What I am about to suggest my sound strange....
The Pittsburgh Pirates can be a .500 team in 2010.
Yes, I know, popular opinion would seem to suggest that it is three horse race between the Pirates, the Nationals and the Royals (and the Athletics too if you ask me, Rajai Davis and Andrew Bailey notwithstanding that team is going to stink) to determine who is the worst team in baseball. Personally, having watched the Nats’ ‘new team’ player thus far in spring training I think they have a legitimate shot of being even worse that the 2009 version, Stephen Strasburg or no Stephen Strasburg (who, for the record, I did not think was as ‘dazzling’ as MLB.com’s reporters would suggest in his first spring training outing).
The Pirates however look to have actually made some really good progress this off-season and are now only a few early season moves away from suprising a lot of people.
As a quick projection of the Pittsburgh starting team I would imagine it looks something like this:
C: Ryan Doumit
1B: Garrett Jones
2B: Akinori Iwamura
3B: Andy LaRoche
SS: Bobby Crosby
LF: Lastings Milledge
CF: Andrew McCutchen
RF: Ryan Church
Now obviously this isn’t the same type of calibre team as the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies but you could do a lot worse that this lineup. I would go as far as to suggest that this lineup is as good as half the teams in the league. It certainly compares favourably to that of Houston, Kansas City, the Mets, Florida, Toronto, Oakland and San Francisco. It compares hugely favourably to that of Washington.
I would suggest that all the Pirate really need at this point (bearing in mind they have some high-ceiling prospects like Brad Lincoln, Dan McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez in the minors) is a veteran pitcher to anchor the rotation and a veteran power bat to provide instruction to young (or inexperienced) hitters like McCutchen, Jones and Jeff Clement and provide a few pinch hit/spot start bombs.
In short what the Pirates need to do if go out and sign Pedro Martinez. Petey is still a draw, is still exciting to watch and will still bring people to the ballpark. The Pirates have the nicest ballpark in the National League, they just need to give the casual fan a reason to go there. Pedro could be that reason. Not to mention the fact that he was pretty damn good last year for the Phillies.
In terms of the veteran slugger the possibilities are far greater. Jermaine Dye (although could be too expensive), Joe Crede, Geoff Jenkins, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado (if healthy). All of these players could play a valuable role in this young, talented Pittsburgh club. Most have won world series and all have shown that, when healthy, they can rake. All, I suspect at this late point could be acquired on 1 year, incentive laden contracts for way below their October asking price.
On a side note, the Pirates also need to sign Rocco Baldelli, but that’s an entirely different matter, so do 29 other teams!