With the World Series in the history books and the Boston Red Sox atop the baseball world, it’s time to get down to the serious business of the MLB offseason.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are certainly eager to get things rolling, as they seek to build upon their 94-win breakthrough and stay on the shortlist of title contenders. First on their to-do list will be the five-day window of exclusivity all teams have to attempt to re-sign their own pending free agents.
According to MLB.com Pirates beat reporter Tom Singer, Pittsburgh is “eager” to bring back three of its seven free-agents-to-be: pitcher A.J. Burnett, outfielder Marlon Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes. Singer also reports that Justin Morneau, Jeff Karstens, Kyle Farnsworth and John Buck are at best backup options to don Pirates uniforms in 2014.
Burnett, who has said he will either retire or continue to play for the Bucs, would probably be the most pricey of the chosen three to re-sign. Although he’ll be 37 by Opening Day and has been known to cause a distraction or two, Burnett was well above average among National League starters last year and could command upwards of $10 million annually even with his compromised negotiating stance.
The market for Byrd is less clear, since he just had his career year at 36 and was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs in 2012. The Pirates would likely be interested in a short-term contract, with two years being the long end of that spectrum because of the imminent left-field arrival of rising prospect Gregory Polanco.
The light-hitting Barmes, 34, would probably have to split time at short with Jordy Mercer, who showed signs of being a useful major-league contributor this season. Still, Barmes’ sure glove makes him appealing for any team seeking a defensive boost, and the Pirates’ grounder-heavy approach to pitching requires strong infield play.
Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects thinks Farnsworth is a candidate for a buy-low contract; the short reliever handled limited late-season action quite well after Pittsburgh signed him to a minor-league deal in August.