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Plenty of affordable options are awaiting Pirates in free agency | TribLIVE.com
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Plenty of affordable options are awaiting Pirates in free agency

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, November 2, 2014 11:18 p.m.
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New York Yankees starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
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Cardinals pitcher Pat Neshek throws in the eighth inning against the Giants during Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Oct. 14, 2014, at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
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The Nationals' Adam LaRoche at bat during a game against the Mariners on Aug. 30, 2014, in Seattle.
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The Red Sox's David Ross during Game 5 of the World Series on Oct. 28, 2013, at Busch Stadium in St Louis.

The Pirates have done an excellent job bargain shopping in recent offseasons and that will likely continue to be their model as free agency opens Tuesday. The following is an analysis of free agents that could be fits for the Pirates, with a focus on players projected to receive short-term deals and that are not tied to draft-pick compensation.

(Included are the crowd-sourced contract predictions from Fangraphs.com).

RAY SEARAGE-CAN-FIX ANYONE CLASS

The Pirates have done an excellent job finding undervalued pitchers in recent years. With two potential rotation voids, they will likely be searching for more reclamation projects:

Brandon McCarthy, RHP

OK, McCarthy doesn’t need much fixing. McCarthy fits the Pirates’ model: he gets groundballs, has top-shelf control (1.5 walks per nine), and misses bats (7.9 strikeouts per nine). The Pirates prize those indicators over ERA, which is influenced by defensive play and ballpark environment. McCarthy’s strong second half makes him less of a hidden value, but he still pitched better than his 4.05 ERA suggests. He’s projected to sign for the same contract as Francisco Liriano.

Contract prediction: 3 years, $36 million

Justin Masterson, RHP

His velocity declined and command wavered after an excellent 2013, but he has an electric sinker when he’s right.

Contract prediction: 1 year, $9 million

Brett Anderson, LHP

Still only 26, Anderson posted a sub-3.00 ERA in the thin air of Denver until his season was ended by a back injury. He has an excellent groundball rate for his career (61 percent last season), he’s left-handed and throw strikes — when healthy.

Contract prediction: 1 year, $7 million

Brandon Morrow, RHP

The Pirates have targeted high-velocity arms, and Morrow’s fastball averaged 94 mph last season. Missed time with finger injury.

Contract prediction: 1 year, $6 million

Gavin Floyd, RHP

When healthy, Floyd throws strikes and can miss bats with a quality curveball.

Contract prediction: 1 year, $5 million

BUILDING-A-BETTER-BULLPEN CLASS

Right-handed relievers could be one of the deepest areas in free agency, though it has been depleted with the Red Sox resigning Koji Uehara and Houston Street’s option being exercised by the Angels last week. The Pirates’ pen regressed last season and could use another impact arm:

Sergio Romo, RHP

He had an up and down 2013, but he has one of the game’s best sliders and strikes out more than a batter per inning while limiting walks.

Contract prediction: 2 years, $12 million

Francisco Rodriguez, RHP

The Brewers’ free agent closer has saved 35 or more games six times in his career.

Contract prediction: 1 years, $5 million

Pat Neshek, RHP

Could the Pirates target one of the rival Cardinals better relievers?

Contract prediction: n/a

CUTTING-CORNERS CLASS

MLBTradeRumors.com estimates the combined arbitration costs of first base options Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez will be $12.6 million. That trio combined for negative 0.3 Wins Above Replacement in 2014. What if the Pirates replaced them with a superior option? (The switch-hitting Victor Martinez is an ideal fit but likely too expensive):

Adam LaRoche, 1B

LaRoche has an excellent batting eye and regular produces 20-plus homers.

Contract prediction: 2 years, $20 million

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF

Sure the numbers — .332 average and .579 slugging — are inflated by Coors Field, but he could add consistent and professional at-bats.

Contract prediction: 2 years, $18 million

Michael Morse, 1B/OF

Morse is a subpar defender and base-runner, but he has right-handed power which is rare in today’s game. He also has neutral career platoon splits.

Contract prediction: 1 year, $7 million

FRAMING-THE-DEBATE CLASS

After Russell Martin, the quality of free agent catchers has a Niagara Falls drop-off in quality:

David Ross, C

Ross can’t hit, but he is one of the best pitch-framers in the game. If the Pirates decide to go defense first at catcher, Ross could be a cheap option to pair with Chris Stewart.

Contract prediction: n/a

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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