On the first day of the 2009-2010 offseason, a few things are immediately clear. One is that despite the fact that the Pirates' roster has a long way to come before it's ready to contend, there won't be a lot of personnel changes in 2010. Looking at the current roster, this is where I think the following players stand:
- Andrew McCutchen is the future.
- Ryan Doumit will continue to play until he's traded.
- Garrett Jones will be given the opportunity to prove that 2009 was not a fluke.
- Lastings Milledge will play regularly, probably in left field, until he proves he can't.
- Andy LaRoche has earned another long audition, perhaps at second base.
The Pirates can use a shortstop and maybe another infielder to push LaRoche a bit (something Ramon Vazquez isn't capable of), as well as a corner outfielder/first baseman. And pitching, because everyone can use pitching. That doesn't mean that the Pirates will be a good team if they get these things because they're still using a large part of the roster on unquantified talent, but they'll certainly be better than they were these last two months. After the jump, I've identified some trade and free agent targets, just for discussion's sake. Feel free to add your own in the comments; I always seem to have a poor imagination for this kind of thing.
JJ Hardy, SS, Brewers- Hardy is an interesting player. In both 2007 and 2008, he was among the most valuable shortstops in baseball because of his exceptional glove and good bat. He took a huge tumble this year, hitting just .229/.302/.357 and with both the emergence of Alcides Escobar and the Brewers dire need for starting pitching, Hardy is almost certainly a lock to be traded this winter. The Brewers went so far as to send him to the minors for two weeks to hold his arbitration clock back a year (he's now got two seasons of arbitration left). The Brewers asking price here will likely start high, but I doubt they'll be offered what they really want for Hardy. I wonder if the Pirates might be able to pry him away for someone like Zach Duke coming off of what's probably the best year anyone can expect from him.
Matt Joyce (OF), Reid Brignac (SS), Jason Bartlett (SS), Rays- Off the bat, I'll admit that I don't think the Pirates have enough of what the Rays may want to get any of these three players. I liked Joyce when the Pirates were trying to acquire him from the Tigers last year and the Rays kind of squeezed him out of the outfield after a short trial early in the season. He had a good year in Durham and he's fairly young (25) though I've got to think Tampa mostly wants him for the future in place of guys like Gabe Gross and Pat Burrell. They might look to trade Bartlett or Brignac, though, because they can only play one at short. Bartlett's bat is pretty Jack Wilson-esque despite his career year this year, though he's probably at least a marginal upgrade over Cedeno. Brignac will probably be too expensive for the Pirates. That's the catch here; the one player that we might be willing to move that I think Tampa could be interested in is Ryan Doumit. He's not enough to bring in Joyce or Brignac and he's too much to pay for Bartlett. Still worth watching, at least.
This is much harder to do right now without knowing who will be re-signed and who will and won't be offered arbitration. There are a couple second baseman that probably fit the bill (Placido Polanco, Akinori Iwamura) that should be available and I do think Rick Ankiel is at least an intriguing buy-low option, but there are also guys like Mark DeRosa or Marco Scutaro that might be interesting fits for the Pirates that will probably be classified as Type A free agents, meaning the Pirates would have to surrender their second round draft pick to sign them (the top 15 picks are protected). I also think Carl Pavano would be a great signing for an NL team, but I'm not sure if that's here or there.
I'm not certain that the Pirates are at a point that they should be surrenduring draft picks, especially one as high as the second pick in the second round. I do think the Pirates will spend some money this offseason; management certainly realizes how disastrous for PR taking the field with a $25 million payroll would be and they do have places to put the money in to without hurting player development. I'm just not certain how the management plans on going about doing this. We all know the "Pirate tax" that they deal with in free agency, though a slow market could help defray that a bit, but they're not going to go out and just throw money around for the sake of throwing money around (unless they want to sign John Lackey ... signing a Lackey is always a good idea).
Also keep in mind that the free agent list will grow when players are non-tendered over the winter and there are occasionally diamonds in the rough to be found there. MLB Trade Rumors keeps a list of non-tender candidates and while there are a few names on there I might consider, it's really, really early to be speculating about non-tenders.
Or maybe they'll just trade for Milton Bradley. He'd be cheap to trade for, he could play right field, and he'd add payroll.