2014 outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates

2014 outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates
January 29, 2014, 5:00 pm
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2013 record: 94-68, 2nd place in NL Central

Manager: Clint Hurdle, 4th season

Estimated 2014 payroll: $70 million

Key additions: RHP Edinson Volquez, C Chris Stewart

Key losses: RHP A.J. Burnett, OF Marlon Byrd, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Garrett Jones, C Michael McKenry

Projected lineup
LF Starling Marte
RF Jose Tabata
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
2B Neil Walker
C Russell Martin
1B Gaby Sanchez
SS Jordy Mercer

Projected rotation
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Gerrit Cole
RHP Charlie Morton
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Edinson Volquez

Top relievers
CL Jason Grilli
RHP Mark Melancon
LHP Tony Watson

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Who's on first? The Pirates have done nothing this winter to address a glaring hole in the heart of their lineup. They let Justin Morneau leave and sign with the Rockies. They discussed trades for Ike Davis or Mitch Moreland, but those haven't gone anywhere to date. So that leaves them with the highly underwhelming Gaby Sanchez holding the position for now. You've got to wonder if GM Neal Huntington is going to try to spring a deal after camp opens, because the status quo simply isn't going to cut it.

2. What's up with A.J. Burnett? At season's end, the veteran right-hander said he would either re-sign with Pittsburgh or retire. Then, after spending the entire winter in hiding, word came out this week that Burnett plans to pitch in 2014 but will consider signing with another club. The Pirates would love to have him back — he would bring some real stability to the rotation — but Burnett sure sounds like he wants to pitch elsewhere.

3. When will Gregory Polanco arrive? In addition to first base, the Pirates have a gaping hole in right field after free agent Marlon Byrd signed with the Phillies. But they don't feel the need to make a move here because they've got an elite prospect waiting in the wings to take over. Polanco, 22, is drawing comparisons to Darryl Strawberry and is expected to make his big-league debut sometime this summer. If he's the real deal, the Bucs might just have baseball's best outfield.