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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Season Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

2008 Record: 67-95  .414

Run differential: -149 (15th)

2008 payroll: $50,788,783 

The Pirates hope to avoid making MLB history this season.  If they fail to win half their games they will set the record for most consecutive losing seasons with 17 (current record held by 1933-48 Phillies).  Sadly, it is unlikely they’ll be able to avoid this fate.

That doesn’t mean the future is bleak, however.  Last season ownership finally got rid of David Littlefield, whose tenure is marred with terrible decisions like signing Jack Wilson to a 3 year contract in 2006 and trading for a clearly washed up Matt Morris when the Giants were willing to pay someone to take him off their hands.  New president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington have already made a splash that appears to have put the Pirates in the beginning phases of future competitiveness.  First, they went head to head with Scott Boras and paid overslot for Pedro Alvarez, the best college player.  Second, Xavier Nady, Jason Bay and Damaso Marte were shipped to New York and Boston in deadline deals that netted Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss, Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutcheon, Jeff Karstens, Andy LaRoche, and Bryan Morris.  Third and maybe most importantly, they let the kids play.

Yes, LaRoche flopped and Tabata appears to have disciplinary issues but these are the types of risks rebuilding teams need to make.  The Pirates had nothing to lose by making these deals.  Tabata rebounded after the trade and the Pirates are sticking with LaRoche again this season.  In 2011 the Pirates should have a solid core of Andrew McCutcheon, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Jim Negrych.  This is something to get excited about and with the new regime calling the shots it’s not hard to see the Pirates reclaiming their spot as one of MLB’s most accomplished franchises in a few years.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Ryan Doumit $2.05 M Drafted 2nd rd 1999.  Signed extension 12/08
C Jason Jaramillo $.391 M Acquired in trade w/ Phi 12/10/08
1b Adam LaRoche $7.05 M Acquired in trade w/ Atl 1/07.
2b Freddy Sanchez $6.1 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/03.
3b Andy LaRoche $.395 M Acquired in trade w/ LA 7/31/08.
SS Jack Wilson $7.52 M Acquired in trade w/ StL 7/00. Signed extension 2/06
LF Nyjer Morgan $.391 M Drafted 33rd rd 2002
CF Nate McLouth $2 M Drafted 25th rd 2000. Signed extension 2/09
RF Brandon Moss $.391 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/08
Inf Ramon Vazquez $1.75 M Signed as FA 12/12/08
Inf Brian Bixler $.391 M Drafted 2nd rd 2004
Of/1b Steve Pearce $.391 M Drafted 8th rd 2005
Of Eric Hinske $1.5 M Signed as FA 1/30/09
SP Paul Maholm $3.5 M Drafted #8 overall 2003.  Signed extension 1/09
SP Ian Snell $3 M Drafted 26th rd 2000.  Signed extension 3/08
SP Tom Gorzelanny $.42 M Drafted 2nd rd 2003
SP Zach Duke $2.2 M Drafted 20th rd 2001. 
SP Ross Ohlendorf $.391 M Acquired in trade w/ NYY 7/25/08
Cl Matt Capps $3.05 M Drafted 7th rd 2002. Signed extension 4/08
SU Jason Grabow $2.3 M Drafted 3rd rd 1997.
RP Sean Burnett $.391 M Drafted #19 overall 2000
RP Tyler Yates $1.3 M Acquired in trade w/ Atl 3/08. 
RP Craig Hansen $.7 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/08
RP Evan Meek $.391 M Selected in '07 Rule V draft.
RP Donald Veal $.391 M Selected in '08 Rule V Draft

Say hello to: Ramon Vazquez, Jason Jaramillo, Eric Hinske

Wave goodbye: Jason Michaels, Ronny Paulino

Rookies: Andrew McCutcheon, Donald Veal

Non-roster Invites to watch:  Andrew McCutcheon, Craig Monroe, Denny Bautista

Potential breakout: Andy LaRoche.  He’s not really this bad, is he?

Welcome to Earth: Matt Capps.  Last year was one of the best relievers.  Expect some regression.

Likely to rebound: Tom Gorzelanny

Strenghts: I think the rotation rebounds to become above average.

Weaknesses: The offense stinks.

Payroll obligations to former players: Matt Morris ($1M)

Optimal batting lineup:

LF Morgan L  .294/.345/.375  0, 9  .268

3b LaRoche R  .152/.227/.232  3, 2  .160

CF McLouth L   .276/.356/.497  26, 23  .303

C Doumit B  .318/.357/.501  15, 2  .300

1b LaRoche L .270/.341/.500  25, 1  .294

RF Moss L/Pearce R*  .253/.258

2B Sanchez R  .271/.298/.371  9, 0  .241

SS Wilsons R .271/.312/.348 1, 2,  .237 

*I  have listed Moss & Pearce’s EqA’s from last season

Prediction: 5th place NL Central and another losing record.  

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