As last season met the dog days of August and football season approached, I entered my baseball hibernation mode and my opinions fell silent. It is the annual rite-of-depression for Pirates fans. It is not that I did not turn in and watch some of the games, or read about players comings and goings and development. It is just an emotional detachment for a time to get away from ones favorite team that has given one so little to cheer about for so long.
Now in the depths of winter, we have this funny thing called Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings where things get shook up. You see surprise players in the free agent markets for the high priced talent, such as the Florida Marlins going after Albert Pujols. Fans of all small market teams dream of their own going after names like that. It might not be financially responsible, but sometimes you just don’t care. The Pirates did not chase any players to get one excited. They did manage to reacquire Nate McLouth, acquire catcher Rod Barajas, a solid veteran in Clint Barmes, and a down-on-his-luck pitcher with upside, Eric Bedard.
That is the standard off-season modus operandi for the Buccos. They purchase penny stocks hoping to hit it big. Barmes is a solid player, only 32 years old, and provides a comparable replacement for Ronny Cedeno. I still feel Ronny Cedeno has the potential to be a good player. I remember once saying I feared we dread the day we let Jose Bautista go so easily. For a team short on talent, it has always amazed me how the Pirates can be so short on patience on younger players. But, they’ll keep marching a washed up veteran like Lyle Overbay out there day-after-day.
The Eric Bedard pickup is actually intriguing. He could be a staff ace. He has the ability, but has been injury riddled. He has had solid production when able to play in recent years and is not too far removed from a dominant 2007 season with Baltimore. He represents the typical pickup by the Pirates that leads to spring training talk about Pirates chances of success with sentences that always start with “if”.
I think the team is on the verge of a breakthrough after finishing in 4th place last season, but they need to get aggressive and find a true cleanup hitter to take the pressure off the rest of the lineup, and a true ace to settle down the staff. I just do not see the team investing in any type of high profile hitter, and any staff ace will have to come from within the organization. There is a chance one exists in the minor leagues with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia among others working their way up through the system. But the arrival of any of them will prove later than sooner. You will not see the team invest in any high profile free agents until they have already broke through with consistent competitiveness.