We’ve heard in the last few days that the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking at veteran outfielders, although no names have been brought up. Today, Buster Olney reports that the Pirates are evaluating outfielder Josh Willingham, and that they’ve been in contact with the Oakland Athletics.
Willingham is currently hitting for a .247/.322/.439 line in Oakland, with 12 homers. Oakland is known to have a pitcher friendly park, although Willingham has been better at home this year, with an .802 OPS, compared to a .735 OPS on the road. In his career, Willingham has a .263/.362/.471 line. He’s not good defensively, with a -16.3 UZR/150 in left field this year, and a -4.9 UZR/150 in left field for his career.
Willingham is a free agent after the season, and qualifies as a Type B free agent, if the Pirates, or any team, decided to tender him an arbitration offer. With his current production, and his $6 M salary, he holds a trade value of around $3 M, although the majority of that is based on his Type B status. Since his $6 M salary is kind of high for the production he’s putting up, he might not be a guarantee to receive a compensation offer, as his arbitration price would be too high. He’s owed a little under $2.5 M for the remainder of the season, and could be had for a marginal prospect if the Type B status doesn’t factor in to the equation.
He would provide a nice power bat in the lineup, although there are some downsides. His walk rate hasn’t been as high this year, and normally that counteracts his low average. He also struggles on defense, which really lowers his overall value. I personally would rather see Alex Presley getting a shot, rather than Willingham. Sure, Presley won’t have the same power, but he has better defense, and has speed, which is something Willingham doesn’t have. Willingham seems more like a strong bench player as a fourth outfielder. If the Pirates are looking at him, hopefully it’s in that role, and not as a replacement for a young guy like Presley.