Pittsburgh Pirates Should Pursue Chris Davis And Jeff Samardzija In Free Agency


I was at PNC Park for the Pirates Wild Card Game against the Chicago Cubs.

I was also at the Wild Card Game the previous season against the San Francisco Giants.

-= Good Read: PAC Football: Carnegie Mellon Remains Fourth In Conference =-

In both games, I essentially watched a pitcher throw away my dreams of a World Series, and the opposing team struck a dagger into my heart as home runs took the life out of the stadium.

Pittsburgh, a team that had 20+ consecutive losing seasons, has been on the brink of making a deep playoff run the past few years.  Unfortunately, this team fell victim to some bad matchups and bad luck.

One could argue that the Pittsburgh Pirates simply failed, in that they did not win the NL Central Division.  Pittsburgh won 98 games this year, finishing with the second-best record in baseball behind the St. Louis Cardinals.  I don’t think they failed, but there were a few weaknesses.

I personally think the Wild Card game should be turned into a 3-game series.  I didn’t complain when I was yelling “Cueto” three years ago, but now I am.  One sudden death game shouldn’t be allowed to end a team’s season, especially since every game of the regular season is in a “series.”  The Pirates are fighting to get to the World “Series.”  Enough of this sudden death stuff.  Exciting, but I have had enough of it.

But this is not the point of this article. 

I’ve been hearing Pittsburgh Pirates free agency rumblings, so I felt like discussing the situation.

I’ve heard that first baseman Pedro Alvarez will likely be gone.

The Pittsburgh Kid Neil Walker will likely be gone.

The record-setting closer Mark Melancon will likely be gone.

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The trade deadline starting pitcher acquisition in J.A. Happ will likely be gone.

Starting pitcher and Pittsburgh favorite A.J. Burnett is retiring, along with third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

It may take a while to get infielder Jung Ho Kang back from his leg injury suffered against the Cubs down the stretch of the season.

Doesn’t this make you sick?

The Pirates organization has set attendance records the past three to four seasons, and there clearly is excitement for baseball in the city of Pittsburgh.  I think it is time for management to go “ALL IN” and show the fanbase that this franchise wants to win a World Series.

So why break-up a team that just won 98 games, composed of a core of players who have had multiple postseason appearances?

Instead of losing players due to the concern of “too much money,” why don’t the Pirates make a deal with their fans?

I’ll run through what I would like to see the Pirates do.

Before discussing the current players, the Pirates need to go out and attempt to bring in a few key pieces.  I am not saying become the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers and blow the payroll well past $200 million.

I saw two glaring weaknesses from this past year’s team:

1. We are missing one power-hitting HR slugger.

2. We are missing one (or two) significant starting pitcher(s) in the rotation.

I think there are two outside pieces that could put the Pittsburgh Pirates over the top.

The first player that I target is first baseman Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles.  His current contract was 1 year, $12 million.  He would be the ideal fit, and a power hitter behind Andrew McCutchen.  The 29 year old slugger Davis hit 47 home runs last season and 117 RBIs.  I’d imagine Pirates management would be praised for bringing “Crush Davis” to Pittsburgh.

The second player that I try to sign is starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago White Sox.  He is coming off of a 1 year, $9.8 million contract.  The 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher had an 11-13 record with a 4.96 ERA last season, and a 7-13 record with a 2.99 ERA the season before.  He recorded 214 strikeouts in 2013, 202 in 2014, and 163 this past season.  A move to Pittsburgh may rejuvenate the 30-year old, and I think the Pirates could sign him at a reasonable deal.

With regards to other moves that the Pirates should make, here is what I would hypothetically do.

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Pittsburgh Pirates /

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Retain Pedro Alvarez.  I would not trade one of the top HR hitters in Pirates history. I was a fan of Pedro Alvarez, though many people are critical of his fielding.  I get it that he has some fielding issues, but I would rather take his bat.  There aren’t many players with pure power like Pedro, and I fear that he’ll go to the AL and become another Jose Bautista.  Pedro hit 27 home runs with 77 RBIs this season, despite being taken out in several games after the 6th or 7th inning.  Let’s say we sign Chris Davis to a 1 or 2-year deal.  With Davis at first base, I’d move Pedro back to third base.  Talk about power on the corners.

2. Sign J.A. Happ.  Happ went from a bad Seattle team, pitched terrible in his first game in a Pirates uniform, and everyone in Pittsburgh was ready to chase him away.  After his first game, his pitching was incredible, though the sample size is relatively small.  He finished with an 11-8 record and a 3.61 ERA.  I think the valuable left-hander could sign a reasonable deal with the Pirates, and I am willing to trust him more than Charlie Morton or Jeff Locke.  I don’t want to lose Happ, who may be as successful as Edinson Volquez this season with Kansas City.

3. Retain Mark Melancon.  Mark the Shark had an incredible season for the Pirates, reaching 51 saves with a 2.23 ERA and 62 strikeouts.  At the end of the games, the 8th and 9th innings were essentially a lock with Tony Watson and Mark Melancon.  Though it could be pricey, Melancon deserves it, and the lockdown bullpen is essential to a deep playoff run.  Just look at the Kansas City Royals, who are three wins away from a title.

4. Say goodbye to Neil Walker.  I know Walker is a fan favorite, but this game is a business.  Walker will likely be too expensive, and the Pirates shouldn’t pay too much for a second baseman who has missed a decent amount of time with a back injury, nor has he come through in the postseason.  I like Neil Walker, but I think he is the only significant player that the Pirates should lose, besides those who have retired.  I think Josh Harrison would be fine at the second base position, and I would be willing to try Jung Ho Kang at second when he returns from injury.

5. Trade away Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke.  I wasn’t a fan of either pitcher this season, and I had the enjoyment of seeing several implosions at PNC Park with these two.  Though Morton’s salary is likely too high for a taker, the Pirates would be better off trading both and paying some of Morton’s salary.  I’d rather have some minor league pitchers like Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow get their opportunity.  I still regret the Pirates not re-signing Volquez, who started for the Royals in the World Series last night.

My ideal lineup would be the following:

1. RF Gregory Polanco

2. LF Starling Marte

3. CF Andrew McCutchen

4. 1B Chris Davis

5. 2B Jung Ho Kang

6. 3B Pedro Alvarez

7. C Francisco Cervelli

8. SS Jordy Mercer/ Josh Harrison

9. P Gerrit Cole

My ideal starting rotation would be the following:

1. Gerrit Cole

2. Francisco Liriano

3. Jeff Samardzija

4. J.A. Happ

5. Jameson Taillon/ Tyler Glasnow/ Brandon Cumpton

I think this lineup puts the Pirates into significant contention with the Cardinals and Cubs for the division, brings excitement to the fan base by proving the Pirates want to win, and the majority of the core remains intact.  This would allow for prospects such as 1B Josh Bell, OF Austin Meadows, 2B Alen Hanson, and C Reese McGuire to continue to develop in the minors and be ready to step in and not miss a beat once they are called to the Big Leagues.

I am not asking the Pirates to break the bank.  I want them to improve upon last season’s weaknesses and retain the core that got them into the postseason.

What are your thoughts on Pirates free agency and what would you like to see happen?

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