Free-agent market approaching bargain-hunting time

Elsa

John Perrotto writes about Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew and why the Pirates should consider acquiring them. We've probably talked Morales to death here (with most of those conversations ending with me flipping over the table and shouting "NOOOOOOOO" at the top of my lungs), but Perrotto makes one point that we haven't discussed much.

As we approach spring training, the prices on these players may continue to fall. January and February are bargain-hunting time for free agents. Unfortunately, both players are represented by Scott Boras, so I doubt their prices will fall too much -- Boras might well prefer to let Morales, in particular, remain a free agent until after the draft rather than allowing him to sign a contract that he deems below market. That applies to most players who remain free agents this late. Players who sign after the new year usually don't get long-term deals.

Let's just forget about Morales. As I noted in a piece at MLBTR tonight, the surplus value of draft picks in the No. 16-30 range is something like $7MM. The Pirates' first-round pick next year is No. 25. What you think of Morales depends pretty heavily on his ability to play first base, but I'm not convinced he's worth the $14.1 million he turned down from the Mariners, let alone whatever he expects on the free-agent market plus the $7 million cost of the draft pick.

I like the Drew idea more, but I'm not sure he's a great choice, either. He'd be an upgrade, but Jordy Mercer is a perfectly useful big-league shortstop, and it would be hard to justify making a hefty multiyear commitment and losing a draft pick for a player who isn't that much better than what they already have, even if Drew is a lefty. Steamer projects Drew will be worth 2.0 WAR next year, with Mercer at 1.3 in two-thirds the playing time.

Maybe there's a fragment of a chance for the Pirates to sneak in as a dark-horse candidate for a starting pitcher, though, assuming A.J. Burnett doesn't come back. There are plenty of good starters left on the market, and if the Pirates are going to give up their first-rounder, I'd prefer it be for someone like Ubaldo Jimenez than for someone like Kendrys Morales. Of course, the issue with guys like Morales, Drew and Nelson Cruz is that there just isn't much of a market for them, whereas there is a market for starting pitchers like Jimenez and Ervin Santana -- it's just been delayed while teams everyone waits for Masahiro Tanaka. And there's also the problem of the Pirates reportedly being unwilling to pay $14.1 million for Burnett. But it's worth keeping in mind anyway, just in case we look up at the end of the month and guys like Jimenez are still available. We're approaching the time of year where the available free agents start to go on clearance.

Then again, maybe this winter is just making me feel really stir-crazy and bored.

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