The Pirates got in with the wild card again this past year. Two years in a row of playoff baseball is something to be thankful about. Yet, this offseason has set hopes of more playoffs into a new stratosphere. This is the Pirate front office doing what you always hoped they would do.
First, they have kept real talent on the team and have in in the minors. This has obviously been building for years, but during two playoff runs they have not traded away the future. In addition to breaking camp this year with Gregory Polanco, the Pirates will have at Indianapolis Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, and then some to help if the rotation needs it. They have stashed plenty of guys who can give bullpen aid for short stretches. They have even managed to hold on to guys like Mel Rojas Jr., who could be an outfielder if we need it. Amazing.
Second, they have resigned talent that is needed. Yes, they had to let Russel Martin go. They tried, and that is something. But they did resign Fransico Lirano. Pitching was going to be a problem, but getting Lirano stablizes the rotation quite a bit. It keeps your ace, and is a proven commodity. How long has it been since the Pirates resigned their ace in a free agent year?
Third, the Pirates made a splash in the free agent market. They got Fransico Cervelli (via trade) to be their catcher. Now that is not a big time fish, but it helps a need a great deal. He is a starting quality catcher. They also signed AJ Burnett. Burnett came back to Pittsburgh for less. This was a case of the Pirates not burning bridges and being a legitimate place to return to try and win a championship. This is an upgrade for our 3rd starter, and brings a leader back into the clubhouse. The Pirates also signed some bullpen help with Bastardo and Liz. This helps replace one of the traded players for Cervelli, but also fills out a bullpen, which always needs something. It is a sign of not being content with a pretty decent bullpen. Don't even get me started on Sean Rogdriguiz and other moves to help the team.
Fourth, none of this even compares to winning the rights to sign Jung-Ho. Now he has not signed yet, but he probably will. Winning the bidding means the Pirates are in it to win it. They have never done something like this before. They are taking a flyer on a middle infielder who may or may not have real pop, but does appear to be defensively sound, and can make contact. Why not go for it? Only teams that are serious about getting better do such things, and the Pirates have done it. My excitement level is off the charts.
In short the Pirates have acted like serious World Series contenders this offseason. Perhaps this year we can win a division crown. That would be the step forward that the Pirates need to take. And this offseason is enough to help fans dream dreams that could really come true.
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