Offseason Moves Pittsburgh Pirates Should Have Made Going into 2014
With the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season well under way, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen well below the .500 mark, starting the season 18-25.
The Pirates lack the type of offensive production that consistently wins ballgames, as well as the pitching needed to shut down opposing batters.
There are a number of moves that the Pirates could have made prior to the start of the regular season, yet they chose not to partake.
Let's take a look at four key moves the Pirates organization is probably wishing it had made during the offseason.
4. Sign a Reliable Shortstop
The Pirates hadn't gotten much production from Jordy Mercer early on, although he is now starting to heat up in 2014.
Still, Mercer's early struggles were part of the reason the Pirates got off to such a slow start. After all, he batted just .175 in April before owning a .280 batting average so far in May.
In addition, they really don't have much depth at the position, which made it difficult to take Mercer out of the lineup. Clint Barmes, whom the Pirates re-signed prior to the season, simply isn't getting the job done right now either, batting just .200 on the season.
It is not too late to go out and get someone at this point in the season, and the Pirates might have benefited from going after Stephen Drew, who is coming off a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox.
Now, the Pirates do not have that much money to spend, so if Drew was asking for too much, there isn't much the Pirates could do about that.
However, they probably should have gone out and tried to sign a solid backup shortstop such as John McDonald, who has done well with the Angels in 2014, batting .250 with a .344 on-base percentage in 18 games.
3. Re-Sign Marlon Byrd
It seems as if the Philadelphia Phillies jump at any chance they get to pick up players released by the Pirates.
When the New York Mets traded Marlon Byrd to the Pirates toward the end of the 2013 regular season, the Pirates were more than happy with the production they got out of him.
In 30 games played with the Pirates in 2013, Byrd batted .318 with three home runs and 17 runs batted in. He helped carry the Pirates into the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
In the first year of his two-year deal with the Phillies, Byrd is batting .296 five home runs and 25 RBI in 41 games played.
The Pirates made a mistake in letting Byrd walk, as he completed their lineup in 2013 with his ability to get on base often.
In addition, Pittsburgh has lacked offensive production out of the corner outfielders. Other than center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who is batting .301, Pittsburgh's outfielder with the highest average is Jose Tabata, who is batting just .264 with no home runs.
2. Release Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy Rodriguez hasn't just been mediocre in 2014, he has been horrible.
In five starts in 2014, Rodriguez has averaged just 5.0 innings pitched in each start while pitching to an earned run average of 6.84.
The 35-year-old pitched decently in 2013 with the Pirates, going 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA. However, he made just 12 starts due to a lingering arm injury.
The Pirates elected to keep Rodriguez with the hope that he would come back strong which is understandable. Rodriguez is pitching for Pittsburgh at most of the expense of the Houston Astros, who still owe Rodriguez the majority of his salary after trading him to the Pirates in 2012.
The Pirates were hoping that they would not have to go out and find another pitcher in the market, but it looks like they should have, as Rodriguez has not been able to return to his old form.
1. Re-Sign A.J. Burnett
After being traded from the New York Yankees to the Pirates in 2012, starting pitcher A.J. Burnett looked like a completely different pitcher.
Burnett pitched to an earned run average over 5.00 over his last two seasons in pinstripes.
In two seasons with the Pirates, Burnett pitched to a 3.41 ERA overall. Pitching in a rotation that already included Francisco Liriano and eventually Gerrit Cole, Burnett and the Pirates were untouchable at times in 2013.
So, why did they let him walk?
Burnett accepted a one-year offer from the Phillies worth $16 million during the offseason. So, it wasn't as if the 37-year-old was looking for a three-year deal that would have had Pittsburgh stuck with him when he turned 40.
Liriano has struggled mightily in 2014, going 0-3 with a 4.25 ERA in nine starts. On top of that, the Pirates have a very shaky starter in Rodriguez, who they couldn't have expected too much from entering the season.
So, how's Burnett doing with his new team? In nine starts, he is 2-3 with an impressive 3.13 ERA. That's not too shabby.
Had Pittsburgh brought Burnett back for another season, the Pirates could very well be sitting either at or above .500 right now. Instead, they are searching for answers out of the back end of their rotation.