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Offseason Update: A Breakdown of Pittsburgh’s Offseason Moves 

Pittsburgh rakes in prospects from multiple big-name trades
Outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. was claimed off waivers from Detroit on Jan. 12. (Photo from Pittsburgh Pirates)
March 5, 2021

After an offseason of waiting and wishing for both a major and minor league season to be played, the affiliations are official, schedules are set, coaching staffs are ready to go and the Indianapolis Indians are gearing up for a return to the diamond in 2021. TEST

After an offseason of waiting and wishing for both a major and minor league season to be played, the affiliations are official, schedules are set, coaching staffs are ready to go and the Indianapolis Indians are gearing up for a return to the diamond in 2021. TEST

That can’t be done, however, until we take a look back at the moves the Pittsburgh Pirates have made over the offseason, affecting both the top club and its Triple-A affiliate.

First, the trades. The Pirates made major moves in the offseason, dealing some of their biggest names for a return on prospects that will help the club for years to come.

1B Josh Bell was traded to the Nationals on Dec. 24 in a deal that brought RHP Wil Crowe and RHP Eddy Yean to Pittsburgh. Crowe, who made his MLB debut in 2020, had been a top 10 prospect in Washington’s system for the past three years before coming in on Pittsburgh’s list at No. 20 this season according to Baseball America. With only 10 Triple-A starts and three in the majors under his belt, Crowe could be a big arm in Indy’s starting rotation to begin 2021.

RHP Joe Musgrove, Pittsburgh’s 2020 Opening Day starter, was traded to San Diego on Jan. 19 in a three-team trade with the Mets that brought five total prospects to Pittsburgh’s organization – four from the Padres and one from the Mets. RHP David Bednar, LHP Omar Cruz, OF Hudson Head and RHP Drake Fellows represented the quartet coming from San Diego, and C Endy Rodriguez joined the team from New York (NL). Of the bunch, Head is the highest-ranked prospect, coming in at No. 6 for the Pirates according to Baseball America. Bednar could take the mound in Indianapolis this season after making his debut with San Diego in 2019.

RHP Jameson Taillon, entering another comeback season from a second Tommy John surgery, was traded to New York (AL) on Jan. 24 in exchange for RHP Roansy Contreras, INF Maikol Escotto, OF Canaan Smith-Njigba and RHP Miguel Yajure. Yajure is the only player with MLB experience in the return, making his debut and appearing in three games for the Yankees in 2020. With no Triple-A experience, he is likely to be in Indianapolis to start the 2021 season.

Next, the additions. Pittsburgh has added quite a few pieces through minor league signings that could either break the Pirates Opening Day roster or spend the season in Indianapolis, while also adding depth off waivers and major league contracts.

INF Wilmer Difo, INF Todd Frazier, OF Brian Goodwin, C Joe Hudson and C Tony Wolters were all signed to minor league contracts leading up to spring training.

Frazier, a veteran infielder who has only played 30 games in the minor leagues since 2012, could likely join Pittsburgh as a utility infielder on the Opening Day roster. He is a two-time All-Star (2014-15) and in his 10-year MLB career has amassed a 24.8 bWAR with a .242 average (1,056-for-4,357) and 218 home runs.

As for those who are likely to be in Indianapolis, the Indians could see C Christian Kelley return but will be looking at depth for a two-man rotation behind the dish. Difo could provide a veteran presence on the infield as well.

Those claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh include C Michael Perez, RHP Sean Poppen and OF Troy Stokes Jr. Perez is a backup candidate to C Jacob Stallings in Pittsburgh, while Stokes Jr. and Poppen could see time in Indianapolis with minor league time left on their respective clocks.

LHP Tyler Anderson was Pittsburgh’s lone major league signing, and OF Dustin Fowler was acquired via trade from the Athletics.

And finally, the departures. Some big names from the Pirates lineup that were favorites in Indianapolis were either released or granted free agency and have since signed overseas or with other MLB organizations.

RHP Dovydas Neverauskas, who has spent the last decade with the Pirates organization and four years with Indianapolis (2016-19), was designated for assignment and then released at the beginning of November. The second Lithuania-born player in in major league history, he made his MLB debut in 2017 and spent the rest of his career in the States bouncing between Triple-A and Pittsburgh. He has since signed internationally with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon (Japan) Professional Baseball.

RHP Trevor Williams, one of the staples in Pittsburgh’s starting rotation since 2017 (debuted in ’16), was also designated for assignment in November and later was granted free agency. In five major league seasons, he amassed a 31-37 record and 4.43 ERA (263er/534.2ip). In 2020, he went 2-8 with a 6.18 ERA (38er/55.1ip) in 11 starts. On Feb. 5, he signed a major league contract with the Chicago Cubs.

UTIL Jose Osuna joins Neverauskas in Nippon Professional Baseball after being designated for assignment and released in late November. Osuna had been in the Pirates organization since 2010 and first joined the Indians roster in 2016. He spent a large part of 2019 and 2020 with the big-league club as a utility player and big bat off the bench.