This is one in a series of articles where the PBN staff lists the three free agents whom the Pirates should target this offseason.
Maybe Ben Cherington took my advice – though I doubt it.
In this same type of column last November, I suggested Carlos Santana was one of three free agents the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider signing. Sure enough, Cherington, the Pirates’ general manager, signed the veteran first baseman.
Santana served his purpose as the veteran switch-hitter batted .235/.321/.412 with 12 home runs in 94 games before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in late July. He also played better-than-expected defense.
Of course, I realize the column did not influence the signing. Nevertheless, I’m back to offer more advice on three current free agents — even if Cherington hasn’t asked.
Yes, Joey Votto is 40 years old. It would also seem strange to see him playing for any team but the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he made his major-league debut in 2007.
How long ago was that? Jim Tracy was managing the Pirates.
Apologies to Connor Joe and Jared Triolo, but the Pirates need a first baseman for 2024. Votto might be able to fill that void.
Votto hit 14 home runs in 208 at-bats over 65 games last season after recovering from shoulder and biceps surgery the previous year. While he hit just .202, his on-base percentage was .314 and his career OBP is .409. Cherington loves OBP, as should all of us.
If Andrew McCutchen returns as expected, the Pirates will again have a veteran leader. However, it wouldn’t hurt to add an erudite player and deep thinker who might wind up being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Votto is one of the more interesting people I have met in 36 years of covering the Pirates and Major League Baseball. From a purely selfish standpoint, it would be fun to be able to talk baseball with him regularly.
I’ve already made my case for singing the right-hander, but I’m never above repeating myself to make a point.
From a pure talent standpoint, Flaherty is just about as good as any starting pitcher on the market. The problem is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, logging just 154.2 innings over a three-season span from 2020-22.
Flaherty didn’t have a great year in 2023. He went 8-9 with a 4.99 ERA in 29 games (27 starts) combined with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Orioles and was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen in September by Baltimore.
Yet Flaherty pitched 144.1 innings.
Flaherty is still just 28, and I can’t get his 2019 season out of my mind. He had an 11-8 record with a 2.75 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals that season and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
Flaherty would likely want a multiyear contract to come to Pittsburgh. It would be a gamble, but one the starting pitching-starved Pirates need to take.
Jack Suwinski hit 26 home runs and stole 13 bases this year for the Pirates, which helped offset his .224 batting average and 172 strikeouts in 534 plate appearances. At 25, Suwinski has plenty of offensive upside, but the Pirates need to move him out of center field and over to right.
They could then fill the hole in center field by signing another former Cardinals stalwart who might come on the cheap following a disappointing 2023 season.
Bader hit just .232/.274/.348 in 98 games combined with the New York Yankees and Reds. However, he stole 20 bases and had four defensive runs saved in an injury-plagued year. By comparison, Suwinski had minus-10 DRS.
Bader is 29 and just two years removed from winning a Gold Glove in 2021, a season in which he also homered 16 times.
And here’s a fun fact: Bader originally committed to play college ball at Pitt before flipping his commitment to Florida.
It’s time for him to flip back to Pittsburgh.