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The Pirates have passed on potential deals for impact players the past two seasons, instead opting for minor deals that didn't cost a whole lot from an impressive pool of elite minor league talent. It didn't help as the Bucs quickly fell from contention and ended up with their 19th and 20th consecutive losing seasons.
If there was a year that they should go all out, however, it would be 2013. Not only because Pirates fans deserve better than a 21st consecutive losing season. Not only because this is a very talented team with the best record in baseball (53-32). But also because there are two very good teams, the Cardinals and Reds, close behind them in the division race and they'll need all the firepower they can get to hold them off and ensure their first playoff appearance since 1992.
The pitching staff, despite a rash of injuries, should be fine even if Wandy Rodriguez is unable to return from an elbow injury. A five-man rotation of A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton is very good.
If there was a need for an upgrade on this 25-man roster, it would be in the middle of the lineup where only Pedro Alvarez (21 HR) is a major threat to hit the ball out of the park. Adding 41 year-old veteran Raul Ibañez (pictured), who went 7-for-22 with three homers last postseason as a Yankee and has 21 homers this season for the Mariners, could be the move that pushes them over the top.
Ibañez would play against right-handed starters in one of the corner outfield spots, which could be an adventure, but he could be lifted for a defensive replacement late in games. The way he's hitting the ball this season, his bat would more than make up for any defensive limitations.
The asking price will be high, but only in terms of what it would normally cost for a 41 year-old free agent-to-be who will hurt the team defensively. The Bucs could possibly get Ibañez for power-hitting first base prospect Stetson Allie, a converted pitcher who hit .325 with 17 homers in 66 Low-A games before a recent promotion, and a mid-level pitching prospect.
Take a look at the Pirates' revamped lineup with Ibañez:
1 Starling Marte, LF
2 Neil Walker, 2B
3 Andrew McCutchen, CF
4 Raul Ibañez/Jose Tabata, RF
5 Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez, 1B
6 Pedro Alvarez, 3B
7 Russell Martin, C
8 Jordy Mercer, SS