By Jason Shetler
As the offseason is about to wrap up, here are the notable moves the Pirates made this offseason and how each move grades out.
Charlie Morton extension – Charlie Morton certainly went through some major struggles in 2010, as he posted a 7.57 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP. He’s definitely made some improvements the past few seasons, posting a 3.91 ERA along with a 60% groundball rate since 2011. While there was speculation about a Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez extension this offseason, the Pirates decided to extend Morton to a three-year deal worth $21 million, which also includes a 2017 club option. Grade: B+
Chris Stewart acquistion – After spending two and a half seasons with the Pirates, Michael McKenry was designated for assignment this offseason. In the process, they acquired Chris Stewart from the New York Yankees in early December to serve as the new backup catcher. Stewart may not have the pop in the bat that McKenry has, but he’s certainly a significant upgrade behind the plate, as he not only can throw runners out consistently, but is also a very good pitch framer. Grade: C+
Clint Barmes signing – Despite Jordy Mercer’s emergence with the bat in the second half of last season, he had some struggles with the glove at times. The Pirates addressed their need for a primary backup shortstop by re-signing Clint Barmes to a one-year deal worth $2 million. Barmes will certainly provide some insurance on defense, as his defensive metrics have been above average each of the last five seasons. Grade: B-
Edinson Volquez signing – 2013 was a real struggle for Edinson Volquez, as he posted a 5.71 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP in 33 games pitched combined with the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Just like Francisco Liriano last season, the Pirates are going to take on another reclamation project this year, as they signed Volquez in December on a one-year deal worth $5 million. Volquez still has above average stuff and can be a pretty good groundball pitcher at times, but just hasn’t been able to be consistent with his pitches. Perhaps pitching coach Ray Searage can help Volquez iron out some mechanical issues. Grade: C+
Jaff Decker acquisition – The Pirates made a very interesting trade in late November, as they dealt outfielder/first baseman Alex Dickerson to the San Diego Padres in exchange for outfielder Jaff Decker and reliever Miles Mikolas (now with the Texas Rangers). Decker, who was a top prospect a few years back, has been an on base machine in the minors, posting a .402 OBP. He probably won’t be on the Pirates Opening Day roster, but should join them at some point this season, and hopefully provide some help off the bench with his on base ability. Grade: B