Tim, following up on David Todd's description, on last week's podcast, of Francisco Liriano as a "high-beta" player, makes a list of his own of high-beta players. "Beta" is a term from the world of finance that describes the amount of volatility an asset has, so a high-beta asset could produce a wide range of outcomes. A high-beta player is someone who could be surprisingly good, or do next to nothing.
The Pirates have a ton of them. I'd probably subtract a few guys from Tim's list (Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Clint Robinson) and add Pedro Alvarez (whose career to this point has been so up-and-down that it's still tough to know what to expect of him). I might subtract Starling Marte from the list, too, because I think he's so likely to provide good defense that his floor for 2013 is higher than most of the other players on the list. But I see what Tim's thinking by putting him there.
Anyway, the point is that the Pirates' roster will be loaded with players like Liriano, James McDonald, Travis Snider and Mark Melancon, players who, for whatever reason, have a meaningful chance at a big season in 2013 but also might struggle terribly. That's weird, because the 2013 Pirates won't be a particularly young team, and they aren't widely viewed as a team that's loaded with upside. It's also a bit nerve-wracking, because the Pirates have taken their fair share of chances with high-beta players on about the same scale as guys like Snider and Melancon, and they've missed on a lot of them.
Still, the 2013 roster is a lot more interesting to me than, say, the 2011 roster, which featured significantly fewer high-beta players, was. (At the time, I probably would have put Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Charlie Morton, McDonald and Jose Veras in that category.)
Players who are too good and too consistent to be classified as high-beta players (guys like the 2012/13 versions of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Wandy Rodriguez) are rare, and you've got to fill out your roster somehow. Two offseasons ago, the Pirates were grabbing players like Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz and Kevin Correia, players who had little upside. Now the Bucs' main offseason targets seem to be players who have at least some chance of being much better than that. It may not work for them, but it's worth pointing out that Overbay and Diaz didn't work out, either. And if the Pirates do somehow get big years out of players like Liriano and Snider, they could be downright dangerous. It probably won't happen, but it's winter -- we can dream.