Sep 2, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata hits a single in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Should right field really be an offseason priority?


As the Pittsburgh Pirates experienced their first taste of winning baseball in 2013, many expect general manager Neal Huntington to go out and make a few splashy moves this offseason.

However that is something that shouldn’t happen, at least as it pertains to the right field position.

There’s no denying the fact that the Bucs need an upgrade at both first base and right field for next season, but while it would be nice to see them make that splashy move to get a first baseman, I don’t believe the need is as big in right field.

Oct 7, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd (2) reacts after being called out on strikes against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning in game four of the National League divisional series at PNC Park. The St. Louis Cardinals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Just because you are winning, it doesn’t mean that the plan has to change.

The Pirates are a team that is built around their farm system and you don’t want to halt that pipeline in any way.

Looking at the current roster, I was pleased with the strides that Jose Tabata made last season. As a part time player, Tabata put up a solid 1.1 WAR and a decent .771 OPS. He still is lacking in terms of defensive ability and base running skills, but Tabata is a guy who can help in 2014, if not in a bigger role, then in the role he was in in 2013.

Then there’s the fact that Andrew Lambo is also waiting in the wings. His power potential is intriguing (33 homers through three levels in 2013) and it would be nice to see him get a lengthy look. I’m concerned about his strikeout rate, but adding another power bat to the lineup certainly doesn’t hurt.

But while Tabata and Lambo are certainly options for 2014, the main reason why the Bucs shouldn’t go and invest money and years in a right fielder involves prospect Gregory Polanco.

Polanco has all the tools to become a potential MLB superstar and I don’t want to see his progress halted by the Bucs signing a Garrett Jones type of player just to get through the next couple of seasons.

Popular belief is that we will see Polanco called up late next season or the latest 2015. The chance of that happening decrease if there is a guy in right field signed for three or four years. Polanco has star written all over him. The plan in right field should involve him getting to the big leagues and not spending money on another option.

The only way I make that move is if the Pirates get a superstar in right field and that’s not likely to happen.

Just because you have money to spend, it doesn’t mean you have to spend it unnecessarily.

Instead I would prefer to see Huntington find a stopgap for a year, which brings me to Marlon Byrd.

The free agent to be is exactly the type of player Huntington should be looking for. A guy that can get you through one year, two at the most.

After the year he put up in 2013, Byrd will certainly earn more money, which shouldn’t be an issue for the Bucs. While many feel that Byrd’s season will earn him a big contract, I tend to disagree.

Byrd is 36 and coming off a career season.  His age alone is enough to scare teams away from handing out big multi-year offers, but his history should scare teams off more.

All of that should play right in the Pirates favor.

It makes a lot of sense to target Byrd for a return or a guy in a similar situation before it makes sense to hand out a big contract.

There will be options for Huntington to consider in right field. Byrd is certainly one of them as are the two options currently on the roster.

But while there are some pressing needs to be filled on this team for next season, right field isn’t as big as first base or perhaps adding another arm to the rotation.

There’s a plan in place for right field. Huntington would be wise to stick to it.

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Tags: Gregory Polanco Jose Tabata Marlon Byrd Neal Huntington Pittsburgh Pirates

  • eugene tober

    If the Bucs come up with an offer to keep Byrd, super. Otherwise they should start with a Lambo/Tabata rightfield duo, a true platoon or not.

    • Matt Gajtka

      With you on that one, Eugene. I don’t think the market will be as pricey for Byrd as some may think, but we’ll see how it plays out.

      • eugene tober

        The thing with Byrd isn’t money, but his comment concerning the NY Mets ownership. In that he feels a certain loyalty due to them signing him last off-season after his suspension for failing drug test.