Offseason In Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

Next up in our Offseason In Review series, the Pirates.  Here’s what I wrote about the team on September 12th.  The changes for 2009:

Additions: Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hinske, Ramon Vazquez, Chris Bootcheck, Donald Veal, Craig Monroe, Andy Phillips, Jeff Salazar, Virgil Vasquez, Jason Jaramillo.  Midseason: Robinzon Diaz, Craig Hansen, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Jose Tabata

Subtractions: Doug Mientkiewicz, Jason Michaels, Luis Rivas, Chris Gomez, Ronny Paulino, Franquelis Osoria, Raul Chavez, T.J. Beam, John Van Benschoten.  Midseason: Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Jose Bautista, Damaso Marte, Matt Morris

Extensions: Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth, Paul Maholm

Pirates GM Neal Huntington had two main tasks this winter: test the trade market for his remaining veterans, and sign certain young players to extensions.  Adding free agents was never top priority, and the Bucs sensibly kept those commitments low.  They still could bring in a cheap veteran free agent starting pitcher like Pedro Martinez or Odalis Perez.

Much of Huntington’s veteran purge was accomplished last summer, with the trades of Bay, Nady, and Marte.  He shopped Jack Wilson this winter, but couldn’t find a match.  Hindsight being 20/20, perhaps he should’ve been more flexible in the December dealings with Detroit.  As for LaRoche, it makes sense to wait given his history of slow starts.

With the new extensions, the Pirates can have Maholm and McLouth through 2012 and Doumit through 2013.  The extensions don’t necessarily add trade value in all three cases, so hopefully the Pirates will contend in 2010, ’11, or ’12.

Bottom line: Rather than free agents, the Pirates chose to invest in their own youth this winter.  Now Huntington’s focus will be on maximizing the return for Wilson, LaRoche, and John Grabow.

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