The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2021 outlook is bleak.
Baseball Reference currently gives the club a 0.1 percent chance of reaching the postseason, and it’s hard to disagree when you consider Pittsburgh’s 18-28 record.
The Pirates have lost six of their last seven games as of Tuesday afternoon.
Fans hope the team can rebound next year, but it’s not going to happen magically.
There are several roadblocks standing between this Pirates team and a successful 2022 season, but no roadblock is immovable.
These three steps could get the Pirates closer to competing in the 2022 season.
3. Time to Throw in the Towel on Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman showed promise throughout his minor league career and was always a highly-touted prospect, but it’s not working out at the Major League level.
To be fair, Newman was great during the 2019 season. He batted .308 and finished with an OPS of .800 over 130 games.
That season alone makes it hard to move on from the 27-year-old, but all of his other years with Pirates have resulted in a negative WAR and some poor all-around numbers.
This year, Newman is batting .209 with a .497 OPS and an OPS+ of 39 (which suggests he has been 61 percent worse than league average this season).
Lowest OPS this season (among qualified batters):
.461 • Elvis Andrus (OAK)
.515 • Kevin Newman (PIT)
.539 • Jackie Bradley Jr. (MIL)
.543 • David Fletcher (LAA)
.544 • Erik González (PIT)
— Jim Passon (@PassonJim) May 22, 2021
Newman is about to enter arbitration and isn’t a free agent until 2025.
In order to compete next season, the Pirates will need to bring in a new face at shortstop.
Marcus Semien could be an affordable option on the free agent market.
2. Lineup Desperately Needs a Bat with Some Pop
The Pirates shouldn’t settle when it comes to this one.
There are no players on this Pittsburgh team with more than four home runs this season.
The upcoming free agent class has loads of options when it comes to power hitters, and the Pirates should not hesitate to sign one of them.
The Pirates would likely be able to sign Davis for a dime considering the 33-year-old’s recent struggles.
He might be worth taking a flyer on, because when he’s seeing the ball well, Davis can go for 40+ home runs in a season easily.
It is, however, a valid concern that those days might be long gone for Davis, so the Pirates might want to give some of those other names a look instead.
1. Starting Pitching Staff Needs a Makeover
The Pirates do not have a single starter with an ERA below 4.20.
In fact, three of the team’s starting pitchers have an ERA north of 6.00.
There is no hope for a team with a rotation in that kind of shape, so this will have to be a huge point of emphasis this offseason.
Team ERA for the month of May
Padres • 2.20 ERA
Rays • 2.83
Cubs • 2.84
White Sox • 2.97
Dodgers • 3.04
Pirates • 5.48 ERA
D’backs • 5.51
Reds • 5.59
Mariners • 5.83
Orioles • 6.02
— Jim Passon (@PassonJim) May 24, 2021
The Pirates might be hard-pressed to compete for some of the bigger names financially, but players like Stroman and Gausman could prove to be good fits.