Dejan reports this afternoon that the Pirates are still in the mix to sign Rocco Baldelli. I was actually going to write something up this afternoon about their odds to get him increasing after the Reds re-signed Hairston and the Rays saying they've about hit their payroll ceiling, but I'll take actual reporting over having to speculate any day.
It seems like the choice for Baldelli is whether he wants (or is healthy enough) for regular playing time. In Pittsburgh he could almost certainly be the starting left fielder over Nyjer Morgan, while the AL teams that are interested in him are mostly contenders like the Red Sox and Yankees. If he's not completely healthy yet, he may want to stay in the American League where he wouldn't be expected to play daily and could DH from time to time. If he is healthy, I have to think he'd be interested in playing for a team like the Pirates where he could prove his health and given his age (he turned 27 in September), parlay that into a longer-term, bigger money deal.
I'd still like to see Rocco in a Pirate uniform for the same reason that Oliver Perez piqued my interest last night. I think a lot of people are misunderstanding some of my more recent posts to mean that I think that the Pirates should completely ignore the major league club until the players in the minors are ready. That's not my argument at all. What I've been trying to say is that the focus, and most of the resources, should go into the developing the minor leagues because the big league club can't contend right now. Therefore, signing a player like Pat Burrell or keeping a player like Jason Bay, who are both good hitters and not terribly old but have very limited upside and limited interest in being in Pittsburgh at this point in their careers, is a waste of time and especially a waste of money for the Pirates.
Baldelli represents something different. He's an unknown quantity with a huge ceiling that won't command a big salary this year due to his injury past. The potential is there to for him to improve the big league club immediately and if he does turn out to be healthy, the Pirates would have an inside track at keeping him here if things go well with the team. Since he's 27, it's not entirely out of the question that he could be useful if the Pirates begin to turn things around next year or the year after. If he's healthy and playing well and indicates no desire to stay in Pittsburgh, we can always trade him.
That line of thinking was why I asked about Perez. Yeah, he's asking for eight figures, but if Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu aren't getting $11 million and Ollie's a free agent in February, that asking price is going to come down. And he's still only 27 (he's just two months older than Baldelli). The point made by Bishop in my post from last night is probably the truth: Ollie's had five years in the league and there's just not a lot to indicate that he can duplicate 2004, which makes him a waste of our time.
I'm sure as hell not interested in Braden Looper or even Derek Lowe or Andy Pettitte or Bobby Abreu, but that doesn't mean that there's not any interesting players for the Pirates in free agency.