(Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug)
In a vacuum, I like the Pittsburgh Pirates’ free agent addition of SP Erik Bedard a lot. Despite his age (33) and injury history, Bedard instantly becomes the only pitcher in the rotation capable of striking out nearly a batter an inning- a vital barometer for consistent MLB success.
Outside of the vacuum, I believe the Pirates’ other off-season decisions have rendered the addition of Bedard nearly moot.
1. Losing C Ryan Doumit and SP Paul Maholm for nothing was a significant loss. Both players were coming off their best seasons in years (Maholm 105 ERA+, Doumit 128 OPS+). So rather than adding Bedard to an already shallow rotation with Maholm, the Pirates are essentially just replacing Maholm’s production with Bedard’s. It could be a near-wash; Bedard is the more talented pitcher, but Maholm is more likely to provide a workhorse 175+ IP season.
2. Spending $15,500,000 to add INF Clint Barmes (2 years) and C Rod Barajas (1 year + option) will be a year-long detriment to the offense. Both players should vie for the “Reverse OBP Crown” this season, and ensure 2 dead spots in the lineup every game they play. Why the Pirates felt the need to spend $11,000,000 to “upgrade” from Ronny Cedeno to Barmes is beyond me; the 2 are statistically similar/terrible players. Cedeno sports a career 68 OPS+, while Barmes checks in a tick higher at 78 OPS+. Still, this has to be the first time in Major League history that a player with a career 78 OPS+ was awarded $11,000,000.
In other moves, the team traded former 2nd round disappointment RP Brooks Pounders and Dominican Summer Leaguer
Diego Goris to Kansas City for INF Yamaico Navarro. I hated the Pounders pick from the moment it was made; the 255 lb. husker (no, he didn’t go to Nebraska, he’s just chubby) was quickly converted to a full-time RP/occasional swingman. His career totals (3.82 ERA, 8.2 K/9) obscure the fact that few A-ball relievers make the show. I’m actually more concerned about the loss of 21-year old Goris, who hit .350 with an .898 OPS in the DOSL in 2011.
I just don’t understand Navarro’s addition. He sports a career .778 minor league OPS, and supposedly has above average power for an infielder. Scouts say he has an above average glove, but much like Ronny Cedeno, bookends spectacular plays with routine bobbles. The Red Sox were grooming him to be a superutility player, so Navarro has reps at 3B, SS, and 2B. But whether he can play any of them well remains to be seen, as he’s posted a .515 OPS over 112 MLB at bats.
I guess the Pirates intend to use Navarro as a utility INF, although I would’ve been happier if Barmes was never signed, and the Pirates allowed Navarro, Chase D’Arnaud, and Jordy Mercer to duke it out for the SS job in Spring. Honestly, I don’t think the winner of the 3 is going to be much worse than Barmes. Certainly not $11,000,000 worse.
- Permission to land; Image credit nesn
Some Pirates’ fans were overly ecstatic to see OF Nate McLouth return to Pittsburgh on a 1-year $1.75MM deal that could reach $2.15MM with performance incentives. Personally, I respected Huntington for pulling the trigger on a McLouth trade to Atlanta in 2009, but immediately despised the underwhelming return. McLouth nosedived since joining the Braves, so it’s not surprising to see him taxi into the Allegheny landing strip for many nosedived veterans in their 30’s. Only time will tell whether or not the Pirates re-signed McLouth due to the value he adds to the team off the bench, or because of a desire to officially “win” their trade with the Braves, as the Pirates still have all 3 pieces (SP Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, OF Gorkys Hernandez) from the original trade. We’ll see how much management publicly pats themselves on the back for being savvy this season.
Finally, the Pirates selected 2B/SS Gustavo Nunez from the Tigers in the Rule V Draft, which nobody in their right mind can seem to understand. If you don’t follow the Rule V, teams must keep these players on their MLB roster all year long, or offer them back to their former team (or in some cases, make a trade allowing them to stay, like what the Pirates/Rays did with Evan Meek).
By all accounts, Nunez seems to be a terrible player. Maybe I am heavily reliant on OPS, but it’s hard to envision how a player who only posted a .541 OPS at AA this year is somehow going to stick at the MLB level. And honestly, if you’re going to trade for Navarro, why then draft Nunez? The amount of automatic outs Neal Huntington is infusing into this MLB roster is staggering.
Finally, the Pirates lost SP Bret Lorin to the Diamondbacks in the same draft. Lorin had a solid 2.84 ERA at High-A Bradenton in 2011, but is already 24, and has spent the past 4 seasons bouncing between different levels of A-ball. With the departure of he and Cedeno, that leaves SP Aaron Pribanic and Nathan Adcock (shelved in 2011), as the only remaining pieces of the 7-player Jack Wilson-and-Ian Snell-to-Seattle deal of 2009.
Thanks for reading. Next up: a “portfolio” update on the Pirates’ offseason to date!