When the Pittsburgh Pirates were bounced from the playoffs in the 2014 National League Wild Card Game by the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, general manager Neal Huntington knew there would be a lot of work to do in the offseason.

That work included potentially re-signing catcher Russell Martin and starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano. 

So far, Huntington is 0-1, as Martin left the Pirates for the Toronto Blue Jays

Of course Toronto’s signing of Martin was questionable in itself, as the organization agreed to sign a catcher in his thirties to a five-year deal worth $82 million. 

Still, before Martin even agreed to terms with the Blue Jays, the Pirates traded away lefty reliever Justin Wilson to the New York Yankees in exchange for Francisco Cervelli, New York’s backup catcher.  

While this move probably was made because it was evident to Huntington that Martin would be offered money that he was not willing to give, it is also evident to fans that Pittsburgh’s organization did not seriously pursue Martin.

Martin had a great stint with the Pirates, helping them to get to the playoffs in both seasons when he was a member of the team.  

Next, the Pirates went out and signed a familiar face in A.J. Burnett, who pitched considerably well in two seasons with Pittsburgh, going 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA. In 2014 with the Philadelphia Phillies, however, Burnett went a career-worst 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA.

Signing Burnett would be justifiable if he were coming off a solid 2014 season (and if the Pirates were in need of one more starting pitcher at the back end of their rotation). However, at 37 years of age, it is disappointing that Burnett has been Pittsburgh’s biggest acquisition so far this offseason.  

To make matters worse, Mike Axisa of CBS Sports reported that the Pirates signed Radhames Liz to a two-year contract worth $3 million. The 31-year-old pitcher has not appeared in a Major League game since 2009 when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

In 28 career games, Liz owned a 6-8 record with an ERA of 7.50. In ten Minor League seasons, Liz was 71-76 with a 3.61 ERA. His best seasons have come in the last four years, but three of them have been spent in the Korean Baseball Organization (from 2011-2013).  

The Pirates continue to make small moves in free agency (while both Volquez and Liriano remain on the market).

Meanwhile, the Pirates’ biggest competition (the St. Louis Cardinals) has already gone out and traded for a huge bat in Jason Heyward.  

With a current starting rotation that consists of Gerrit Cole, Burnett, Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, the Pirates are not exactly set for a successful 2015 season. Though the Pirates should be just fine on offense, the pitching needs to improve before the start of the regular season.  

Of course it is still very early in the offseason, but the moves Huntington has made so far really are subtraction by addition. After all, he gave $3 million dollars to a man who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2009. The three big starting pitchers on the market right now are Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester. However, the Pirates have not been mentioned as serious contenders for any of them.  

There are plenty of solid starting pitchers on the market—such as Brandon McCarthy and Jason Hammel—who the Pirates could make a run at, but as of now the organization has not done anything to improve the team from last season.

Then there are Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano, who both had successful 2014 seasons in Pittsburgh. Volquez pitched brilliantly all year, going 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA. Liriano finished strongly after struggling early on. He finished with a 7-10 record (but had a respectable 3.38 ERA).

It would not make any sense for the Pirates to let both of them walk, unless of course Huntington and the organization go out and sign two more quality starting pitchers in their place.

So far, that has not appeared to come even remotely close to happening, which leads us to question why Huntington and the Pirates have been so quiet once again this offseason.


*Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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