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Pirates sign Ryan Vogelsong

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Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

5:49pm: Vogelsong will receive $2 million plus up to $3 million in bonuses.

4:21pm: The Pirates will use Vogelsong as a starting pitcher, Neal Huntington says. In that case, there really isn't much here to get excited about -- the Bucs appear likely to head into the season with Vogelsong, Jon Niese and Jeff Locke in their rotation. At least one of those guys will probably get replaced by Tyler Glasnow in time, but and maybe Ray Searage can find a way to make this work, but from the outside, this does not look like a good rotation.

4:02pm: The Pirates have announced that they've signed Ryan Vogelsong to a one-year deal.

No, we are not testing a time machine, and no, this post was not written in 2005. Vogelsong, who last pitched for the Pirates in an era when people still had lingering worries about Y2K, is now 38. After leaving the Bucs organization and pitching for several years in Japan, he wound up with the Giants and surprisingly emerged as a well-above-average starting pitcher. Those days are now gone, though, and in the last several seasons he's been a back-of-the-rotation type.

The usual caveats apply here -- the Pirates are really good with pitchers, and maybe the Pirates see something they can work with in Vogelsong even as his performances have trended toward replacement level in the last few years. I've been indifferent to or mildly disappointed with any number of the Bucs' recent pitching acquisitions, only to completely change my tune when they actually started pitching.

Vogelsong, though, is 38 and really has nothing all that interesting in his recent performance record -- his peripherals are basically in line with the mediocre results he's gotten recently, his velocity has never been all that great, and he doesn't have any pitches that Linear Weights regards as plus. If Vogelsong is supposed to be the latest starting pitcher for the Pirates to send through their pitching factory, they might want to have a talk with their supplier about the quality of the materials.

Also, the Vogelsong deal is a big-league contract, which means that the Pirates now have five big-league starting pitchers for next season in Vogelsong, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese and Jeff Locke. If this is the end of the Pirates' starting pitching search, they're going to be leaning awfully hard on Ray Searage to work his magic. When the Bucs dumped Charlie Morton on the Phillies, I assumed it was because they were going to be aiming a lot higher than this.

Then again, the Pirates surely didn't pay much for Vogelsong, and they haven't said how they'll use him. Perhaps they see him more as a depth rotation option who could also work out of the bullpen, and in that case maybe he'll be interesting. The Bucs got great results out of a veteran former starter in Joe Blanton who pitched in their bullpen last year, and maybe they think Vogelsong's velocity could be higher, or that his cutter could be sharper, if he were used in a bullpen role.