The Pittsburgh Pirates were eliminated from the 2015 postseason last week after being shut down by Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta in the NL Wild Card game. The 4-0 defeat at PNC Park sent Pittsburgh home at the same stage as last season, when they lost at the hands of Madison Bumgarner and the Giants.
Pittsburgh's core of players is mostly young and therefore under contract for the foreseeable future, but there are a few veteran pieces that may not be back with the Pirates next season. Here is a look at what lies ahead for the Pirates:
Where they stand: 2016 Pirates payroll obligations
The two biggest payroll figures for the Pirates in 2016 belong to southpaw Francisco Liriano and center fielder Andrew McCutchen, both of whom will be making more than $13 million next season. There are also a pair of values locked into Pittsburgh's roster next season, as shortstop Jung-Ho Kang and outfielder Starling Marte will both be making less than $4 million. Notable Pirates up for arbitration include both second baseman Neil Walker and closer Mark Melancon.
Pending free agents
Among the players whose contracts with Pittsburgh are up after 2015 are pitcher A.J. Burnett and infielder Aramis Ramirez, both of whom have discussed retirement. Free agents that could return to the Pirates include relievers Joakim Soria and Antonio Bastardo and starter J.A. Happ, who had a strong second half with Pittsburgh after coming over in a trade from the Mariners.
The only major graduation from Pittsburgh's system in 2015 was Kang, who at age 28 some did not consider a prospect anyway, though he had rookie eligibility. That may change next season, as pitcher Tyler Glasnow and first baseman Josh Bell, both among MLB.com's top 50 prospects in baseball, reached Triple-A this season and found success there. With Burnett likely and Happ possibly departing from the rotation and Ramirez vacating a corner infield spot, both Glasnow and Bell could play significant roles for the Pirates in 2016.
Where do the Pirates go from here?
After winning 98 games in 2015 and with nearly all of their key contributors returning, the Pirates will be looking primarily to stay the course going into 2016. There could be some secondary pieces that change next year, but there should be a familiar-looking roster in Pittsburgh in 2016.