And they are aiming even higher. For one thing, given offseason upgrades all over the division, it has become "that much more difficult now. Teams will be beating the heck out of each other and a second team getting into the playoffs out of this division will be a challenge," Huntington said.
For another, "We're kind of tired of the Wild Card thing," said manager Clint Hurdle, who got a split decision in them in 2013-14. "It's been fun, but we'd like to start out by being able to plan a five-game series."
Can the Pirates make it happen? That's the big question. Here are 10 smaller ones that build up to it.
Hurdle dotes on having a super utility man, and the incumbent now plays third. Sean Rodriguez was merely the last in a long line of candidates brought aboard, and he has the inside track because he brings more versatility than the others.
More innings out of the rotation was also a must in 2014, when starters' workload did improve -- but only by a third of an inning a game, leaving them still shy of averaging six innings. The remaining load was still too much for the bullpen, which again buckled.
The departed free agent's impact went deep, and was incalculable. A .402 on-base percentage summarized his offensive contribution, the 3.28 ERA with him catching summarized his pitching input -- but there was no way to quantify the spunk and leadership. Francisco Cervelli, bringing a reputation as a Martin clone, and Chris Stewart share a burden: Any significant regression will be laid at their feet.
His early fire was quickly extinguished. After batting .365 in his first 11 games, he wound up batting .235. Well, Roberto Clemente hit .340 in his first 11 games and ended his rookie season at .255. So let's see Act II.
2. Who bats cleanup?
Half of 2014's cleanup rotation (Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez) is gone -- not a bad thing. The Bucs' .225 average in that spot was their worst in the order, leaving Andrew McCutchen with little protection.
It is the only true hole on the field. Alvarez could fill it prodigiously. The Bucs sorely need that thunder somewhere in the lineup. Even in his nightmarish 2014 season, his numbers projected to 27 homers and 94 RBIs across 600 at-bats.