Are Pirates In The Market For ... Anyone?

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: Starting pitcher Jeff Francis #26 of the Kansas City Royals throws during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on September 15, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Here are the details on Jeff Francis' minor-league deal with the Reds:

Francis will earn a base salary of $1.5 million if he makes the Reds' big league roster, the source said. The deal includes performance bonuses based on starts that could increase his total payout to $3.25 million.

Francis also has the ability to opt out of the contract on March 28, before the end of spring training.

That's a bargain, frankly. In situations like this, I've sometimes felt a little exasperated by people who say, 'Why didn't the Pirates get in on that?' Well, maybe they did; maybe Francis, for whatever reason, just doesn't want to come to Pittsburgh. Or maybe the Pirates simply feel that Francis isn't very good. That's a point of view to which I could be somewhat sympathetic if the Bucs had even a basic level of rotation depth. But as this point, any pitcher who can throw 180 innings without getting shelled is one the Pirates should consider, especially when he can be had for just a couple million bucks.

And there's this, too: I don't hear much evidence the Pirates have much interest in anyone at this point. Now, maybe that doesn't mean anything -- maybe the Bucs are secretly still working hard at making significant upgrades to the big-league roster, and none of that has been reported. That happens sometimes. But usually when there's fire, there's smoke, and right now, I don't see any.

That's why, when I saw the Edwin Jackson "mystery team" thread go up, I had to chuckle. There's a "mystery team" interested in Edwin Jackson! Let's put aside how silly and empty the reports of "mystery teams" are in the first place. (Could it be my team?! I don't know, there's a 1-in-30 chance!) Given all the evidence -- particularly the absence of any serious reporting connecting the Pirates to Jackson, and the fact that the Pirates never, ever sign free agents as good as Jackson -- is there any reason whatsoever to think the Pirates are this "mystery team"? The whole thing is like a dysfunctional game of Clue, where there may not have been any crime committed in the first place, and if there was, you know it wasn't Colonel Mustard who did it, because the dog ate that card years ago.

The complete absence of action out there right now suggests the Pirates like their team right now, or at least that they've come to terms with it. You can, of course, make the argument that the Bucs weren't going to contend in 2012 anyway, and that therefore, the water-treading the Pirates have done this offseason isn't some great tragedy. But it's still disappointing.

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