After 5 losing seasons, the Studdabubbas surprised even themselves by winning 98 games and the NL North for the first time since Season 14. The Bubbas won the first round bye but were quickly booted from the playoffs by Baltimore 3-1. While this success was rather shocking to everyone in the league, the reason was obvious—The Studdabubbas got lucky in free agency. Their Season 20 pickups in chronological order:
3B Charlie Carson - 29 y.o. - 5 years at $7.4M
Carson was playing second fiddle in Los Angeles ever since Eduardo Alarcon signed that monster 5-year deal and the Baja Racers declined his option for Season 20. This signing was a bit of a surprise since the Bubbas already had Buzz Abernathy at 3rd but it made sense. Carson was a huge upgrade and hit 31 homers batting 4th and gave Matt Buchanan some protection. After the Carson signing, Buzz Abernathy was shipped off to Los Angeles to get his $6M salary off of the books (this freed-up more money for the Bubbas to sign a couple pitchers).
SS Deivi Posada - 28 y.o. - 4 years at $5.2M
Getting a solid SS allowed veteran Frank Turner and youngster Pablo Andino to platoon at 2nd (hitting primarily against lefties, Turner hit .306). Posada's defense and .354 on base percentage made this another nice upgrade for the Bubbas.
CF Darron Stoddard - 31 y.o. - 3 years at $7M
Last season's CF, Charlie Bird, was not working out as an everyday player so the Studdabubbas went after 4-time all-star Darron Stoddard. Stoddard led-off most of the season. He had an OBP of .352, stole 24 bases, hit 24 home runs and batted-in 76 runs. He made his 5th All-Star Game in season 20 and is still fairly young.
SP Pedro Manto - 33 y.o. - 2 years at $4M
Everyone knows how cruddy Studdabubbas' pitching is so getting a washed-up starter like Manto was quite an achievement in Pittsburgh. Manto pitched well with a 15-9 record and a 1.33 WHIP. Well enough to be chosen for his first All-Star Game since season 11, when he was with San Francisco. This was the first time a Studdabubba pitcher was chosen for the all-star team since Kevin Pickering in Season 13.
SP Carlos Johnson - 34 y.o. - 1 year at $3.7M
Speaking of washed-up starting pitchers, Pittsburgh picked-up this bum off of the scrap heap. But dang it if this bum didn't have some game. Johnson's record was only 10-11 but he pitched 200 innings and had a WHIP of 1.31.
Another big acquisition in Season 20 was the Studdabubba's first round pick (6th overall), set-up man John Fisher who had a good season in Hi-A last year. The Studdabubbas also dished out $14.5M to sign international starting pitcher, Charles Bong. At AA, Bong went 5-1 in 10 starts with an ERA of 2.45. So it appears pitching help is on the way. Let's just hope it gets here before the hitting starts to die off.
The Studdabubbas spent pretty much every penny they had available last season in free agency. But beyond just spending it, they got some good, younger players to sign reasonable contracts. And, despite the signings, Pittsburgh only has about $40M wrapped up in salary going into Season 21. They still have some guys they need to sign but they are still in good shape.
Part of the reason Pittsburgh had such a good season was that some of the NL powerhouses started to fade but Season 20 was easily the best free agency period in Studdabubba history.