It is obvious that the Pirates still have money that they can spend this offseason and there are plenty of talented options still available. Yet there has not been even the slightest rumor connecting the Pirates to any free agents in some time. Which brings up the question: How come the Pirates have been so quiet in regards to free agents recently? Is it that the Pirates are done signing free agents because they are confident that they have enough skill and depth at each position to field a decent team for the long 182 game season.... I think not.
There are far too many question marks and lack of depth regarding our starting pitchers and relief pitchers. Could it possibly be that internally the FO are debating between signing short term, high reward options vs. a long term option in Edwin Jackson? They are in the drivers seat and can continue to wait, which will lower their asking price. After the jump i will examine some of these options and why they need to spend more money this offseason.
RIch Harden- He just turned 30 in November and is currently injury free for the first time in 3 years and also still a free agent. Now as Thunder has pointed out, "Harden has pitched 100 innings in a season twice in the last 6 years". I will first address Harden's 2010 season followed by his 2011 season. In both these seasons he fell short of 100 innings ,producing 92 and 82.2 respectively. While also posting a career high 5.58 ERA in 2010 and a slightly better 5.12 in 2011. These two seasons, Harden was plagued by 3 different but not serious injuries. His strike out totals were still impressive, having 75 in 2010 and 92 in 2011. Now those are not good ERA's at all, but considering the offenses he played in the AL and the fact he was pitching at less than 100% the entire 2 years he still managed just below 9 strike outs per 9 innings.
Those 2 years he did pitch over 100 innings in the past 6 years were his only 2 seasons spent in the NL. 2008 pitching 148 innings with 181 strike outs and an ERA of 2.07. 2009 pitching 141 innings with 171 strike outs and a 4.09 ERA. He has never had a significant injury, has always posted good strike out totals and has a career ERA of 3.47. He would be the perfect candidate to fill in for Morton until he is returns, and then either take over Correria's spot in the rotation or move him to the bull pen ( which would lower his risk of injury). Either way a healthy Harden would be a huge addition to the team. There is absolutely no reason not to take a one year flier on him.
Chris Young- He is 32 years old and recently said " his shoulder is feeling as good as it has in a long time and hopes to start pitching again by April". He would probably be able to be signed to a minor league deal between 1-2 million. He has not pitched over 100 innings in 3 years, however has a 3.74 career ERA and a decent strike out rate. He is another injury risk option who if healthy would be an absolute steal.
Scott Kazmir- He just turned 28 a few days ago, and has had an EPIC melt down the past 2 years. However he was once a huge prospect, and had a brilliant first 5 years to start his career. Also he has never pitched in the national league. He will not be able to demand much money, and can probably be signed to a minor league deal. PERFECT low risk/high reward SP.
Justin Duchscherer- He is 34, and a slightly riskier option than the previously stated pitchers. He has not pitched for 3 years due to injuries, but when healthy has shown that he is a very talented pitcher. He would be another intriguing player to take a flier on, but doubt it will happen due to his age.
Ben Sheets- He is 33 years old, and I realize he has missed 2 out of the last 3 seasons. He had Tommy John surgery, along with two tendons replaced in his elbow in Aug. 2010. Seeing him in a Pirates uniform has been one of my fantasies for a while, and was looking like a perfect buy low and high upside. I was hoping to find information that he was recovering and would pitch in 2012. However after a half an hour I came to the same conclusion as Mike Axisa, a writer for YESNetwork.com, stating "Yeah, I haven’t heard anything about him recently either, and I spent entirely too much time digging through Google News archives to find an update". It appears his career is likely finished, which is a shame. So you can scratch him off the being signed by the pirates.
Edwin Jackson- He is 28 and is the long term option the Pirates could be weighing against several short term options. MLB Trade rumors posted today he has multiple 3 year offers, but no one willing to go to the 4th year. If the Pirates choose the long term approach, offering him the 4th year could snag him with spending no more than 1o million per year. He would be a great fit for a rotation that lacks a strike out pitcher.
I am purely speculating, but with the lack of rumors surrounding the pirates, amount of talent still available, and the need to add another starting pitcher or two, I believe internally this is what the pirates are debating. Hopefully they are and will make one or two signings soon.