First off, my apologies for the lack of posting this weekend. I spilled a drink on my Macbook on Friday and even though it was pretty clear by Saturday morning that it was going to survive, I tried to not boot it up much over the weekend and let it dry as much as possible to avoid doing any further damage to it. Everything appears to be in working order now and even the wet spot behind the LCD is drying up nicely. This is why my mom tells me to eat at the table and not on the floor in front of my TV, I guess.
Anyways, let's do a quick run-down of fifth starter candidates for the Pirates since Tom Gorzelanny being cut makes that the most interesting remaining battle in camp. From within, there's Jeff Karstens and the field, which includes Virgil Vazquez and Jason Davis. DK has indicated several times in his blog that Vazquez and Davis are mostly being named to avoid just handing the job to Karstens. I don't think he'd write that if he wasn't positive about it, so let's assume that Karstens is the only internal solution to filling the spot right now.
If they don't go with Karstens, there are two alternatives. They could sign a free agent from an increasingly diminishig list or they could try to pluck a player off of waivers or trade for a guy that's out of options before a team puts him through waivers. MLB Trade Rumors has both the remaining free agent list and a list of guys that are out of options, so I'm going to cull from there a list of guys I think are interesting.
There's always Pedro Martinez, but I think someone is going eventually shell out for his $5 million asking price and I doubt it'll be the Pirates. Paul Byrd said he isn't going to pitch until mid-season and Chuck James will miss almost all of this year with arm problems, though he might be worth signing for the future if the Bucs think he can get healthy. None of the other options are that attractive: Jon Lieber is almost 40, Mark Mulder's arm is shot, El Duque and Kenny Rogers are ancient, and Ben Sheets isn't worth a Type A pick with his injury.
That leaves Shawn Hill and Odalis Perez. Neither of those guys are young and they're both known quantities. Known quantities that have been recently cut by the Nationals. Neither one is a better option than Karstens, I don't think.
Cory pointed to Jeff Niemann as an interesting name last week and he's right, Niemann would be great. The problem is that the Rays don't seem to be interested in giving him away. They're actually dead set on keeping David Price in AAA just to make room for Niemann on the big league club to open 2009. That seems kind of crazy, but then this is the team that wouldn't part with more than Niemann to grab Jason Bay at the trade deadline, even when doing so would've kept from going to the Red Sox. The Rays are incredibly slow to part with young talent, and I'd be surprised to see them send Niemann anywhere this spring. If they do, the asking price would be pretty high and might be out of the Pirates' price range since they don't have a lot to offer.
So who else is interesting and potentially squeezed? Anthony Reyes is out of options in Cleveland, but he's look awfully sharp this spring and should make their rotation. Both Philip Humber and Boof Bonser are out of options in Minnesota and either of them might come available because neither one is among the Twins five best starters. One of them might be available and both of them are mildly interesting options that might be worth a look at in addition to Karstens. Beyond them, I don't really see any names on the list jumping out at me.
UPDATE: Bonser is out for the year with arm trouble, which I kind of knew in the back of my head, but slipped my mind this morning. The Twins are still likely to try and slip Humber through waivers in a couple of weeks because of his poor performances in this majors to this point and because their rotation is mostly set with Baker, Liriano, Slowey, and Blackburn.
In the end, I think the Pirates are probably willing to roll with Karstens and see where he can take them until they feel Dan McCutchen or Jimmy Barthmaier (or Tom Gorzelanny, but I'm not optimistic about him right now) can pitch in Pittsburgh. Unless they can find an alternative cheap solution, that seems like the best way to go to me.