The Pirates have started to assemble their 2013 roster. The two big moves to think about are Russel Martin behind the plate and letting go of Jeff Karstens.
First, Martin. I guess I am okay with this, but I probably would not have done it. I think they paid him in the 8 million range, and that is too high for an aging vet who is a good game caller, limited hitter with pop, and only so-so at throwing out runners. He will undoubtedly be an upgrade so it is hard to get upset, but the Pirates are where catchers go to die, and this is just the next victim in my mind. Snyder and Barajas both could not find power in PNC, and I worry about Martin. But the Pirates were desperate, and so how can you blame them.
Second, Karstens was not tendered a contract. I will make no secret of the fact that I have long been a huge Jeff Karstens fan. I thought he was the best of the group when we traded for him, even better than Ohlendorf and Pitch-n-Cutch, and so far I have been right. He is not a great stats guy, and he cannot go deep in games, but he gives you a chance every night. I think that makes him a perfect 5th starter. Let's be honest, you cannot have 5 aces. Karstens is a great back end starter, and he went deeper into games this year. And if your manager knows Karstens is going to hit a wall in the 6th, then your bullpen can be ready and take him out. Now, for Karstans not to be a drain on the pen you need an ace who can give you innings, and they have that now with Burnett. Morton was tendered a contract, and he has always been weak in my mind. Now he has the stuff that Karstens never did, but Morton as the great strikeout pitcher did not work, and now he pitches to contact, and he had one good year with that. This year he was much worse, and I am not sure you can bet on him returning to 2011 stats. Plus, about the time Morton is recovering, you are going to be looking to bring up Cole. So, I would have non-tendered Morton, or at least tendered them both.
But to be fair, let us look at what the Pirates might have been doing. Many rumors abound about getting rid of Hanrahan in a trade. Much of this speculation is founded upon the idea of re-signing Grilli and turning him into a closer. Grilli was amazing this year, but I am worried he will fold as a closer, but why not try it. He is going to be a closer somewhere, and there is no way he resigns with us unless we make him the closer. Saving the 3.8 million from Karstens might could be used to pay Grilli. If that is the plan, then maybe this is worth it. This might also signal a strong trust in the Pirate youngsters such as Locke and McPherson and even Cole. They did trade for Vin Mazzarro, but if he is going to be taking Karsten's place, then I am sick to my stomach and the Pirates are going to have another losing season. If Mazzarro is bullpen depth, then I am okay.
Which brings me to one last point, I am a huge fan of Clint Robinson. He was simply blocked by a former top prospect in baseball in Eric Hosmer and perhaps one of the top 10 players in baseball right now in Billy Butler. Robinson can hit for average and has shown power. His defense is fine, and the man can take a walk which will be nice to see for a change. I hope they do not bury him in AAA, but I expect he will start the season there.
Overall an active Pirate organization is a good sign. We are not talking about Rule 5 draft choices and that means the Pirates are really in contention.