SOUTH HILLS – If you are unaware, Seth Meyers – the future Late Night host and Weekend Update inner circle Hall of Famer – has a soft spot for the Pirates. Meyers has Pittsburgh ties and followed the Pirates with interest last season.
As a reader of this space, you’re aware the Pirates have had a quiet offseason and they’ve begun to catch some criticism. Some in the local media wanted to see more activity. Sports Illustrated gave the Pirates’ offseason efforts to date an ‘F’ and this morning MLB Network’s Hot Stove anchor Greg Amsinger expressed shock that they Pirates have not made any upgrades this offseason.
Meyers presented balance to the criticism this morning on Twitter. Meyers wondered what contracts signed to date would #BUCN liked to have seen issued by the Pirates? And Meyers expressed doubt that there were many, if any, great fits via free agency for the Pirates.
(My apologizes but my ability to embed tweets is down at the moment).
Meyers – a savvy baseball fan – has a point: The Pirates’ needs haven’t exactly matched up well with the market supply or prices this offseason. And while we’ve been over all this piecemeal, now seems like a good time to recap:
FIRST BASE: There was little free agent supply in the first base market, the Pirates’ biggest area of need. The Pirates were willing to go to two years, but not three, with James Loney, who was perhaps atop their wishlist. Loney is coming off something of a career year and offers little power at a position where you want an impact bat. To me, that’s not a significant miss. …. Jon Heyman reported this morning the Pirates have some interest in Kendrys Morales but don’t want to surrender the draft pick. But Morales is thought to be a butcher defensively and Gaby Sanchez is actually better against left-handed starters negating the value of the switch-hitting Morales. …. Way back in the beginning of the offseason, Baseball America had the Pirates as one of five fits for Cuban defector Jose Abreu. Abreu is the kind of player who could bust or boom. The $68 million probably pushed the Pirates out of the market, but if he lives up to his Davenport Translations he’ll be a bargain. He’ll be Ryan Howard. The good, age 27 version of Howard. Still, there are questions about his batspeed and ability to play first …. I think the trade market could heat up if Texas (Mitch Moreland) or Seattle (Justin Smoak/Logan Morrison) lands Nelson Cruz.
SHORTSTOP: The shortstop market was also incredibly weak with Rafeal Furcal rated as by some as the third best available shortstop (If you recall I actually liked Furcal as a fit for the Pirates platooning between 2B/SS with Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer). …. I think Jhonny Peralta is overvalued and I didn’t like the years or dollars of his contract….. I think Stephen Drew could be bargain, but he’s another FA who requires 1st-round draft pick compensation and has a checkered injury history. Again, not a lot of perfect or near perfect fits.
RIGHT FIELD: The Pirates do not want to block Gregory Polanco‘s ascension, which makes sense. Nelson Cruz is probably going to be a poor three-year investment for some team and his right-handed power would play way down moving from Texas to PNC Park. I don’t think many have an issue with the Pirates staying out of the RF market.
STARTING PITCHING: I think we’ve covered the AJ Burnett/Qualifying Offer angle. One area that hasn’t been touched on as much is if waiting on Burnett disrupted the Pirates’ ability to spend dollars elsewhere. Neal Huntington said at the winter meetings that had not been the case. … The Pirates were in on Josh Johnson. The Matt Garza deal seemed pretty reasonable for the Brewers, but the guy I liked as a fit for the Pirates was Scott Kazmir at 2y/$22 million. For starters, if Kazmir remains healthy he’ll easily return surplus value and I really like left-handed pitchers at PNC Park and in the NL Central. (See: Liriano vs the Reds in 2013). The Pirates have a lot of right-handed pitching in the system but they have no left-handed starters under contract in 2015 and beyond…. I think the best value of the offseason was in the trade market with the Nationals stealing Doug Fister.
In summary, while you’d like to see a Cinderella team coming off a 94-win season attempt to build upon that success, particularly when 2014 might present something of an opportunity with Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, Wandy Rodriguez and Jason Grilli all free agents after the season, I’m not sure how many fits there were for the Pirates.
This might all be moot. There are about eight weeks until Opening Day, so there is still time for action. Remember, AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano were acquired after this date in each of the last two offseasons. There are still a number of quality, in-limbo free agents out there due to qualifying offer and perhaps waiting for Tanaka to set the market. The trade market could heat up as asking prices come down and free agent dominoes fall. And remember, Huntington showed a willingness to not force the action or overpay at the July 31 deadline. There’s still time but the hot stove is running low on fuel.