5 Free Agents Pittsburgh Pirates Should Pursue this Offseason

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Pittsburgh Pirates: 5 Players They Should Be After

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After experiencing another Bucco collapse in 2012, it is apparent the Pittsburgh Pirates have a little more work to do before they are ready to become playoff contenders.

Andrew McCutchen will be at his best next season, competing for another batting title and swatting 35 homeruns, but he needs consistent bats and pitchers he can rely on for him to be valuable.

Pedro Alvarez will also be looking to improve, hopefully bringing his average up. Garrett Jones will most likely be hauling the load at first base, while Gaby Sanchez, who was acquired at the 2012 trade deadline, starts 1/3 of the time.

There are a few Free Agents this offseason that I think the Bucs should be eyeing. These players target weak areas on the roster.

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1. Catcher Mike Napoli

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Age: 30 2012 stats: AVG: .227 AB: 352 HR: 24 RBI: 56

Many Pirates fans were hoping that Rod Barajas' 2013 club-option would be accepted, but the Bucs declined it. He handles starter AJ Burnett and the rest of the pitching staff very well, however, the back-stop that was supposed to provide some pop, only totaled 11 homers last season. That was his lowest total since 2009, when he played the exact same amount of games with the Toronto Blue Jays (104). The difference between that season, and last season is that he hit .249 then, opposed to .206 last season. It was a huge disappointment, and I think it was a good idea to get rid of him at his age of 37.

Mike Napoli is legitimately a younger Rod Barajas, with a little more power. Napoli is always consistent putting up at least 20 homeruns in limited at-bats. There would be nothing better than having your two catchers put up around 35 dingers total. Mike McKenry, the back-up catcher for the Pirates, showed his pop last season when he put up 12 homeruns in only 240 at-bats. Napoli is by no-means at the end of his career, so signing him to a 2 or 3 year contract wouldn't hurt the team, if he would take a pay-cut. He averages a big-fly every 15 at-bats in his entire career. He isn't going to hit for a high average, but hey, Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, and Rod Barajas have been the previous 3 Pirates catchers, they're used to that. His defense is also acceptional, as he sports a .990 career fielding percentage. Napoli plans on staying in Texas, but the Bucs should definitely give his agent a call if he doesn't.

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2. Anibal Sanchez

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Age: 28 2012 stats: Innings: 195.2 ERA: 3.86 W-L: 9-13 K: 167

The Pirates definitely have a good-looking, future rotation, but for now it is looking shaky. James McDonald, who looked to be breaking out the first half of the 2012 season, fell hard in the second half. McDonald was so bad that he eventually ended up in the bullpen for the last part of the season, being replaced by young south-paw, Jeff Locke. AJ Burnett, was also stellar in the first half of 2012, and even some of the latter half of the season, but the last quarter of the season when the Pirates needed him most, he couldn't execute. Burnett's age will also become a factor soon, as he will turn 36 in January. Wandy Rodriguez will have to step-up his 2012 performance with the Pirates. Rodriguez walked a lot of batters and was inefficient with his pitch count. Assuming the Pirates decide to let Jeff Karstens and Kevin Correia hit free agency, the other 2 starters would look to be Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke. Two unproven youngsters in a rotation that needs all it can get worries me a lot.

Anibal Sanchez is a veteran right hander with a lot of experience, that can fit in nicely as the number 3 starter. Sanchez will not blow you away with his fastball, or strike everyone out, but he can get the job done. His career ERA is 3.75, which would be great for the Pirates if they could get that from him. Sanchez is young, and is ready to hit the peak of his career, the perfect time for the Pirates to lock him up until his best days are behind him. Considering the possibility that he is open to returning to Detroit, the Bucs need to be careful of making him an offer that would bring him to Pittsburgh, but not overpaying for him.

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3. Melky Cabrera

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Age: 28 2012 stats: AVG: .346 AB: 459 HR: 11 RBI: 60

Before you go crazy, exclaiming that the Pirates should stay away from Crabrera, hear me out. Yes, Cabrera tested positive for testosterone and yes, he was suspended 50 games. That being said, his power numbers were not out of this world. He only hit 11 homers. My point to this is that testosterone is not going to help you put the bat on the ball. If you hit .346 you clearly have some talent. Cabrera will hit over .315 again next year, if he gets the proper amount of playing time. The Bucs need to give this kid another shot. After testing positive, teams are going to be reluctant to sign him, which means he shouldn't be as expensive as he should have been. A crowded Pirates outfield will bring out the best in the likes of Travis Snider, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley if Cabrera were to be signed.

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4. Shaun Marcum

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Age: 30 2012 stats: Innings: 124 ERA: 3.70 W-L: 7-4 K: 109

I look at Marcum a lot like I look at Anibal Sanchez. Marcum is 2 years older, but they are very similar pitchers. They don't strike out a lot of batters; They don't blow you away with the 97 MPH fastball, and their curveballs aren't going to go from head-to-toe and make Adam Dunn swing out of his shoes, but they will get the job done. Marcum, like Sanchez, is efficient, and is a veteran with playoff experience. He has a 3.76 career ERA, which has never surpassed 3.70 since 2007, when it was 4.13. I look for the Pirates to prepare similar deals to the righties, but these will probably be the biggest moves of the offseason for the Buccos if they are both to be signed.

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5. JP Howell

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Age: 29 2012 stats: Innings: 50.1 ERA: 3.04 W-L: 1-0 K: 42

The Bucco bullpen was strong last season, but it can improve. Howell is a young lefty that will get you out of some sticky situations, and can go an inning or two when he needs to. Howell started his career as a starter, starting 33 games with Tampa Bay and Kansas City in the first 3 seasons of his career; But he hasn't started a game since 2007, so don't expect him to hit the rotation. Howell is very on-and-off, and I see him being a one year trial, before locking him up long-term. He was previously making $1.5M with Tampa Bay, so he will be cheaper than a lot of other relievers on the market. If Jason Grilli decides to sign elsewhere, I think Howell is a no-doubter.