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Pirates Off-Season Recap

February 8, 2009

It’s been a pretty quiet off-season for the Buccos, but then again what do you expect?

The Pirates only significant move so far was signing OF Eric Hinske. Hinske played last year for the Rays (the only team that used to be worse than the Pirates) and batted .247 with 20 home run and 60 RBIs in 133 games. The Bucs inked him for 1 year at $1.5 million with another possible $1 million in incentives. I would imagine that Hinske is going to compete for the starting left-field spot now that Jason Bay is in Boston and Nyjer Morgan has yet to materialize as a legitimate starter.

Hinske won 2002 American League Rookie of the Year when he was with the Blue Jays. But since then he hasn’t become an upper-tier outfielder. He played with the Red Sox in 2006-07 and last year with Tampa Bay, so he’s played in the last two World Series. That veteran playoff experience will come in handy during the playoff run the Buccos are sure to make.

Hinske’s signing more than likely ends Mientkiewicz’s tenure with the Pirates. They have way too many left-handed bats to resign Mint-cabbage and with Hinske able to play third and first, another utility player isn’t needed.

The less than major moves include signing Paul Maholm to a three-year contract worth $14.5 million with a fourth-year option for 2012 worth $9.75 million. I’d say not a bad deal as last year Maholm turned into the most consistent Bucco starter and emerged as the only reliable pitcher the Bucco’s have. Ryan Doumit signed a three-year contract worth $11.5 million with a two-year option for 2012-13. A decent contract as Doumit is the only major league catcher the Pirates have. Plus, Doumit has the potential to be a really good power hitter for the Pirates if he can manage to stay healthy. The Bucs also signed RHP Virgil Vasquez off of waivers. Vasquez is expected to start the year at Indianapolis. He had a decent year in 2007 going 12-5 with a 3.48 ERA on the Tiger’s Triple-A team but last year he struggled. Playing with Toledo he made 27 starts going 12-12 with a 4.81 ERA but he had 115 strikeouts with only 37 walks in 159 innings. So there is some upside there and assuming he doesn’t get injured I see Vasquez making a decently early appearance with the Bucs assuming Gorzelanny, Duke and Snell continue to struggle this year.

Oh, and four days until pitchers and catchers report.

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