Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Littlefield Debunked

Dave Littlefield's ludicrous justification of the Jason Kendall trade (Littlefield is telling the press that paying too great a percentage of your money to one player isn't a good idea) has been debunked on the Pittsburgh blog Batting Third. The issue is being debated by me and others at Honest Wagner.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Minor Pirates Signings

Wilbur Miller's Pirates Scouting Report has been updated, and he has posted his opinions on Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes.

WTM also has scouting reports for a number of players the Pirates have signed to fill out the Indianapolis and Altoona rosters. Several of these guys could wind up in Pittsburgh at some point. Here are the new players most likely to become Pirates, along with the last organization of each:

Bryan Reith, P, Reds
Kevin Olsen, P, Marlins
Chris Enochs, P, Astros
Paul Stewart, P, Brewers
Howie Clark, UT, Jays

Clark and Stewart, especially, look like they might be useful.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Pirates Redouble Efforts To Make Themselves Worse

Just when you thought you couldn't be more upset about the Jason Kendall trade, Dave Littlefield just found some new ways to ruin your day!

Here's the fallout: Frank Brooks has been designated for assignment in order to make way for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes, both of whom had higher ERAs than Brooks last year. Brooks will be 26 next season, and thus likely to improve; Rhodes and Redman will also probably bounce back a bit from last year, and Redman will probably pitch a lot of innings, but those two aren't getting any younger. I'd put Brooks at even money to outperform Rhodes next year. Unfortunately, he won't be doing it for the Pirates, so we may as well consider the trade to be Kendall, cash, and Brooks for Redman and Rhodes.

Oh, and it gets worse: the Pirates recently found out that J.R. House has another minor league option in 2005, so he probably won't be in competition for a starting job. Thus, the Pirates will try to go get a catcher, even though they like Humberto Cota.

What good would it do to send House to AAA again? He did very well as that level last year and he's a highly regarded prospect. Craig Wilson can also catch if need be, and the Pirates also have Ryan Doumit and Ronny Paulino in the high minors. They don't need a catcher. House and Wilson may not be great defensively, but their offense is so far beyond what the Pirates will be able to get on the free agent market that they'll easily make up for it.

Also, given the market for catchers and the current free agent climate, now seems like a very bad time to try to get another catcher. Damian Miller, who's a good defender but an injury risk who isn't a good bet to outperform House on offense, recently got a three year deal from the Brewers for over $8 million. Henry Blanco, who hasn't posted an OBP above .267 since 2001, recently turned down a two year deal with the Twins. The Twins then reached a two year deal with Mike Redmond, a career backup. The Pirates risk spending too much on a catcher and committing to him for too long. It is an extremely bad bet that whoever they get will be better than House. Also, if the Pirates sign another player to a major-league contract, they'll lose yet another youngster to waivers. Why are the Pirates even considering this?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

J.J. Davis Trade

The Pirates traded J.J. Davis to the Washington Nationals today for the young outfielder Antonio Sucre. Given the circumstances - Davis was a goner no matter what - the Pirates did fairly well for themselves, acquiring a player who, coincidentally, seems to be a younger and slightly inferior version of Davis himself. (You may have to read that last sentence a couple times - its logic only applies in the Pirates' bizarro universe.)

Sucre will be 22 next year. He spent last year in the Class A South Atlantic League. His numbers weren't spectacular, but his power developed a bit, with eight homers and 22 extra-base hits in 363 at bats. He also drew a reasonable number of walks. Like Davis, however, he struck out a ton, which makes me wonder whether he'll be able to make contact at higher levels. Also like a young Davis, his tools and upside are supposed to be terrific - unlike Davis, though, he hasn't yet managed to turn those attributes into good performance.

Kendall Trade Appears Likely

Jason Kendall appears likely to be traded to the A's. These rumors have gotten loud enough that they can't really be called rumors anymore, and I think the trade will happen fairly soon.

I don't think I have to tell you that if the trade is at it's rumored to be, this isn't a good baseball trade for the Pirates. The Bucs would get starter Mark Redman and lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes.

Redman is 30, and he has pitched for the Twins, Tigers and Marlins as well as the A's. He has spent most of the last three years soaking up lots of innings and putting up ERAs around 4. Except for his career year in 2003, his strikeout and K/BB numbers have been underwhelming, and he served up 28 homers in 2004. His last three teams play in pitchers' parks, so his numbers could get uglier if he joins the Pirates. In terms of performance, a roughly comparable player would be Jeff Suppan, who also pitches a lot of innings, gives up his fair share of homers and doesn't strike out or walk many batters. In other words, Redman is a valuable player, but certainly not someone who will make up for the loss of Jason Kendall.

Rhodes, 35, has pitched for the Orioles, Mariners and A's. He pitched poorly as a starter early in his career, but he showed promise after switching to relief while with Baltimore. He was spectacular in 2001 and 2002 in Seattle, but his K/BB ratios have slipped dramatically since then. He also doesn't throw as hard as he used to. Oakland tried to make him their closer last year, but he blew a bunch of saves and wound up on the DL with a back sprain. By the time he returned, Oakland had acquired Octavio Dotel to replace him, and Rhodes was used sparingly after that. He finished the year with a 5.12 ERA.

Redman might help a bit in the rotation, but he also might eventually hurt the Pirates by blocking younger, more promising players. It's possible, but highly unlikely, that Rhodes will return to something resembling his 2001-2002 form. It would be wishful thinking to expect much from him. The Pirates will likely send cash to Oakland in the deal, but they'll end up saving some on Kendall's contract. Given that the Pirates have already saved lots of money by trading Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez and not put that money back into the team, you'd have to be pretty gullible or optimistic to think they're going to use the money saved to make the team better.

New Pirates Blog

The new Let's Go Bucs blog is the most promising new Pirates website I've seen in quite a while. The man who runs it, Jeff, currently has a couple of nice pieces about the Pirates' reliever usage.

J.J. Davis, Perhaps for the Last Time

Well, maybe not. It's entirely possible that Davis could put up a string of productive seasons for some other team, then block a prospect by rejoining the Pirates as a free agent when he's 35.

Barring that, this could be it. He's gone, and some team is going to claim him, because as Rotoworld explains, he'd be a good pickup for just about anyone.

Anyway, here's a quote from today's Paul Meyer:

Then, because he was a No. 1 pick, the Pirates continued to give him chances. Had he been a lower pick, Davis would have been gone a few years ago. Anyway, the Pirates kept him and then continued to keep him because they didn't want to concede they'd wasted a first-round pick. Last spring, I think the Pirates knew they should put Davis on waivers. If he cleared, he'd have gone to Nashville. If some team claimed him, fine, and let's move on. It was a mistake to keep Davis on the 40-man roster last winter. It was a mistake to put him on the 25-man roster when the season began. It was a mistake to keep him on the 25-man roster when it was way apparent he couldn't play in the major leagues.

95% of that is preposterous.

Had he been a lower pick, Davis would have been gone a few years ago.

Oh, really? That's interesting, because lots of lower picks have showed far less promise than Davis and not been cut. "A few years ago," Davis was in his early 20s. Here's what he did:

1999 Age 20 Class A Hickory:
317 AB .265 BA 44 BB 26 2B 19 HR .533 SLG

That's a superb season for a 20 year old at that level.

2000 Age 21 Class A+ Lynchburg:
485 AB .243 BA 52 BB 36 2B 20 HR .445 SLG

Yep, that's a still a prospect. Davis showed excellent power for a 21 year old in a pitchers' league.

He wasn't great the following year:

2001 Age 22 Class AA Altoona
228 AB .250 BA 21 BB 13 2B 3 3B 4 HR .386 SLG

But Davis then returned to prospect status with his performances in AA and AAA the next two years.

Looking over Davis' performance record from 1999 to 2003, I see one pretty bad year and four very good ones. I see no indication that the Pirates were showing any extra patience with him because he was a top pick.

Davis had his only bad year in 2001, when he was in AA. Rob Mackowiak (chosen in the 53rd round) and Carlos Rivera, both of whom eventually made it to Pittsburgh, hadn't even gotten to AA when they were 22. In fact, Rivera drew six walks and hit five homers in 233 at bats at Lynchburg in 2000 when he was 22, and he didn't get cut. The Pirates may have been frustrated with Davis because he struck out a lot, but he was clearly a very good prospect, not someone you keep around just to avoid admitting you made a bad draft pick.

My opinions about Davis should be well known to regular readers, so I won't rehash them here. I'll just say that they're pretty different from Meyer's. There is, however, something I agree with in that paragraph up there:

It was a mistake to keep Davis on the 40-man roster last winter.

Well, actually, I don't agree with that, but given the Pirates' behavior since keeping Davis last November, I share Meyer's exasperation. The Pirates gave Davis less than 40 major league at bats even though he hit very well in AAA in 2003, hit well in 2004 Spring Training, and hit well on "rehab" AAA in 2004. Then Davis went nuts again this month in the Mexican Pacific League. Then, the Pirates removed him from the 2004 roster. Meanwhile, we still don't have Chris Shelton. If the Pirates had no intention of allowing Davis to develop, why did they keep him on the roster in the first place?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

New Pirates Links

Baseball Primer recently posted two Pirates-related links. The first is a rumor-mill column from Ken Rosenthal, who writes:

In addition to exploring trades for one of their top three starting pitchers, the A's are also involved in two- and three-team discussions regarding Pirates C Jason Kendall, who is guaranteed $34 million over the next three seasons.

A straight trade between the A's and Pirates likely would involve the Pirates receiving LHPs Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes, who are owed $16.15 million combined over the next two seasons.

Ouch. What does it say about the Pirates when they're trying to dump salary on another small-market team? This move would take the Pirates' cheapskate reputation to ridiculous new levels.

* * *

Elsewhere, the Pirates' gift to the Tigers, Chris Shelton, is the Arizona Fall League MVP. This guy can really hit. He'll be hitting in the majors again soon, possibly by this summer.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

On Mientkiewicz and Kim

El Guapo's Ghost wrote me to ask what I think of a deal that would send Jason Kendall and cash to the Red Sox in exchange for Doug Mientkiewicz and Byung-Hyun Kim.

Both players are nice to have in the right context, but from a baseball perspective this wouldn't be a good move for the Pirates, so I have to say that I don't like the idea. Mientkiewicz had a poor year offensively in 2004, but his defense is top-notch, he's still fairly young, and he has put up decent offensive numbers in the past. For a contending team in need of a first baseman, he might be an acceptable short-term solution or bench option, but his offense isn't good enough for him to be anything more at this point. Pirates GM Dave Littlefield seems to love Mientkiewicz - his name has come up repeatedly in Pirates trade rumors. Littlefield probably thinks, perhaps for good reason, that the lefty Mientkiewicz would see his numbers improve at PNC Park, but I don't see them improving to the point where his offense would be above average at first base. His defense, of course, would be an enormous upgrade over whoever else the Pirates might play there next year, but I'd still rather see the Pirates give J.R. House a real chance than watch another mediocre veteran who will be gone in a year. House might play catcher if Kendall is gone, but I think a lot of those at-bats would go to Humberto Cota, which would probably be pretty bad.

I like Kim about as much as anyone at this point, and it's easy to forget that he'll only be 26 next year. His upside is still very high. But he's pretty clearly a head case, and he can't be regarded as anything but a question mark right now.

If the Red Sox were to offer this deal, I think the Pirates might take it, depending on the amount of cash involved. But their team would be much worse as a result. Kendall isn't worth the money he's making, but he's worth a good amount, and any difference between Kendall's salary and those of the players acquired for him is likely to go into the pockets of the ownership, anyway.

Thanks for writing, EGG.

* * *
Leone for Third is linking to VORB now. Go check them out for articulate and often very vivid disucssion of the Seattle Mariners. Right now, they're discussing the Mariners' attempts to sign a third baseman... who isn't Justin Leone.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Roster Results

The AP reports that the Pirates have been a bit wiser managing their roster this year.

Players added to 40-man roster:
Brad Eldred, 1b
Nathan McLouth, of
Chris Duffy, of
Rajai Davis, of
Jeff Miller, rp
Matt Peterson, sp
Leo Nunez, sp

Players dropped from 40-man roster:
J.J. Davis, of
Tony Alvarez, of
Carlos Rivera, 1b
Abraham Nunez, ut

Most intriguing players left unprotected
Javier Guzman, ss
Ray Sadler, of
Rich Thompson, of
Taber Lee, ss

Least intriguing players left protected
Tike Redman, of
Daryle Ward, 1b
Ryan Vogelsong, p
Humberto Cota, c

I don't see any good reason to believe that Chris Duffy, Rajai Davis or Tike Redman have greater chances to succeed than J.J. Davis or Tony Alvarez. Considering age and performance, J.J. Davis and Alvarez have by far the best minor-league profiles of the five. J.J. Davis certainly has the best tools of the group, also, and Alvarez probably has the second best. I've never seen a halfway decent defense of the Pirates' decisions to bury J.J. and Alvarez - all such arguments tend to stem from assumptions about the extremely tiny sample sizes of those players' performances at the major league level, or vague questions about "attitude." I'm sure attitude problems don't help teams, but players without people skills may have skills in other areas - just ask Albert Belle. (Actually, don't ask Belle anything - he might throw a baseball at you. But you get the idea.) Also, most of the evidence of these players' attitude problems comes from quotes by the Pirates' management that may well be self-serving.

Meanwhile, Rajai Davis, Duffy and Redman don't seem likely to succeed at the major-league level. Redman will already be 28 next season and doesn't seem likely to ever return to anywhere near the heights of his freakish half-season with the Bucs in 2003. He has no plate discipline at all and is very hard to watch in the outfield. Hopefully, he'll be at Indianapolis or on the bench this year; if not, look for more one-pitch outs, as well as terrible routes and throws.

Duffy is supposed to be better with the glove, and he has shown good speed and on-base skills in the minors, but he will be 25 next year and has not developed much power. Given that he's likely to peak soon, I don't see him helping much in the future. Like Duffy, Rajai Davis has shown good speed and decent on-base skills in the minors, but he has even less power than Duffy, will be 24 next year and still hasn't played above Class A.

Still, it's hard to get too upset over this; the Pirates had already made the mistake of trying to ruin J.J. Davis' career in particular, and Alvarez will be 26 next year. So even if the other three don't do much, there's at least a solid chance J.J. and Alvarez won't, either. Both will almost certainly be claimed, however; if I were Allard Baird of the Royals, I'd claim J.J. Davis immediately.

The only other player the Pirates didn't protect that I'm at all concerned about is Javier Guzman, a very young shortstop who played at Class A Hickory this year. He has shown the ability to make contact, but he hasn't yet learned to take a walk and has been prone to mistakes on defense. A team might claim him because of his youth and prospect status. It's difficult to imagine him sticking with a major league team the entire season, but even a few months stuck on a bench could hinder his development.

Other than that, the Pirates made reasonably good decisions today. Eldred, McLouth, and Peterson were, or should have been, no-brainers. Miller has had a great season in the Arizona Fall League and could be a very productive member of the Pirates' bullpen this year. Leo Nunez is a young flame-thrower with excellent upside. And there's no reason to worry about the losses of Abraham Nunez or Carlos Rivera. Abraham Nunez would have been about the tenth best infield option the Pirates had next year, and Rivera supposedly has a good glove at first but probably doesn't have the bat to stick in the majors.

These decisions still aren't ideal, and it's quite an indictment of a team when the best you can say about them in three months is that their Rule 5 draft is unlikely to be a complete debacle again, but there you go. This is such a relief that I almost want to make a T-shirt out of it: "PIRATES ROSTER DECISIONS: NOT COMPLETELY TERRIBLE IN '04."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I've Got Lowered Expectations...

But at least I'm not a Washington fan!

Mesa, Omar Vizquel and now Cristian Guzman - what's going on here? If this trend continues, the resulting change in the market may be a blessing in disguise for the Pirates, who may have no choice but to sort through all the B-grade prospects who are ready to take their turn in the majors.

Personal note to Jim Bowden: Why couldn't your recent spending spree have included a two-year, $7 million offer to Jose Mesa?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Craig Wilson Trade Rumor

The Beaver County Times reports that the Pirates may trade Craig Wilson this offseason for a player who isn't yet arbitration-eligible, and speculates that this means the payroll will still stay low.

I don't think it would be a terrible idea to trade Wilson, necessarily, but if the Pirates do it they had better receive excellent talent in return. If the Pirates just re-signed Jose Mesa and Salomon Torres instead of keeping Craig Wilson, they're even dumber than I thought - and I think the fans would be furious, since the Pirates have already spent enough money to show that the money excuse won't make any sense. Wilson is a popular player in Pittsburgh, and even casual fans know he's much more valuable than Mesa or Torres. So if the Pirates trade him, I hope for their sake that it's clear that it's for baseball reasons, not to dump salary.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

New Contracts For Torres, Mesa

Mesa first: the AP reports that his contract costs the Pirates $2 million in 2005, plus a $4 million option or a $500,000 buyout in 2006. We might as well just call it a one-year, $2.5 million contract, since Mesa isn't going to be any good this year, and it's hard to see the Pirates bringing him back at $4 million even on the off chance that he is any good. This is a ridiculous, pointless waste of money, and I can see no reason for it other than Proven Closer Syndrome (and the closely related Veteran Fetish Syndrome). I've written about this elsewhere, but the Pirates are going to regret this one.

Next up is a two-year contract for Salomon Torres. I haven't seen the financial terms anywhere. Since the Pirates also recently declined their option on Brian Boehringer, I thought I'd do a Rob Neyer-style "Player A / Player B" comparison with Boehringer and Torres before the two relievers were awarded two-year contracts. I found out, though, that Torres' current value is a lot higher than Boehringer's pre-contract value was. Torres pitches more innings, puts up much better K/BB numbers and has lower ERAs. Torres can also be used as a starter in an emergency (although he's been much better as a reliever). In fact, Torres was an excellent reliever in 2004: his VORP in 2004 was better than such well-regarded relievers as LaTroy Hawkins, Guillermo Mota, Damaso Marte and Jason Isringhausen.

Still, I don't like this contract, unless it's for minimal money. It's dangerous to give multi-year contracts to non-elite relievers because they pitch so little in a year that it's tough to really gauge their true talent levels; I won't be surprised if Torres' ERA is a run or more higher next year. Also, if a team loses a Torres-type player it's never too hard to find one who's just as good or close enough.

Then there's the broader problem, which is that even if Torres and Mesa perform as the Pirates think they will, they're just puzzle pieces (and Mesa is like a puzzle piece that you accidentally dropped on the floor and your dog chewed on for a while). The Pirates are acting like they're already a contending team, passing out contracts to relievers in their 30s. They're not, and they won't compete until they get improvements or upgrades at several positions where guys play every day or accumulate hundreds of innings. The Pirates have plenty of young pitchers (Mike Gonzalez, Frank Brooks, Ian Snell, Dave Williams, Jeff Miller and so on) who could fill Torres' and Mesa's spots and probably be only a few runs a year worse than Torres and better than Mesa.

Meanwhile, instead of pooling their money to fix a problem at a position where good players are not so easy to acquire, the Pirates will continue to have a veteran pen and one of the worst third basemen in baseball. These moves are aimed at preserving the status quo, not getting better. Obviously, it's hard to get better if you let your best players go, but Torres and Mesa aren't likely to be the Pirates' best players next year, and a team in the Pirates' position has got to be proactive about improving, not just maintaining.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

New Kendall Rumors

The Beaver County Times reports that the Pirates and Padres are talking about a trade of Ryan Klesko for Jason Kendall.

Again, I'm not sure what the Padres get out of this unless they're planning another trade as well. As Geoff Young at the Padres blog Ducksnorts points out, Kendall isn't a huge upgrade over Ramon Hernandez, the catcher the Padres already have.

In its current form, this deal is intriguing for the Pirates. Klesko is also only owed $16 million over the rest of his contract, while Kendall's is worth $34 million. More importantly, this deal isn't that bad from a baseball perspective. Some baseball fans here in San Diego talk about Klesko in disparaging terms, probably because he didn't hit his second homer of this past season until mid-July. But Petco Park was extremely tough on hitters last year, and Klesko still managed to put up an .847 OPS, which put him right behind Brian Giles' .849. Giles put up better-looking numbers at PNC, and so would the left-handed Klesko. Even better, Klesko had a superb .399 on-base percentage last year.

If Klesko were to join the Pirates, he'd likely have to play first base. He's decent there, and he's bad to the point of being hard to watch in the outfield. That would, or should, mean that Craig Wilson and J.R. House would share the catching and right field positions (unless Littlefield can somehow also get Hernandez in the deal, in which case I'll almost be inclined to take back every bad thing I've said about him). The Pirates' defense would take a huge hit as a result, but the offense would probably be downright decent, especially given that the Pirates would have some money left over to sign a real free agent.

1. 3B Koskie (Hey, why not? He gets on base and he runs well.)
2. SS Wilson
3. CF Bay
4. 1B Klesko
5. RF Wilson
6. LF To be determined (J.J. Davis? Tony Alvarez? Free agent?)
7. C J.R. House
8. 2B Castillo

That's really pretty good. It probably won't happen, since these Klesko rumors seem farfetched and Dave Littlefield will probably find a number of ways to shoot himself in the foot (by, for example, resigning Jose Mesa), but this is the sort of lineup that would make me excited to watch the Pirates hit.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bay Wins Rookie of the Year

Jason Bay wins the National League Rookie of the Year award. Bobby Crosby wins in the AL. I don't have any real comment, since the voters basically got it right - Crosby and the Royals' Zach Greinke were pretty clearly the cream of the crop in the AL, and I've discussed Jason Bay and the other top NL candidate, Khalil Greene, elsewhere. All three players had great rookie seasons. On my Baseball Prospectus ballot, I voted for Bay and, I think, Crosby. Meaningless as these awards ultimately are, they're good publicity for the Pirates, and Bay's win may increase the Pirates' willingness to play deserving rookies.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Mesa to Re-sign?

Oh no. Not only are the Pirates close to re-signing Jose Mesa, the Trib speculates they could pay him at least $2 million. What a colossal waste of money. I don't want Mesa on the team at all - his strikeout rate is dropping and he puts a million guys on base. I'll put the over/under on Mesa's 2005 ERA at five and a half. But even if he put up the same results he did in 2004, $2 million for seventy okay relief innings is a terrible waste.

The Pirates don't even have an organizational need for relievers or "closers"! Mike Gonzalez is a stud closer waiting to happen, and the Pirates are up to their ears in pretty good options for the other bullpen spots.

I'll say this again: mediocrities like Mesa don't bring anything to the... uh... Table that the Pirates can't get from a rookie. Spreading millions around to a bunch of guys like Mesa is unlikely to help the team in the short term, and it keeps young players from developing in the long term.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Kendall to San Diego?

Chris Kahrl wonders if Sean Burroughs might be sent to the Pirates in a deal for Jason Kendall.

It appears that the Pirates want the team to follow me out here. I'm not exactly sure why the Padres would do this trade, since they already have a perfectly good catcher in Ramon Hernandez, but this is the sort of Kendall deal I'd favor. Burroughs is still very young, and while his power isn't coming along yet, his on-base skills are very good, and he can field his position. He fills an organizational need and spares the Pirates from having to deal with Ty Wigginton again. Judging from the recent rumors surrounding Kendall - like Kendall and Craig Wilson to the Dodgers in exchange for Brent Mayne and Yhency Brazoban - I'd be very surprised if the Pirates were able to pry Burroughs away without throwing in another good player in return.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Pirates Negotiating With Wilson

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates are talking to Jack Wilson about a two-year contract.

Accompanying the article is a picture of Wilson swinging at a ball several inches below his knees. I think the Pirates should keep Wilson next year, but why sign him to a multi-year deal now? The Pirates will have the option of keeping him for the next two years anyway. Wilson was downright excellent this year and will probably be okay going forward, but I think it's pretty likely that 2004 was a career year for him - since he continues to swing at balls below his knees. Wilson showed no plate discipline whatsover in 2004, which should make everyone wonder if he can continue to hit for a high average. And he faded badly after the All-Star break. Some of Wilson's 2004 improvement is likely to stick, but not all of it, and he's never come close to being an average big-leaguer before this year. Signing Wilson now seems like a textbook example of buying high.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Free Agent Catchers

Aaron Gleeman has a look at the catchers who will be available this offseason. After Jason Varitek, it's not pretty - Damian Miller is the second best choice, and after that there's Doug Mirabelli, Todd Pratt and some tumbleweeds. It should be a big priority for the Red Sox to sign Varitek; if they don't, they'll have a huge dropoff at catcher that will be difficult to make up for elsewhere.

In addition to Boston, there are a number of possible contenders and/or big spenders who might be looking for catching help this offseason: offhand, there's the Dodgers, the White Sox, the A's, and possibly the Mets. (The Astros and Cardinals probably each ought to consider getting a new catcher but probably won't.)

What this means to me is that if the Pirates are determined to trade Jason Kendall, they'll probably do it this offseason. I don't want them to trade Kendall - they won't get nearly enough talent in return, and the money saved on Kendall's contract probably won't be used to help the team - but if I did, I'd want them to wait until Varitek signed somewhere and the other catching-thin teams started to feel the strain.

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