The 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates have one thing going for them: they have reached rock bottom and there is only one way for them to go. Yet, is not overly encouraging for Bucs fans. The franchise of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Bill Mazeroski desperately need to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Pirates finished with an MLB worst 19-41 record in 2020. The record is a fair representation of how they performed. They struggled in every aspect of the game, with very few bright spots. They followed up the 2020 debacle by shipping out most of their better players.
Since the end of the 2020 season, the Pirates have traded their best hitter, Josh Bell, and two veteran starters, Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove. These are three of the Pirates’ most recognizable names. Bell, a switch-hitting first baseman with power, has the potential to be a solid bat in MLB for years to come. Yet, all of them are gone, and the Pirates are looking to start over again.
2021 Pittsburgh Pirates: Rebuilding Options
Baseball rebuilds can look very different, based on who is doing the rebuilding. While the ultimate goal should be to contend for a World Series at some point, there are different ways to go about the process of rebuilding a baseball team. In the case of the Pirates, there appear to be two distinct paths.
Rebuilding Option #1: The Easy Way
It seems that there is an easy path for ownership to rebuild the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates into a contender. The Pirates are a franchise with a .453 winning percentage in this century. They have lost 90 or more games 11 times in the last 20 full seasons. Players have come and gone, but they remain mired in the basement in the NL Central. It seems like a hopeless situation, So, what is the easy way to rebuild?
We propose that owner Bob Nutting try to get on the TV show “Shark Tank” to make a pitch to potential investors. After all, Nutting is an accomplished businessman, being the CEO of a newspaper chain, as well as being chairman of a chain of resorts. Of course, he also owns the Pirates, perhaps the crowning achievement of his career.
What would Mr. Nutting say in his pitch to investors? We like the idea of keeping it simple, so that is what we have in mind here. The best pitch to get the ball rolling for the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates would be for Mr. Nutting to create a cozy rapport with the investors, then make his pitch.
“Hello sharks, my name is Robert Nutting, and I am the owner of a franchise called ‘The 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates.’ We are (allegedly) a Major League baseball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am here today seeking an investment of 1.2 billion dollars, in exchange for a 100% stake in my company. I would pass out samples of our product, but none are available at the moment.”
“Mark (Cuban), I know that you were born in Pittsburgh and that you already own an NBA franchise. While all five sharks are invited to participate, I believe that you would be uniquely qualified to be the owner of the Pirates and that the city of Pittsburgh would love to have a native son come home and return the Pirates to glory.”
This is the easy way and would be very helpful in getting the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates back on the road. It seems almost perfect for the team and would allow Nutting to focus on his other business interests. Yep, this is the way to go. Until Cuban screams “I’m Out!” So much for the easy way.
Rebuilding Option #2: The Hard Way
Now things get challenging for Pirates GM Ben Cherington and his brain trust. A vast majority of major league quality players are gone (many under the leadership of Cherington). The job of building the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates into a competitive franchise will not be an easy task. However, let’s examine what may be the proper, if not painful path.
Firstly, fans know that the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates are a long way from contending. Even in the weak NL Central, they will be hard-pressed to break out of the cellar anytime soon. Yet, they do have some players that may contribute to a renaissance in the Steel City.
In terms of young prospects, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes is a potential franchise player. He debuted in 2020 and hit .376 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in 24 games. Hayes looks to be the cornerstone at this point. Then there’s Mitch Keller and Chad Kuhl, two unproven pitchers with high ceilings. They both figure to be in the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates rotation.
Another name to watch will be Oneil Cruz, a top 100 prospect. Just 22 years old, he is listed at 6’7″ and 210 pounds. Cruz will likely either be used at shortstop or be converted to the outfield for the Bucs. Second baseman Nick Gonzales is the Pirates’ top prospect. However, he is not a candidate for the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates, as he has yet to play even as high as Double-A. he will be one to watch for the future, though.
There will also no doubt be holdovers from last season when the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates take the field. Who they will remain to be seen, as the Pirates roster will be in flux for some time. Additionally, the Pirates did receive several prospects in the trades for Bell, Musgrove, and Taillon. How the play into the future is anybody’s guess at this point.
2021 Pittsburgh Pirates: Patience Required
As mentioned, the Pirates will not be a threat to anybody for at least the next two years. They are just too young and unproven at this point to expect a quick turnaround. Unless Mark Cuban buys the team, they are going to have to rely on solid evaluation and development of their young talent.
This will be a slow and painful process, requiring a lot of patience on the part of the Pirates’ faithful. Yet, there are no shortcuts in rebuilding a baseball team, as other teams have discovered. If the Pirates are to successfully rebuild their once-proud franchise, they must be committed to their young prospects, with Cherington acquiring veterans as the process moves forward.
Rebuilds have proven successful in baseball, as the Cubs, Astros, and White Sox demonstrate. In each of these cases, it was a process, and each team suffered multiple years deep in the wilderness. Yet, they stayed the course, with Cubs winning a World Series in 2016, and the Astros winning in 2017. The White Sox are a young team on the rise with soaring expectations.
Yes, it will be a bumpy ride, Pirates fans, but it may well be a ride worth taking. Fans need to trust in Cherington and his team to develop their prospects and pull the trigger on deals with veterans when appropriate. While the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates will not be contending for a championship, the Pirates have some exciting young talent. The future can be bright, and the Steel City can see a return to the glory days when their beloved Bucs were perennial contenders.
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