Over the last month or so I have been wondering to myself what free agent would do the most to help the Pirates. I tried my best to try and be semi-realistic about it. There is no way the Pirates are signing a player who will 15+ million dollars a season. That would be a foolish investment. The Pirates should not be committing more than 3 years to a free agent so I had to look at players who fit that description. So essentially I’m looking for one player who the Pirates have a reasonable chance at signing for no more than 3 years and 36 million dollars.
My first thought was a pitcher. Someone like Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd (should he have reached free agency) or maybe even Dan Haren. There is no doubt that the Pirates need some starting pitcher help but then again if they keep Karstens they have some depth with Locke, McPherson, Cole and Irwin. So I backed off that thinking and started to look at position players.
The first positions were naturally shortstop and catcher but at first glance no one really caught my eye so I looked at 1B and OF. I seen no interesting 1B names but Cody Ross, Angel Pagan and maybe Tori Hunter perked my interest some. Again I thought of the options the Pirates have in the outfield in Snider, Marte and Tabata and felt blocking them in this exercise was unwise.
So I got to thinking if we assume the Pirates can get more bang for the buck from a position player what is their real need. Well they need better production from the top and the bottom of the order. They need to ensure that as many positions as possible don’t give them horrible performances. In short they need another catching option, another shortstop and some depth for the outfield. What one player best accomplishes this goal?
The answer? Mike Napoli. Napoli will give the Pirates another option at catcher and he provides the Pirates with a good option at 1B should Jones be needed to provide depth in the outfield. Now I don’t think it would be a wise investment for the Pirates to go 3 years on him but if he is looking for a pillow contract, signing him to a 1 year deal for 8-10 million dollars would be a huge boost to the Pirates. Napoli could split time at C and 1B for the Pirates which would give the Pirates the flexibility to give McKenry a shot at being the starting catcher but still have a backup plan and it would give the Pirates the ability to try to the young outfielders as starters and still have an option at 1B should Jones be needed to play more regularly in the outfield.
I can also get behind the idea of signing a starting pitcher but for my money the Pirates best use of the Pirates free agent money this season would be taking a chance on Napoli. It may sound odd at first but there is sense in it. Napoli could potentially directly or indirectly fill every big shortcoming the Pirates have with their offense with the exception of shortstop. I don’t see it happening but if the front office is feeling some heat as they probably should be this is just the type of impact signing they could decide to take a chance on.