Monday, November 10, 2008

Fire Up the Hot Stove

Hey, maybe time to throw out some names for the hot stove league, Pittsburgh-style (i.e., on the cheap). Looking for that fourth outfielder with a little pop? How about Rocco Baldelli?

Yah, he's got that fatigue thing, but he's 27 and knows that he can't play everyday because of his condition. He can be had for less than Jay Michael's money, and would only have to pick up a couple hundred at bats or so. Pittsburgh should be kicking his tires, anyway.

The Angel's 29-year old Juan Rivera is another guy worth a look. He hit .246 with 12 HR and 45 RBI in 256 AB last year. The Venezuelan made $2M last year, and seems to fill the bill for a fourth Bucco OF.

His best year was in 2006, when he hit .310 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI as a starter. But he broke his leg and missed most of 2007.

The Brew Crew's Gabe Kapler is another likely suspect. He hit .301 with 8 HR and 38 RBI in 229 AB. The 33-year old was making $800K in Milwaukee, and may be just the kind of bargain bin acquisition Huntington is looking for as an extra OF and pinch hitter.

Then again, Jay Michaels might bite the bullet and return to the flock for lots less lucre. That .228 batting average is scary, but he does hit in the clutch and fields OK.

And if you're combing through the infield FA market, three names top the list of guys that Pirates can afford - Juan Uribe and Cesar Izturis if Jack Wilson is indeed gonzo, and Joe Crede.

The 30-year old Uribe lost his PT to Alexei Ramirez and Orlando Cabrera. He hasn't hit above .250 since 2005, but he can field and does a pretty good job of driving in runs. Uribe logged quite a few innings at second and third, too.

GW thinks he brings more to the table than Izturis, though Cesar is lots cheaper - he made $2.85M in 2008 to Uribe's $4.5M. Still, they make as much together as Jack Splat does alone and probably give you just as much in the field.

If they decide not to break up the infield, Nick Punto and Mark Loretta are capable spot guys up the middle, better than Luis Cruz, anyway.

GW kinda likes the speedy, switch-hitting Punto. He's a Punch and Judy guy at the dish, but a hard worker with a solid glove. Punto plays every infield position well, and could take up the slack, at least short term, if Wilson/Sanchez move along. Like Wilson, he's hit out of both the two and eight holes.

Joe Crede has been battling back problems, and a gig sharing the hot corner with LaRoche the younger until Pedro grows up could be just the thing for both he and the Bucs. His price tag is likely in the $2.5-3M range, and he did hit 17 HR last year. The only caveat is to make sure your docs run him through every test known to modern medicine before inking him to a deal.

Russell Braynan is also a possibility at third. The 33-year old could spell LaRoche and provide a LH bat off the bench.

Pitching? Fuhgetaboutit. Maybe Paul Byrd, Jason Jennings, Odalis Perez, Glendon Rusch, or someone of that ilk fits in the budget. Do the Pirates need leadership that badly? Freddy Garcia on a one-year deal could make sense, though. Braden Looper and Brad Penny would be an upgrade, too, but are probably priced out of the Pirate's plans.

Get a 7th inning bridge guy if you need a vet on the staff to housetrain the Pirate puppies - someone like, oh, Damaso Marte. Let the kids in the rotation pitch and don't block them unless you're willing to bring in an arm that's a difference maker.

(Rob Biertempfel of the Trib has a list of players he's identified as on the Pirates Free Agent Watch. Yahoo!Sports has their Free Agent Tracker up and running, too. Jenifer Langosch of gives up Neal Huntington's Free Agent Game Plan. )

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