By Chad Carlson
Although they haven’t been breaking national headlines, the Pirates have been busy this offseason, making moves and changing the complexion of their eventual 2012 roster.
Among the new acquisitions of the past few months include Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Nate McLouth, Erik Bedard, and Casey McGehee. While the team could make more moves over the next few weeks and beyond, the majority of the holes in the lineup, with the exception of first base, have been filled.
With that being said, who has been the best acquisition for the Pirates thus far?
Apparently at the top of the Pirates’ priority list was the situation at the catcher position. It was one of the first matters they addressed this offseason, electing not to exercise the options on Ryan Doumit or Chris Snyder. Instead, they signed Rod Barajas, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Barajas certainly doesn’t have a lot of power. He’s a defensive upgrade to Doumit, without question. The main issue with both Doumit and Synder is they have both proven to be extremely injury-prone. When Doumit was hot, he can hit any pitch out of the ballpark, but that just hasn’t happened all that often. With a hit-for-contact approach and a solid arm behind the plate, Barajas is a quality option for the Bucs in comparison to the current market as well as for someone who is financially available to them.
At first, the signing of Nate McLouth was a puzzling one. After all, the Pirates seem to have their starting outfield set for 2012, with a number of other players waiting in the wings of the minor leagues for their shot at the big league level in the coming years. Certainly, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata are forgone conclusions for centerfield and right field respectively, and after his impressive run last season, Alex Presley seems to be the frontrunner for the left field slot.
This is still a smart deal for the Bucs though. In their short tenures with the team, both Presley and Tabata have proven to be subjectable to injuries, and the wear-and-tear of a 162-game season can be detrimental to a player’s performance, especially someone like Presley, who’s bulk experience has come in the minors.
McLouth adds a quality bat and glove in the backup role, while he’s certainly capable of stepping into a full-time role in the event of injury or roster move. After a rough stint in Atlanta, he came at a low price…which is always a factor concerning the Pirates.
The Pirates’ decline of Ronny Cedeno’s option, followed by the signing of free agent Clint Barmes, was a moderate surprise for fans, from a financial standpoint. After all, Cedeno’s option was for $3 million for 2012. Typically, when a team declines the option on a particular player, it implies that the team doesn’t feel the player’s performance on the field is worthy of the type of compensation he is owed the following year.
By signing Barmes, the Bucs upgraded, but only slightly. He has plenty more power than Cedeno, minus a few seasons, while the two players’ batting averages are virtually identicle. From a defensive standpoint, they are strikingly similar as well.
So..yeah, a slight upgrade moving from Cedeno to Barmes.
But the oddest aspect of the situation is Barmes’ contract, which is good for 2 years, $10.5 million. So the Bucs were not willing to pay Cedeno $3 million for one year, but they’ll pay Barmes for 2 years at a little over $5 million per? For a slight upgrade? Now clearly, the Pirates’ management have talent evaluators who are far more skilled than fans like me, but these two players are very similar from a talent standpoint, so for a historically stingy team like the Pirates to pour extra money in a situation like this, it’s a little surprising. As I’ve said before, I believe this deal had more to do with the relationship (or lack thereof) between Cedeno and Clint Hurdle. Barmes, of course, played for Hurdle when both were with the Colorado Rockies’ organization.
I think Barmes will be exactly what people expect. He’ll be a solid defensive shortstop, while hit around .250 but will take advantage of opposing pitchers’ mistakes and knock a few over the wall.
The signing of Erik Bedard at the Winter Meetings is a move that has been approved and supported by fans and critics alike. Pittsburgh decline the outrageous option on Paul Maholm earlier in the offseason, leaving a vacancy in the starting pitching rotation…until this signing.
The downside on Bedard is certainly the injuries, and he’s been the victim of many over the years. However, he has solid stuff and a great baseball mind. If he stays healthy, you’ll be a huge upgrade to the Pirates’ starting pitching rotation. He’s also a lefty, adding to the team’s otherwise all right-handed rotation, including James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Karstens.
This is, of course, a risky move…but it’s refreshing (and rather shocking) to see the Pirates take a risk. The key to the quality of this move will be if Bedard can stay away from the injury bug. If he can, the Bucs’ pitching rotation just got a lot stronger.
The newest member of the Pirates’ family was announced earlier this week, when the Jose Veras was traded to Milwaukee in exchange for Casey McGehee. We, as fans, certainly didn’t see this one coming, and there weren’t any rumors regarding interest in the multi-positioned McGehee until the deal was already done.
The last two seasons for have been extremely different from one another for McGehee. In 2010, he was a power-hitting third baseman contributing daily to his team’s offense, while 2011 saw him as almost a liability in the Brewers’ astounding power-hitting lineup.
It’s not realistic for Pirates’ fans to believe that McGehee will return to his 2010 form, but he should be better than last year. The Bucs are in utter need for power in their lineup, and that’s exactly what McGehee brings. If he hits for power, he will play. Whether it’s at third base, first base, or even the outfield, that remains to be seen.
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