Top 5 Free Agents The Pittsburgh Pirates Should Target
Top 5 Free Agents the Pirates Should Target
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't been major players on the free agent market for quite some time, and that's not going to change this winter. But that doesn't mean they have to be bystanders in the process.
You won't see the Pirates going after the major free agents - Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Josh Hamilton and others - and that's a good decision by the Pirates. Even if ownership expanded the team's payroll to make room for such an acquisition, it would still eat up too large of a portion. The Pirates have a strong nucleus, but still have a number of significant holes on their roster, and there is no one player available who can fill them all.
But there are a number of intriguing free agents who fall into the second teir of available players who fit both the Pirates needs and their wallet.
Signing all five of the free agents I have listed here would likely raise the Pirates salary for 2013 by around $30 million - a reasonable amount that would still leave them among the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league, but is also likely too big of a jump for owernship to agree to.
That being said, no team has ever signed every player they targeted. Any or all of these players would be a welcome addition, and none of them are dependent on any of the others in order to make sense for the Pirates. All shold also be reasonably priced and are the type of free agents that the Pirates actually stand a chance to sign.
5 - Jeff Keppinger
Jeff Keppinger is a fantastic fit for the Pirates, for reasons I've already discussed in the past weeks. His ability to hit left-handed pitching is badly needed on the Pirates roster, and his ability to play multiple positions in the field will allow manager Clint Hurdle to get him in the lineup frequently enough to keep him happy without taking away too much playing time from his regulars.
Keppinger is only this far down on the list because he won't be a starter, and he'll be somewhat pricey for a back-up, but his value to the Pirates would far outweigh his playing time.
4 - Marco Scuaro
Marco Scutaro would probably top this list if it weren't for the presence of Clint Barmes still on the Pirates roster. Scutaro is a perfect fit for the needs of the Pirates, but signing him would turn Barmes into an expensive backup. If the team is comfortable with that decision, then Scutaro could still be a Pirate, but it is more likely that they would have to trade Barmes in order to take on Scutaro, and in order to move Barmes, they will have to eat part of his salary. Their ability to sign Scutaro may be tied to their willingness to do just that.
3 - Mike Napoli
The Pirates need more offensive production from behind the plate and Mike Napoli is the best hitting catcher on the free agent market. The Pirates need a right-handed power bat, and Napoli is exactly that. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
Well, it is, except that Napoli wants to be paid. This will be the one big contract in Napoli's career, and you can bet he's going to cash in on it. If the Pirates want Napoli, it's going to cost them
2 - Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher provides the Pirates with two things they need - right-handed production against left-handed pitching, and a good on-base percentage in the two-hole in the lineup. The question is whether or not the high-profile Swisher will want to come to the small-market Pirates.
But if they can convince him, he's a perfect fit. Unfortunately, the Pirates outfield is crowded, and signing Swisher would mean the front office admitting that Travis Snider won't be getting every day playing time, which, after trading Brad Lincoln for him this season, may not be a consession they are willing to make.
But it's one they should make.
The old Pirates would sit back and hope Snider develops into his potential. If they want to be the new Pirates, they need to go out and get a guy who has already proven he can do it.
1 - Joakim Soria
Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Joakim Soria can be had at a discounted rate. The former Kansas City Royals closer is coming off of Tommy John surgery so he comes with a risk, but he also won't cost the Pirates much. More importantly, taking a chance on Soria for cheap would allow the Pirates to trade current closer Joel Hanrahan, which is the key to the majority of the Pirates off-season moves.
If the Pirates can move Hanrahan, it could free up the salary to sign some of the other players on this list. If they can replace him with Soria, it could give them a way to relpace Hanrahan's production at a quarter of the cost.