Battling Bucs just posted a new article this evening entitled What Else Should the Pirates Do? I wanted to respond to them with my own thoughts, but it got lengthy and out of hand and decided to simply write about it myself.
I highly suggest reading his original post before checking out my response to it.
I agree the Pirates are essentially the same team as last year. Their free agent losses were offset by those who were acquired thus far, but I think there's still an opportunity to improve. He requests a more "serviceable" backstop option behind Rod Barajas, Michael McKenry, and Jose Morales then suggests Chris Snyder who seems to be the last semi-viable catcher left on the free agent market. His price may be lower than the $6.75 million contract option which was declined, but I'm not sure I can justify providing a backup catcher a multimillion dollar contract. The catcher position has been fairly weak over the course of history, aside from a few notable exceptions, so I feel the money could be better spent elsewhere.
I've looked at a few projected 25-man rosters for the Pittsburgh Pirates and it is still quite depressing even after the acquisitions made this offseason. Andrew McCutchen deserves to bat third, which Battling Bucs' projection displays, but Neil Walker batting cleanup is joke. The team is still missing a bat with power, which was supposedly a priority. Perhaps Pedro Alvarez will snap out of his funk, but I won't bet money on it.
Although there are several healthy options to play first base, he chooses to stick with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee who will be under team control for the next four and three seasons, respectively. It's an interesting decision, though McGehee had a performance comparably dismal performance last season similar to Alvarez. They both have the potential to hit 20 or more home runs, so it is possible they could eventually land into the #4 and #5 slots of the Pirates lineup behind McCutchen.
Unfortunately, I don't share his optimism and would prefer to acquire a free agent, if only for a season or two. Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena are both almost certainly waiting until Prince Fielder signs, then the scramble will begin for first baseman. Lee experienced a small resurgence when he was traded to Pittsburgh last July, though I suppose I can understand why he would prefer not to come back. If either player would swallow their pride to play for the lowly Pirates, then we would have someone who could hit 20 or more home runs and would be a clear choice to bat cleanup.
I'm excited to see what Erik Bedard can do for us and hope he stays healthy for most of the season. Kevin Correia has me worried considering how poorly he did when he pitched at home. The rest of the rotation is still quite young, so maybe last season's experiences will help them grow and develop into better pitchers in 2012. Our rotation is not very threatening no matter how you look at it and understand his reasoning toward Jeff Francis.
Francis would be a conventional, low-risk decision similar to when Correia was acquired last season, but I still would prefer my previous suggestion, Brandon Webb: high-risk with the potential of high reward at little cost. The next exciting option beyond Webb is Roy Oswalt, who supposedly lowered his asking price and just may be Pirates price range. They will never land Lee/Pena and Oswalt, though it is increasingly doubtful they will end up with any of them.
I published my pitching article less than a week ago and four of my top nine options have signed since then, so they're falling fast now with only 32 days left until pitchers/catchers report for Spring Training and 78 days until Opening Day.