Jeff Francoeur became a free-agent on Wednesday after he cleared waivers and refused an assignment to the minors. The 26-year-old batted .249 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI during the 2010 season with both the Mets and Rangers.
Although there has been no reports as of yet, I think Francoeur would make a good fit in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are in need of an everyday right fielder with some power. He is a great defender, great arm (he leads the majors in outfield assists since his major league debut) as well as a good bat –a career .268 hitter. Francouer made $5 million during the 2010 season.
Francouer has made it known he wants to be an everyday player despite crushing lefties (.300) better than righties (.231) in 2010. The Pirates –if they decided to sit him against right handed pitchers on occasions– could use John Bowker or Garrett Jones who both hit better against righties.
If the Pirates could trade Ryan Doumit (owed $5.1 million for 2011) to free up some payroll I think they should sign him. A huge upgrade over Lastings Milledge, Dewlyn Young, and/or any of the others who played there during the 2010 season.
The Pirates (as well as the Red Sox) reportably are interested in Justin Duchscherer –a free-agent starter. The right-hander has had only five starts during the 2010 season (2-1 with a 2.89 ERA) due to injuries.
Duchscherer missed the entire 2009 season because of elbow surgery as well as problems with clinical depression.
In eight seasons –seven with the Oakland Athletic’s– he has a 3.13 ERA (163 appearances).
There is also speculation that the Pirates could be interested in starter Jon Garland. Garland spent the 2010 season with another small market team–the San Diego Padres. In 33 starts he was 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA. Garland made $4.7 Million last season.
The results are in and for the month of October, your’s truly is number 23 in the top 50 MLB Fan blogs. That marks my third straight month in the top 50. Thanks to everyone who reads and to all the other winners. I’m very pleased considering the Pirates were not in much news or talk during October. Thanks to Mark for also featuring me on the MLBLOG’s homepage the past several days.
Here is a list of all the winners. Congrats! Happy off season and hot stove.
Last week I asked President Frank Coonelly if the organization was comfortable with Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan as their closer for the 2011 season or if they would sign a veteran for the closers role (similar to 2010 with Octavio Dotel). This is what he had to say:
“Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek both have shown that they have the tools necessary to be quality closers. As a result, we would be comfortable relying on Joel and/or Evan closing games for us in 2011. Having said that, we are looking to add to our bullpen and if we were able to add an experienced closer, we would certainly consider making such an addition to the back of our bullpen.”
But how exactly will the Pirates determine who would be the better fit in the ninth inning? After Dotel was traded to the Dodgers, both Hanrahan and Meek split time closing out games. Joel did get more of the opportunities and seemed to be favored due to experience closing out games with the Nationals in 2008. Hanrahan was six-for-eight and Meek was three-for-three in the ninth inning role.
Evaluations are underway by the organization to decide before spring training who they want to be the closer for the 2011 season.
“That is one of about 104 questions for us to answer internally this off-season,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “I’m not a big fan of Spring Training competitions, because it’s so difficult to make an even playing field. So to make it a Spring Training competition, in our minds, is probably not the best way to go about it.
“It’s a tremendous situation to be in, because we feel comfortable with both guys coming back and closing games for us,” Huntington added. “Both deserve to close games for us. It’s certainly something that we’ll talk about a lot this off-season and work to come to the best answer that we can.”
Hanrahan has a mid 90′s fastball that on does reach 98, 99 and a nasty slider which gave him enough swings and misses to help him reach 100 strikeouts in a single season –a career high. Hanrahan ended the season with a 3.62 ERA.
Meek had a break out season –a 0.67 ERA which landed him a spot in the All-star game–. His fastball on average is 93-95 and can reach 96, 97 as well as a cut-fastball. Meek finished the season with a 2.14 ERA.
Both seem to have the mentality for the role and had no signs of control issues during the 2010 season.
“Really, it’s going to come down to who we want to give the ball to in the ninth inning,” Huntington said, noting the characteristics of both candidates. “There’s really not a huge separator that puts one guy over or under the other. We have two guys who are very capable.”
Regardless who the Pirates decide to choose for the closers role, having Meek and Hanrhan in the 8th and 9th inning is a huge weapon for the Bucs and one of the biggest strengths for the team.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Trib: Bowker, Clement and Hart should all be ready to compete in Spring Training.
John Bowker had knee pain towards the end of the season that sidelined him a few games. He did not require surgery and is healthy due to rehab and rest.
Jeff Clement –who ended his season early due to knee surgery– is “on schedule” with his recovery and will be ready to go come spring training.
Kevin Hart is also “on schedule” with his recovery. Hart missed the entire 2010 season due to a shoulder injury in Spring Training. He was thought to be the fifth starter for the Bucs.
Steve Pearce was granted his fourth Minor League option by Major League Baseball. The first-baseman only played 52 games during the 2010 season due to ankle and knee injuries. He was activated from the 60-day disabled list last week due to end of the season knee surgery.
Pearce will enter the 2011 season with one option and will be healthy to fight for a spot in Spring Training. Pearce –if he can stay healthy– could be a utility guy, and/or platoon with Garrett Jones at first-base. If Delwyn Young is non-tendered, Pearce could also serve as a pinch-hitter role.
In 15 games with the Pirates, Pearce batted .276 with five RBI.
Clint Hurdle is scheduled to interview with the New York Mets on Wednesday. The Pirates have yet to name a new manager and it is unknown how long the organization will hold out to get Hurdle –the first choice.
Hurdle interviewed with the Pirates on Thursday and is the front-runner for the job. (Jeff Banister is also in the mix, being the second choice if Hurdle decides to sign with the Mets).
You would think Hurdle could make his decision by the end of the weekend, but that may not be the case.
John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus said this on Tuesday:
@JPerrotto: #Mets may not hire manager under Dec. 1. With Hurdle involved, it mean #Pirates may not have manager announcement anytime soon.
It’s been a very long search for the Pirates. Russell was fired on October 4th and the Pirates interviewed their first potential manager (Eric Wedge) on the 5th. Time will tell just how long they are wiling to wait for the right guy.
There are some minor news to clarify regarding pitcher Sean Gallagher. He was removed from the 40-man roster last week and out righted to Triple-A Indy becoming a minor league free-agent. That’s not the case. However, after further review, Gallagher has not logged enough playing time and will remain under control by the Pirates for another year.
Gallagher does not have the ability to refuse his Triple-A assignment and will not have to sign a minor league deal. There is a chance he will be invited to Pirates Spring Training in 2011.
Pirates beat reporter Jenifer Langosch will be answering fan’s questions on a weekly basis until Spring Training starts. Below are a few of the questions I thought were interesting from this weeks inbox. You can read the entire transcript here.
What do you think are in the plans for Milledge, Delwyn Young and LaRoche?
This is a good question, but a tough one to answer given that the Pirates are still evaluating how each might fit into the team’s long-term plans. All three of those players are arbitration-eligible, so each is due a decent pay bump as a result. It’s not a guarantee, however, that each will be offered arbitration.
I think it’s a safe bet that Milledge will be tendered a contract given that the outfielder is still just 25 years old and could be an option if the Pirates decide to go with a platoon in right field. He was acquired just a year and a half ago, and I can’t see the Pirates giving up on him just yet.
Young fills a good role off the bench for Pittsburgh, but the club ultimately has to decide if the pinch-hits are worth the increase in salary. If the Pirates believe they can get that offense from other internal options for less money, there’s always a chance Young could be on his way elsewhere.
LaRoche’s situation is most tenuous, and how he fares down in winter ball will weigh heavily in the Pirates’ evaluation about whether to keep the infielder around. LaRoche is playing all four infield positions in Venezuela. His only shot at hanging onto a roster spot with the Pirates is to show them that he can be an effective extra infielder and that he can hit without consistent at-bats. LaRoche definitely didn’t show the latter in 2010; consequently, don’t be surprised if he is gone before Spring Training.
Are the Pirates sure enough on some of their younger players to consider offering them long-term contracts?
It’s not common for teams to begin approaching players with less than one year of Major League service time about signing long-term deals. Yes, it happens occasionally — as it did a few years back with Evan Longoria and the Rays — but it’s not the norm. That said, it’s probably a bit too early to expect extensions being offered to Pedro Alvarez or Jose Tabata, even though each is still viewed as integral pieces of the club’s future.
McCutchen, however, could be a different case. The outfielder has now played more than a year and a half in the Majors and would seem to be a prime candidate for a contract extension in the next year or two. He is still under the team’s control for five more seasons, but by inking him to a long-term deal now, the Pirates would get two things. They would have financial certainty (in other words, they will know exactly how much will be allocated to McCutchen’s salary each season). And they could try to buy out a year or two of free agency from the center fielder.
Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan could also be candidates for multiyear deals, possibly something similar to the two-year deal given to Matt Capps in 2008. Like McCutchen, Meek and Hanrahan have had sustained success for more than one year and have shown signs that such success isn’t a fluke.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball prospectus ranked the Pirates system. Here is the list of the top 11 prospects:
1) Jameson Taillon RHP
2) Stetson Allie RHP
3) Luis Heredia RHP
4) Tony Sanchez C
5) Rudy Owens LHP
6) Bryan Morris RHP
7) Starling Marte OF
8) Jeff Locke LHP
9) Diego Moreno RHP
10) Colton Cain LHP
11) Zack Von Rosenberg RHP
…Continue reading for the good, the bad, projections