While much of the preparation major-league baseball teams need for 2020 and beyond underway, the Pirates’ work is on hold because no general manager or field manager has been hired.
Assuming that they didn’t a hire general manager between press deadline and publication, another week has gone by with Pittsburgh watching as other clubs fill vacancies in coaching, international scouting, player acquisitions and development, and pitching and hitting development.
And with the Pirates recently hiring a search firm, Korn Ferry, to help them find their next general manager, the process may take even longer. The Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey says that an unnamed league executive says that the hiring of a search firm indicates that the Bucs understand the importance of “getting it right,” but also suggests that the team might not be as knowledgeable of the industry as they would like.
New president Travis Williams admits his lack of knowledge about the nuances of the game and will let his GM deal with that aspect of the team. And while the baseball clock ticks away, the Pirates wait.
Free agency began nine days ago, with some major-league and minor-league signings already made by other teams. Decisions about player options were also due by Nov. 4, and luckily for the Pirates there was little doubt that the Pirates would certainly select the options for the two Pirates in question: pitcher Chris Archer and outfielder Starling Marte.
All these moves must be done while keeping in mind that major league teams can have no more than 40 players on their active roster.
And while Peter Alonso was the runaway Rookie of the Year award winner announced Monday, the Bucs lack a leader to congratulate Bryan Reynolds (fourth in voting) and Kevin Newman for their deserved recognition of their 2019 accomplishments.
Assistant general manager Kevan Graves is “in charge” on an interim basis at the four-day general managers meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona, which end tomorrow. It’s doubtless that he will come him with a signed contract from Anthony Rendon, Steven Strasberg, or the like.
Some other dates are approaching, that could be self-imposed deadlines for Pittsburgh:
• Next week’s owners’ meetings in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 19-21.
• Next Wednesday’s deadline to add minor leaguers to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 12. Unprotected players can be selected by other organizations if they are players drafted out of college in 2016 or earlier or high school-players drafted in 2015 or earlier.
For the Pirates, we’re taking about infielders Oneil Cruz and Ke’Bryan Hayes and pitcher Cody Ponce. And someone will need to decide about other players.
• Dec. 2 is the last day for teams to offer players with fewer than six years of major league service a contract for 2020. Players without a team offer become free agents.
• Dec. 9-12 sees executives, general managers, agents, coaches, players, and free agents gather in San Diego for the sport’s winter meetings. Possible deals that were begun at the general managers meetings sometimes are completed, while discussions begun here sometimes lead to deals in the weeks following.
• Dec. 12 is the Rule 5 draft.
• Jan. 12 is the deadline for players and teams to submit salary figures for unsigned arbitration eligible players. Ten Pirates are eligible: Keone Kela will be eligible for his third time, and Michael Feliz will be eligible for his second time. Those eligible for their first time are Joe Musgrove, Adam Frazier, Josh Bell, Trevor Williams, Erik Gonzalez, Chad Kuhl, Elias Diaz and the injured Jameson Taillon.
• Arbitration hearings are scheduled between Feb. 3-21. Players and teams may negotiate a contract until the hearing. Unresolved salaries will be chosen by an arbitrator.
• Feb. 22 is the first spring training game, with the regular season opener for the Bucs set for March 26 in Tampa.
With three months between now and spring training’s start, and with five months until the start of the season, there is much to do.
JIM SANKEY is a baseball columnist for The Allied News.