As a Pirates fan, there has to be a great deal of change within the team's core for them to even be considered anything resembling a contender. First of all, the team needs depth at the major league level, especially behind the plate and in the outfield. Ronny Paulino, Carlos Maldonado, and Ryan Doumit just can't cut it, especially in terms of game calling. As far as outfielders go, Chris Duffy and Nate McClouth are essentially the same player, and that is not a good thing. Those guys need to go. Xavier Nady is talented, but is miscast as a starting outfielder. Jason Bay had a garbage year because of the lack of power bats surrounding him in the batting order. Adam LaRoche is a good power hitter, but do the Pirates really need a guy who is a second half standout? Kind of wish LaRoche showed up back in April, May and June, when the Buccos needed him the most. The middle infield is one of three plusses for the Pirates. Freddy Sanchez is a hard worker at second base. He can hit and play solid defense. As can Jack Wilson. Why the Pirates want to trade him (because the old regime was made up of cheap bastards) aside from monetary reasons is beyond me. Third base has to be addressed. Jose Castillo is a dog, and Jose Bautista runs hot and cold (similar to the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury...there's my hockey reference in this post). With the pitching staff, there lies a great deal of promise...if the youngsters are properly led by a good pitching coach. Former Pirates PC Jim Colburn ruined Zach Duke, and that kid needs to get back on track to realize his potential and in a hurry! Ian Snell, Tom Gozelanny and Shane Youman are talented finesse pitchers who will move up, provided there is defense and a decent offense picking them up on a given night. That trio was perhaps the most screwed over in terms of quality starts versus lack of offense in the entire league last season. Matt Morris was a huge mistake, and let's face it: both John Van Benscoten and Bryan Bullington are just about out of chances (they are busts). The bullpen is solid, with Damaso Marte, John Grabow, Matt Capps, and Salomon Torres often pitching the beleaguered staff out of jams. Plus, it would help the youngsters if one (or more) of the current core is dealt before opening day (Bay?). Whoever manages this team next season has a great deal of talent to work with (plus Steve Pearce, Andrew McClutcheon, Nyjler Morgan, and Neil Walker coming up), but these guys need to be brought along carefully. Management also has to stay committed to building from within and adding necessary pieces (instead of the previous regime's "let's sig a free agent just to sign one" philosophy) to help this team contend. Bottom line: the Pirates are two seasons away from joining the likes of Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis as contenders for the National League Central crown.
One more thing: for more responses try putting a question like this in the Baseball section. We hockey fans tend to get territorial when someone infringes upon our space.
Hockey (and lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates) fan!