It seems like every year the Pittsburgh Pirates go in to the off-season with some sort of comments about how they will explore the starting pitching market, although for the last three years that has been the extent of their talk, with no specific names being mentioned. This year could be different. Today, Rob Biertempfel reports that the top free agent target for the Pirates is Jorge de la Rosa.
Over the weekend it was reported out of Colorado that the Pirates were one of many teams who were believed to have interest, joining the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Washington Nationals. That was just more of the usual. To my recollection, this is the first time the Pirates have specifically targeted a big free agent under the new management group, outside of the vague “we’ll explore the market” comments.
In no way does that give the Pirates any guarantee of getting de la Rosa, who could be viewed as the second best free agent starter on the market, behind Cliff Lee. De La Rosa will probably wait until Lee is signed, at which point he should get more offers from the teams who missed out on Lee. The price for de la Rosa seems to be set. Hiroki Kuroda received a one year, $12 M deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ted Lilly also received a three year, $33 M deal from the Dodgers earlier in the off-season. De La Rosa should expect to see $11-12 M per year.
The years of the deal could be the deciding factor, and could give the Pirates a chance at landing the former Rockies’ starter. The only way I see the Pirates having a shot is if no other teams are offering more than 3-4 years. The Pirates could get de la Rosa if they added an extra year over every other team. My estimate is that he would cost the Pirates around five years and $60 M. De La Rosa turns 30 in April, and would be 34 by the time that contract would end, so it’s not a huge risk of an investment. The Pirates would lose their second round pick in the 2011 draft, although it would be a fair tradeoff if they could land De La Rosa for that long (what are the odds that you get five years of a Major League pitcher like de la Rosa from a second round pick?).
Again, the Pirates landing De La Rosa is far from a guarantee, although it’s not impossible, especially if they’re willing to spend some of the money that is available to them this off-season.