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Pitching market continues to unfold without participation from Pirates

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

There's really no news on the Pirates, unless Rafael Furcal confirming the Pirates' interest in him counts as news. But in an offseason thus far defined by the Pirates' refusal to pay A.J. Burnett $14.1 million, some mid-tier contracts for starting pitchers are rolling in. The Twins, for example, have signed Ricky Nolasco for four years and $49 million and Phil Hughes for three years and $24 million. And then, of course, there's Tim Lincecum re-signing with the Giants for two years and $35 million, and Jason Vargas going to the Royals for four years and $32 million. (Then, of course, there's the Dan Haren deal, which was distinctly team-friendly.)

There's no longer any reason to express shock that these guys are overpaid. In fact, I think you could probably make the case that the Hughes contract could turn out to be a bargain, given his age. This is just how the market is now. In this context, not tendering Burnett seems ludicrous.

Of course, there's a lot we still don't know about this. There's still the chance that Burnett could sign for less than the qualifying offer price. There's also a ton of time left before spring training, and there could be some grand plan or plans in place that have nothing to do with A.J. Burnett or guys like Phil Hughes. The early part of the 2011-2012 offseason was dominated by complaints about the Pirates' refusal to pick up Paul Maholm's option; in the 2012-2013 offseason, it was their decision to non-tender Jeff Karstens. There were also times in those offseasons where it seemed quiet, as if they didn't plan to do anything. In the end, the Pirates wound up with Burnett in 2011-2012 and with Russell Martin in 2012-2013.

In short, it's way too early to be too critical of the Pirates' front office or ownership just yet. So far, though, their public statements and actions indicate that they're basically planning to be the Tampa Bay Rays, building almost entirely with cheap players. That model can work, but given the distinctly non-Tampa-like level of support Pirates fans showed this year, it would be extremely disappointing if that were the case.

Anyway, that's where we are. I wish I had something exciting to write about, but I don't.