Pittsburgh Pirates: 10 Gifts On The Buccos' Wish List
On a day where the Pirates made some minor moves by signing Garrett Atkins to a minor league deal, acquiring minor league shortstop Corey Wimberly from Oakland, claimed left-hander Aaron Thompson of waivers from Washington, and designated reliever Wil Ledezma for assignment, it's time to take a different look at some of the Pirates needs.
It's the holiday season, so just like everyone else, the Pirates have their wish list for Christmas.
Only time will tell if the Buccos have been naughty or nice. Maybe some of their wishes can be granted.
So without any delay, lets look at the Top 10 items on the Pittsburgh Pirates Christmas list.
10. Bench Help
The Pirates added an above average bench guy in outfielder Matt Diaz so far. He should help against lefties. John Bowker will also likely make the team, so adding another outfielder is unlikely.
However, the Pirates still could use a backup corner infielder and middle infielder.
The Garrett Atkins signing is a bit interesting. If he can find any of the production that he once had in Colorado under new Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, then that solves one problem. Atkins could offer a big bat off the bench and even spell new first baseman Lyle Overbay from time to time against left-handed starters.
However, it very well could turn out that Atkins' inflated numbers in Colorado could be due to being in Coors Field and you can never rule out the possibility of PED's.
If Atkins best days are indeed behind him, Steve Pearce will get the first look.
Right now, the backup middle infield job could come down to newly acquired Cory Wimberly, who has a ton of speed but has never played in the majors, or Rule 5 pick Josh Rodriguez.
Either way, it looks like the Pirates bench could use an upgrade.
9. A Willing Suitor For Ryan Doumit
Doumit's time in Pittsburgh has clearly run it's course. It's time to ship him away.
There's no way he should get at bats at either first base or right field and he makes way too much money for a backup catcher.
His lazy demeanor on the field and lack of production should have got him shipped out of town a long time ago.
He was actively being shopped at the Winter Meetings, but as usual, the high demands of the Pirates turned most teams away.
Most teams now know that he has to go, so the offers won't be great. It's almost at the point where anything they can get for Doumit would be a bonus.
8. Left-Handed Relief Help
Even though the Pirates have very little chance to compete in 2011, having an above average left hander in the bullpen would be nice.
Right now, it looks like Daniel Moskos could be the clubs best option.
There isn't a whole lot to be had in free agency either, with veterans Brian Fuentes, Joe Biemel and Dennis Reyes likely the three best available.
7. An Upgrade at Shortstop
Current Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno isn't horrible, but he's best suited as a backup. With shortstop being the one position that there doesn't appear to be sure help on the way from the minors, it almost seemed a priority to upgrade the position this off-season.
The Pirates kicked the tires on acquiring Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy, but watched those deals fall apart.
Cedeno will still be the guy, as the only other current options are Pedro Ciriaco, Rodriguez and Wimberly.
An upgrade is certainly needed.
6. Young Pitchers Continue Their Development
Last season, the Pirates starting pitching was as bad as any club of recent memory. The good news there is that some of the quality young arms in the organization really took huge strides forward.
Guys like Rudy Owens (pictured), Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke and several others have given Pirates fans a glimmer of hope that help could eventually be on the way. Add to that last seasons draft that saw the Pirates select both Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, and it's vital that these guys all continue their progression and most importantly stay healthy.
While adding guys to the current roster is what people keep their eyes on during the winter months, it's far more important to the Pirates future that the young guys continue their development.
Owens, Morris, and Locke have all been invited to spring training. It would be nice if one of them could find their way to PNC Park sometime this season.
5. Young Hitters Continue Their Development
The focus here is at both the major league and minor league level. All three mid-season call ups: Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata showed signs of what they are capable of doing at the major league level.
They have to be even better. No sophomore slumps here.
The minor league guys need to stay healthy and continue to work their way to the big leagues. Guys like Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte, Andrew Lambo and others need to have big minor league seasons and get their names tossed into the mix for 2012.
4. Draft Anthony Rendon First Overall
Even after an ankle injury last season, Rendon sits clearly at the top of every draft board. If you've ever seen him play then you know what a special talent Rendon is.
This should be a no-brainer, but we know the Pirates history with the first overall pick.
ESPN's Buster Olney reported that if Rendon and Bryce Harper (last season's No.1 overall pick) were in the same draft, that most baseball experts would take Rendon first. That's enough for me.
A future Pirates infield with Alvarez at first, where many feel he will end up anyways, and Rendon at third would be a very big Christmas wish granted.
3. Find Some Power
While this Pirates lineup has the potential to be young and exciting the next few seasons, they have to find some power and run production.
Alvarez is likely a 30-35 homer guy. There isn't anything else in the middle of the Pirates lineup that scares other teams.
We've likely seen the best that Garrett Jones has to offer, so somewhere down the line the Pirates have to find another power bat capable of driving in some runs.
2. Starting Pitching
All of the other things don't matter if the Pirates can't find some starting pitching. James McDonald looks like a keeper, but it's been a couple of years and the Pirates still don't know what they truly have among the likes of Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln and others.
It's a necessity that one or two of these guys establish themselves as legit major league starting pitchers.
Scott Olsen and Kevin Correia aren't the answer and all of these young minor league arms won't be arriving in the near future.
Some how, some way, the Pirates have to find a couple of capable arms.
The name of the game is starting pitching and the Pirates currently don't have any.
That leads us to the number one thing on the Christmas wish list for the Pirates and Pirates fans everywhere............................................
1. Bob Nutting Decides To Sell The Team
New ownership is needed. You can't and won't win under the worst ownership group in sports.
I am as positive as a Pirates writer that you can find and with all of the young talent throughout the organization, the club is hampered both short term and long term by having Nutting as the owner.
His refusal to sell is the primary reason why this club will likely continue to struggle for years to come.
It would be a Christmas gift to everyone if Bob Nutting eventually sold the franchise.