Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Roster Takes Shape

* Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette reported today that Eric Hinske signed a contract worth $1.5M guaranteed for 2009, with maybe another $1M in potential bonus bucks available.

Seems like a bit of an overpay, but hey, as Ralph Kiner said "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs."

The 31-year old LH hit .247 with 20 HR for Tampa Bay last year, and the deal he just inked cinched a spot on the Pirate pine for him. With Ramon Vazquez and a catcher also dugout fixtures, that leaves two spots open in the spring.

It should be an interesting few weeks. And don't forget that Andrew McCutchen is looming as an early summer call-up to the show, so an April job doesn't ensure a steady gig at PNC.

Someone will be bumped from the now-filled 40-man roster, too. We'd expect a borderline reliever like Dave Davidson or Romulo Sanchez to get the ax, though there are a couple of equally worthy candidates taking up space.

That also puts a final nail in Dirt Dog Doug's coffin. Let's face it - the fans (and GW, for that matter) loved him because he was an entertainer and showed some fire, not because of his skills.

He's a good fielding first-baseman with no thunder in his stick, although he was willing to play anywhere that John Russell stuck him. Mientiekiewicz ran the bases with more spirit than sense. Just the fact that he's still looking for a job says it all.

As for leadership, well, he was a vocal, stand-up player. But where the team's at now calls for one of the young guys, like Ryan Doumit or Paul Maholm, to take command of the clubhouse, not a 34-year old bench guy on a year-to-year contract.

There were also some undercurrents that suggested his act didn't really sell that well to everyone in the Pirate clubhouse and front office. GW can't verify that, but it would fit into Dirt Dog's take-no-prisoners MO. All in all, the truth is the Bucs thought they could find a better ballplayer, and Hinske is younger, more versatile, and has more thump in his twig. It's Darwin's Theory as applied to baseball.

* DK also reports that Paul Maholm has agreed to a four-year deal, with the first three guaranteed, seeing him through his arbitration years and giving the suits their much coveted cost certainy.

No figures were released yet - they'll probably come out tomorrow - but using Ian Snell's deal as a barometer, he'll probably get $14-15M over his arb years and $24M or so if the Bucs pick up the club option for his first walk season, as a guess. But Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington are always full of surprises, so we'll see soon enough.


WilliamJPellas said...

Disagree that the Pirates overpaid for Hinske. He is, at minimum, the top guy off our bench, and a part time starter at both the outfield and infield corners. He brings far more power than Doug Mientkiewicz (bless his soul) did, and is a more "legitimate" glove at positions other than first---not that Doug was bad playing other positions besides his native 1B, but Hinske has done it his entire career.

In addition, Hinske has played his entire career to date in the best division in all of baseball, the American League East. He started with the Blue Jays, who were usually "in it" but could never get over the top; then he went to Boston and was a key bench guy for the Red Sox for two seasons. Last year he made it all the way to the finish line with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Offhand, I'd say that's an excellent "winning veteran" pedigree.

Lastly, Hinske is without question great insurance for us at not one, not two, but THREE different positions in the event of injury, ineffectiveness, or trade (or, likely, all of the above). If Andy LaRoche continues to stink, Hinske becomes your regular at third. Bad for the bench, of course, but good for us overall. If Adam LaRoche is traded, Hinske can start at first, at least for the rest of this season. If Brandon Moss's knee blows up, Hinske can start in right.

Meanwhile, if none of those scenarios come to pass, we get a guy who has sock and a little speed and a lot of defensive verasatility to give us 300 - 400 ABs. What's not to like, my friend? :-)

Ron Ieraci said...

He's an OK pickup, Will. I see him as the 2009 Dirt Dog, mainly a corner infield backup that can play right field, except his BA will be a little lower and his HRs hopefully a lot higher.

I don't mind the bonus money too much; if you earn the at bats, you should get paid. I just think his guarantee is a little heavy, but maybe that's the cost of doing business in Pittsburgh or maybe they had to beat someone else's offer.

Anyway, it'll be nice to see a little muscle on the bench this year.