Many teams will be labeled as “The new Rays” throughout this spring. The problem is the new Rays will not be competitive in 2009. Instead, this organization is still undergoing chances in its framework, necessitated changes based on a decade of incompetence thanks to prior management. This team dealt two of its starting outfielders last season for questionable returns. They’ve restrained from giving in to pressure to sign free agents, opting instead to amass young talent through trades, the Rule 5 draft, and the amateur draft.
By now you should know the team, it is the Pittsburgh Pirates, and if you were unaware of the change, then read on.
The popular opinion in Pittsburgh is that the Pirates need to re-sign Doug Mientkiewicz for reasons that extend beyond his win values. Recent reports link the Pirates to Eric Hinske. As a Rays fan, I’ve seen quite a bit of Hinske, and frankly I’m a bit befuddled on how he’s failed to attract much interest prior to the Pirates. Hinske came cheaply for the Rays last season — a non-roster invitee who would make 800k for appearing in the majors – and figures to come similarly cheaper in this market.
Hinske’s allure to the Pirates is undoubtedly his bat, willingness to come off the bench, and ability to play overall league average defense at the four corners. Mientkiewicz played first, third, and right field for the Pirates in 2008 and batted left-handed, there’s a clear match here, except potentially in price.
Over the last three years, the two are near mirrors – Hinske averaging ~0.97 wins and Mientkiewicz ~0.93. If the Pirates can land Hinske for any amount less than Mientkiewicz is asking, they should jump on it. Heck, if they convince Hinske to simply take Mientkiewicz 2008 salary of ~1.075 million he’ll get a pay raise and they’ll get a contract likely to succeed.
Yeah, Mientkiewicz is popular with the fans, and yes, they run the risk of looking “cheap”, even if they can use the money saved towards filling other holes, but kudos to Pittsburgh. In the past they probably would’ve overpaid for the qualities Mientkiewicz brings to the team, instead they’ll find those same qualities and at a price better suited for their situation.