It was pretty clear that Paul Maholm’s services were no longer needed wanted by the Pirates when they decided not to re-up the lefty’s contract a few months back.
They did stir up talks again with the 29-year-old free agent about staying in the Burgh but nothing ever materialized. Maholm love this city and said numerous times that he wanted to remain with the team and be part of the solution.
But instead of bumming around in a city that didn’t want him, Maholm decided to take his talents to the North Side…of Chicago.
Maholm reportedly singed a one-year deal with the Cubs worth $4.25 million. That doesn’t seem like all that much for the Buccos to shell out for a guy that was their longest tenured player. That honor now goes to Evan Meek, who pitched all of 21.2 innings last year, and has been with the team for all of 144 games spread throughout four seasons.
We were really hoping the Buccos would find a way to bring Maholm back, after he had arguably his best season as a pro before getting hurt in the homestretch. Not only is he more familiar with the organization than any other player (he spent six years in Black and Gold) but he also would’ve offered another left-handed option that the Buccos desperately need. Plus, he wanted to be here. There’s not many major leaguers out there who want to play for the Buccos.
The wagon jumpers that forget about the Pirates as soon as NHL free agency starts or when the Steelers head to St. Vincent’s will say good riddance to Maholm’s 6-14 record and that he gives up too many home runs for a starting pitcher that would never start a game for another team.
Well, that may have been the case two years ago but last season Maholm, while posting a career-best 3.66 ERA, was far and away the Buccos most consistent starter. He just didn’t get any help from his offense.
Of the 26 games Maholm started, he allowed more than three runs seven times; that’s the same number as the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw – you may know him as the NL Cy Young winner. However, in the 19 games Maholm held opponents to three runs or fewer the Bucs managed less than three runs a game…that’s not a pitching problem.
With the signing of Eric Bedard last month and Maholm now gone, the Bucco’s starting rotation seems set for 2012. Bedard will be the lone south paw, sandwiched between Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, James McDonald and Charlie Morton. And Morton might not even be ready to go for Opening Day.
We saw how well four righties worked in the rotation last year so why not try the two lefty approach that’s worked for just about every other winning franchise in baseball? Had the Buccos kept Maholm, he could’ve been in the rotation when the season began if Morton isn’t healthy and even after his return, the odd-man out could be demoted to the bull pen, which needs help to begin with…not to mention Karstens has spent time as a reliever.
Instead the Pirates saved themselves the what-if scenario and just sent Maholm packing rather than keep him, and his veteran leadership, around as the arms of the future of the franchise get closer and closer to arriving at PNC Park.