A couple of links from this weekend:
-P- Rob Biertempfel previews the Winter Meetings. Rob has much better inside intel on the team than I do, obviously, and you never know what kind of riffraff might turn up in the Bucs' collection of NRIs this spring. But Biertempfel's collection of potential targets reads like a list of random guys who happen to play at the Pirates' positions of need. There are a number of guys to whom the Pirates flat-out shouldn't even consider extending big-league contract offers.
At first base, for example, there's Mike Morse (shown above in his natural habitat). No. Forget it. Morse is right-handed, so he can't platoon with Gaby Sanchez. He's also coming off a .215/.270/.381 season, and he's wretched defensively. He doesn't really belong on an NL roster at all, expect perhaps in some sort of super-specialized pinch-hitting role. Remember how Jack Zduriencik evaluates ballplayers by home runs and RBIs? Morse is the poster boy for that kind of evaluation.
In right field, Biertempfel lists Jason Kubel, Jeff Francoeur and Nelson Cruz as possibilities. That's "No," "No," and "Wait, what? Still no." Kubel, like Morse, is a complete butcher in the field, and he didn't hit at all last season. Even if he were to rebound, the upside would be limited, because he gives so much back on defense. The same is true of Morse.
Francoeur hasn't been above replacement level since 2011. And Cruz is another overrated homers-and-RBIs guy who can't play defense. He also rejected a qualifying offer, so it's likely the Pirates would set themselves on fire before making the financial commitment needed to get him to sign. Oh, and he would cost them a draft pick, too. Cruz is clearly worthy of a big-league contract, but I'd be shocked if it were with the Pirates.
Again, on a minor-league contract, who knows. Maybe they'll sign someone like Francoeur. But on a big-league deal, no way. The only way you could mistake Morse, Kubel or Francoeur for players deserving of major-league contracts is if you're looking at the wrong offensive numbers, and defense doesn't figure into your evaluation at all. The Pirates pretty clearly care about defense (which was a big part of their success in 2013), so I don't see any way they'll mistake these guys for upgrades.
Biertempfel also does name James Loney and Mark Trumbo as possibilities at first base; those are better ideas. He also says the Pirates have talked to Bronson Arroyo, who would be a depressing signing at this point, but one I could see them making if they don't re-sign A.J. Burnett.
-P- Speaking of which, it sounds like the Pirates still haven't given up on Burnett. Neal Huntington also repeats that the Pirates won't be pursuing David Price.