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Task Facing The Pirates This Winter Looks Nearly Impossible

CShint in the comments to the Clint Barmes thread:

I'm just curious - who would we be happy with? Not every move that can/should be made is going to be perfect. We spend a lot of time looking at the negatives of signing players and rightfully so, but in seriousness, who do we think would realistically be a good free agent signing? I ask because just about every name that is linked with the pirates gets shut down very quickly as to why they would be a bad fit.

WTM in response:

It’s just a function of the fact that the FA market doesn’t work for the Pirates, especially not with a FO that’s dead set against overpaying, which of course is the only way the PIrates have a chance to sign a useful player. Aside from a reliever or two, the Pirates’ FA signings not only haven’t helped, but have almost always made things worse. So it’s not hard to see why people are pretty sour on the whole process.

This article I wrote six weeks ago sums things up pretty well. Just thinking about things on a general level, the Pirates are entering a market in which they typically have less to spend than other teams. (They should have a bit of money this year, but the big-ticket items, and probably also the medium-ticket items, will still be out of their price range.) They're also entering a market in which players can choose not to play for them, and most players would prefer not to unless the Pirates overpay. It's also a market in which most players are older and past their primes, and it would be very silly for the Pirates to get themselves in trouble by handing out long contracts that cover future seasons in which they might be poised to compete. And as WTM points out, the Pirates also have a front office that would rather have a root canal than overpay (which obviously isn't the worst trait in the world, but it doesn't help when the Pirates have all these other factors going against them). 

That's a bad collection of circumstances, folks, and the Pirates are in a spot where they have no catcher, no first baseman, no shortstop, and arguably no third baseman, and they also need to fill at least one and perhaps two spots in their starting rotation. When you're the Pirates, fixing problems like those is really not what the free agent market is for. If you want to grab some relievers, great. And feel free to take some fliers on minor league free agents - most of them won't work out, but one time in every 25 or so you'll get a Garrett Jones

But for starting pitchers or lineup fixtures, no. I mean, I'll believe it when I see it. The last time the Pirates got a valuable starting pitcher or lineup fixture as a major-league free agent was 2002-2003, when there was collusion and a couple of players signed with the Pirates because they pretty much had to. Literally, nine years ago. There hasn't been one since then. And now the Pirates are in a situation where they'll have to get four to five starting pitchers or lineup fixtures to even have a halfway competitive team. They'll have to do that by late March. Good luck to them! If it were one player they needed, that would be one thing, but it's not even close to that. There are, of course, trades, but in trades you typically have to get players whose current teams don't feel are worth their contracts, or you have to give up talent. In either case, the Pirates are going to have to be pretty darn creative to get things done. 

I'll say this - this offseason will certainly be interesting. Maybe Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly have a plan that I don't see coming at all. They're certainly acting like they do. Or maybe they only think they do, and we're going to end up with a bunch of Lyle Overbays again.