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.