Monday, January 2, 2012

2012...Lookin' For Pitching

OK, the Bucs top prospect list is loaded with young starters - Gerritt Cole, Jaimison Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Stetson Allie are at the head of the class. Other youngsters like Zach Von Rosenberg, Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes and Phil Irwin are learning their craft. AAA will have Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson returning, with Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson ready to join them. And that's good; like money, you can never have too much pitching.

But none of them will impact this coming season. The only young guy who can provide some immediate help is Brad Lincoln, and he looks closer to being plugged into the bottom rather than top end of the rotation. On top of that, Charlie Morton is recovering from hip surgery, and while his rehab is by all reports going well, it would be foolhardy to expect him to be ready for camp and an April role on the team.

That leaves newcomer Eric Bedard, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia and Lincoln as the opening day staff. The top half looks pretty solid, but that's it. There's no depth and no one behind them right now. And all have some kind of question mark attached to them.

Can Bedard stay healthy? Can J-Mac get past five innings? Can Karstens repeat a break-out season? Can Correia recover from his second-half meltdown? Can Lincoln find his mojo in the bigs? Can Morton recover quickly and figure out how to get a lefty to sit down?

As with all questions, some will have a positive answer and some won't. And the Pirates are ill-prepared right now to deal with someone stumbling out of the blocks. So while the FO, like Green Weenie, took a healthy break during the holidays, it's time to roll up the sleeves and add another starter, someone with enough chops to at least work from the middle of the pack, not the bottom.

Wei-Yin Chen, Bartolo Colon, Jeff Francis, Jon Garland, Rich Harden, Hisashi Iwakuma, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Roy Oswalt, Brad Penny, Joel Pineiro, and Joe Saunders are still available (as is Paul Maholm), according to MLB Trade Rumors.

We can eliminate Jackson, a name that's been tossed around in local chat rooms, from the conversation. He's looking for a fair-sized, multi-year contract, and that's not happening in Pittsburgh. Chen, Francis, Maholm and Saunders are also looking for more than a year.

That doesn't leave a lot. Penny has been fairly strong in the NL although a dud in the AL and Oswalt would require a major contract, as would Iwakuma and Kuroda. The rest represent an upgrade, even of modest proportions, to the existing staff and could probably be landed with a one-year deal if structured with plenty of bonuses. We also like Chris Young, if he could be lured by a minor league deal and camp invite.

So we're hoping that the Pirate inactivity during the holidays was spent in spadework to add another pitcher to the rotation. Remember, they went through ten starters in 2011, and that exposed a depth problem that still exists today. If they don't plug that hole, 2012 could be another long year.


WilliamJPellas said...

Ron, if it were up to me, I'd give Oswalt pretty much whatever he wanted. He is still young enough that he should have plenty left, and he is a longtime NL Central guy, and he can still miss a lot of bats. In addition, he strikes me as the kind of guy who isn't real keen on playing in, much less living in, this or that megacity. I think he is a country guy and would love to play in a place like Pittsburgh. Why his name hasn't come up in connection to the Pirates, I don't know. But given how much money has come off the books this past offseason, there is surely plenty of money to throw at Oswalt. He might be a tad past his prime, but he is still head and shoulders above anyone we have or are projected to have on hand in 2012 anywhere in the organization with the possible exception of a healthy Bedard---and that remains to be seen.

Otherwise I am still hopeful that B-Rad Lincoln will still be at least a useful fourth starter before it's all said and done. Think Jason Marquis, except that Lincoln is an even better hitter than Marquis. With his stick, all Lincoln has to be is a 4.25-4.50 ERA guy who will take the ball reliably and give you 180 - 200 innings. That's not asking for a whole lot, and again, in the NL his bat will play well and he can be just a so-so pitcher but still useful as long as he's reasonably reliable.

Ron Ieraci said...

There's a couple of guys out there for the taking, Will, although there have been conflicting reports on whether the Bucs are looking to add another arm or not. I don't see how a short-term deal of a year or two can possibly be a pitching block, but hey, not my wallet.

Ron Ieraci said...

Just took a quick peep at some estimates, Will. Oswald can probably be had for one year @ $8-9M, not a bad price for a guy that pitched at to traditionally high standards both before and after his back injury.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that's a nice piece of change for a guy with a balky back, so the docs are just as important as the bookkeepers in Oswalt's case.

WilliamJPellas said...

To be sure, Oswalt's back injury is a yellow flag. But it is also an opportunity: he probably wouldn't be in Pittsburgh's price range if there were no questions about his health. Given where the team's current and near-future projected payroll figures to be, it wouldn't be prohibitively dangerous to risk, say, $16 million plus easily-reachable-if-healthy incentives over a two years plus an option year contract. I think that just might get it done with Oswalt. Again, he's on record as saying he'd be willing to take a one year deal to prove he's healthy again. That tells me that most teams are backing away from him for more than one year. Well? Opportunity is knocking, seems to me. I wouldn't call this low risk, high reward, but I would call it acceptable risk, high reward. If he could bounce back to 80 or 90% of what he was before the injury---here making due allowance for age related decline as well as his back---well, that's better than anybody we've got or are likely to have until Cole and Taillon and Heredia get here.

I think that's more than enough incentive to bring him here, and the money we're talking would hurt, but definitely not cripple the team if he suddenly nose-dived. I don't think he will, and to me this is the kind of chance a small market team has to take, within reason, if it is going to succeed.

Ron Ieraci said...

Hmmm...the web ate my first response, Will, lol. Must have been part of the SOPA blackout. Anyway, the Buc staff is begging for another arm of some pedigree, and Oswalt fits the bill.

They're done, I assume, with the bullpen & position players, hanging their hat on Pedro bouncing back. That makes the need for another starter that much more glaring.