Daniel Cabrera - Larry Coor/flickr.com
There has been a lot of discussion this week about the validity of the Pirates going out and signing free agents. The general idea of such signings is usually to fill holes on a team that is considered to be close but not quite. As Matt over at PLC pointed out, however, it would take at least several high-end free agents to bridge the gap between the current team's production and what would be required to become a serious contender.
While that certainly may be true, it doesn't mean that signing free agents is a complete waste of the team's resources. We've heard rumblings lately of the Pirates' pursuit of Daniel Cabrera. He's a pitcher who hasn't done a lot recently, but who is still relatively young (and inexpensive due to his lack of production) and could be a pleasant surprise if he's able to get things figured out.
Cabrera isn't the only such option, and today Cory and I will take a look at other similarly inexpensive free agent players the Pirates might consider taking a flyer on:
Might as well go with the most familiar name first. We all know what a mess Ollie was when he was a Pirate the first time around, and who knows, the team may still even have that laundry cart as proof. The Mets seem to have helped Perez solve whatever was there to be fixed, as his numbers fell off from 2007 to last season, but he still put together 194 innings and 8.35 K/9.
He also, being Oliver Perez, posted a 1.40 WHIP - mostly due to an unhealthy 105 walks in those same innings. However, he got better as the season went along, as Perez totalled 76 K's and 52 BB's in 90 1/3 IP in the first half and improved that line to 104 K's and 53 BB's in 103 2/3 IP in the second half, including a run of eight starts from June 29-August 8 where he allowed only 10 ER and had a 55:18 ratio over 53 2/3 IP.
Maybe he, like Ty Wigginton, is unwilling to forget how much it stunk to play here under Littlefield and wouldn't be interested. Maybe another team would offer him a better deal. He's certainly still worth making an offer.
Now that Baldelli has been correctly diagnosed with a non-degenerative disease, he is an appealing free-agent commodity who still has some proving to do after limited action the last few years. In only 90 plate appearances last season, Baldelli didn't put up the greatest average, a mere .263, but still posted a 113 OPS+, and his numbers improve significantly if you remove his seven pinch-hit appearances (from .263/.819 to .288/.894).
Baldelli might no longer be the potential 20/20/20 (2B/HR/SB) player he was drafted as, but maybe he is. If the Pirates bring him in, it would allow them some extra time if they need to give it to McCutchen, though it could also speak to the team's continued lack of faith in Steve Pearce's ability to contribute regularly. That said, if both Baldelli and McCutchen produce, then it gives the Pirates a very valuable trade chip when the deadline rolls around.
This one needs little explanation. Prior has now gone over two years (August 10, 2006) since he last set foot on the mound in a major league game - or at any level, for that matter. Prior is still only 28 years old, though, and if he can manage to stay healthy he's a smart pitcher who may still have enough in that arm to be worth a shot, and the Pirates are just the kind of small-market team that has room to give him an opportunity.
Aside from the awesome fact that his middle name is Damascus, Abercrombie might only be an option as a fourth outfielder. He's pretty much a Brad Eldred clone, as his career seven to one K:BB ratio will tell you, but he does have some power in his bat, and he also stole 58 bases the last two seasons at a respectable 80% clip.
He also appeared briefly at the end of the year for Houston, posting a 121 OPS+ in 55 AB's for the Astros. That's likely an unsustainable number for him as a starter, but certainly worth a look as a nice combination of both speed and power off the bench.
James, to me, is the most interesting candidate on the list. A first glance at his numbers shows you a pitcher who was league average in 2007 - in spite of giving up 32 HR - and who struggled in his seven appearances with the Braves while pitching very well in AAA. Perhaps he's a quad-A pitcher after all?
Perhaps that isn't the case. As was first reported back in September, Chuck paid a visit to Dr. Andrews and found out that he had pitched all of 2008, and likely at least half of 2007, with a torn labrum and rotator cuff. The strange thing is that, outside of an obvious innings drop due to regular arm discomfort and an increase in HR, James was actually a slightly better pitcher in the second half of '07.
James had surgery and likely won't be able to pitch until June at the absolute earliest, and because of that should be a very inexpensive option, someone the Pirates could offer a minor-league contract for now and follow up on when he's healthy enough to give it a go. James is still only 27, and perhaps if all goes well, the Pirates might see a return to form of the guy who posted a Maholm-esque 118 ERA+ back in 2006.
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