Ok, with the signing deadline about 12 hours away, maybe it would make more sense to focus on the Pirates' more traditional approach to spending money which is investing heavily in the draft. If they are successful in getting contracts done for Josh Bell and Gerrit Cole, they will have done just that. However, after watching that horrible offensive performance over the weekend, I can't help but wonder what they could do to add punch to the lineup next year. After a quick scan of the FA options, you find that there really aren't a lot of options in the Pirates' expected price range that would really help much unless the team is able to catch lightning in a bottle and have a guy overperform as a Buc. That's why I decided to crunch some numbers on Fielder. I think it's doable, although it would require the obvious increase in payroll and a leap of faith by the front office.
First thing's first, you need to look at what it would take to sign Fielder and how viable that would be. If you don't think my offer would get it done, then there is really no need to look at the rest of the scenario. I would offer Fielder a deal that was based on CC Sabathia's deal in New York. I'd give him 7 years/$163M with the ability to opt out after 3. The deal would pay him $21M/year the next three seasons and then $25M for the final 4 of the deal. If he wants out after 3 years, he can go. This would give the Pirates 3 full seasons of increased ticket sales from (hopefully) an improved team and/or the casual fan that likes coming out to see home runs. If Fielder believes that he can get more than that then the Pirates can either try to bid on him or (since the minor league aces will have arrived or would at least be close) they can go in a cheaper direction and have a team built on pitching.
Now, if you're going to spend that much on one guy, it has to be as part of a team that at least looks like it has the potential to compete. Spending that much on Fielder and then destroying the roster wouldn't really accomplish much. There are other moves that would have to be made. The first of which is signing Andrew McCutchen to an extension. Using Jay Bruce's deal as a starting point, I'd give McCutchen a 6 yr/$61M contract with a player option for a 7th year (paying him 3.75, 6, 9.5, 12, 14, 14.5, 15M each year).
I'd non-tender Ross Ohlendorf. He has been good when healthy but he's had health problems and $2.25M is a lot for a guy that I'm not sure where he would fit onto the 25 man roster. I'd decline the options for Snyder and Cedeno. Snyder's back is too much of an injury concern for me to give him that much money or to rely on him as a catcher all year. Cedeno has just pushed me over the edge with his back and forth between good Ronny and bad Ronny. Even his defense has slipped and that's how I felt he was earning his keep this year. I'd decline Doumit's option after working out a 1-year deal for next year for $6M.
I'd also decline Maholm's option but I would offer him a 3 year extension for $21M. I would not feel confident about this deal. I am well aware of Maholm's candidacy for regression. However, he does a couple of things for you. First of all, he is an innings eater. Pencil him in for 200+ every year. Secondly, he is a lefty. This enables him to use PNC Park's massive LF to keep his HR rate down vs righties. I don't think Maholm is a stud but I'd feel ok about him giving me an ERA in the low 4's for the next three years.
You also have to assume that several players would earn a raise in arbitration. Just as estimates, let's say Morton gets $1.25M, Karstens $2.5M, Hanrahan $4M, Veras $1.5M, Resop $1M, Meek $1.25, Jones $2M and Wood 650K. This would make next year's opening day payroll $61.55M (assuming an average of 450K for the pre-arb guys). Your opening day roster would be:
Bench: McKenry, Jones, Paul, Harrison, d'Arnaud
Pen: Hammer (C), Meek, Veras, Resop, Watson, Moskos, McCutchen
There would even be depth in AAA with Lincoln, Owens, Wilson, Morris, Locke, Crotta, Gorkys, Marte, Hague, Mercer, Fryer and (possibly) Sanchez in Indy.
There would still be a couple of question marks going into the year. The biggest would obviously be Pedro because the 2010 version makes that a pretty formidable lineup but the 2011 version puts a gaping hole in the 5 slot. You could also make a case that the team would be better off keeping Ohlendorf for insurance. I wouldn't argue and would be fine doing that especially if you could deal Correia for anything. Even if you kept Ohlie in the Pen over Moskos, it would probably only increase the payroll by about $2M. The same could be said about Cedeno. Keeping him over d'Arnaud, at least to start the season wouldn't be a horrilbe decision. Both of those moves still leaves the opening day payroll at $66.1M.
I'm not saying this is going to happen. In fact, I'm almost positive that it won't happen. However, I don't see any reason that it couldn't happen and if the Pirates really could find a way to put this all together, they might just be a real contender next season.