Pirates Inquired on Willingham, Kouzmanoff

Jenifer Langosch reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have inquired on free agents Josh Willingham and Kevin Kouzmanoff this off-season, although Langosch mentions that neither player is likely for the Pirates.  The Pirates are looking for backup options in the outfield and at third base, and Kouzmanoff and Willingham are looking for regular starting time.

Neal Huntington talked previously about the need for a contingency plan if Pedro Alvarez struggles again in 2012.  The internal options are likely to include Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud, although neither player put up good numbers in 2011, and ultimately neither has the bat you want at third base.

In the outfield the Pirates have Jose Tabata and Alex Presley, neither of which are really established in the majors.  The Pirates do have Garrett Jones as a backup plan, although there have been rumors that they will non-tender Jones.  During the season the Pirates were linked to Willingham in trade rumors.  Willingham puts up similar numbers to Jones, so the Pirates would be better off just sticking with their in-house option.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • white angus

    tim, i hate to disagree on this, and since many know im not a fan of jones, but here goes…
    Willingham, while not fancy or terribly athletic, is the better overall hitter than jones.
    in fact, he splits against RHP are nearly the same as against LHP.

    jones’ career OPS against RHP is pretty much around the same as Willingham’s OPS against ALL pitching.  and we all know that Jones against LHP is just a tick above 600.

    move willingham to 1B, you have a much better player than jones and no need for a platoon.

    • Tim Williams

      Actually, I might have to agree with you. I was going with the “Willingham wants to start” approach. The Pirates have until December 12th to decide on Jones. Willingham isn’t signing by then, and he’s not going to look for a bench role unless he’s unsigned in January. So it’s a choice between playing it safe and going with Jones, or taking a risk that an upgrade will be out there in January. That’s basically the same thing they did with the options, and I agreed with the approach. I’d have to agree with the same approach for a bench bat.

  • Jimmy Coverdale

    I’d take Mark DeRosa as the contingency plan for Alvarez. The power wasn’t there when he returned from injury last year – but that does take time after wrist injuries. The .351 OBP would be a very nice addition – and he could losely platoon with Pedro and Presley.
    As for Willingham – he’d be a very good acquisition if he would move to first. I still wouldn’t non-tender Jones though – he’d provide plenty of depth for a relatively low cost.

    • white angus

      i’d try to move Jones, maybe in a package deal.  hes probably the streakiest bat we’ve had in pittsburgh in years.  his stats get padded by a few hot weeks in the summer.  if he could even BUNT against a LHP then i would gladly keep him on the squad.

      move him.

      • Jimmy Coverdale

        There’s no point in non-tendering him though – at the very least I think Huntington could get something in a trade for him. He had a .350 wOBA last season against right handers – only Presley and Lee were better in a lot less plate appearances. He’d cover first and could face tough righties instead of Tabata. He could even be used to give Cutch a day off (with Presley moving to center)

  • john.alcorn

    I’m with White here, Willingham would be the best free agent 1B option in our price range if he will play there. He’s a much better hitter than D Lee or Pena and has more left in the tank.He should be our #1 target in free agency. Its nice to hear that NH at least considered him, but its disturbing that he views him as a backup.

    Kouz is terrible. A perfect target for NH based on his FA track record.

    • john.alcorn

      To follow up, Willingham’s wRC+ is equivalent to McCutchen’s the last 3 years (128 vs 126). He is clearly the best available in our price range.

    • white angus

      Kouz would be a good addition to an established team that has deficiencies at 3B.  he has really improved with the glove since his time in cleveland’s system.  if you have other impact bats, his offensive shortcomings wouldnt be too noticable.

      on this team, he would stand out way too much.

  • Anonymous

    seeing that the Pads are looking to trade Bartlett and Furcal only getting offers to play 2b. They could become intriguing options for the Bucs. I don’t like Bartlett at all but I think Furcal played well for the Cards down the stretch and could be a nice addition to the lineup.

  • Anonymous

    It would not matter whether Willingham wanted to start or not, if the Pirates acquire him, he will start and probably play right field, Tabata is the odd man out and the 4th outfielder if Willingham comes to Pittsburgh, they are not going to give up his power to play a guy who is basically is a popcorn leadoff hitter, when they have Presley to leadoff.

    • john.alcorn

      Seriously, you bench Tabata for Presley, you’re alone on that one. At this point you bench neither because you need a 1B.  

      • Jeffrey Coulter

        your alone

    • Tim Williams

      The extension makes it clear that Tabata isn’t getting benched.

  • Anonymous

    Tabata might not be the best player but at his price and skill level hes a player worth keeping . He can be the Pirates flagship player. Plays hard respects the history wants to be here. The 1st real Pirate for this regime. The Pirates tony gwynn or Joe Mauer or Jason Varitek, not that talent level but you get my meaning.

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