The Pittsburgh Pirates were within striking distance of their first winning season in two decades before a late skid caused them to fall short. While there should be several things on the team's offseason to-do list, trying to land Josh Hamilton shouldn't be one of them.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe named Pittsburgh as one of the possible destinations for the prized free agent outfielder should he decide against returning to the Texas Rangers. It's a surprising link given the team's financial restraints.
While Hamilton is undoubtedly one of the best hitters in baseball, the Pirates already have an elite center fielder in Andrew McCutchen. He's already earning a pretty big paycheck of his own and is coming off the best season of his career.
Even though it would be possible to shift Hamilton to a corner outfield spot, that would be a significant portion of the Pittsburgh payroll locked up in two players. It would severely limit the team's flexibility in other key areas.
All told, Cafardo reports there are at least 10 teams–or one-third of the league–with at least some level of interest in landing Hamilton. That means a fierce bidding war is likely to ensue if he decides to fully test the market.
The Pirates are better off looking at secondary options, who should come at an extremely reduced price, than pouring all of their time and resources into Hamilton. Even their best offer might not be enough to land him.
Besides, the Pirates have quite a few young, and more importantly cheap, options at the corner outfield positions. Players like Starling Marte, Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Travis Snider can battle for those spots with the Pirates hoping two emerge as useful contributors.
While none of them are even in the same ballpark as Hamilton, they all have the potential to fill a role on the club without having to break the bank. That will leave the Pirates in a position to upgrade at other positions.
The biggest area of need for the Pirates is starting pitching. Of the players who made at least 20 starts in 2012, only one had an ERA below 4.21 and that was A.J. Burnett. Trade acquisition Wandy Rodriguez is the team's other solid option.
Those two veterans will help lead the rotation, but beyond that the Pirates need some upgrades. And starting pitchers don't come cheap on the open market because there are so many teams looking to boost their staffs.
If the Pirates went all out to sign Hamilton, their offense would receive a nice boost, but the rotation wouldn't be able to keep opposing teams from putting up a boatload of runs. It just doesn't add up to a successful strategy.
The Pirates are moving in the right direction. They should remain patient with their young players, make a few cost-effective additions and leave Hamilton for another team.
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