-P- In a weak free agent market this offseason, the Pirates signed their new starting catcher, Rod Barajas, for $4 million. Barajas was one of the better choices available, since he has very good power for a catcher. Unfortunately, he posts very low on-base percentages and, at 36, he isn't good for more than 100 or so games per year. Michael McKenry fans, expect to see plenty of your boy this season.
-P- Clint Barmes signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Pirates after the Bucs declined Ronny Cedeno's option. Barmes' shortstop defense should be very strong, but it will have to be, because he's a right-handed pull hitter who will struggle to hit homers at PNC, where right-handed power goes to die.
-P- Pirates fans are excited about Matt Hague -- way too excited, in this writer's opinion. True, he's posted good batting averages in the minors, but despite a (probably-meaningless) home-run outburst in Spring Training, he doesn't have the power typically associated with first base. He also isn't particularly young, so he's far more likely to be a future AAAA player than a future star.
-P- The Bucs brought in Casey McGehee to share time with Garrett Jones at first base and to provide insurance in case Pedro Alvarez flames out completely. McGehee was horrific for the Brewers in 2011 after putting up solid numbers in 2010 and 2011; the bench is the right place for him, and that's where he'll be.
-P- The Bucs acquired infielder Yamaico Navarro in December from the Royals in exchange for a couple of low-wattage prospects. Judging from an admittedly tiny Spring Training sample, Navarro's defense appears to be a work in progress. He's only 24, though, and he has some upside with the bat. It wouldn't be a shock to see him in a starting position a couple years from now.
-P- Opening-Day starter Erik Bedard was an inspired addition for $4.5 million. True, he spends more time on the disabled list than Lindsay Lohan spends in rehab, but maybe this is the year that stops -- which would be amazing, because if Bedard is healthy, he's a great bet to be above-average. If he can pitch 150 innings this season, the Pirates might be better than you think.
-P- Juan Cruz made the Pirates' bullpen out of Spring Training. He pitched with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, and while he didn't exactly thrive, he at least stayed afloat against some tough competition. As minor-league signings go, he isn't quite as choice as Jose Veras was last season, but Cruz was still a fairly nifty player to pick up for practically free. It's not yet clear whether Clint Hurdle will use him as a setup man, or in more of a middle relief role.
-P- Also look out for A.J. Burnett, who was acquired in a deal with the Yankees. He'll be on the 25-man roster soon, but he isn't yet, because he's currently preparing to pitch after bunting a ball off his face in Spring Training. Once he's ready, he should be a stabilizing force in the rotation. He should benefit from PNC Park and from a weaker division in the N.L. Central. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he still has swing-and-miss stuff, and it wouldn't be surprising if he were the Pirates' best starting pitcher this season. He was the Yankees' trash, but he has a chance to be the Pirates' treasure.
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