Pirates GM Cherington wants to add more starting pitching

PITTSBURGH — It has been a busy offseason so far, at least by the small-market standards of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and general manager Ben Cherington would like to continue to bolster the roster of a team that has gone 142-242 over the past three seasons.

“Don’t feel like it’s a ‘have to,’ but certainly (we) want to do more,” Cherington said Wednesday during a video conference with reporters.

The Pirates added some help at first base and designated hitter by signing Carlos Santana as a free agent and trading with the Tampa Bay Rays for Ji-Man Choi. They signed defensive specialist Austin Hedges as the starting catcher. Free agent acquisition and right-handed pitcher Vince Velasquez is expected to begin next season in the starting rotation.

Plus, first baseman/outfielder Connor Joe was acquired from the Colorado Rockies to provide depth, and the Pirates also have an agreement with lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia, pending the completion of a successful physical examination.

Cherington said his top priority now is acquiring another starting pitcher to add to a staff whose 4.66 ERA was 26th in the major leagues last season when the Pirates finished 62-100.

“That market’s been strong, but we continue to stay engaged with some free agents and trade opportunities,” Cherington said. “Both of those can be hard to speculate, in terms of how likely it is to line up. We’d also like to add another position player if we can. Another potential option for the lineup.”

The Pirates think Hedges will help their pitchers — and be a good mentor to catching prospects Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis, who are likely to make their major league debuts sometime during the 2023 season.

“The defensive skill, the way that’s measured nowadays has been pretty well reported,” Cherington said. “We certainly believe that’s a legitimate skill that he has, to impact the game defensively with receiving, throwing, blocking ... Beyond that, there are some aspects of the defensive game that we still just aren’t very good at measuring yet.

“Game-calling. Relationship-building. Influence. And, certainly, that would extend to impact potentially on pitchers, but also other catchers.”

Hedges’ one-year, $5-million contract was finalized Tuesday. The 30-year-old hit just .163 last season in helping Cleveland win the AL Central and hasn’t had a batting average above .178 in the last four seasons.

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