The Pittsburgh Pirates are not far off from challenging in the MLB's National League Central division. For the better part of the 2012 season, they sat near or at the top of the division, only to falter down the stretch.
If the Pirates are going to take the next step in becoming a consistent contender, there are a few moves that could be made during this offseason that will help them to do so.
In fact, if these three moves are made, we could easily see the Pittsburgh Pirates qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 1992.
Carlos Pena would fill a need in the order, and at 1B.
There is no doubt that the Pirates' best player is Andrew McCutchen. His unbelievable season in 2012 could get even better in 2013 with the addition of a power bat behind him in the order.
While the budget may not always afford this kind of acquisition, there are several power bats that could be had this offseason in exchange for reasonable contracts. In considering such, a player like Rays' first baseman Carlos Pena becomes an interesting option.
Pena would fill a need at first base, while adding a legitimate power threat behind McCutchen in the lineup. Coming off of a season in which he struggled, he could be had for somewhat of a discounted price.
Considering how the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera played with Prince Fielder behind him in the lineup, having that power bat in the order behind your star player seems to have quite a significant impact.
If the Pirates could add Carlos Pena, or someone of an equal power threat, it would be a huge asset to the middle of the order, and the lineup overall.
A veteran leadoff hitter like Shane Victorino would be a welcomed addition.
A leadoff hitter is expected to get on base the most out of anyone in the lineup, kickstarting a team's scoring potential in the process.
In 2012, Alex Presley saw the most at-bats in the Pirates' leadoff slot. In those 243 at-bats, Presley sported a .251 AVG, with an OBP of .283. As a result, acquiring a leadoff bat that can consistently get on base becomes a pressing need for the Pirates during the offseason.
Shane Victorino is a free agent that provides that exact ability at the top of the lineup, still possessing his game-changing speed. Victorino did have a down year in 2012, but has otherwise been rather consistent over the course of his career. That down year could affect his open market value, helping the Pirates to become more of a suitor for his services.
Victorino playing in Pittsburgh, not too far from Philadelphia where he had played the majority of his career, could make a lot of sense. This young team could use his veteran presence and ability to get on base at the top of the order as a big help toward making a playoff push in 2013.
Shaun Marcum is one of several proven pitchers on the market this offseason.
In 2012, the Pirates got some impressive performances from their starting rotation. Especially of note was the resurgence of A.J. Burnett, who finished the season 16-10 with an ERA of 3.51.
Outside of Burnett, young James McDonald, and the midseason acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez, the Pirates' need for starting rotation depth is evident.
Some affordable pitchers expected to hit the open market this offseason include the likes of Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum and Francisco Liriano.
Any of these players, among some others, would be key additions to the middle and back end of the Pirates' rotation. Such additions would certainly be beneficial to the Pirates' development, as a strong bullpen is already in place.