By Jason Shetler
Neal Huntington has been able to find his share of cost effective signings during his tenure as Pirates general manager. The most notable have been Garrett Jones several years ago, Francisco Liriano prior to 2013 and last offseason with Jung-Ho Kang. This offseason, Huntington has made a few potential bargain signings that could pay dividends for the Pirates in 2016.
The first came in late December with the John Jaso signing, which was two years at $8 million. Jaso is making the transition from catcher to first base this season, and will be in a platoon with Michael Morse. While Jaso doesn’t have the power numbers that Pedro Alvarez has, he makes up for it with terrific on base ability. For his career, he owns a .361 on base percentage, which is 52 points higher than Alvarez (.309).
Last week, the Pirates signed Eric O’Flaherty on a minor league deal to compete for a spot as a lefty arm in the bullpen. O’Flaherty is coming off his worst season with an 8.10 ERA, but his numbers before that were extremely good. From 2009 to 2014, he posted a 2.12 ERA along with a stellar 184 ERA+. O’Flaherty is also a solid groundball pitcher with a career groundball rate of 55%, and could really benefit from the Pirates aggressive use of infield shifts.
Matt Joyce was signed by the Pirates to a minor league contract on Thursday. The 31-year-old outfielder had a dismal season last year for the Los Angeles Angels, as he posted only a .563 OPS. His five seasons prior to that with the Tampa Bay Rays however was very good, posting a .782 OPS with an OPS+ of 119.
In 2015, Jaso, O’Flaherty and Joyce all combined to make about $13.4 million. This season, the three will combine to make up roughly only $5 million. O’Flaherty and Joyce have a chance to bounce back for just the league minimum. Meanwhile Jaso is making $4 million this year, which is quite a bargain when you consider how much teams are spending now for high on base guys.