Originally posted on WHYGAVS?  |  Last updated 1/16/12

The Pirates have been awfully quiet of late. They haven't really made much news since the Erik Bedard signing at the end of the winter meetings. Things are going to move quickly over the next ten days on the free agent market (prediction: Prince Fielder will sign by the January 25th at the latest; things will fall into place fast once the Rangers' negotation with Yu Darvish ends on Wednesday) and with only about a month until pitchers and catchers report, it's entirely possible that the Pirates are done wheeling and dealing for the winter. 

It's not a sure thing that they're done, though. We know that the club has expressed interest in both Jeff Francis and Derrek Lee, two guys who are still on the free agent market and may be waiting things out to see if they can still stumble into a bigger-than-expected contract. The Pirates can pretty clearly make use of another pitcher and bringing in another first baseman wouldn't exactly hurt them at this point, so it's possible they're still interested in Francis or Lee or any of a number of other first basemen or pitchers who are still on the free agent market, waiting for Prince Fielder and Edwin Jackson to sign. Then again, Paul Maholm said he wasn't contacted by the Pirates before signing a cheap deal with the Cubs, which may indicate that they're not planning on adding more pitching at this point. It's easy to read things in more than one way when a team is as quiet as the Pirates have been over the last few weeks

To this point, the Pirates have had a weirdly nondescript off-season given the sheer volume of moves they've made. They've turned over a huge portion of their 40-man roster this winter, but I'm not sure that they're much better or worse, on the whole, than they were when the 2011 season or they were at this point a year ago. They made some moves that could pay off quite nicely for them (mainly signing Bedard, though there's some upside possibility in both the Navarro and McGahee trades), they made some moves with some significant risk (Bedard and I will continue to be concerned about Barmes's ability to hit at PNC Park going forward), and they made some moves that will likely have little net effect on the team at all when compared to 2011 (Barmes and Barajas, most likely). Entering the winter there was a risk that the Pirates would come out of it with a team significantly worse than the 2011 edition and I think they've avoided that, but I'm not prepared to say much more than that at this point. 

That could change quite a bit, of course, if it turns out the Pirates aren't done making moves this winter. If Tim's guess of a $46 million payroll is right, the Pirates could probably spend somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million more this winter, should the right opportunity arise. Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson and Carlos Pena will all probably sign deals somewhere in that neighborhood (for varying lengths, of course), while the Pirates could probably get Jeff Francis and Derrek Lee or Casey Kotchman combined for about that price.

It's fun to think about adding Oswalt or Jackson to the rotation or Pena to the lineup, as all three guys bring things to the table that the Pirates don't really have right now, but I find it hard to see any of them landing in Pittsburgh. If I were Roy Oswalt, I'd take $4 million from the Red Sox before I'd take $8 million from the Pirates at this point in my career and I still don't see the Pirates making the multi-year committment that Jackson will likely require. There's not really any reason to think the Pirates are interested in Pena, either, as they could've had him last winter at a reasonable cost or at the trade deadline at a reasonable cost and they haven't even appeared to feign interest in him this winter. More than likely if the Pirates do anything else before the winter ends, it'll be another move or two in the same vein as the ones they've already made this winter.

Should they be trying to do more? If you assume the Pirates are a 70-75 win team right now (that's about how I'd peg them, though I haven't put a whole ton of thought into that kind of prediction), you could probably guess that Jackson and Pena would make them a 75-80 win team. That's getting close to something, but is it enough? Despite popular opinion, I think that the NL Central will be a tough division this year. The Brewers still have a good rotation and enough power at the plate to contend and the Reds and Cardinals have the ability to be two of the best teams in the National League. It's really hard to see the Pirates being better than two of those teams, plus the runners up of the Phillies/Braves/Marlins race and the Giants/Diamondbacks/Rockies/Dodgers race in 2012.

Of course, the Pirates can't (or at least shouldn't) just throw up their hands and say, "We didn't sign those guys because we have no chance to contend in 2012."Going out and blowing money just because they have some to spend at the moment it isn't necessarily the right thing to do, either. I do think they need another starting pitcher right now, and I'd hope that even if they think they have Jeff Francis locked in that they explore their other options as the prices on the market fall with teams like the Yankees falling out of the running for starting pitching. 

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