On Thursday morning, Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington joined MLB Network’s Hot Stove for about a 10-minute conversation from the recently canceled GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. The GM Meetings were forced to end early due to a stomach virus that affected several attendees. This freed Cherington up to talk with the folks at MLB Network about what lies ahead for the Pirates.
Ben Cherington is a master of using a ton of words to say precisely nothing. Listening to this man talk is an incredibly frustrating undertaking and one that I feel that NS9 should give me Hazardous Duty Pay for. You almost need an advanced degree in theoretical linguistics in order to discern any meaning from this man’s lawyerly ramblings. I don’t have such a degree, but as your resident Blogger Extraordinaire I’m going to try to break this down for you anyway.
I would like to start with the same thing that the Hot Stove folks kicked off with. That Homestead Grays shirt was a great choice, Ben. Kudos. In the early part of the interview, they discuss the Pirates’ hot start to last season and how nice that was to see. To his credit, Cherington acknowledges the fact that Pittsburgh will rally behind the team when they give them a good product to cheer for among a lot of other mealy-mouthed nonsense.
“It was a reminder of how the city and our fans and, really, everyone in the organization is going to rally and respond when we are winning more games,” Cherington said. “Obviously, we also know the 162-game season is going to tell you everything. You’re going to get exposed. Your strengths and limitations are going to get exposed over the course of a long season, and we learned that. We feel like we took a step forward. We’re excited about that, certainly not satisfied, and looking to go into this offseason to find a way to keep getting better.”
Cherington promised to “attack” free agency and the trade market this off-season in pursuit of starting pitching and offense. Of course, it’s impossible to drill him down to specifics on this. You could call what they did last season “attacking” free agency. By every definition of the word, bringing Austin Hedges in would be considered an “attack”.
He was also quite non-commital on Paul Skenes‘ pitching in Pittsburgh in 2024. He certainly left the possibility open. When asked about young pitching prospects, he said “Not all of them are going to be quite ready to help us win in April, May and June of 2024.” This means that Super 2 is still a major factor in deciding when players are called up. When pressed about Skenes specifically, his inner lawyer kicked in.
“I think it’s certainly possible. He’s going to tell us,” Cherington said. “Obviously, we don’t want to rush anything. We want him to have every opportunity to be the best version of himself for as long as possible in Pittsburgh. We know he’s going to get after it this offseason. … He’s very focused in the way he does his work. Everything we learned about Paul after signing him pretty much affirmed what we thought before. Not only do you see the talent. He doesn’t just wait and meet a challenge. He pursues the challenge. He wants to be challenged. He’s done that his whole life, so we’re not going to put any ceiling on it, that’s for sure.”
When asked again about Andrew McCutchen returning for the 2024 season, he surprisingly spoke vaguely while not saying anything. “When the opportunity arose last season, got a chance to talk to Andrew about coming back. It just made too much sense. We were so lucky, really, to be able to do it. The reaction from fans, the team, himself, people that work for the team for a long time and have been there, it was just amazing. Credit to him for just how important it was to him, how genuinely he wanted to come back. I think we all hope that we can continue that. … Certainly hope that Andrew can keep wearing black and gold.”
I’m not clear on why he can’t answer some of these simple questions. If Andrew McCutchen wants to come back, you bring Andrew McCutchen back. It really is that simple. I’m just a dumb blogger, and I know this.
The only other really interesting tidbit to come from the interview is that he seems somewhat sincere in believing that Henry Davis will catch in the 2024 season. At least as sincere as someone can seem while talking out both sides of their mouth.
“That’s how he’s doing his training this offseason,” Cherington said. “At the time we called him up, we felt like the bat was just a little bit ahead of the defense. We were in a position at that time of the year where we still had a chance. We were trying to help the team. We felt the bat could help us, so we made that move.
“For a variety of reasons, he really didn’t get a chance to catch much the rest of the year. We still want to give him that opportunity. We believe he can do it. We know the bat’s going to play. So he’ll get a chance to come into spring training back at his normal position. We’re fortunate to have two young catchers in Henry and Endy Rodriguez we feel really good about and Jason Delay did a great job. We feel good about the strength of that position moving forward.”
There was a bit of talk about Oneil Cruz‘s injury but no real information was given. He was again non-committal on allowing Cruz to play in LIDOM. It sounded like he wanted more control over the environment. Hopefully, his handling of Oneil’s rehab isn’t setting his progress back.
There you go. 10 minutes of an interview and you know almost nothing that you didn’t know before you started reading this. In fact, you might know less considering I put a lot of his direct quotes into this which can’t be good for brain health. I apologize for that. I guess with the way that this organization is run, it’s for the best that they don’t employ GMs who are open and honest with the fan base. It still might be better than one that is capable of talking for hours without saying a damn thing.