The Pittsburgh Pirates had a breakout campaign last year, and they will look to build on that to compete on the NL Central once again.
Led by MVP winner Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates have some solid pieces in their lineup, but they also possess a huge void in the outfield that will need to be filled through the free agent market. With most of the big names already taken, they could try to land former Texas Rangers star Nelson Cruz.
The 33-year-old veteran still hasn’t signed with a team and even though landing him would mean losing a draft pick, it is a hit that the Pirates should be able to take. Cruz is a legitimate threat on the offensive side of the ball, going deep at least 22 times in each of the last five years; even though he was part of the Biogenesis scandal in 2013, the Pirates could offer him a short deal to prove that he can produce after what happened last season.
Cruz would be slotted in the right field, a spot currently held by José Tabata until prospect Gregory Polanco is ready to take over. If he signs with Pittsburgh, the Pirates would add an impact player on both sides of the ball. Cruz is an average defender at a corner position and if he’s paired with McCutchen and Starling Marte, that would give the team an above-average outfield in terms of defense.
Offensively, Cruz is a threat with his power. He could bat third or cleanup and since the Pirates already have players like Cutch and Pedro Alvarez to produce runs. The addition of Cruz would only make them more dangerous. In a division that already features the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates need all the help they can get to compete next year. Signing Cruz would definitely be a step in the right direction.