Derek Shelton To Return As Pirates Manager In 2023

Derek Shelton has only a 127-214 record over his two-plus seasons as the Pirates’ manager, as Shelton has been given the difficult task of overseeing the team through an extensive rebuilding period.  Despite the lack of on-field results, Pirates GM Ben Cherington told reporters (including The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel) that Shelton will continue to manage the club through the 2023 season, which is the last year of Shelton’s initial contract.

I love working with Shelty and this staff.  They work their tails off every day and care so much about getting this right,” Cherington said.  “I’m so confident at the level of effort this staff puts in and I’m looking forward to this group benefiting from the fruits of their labor.  I think they will as our roster matures and gets stronger.”

Naturally, Shelton’s record is far from a determining factor in his job security, given how little he has been given to work with on Pittsburgh’s roster.  As Cherington noted that “I think we’re at a moment in time (when) progress should not be measured entirely by wins and losses,” and that “I really do believe we’re making progress in a lot of ways that isn’t showing up — it’s not going to show up publicly — but will help lead us to success” in the future.

While the Bucs have only a 47-72 record, the 2022 season has seen such notable youngsters as Oneil Cruz, Roansy Contreras, Rodolfo Castro, and Tucupita Marcano all get more of an extended look at the big league level.  Bryan Reynolds has already established himself as an All-Star caliber player, David Bednar has emerged as a quality closer, and Ke’Bryan Hayes has become one of baseball’s best defenders, so the active roster isn’t bereft of productive talent.  Plus, many of the top prospects acquired since Cherington took over in November 2019 have yet to even reach the majors.

With all this in mind, it is simply too early to evaluate many aspects of the Pirates’ rebuild, with Shelton’s performance as manager being one of those rather unknown quantities.  Since a season still remains on Shelton’s deal, it would’ve been perhaps more of a surprise if a managerial change did happen, as such a move would’ve indicated that Cherington or ownership had some issue with how Shelton was shepherding the Pirates’ young talent.  The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal observed back in April that “Shelton has served almost as an assistant general manager” to Cherington, and the fact that Shelton received a four-year commitment in his first managerial job perhaps speaks to the early confidence that Cherington showed.

Both Cherington and Shelton (in a radio interview earlier this week) declined to say whether or not any talks had been held about a possible contract extension.  A new long-term deal, of course, would be the clearest sign of the Pirates’ faith in their manager, though it is also pretty common for teams to give skippers even a one-year extension just to avoid any “lame duck” perception.  At this point, it seems a pretty safe bet that Shelton and the Pirates will work out at least a shorter-term deal, even if such an agreement might not be official until around the start of the 2023 season.

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