Pirates Hot Stove: Bucs Interested In J.J. Hardy, Jason Bartlett To Improve Infield

With top free agent Jorge De La Rosa off the market, the Pirates turn their attention to their infield.

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Pirates Hot Stove: Bucs Interested In J.J. Hardy, Jason Bartlett

Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Pirates are interested in shortstops Jason Bartlett (of the Rays) and J.J. Hardy (of the Twins). Both are likely to be with new teams by Spring Training.

Acquiring Bartlett three years ago, as the Rays did, would have been great, but since then he has gotten worse in the field, and he has never been much of a hitter. Hardy, though, would be a great idea – he isn’t a zero with the bat, isn’t old, and plays above-average defense. This last item is critical – the Pirates’ pitchers were repeatedly let down by their defense last year. Incumbent shortstop Ronny Cedeno wasn’t the worst offender in that regard, but acquiring a new shortstop will upgrade that position while potentially – hopefully – allowing Cedeno to take some starts at second when a groundball pitcher like Paul Maholm is on the hill. There’s also the possibility that the Pirates could non-tender Cedeno if they acquire Bartlett or Hardy by tomorrow’s non-tender deadline, but I wouldn’t count on that happening.

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Rockies To Re-Sign Jorge De La Rosa And Troy Tulowitzki

The Rockies will re-sign pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the Denver Post reports. De La Rosa was near the top of the Pirates’ list this offseason as the Bucs look to upgrade their rotation, but it appears De La Rosa wanted to stay in Colorado. His deal could be for $30 million if it ends up being for three years. That’s not an unreasonable price, but the Pirates would have had to pay more, and their awful defense would not have made him look particularly good.

It’s the Tulowitzki contract that will garner the most attention, however, because it’s absolutely crazy. The Rockies already controlled Tulowitzki’s rights through 2014, but that didn’t stop them from agreeing to a seven-year, $130 million deal that doesn’t even start for three more years and doesn’t finish until 2020. Who knows what kind of player Tulowitzki will be in ten years? Not the Rockies, surely, and with him already guaranteed to be with the team in several more years, they easily could have waited – and they probably wouldn’t have paid much more for 2015 through 2020 if they waited three or four years to sign him, either. One would think that the Todd Helton contract, which seemed to last forever as Helton got worse and worse, would have convinced the Rockies that contracts that drag on like Titanic on loop are incredibly stupid ideas, but apparently not.

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Pirates Hot Stove: Bucs Could Trade Evan Meek Or Joel Hanrahan

The era of the Pirates trading veterans for younger players might not be over. Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Pirates could trade one of their top relievers, Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan, this offseason:

The Pirates are comfortable with their internal options at closer, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. But one source suggested that Pittsburgh could deal one of the two and sign a replacement.

I don’t think Neal Huntington will be looking to do a deal like this, necessarily, but I’m sure he would be open to it if the Pirates can get a potentially good starting pitcher or regular hitter. It makes sense – Meek and Hanrahan are excellent players, but even more important than that is that they’re relievers, a very fickle player type. You never know what a reliever will be doing in two years, and the Pirates won’t begin to contend until then. I love having Meek and Hanrahan around, obviously, but I do think the Pirates will have to listen to offers.

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Pirates Hot Stove: Bucs Interested In Brandon Webb

Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Pirates are interested in pitcher Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Webb, of course, was one of the best and most durable pitchers in baseball before his shoulder gave out in 2009. Webb is the latest in a string of pitchers with injury problems – Justin Duchscherer, Jeff Francis – in whom the Pirates have expressed interest. They’ll probably look to grab a couple of player like this and hope for a productive season out of one of them, then look to trade that player at the deadline, by which time prospects like Bryan Morris and Rudy Owens should be available to fill out the rotation.

Any pitcher who has missed nearly two years with shoulder problems, as Webb has, is clearly a huge gamble, but he has very nice upside if he can get his sinker working again. Webb won the National League Cy Young award in 2006 and has a 3.27 career ERA. Even given his serious injury issues, he’s much more interesting than the typical Pirates free agent.

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Pirates Hot Stove: Bucs Inquire About Francis

According to Jerry Crasnick, the Pirates are in on pitcher Jeff Francis.

Some teams that have expressed early interest in P Jeff Francis: Pittsburgh, Seattle, Colorado, Milwaukee & Houston.less than a minute ago via web

 

Both Francis and Jorge De La Rosa, whom the Pirates are also reportedly pursuing, pitched under new Pirate manager Clint Hurdle in Colorado. Francis was the Rockies' first round pick in 2002 and was a key contributor down the stretch to Colorado's World Series run in 2007. He's been plagued by injuries since, however, struggling in 2008 and ultimately missing all of 2009 after arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder. In 2010, Francis went 2010 with a 5.00 ERA, and 1.36 WHIP in just over 100 innings. He posted a 5.8 K/9 ratio and a 2.91 K/BB ratio and made $5.7 million with Colorado last season.

In the free agency spectrum, Francis is certainly worth a look. He has a history of past success and profiles similarly to pitchers like Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson in addition to De La Rosa and Paul Maholm, according to Baseball Reference.  However, his injury history makes him kind of a gamble, like pitcher Justin Duchscherer, another name that has been thrown about in Pirate circles. 

If he can be had on the cheap, the Pirates should take a look at him, but anything approaching the $5.7 million he made last year would be imprudent. And, as we've already mentioned, Francis would need help behind him to be successful in Pittsburgh.

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Pirates Hot Stove: Bucs Interested In Jorge De La Rosa

This winter could be a relatively busy one for the Pirates, as they have clear issues they need to address (defense, pitching) and apparently some money with which to address them - they've already been linked to top players like Adrian Beltre. Rob Biertempfel of the Trib tweets that the Pirates have zoned in another such player, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa.

This is a tricky piece of news for a number of reasons, many of which I've already outlined here. It would feel like a huge victory for Pirates fans if the team signed a player like De La Rosa, but a number of teams, including the Yankees, have already expressed interest, and the pitching market has largely been set by Ted Lilly, who received $33 million from the Dodgers over three years and is roughly similar in value to De La Rosa. Also, if the Pirates don't improve their defense, De La Rosa could easily end up being a big-ticket bust - one of the key reasons Pirates pitchers can't seem to post good ERAs is that their fielders have done such a horrible job. And on top of all that, De La Rosa would likely cost the Pirates their second-round pick in next year's draft, since he's a Type A free agent.

De La Rosa is good enough that I'd still be interested in signing him, but only in the context of a serious plan to improve the team. They can't just sign De La Rosa and hit the golf course. They would have to make significant moves to upgrade their defense as well, in order to give De La Rosa the best possible chance of success.

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