As Major League Baseball's offseason starts to pick up steam, the Pittsburgh Pirates have begun to make news. Though the Bucs have not yet made any notable changes, a couple recent developments are worth mentioning.
Pirates acquire three players
The Pirates completed two separate trades this week, acquiring first baseman Clint Robinson and pitcher Vin Mazzaro from the Kansas City Royals and pitcher Zach Stewart from the Boston Red Sox. Though neither move is particularly noteworthy, a case can be made that the Bucs added three players who are all more interesting than anyone the team gave up.
Mazzaro and Stewart represent some starting pitching depth, though neither should crack the Pirates' rotation. Stewart will likely start the season in Triple-A while Mazzaro, who is out of options, may make the big league club as a 12th pitcher type.
The Bucs' most intriguing acquisition was likely Robinson, who has hit at every level in the minors but has yet to get a material shot with a major league team. Robinson has never had a slugging percentage lower than .450 throughout his six-year career.
Given Robinson's solid performance in Triple-A the past few seasons, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a chance in Pittsburgh at some point. The Bucs are pretty set at first base with Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez, but given that Jones can also play right field if necessary, the Robinson acquisition gives the Pirates additional lineup depth overall.
Bucs linked to Russell Martin
The Pirates have made their first free-agent noise of the offseason, with various media outlets linking them to former Yankee catcher Russell Martin. Though the exact offer is unclear, it seems like the Bucs would be willing to pay Martin something in the range of $20-25 million over three years.
This offer seems to represent the top of the market, with the Pirates believed to be the only team to be considering a three-year deal for Martin at this point. But it will likely take a little extra to lure the catcher away from a World Series contender, and Martin has actually performed pretty well of late.
Martin has provided league-average hitting from the catcher position over the last two seasons, which combined with his solid defense makes him a relatively valuable commodity. If he continues this production he will easily exceed the value of his contract.
The concerns about Martin stem from his age (at 29, his skills are going to start declining soon) and the fact that his bat may have benefited from playing in Yankee Stadium. There is certainly some risk here for the Bucs, who have to be wary about signing older position players given their track record with hitters like Lyle Overbay and Rod Barajas.
That said, catcher is the biggest black hole on the Pirates' current roster, and if Bob Nutting can swallow $7-8 million a year for Martin, the Pittsburgh lineup would considerably improve over night. It would just be nice if this were not the Bucs' only notable offseason acquisition.