If you were the Pittsburgh Pirates, who would you rather have, Russell Martin, Joel Hanrahan and a rookie pitcher in your starting rotation, or Edwin Jackson in that rotation spot, Michael McKenry behind the plate and Jason Grilli as the closer? I’ll take the latter.
Jackson signed a four year contract with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday for $52 million, at a $13 million per year price tag was affordable to the Pirates had they made, or not made, the proper other moves earlier this offseason.
The Pirates don’t have a huge budget so they have to spend their money wisely, and signing Russell Martin to a two-year/$17 million contract doesn’t fall into that category. Keeping Joel Hanrahan around as their closer, at an estimated $7 million doesn’t either. Between the two of them, they will make roughly $14-15 million in 2013. Grilli, McKenry and Jackson would cost about $16 million.
For the Pirates, over their 20-year long string of futility, the problem has been as much about spending their money poorly as it has been about spending it poorly. Their contract with Martin represents that, as does their inability thus far to trade Hanrahan. It’s not that either player is bad or not worth their contracts, they’re just not worth their contracts to the Pirates. For a low-budget team, that money can be more wisely spent.
Like on a reliable starting pitcher.
Right now, the Pirates are projected to have two rookie starting pitchers in their rotation. That’s not a good recipe for success. Yes, Martin is better than McKenry and it would be nice to keep both Hanrahan and Grilli, but not if it means having to have two rookie starters in the starting rotation. The incremental benefit of Martin and Hanrahan are insignificant compared to the upgrade between Edwin Jackson and a rookie starting pitcher.
But the Pirates missed their opportunity. They’re not going to get Jackson and they probably won’t sign Kyle Lohse either. Instead they’ve once again put their money in the wrong places.