The Pittsburgh Pirates non-tendered four players and re-signed two arbitration eligible players prior to the non-tender deadline. The Pirates re-signed Ronny Cedeno to a one year, $2 M deal with an option for the 2012 season, and re-signed Jeff Karstens to a one year, $1.1 M deal. Joel Hanrahan and Ross Ohlendorf also received tender offers, although no deal is in place for either player yet. The Pirates also non-tendered four players, cutting ties with Lastings Milledge, Donald Veal, Argenis Diaz, and Brian Burres. Neal Huntington mentioned that the team would keep in contact with Veal and Milledge about returning.
Milledge is coming off a season with a .277/.332/.380 line in 379 at-bats, while struggling on defense. He did have strong numbers against left handers, with a .320/.414/.512 line in 125 at-bats, making him a strong platoon possibility. However, the Pirates also have Steve Pearce as a potential platoon option against left handers. Tendering an offer to Milledge would have likely given him a raise over $1 M, which would have guaranteed him the spot. For the moment the Pirates have some competition in right field, with Garrett Jones, John Bowker, Pearce, and Alex Presley as candidates.
Veal was a bit of a surprise, as the Pirates invested a lot of time in him, and he showed some improvements at the AAA level in 2010 before going down with Tommy John surgery. Veal could return on a minor league deal. He probably won’t return to AAA until June, and if the Pirates had tendered him a contract, he would have served time on the 40-man roster as a member of the 60-day disabled list until he was healthy enough to return from rehab work.
Diaz wasn’t so much of a surprise. The Pirates brought back Cedeno, and there is still a chance that they could add an external shortstop. If you think the $2 M salary to Cedeno is a roadblock, just consider that the Pirates signed Ramon Vazquez for two years at $2 M a year in 2008 when they had Jack Wilson making $6.6 M that same year, showing they’re willing to spend $2 M on a backup middle infielder. Even if they stick with Cedeno as the starter, Pedro Ciriaco profiles as the better major league backup. There wouldn’t be much room for Diaz at the AAA level next year, with Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Brian Friday potentially taking up the middle infield spots, and Ciriaco joining the bunch if the Pirates do add a shortstop to the major league roster.
Burres also wasn’t a surprise. He’s out of options, meaning he would have to open the 2011 season on the 25-man roster. His role is pretty much locked down by Karstens, leaving little chance of him even making the roster.
The non-tenders around the league provide a few interesting options, mostly on the pitching side of the game. John Maine and Andrew Miller were two interesting pitchers who were non-tendered. Maine has seen his xFIP drop in each of the last three seasons, and has struggled with his control during that time period. He had a very strong year in 2007, and might be worth a flier at the age of 30 to see if he can bounce back.
I really like Miller, who is a former top prospect that hasn’t panned out yet. He’s 6′ 7″, 210 pounds, left handed, and touches the mid-90s with his fastball. Miller’s biggest problem in the majors has been control, with a career 5.32 BB/9 ratio. He will be 26 next year, and could be a good risk to take, with a lot of upside if he does finally realize his potential.
Some of the more notable bullpen options that hit the market are Bobby Jenks, Hideki Okajima, George Sherrill, Todd Coffey, and Alfredo Aceves. I don’t really expect the Pirates to be especially active with top bullpen arms, unless they happen to trade either Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan.
In former Pirates news, D.J. Carrasco and Ryan Church were each non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both players were a part of the trade that brought the Pirates Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco. Carrasco would also be an interesting bullpen arm, although based on his comments after he was traded, I doubt he would return to the Pirates. The Diamondbacks did re-sign Zach Duke, although that doesn’t impact the player to be named later from the Duke trade last week.
The Pirates have four spots open on their 2011 40-man roster. I currently project the payroll to be just under $30 M after factoring in the $3 M the Pirates received from Arizona for Chris Snyder. One of the open roster spots will most likely be used for a Rule 5 pick next week, and the other three could be used for upgrades at first base, shortstop, and the rotation.