5 Realistic Moves the Pittsburgh Pirates Could Make This Offseason

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5 Ways Pittsburgh Pirates Can Upgrade For 2014

5 Ways Pittsburgh Pirates Can Upgrade For 2014
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates, as well all know, have to work on a limited budget. What does this mean? First, it means the Pirates have to deal more with trades than with contracts in free agency. Trading for young, talented players before they are given a huge contract is one way the Bucs can acquire talent without spending a lot of money.

Next, the Pirates can sign mid-tier free agents and hope they outplay their contract. The Pirates did this last offseason with Russell Martin. He was the best catcher available, but he was still mid-tier in the overall free agent lists.

Lastly, the Pirates need to acquire players that are bounce-back candidates, essentially buying low on the player. For examples of this, look no further than last offseason when the Pirates signed Francisco Liriano and traded for Mark Melancon. To acquire Melancon, the Bucs traded expensive closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox. They basically traded a good reliever with a $7 million contract to the Sox for a better reliever making less than a million dollars.

Even with a trip to the postseason, a record-setting year of attendance at PNC Park and a rejuvenated fan base, the Pirates are still working with less money than an average baseball team. The Bucs are a small-market team and nothing will ever change that. For these reasons, the Pirates won’t be able to break the bank this offseason, but they will still be able to do bigger things than usual in free agency.

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5. Bring A.J. Burnett Back

Bring A.J. Burnett Back
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I know it isn't as fun to discuss re-signing a player, but this is an obvious way to make a realistic move to sustain success for the Pittsburgh Pirates. A.J. Burnett led the National League in strikeouts per nine innings and in ground ball percentage. He said he will either play for the Pirates in 2014 or retire. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Burnett sign a one-year, $11 million contract to stay with the Bucs for another season.

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4. Sign Josh Johnson

Sign Josh Johnson
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Josh Johnson has had major injury problems throughout his career. When he is healthy, he is one of the top-10 pitchers in MLB, and the Pittsburgh Pirates should take a chance by signing him. He could probably be signed for a one-year, $4-5 million deal with performance-based incentives. Johnson is one of the biggest bounce-back candidates among this year's free agent class.

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3. Re-Sign Marlon Byrd

Re-Sign Marlon Byrd
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Marlon Byrd had a great 2013 campaign. I have seen a couple experts predicting a one-year, $6 million deal for Byrd, and the Pittsburgh Pirates could afford to sign Byrd to that deal. I wouldn't go beyond one year for a 36-year old outfielder, especially with top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco being nearly MLB-ready.

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2. Sign James Loney

Sign James Loney
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The Pittsburgh Pirates need to upgrade at first base. James Loney is a very good contact hitter with decent defense. He won't hit for a ton of power, but he will be a consistent bat in the Pirates' lineup. The Pirates could probably have Loney on a two-year, $12 million deal.

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1. Trade Jason Grilli

Trade Jason Grilli
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Trading an All-Star closer might seem crazy, but much like the Joel Hanrahan trade, trading Jason Grilli could bring the Pittsburgh Pirates a few useful pieces in return. The Bucs have been very good at putting together cheap, effective bullpens.