As we all know, the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t going to give out any big-time contracts to superstar free agents; it just isn’t possible with their market size. That’s fine though, that is just how it works in MLB; the large market teams have a distinct advantage in free agency — it is up to the small market teams to build through the draft. At some point, however, small market teams need to use free agency to add pieces to their home-grown talent.
The problem with the way the MLB is going, is that free agents are making more money than they ever have. It’s not just superstars getting large contracts; Jhonny Peralta is going to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals for four years and north of $52 million. Don’t get me wrong, Peralta is a good player, but is he really worth more than $52 million? First of all, he is coming off a season in which he was suspended for PEDs. Secondly, he is a .268/.330/.425 hitter that is just one year removed from a .239/.305/.384 batting line. Tim Hudson, coming off a season that ended with a horrific ankle injury and with no timetable for a return, signed a two-year, $23 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.
The Pirates can’t be giving away contracts like this. If injured and suspended players are getting large deals, then what are the Bucs supposed to do? Even Josh Johnson, a reclamation project (much like A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano), got a one-year, $8 million deal. If the Pirates can’t even sign rebound-projects cheaply, then they are in trouble. It is making the draft that much more important.
I’m not saying that the Pirates can’t compete for the World Series and the postseason, I’m simply saying that they can’t compete in free agency. There are other routes they can go (trades and draft) to acquire talent, but it makes it much harder without the ability to sign free agents. General manager Neal Huntington is going to have to be very shrewd again this offseason if the Pirates are going to make the playoffs in 2014.