently a shortstop, though most evaluators expect that to change in time) and the tantalizing tools that allowed him to hit .298/.356/.475 with eight homers and 11 steals in 73 games this past season. Cruz began the year in Class A Advanced Bradenton and finished with Altoona, where he’ll likely return to start next year.

Craig, the Pirates’ first-round pick in 2016, is now only a call away from the Majors. The Pirates’ No. 10 prospect has shown more home run power while playing improved defense over the last two years, but he still has questions to answer about his overall offensive profile. This year, the 25-year-old slugged 23 homers and drove in 78 runs in Triple-A but hit just .249 with a .326 on-base percentage and 146 strikeouts in 556 plate appearances.

Cederlind, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, climbed from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis this year. The hard-throwing reliever was particularly dominant in Double-A, posting a 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings over 31 appearances. The 23-year-old could make his Major League debut at some point next season.

The Pirates acquired Ponce, 25, from the Brewers in exchange for starter Jordan Lyles before this year’s Trade Deadline. The right-hander moved to the bullpen in 2018 but spent some time as a starter after joining Pittsburgh. Ponce finished the year in Triple-A, then put together an encouraging stint in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.35 ERA with 27 strikeouts and only three walks in 23 innings over five starts.

Only one eligible prospect on the Pirates’ Top 30 list was left unprotected: outfielder Lolo Sanchez. Despite his upside, Pittsburgh’s No. 15 prospect is unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft after finishing this past season in Bradenton.

Escobar, who was designated for assignment, was the Pirates’ 14th-ranked prospect, but his stock fell with a move to the bullpen and consistently high walk rates. Agrazal made 14 starts for the Pirates this year but struggled after an encouraging start, ending the season with a 4.91 ERA and only 41 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. DuRapau, a 32nd-round Draft pick in 2014, reached the Majors in May but wasn’t recalled when rosters expanded in September.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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Following a power surge the past two seasons, former first round pick Will Craig is now knocking on the door of the MLB level
The 2018 season was a breakout season for Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Will Craig. The former first round picked hit 20 home runs while slugging .448 to go with a .200 ISO at Double-A Altoona. As a result, he made his Triple-A debut in 2019.

Craig went on to spend the entire 2019 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. While his power numbers took a bit of a hit with Indy, Craig continued to be a power threat. Now, he is knocking on the door of the MLB level.

Catching market starting to thin out for the Brewers

With the Indians, Craig slashed .249/.326/.435 in 2019. His ISO was .186, he posted a .329 wOBA, he smashed a career high 23 home runs, and his extra base hit rate was 9.3%. However, his wRC+ was below league average at 92 and his 26.3% strikeout rate was a concern and a career high.

The Pirates selected Craig in the first round of the 2016 draft out of Wake Forrest. Craig began his professional career as a third baseman, before most playing first base the past three seasons. However, in 2019, he also started to learn to play left and right field in an effort to improve his value and positional flexibility.

While he was playing new positions, Craig grew leaps and bounds defensively at first base in 2019. He went from what looked like a future DH to being a plus a defender. Craig flashed soft hands, a strong arm and a great glove at first base this past season.

To be honest, it was a bit of surprise that Craig did not earn a September call up this past season. Especially with Josh Bell battling injuries that caused him to miss the last two weeks of the season.

NEXT: Potential Breakout Prospects For 2020
When the 2020 season begins Craig will likely be back at the Triple-A level. That said, it would not be a complete shocker to see him open the 2020 season with the Pirates as a bench bat. Regardless, Craig, barring injury or something else unforeseen, will make his MLB debut at some point during the 2020 season.

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The Pirates have narrowed their search to replace Clint Hurdle as manager.

As first reported by MLB.com, their final two candidates are Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, team sources confirmed to the Post-Gazette.

Shelton, 49, was hitting coach with the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2009, then had the same position with the Rays from 2010 to 2016 before the Twins brought him on as bench coach in 2017.

Quatraro, 46, played in the Rays’ minor league system and became a coach in 2004. He worked at various positions with Tampa from 2004 to 2013 before he joining Terry Francona’s staff with the Indians from 2014 to 2017 as an assistant hitting coach. Quatraro returned to the Rays for the 2018 season as third base coach and became bench coach for 2019.

Pirates pitcher Dario Agrazal pitches against the Cubs in the first inning Wednesday, Sept. 25 2019, at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pirates trade Dario Agrazal to Tigers for cash
Both men are highly respected in baseball circles and have experience winning in small markets.

The decision to focus on Quatraro and Shelton eliminates internal candidates such as third base coach Joey Cora and special assistant Jeff Banister.

According to sources, the Pirates are hoping to finalize a decision by the end of the week. Whomever the manager is will have to work quickly to build his staff.

The Pirates still need to hire a bench coach and a pitching coach. The manager, along with general manager Ben Cherington, will also have to decide the fates of the remaining staff members like Cora, hitting coach Rick Eckstein, and first base coach Kimera Bartee.

Rock the vote

Major League Baseball is rolling out a new kind of award — the 2019 All-MLB Team — and Pirates fans can vote for Josh Bell until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Unlike the All-Star Game, this particular honor is designed to incorporate the entire season. It will include two separate teams, regardless of league. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Matt Quatraro stands on the field during a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, May 11, 2018, in Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Breaking down the Pirates’ next manager: Derek Shelton vs. Matt Quatraro
Fans can vote once every 24 hours at MLB.com. Winners will be determined by fan vote and a panel of media members, broadcasters, former players and other officials throughout the game.

There will be three outfielders selected — regardless of position — along with a normal infield, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and two relief pitchers.

Bell ranks third among eligible first baseman with 37 home runs. He’s fourth in RBIs (116) and third in OPS (.936).

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PITTSBURGH — The Pirates’ next general manager is going to have to figure out the club’s immediate future and long-term plan behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli is gone. Elias Díaz, once a well-regarded prospect, followed up an encouraging 2018 campaign with a stunningly poor season. There isn’t a catcher among the club’s Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

It’s entirely possible that Pittsburgh’s next starting catcher isn’t currently on the roster. But part of the solution might have emerged amid the disappointment of this past season.

Jacob Stallings spent the past four years as the Pirates’ third or fourth option at catcher, which means he’s familiar with the road between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis. But this season, Cervelli’s concussion and Díaz’s struggles opened the door for Stallings to receive more regular playing time.

Stallings’ offensive performance was fine, especially compared to the Pirates’ other catchers. But the 29-year-old earned the club’s trust with his diligent preparation and his performance behind the plate. By the end of the year, most of Pittsburgh’s starting pitchers had asked to work with Stallings.

• Predicting the Pirates’ 2020 Opening Day roster

Where that leaves Stallings going forward is anybody’s guess. Maybe a new GM will view him as a short-term starting option for a team focused on the future or perhaps as a spiritual successor to Chris Stewart: a quality, defensive-minded backup on a potential contender.

Before looking forward, though, let’s review Stallings’ season.

What went right?
His defensive work, primarily. It’s tough to quantify everything about catchers’ defense, but Stallings graded out well in the areas we can measure and those in which we depend upon the word of his teammates.

Stallings has long been praised by pitchers for his preparation and game-calling, and that showed this year. By late May, Chris Archer worked exclusively with Stallings. Joe Musgrove soon followed suit. Most of Trevor Williams’ and Mitch Keller’s starts down the stretch came with Stallings behind the plate.

Adam Berry

@adamdberry
Joe Musgrove, on working with Jacob Stallings tonight: “Stalls was spot-on with everything. It makes my job a lot easier when I trust my catcher to call the game. It’s almost like he’s the brains and I’m the muscle. You just tell me where to throw it, and I’ll throw it there.”

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11:26 AM – Jul 21, 2019
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Catcher ERA is a flawed statistic in some regards, but it can paint part of the picture here. Consider how Pirates pitchers performed when throwing to Stallings (4.47 ERA), how similar that was to their work with the veteran Cervelli (4.42) and how different it was with Díaz behind the plate (5.95).

There are more advanced metrics to consider, too.

Stallings ranked eighth among all Major League catchers in adjusted Fielding Runs Above Average, according to Baseball Prospectus, and 11th in Framing Runs. The latter was a focal point for Stallings this season, as he committed himself to the skill of framing pitches with former bench coach Tom Prince and bullpen catcher Jordan Comadena.

Musgrove fans 9 in 7 1/3 frames
Aug 17th, 2019 · 1:06
Musgrove fans 9 in 7 1/3 frames
Stallings did all the necessary drill work, catching weighted balls and properly positioning his body behind the plate and his glove around the strike zone. He watched video of elite pitch-framers and noticed how well they were able to keep their gloves in the zone, rather than letting the ball move them, so he strengthened his body in the weight room.

“It’s been a continual growth process. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better as the year’s gone on,” Stallings said in late September. “It’s been more this year than ever in the past.”

What went wrong?
This is not a knock on Stallings, but the answer is probably his games played total (71) and the fact that he had more plate appearances (210) than Cervelli.

Stallings started 53 games for the Pirates this year, which is not how you draw it up for your third catcher leaving Spring Training. Díaz started 75 games behind the plate despite having a brutal year overall, and Cervelli made 32 starts before he was sidelined and later picked up by the Braves.

Offensively, Stallings was more or less who he’s always been. The 29-year-old batted .262 with a .325 on-base percentage and a .382 slugging percentage. The good news is he tapped into a little more power to hit six home runs, as many as he’s ever hit in a professional season. He credited hitting coach Rick Eckstein for that improvement.

Stallings’ line-drive smash
Aug 13rd, 2019 · 0:42
Stallings’ line-drive smash
“Working with him, learning about my body and my swing,” Stallings said. “Pulling the ball in the air with backspin was something I struggled with. I used to always just topspin the ball because I wasn’t putting myself in a good position to hit. I really dove into that. It’s something that I will always struggle with because I’m so big and lanky with a lot of moving parts, but body position to hit has been the biggest change for me this year.

• Five questions facing the Pirates this offseason

“I feel like I have a good swing. I just don’t put myself in position to hit all the time. So we worked a lot on that, and it’s something we always have to work on. Putting myself in a more consistent position to hit has helped a lot.”

Best moment
How about June 27, when Stallings had three hits and a homer and caught a shutout against the eventual American League champion Astros in a 10-0 Pirates win at Minute Maid Park?

Recap: PIT 10, HOU 0
Jun 28th, 2019 · 3:16
Recap: PIT 10, HOU 0
Or how about the Pirates’ September series in San Francisco? Stallings hit two of his six homers in a historically pitcher-friendly ballpark while catching a pair of victories.

Stallings’ solo home run
Sep 10th, 2019 · 0:46
Stallings’ solo home run
2020 outlook
Stallings is under club control, so he should be back in some role. But will the next management group take another shot on the upside Díaz showed in 2018?

There are plenty of free agents available, and the Pirates picked up recent contributors like Cervelli and Stewart through smart trades. How would that decision or another acquisition affect Stallings? Stay tuned.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have some house keeping to take care of before the offseason gets underway. However, the market is already beginning to take shape.
One of the biggest needs, if not the biggest need, for the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason is to find a productive catcher. The team went from having one of the best catching situations in baseball back in 2018 to see the position completely regress this past year.

The team saw Francisco Cervelli suffer another injury plagued season which led him to be cut by the team. Then catcher Elias Diaz, who somewhat broke out in 2018, took a complete step backwards. He saw his power drop off completely and looked very bad behind the plate. Jacob Stallings did turn some heads during the second half of the season, and should be viewed as the only secure catcher on the roster for next season. Nothing against Stallings, but he was out on waivers last season. This is very telling of how much went wrong with the team’s catcher’s in 2019.

Last month we did an article breaking down some of the catchers that would be on the free agent market. After this weekends option deadline, a new and very intriguing name became available. The Washington Nationals declined their $9 million option on veteran catcher Yan Gomes.

Gomes is a veteran catcher who has established himself as a good all around catcher in his career. Many likely remember him when he was with the Cleveland Indians, where he spent six seasons. He actually started in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and debuted for them back in 2012. The Jays traded the Brazilian native, along with Mikes Aviles, to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Esmil Rogers.

Gomes put together a solid career with the Indians, showing a decent offensive skill set along with a strong defensive profile. Gomes is a career .245 hitter with an average of 14 home runs hit over his last five seasons. This is not a great offensive profile, but it is definitely more productive than what Elias Diaz provided last year. Furthermore, Gomes owns a career .175 ISO, showing that when he does hit, he hits for some power.

Where Gomes’ real value lies is his work behind the plate. In his career Gomes has averaged out to be a plus pitch framer, although saw himself around league average last year at -0.3 framing runs. With that being said, Elias Diaz rated as one of the worst pitch framers in baseball at -13.1 runs. Gomes also rated very well in terms of defensive runs saved, putting up five for the season. Once again, Diaz posted -23, one of the worst in baseball.

Jacob Stallings meanwhile posted strong numbers behind the dish, with six framing runs and 13 defensive runs saved. The question about Stallings has always been if he could be an everyday player.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates are able to bring Yan Gomes in and pair him with Stallings, the Bucs could get back to having a strong tandem behind the plate. Furthermore, Gomes’ veteran experience could help mold Jacob Stallings into an even better catcher, but also help develop some of the young arms in the system.

Gomes is coming off a down year and while he did hit 12 home runs, he posted one of the worst batting averages of his career. Still, he is a big defensive upgrade over Elias Diaz, who looked lost behind the plate at times this season. Gomes should fit into the Bucs financial range on a short-term bounce back contract. Gomes is just one season removed from an all-star game and a WAR over 2.0, so he definitely would be a worthy gamble.

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Neal Huntington’s mistakes have been talked about at length over the last couple weeks. Let’s spend some time to review some of his best trades as Pirates’ GM.

Neal Huntington’s tenure as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates is over. In the weeks leading up to his firing, Huntington’s many head-scratching moves were thoroughly discussed. Now that he is gone, I thought it would be fun to do something different – to highlight the ten best (not worst) trades of Neal Huntington’s time in Pittsburgh.

Believe it or not, he had some pretty big wins. The losses outweighed the wins, but he had some.

I must say, researching this brought up some old wounds. Remember Jose Bautista for a PTBNL (Robinzon Diaz)? Yeesh.

These are in descending order and span almost the entirety of Huntington’s twelve-year tenure. Enjoy.

#10 – Buddy Borden to the Rays for Sean Rodriguez

At the time he was traded in 2014, Buddy Borden was a 22-year old pitcher with some promise. He never was as good as he was in 2014 – only making it as far as AA. He spent his last season, 2017, back with the Pirates organization in Altoona.

Sean Rodriguez was mister utility for the Pirates during their last playoff run in 2015. He played six different positions on the field – all except pitcher, catcher, and center field.

He also added something at the plate. His best season for the Pirates was 2016 when he hit .270 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Aside from his contributions on the field, Rodriguez was a well-liked and respected member of the clubhouse.

#9 – Travis Snider to the Orioles for Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault

At one point, Travis Snider was thought of as a high potential outfielder with some pop in his bat. That potential never materialized for Snider and the Pirates were able to unload him while there was still a feeling that it would.

Stephen Tarpley never made an impact for Pittsburgh, but he was a key piece of the trade that brought Ivan Nova to the Pirates. So, they were able to salvage some value from him.

Brault has stuck around with the Pirates and has had some ups and downs. There’s some potential in him. It will be interesting to see if his development accelerates with a new pitching coach.

Even if Brault doesn’t become anything more than a middle reliever, they essentially got him and Tarpley (and Nova) for nothing.

#8 – Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox for Ivan DeJesus, Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, and Jerry Sands

Joel Hanrahan was the key piece of this trade, but he never was the closer for Boston that he was for the Pirates.

This trade ended up being Brock Holt for Mark Melancon. Melancon, as you know, was a stopper in the bullpen for four years. During his time with the Pirates, Melancon had a WHIP under one (0.926), and an ERA under two (1.80). So giving up Hanrahan for Melancon was a net positive to the bullpen.

This trade would be higher on the list if it were not for the fact that Brock Holt has carved out a pretty good career for himself in Boston as utility player.

#7 – Richard Mitchell to the Marlins for Trevor Williams

Trevor Williams, like much of the rest of the team, regressed quite a bit in 2019. At the end of 2018, the Pirates were feeling pretty good about Williams after he posted a 3.11 ERA and a 1.178 WHIP.

Those numbers looked much worse in 2019 (5.38 ERA, 1.414 WHIP), but Williams’ 2018 gives me hope that he can be a middle of the rotation type guy.

The fact that they essentially got Williams for free helps. Richard Mitchell never made it out of the rookie league.

#6 – Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett

At the time, this looked like a trade for a washed-up former star, but A.J. Burnett became a Pittsburgh hero in just three years with the team.

He won 16 games with the Pirates in 2012, but perhaps his biggest contribution was as a player/coach for the young Pittsburgh pitching staff.

Like Trevor Williams, Burnett was received for free as neither of the two players sent to the Yankees contributed at the major league level.

#5 – Nate McClouth to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton

This trade would probably be higher if you take into account contributions made by received players for other teams. Charlie Morton is the headliner on this trade, but he didn’t become the player the Pirates hoped he would be in Pittsburgh (rather in Tampa).

Nate Mclouth looked like a star in 2008 with the Pirates – earning an all-star appearance and a Gold Glove. He quickly tailed off and was traded away to the Braves who hoped he just needed a change of scenery. That wasn’t the case as he never returned to anything close to that 2008 form.

While Morton never reached the heights that he has in Tampa while a Pirate, he had some successful years in Pittsburgh. The same goes for Jeff Locke.

#4 – Justin Wilson to the Yankees for Francisco Cervelli

Justin Wilson was up and down with the Pirates during his three years in Pittsburgh. He was lights out in 2013, but struggled in 2014 before getting traded. That up-and-down pattern has followed him the rest of his career – with the downs becoming more and more frequent.

Francisco Cervelli was the Pirate backstop and fan favorite for five years. He was a key component and an energizing force of the Pirates’ 2015 playoff team.

Cervelli struggled in his final year in Pittsburgh before being granted a release.

#3 – Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs for Josh Harrison, Jose Ascanio, and Kevin Hart.

Josh Harrison began his career as a utility player – often coming off the bench to make a rather large impact on games. The energy and production he brought to the Pirates required that he become an everyday player and he did in 2014. That year he earned his first all-star nod. Harrison was a fixture in the Pirate lineup for years and was obtained from the Cubs for almost nothing.

Tom Gorzelanny was the only other player involved in this transaction to have much of an impact after the trade, and that impact was underwhelming. Gorzelanny’s career numbers (4.40 ERA, 1.445 WHIP) made him rosterable, but that’s about it.

#2 – Andrew McCutchen to the Giants for Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick

I went back and forth on whether or not this was number one, but settled on number two because I couldn’t stomach a move to send Andrew McCutchen out of Pittsburgh as the “best” of anything – no matter how well it turned out.

McCutchen’s last year in Pittsburgh showed a sharp decline over the MVP-caliber player Pittsburgh knew and loved. When the idea of him being traded was floated, many wondered which version of McCutchen a trade suitor would get. The answer has been a lesser version of the ‘Cutch we saw even in his last season as a Pirate.

McCutchen is yet to hit better than .256 outside of Pittsburgh and has seen his numbers free-fall across the board.

On the flip side, Bryan Reynolds looks like a star. He hit .314 in his rookie year with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Kyle Crick should prove to be a solid member of the bullpen as well- though he’s provided mixed results since becoming a Pirate.

#1 – Mark Melancon to the Nationals for Felipe Vazquez and Taylor Hearn

It was tough naming this the top trade of Huntington’s tenure in Pittsburgh after the arrest of Felipe Vazquez this season, but we can’t possibly fault Neal Huntington for that.

We all know what Melancon did for the Pirates, but Vazquez was even better. So, simply flipping a 31-year old closer for a better and younger one gets this trade high on the list. When you factor in Melancon’s mediocrity since leaving Pittsburgh, it makes an even bigger steal.

But the part that puts it over the top for me is the other guy in this trade – Taylor Hearn. Hearn never made an impact in the Pirates’ organization, but he was used by Neal Huntington as the key asset used to acquire Keone Kela.

So, the arrest of Vazquez notwithstanding, the Pirates traded a declining Mark Melancon for star-level eighth and ninth inning pitchers who could have anchored a bullpen for years.

So, yes, Neal Huntington did have some wins in Pittsburgh. We remember the losses because, well…they were BIG losses, but we can still acknowledge that he did some good things while we rejoice about the possibilities of how the team will be run without him.

Feel free to comment on what I got wrong. I’m sure I missed something.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates completed their leadership makeover Wednesday, hiring Derek Shelton to be their new manager.

Shelton spent the past two seasons as the Minnesota Twins’ bench coach. This will be his first major league managerial job.

“I have known Derek for more than 15 years and have great admiration for his passion for the game and players, work ethic, curiosity and desire to learn,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement.

Shelton’s previous stops include a season as quality control coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017 — his tenure overlapping Cherington’s stint as Toronto’s vice president of baseball operations — and seven years as a hitting coach with the Tampa Bay Rays. Shelton broke into the majors as hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2009, and he has managed in the New York Yankees’ minor league system.

Cherington added that Shelton “will help lead an elite playing and coaching environment at the major league level and be a true partner to all of baseball operations.”

Shelton, 49, said in a statement that he wants to facilitate a “player-centric culture built on strong communication and relationships with our players, our staff and the entire organization.”

He replaces Clint Hurdle, who was fired in September amid the franchise’s worst season (69-93) since 2010.

The Pirates hired Cherington to be their general manager earlier this month and named Travis Williams as their new president in October.

Shelton filled the eighth and final managerial vacancy, joining Joe Maddon (Angels), Joe Girardi (Phillies), David Ross (Cubs), Jayce Tingler (Padres), Mike Matheny (Royals), Carlos Beltran (Mets) and Gabe Kapler (Giants). Beltran was the only racial minority hired.

Shelton inherits a team that finished below .500 in three of the past four seasons, though the on-field product during a miserable 25-48 second half proved to be just part of Pittsburgh’s issues in 2019. Relievers Keone Kela and Kyle Crick were suspended for their roles in separate dustups with members of the team’s coaching and support staff. All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez was arrested in September on felony charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a minor.

Cherington said shortly after his hiring that the Pirates need to do a better job of continuing to develop players once they reach the major leagues. Owner Bob Nutting expressed frustration at seeing former Pirates prospects flourish elsewhere, including Rays outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Tyler Glasnow.

Amid the losing, there were bright spots. First baseman Josh Bell became an All-Star while hitting 37 home runs. Rookie outfielder Bryan Reynolds hit .314 and finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting, and shortstop Kevin Newman hit .308 in 130 games after being elevated to the starting role following an early season injury to Erik Gonzalez.

The pitching staff, however, is in tatters. Ace Jameson Taillon is out for 2020 after Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow for a second time. Pittsburgh finished with a team ERA of 5.18, next to last in the NL and 26th in the majors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.