You’ve got to hand it to the Pirates. They play hard, they play smart, but they just don’t have the funds, nor any longer the cache, to truly compete. Since the days of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Doug Drabek, they have failed to attract premier free agents, largely through a lack of funds. But they’ve done just about everything else as well as they could. They have homegrown talent and, to their great credit, they are working hard to keep it—they signed Andrew McCuthen, the closest thing they have to a star, to a long-term contract, and they went out and got a starting pitcher, Erik Bedard, to head up their rotation. He might not be a CJ Wilson, but it shows the fans that the team is trying, and trying hard. Then they traded for a former star, AJ Burnett of the Yankees, without giving up any of their must-keep prospects. Burnett was once an ace, and now he has a chance to turn things around. But it’s a good sign that Burnett had a limited no-trade clause, and vetoed the chance to go to some much bigger teams, in favor of Pittbsurgh. Hats off to the organization for their heart, and here’s hoping that a genie in some lap can make the magic happen for them. Tough to imagine them winning the division anytime soon, however.
In: Erik Bedard (free agent), AJ Burnett (trade)
Strength: enthusiasm, drive, and hard-nosed play are this team’s strengths. There’s not a mega-star in the lineup, although young McCutchen has all the tools to become one. They’ve got a far more solid top of the rotation now, with Burnett and Bedard, and Jeff Karstens looked impressive last season (with a sub-4.00 ERA).
Weakness: there’s no one who can carry the team, and the danger is that McCutchen gets intentionally walked an awful lot, without much in the way of RBI presence behind him in the lineup. Some of the potential starters are also on the old side, over 31, and a team like this has to keep it young and hope that some of the youngsters develop
Manager: Clint Hurdle
Projected Rotation: AJ Burnett, Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia
Projected Closer: Joel Hanrahan
Projected Starting Lineup:
Jose Tabata RF
Alex Presley LF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones 1B
Neil Walker 2B
Casey McGehee 3B
Chase d’Arnaud SS
Rod Barajas C