Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Kearns or Huff to Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic reports that the Pirates' attempt to get Jeromy Burnitz for one year and around $4.25 million is likely to be unsuccessful. The fact that they offered that money in the first place shows that the Pirates are willing to spend real money on a hitter, however. There aren't really any hitters left on the free agent market, though, so the Pirates may look to make a trade. Kovacevic names Austin Kearns, Aubrey Huff and Eric Byrnes as possible targets.

Kovacevic doesn't say if these names came from the Pirates' front office or if he's just guessing. I suppose there are two main ways to look at this article. The first, less cynical way is to be excited about the possibility of getting Kearns or Huff. Both have as much talent and upside as any current Pirate hitter except possibly Jason Bay. Kearns and Huff also happen to play for teams with seriously dumb front offices. The Pirates' front office is just as bad, but there's at least the possibility that they could wind up giving up far less for Kearns or Huff than they're worth, especially since they'd probably be willing to take on salary. Eric Byrnes isn't nearly as good as Kearns or Huff, but he's light years better than any hitter the Pirates currently have except Bay and Craig Wilson.

Huff and Kearns are genuinely valuable players, and the Pirates' much-ballyhooed "pitching depth" doesn't actually really exist, so it's doubtful that they'd give up too much in a deal for either player. The young pitchers I'd be most upset about losing are Oliver Perez, Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny, and I don't see the Pirates trading Perez or Duke.

The more cynical way to think about this article is to guess that Kovacevic is just wish-casting, and that the Pirates will instead try to get an older or lower-upside player. That's what they did before the 2003 season when they traded prospects for Randall Simon and Matt Herges. They did it again this offseason when they traded Leo Nunez for Benito Santiago. I'm trying to be optimistic here, but given Dave Littlefield's track record, my urge to be cynical is hard to suppress.

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