Baseball Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates
Last year’s record and finish in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus
Pittsburgh Pirates (67-95, 5th in NL Central) + 3 games
Get Crunked: They have so much more promise than last year — I really wanted to take them out of the cellar but couldn’t quite do it. It’s a team on its way up, full of young starters, a surprisingly solid bullpen, and a good heart-of-the-order. You now have Adam LaRoche to complement Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Freddy Sanchez, adding more pop to the lineup. Tony Armas Jr. and Shawn Chacon join emerging stars Zach Duke and Ian Snell to form a solid core of starters. Damaso Marte will support Matt Capps and new (and capable) closer Solomon Torres to close out the 7th, 8th, and 9th. And Jim Tracy’s the manager, he’s cool.
Party Foul: Youth is all that can keep this team down — but that is also something you can get crunked about. Depth is another issue — if and when there are injuries, they won’t be able to plug the holes as well as most other teams. Finally, there aren’t any recognizable names on the roster (but that’s not an issue as long as they play well). Keeping in mind that it is the frugal Pirates we’re talking about, that’s not a whole lot of bad.
What’d my GM do: Littlefield killed it. He brought in Tony Armas Jr. for a year deal for less than $4 mil, a great bargain. I was a big fan of the Mike Gonzalez trade — Torres is more than capable of closing, and they needed the pop LaRoche brings. He re-signed Freddy Sanchez, Shawn Chacon, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady on the cheap. Dan Kolb, Jose Hernandez and Luis Matos all were signed to minor-league deals, and at least one of them will help the club, probably two. Good off-season for Littlefield.
Lay it on me Straight: I’ve been very complimentary of the Pirates thus far and that’s because they’re headed in the right direction. Only time will tell whether or not they’re ready to take that next step this year, next year, or in two years, but at some point, they will soon.
So where my boys gonna finish right now: Let’s not get it twisted — it’s still going to take a lot to get them out of the cellar, but at least they’ll win many more games.
Can we be better than that: Yes, you can be a heck of a lot better, potentially only a few games below .500 if the young guys hit like last year, and the starters bloom earlier than expected. You can also be a lot worse considering I might have over-hyped the squad, but lets be optimistic.