Pittsburgh Pirates sign first reclamation project of the 2015-2016 offseason
The Pittsburgh Pirates made two moves earlier this morning, picking up righty Allen Webster from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations and also signing Jake Goebbert to a major league deal. Neither move represents what would be considered an impact player, or arguably a good player, but rather shows the Pirates rolling the dice on two guys who could with some tweaks help the Pirates in some small capacity in 2016.
Webster’s acquisition represents the first reclamation project of the offseason for the Pirates. He made his debut with the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and his career has started off rather rocky. In his two years in Boston, Webster went 7-6 with a 6.25 ERA. His K/BB ratio from those years is not good either, sitting at 59/46. He didn’t do any better in Arizona last season, where he started nine games but only factored into the decision twice for a 1-1 record. His ERA went down to a still awful 5.81 and he actually walked more batters (20) than he strike out (17). These are not exactly confidence inspiring numbers.
Similar to the other starting pitchers have been acquired recently, the Pirates are hoping that under the tutelage of Ray Searage they can find the problem with Webster and make him a potential back end of the rotation option (or more likely, pitching depth in the minors). The one thing that separates Webster from the likes of Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez and J.A. Happ is that those three were good pitchers at one time at the major league level. So Webster may be a little bit more of a challenge than the others.
Goebbert is a left handed first baseman/outfielder who saw major league action in 2014 with the San Diego Padres. He slashed .218/.313/.317 with a single home run in 101 at bats. He spent all of 2015 with the Padres’ AAA affiliate and hit better there, going .294/.392/.452. Goebbert slugged 10 home runs his 354 at bats. He also walked 57 times, so he showed a good eye at the plate.
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Goebbert will likely compete for a bench spot in spring training. The Pirates still have Pedro Alvarez on the roster and while they are willing to listen to offers on him, Goebbert was not brought in as his replacement. He seems like the kind of player that the Pirates are hoping will benefit with a change of scenery.
While it’s nice to see the Pirates continuing to keep an eye out of players who may be a small change away from being successful, Pittsburgh is in a division that will be very competitive in 2016. Both the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs will be formidable opponents in the NL Central for years to come. These clubs will no doubt be involved in the bidding on some of the top free agents this winter. The Pirates do not necessarily need to be in on guys like David Price and Chris Davis, but they need to do better than Webster and Goebbert if they want to compete with the other strong teams in the division.
As with previous winters, the free agent market will be set once some of the top names find new homes. Once this happens we will likely begin to hear that the Pirates are talking to some of the free agents in tier price range. Or, at least I hope. Because a team coming off a 98 win season needs to do better than Webster and Goebbert.
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