What If The Pirates Are Done Making Moves This Offseason?

This would be easy to be wrong about, but my guess, from the complete absence of rumors we've heard regarding the Pirates recently, is that the Bucs are done making major-league acquisitions this offseason.

If that's true, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. The Pirates did better in the offseason market than I thought they could have. This isn't to say they did especially well, just that they paid reasonable prices for a lot of players who make sense for them in the short term. The Erik Bedard signing could turn out to be a steal, the price they paid for Rod Barajas was fair, and although I'm not a huge Casey McGehee fan, acquiring him made a lot of sense, in that it reduced the chance they'll get absolutely nothing from third base this year. The Clint Barmes signing wasn't necessarily the best move, given the likelihood of him not hitting at all in PNC Park, but it certainly wasn't terrible. And the Pirates paid little for Yamaico Navarro, who has some potential and might be able to help this year.

Not that Barajas is any great shakes, but in a free-agent catching market that consisted of Barajas, Ramon Hernandez, the two guys the Pirates let go, and little else, I was surprised to see the Pirates get someone as good as Barajas. The Bucs were able to land Barmes, according to Barmes' own account, because they played hardball in negotiations. And the Bedard signing was simply a great move. This has been a good offseason, relatively speaking - far better than last year's Lyle Overbay / Kevin Correia mess.

Unfortunately, the Pirates pared down so much before making these acquisitions - letting go of Paul Maholm, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder - that it's likely that their offseason moves won't result in improvements in games won. There's still no fifth starter and no real first baseman. The rotation is still loaded with question marks. The offense is likely to be feeble yet again. There isn't a total lack of upside - there's the chance that, say, the rotation holds up, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata break out, and the Pirates get another great season from Andrew McCutchen, and they end up with a winning record. But it takes some serious wishcasting to get there.

The question, though, is, if the Pirates are done making major moves, should we be upset at them for not doing more? If you're a team in the Bucs' position, you don't want to force it in the free agent market, which is rarely favorable to the Pirates anyway and where a wrong move with a multi-year contract could pose serious problems down the road. And short of acquiring a star, which was never going to happen, the Pirates' actions in the free agent market weren't likely to turn them into contenders anyway. In the free agent, the Pirates have to walk a fine line between making short-term improvements and protecting their long-term interests. It's not easy. I do think it would be borderline-irresponsible for them not to do anything else with their rotation, but getting a decent pitcher, like a Jeff Francis, to sign for one year might be easier said than done. Getting Maholm to come back might be the best remaining feasible option, so it's disappointing we haven't heard much about that.

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