Pirates Sign Ryan Church

The Pirates officially signed outfielder Ryan Church to a one-year, $1.5MM deal today.  The deal includes another $1.32MM in plate appearance incentives.  With 600 plate appearances, Church would slightly top his '09 salary of $2.8MM.  The Pirates can retain Church beyond 2010 as an arbitration-eligible player, if they choose.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported the Pirates' extensive conversations with Church early Monday.  Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports followed a few hours later saying the sides were closing in on a deal.  Monday evening Kovacevic reported an agreement had been reached, and yesterday he added contract details.

Kovacevic says Church matches the Pirates' criteria in that he bats left-handed, plays strong defense, and could jump into an everyday role if necessary.  Kovacevic wrote Friday that the Pirates' outlook on Rick Ankiel dimmed due to Ankiel's expectation of an everyday job.  In a statement, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said Church "has the skills and tools to be a valuable player off the bench and could play regularly if the situation so dictates."

Church, 31, hit .273/.338/.384 in 399 plate appearances for the Braves and Mets last year.  Shipped to the Braves in July for Jeff Francoeur, Church's season included a sore hamstring, hyper-extended elbow, and back spasms.  The Braves designated him for assignment in December when Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration.  Church was non-tendered a few days later.

The Cardinals were the other club known to have Church on the radar.