How much easier has Clint Hurdle made Neal Huntington’s job? Within one year, Hurdle has completely changed how players outside of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization view the club.
Huntington has been used to settling for players other teams have not wanted over the years, mainly because of the losing history that the Pirates have become synonymous with.
According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, Erik Bedard has agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Pirates. More on Bedard below, but lets take a look on how the Pirates are attracting such players.
The Pirates are no longer the league’s door mat. Gone are the days of signing overpaid, end-of-career, let’s-hope-he-has-one-more-good-year-left-in-him type players.
Yes, this is aimed at Jeremy Burnitz, Reggie Sanders and Kenny Lofton.
Yes, this is aimed at Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, Craig Monroe, Ramon Vazquez and Lyle Overbay.
With Hurdle seating the Pirates at the big kids’ table for the first time in years, it gives Pirates fans everywhere hope for this team. Last year was not a bad start with the signings of Matt Diaz and Kevin Correia, but the 2011 offseason is shaping up as if the Pirates truly want to be competitive in 2012.
The Diaz situation did not turn out the way it was supposed to, but he was a legitimate, proven commodity coming into the season.
The 2011 offseason has been the most productive out of Huntington’s five seasons with the organization, starting aggressively and staying that way with the pursuit of bona fide major league talent. Below is a quote from Huntington in reference to signing Clint Barmes.
“In the past we’ve sat back and waited to see what everyone else picked through,” Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. “You’ve got to be aggressive and in Clint’s case it was guaranteeing the job at shortstop.”
Having already signed Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas and Nate McLouth, many Pirates fans assumed that no more big signings were to come. Critics were wrong, as Huntington has signed left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard.
Bedard immediately becomes the Pirates most accomplished pitcher, with the most #electricstuff on the entire starting staff.
Coming up in the Baltimore Orioles organization, Bedard was known as one of the budding superstar pitchers in the entire league. His strikeout per nine innings pitched ratio was off the charts at 10.9 in 2007. Since his great couple of seasons in Baltimore, Bedard has suffered multiple injury setbacks and has not pitched enough innings to be a viable starter.
This past season, however, while splitting time between Seattle and Boston, Bedard pitched a total of 129.1 innings. His K/9 ratio was still very good at 8.7, ranking him higher than any of the Pirates starters from 2011.
The highest K/9 ratio on the Pirates was James McDonald at 7.47 strikeouts per nine innings.
Obviously, the biggest question mark is whether Bedard can stay healthy enough to help the Pirates be competitive in 2012. Only time will tell, but with Bedard still only being 32 years old, he could potentially be in the prime of his career if healthy. It will be refreshing to see someone with the true talent of an ace be on the Pirates staff.
As for Derrek Lee?
Let’s remember that without Hurdle, none of these signings ever happen except the McLouth deal. Hurdle has made Pittsburgh an attractive place for major league free agents to lay.
Lee did not accept his arbitration offer today, but that does not mean the Pirates have given up on Lee. With the Pirates now having signed four legitimate free agents, maybe Lee will ponder the situation in Pittsburgh a little bit longer.
Barmes, Barajas and McLouth were not enough to sway Lee to stay in Pittsburgh, but with the signing of Erik Bedard Lee might seriously debate playing with the Pirates in 2012. With exciting young talent like McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez, Tabata and Presley and now with veterans such as Barmes, Barajas, and Bedard on the roster, it just might be a fun season in 2012 for Lee.
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