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Pirates Lose Luis Cruz, Sign Vinnie Chulk

The Pirates have signed reliever Vinnie Chulk to a minor league deal, and have lost Luis Cruz to the Brewers on a waiver claim.

I like the addition of Chulk, who I identified a while back as one of the more interesting minor league free agents. He'll pitch next year at 31, and there's really no reason to think he can't be solidly mediocre. That sounds mean, but "solidly mediocre" is a good thing for a minor league signing to be, especially in a bullpen that's been solidly terrible over the past year. There's really nothing special about Chulk--he doesn't strike out too many batters, but he strikes out enough. His ERAs aren't low, but they aren't terribly high either. He's not young, but he's not old. He had shoulder issues in 2008, but he wasn't shut down for too long. You can joke if you like about his not even being able to stick in 2009 with a terrible Indians bullpen, but he still looks like a better bet than a lot of the relief possibilities the Pirates already had.

As for Cruz, he obviously has a big-league glove, but that means nothing without some hitting ability. If major league rosters were 35 deep instead of 25, he'd be a useful bench player, but on a 25-man roster he's as bad a misuse of resources as, say, a pinch-running specialist. Cruz posted a .274 OBP last year in AAA, and apart from a fluky burst of offense in a brief sample at Indianapolis in 2008, has never shown much with the stick. The Pirates won't miss him, and they should be able to sign a Cruz-like player this winter without having to use a roster spot.

UPDATE: The Bucs have also removed Jeff Sues from the 40-man roster and sent him to Indianapolis. This is no surprise, since he had a disappointing season and is only a reliever to begin with. There are two spots open on the 40-man, so I'd expect some action in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.