Filling The Holes

I am back a little early but I feel it is necessary because of the happenings of today. The Pittsburgh Pirates declined all 4 of their player options leaving them with four noticeable holes going into this offseason. The holes are in not particular order catcher, 1st base, shortstop and starting pitcher. Earlier I did a piece on what I thought the Pirates would do, this piece is a focus on the best practical move they could make, a middle of the road move and a low level move that would barely be acceptable. I will also give my prediction of what will happen. I will only list free agents and will obviously not list every possibility instead I will just name a handful.

First though I feel it necessary to mention that I see a potential trade partner in the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have previously expressed interest in trading catcher Chris Iannetta and corner infielder Ty Wigginton. Those two players would fill holes the Pirates have. Iannetta would give the Pirates a one year stop gap at catcher and Wigginton would give the Pirates a right handed platoon partner for Jones at 1B and a fall back option for Alvarez at third. Again not a rumor here just a good potential match I see. Now on to filling the holes.

Catcher:

Best Move: Ramon Hernandez (if not offered arbitration), Rod Barajas or Ryan Doumit

Middle Option: Kelly Shoppac, Jose Molina, Chris Snyder, Henry Blanco

Low Level: Ramon Castro, Gerald Laird, Jason Varitek

My Prediction: I think the Pirates will be aggressive here and try to sign either Hernandez or Barajas but in the end I think they will fail to land one of them. In the end I expect them to end up with one of the middle level options and I am going to say it will be Chris Snyder returning on a one year contract worth approximately 3 million.

1st Base:

Best Move: Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Michael Cuddyer

Middle Option: Juan Rivera, Brad Hawpe

Low Level: Jorge Cantu, Xavier Nady, Standing Pat

My Prediction: The Pirates will go hard after Derrek Lee but I don’t think he will have any interest in coming back. I am hopeful they will then make a push for Juan Rivera but it is my opinion that they will come up empty handed either landing with a low level option or standing pat. If it comes down to those choice I think they will sign a low level guy but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they go with a Jones/Hague platoon.

Shortstop:

Best Move: Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll

Middle Option: Alex Gonzalez, Ramon Santiago, Ronny Cedeno

Low Level: John McDonald, Yuniesky Betancourt

My Prediction: The Pirates will not entertain the idea of signing Barmes or Carroll but will try to sign one of the middle level guys. I am hopeful they are not actually planning on going with Ciriaco and d’Arnaud but I am afraid that might be the case. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they focus on the middle tier and end up with Ramon Santiago.

Starting Pitcher:

Best Move: Erik Bedard, Paul Maholm, Chris Capuano, Jeff Francis

Middle Option: Bruce Chen, Joel Pineiro, Brad Penny

Low Level: Aaron Harang, Kyle Davies, Dontrelle Willis, Kevin Millwood

My Prediction: I would absolutely love for the Pirates to go take a risk and sign Bedard but sadly I don’t see that happening. I am not even sure the Pirates will go and bring in a starter but they definitely should so I will assume they will. If the Pirates do bring somebody in I think it will be a Kevin Correia type so that makes it someone in the bottom level. I am thinking possibly Millwood but just on a hicn I’ll say Kyle Davies.

Final Analysis:

Part of me wants to assume that the Pirates declining all of these options are a precursor to taking on a big contract in a trade or making an aggressive push for a good free agent like, Carlos Pena, Josh Willingham, or Edwin Jackson. However I don’t really see that happening and as you can tell by my predictions I am not confident the Pirates will adequately fill their holes. I think they will do a decent job at catcher and shortstop but will fail at their two biggest holes 1st base and Starting Pitching. It goes without saying that this is a big offseason for the Pirates and Neal Huntington and that inactivity or limited activity could be severally detrimental to the team. I will of course wait to pass judgement until after the offseason moves have been made but I am not expecting big things. Go ahead Huntington though, surprise me, it would be warmly welcomed.

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