Does a Big Free Agent Make Sense For the Pirates?

The 2011-2012 off-season has been somewhat amusing. At the start of the off-season, the big focus was on the options of Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, and Ronny Cedeno. The Pirates declined all four options, much to the dismay of Pirates fans, who didn’t think the team could replace those four players on the free agent market.

The Pirates replaced Cedeno with Clint Barmes, who grades as one of the best defensive shortstops in the league on pretty much every defensive metric. They replaced the injury prone duo of Doumit and Snyder with Rod Barajas, who has much better defense than Doumit, and who has caught more innings than any catcher in the majors the last few years. They replaced Maholm with the high-risk, high-reward Erik Bedard.

The Pirates declined about $33 M in player options, and replaced those four players with $19 M in payroll. For the sake of argument, you could say that the Pirates made lateral movements at each position, while saving $14 M in payroll in the process. The set of moves leaves the Pirates with an estimated payroll of $46 M, with talk that they could afford expand that number to the $55 M range. That’s plenty of room for a big contract.

The reason I find the off-season amusing is because of a trend that exists every off-season. The deeper you get in to the off-season, the more pessimistic Pirates fans get. At the start of the off-season the Pirates couldn’t compete without players like Maholm, Doumit, Snyder, and Cedeno. By the end of the winter meetings they had replaced those players with new additions that you could call lateral movements. Even though they had the same talent level at each position, it was no longer enough. The Pirates needed more in order to compete. At the start of the off-season the Pirates couldn’t compete without Maholm, Doumit, and Cedeno. They added players with similar overall values in Bedard, Barajas, and Barmes, but didn’t seem to escape the “100 loss” predictions that were around during OptionGate.

The team has been quiet since the winter meetings. Since the Casey McGehee trade on December 12th they’ve added nine minor league free agents, none of which really stand to make an impact in the majors. They also still have an estimated $46 M payroll, which leaves room for a big signing. That brings us to one of the most amusing things of all in my book.

It seems like no matter what the Pirates do, the 2012 predictions don’t change. Lose Maholm, Doumit, and Cedeno? They’ll lose 100 games. Replace those three with Bedard, Barajas, and Barmes? That’s fine for a week, but a week later when they haven’t made any additional moves they’re back to losing 100 games. I understand the pessimism. The Pirates have lost a lot of years in a row. They’ve had can’t miss prospects who missed. They’ve been presented with rebuilding plans, but never saw a rebuild. They saw the freak show in 1997, and they saw the 2011 team capture first place in July, only to go on to finish the season with the worst case scenario of a collapse. You can’t even say that Pirates fans need to see proof of something before they’ll believe in it, because at this point they’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The Pirates have room to spend in 2012. They have room to make a big addition to the team and still end up in the $55 M range. What’s amusing is that the Pirates are a 100 loss team if they don’t make such a move, but an addition of someone like Edwin Jackson suddenly makes them a team that can compete. One of those things isn’t right, and I’m guessing the never-changing, pessimistic 100 loss prediction is that thing. Either the Pirates are a team that could have a shot at contending with an addition like Edwin Jackson, or they’re just wasting their money because they’re far from one player away from doing anything.

It’s pretty important to know which side you stand on that debate, because it will influence your answer to this next question: Does a big free agent make sense for the Pirates?

Last week I pointed out that the Pirates were in a rare situation where there were still talented free agents available, and the Pirates were one of the few teams with money to spend. I suggested Edwin Jackson as a possibility. Most of the arguments for a free agent focus on the 2012 payroll. They don’t focus on whether the team can afford a long term deal. So I looked in to it. I completed estimates of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 payrolls, to get an idea of whether the Pirates have room in their future payrolls for a big deal, such as $10 M a year for Edwin Jackson.

If you assume that the Pirates stick in the $50-55 M payroll range during those years, then they could manage such a contract. They’d have to trim some payroll in 2013, something I think will already happen, as I don’t see them keeping Joel Hanrahan for a third year of arbitration. In 2014 and 2015 they’d need top prospects like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Alex Dickerson, Tony Sanchez, and others to arrive, which would help keep prices down.

The Pirates could afford a big deal, but they’re in a situation where there’s one bullet in the chamber. Do you fire that the first chance you get? Or do you save it for an absolute emergency?

I like Edwin Jackson. He’s a very talented pitcher. He would be the ace of the Pirates staff for at least the next two years. But he’s a 3.8 WAR pitcher. The guy he’d replace would be Kevin Correia, who was a replacement level pitcher last year. So the overall impact would be 3-4 extra wins. If you’re in the 100 loss camp, it wouldn’t make any sense to spend money on Jackson. You’d be tying up the payroll for the next few years, and if you think the team is that bad in 2012, then the addition of Jackson probably won’t do anything in the short term.

But what about if you think the team is close? What if you think the team is a 72-75 win team? You could argue that the Pirates would be better off waiting until they had a winning season before adding a free agent. Maybe the Pirates could use that $10 M per year at another position in the future. You could also make the argument that I’ve made: Jackson would be the best pitcher on the team for the next two years, and would either be a great number three behind Taillon and Cole, or would be someone who could easily be traded if other options emerge.

The Pirates have the payroll space for a big addition, but they only have one shot. If they add someone who gets hurt or regresses, they lose that payroll flexibility in the future. It might be irrelevant to talk about Jackson, since it looks like he’s going for a one year deal with a contender. But when talking about Jackson you have to ask: With one shot to take, is this the guy you want to take that shot on? Or do you wait until the team has a winning season before you make that type of move?


  • It doesn’t really matter if it makes sense to any of us, apparently it didn’t to NH or FC,

    Although this is probably a matter of definition as NH and FC consider the 3 Bs to be big free agents.

    It makes me wonder if the Bucs were really serious when seeking pitcher from Colorado. 

  • There is no way that even a $75 million dollar payroll will cripple the Pirates.  This team is owned by Nutting and funded by the public.  If anyone thinks that he is spending his own money, please give me a call, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.  I, along with a large number of other people, is tired of watching this team worry about tommorrow and not do anything about today.  Just wait until next year.  This year hasn’t even started yet.  The fact that their is discussion about signing a 28 year old pitcher to a 4 year $44 million dollar contract is absurd.  This is a huge no brainer.  Their is risk involved in this game.  Maybe the Pirates can get him cheaper.  It speaks volumnes that he would be our ace of the staff is he is signed.  He is consistant and can pitch a lot of innings.  What is wrong with that?  Cole should be on the roster on opening day.  With Jackson as the ace this year the Pirates can be respectable.  If everything works in our favor, he will be our #3 or #4 pitcher when the young studs come aboard.  If Cole and Taillon are as good as advertised, the Pirates will have a formidable staff.  If it blows up, it blows up.  At least they tried.  A mid $50 million payroll is nothing in this league.

    If the Pirates really want to make a splash, they should try to trade for David Wright.  The Mets are in trouble.  He is owed $15 – $16 million a year for the next two years.  That would take a little stress off of Pedro and show the fans that the Pirates actually care.  Moves like this would put the payroll in the mid $70 million range.  Signing Cespedes would be an even bolder move.  here is your line-up.

    RF – Presley
    2B – Walker
    CF – McCutchen
    3B – Wright
    1B – Pedro
    LF –  Tabata
    SS – Barmes
    C – Barajas
    P – Jackson

  • Everyone seems to think it would just be that easy for the Pirates to go out and sign a big name free agent.  Those same people seem to forget the player can turn us down.  Our former first baseman is more willing to retire than take $7.5 M to play first for us this year.  If the Buccos want a big name, or even a 2nd tier FA, they are going to have to overpay for him, which really isn’t viable for a team in their market.  I would rather use at least a chunk of this available loot to take care of internal personnel.  Lock up Cutch, extend Walker, and use what’s left to get some extra competition for the rotation.  Edwin Jackson is incredibly up and down.  If he regresses, which is a definite possibility, the Pirates are screwed.  They can’t afford to take that big of a gamble.  Not until they have the depth available to bail them out.

  • Tim,

    I would like to see an article, Does the Pirates approach to the 2011 and 2012 seasons make sense?

    To me, the answer is it only does if you expect to have a mediocre team and want to keep drafting in the top 5 or 6 picks with an all your eggs in one basket plan  to just wait until there are tons of high end prospects graduating from the minor league system.

    • I see a BRIGHT spot… two big hitters are no longer in the NL East…  Angels and Tigers helped the Pirates more than anything the Pirate  front office has done.. Of coarse Braun helped too…:-) 

    • I think if you look at what other teams have done, most teams don’t make the big addition until after they’ve reached .500. Milwaukee didn’t make a big free agent splash until they went 81-81.

      The teams that try to build through free agency generally don’t see their plan work out. It’s always flashy, and it gets a ton of publicity, then people just forget all about it when the team loses.

      • so you think it was baloney that the Bucs should even hinted that payroll could go up in 2012?

        I don’t think the team needs to sign a big free agent and I don’t think they need to just make improvements one year at a time.  NH has build the team off the scrap heap (old free agents in Barmes, Barajas, – G. Jones as minor league free agent).

        There are trades to make (Leadoff mentioned potential blockbuster that it sounds like the other team backed out of). 

        So people just forget about the Pirates because they always lose?  It seems like the team should be trying to change that and give fans something positive to think about.  IMO, the team has cut itself off at the knees by saying at least since NH has been in charge that the payroll is not going to go over $50 -52 million which means a lot of players are not even in the ballpark for them to consider.

        They are taking a risk on MaGahee, just like with Correia and Bedard and hoping for bounceback years.  It is great to take risks but the upside is not high (except in case of Bedard) and risk of them declining is probably at least 50-50.  I just find it disheartening to root for a team that has yet to try to win at the major league level with the exception of the fluke 2011 and 1997 seasons.  And both of them happened because no other team in the Division had gotten off to a good start

        HOw many people here thought when NH was hired in 2007 that team would  not be considered to be at least a 500 team by now? 

        Are the Astros telling their fans wait until 2020?  Theo Epstein is expected to turn the Cubs around sooner than that.  Arizona didn’t take too long to get back in contention.  The Bucs are the exception to the rule as far as being able to put together a winning season (although KC is close – it looks like the Royals will contend sooner than Bucs)

  • So the Pirates outperformed expectations in 1997 and for 100 games in 2011.

    That is not something to count on for 2012 but apparently NH and company think that is enough.

    I would at least have liked to have seen some effort made to improving the team for 2012

    Instead there are gambles.

    Bedard will be healthy and pitch as he has done before
    MaGahee will bounce back
    Barmes will at least be able to repeat his 2011 season
    Barajas will be able to repeat 2011

    Garret Jones will perform better in a platoon
    Walker will improve
    Pedro will improve
    Hanrahan will duplicate 2011
    Morton, McDonald and Karstens will all be solid in the rotation.
    Tabata will be healthy and improve

    Heck of a lot of hope

  • The problem I have with 2012 roster (as it appears from current 40 man roster) is that the Bucs will go into almost every series with less talent then their opponent.

    How many teams in the National League will have less overall talent than Bucs?


    • People were saying the same thing before the 2011 season.

      Then people were looking forward to the first ten games in August because the Pirates had more talent than the Cubs and Padres.

      It’s funny how baseball works sometimes.

  • WHY the premise of a 100 loose season?  Barajas, Barmes and Bedard are all improvements over those replaced players.  

    With the continued maturation of Tabata, Presley, McCutcheon, Walker, Alvarez, Morton, McDonald, Lincoln, Hanrahan and Karstens, it’s actually more reasonable to predict a 10 win improvement over last year, rather than a starting point of 100 losses.

    • I agree, not to mention that a lot of the transactions that have taken place after the trades they made earlier were to shore up depth in the system, something that killed them last year, they no longer have to put Harrison at 3rd if Pedro turns in the worst hitting performance for a 3rd basemen again. They have 4 shortstops from AAA on up that can play shortstop in the majors in the system right now. They brought in enough catchers that they could go 4 deep if they had to. They have at least four 2nd basemen that can easily produce at the major league level and plenty of outfielders.
      1st base a continuing problem for fans of the Pirates, could get 20-25 Hrs. out of it this year, I am talking about the position not the player.
      Starting pitching is the only position that IMO they should have spent more time and money on, but that does not mean that what they have won’t work, with the quality defense that the Pirates have up the middle, the pitchers they have just might work out.

    • It’d be spectacularly rare that all of the players you mentioned would improve.  Younger players trend upwards with experience, generally, but not all do.  Some wash out and are never seen again, as we have seen numerous times.  The Pirates need to keep on trying to improve, or they will just sink into the high 90 loss range again.

      • I did not mention that they all would improve, simply pointing out depth.
        When they can go 4 deep at a lot of positions between AAA and the major league team they don’t have to have all of them succeed, but as was witnessed last year, they should not have to go outside the organization to fill holes that occur due to injuries. The AAA team should be much stronger this year than it was last year, the Pirates from what I can see will not use any of their talent below AAA to help the major league club.
        If they get solid, not spectacular pitching for most of the year, they should have a better year than last year.

  • Jackson is a possibility, but so are a lot of moves the Pirates could make. The problem is not that they can’t make a move here and there, the problem is we don’t know the majority of the time what they are doing, for example I know that they were trying to make a huge trade that never got publicized and did not go down, unfortunately I am not at liberty to discuss that possible transaction. I know that they want to sign McCutchen and Walker long term, that would make a dent in their payroll if they did, a big dent.
    As far as them being contenders, apparently most think they are not, but nobody would be willing to bet their house on it.

    • I know being near 70 that my memory might be failing…I keep thinking I heard some top management PEOPLE of the PIRATES say if you build us a new stadium we will put a winner on the field???   Maybe “OLD TIMERS” IS SETTING IN???? Or am I waiting in vain????  60 years a PIRATE fan gives me the right to be a little confused…

      • @ William Pearce….seeing how you’re an old timer, what would it take for the Pirates FO to get your support?  Add payroll, draft better??….just curious.

        • In 18 years they drafted high because of their record…mmm That alone should have brought them into contention..but..???  I believe as long as people like me goes to the games just to see a beautiful ball park they will never be sold… Oh well we can bet in a few years a new GM or Manager will be is easier than  I think it is “GROUND HOG DAY” for 18 years and counting…

  • the difference between Correia and Jackson is consistancy….Correia had decent year back in 08, then 09 was down, 10 was better and the bucs signed him and it was so so.  Jackson has been consistant for the most part.  with those consistant numbers up to age 28, i would really like to see them try a 2-3 year deal worth 9 million per.  If he’s offered 5.5 mil from Boston, im really sure he would settle for atleast a 1 year deal worth 9 mil from the bucs, thats alot of cash.  Obviously if he signs a 1 year deal, it would be worth it to him to get the most out of that one year.  He’s clearly focused on getting the max out of next year FA class.  Others have to see the promising propects coming up in a few years.  Players will see this if they pan out and eventually will sign, of course, if payroll is bumped up a bit.
    sorry if this makes no sense, makes sense in my brain, lol

  • I understand that Barmes said it took 2 years but at that time of off season it would have taken 3 million to get Cedeno.  I’m saying Barmes wasn’t the only option but the Bucs wanted him and overpaid.  If they are going to overpay for someone I would prefer it to be for a good player.  I think Barmes is very risky for 2013 and a moderate risk for 2012. 

    The Brewers ended up with Alex Gonzalez who is probably close to as risky as Barmes but at a lower cost.  5 milliion isn’t a lot in salary for an experienced major league player but for the Pirates it is.  The Bucs act like every milllion is important.

    Barmes may turn out to be a good signing (although odds are not good), but with the lack of other moves in the off season it is a ho-hum move at best.  It seems to me that the Bucs must have known they had little shot at Derek Lee from the beginning and still come up with a poor solution at first.  So it does look like the off season plan was to tread water or punt.  It could be that NH is hamstrung by Nutting and payroll but it could be that he just can’t figure out a way to improve the team gvein the resources he has. 

  • One of the things I wonder about is the Bucs did save money on the replacements but I think they still overpaid for Barmes. 

    If they deserve any credit for not picking up options for Doumit, Maholm and Cedeno becasue they ended up signing for much less, it seems reasonable to say they wasted money on Barmes because he probably would have signed for less later.  I’m in the camp that believes the Pirates are going to lose a lot of games in 2012, and the good well and excitement generated in 2011 is out the window.  That had value and the team has not capitalized on it.

    • They said they had to offer the second year to get him to sign.

      I think if they would have waited, they wouldn’t have gotten him. Milwaukee was interested, but was waiting out the Prince Fielder situation in November. By mid-December I think Milwaukee would have gone to two years as well.

      I don’t think they drastically overpaid for Barmes. He made almost $4 M last year. They’re paying him $5 M this year and $5.5 M next year. If they sign him for a 2/$8 M deal, does the move look better? How important is that $1 M in 2011, or that $1.5 M in 2012?

  • The part this article misses is the ability to trade Jackson if the young players develop. Since we can’t throw money at draft picks we need to spend on free agents like this and then flip them a few years down the road. Give him 4 years at $44 million.

    • I mentioned that briefly in the article. That’s one of my big arguments for signing Jackson. He doesn’t seem like a guy who will fall off the table in a year or two. So the Pirates could deal him for the final 2-3 years of his contract if they don’t need him after 2013.

    • I’d rather NOT think about trading him. That’ll mean we’re 15 games under .500 again.

    • $44MM would be horrifying.  The last I’ve heard, the Red Sox have an offer on the table to Jackson for 1 year around $5.5MM. 

      I don’t really see the love affair some of you have with Jackson.  I think it’s another case of spending money for the sake of spending money trying to get the payroll number up to some mythical, acceptable number.  He’s a slight upgrade over Correia, that’s about it.  If they do sign him, I wouldn’t want him for more than a year, and I certainly wouldn’t want him for anything close to $10MM. 

  • This is a very apologetic piece.

  • Constantly saying it makes no sense to improve a marginal team gets you 20 seasons of losing.  The whole point of competition is to compete.  The Pirates didn’t make lateral moves in the offseason, they took downgrades.  Maholm’s option would have been cheaper than Edwin Jackson.  A .230 hitting injury prone catcher is not the same as a .300 hitting injury prone catcher.  As far as Snyder and Cedeno, no big loss there.  But even Cedeno was replaced by an older guy with less range.  If the Pirates management can’t even keep arbitration eligible guys, get new management.

    • YES…I AGREE.. HOPELESS OWNERSHIP…  MLB should force a change.. any team that does not make the playoffs in 10 years should be forced out..  NOT 20…lol

    • It is frustrating to wait, but I am willing to wait a little longer until our youngsters start making an impact (hopefully) at the majors.

      I agree with Tim, in that we made lateral to upgraded moves. EJax, as much as I’d like him in the rotation, would, at best, in my eyes, make only a 3-4 win improvement.

      Cedeno was replaced by Barmes, of whom metrics shows DOES have better all around range. Plus, I hear he runs the bases well AND doesn’t bunt with the bases loaded. 🙂

    • Maholm would be compared to Bedard. Bedard is a much better pitcher. It’s just a question of how healthy he will be. If he makes 24 starts again, the Pirates will have gotten a steal.

      Barajas isn’t injury prone. He’s caught more innings the last few years than any other catcher. He can also play defense, which is something you can’t say about Doumit.

      Barmes doesn’t have less range. He grades as one of the best defensive shortstops in the league on pretty much every defensive metric I’ve seen.

      • Agree, but even if those 3 new additions play well, it won’t mean a hill of beans if our OFers, SPs, Walker and Pedro (especially) don’t take positive steps forward.

      • Maholm/Bedard doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.  Having both would be an improvement.  Barajas caught over 1,000 innings in a season once in his career,  2005, Doumit never has.  I’d hardly say that makes him an ironman.  His defense would almost have to be better than Doumit, although Doumit did improve this year fairly markedly, from only throwing out 12% of runners to a still poor 24%.  Far more importantly, Barajas is 6 years older than Doumit, and that certainly makes a difference.

        As far as range factors, Cedeno was well above league average last year, Barmes almost exactly average, slightly better.  And again, he’s older.  That doesn’t make him great, just average.  I’m willing to call that a wash, Cedeno’s bonehead factor is something you can only understand watching him all the time.

        Constantly going the cheap route gets you a loser mentality.  For goodness sakes don’t throw money away on horrible signings like Derek Bell, but never spending sends a very big message to everyone in the organization.  Doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll never get paid in Pittsburgh.  Ever.

  • I think this team is not as good as the team that finished last year, and that teamed played .325 ball down the stretch. SO why not spend some money and raise the pay roll to 70 million this year and try to win another way. because the last 19 yrs have not work with below average pay rolls. sign jackson and make a trade for major league ready prospect. how do you get the money ? get a equity loan from the club that you own mr. nutting , unless you have done for other investments other than the pirates.

  • Part of the equation is that if they sign Jackson and they get to 81 wins attendance and other revenues will go up thus allowing for a larger payroll budget the following year which could allow them to address another need such as 1st base.

  • I’m starting to think that WAR doesn’t matter unless it’s a salary cap system.  I find it hard to believe the metric that says Edwin Jackson will only provide 3, or at best 4, wins more than some of the pitchers we have now.  Especially the ones that had career years (Karstens) and the ones that had terrible years (Correia).  You can’t not improve the team because you think the improvement is only going to get your 4 more wins, so to hell with it. I’m not a fan of R, A-, A, A+, AA, AAA teams, I’m a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Get a better team on the field and spend $8-10 million extra a year if you have the flexibility to.

    • Reminds me of that Edwin Starr classic, “WAR, uhh, what is it good for, absolutely NOTHING (say it again)”.

      🙂  🙂  🙂

      It must be a double negative morning: “You can’t not improve”. Does that mean you CAN improve (double negs cancel each other out, right)???
      🙂  🙂  🙂

    • The whole purpose of stats like WAR is to remove this type of bias. WAR is unbiased. It calculates the numbers the same way, whether you’re a big name like Edwin Jackson, or a 4th/5th starter like Kevin Correia. I only mentioned Jackson over Correia. Karstens was a 3.0 WAR pitcher last year, so Jackson was only about a win better. I’d put more stock in Jackson staying at his 2011 level than Karstens, but that’s another topic.

      As for improving the team, like I said I think it depends on your stance. I see “the Pirates will lose 95-100 games if they don’t add someone like Jackson”. If that’s the thought, then it doesn’t make sense to add Jackson. But if you’re thinking they’re going to win 72-75 games, then it makes sense, because you’re much closer to the point where you can compete.

  • Seems that some people just want to spend for the sake of spending.  If we just get our payroll to $X amount, then we’d finally win.  Doesn’t matter who we give the money to, just as long as we give the money to somebody.

    Look at Clint Barmes stats over the past three seasons:
    1383 AB, .701 OPS, 43 HR, 165 RBI, 15.2 UZR at SS

    Jimmy Rollins over the past three seasons:
    1589 AB, .720 OPS, 45 HR, 181 RBI, 14.4 UZR at SS

    Yet if the Pirates had gone out and thrown $50MM at Rollins, everybody would be ecstatic over the Pirates great offseason, and how they are REALLY trying to win now, because look at the payroll increase!

    We get pretty much the exact same production at a much better price, and it’s seen as a huge disappointment.  People just seem to want quantity over quality.

    • Not me. Jimmy Rollins is a declining player who was overrated to begin with.

      • I AGREE ROLLINS IS DECLINING.. But this team is the worst ever run professional sports team .. A RECORD18 straight losing seasons and no one thinks they can see a 500 plus season in near future. No pitching or hitting…JUST FANS that support below average effort in ownership ???? 

        • do you support them? i assume not with your comments, then why are you following a pirates blog?

          • Yes I still follow them…but WILL not go support the ownership..if everyone stopped going MLB would force the issue ASAP.. Any positive effort by ownership would be a plus… Life time Pirate fans does not mean I support the owner… and I will not support lackluster effort… 

            • Just because you can’t see or comprehend the positive changes doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.  There’s a difference.


    • Do the fans that supported the Pens Pre-Mario count as idiots?
      Or the Steeler fans from the 60’s?Guess I’m an idiot. I can live with that.  


      Since there is a double negative in your sentence, does it mean you DO think it’ll happen? Very idiotic sentence and confusing….

      • Sorry about that… completely frustrated with this ownership….

        • I hate using terms like ‘idiotic’, but I used it because you did. We are ALL frustrated. I happen to think NH is doing it the right way. Not perfectly, but the way it has to be done. And, after watching Littlefield abandon the plan again and again with knee jerk reactions, I am willing to wait and see if our youngsters develop. If not…………aarrrggghhh!

    • I remember Mario trading away all his high priced players threatening to move the team getting a lucky pingpong ball after being the worst team in hockey for 4 years. Then not spending any $ until they were promised a new facility and getting a salry cap in place.


  • To sign Edwin Jackson, the Pirates would realistically need to spend at least $44M over 4 years, and even that may be too low in terms of years and dollars.  The latest I’ve heard is that Scott Boras is planning on having EJ sign a 1 year deal with a competitor and go back out next season.  If the contract was flat that would put the Pirates at $57M  which is slightly over the anticipated budget.  So, there is a real question of whether they could afford to sign him without making a second move to lower the budget.  Short answer is that unless you believe in tanking the season to get better draft picks, this should be a no brainer. 

    He’s arguably the best FA available, using the standard $5/WAR he should provide positive value for the entire contract (he’s only 28). I don’t if he is talented enough or mature enough to be an ace or lead a rotation, but barring injury he projects to be the best starter the Pirates have had in several years. 

    Unless the team plans on signing Cespedes, there isn’t another player on the FA market that would significantly improve the team and organization.

    The only reason not to do this move would be if the team was going to use that money for signing bonuses as a part of the plan to extend Cutch.  I’m good with either use of the money, but only one helps in 2012.

  • Brian Bernard
    January 31, 2012 6:52 pm

    I’d rather pay for elite players than o.k. players. Even at the cost. Develop the best you can and trade to acquire more elite players, but if you’re buying – buy the best. 

    • Sounds good in theory but in reality only 1/3 of the teams can afford the yearly salaries of guys like Pujols and Fielder. And say if the Bucs did pay for 1 of them the first 3 years would be great but as soon as that player declines even a little he becomes an orginization killer. These guys are looking for huge guaranteed long term deals. Outside of Pujols, Fielder, and Reyes I wouldnt consider any other player in this FA class elite.

      On a related note AL teams are more able to offer that kind of $ to these type of bats because they can DH them in later years. This is starting to create a huge competitive balance issue that MLB should address somehow.

      • Some folks conveniently forget how crippled we were with that Kendal contract.


  • The Pirates are a cheap organization and love to get retreads.They could have went after Jackson,Oswalt a power hitting First baseman which they desperately need.They will never get ahead with that mentality.Soon the divisions will be realigned and we will be put in a tough division.

  • The thing that really frustrates me is that the rest of the teams in our division continue to make themselves better by signing guys while the Pirates stand pat. The Reds for instance continue building almost daily.
    Sure each of those teams have lost major players this winter, but they also have not sat there accepting their losses.
    We daily see guys getting signed to inexpensive minor league deals and think “now why didn’t the Pirates take shot at him?”.
    The same thing every winter too.
    Then in the spring when the injuries inevitably come, the team is so thin that they have to scramble to get replacements from the now much smaller pool of talent available.

    • I hear your frustration, but before the offseason began, we were nowhere near the Reds (on paper) in pitching or hitting. If EJax came in, he’d be our ace? That tells you something about our pitching.

      If we had added the pieces the Reds added, we would’ve decimated our farm system. I’d rather wait until the younguns come up and prove themselves THEN fill in the gaps. Right now, we have canyons, not gaps.

    • I think that if you just casually look at what other teams are doing, and expect the Pirates to make a move every time another team makes a move, you’re doing to be disappointed. I don’t think any team could live up to those expectations.

      The Pirates made most of their moves in November/December. Using your example, the Reds didn’t make any free agent moves until January, although they did add Latos and Gallagher via trade earlier in the off-season. The Reds signed Madson recently, but they did that because they lost Cordero and hadn’t replaced him yet.

      Rather than focusing on “the Pirates need to do something”, the focus should be on “what can the Pirates do?”. It doesn’t make sense to make a move just to respond to another team’s move, unless the move upgrades the team. I think the only place the Pirates could upgrade right now is the rotation, which is why I’ve been suggesting Jackson.

      •  I’ve already said what they CAN do – Sign Xavier Nady. The best bargain out there.

        And I’m referring more to the above average minor league free agents that keep being signed by teams every day. I see how cheaply they are being signed for and know that the Pirates could have easily afforded them and might have been able to give them a better chance of making the team than the teams they are signing for.

        Jeff Francis for instance, who just signed a minor league deal with the Reds.
         Livan Hernandez also the other day signed a minor league deal with the Astros. These are quality starting pitchers who are coming very cheaply, and they are not a great deal inferior to Edwin Jackson, to be serious. Why spend all that money on Jackson when these quality starters are selling so cheaply?

        I am not in the group who see Edwin Jackson as an answer. I just think they need to be grabbing these minor league free agents for injury insurance ahead of the other teams getting them.

        I am not going to stop barking about going after Xavier Nady. You see what he did the last year he was healthy before he blew out his arm?  Now he’s had 3 seasons to recover, he should be all the way back by now. What a bargain he would be, even better than McLouth!

        Nady had 37 doubles and 25 homers split between the Bucs & Yankees in 2008. He hit .330 for the Pirates!  Then he blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. 3 years later now, healthy and looking for work.
         He is way better than Casey Kotchman, and I would bet he will come a lot cheaper. He hits very well in Pittsburgh, we already know that. How could they go wrong by forking out whatever he is asking for?

        Throw him in the first base mix, and he also can play the outfield. It will make McGehee and Garrett Jones have to step up and battle that much harder. Come on Pirates, this is as big a no-brainer as they come!