UPDATE: Pirates, Ryan Church Reach Agreement

UPDATE: The Post-Gazette actually says the Pirates would mostly use Church as a reserve and an insurance policy, which would be better than I imagined below. I still wonder how they're going to distribute playing time between Church and Clement, though.

UPDATE II: The deal is done. Church will take a physical later this week, after which the contract will be finalized. No word yet on the money involved.

I'm fine with this, I suppose; unlike some of the other options the Bucs have considered, Church is an unambiguously decent player. His hitting is fine, if uninspiring, and it always has been; his defense is solid enough even for center field; he has a great arm; and he's not old. The only problem is that he's a bit of an injury magnet.

The trick is where he would fit in. The two positions the Pirates have unsettled are first and right, with Garrett Jones slotting into one of those positions. If the Pirates sign Church, he would presumably take the bulk of the playing time in right, with Jones moving to first. The problem is that both Jones and Church are lefties, and so are Jeff Clement and Brandon Moss, who are the next two guys down the depth chart at those positions. Unless the Pirates still think Clement can catch, it looks like it would be very tough for them to find playing time for him unless Jones or Church falters. 

The real loser if Church signs might be Moss, who might not even make the team. Moss was stretched as a starter, but as a good defender with some offensive skills (that, admittedly, Pirates fans haven't seen yet), he'd be a fine fourth outfielder. With a glut of lefty hitters already competing for playing time, though, the right-handed John Raynor looks like a much better option as a backup. An even better choice for the bench might be Steve Pearce--Church is a fine hitter, but he probably should sit against lefties, and Pearce can punish lefties. Moss is out of options, though, so he has to make the team or the Pirates risk losing him.

I appreciate that Church is a pretty good player, and it's a positive, all things considered, to have pretty good players. But I'm curious about how the Pirates would handle Clement, who I'd like to see get a clean shot at some playing time. And while I wouldn't lose sleep over a backup like Moss, I'd also be curious to see how John Russell handles the mess of left-handed hitters. If the Pirates sign Church, the fact that he's usually either effective or hurt might be a blessing in disguise: when he's on the field, he'll be good, and when he needs to sit out, the Pirates can play Clement.

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