Working on a shoestring budget, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been to the postseason three straight seasons. They won 98 games in 2015, the second-highest total in all of baseball. What did that get Clint Hurdle‘s scrappy bunch? Just a Wild Card date with Jake Arrieta and another one-and-done trip to the playoffs. This offseason, as the Chicago Cubs throw money around, and the St. Louis Cardinals sit atop of big pile of it, carefully waiting to spend, the Pirates are once again faced with the task of finding a way to keep winning without any big additions.
In fact, the offseason has been more about subtraction than addition to this point. Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, A.J. Burnett, J.A. Happ, and Joakim Soria are gone. Antonio Bastardo, another key bullpen piece will assuredly sign elsewhere. Jonathon Niese and John Jaso are the only notable additions. Stack those two up against Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and Mike Leake, and it’s clear the Pirates will be forced to play ball a little differently than their big rivals. It’s worked the past three years, but can it continue?
As the Pirates face an uphill climb back to the postseason, here are the five questions that should be on the minds of Pittsburghers heading into Spring Training?