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December 7, 2011

Transaction Analysis

A Two Buc Gamble

by R.J. Anderson

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PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed P-L Erik Bedard to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. [12/7]
Signed OF-L Nate McLouth to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. [12/7]

If PNC Park does not yet have a sign instructing agents and other teams to give the Pirates their tired, their poor, and their injury-prone, it might need one soon.

Neal Huntington opened the offseason by creating a hole in his rotation. After declining Paul Maholm’s $9.75 million club option, Huntington reportedly held interest in Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, and seemingly every other Colorado pitcher who tossed for Clint Hurdle shy of Cory Vance. Bedard is a departure from those pitchers in that he is not a product of cronyism or familiarity… or of risk minimization.

Bedard’s attractiveness is all about upside. If he can stay healthy, then the production will outweigh the costs. The problem is, some variation of that statement has applied to each of his past few seasons, as Bedard has dealt with knee, back, and shoulder problems. Bedard’s 212 1/3 innings pitched since 2009 gives you an outline of the story, but the breakdown of those innings—83 in 2009, zero in 2010, 129 1/3 in 2011—fills in the details.

Bedard has never topped 200 innings in a season, topping 150 twice—most recently in 2007—so expecting him to do so now is asking a lot. More realistic is hoping that Bedard can give the Pirates 120-to-140 innings. If Bedard can do that while pitching as he has since 2009 (3.31 earned run average, more than a strikeout per inning, 2.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio) then the Pirates would be thrilled, and the result would be between one and two Wins Above Replacement Player.

Similar restraints belong on the expectations for McLouth’s homecoming. When right, McLouth can give a team a little bit of everything: some power, some speed, some walking, and so on. McLouth has not been right in a while. Since 2009, McLouth has hit .233/.337/.382 while battling with injuries as well. As nice as would it be for McLouth to return to levels of production near his Pirates’ career line (.261/.339/.462), hoping that he and Garrett Jones can form a decent platoon in right field might serve as a more realistic aspiration.

The curiosity of these signings is that both work toward delaying young players from arriving. Jeff Locke, Alex Presley, and the bevy of Elvis puns that accompany the latter will have to wait a little longer for their opportunity—or at least until McLouth and/or Bedard are injured and/or traded. The Pirates are gambling that they can get some production out of both, but there are thin margins on each end that may make these deals look ingenious or downright incompetent.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Erik Bedard

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