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Pirates to Sign Japanese Pitcher; Deal with Atlanta Still Alive

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Whoa.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are close to filling their need for a veteran right-handed starter by signing long-time Japanese League pitcher Masumi Kuwata as a free agent, baseball sources from Japan told the Times on Monday...

Meanwhile, indications are that the Pirates' attempts to trade for Atlanta Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche may not yet be over, though a deal fell apart last Wednesday...

[S]ources close to the negotiations expect both sides to try to resurrect talks once cooler heads prevail and believe the potential is still there for a multi-player deal, including a possibility in which the Pirates would send left-handed closer Mike Gonzalez, catcher Humberto Cota, second baseman Jose Castillo and outfielder Nate McLouth to the Braves for right-hander Kyle Davies and LaRoche.

I'm not inclined to believe the Braves would be any more likely to take that deal, which is basically the same deal except we throw in some crap and get LaRoche and a young starter with some upside. I haven't the slightest idea why Cota would have any trade value at this point, and McLouth and Castillo certainly shouldn't have a whole lot, either.

As for Kuwata, this looks like it's going to end in tears. He'll be 39 at the start of the season and had a 6.94 ERA last year. Also, many scouts think he's best suited to relief. He was once a very good starter, but he hasn't had a good year since 2002. The best hope for his success in the majors seems to be that he has a funky delivery, and he therefore might be hard to hit the first or second times a batter faces him.

Is it incredibly cynical of me to think that the Pirates may be interested in players like Kuwata and Yuslan Herrera precisely because so little is known about them? Based on what I've seen, neither seem very likely to contribute much next year, but if they don't, few in the mainstream press are going to criticize the Pirates much, since they'll probably be inclined to chalk up any struggles Kuwata and Herrera might have to the uncertainties involved in signing international players in the first place. To me, though, Kuwata and Herrera look much like the sorts of low-upside players the Pirates always sign.

Thanks to Slick for the tip.