With less than a month left to play in the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the outside of a playoff race looking in.  

While it is still manageable for Pittsburgh to reach the playoffs for the second straight year, it is not too soon to start thinking about what this team will look like in 2015.  

Let’s take a look at 10 free agents the Pirates organization should target during this offseason.

First, we will take a look at a few starting pitchers (one of whom is already in the organization) the Pirates should go after when the season ends.  

Starting pitchers Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez will become free agents when the season ends, which means the Pirates may have to fill two major holes in the rotation.   


Brandon McCarthy, SP

Brandon McCarthy is one example of a starting pitcher the Pirates may look to sign during the offseason.

Over nine Major League seasons, McCarthy has gone 50-64 with a 4.12 ERA.  He started the 2014 season with a record of 3-10 and an ERA of 5.01 while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  

Since being traded to the New York Yankees, however, he has been lights-out, going 5-4 with a 2.80 ERA and helping a depleted Yankees team stay in the playoff mix.  

Considering he will turn 32 next July, McCarthy probably wouldn’t get a lengthy contract offer from Pittsburgh, but dishing out a little extra money for him could pay huge dividends for a team whose rotation will not have many proven veterans in it.  


Wei-Yin Chen, SP

One thing lacking in the Pirates’ starting rotation is a solid left-hander, and Baltimore Orioles‘ Wei-Yin Chen may be the answer to that.  

Over three Major League seasons, the 29-year-old has 33 wins and 22 losses while pitching to an ERA of 3.97.  

Each year, however, his numbers have improved, and in 2014, he has gone 14-4 with a 3.83 ERA.  

Chen is a nasty left-hander who could help potential ace Gerrit Cole lead Pittsburgh’s rotation in 2015. Signing him would be huge for the advancement of the franchise.  


Jason Hammel, SP

When the Oakland Athletics acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a trade with the Chicago Cubs during this season, it looked as if they were getting two potential aces.  

Samardzija has pitched well for Oakland, but Hammel has not, going 2-5 with a 4.98 ERA in nine starts.  

Still, that shouldn’t keep Pittsburgh from offering him a contract this offseason, as he has shown the ability to pitch tremendously in the National League.  

In 17 starts with Chicago prior to being traded, Hammel was 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA.  He also walked only 23 batters in 108.2 innings pitched.  

The Pirates will likely need a few starting pitchers prior to the start of the 2015 regular season, and Hammel (now 32 years old) may be a good fit for them.  


Edinson Volquez, SP

Edinson Volquez has been arguably the biggest surprise for the Pirates in 2014.  

After finishing the previous five seasons in a row with an ERA over 4.00, Volquez has led the way for the Pirates with an ERA of 3.31 and an 11-7 record.  

Considering Volquez‘s shaky past, it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see him ask for a reasonable, short-term contract.  

If so, the Pirates better go out and re-sign him, as he would be a low-risk and high-reward guy.  Re-signing him would probably make much more sense than re-signing Liriano, whose ERA has risen by almost an entire run between the last two seasons.  


Andrew Miller, RP

The Pirates have just three left-handers in the bullpen on their 40-man roster.  They will need another reliable arm in the bullpen to come in and get lefties out late in games.  

Enter Andrew Miller.  

The 29-year-old reliever has pitched brilliantly over the last three seasons for the Boston Red Sox and the Orioles.  

In 63 appearances in 2014, Miller has pitched to a 2.34 ERA.  He also owns a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of just 0.873 in 2014.  

Simply put, he has become one of the best lefty relievers in the league, and the Pirates would benefit greatly from signing him in the offseason, as they would create a three-headed monster that would consist of closer Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Andrew Miller.  


Russell Martin, C

Catcher Russell is a must-sign for the Pirates heading into the 2015 regular season.  

The 31-year-old backstop has been a key contributor to the Pirates’ success over the last two seasons. His veteran presence behind home plate has been so important that it would be hard for Pittsburgh to go out and find someone who could match it.  

A three-time all-star, Martin finished 24th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting last season. However, he may be just as valuable to his team as reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen is.  

Considering the list of catchers who will hit the market this offseason is very slim, the Pirates must re-sign their catcher if they wish to have more success next season.  


J.J. Hardy, SS

No matter how you look at it, Jordy Mercer simply isn’t the answer at shortstop for the Pirates in the long run.  

Now, Mercer is not terrible, as he was batting just .256 with nine home runs on the season entering Friday and owns a lifetime .264 average in three big-league seasons.  

Still, if the Pirates could go out and get a player like J.J. Hardy this offseason, their offense would improve greatly.  

Although Hardy’s home run total has dropped from 25 in 2013 to just nine in 2014, his batting average has increased from .263 to .281 during that time.  

Hardy has been one of the driving forces of the Orioles offense, which has been one of the best in the league in 2014.  

His batting average ranks fourth in all of baseball among shortstops in 2014, while Mercer’s is 12th.  

Hardy could provide the Pirates with both a high average and plenty of power (if he regains his power stroke).  

Either way, Hardy would likely be a great fit for Pittsburgh in 2015.   


Jed Lowrie, SS

Another shortstop who may hit the open market is Jed Lowrie of the Oakland Athletics. 

In fact, he may even come at a discount.  

After a fantastic 2013 campaign in which he batted .290 and drove in 75 runs for Oakland, Lowrie has disappointed this season, batting just .239 in 113 games played.  

Given his downward slope in statistics, Lowrie may be willing to sign a short-term deal, as long as he is given enough money.  

For the Pirates, that may be just what they are looking for, as a report from Baseball America has shortstop Alen Hanson ranked as Pittsburgh’s No. 6 prospect.  

If Lowrie has a bounce-back season in 2015 with the Pirates, they could have the best infield in the National League Central Division.  


Mark Reynolds, 3B

After signing a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the start of the 2014 season, Mark Reynolds started producing right away.  

In 119 games this season, Reynolds has hit 21 home runs but driven in just 44.  

He is batting a well-below average .198 on the season, but his power at the plate is something the Pirates could use coming off the bench or platooning at first or third base.  

Don’t expect Reynolds to be at the top of the Pirates’ wish list heading into free agency, but if they could sign him and use him as a utility backup, it would provide great depth to their bench.    


Ben Zobrist, Utility

Ben Zobrist is right up there with Josh Harrison as one of the best utility players in baseball.  

In 126 games with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014, Zobrist has batted .273 with nine home runs and 44 runs batted in.  

The great thing about him is that he can play pretty much anywhere in the field (other than pitcher or catcher).  

A two-time all-star, the 33-year-old veteran knows all about winning, and his presence both in the lineup and the clubhouse could help this young Pirates team in 2015.  


The main focus will be on pitching this winter for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  However, if they can go out and sign a few of these offensive players, they will be set up to make another postseason run in 2015.  

*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference

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