KEY ADDITIONS: Chasen Shreve, Tyler Anderson, Brian Goodwin, Tony Wolters, Wilmer Difo
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, Keone Kela, Chris Archer, Jose Osuna, Derek Holland
There’s a game that’s been floating around Twitter for the last couple of weeks: “Name 3 Pirates.” In other words, can you name three guys on this team without looking at their roster?
It’s not as easy as you think, after all those guys left, along with others since their last postseason appearance in 2015 (Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and others).
Anyway, I will name more than three Pirates in this article, so you can win this game if someone asks.
The Pirates were the worst team in baseball during the 60-game 2020 season.
Their final record was 19-41. That was six games worse than anyone else in the National League (Diamondbacks) and three games worse than anyone else overall (Rangers). And their record was only that good because inexplicably, they won three straight against the Cubs in the final week of the season. That was just the second time they won that many in a row all year, and before that three-game winning streak they had lost 13 out of 14.
From that they have subtracted guys who started 23 of their 60 games, a key reliever and one of their better hitters in Josh Bell, though it should be noted that Bell had a pretty bad year (.226/.305/.364) in 2020.
That’s... well, talk about tanking, that’s absolutely tanking. None of the five starters (Tyler Anderson, Steven Brault, JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller and Chad Kuhl) has a career ERA under 4.00 and Keller’s is over 5.00 and he was supposed to be this rotation’s savior. Their bullpen reads like a waiver wire list and they have exactly one position player who has a chance to be a star. Ke’Bryan Hayes played really well after his callup (.376/.442/.682 in 95 PA) and demolished Cubs pitching (8-for-24, two HR). Kevin Newman and Adam Frazier (another Cubs killer) are serviceable players and probably very likely to be traded at the deadline.
This looks like a 110-loss team, if we get to a full 162-game season. Maybe they’re doing tanking the right way and some of the prospects they’ve acquired in trade will make them a good club in three or four years.
But given the fact that the Pirates now haven’t been in a World Series since 1979, haven’t won a postseason series since then and have had losing records in 30 of the 41 seasons since then, I wouldn’t count on it.
The Cubs and Pirates are scheduled to play 19 times in 2021:
April 1, 3-4 (Opening Day), May 7-8-9 and September 2-3-4-5 at Wrigley Field
April 8, 10-11 (Pirates home opener), May 25-26-27 and September 28-29-30 at PNC Park
The Cubs’ first 12 games of 2021 are all scheduled to be against either the Pirates or Brewers.