It’s early yet in the free agent/hot-stove baseball off-season and none of the biggest free agents have signed yet, but there haven’t even been any reports linking the Pittsburgh Pirates to any significant acquisitions.
Can the Pirates at least get a rumor?
The Pirates aren’t going to be going after the likes of Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, but almost half the league has been reported to be interested in Nick Swisher, and the Pirates should be at or near the top of that list.
According to MLB Trade Rumors and others, Swisher is looking for three years at around $11-13 million per season. That’s not a cheap investment, but it’s hardly the $175 million that Hamilton is reportedly seeking.
Swisher may be 60-75% of the player that Hamilton is, but teams will be able to get him for less than a quarter of the price. That’s part of why there are so many teams interested in him, but that’s also why the Pirates need to do what it takes to at least be among the finalists.
Ultimately, it’s up to the player, not the team, where he signs. It could be that, no matter how much money the Pirates throw at Swisher, he’s not coming to Pittsburgh. But the Pirates need to make him say that.
The Washington Nationals were laughed at for giving Jayson Werth seven years and $126 million before the 2011 season, and it remains a bad contract, but it was the only way the Nationals were going to get a big name free agent. Werth isn’t living up to that kind of contract, but he is now a part of a first place team that has become a possible destination for other free agents. The Werth signing helped change the culture for the Nationals.
The Pirates can’t afford to spend $126 million on any player because they aren’t expanding their payroll the way the Nationals have over the past few years, but they can use the same strategy.
Swisher is a high-profile player, perhaps even more so than is deserved of his abilities, and to even be linked as a realistic possibility with a player like Swisher (or Mike Napoli, Marco Scutaro or any other mid-level free agent) would help put the Pirates on the map as an attractive possible landing spot.