2007 Pittsburgh Pirates

The next 2007 Team Outlook is the Pirates.  Many thanks to Dejan Kovacevic for writing a fine summary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  In addition, Bucco Blog always has great inside info.

Dave Littlefield’s contract obligations:

C – Ronny Paulino – $0.38MM
C – Ryan Doumit – $0.38MM
1B –
2B – Freddy Sanchez – $0.38MM
SS – Jack Wilson – $5.25MM
3B – Jose Bautista – $0.38MM
IF – Jose Castillo – $0.38MM
LF – Jason Bay – $3.25MM
CF – Chris Duffy – $0.38MM
RF – Xavier Nady – $0.427MM
OF – Nate McLouth – $0.38MM
OF – Jody Gerut – $0.875MM

SP – Zach Duke – $0.38MM
SP – Ian Snell – $0.38MM
SP – Paul Maholm – $0.38MM
SP – Tom Gorzelanny – $0.38MM
SP – Yuslan Herrera

RP – Salomon Torres – $2.6MM
RP – Mike Gonzalez – $0.38MM
RP – John Grabow – $0.38MM
RP – Jonah Bayliss – $0.38MM
RP – Matt Capps – $0.38MM
RP – Marty McLeary – $0.38MM
RP – Juan Perez – $0.38MM
RP – Josh Sharpless – $0.38MM
RP – Shane Youman – $0.38MM

RF – Jeromy Burnitz – $0.7MM
RP – Damaso Marte – $0.25MM

That’s about $20.5MM locked up before raises, which is impressive.  The team entered the season with a $46.7MM payroll.  I usually don’t factor in more than $5MM for raises, but Kovacevic estimated $10MM in his article.  Even throwing in a few mil for Herrera, the Bucs could have over $30MM left to spend.

25 year-old catcher Ronny Paulino hit .310 this year.  If he can rediscover the power he had in 2005, the Bucs might really have something here. Plus his defense is sound.  Paulino might just be keeping the seat warm, as BP’s Kevin Goldstein calls Neil Walker one of the few minor league catchers with "star potential."  Walker’s a ways off, though, and could find his way into another position before long.

Nady will end up at first or in right, depending on who the Pirates acquire.  A left-handed power hitter is the target; Kovacevic suggests Aubrey Huff.  Though he hasn’t played first since ’97, I could see the Bucs signing Luis Gonzalez and putting him there.  Trade options could include Jacque Jones, Adam Dunn, and Geoff Jenkins.

Should the Pirates shift Sanchez back to second, 3B will need some fixin’.  Internal options Bautista and Castillo seem to be the favorites. As for the outfield, Gerut will try to squeeze his way in if he is recovered from knee surgery.  That assumes the team offers him arbitration after his ’06 medical grievance.

In Gorzelanny, Duke, and Maholm, the Pirates have a trio of promising southpaws.  There’s also righty Ian Snell, whose season was much better than it looked.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a better young foursome outside of Florida.  With Cuban defector Yuslan Herrera in the fold, the Bucs may look to trade Maholm.  A couple of teams have come knocking this winter.   

The idea is to use some of that free cash to add a veteran righty starter to anchor the staff.  Popular names include Jason Schmidt, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, and Jeff Suppan according to Kovacevic.  Miguel Batista or Jeff Weaver could also qualify.  The return of Schmidt may be more than just a pipe dream

The trade market could include Jason Jennings, Jake Westbrook, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Javier Vazquez.  There could be a fit with the White Sox, as they’re looking for relievers.

As for the bullpen, it is seen as a surplus for the Pirates.  Torres is more expensive, but Gonzalez maybe more effective (and younger).  Personally I’d trade one of them in hopes of getting one premium 1B or RF (Austin Kearns would’ve been perfect).  Are Torres and Gonzalez really going to be a part of the next Pirates championship team?

It may not seem interesting to some, but I am very curious to see how this offseason unfolds for the Pirates.  They usually spend their cash poorly.

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