Oct 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (36) throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the 2014 National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed A.J. Burnett and while that should help the younger pitchers learn the ins and outs of the game, there is definitely a need to get one more starter to help balance out the rotation. The Pirates do have five starters right now, but relying on Charlie Morton should not be something anyone can be excited about when pitchers like Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson are out there. The Pirates also have the option to resign Francisco Liriano or Edinson Volquez.
The Pirates should consider at least one of the remaining free agents to help develop prospects in the minors. Jameson Taillon is currently in the middle of throwing sessions after having Tommy John surgery last April. Taillon will not be rushed and giving him as much time to work himself back is key to his recovery. Taillon will likely be called up, but if the Pirates have five very solid starters, he could be a reliever the Pirates could use in long relief situations or when a strikeout is desperately needed to get out of an inning. The Pirates will not sign more than one of these free agents, but getting one will also give them more bait to attract trades. The Pirates were unable to retain catcher Russell Martin, but they did trade for Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli will platoon at catcher, but getting a starting catcher would obviously be a better option. If the Pirates sign a starting pitcher, Morton or Vance Worley could be traded for a backstop.
The Pirates also are fortunate to have a deep group of pitching prospects that could allow them to sign a free agent to a one-year deal. A short-term deal could work for both parties because the Pirates could offer more money and the pitcher could use one season in an effort to showcase himself for a more lucrative long-term deal next season. The only problem with that logic is that getting Liriano or Volquez back is unlikely. However, Anderson or McCarthy may want only a short-term deal. The also could work for Justin Masterson. Masterson would be a perfect player for a one-year deal because he would be cheap and is definitely in need of a bounce back season.
The Pirates do not need a lot to compete with the rest of the National League Central, but if they do sign one of these starting pitchers, they could be real contenders to do much more than just get into the playoffs next season.