Two pieces of news recently came out which point to the Pittsburgh Pirates missing out on a chance to land a first base upgrade. First was the talk that Derrek Lee might opt for retirement if he doesn’t get the right deal between now and Spring Training. Lee remains unsigned, and isn’t open to returning to the Pirates, who want to bring him back. The second news was the signing of Carlos Pena by the Tampa Bay Rays to a one year, $7.25 M deal.
Pena and Lee were arguably the top first basemen on the market for the Pirates, when you consider that the Pirates have no shot for Prince Fielder. The Pirates offered arbitration to Lee, who turned it down. Had Lee accepted arbitration, he would have been guaranteed at least $8.5 M, which is what his total compensation was in 2011.
The news on Lee means more than the Pirates missing out on a potential first base upgrade. If he retires, they won’t get a compensation pick for him in the 2012 draft. Right now that pick projects to be between 53rd and 57th overall.
You could make the argument that the Pirates need a starting pitcher more than a first base upgrade. At this point that would be the only option for the Pirates, since Pena is signed, Lee won’t sign, and there are no other options on the market that look to be an upgrade for the team (again, making the reasonable assumption that Fielder won’t sign with Pittsburgh).