Posted on: March 6, 2012 1:55 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 4:28 pm
BRADENTON, Fla -- Pirates owner Bob Nutting declared, "This is an exciting day for the Pittsburgh Pirates.'' And so it was. While the newly cost-conscious New York Yankees were practicing on the field behind them, the Pirates, dreadfully low in the spending and winning departments almost all of the past two decades, were announcing their $51.5-million contract for star outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a neat little area by their clubhouse beyond right field.
The Pirates are starting to show they mean business, doing things in recent months they hadn't done in a while, including spending serious money. They acquired semi-pricey veterans Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline last July, imported A.J. Burnett and $13 million of his bloated contract (from said Yankees) on the eve of spring training, and now have signed off on the seceont largest contract in their history for the multitalented McCutchen. The Pirates, it is said, just could not chance losing McCutchen, who is their best player and also a very good player as well (one doesn't necessarily ensure the other).
My contract expert rates this as "a fair deal for both sides,'' though he did note that McCutchen hit .216 in the second half last season and has only one 20-homer season (also last year). It's a very similar deal to those given to two other young star outfielders, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce, and I'd rate McCutchen third in that group, with Upton first and Bruce second. But still a strong third.
As everyone in Pittsburgh knows, the Pirates haven't had a winning season since another young outfielder, Barry Bonds, left town following the 1992 season. So for all they've done the past few years in the way of draft and international signings (draftees Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie are the team's pitching future), and they spent a whopping $50 million in amateur talent since starting with No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez in 2008, everyone understands they had to seal the deal with McCutchen.
The move is rightly being applauded throughout the Pittsburgh area because it is another reminder the team is trying hard. Yet, even after all the good feeling here over the big deal, there are two questions: 1) Did the need to make a statement play a role in signing him? and 2) Was he signed because he's a great ballplayer or a great kid?
As for the first question, Nutting says no. "This signing is not done to make a statement,'' Nutting said. Pirates president Frank Coonelly said that statement signings may only be good for a day, and pointed out that spending this kind of money only for the intention of positive pub carries a great risk. Though of course, if they failed to lock up McCutchen, what would that say? This says they are committed to winning, so whether they intended it or not, a statement was made.
As for whether they signed a person or ballplayer, the main message seemed to be about what kind of young man McCutchen is. "This commitment is one we're willing to make because of the person he is,'' Nutting said in one of multiple statements made along those lines. Here's another, from GM Neal Huntington, "I'd like to thank Andrew's parents for raising such an outstanding person.''
All indications are that McCutchen is just an absolutely terrific kid (he even made a special trip over to say hello to the Pirates beat writers). But there is a danger if a team is paying for persona. There is a reason personality is sometimes cited as a consolation compliment.
Of course, for this deal to work he's going to have to do more than be pleasant to the fans and great in the community; he's going to have to perform on the field. McCutchen wound up hitting only .259 last year with 126 strikeouts, but he has posted consistent OPS marks in his career -- .836, .814 and then .820 last year. He's a very good player who's not yet great. The key is, he is only 25.
Pirates people talked about the type of player they hope he becomes. The reality is, he isn't a $51.5-million player yet. But they think he will be one day.
As we all know, previous Pirates regimes had a knack for giving big deals when they weren't warranted, including one infamous one to journeyman infielder Pat Meares. Their biggest contract ever was a $60 million six-year deal. That one went to Jason Kendall, a catcher who could hit for a high batting average at one time.
Pirates people figure this deal will pay off much better for them. On the day they signed Kendall, they also made a very big statement. And he didn't even have such a great personality.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:31 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 10:00 am
The Pittsburgh Pirates are entering the 20th anniversary season of their last winning year and trying hard to ensure that streak doesn't last too much longer. The $51.5-million, six-year extension for outfielder Andrew McCutchen was a necessary step toward that goal.
The Pirates are shedding their "cheap'' label, at the very least. They've spent a whopping $50 million on the draft and international signings since taking Pedro Alvarez first in 2008, they took on salary while acquiring veteran hitters Ryan Ludwick and Derek Lee at the deadline, and they added $13 million over two years by taking on A.J. Burnett. They also reportedly tried for Edwin Jackson before he signed with the Nats.
The McCutchen deal is logical since it mirrors the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton contract. McCutchen's stats are better at the signing, but Upton is the player with greater power and a higher ceiling. In any case, it's not the usual Pirates deal. The McCutchen contract, which was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has been confirmed.
So they do indeed spend. Pretty soon it will be time to win.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:31 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 3:44 pm
The Angels and Marlins spent plenty, the Astros stood pat, and the Mets did worse than that. Here they, one through 30, from most improved team to least improved.
1. Angels. Anytime you add Albert Pujols when you don't really need a first baseman, that's quite a luxury buy. Maybe 10 years are too many, but he'll obviously make a major impact in the first years of that deal. C.J. Wilson gives them as good a first four as just about anyone. Plus, he comes directly from the main competitor.
2. Marlins. Jose Reyes is a monster get, when healthy, Mark Buehrle fits as the perfect veteran lefthander to pitch behind Josh Johnson and Heath Bell is a very good closer. Ozzie Guillen spices things up. Much more interesting team as they move to their new park.
3. Diamondbacks. Loved that they didn't rest on their laurels. Trevor Cahill bolsters their rotation and Jason Kubel their lineup. Also tried hard for Hiroki Kuroda, offering him $13 million, $3 million more than he got from the Yankees. Terrific effort by a team in an area hit hard by the economic downturn.
4. Nationals. I don't love Gio Gonzalez's 1.48 lifetime road WHIP, but he's a talented, young lefthanded starter who's exactly what they needed. Of course, they still could use a center fielder.
5. Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda is the solid starter they needed, and Michael Pineda has a chance to be better than that, especially if he masters his changeup. Jesus Montero will be a mega star but they needed the pitching, so it was a worthwhile gamble. A.J. Burnett is addition by subtraction.
6. Rockies. Michael Cuddyer is a huge get, even if he did cost $31.5 million over three years. Jeremy Guthrie steps in as the Opening Day starter and Tyler Chatwood has a chance, though rotation questions still remain. Casey Blake might not have a lot left at third base, but super prospect Nolan Arenado looks to be close.
7. Rangers. Yu Darvish is going to be better than Wilson. They flirted with Prince Fielder, but came up a few years short. Had they pulled that one off, too, they would have easily topped this list. A lefthander in the pen wouldn't have hurt, either.
8. Rays. Carlos Pena will bring a lot more punch than Casey Kotchman, and if healthy, Luke Scott brings more still. Somehow, they find a way.
9. Blue Jays. Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero and Darren Oliver represent a nice bullpen upgrade over Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Never made the huge deal folks were expecting, though.
10. Reds. They gave up a lot for Matt Latos, a talented pitcher who'll have to adjust going from pitching-firendly PETCO Park to Great American Ballpark. The pen is better with Ryan Madson in as the closer and strong lefty Sean Marshall over from Chicago. Looks like a contender.
11. Tigers. Owner Mike Ilitch gets props for the $214-million, nine-year band-aid he bought in Fielder after Victor Martinez's brutal knee injury.
12. Phillies. They imported Jonathan Papelbon, who has a longer track record, to replace Ryan Madson. Jim Thome fills the resident nice guy role left vacated by Brad Lidge's departure (and Juan Pierre won't hurt in that dept. either, assuming he makes the team). They have more versatility with Ty Wigginton adding to their bench strength.
13. Pirates. The new killer B's are here -- Rod Barajas, Erik Bedard, Clint Barmes and A.J. Burnett. The Bucs certainly should be better.
14. Mariners. Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp and Hisashi Iwakuma have a chance to help. But their offseason will turn on whether Montero becomes a bigger star than Pineda. The guess here is, he does.
15. Padres. They maximized the Latos trade. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal could become stars, and Brad Boxberger may be the closer of the future. Huston Street ably replaces Bell. And Carlos Quentin may thrive back in his hometown.
16. Cubs. David DeJesus is a solid outfielder, and Paul Maholm will help. But their winter will turn on whether slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the player they think he is. The real loss for them was the new rule limiting bonus pools for drafted players.
17. Royals. Jonathan Sanchez is just the type of high-ceiling pitcher who fits, Bruce Chen was needed back and Jonathan Broxton is worth a flyer.
18. Dodgers. They managed to cut to below $90 million as cash-strapped Frank McCourt sells the team, but they pieced it together pretty well. Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are solid starters but most of the other imports are extras. They also made an exciting secret grab at Fielder but were outbid by the Tigers. Their best move, though, was signing Matt Kemp for eight years at $160 million,
19. Indians. Given the restrictions of the budget, not terrible. Casey Kotchman looks to be on the upswing, and Derek Lowe is a veteran presence needed especially now that Fausto Carmona is better known as Limbo Carmona.
20. Giants. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are late bloomers, and they might do as well as the combo of Caros Beltran, Andres Torres and Cody Ross. The comeback of Buster Posey is probably the biggest key. Also like the smaller pickups of Clay Hensley and Ryan Theriot.
21. Cardinals. It's hard to lose Pujols (not to mention Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan) and not feel it. But somehow, the Cardinals seem to find a way. Beltran replaces some of Pujols' lost offense, if not his presence. Adam Wainwright's return is the biggest addition, though.
22. Orioles. Nobody did more different things, but it's tough to evaluate or guess what Wei-Yin Chen or Tsuyoshi Wada will become. Wilson Betemit was an odd signing in that no one saw a two-year deal coming.
23. White Sox. Love the Robin Ventura move (though I suspect they should have made him take a more-experienced staff). The team will be a lot younger, too, with all the kids acquired for Santos and Quentin. Buehrle is tough to replace, though.
24. Braves. Their big deal was for utlityman Jack Wilson, which says a lot. Never found the right deal for Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado.
25. Twins. Josh Willingham has a lot of pressure on him to make up for the loss of Cuddyer and Kubel. Joe Nathan preferred to go to a contender. Not sure how much Jason Marquis has left.
26. Red Sox. I like the way they recovered from the loss of Papelbon by adding Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey. Cody Ross and Nick Punto are nice complementary pieces. But I think they'll miss Jason Varitek more than think. And they still don't have a No. 4 or 5 starter or starting shortstop after trading Marco Scutaro in exchange for "flexibility.'' Bobby Valentine was a great call for manager, and he does his best work when there are issues, so maybe he pulls it all together.
27. A's. They did a nice job collecting prospects (Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole could be stars) but will be hard-pressed to avoid 90 defeats this year after trading Cahill, Gonzalez and Bailey. Big Talent Yoenis Cespedes and Mannyball spice things up. Interesting offseason.
28. Brewers. Tough to make up for the loss of Fielder. Aramis Ramirez is a nice middle-of-the-order bat, Alex Gonzalez is an upgrade at shortstop and Nori Aoki may work. Also lost some bullpen depth with Takashi Saito and Hawkins gone.
29. Astros. They took a flyer on the oft-injured Fernando Martinez but after failing to unload Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee or Brett Myers, they basically return the same team. Which is not necessarily good news when you lost 106 games.
30. Mets. They lost the heart of the team (though an of-injured one), and Andres Torres wouldn't be my first choice to replace the dynamic Reyes. Actually, Pagan would have been better. But that's nitpicky. Let's face it, no one that cuts an unprecedented $50 million can do well.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 7:42 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 8:57 pm
As with every year, there were the deals. And then there were the steals. With camps opening it is time to assess the best and worst of the winter's free-agent signings. With just a few dozen players remaining, here are my lists of the best signings for the team and the best ones for the player ...
Best signings (for team)
1. Francisco Cordero. Blue Jays RP, $4.5M, 1 yr. In a closer market filled with talent, he was the last good one to sign, and he seemed to have gotten squeezed. The Reds turned down a $12-million option for him, but based on 194 saves over the past five years, that seems closer to his true value.
2. Brad Lidge. Nationals RP, $1M, 1 yr. Worries of injury probably kept him down. A great signing for a young team if he has anything left.
3. Carlos Beltran. Cardinals OF, $26M, 2 yrs. Concerns about his knee probably hurt him. But he did not have one knee issue all last year, when he was one of the more productive hitting outfielders in the league. Won't replicate Albert Pujols, but gives them a chance.
4. Ryan Madson. Reds RP, $8.5M, 1 yr. The biggest money spent early on closers when Madson thought he had a $44-million, four-year deal with his old team, the Phillies, before they pulled the offer. The Reds are the beneficiaries when the Angels and Red Sox didn't make their move. Only one year as a closer, but dynamic changeup gives him a chance to be excellent for years.
5. Alex Gonzalez. Brewers SS, $4.25M, 1 yr. He's had a much better shortstop career than Clint Barmes or Jamey Carroll. Chronically low on-base percentage finally catching up with him.
6. Joel Pineiro. Phillies SP, $1.5M, 1 yr. The $1.5-million salary on his minor-league deal wasn't even on Cot's Baseball Contracts (the usual reference spot for salaries), but the hunch is the switch back to the National League will make the difference for him. Despite their ballpark, the Phillies seem to do well with pitchers. Has never allowed a run in Citizens Bank Ballpark.
7. Chris Capuano. Dodgers SP, $10M, 2 yrs. Some might look at this as a fair figure (or perhaps even a little high), but he showed last year he knows how to pitch and win with what he has left. Solid NL starter.
8. Paul Maholm, Cubs, SP, $4.5M, 1 yr. Nice starter has been adversely affected by Pirates offensive woes.
9. Lyle Overbay. Diamondbacks, $1M, 1 yr. Usually a member of the overpays, he went to the other list this year. Very good defender.
10. Jon Garland. Indians SP, 1 yr. undisclosed contract. Whatever he got, the Indians got a solid pitcher who's been an innings eater throughout his career.
11. Ryan Spilborghs. Indians OF, $1M, 1 yr. He got $1 million base for one year on a minor-league deal, and should see a lot ot action with the Indians considering their all lefty starting outfield and the injury history of Grady Sizemore. Solid, good team man.
12. Mike MacDougal. Dodgers RP, $1M, 1 yr. Very talented pitcher. One of these years someone's going to get a steal.
13. Kosuke Fukudome. White Sox OF, $1M, 1 yr. Smart insurance for a team that has a starting trio with some questions, even from the well-paid Alex Rios.
14. Micah Owings. Padres RP, $1M, 1 yr. Multitalented player went 8-0 with the rival Diamondbacks last year. Can also hit.
15. Jonny Gomes. A's OF-DH. $1M, 1 yr. A plus for any team or clubhouse.
16. Francisco Rodriguez. Brewers RP. $8M, 1 yr. That's pretty steep for a set-up man, but K-Rod is really a second closer, a nice luxury for Milwaukee to have.
Best Signings (for player)
1. C.J. Wilson. Angels SP, $77.5M, 5 yrs. Yes, I realize he could have gotten another $22 million from the Marlins. But he's had only two years as a starter, is surprisingly wild and bombed in the playoffs.
2. Laynce Nix. Phillies OF, $2.5M, 2 yrs. Two years? Don't get it.
3. Wilson Betemit. Orioles INF, $3.25M, 2 yrs. And I use the word "infielder'' loosely. The guy can hit a bit. but again, what's the reason for two years?
4. Coco Crisp. A's OF, $14M, 2 yrs. He had the option of going to the Rays after saying he most wanted to play for a winner. So what does he do, but sign for two years (likely two dead years) with the A's. Can't really blame him considering.
5. Rod Barajas. Pirates C, $4M, 1 yr. Pull hitter will yank a few out, even in Pittsburgh. But the market for the so-so catchers generally wasn't this good.
6. Heath Bell. Marlins RP, $27M, 3 yrs. That's what folks figured he'd get. But it was quite good in this closer market for a pitcher in his mid 30s who's been thriving at PETCO. One advantage for the Marlins: He really is Heath Bell, and he's a good guy.
7. Frank Francisco. Mets RP, $12M, 2 yrs. He did well by signing early, getting a multiyear in a rough market for closers.
8. Yoenis Cespedes. A's OF, $36M, 4 yrs. Looked like superman on his video. but can he hit the major-league curveball? Curious choice in that Oakland isn't going to win at least this year, and maybe next. But it's understandable in that they'd missed out on Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman, two guys who had monster years elsewhere after spurning Oakland's offers. Another plus for the player: if he can hit the curve, he's a free agent again at 30.
9. Prince Fielder. Tigers 1B, $214M, 9 yrs. He could have gotten at least eight years elsewhere (surely from the Orioles and maybe the Dodgers, who had offered seven), but Victor Martinez's injury helped him join the $200-million club with a great team. Credit owner Mike Ilitch for doing whatever it took, but it took a lot.
10. Mark Ellis. Dodgers 2B, $8.75M, 2 yrs. Very nice addition to any team, but he looked like he was on the verge of a release at one point early last year. The whole middle infield market did very well early, including Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll and others. Dodgers appear a lot on these list, but that's because they signed more free agents than anyone.
11. Mark Buehrle. Marlins, $58M, 4 yrs. Very good, consistent pitcher who may thrive in the NL. Steep price, though, so he better.
12. Willie Bloomquist. Diamondbacks $3.8M, 2 yrs. Another one of the journeyman middle infielders who cashed in big. Funny thing is, he turned down close to $5 million with the Giants.
13. Jerry Hairston, Jr. Dodgers INF, $6M, 2 yrs. Spunky, versatile player cashed in after mostly helping the Brewers late last year.
14. Luke Scott. Rays DH, $5M, 1 yr. Hard to criticize the Rays, but the price seems steep considering the DH glut. He's younger and has more power than those left, however.
15. Greg Dobbs. Marlins INF, $3M, 2 yrs. Again, not sure why a utilityman gets a multiyear deal. But good for him.
16. Casey Blake. Rockies 3B. $2M, 2 yrs. Good guy who's an injury risk at this point. Time to start the Nolan Arenado era.
One more that will be good for the team: Roy Oswalt. His geographic desires have hurt him as he turned down close to $10 million with the Tigers and has let a Red Sox offer sit forever. Still waiting for the Rangers or Cardinals (we think).
One that will be better than you think: Albert Pujols. The $240 million over 10 years the Angels gave Pujols may seem a bit high toward the end of that deal, but the excitement and marketability the alltime great brings is immeasurable, though their new TV partner which dished out $2 billion probably has a pretty good idea of his value.
One that wasn;t a free-agent deal but was still great for the team: Matt Kemp. Can't blame the player for taking $160 million) over eight years), but you have to know the new owner loves the fact that the awesomely great Kemp is locked up through his prime years.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 4:12 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 4:17 pm
The Yankees and Pirates continue to talk about a deal involving A.J. Burnett, and there seems to be continuing optimism a deal could get done between those teams by the end of the week. The best guess is that the Pirates will wind up paying about $13 million of the $33 million owed Burnett while surrendering one or two non-roster minor-league players. The Pirates seem more willing to bend on the money than the quality of the minor leaguers, and that is a testament to them.
The Indians, Angels and a fourth team are also believed to have checked in on Burnett, but the focus remains on a potential Pirates deal. There was some brief discussion of a Burnett-for-Travis Hafner swap, but there's no evidence the Indians would be willing to do that, as they are reluctant to hurt their offense. The Angels are on Burnett's no-trade list, and he has said he would not waive his no-trade to go there. The Burnetts live in Baltimore and want to stay in the East, which is why he put the West Coast teams on his no-trade list in the first place.
The Pirates at some point offered to to pay at least $10 million of the $33 million remaining on Burnett, and once they compromise a bit more on the cash, the sense is there's every reason to believe a deal could happen within the next several days.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 7:35 am
Edited on: February 10, 2012 12:33 pm
The Yankees and Pirates are continuing to talk about a possible A.J. Burnett trade that could lead to more activity in the form of a couple free-agent signings by the Yankees. As of Thursday night, the teams were thought to be a few million apart in the Burnett negotiations, but they were still talking and there is some hope for a deal.
The Yankees, in a twist, want to clear some money to sign their preferred positional candidates. They are considering Raul Ibanez and Johnny Damon as possible DH candidates and Eric Chavez as a reserve. They appear to be leaning toward Ibanez for the DH role, though Damon and Hideki Matsui, two former Yankees stars, also have been under consideration. In another twist, some say it's because they perceive Ibanez as the more adept outfielder than Damon at this point (the lefty DH could be employed in the outfield in rare circumstances). The Yankees loved the way Chavez fit into the clubhouse last year and wouldn't mind using Alex Rodriguez as a DH on occasion.
The Pirates tried for Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt and seek a proven veteran starter such as Burnett, but so far have not acceded to the Yankees' monetary request. The Yankees have offered to pay a substantial portion of the $33 million remaining on Burnett's deal over the final two years--though, not quite enough money in the Pirates' estimation. The Pirates also have rejected a Yankees request for Garrett Jones in trade talks. Word is, the Yankees at least initially asked the Pirates to pay well more than one-third of the $33 million, something closer to a 50-50 split of the financial obligation to Burnett. The Pirates are believed to ha ve countered by offering to pay less than $10 million of the $33 million to go.
The Yankees have seven viable starting pitching candidates and have been looking for a trade partner for Burnett, who generally has been a disappointment in New York. No other teams have surfaced publicly as potential suitors for Burnett as of yet. He has a limited no-trade clause which curtails the number of places he can be traded.