The Pirates have made a long list of (mostly unsuccessful) free agent signings during the losing streak.
Most Pirate fans recognize and accept that, in most cases, the Pirates cannot and will not be players for prime free agents..... guys who might be called top tier FA's (e.g. Pujols, Fielder, Jose Reyes, Sabathia, Cliff Lee). All published reports indicate pretty emphatically a continuation of that policy. But the Pirates HAVE signed quite a few 2nd and 3rd tier guys over the years. I'm reminded of the FA signing period prior to the 2003 season, when DL had been the Pirates' GM for less than 2 years.
(Before anyone accuses me of pimping Littlefield, I have posted elsewhere that I believe DL was the Pirates' worst GM during the 61 years I've been following the Pirates. But even the worst GM's get something right once in a while.)
At any rate, IIRC, Littlefield signed Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton, Matt Stairs, Jeff Suppan, and Jeff D'Amico as free agents prior to the 2003 season. (I don't remember whether he signed anyone else.) Again, IIRC, he signed those five players for one year each at an average of about $1 mill each. I may be off a little bit on those salaries, but not much, and that's not the point, anyway.
According to Fangraphs, that 2003 Pirate FA class produced 2003 WAR as follows:
Lofton 4.4 (2.2 for the Pirates before the infamous Aram trade to the Cubs)
Suppan 3.0 (2.8 for the Pirates before being traded to Boston)
Littlefield never had that kind of success again. Nevertheless, it was quite an accomplishment..... and for small money. I recognize that player salaries have inflated substantially since 2003, but ALLOWING for inflation.....
Is it reasonable (or even possible) for Huntington to find 2 or 3 such players for 2012???
For reference, 2011 Pirate free agents (including two early waiver claims as additional data points) produced the following WAR:
Kevin Correia 0.0
Lyle Overbay -0.6 (-0.8 for the Pirates before being released)
Matt Diaz -0.2 (-0.1 for the Pirates before being traded to the Braves)
Jose Veras 0.5
Brandon Wood 0.1 (0.3 for the Pirates after being claimed)
Xavier Paul -0.2 (-0.1 for the Pirates after being claimed)
Disclaimer: Please note that I did NOT include these numbers to imply that Littlefield was a better GM than Huntington. He was not. DL never repeated his 2003 success in the FA market. DL was a dreadful GM, perhaps the worst of all time. But his 2003 success proves that such success was POSSIBLE, at least in 2003. I presented the numbers ONLY for reference in answering the question above in bold, i.e., Is it even possible today, even for only 2 or 3 such players, let alone 5?