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Should Pirates Try To Re-Sign Derrek Lee?

Have you ever met someone who you found so disagreeable that you find yourself arguing your way into a corner and saying things you don't even believe just because, on a visceral level, you want badly to disagree with them?

I'm not sure my response to what Clint Hurdle is saying about Derrek Lee in this article is quite like that, but it's close. It's about how Hurdle wants the Pirates to re-sign Lee, which it at first appears I shouldn't be that opposed to - after all, I was fine with the Pirates acquiring Lee in a trade just a few weeks ago. But when Hurdle is saying stuff like this, it's hard to get past the No no no no no in my head. It's not that I have any personal problem with Hurdle, it's that the reason he gives for what he wants is so bad.

"Have you seen many teams that have won a lot without having at least one five-year guy in their lineup? I haven't," Hurdle said. "You need somebody who's been tested by fire, who can lend some quiet confidence and a voice of reason to the clubhouse when times are challenging."

Yeah. Guys like Lyle Overbay. And Matt Diaz. And ... Maybe Hurdle would smile here and note that the Pirates have been massively unsuccessful since Overbay left. But if it's true that winning teams generally have five-year guys in their lineup, it's not because they need those types of players to win, but because there are a lot of five-year guys. Also, teams are trying to contend generally bring a player or two to help them, and free agents are almost always guys who have played for at least five years.

Beyond my revulsion at the silly pro-veteran talk, though, I think the circumstances surrounding the Pirates have changed enough in the month since Lee's acquisition that the Pirates probably shouldn't bring him back. (And this is even before considering Lee's less-than-enthusiastic reaction to being traded to the Pirates in the first place - he might not want to come back at all.) Lee will be 36 in three days. I liked him as a deadline acquisition when the Pirates are contending. But at this point, I'd rather not make the mistake of continuing to hold onto him for too long. He also wouldn't be especially helpful as a bench player, because he only plays one position. If he were even an outfielder who could play both corners, that might be a different story.

At this point, I'd rather the Bucs just went with Garrett Jones and Matt Hague, or looked elsewhere. Anything can happen, but there's no reason to expect Jones and Hague to hit worse than Lee at this point, and they'll probably also be healthier. I'm not even a fan of Hague's, really, and I think the chances that he'll be a successful major-leaguer are pretty small, but as an alternative to paying for an aging veteran like Lee or Xavier Nady (and make no mistake, this is the kind of player the Pirates will be getting if they decide they need a veteran at first. You can forget about Prince Fielder), I'm coming around to the idea of just using Hague instead. This is true particularly because if Hague does make it, the Pirates will have a decent, cheap starter for the next few years.

After the way the last six weeks have gone, there's no reason to think the Pirates will contend in 2012, so while I won't lose sleep if they don't take a look at a fringy guy like Hague, I think their incentive to check him out is greater than it would be if they were a contender. I honestly don't care much about Hague one way or the other, and I'm open to other solutions - Carlos Pena might be in the Pirates' price range, and could potentially be worth a look as someone who hits as well as Jones and plays much better defense. But given the types of free agents the Pirates usually pursue and who's available on the market, Jones and Hague seem fine to me.

(There's also the question here about Lee's Type B status. He's apparently still a Type B, but the idea of offering him arbitration is pretty worrisome, at this point - although if he truly isn't interested in coming back to Pittsburgh, that might actually help.)