Church and more flux
The Pirates and free agent outfielder Ryan Church have agreed to terms (the terms themselves are undisclosed). A few days ago, I posted about the probable composition of the bench, and that post needs revisiting in light of the newest signing. By all accounts, it’s a good signing- Church is a good defensive outfielder, and adequate with the bat, given that he’s being signed for a bench role. Still, there are a couple of reasons I am not a fan of this.
First, here are Ryan Church’s stats. The batting average has held steady at around the .270 mark, and we can expect the same. The OPS has steadily declined, primarily due to the decline in slugging percentage. Now, given that our default 4th OF at the end of 2009, Brandon Moss had a terrible year, these stats are better than his. But Moss is 26, and if you believe last year happened to be a down year for him, then Church in 2009 is who Moss would be expected to be. The Fangraphs projections for Brandon Moss and Ryan Church are almost the same! So we have 2 very similar players competing for a spot- I don’t know how much Church’s salary will be, but I don’t see it as being less than a $1.5M contract, and likely somewhere between $2-2.5M. I feel the money could have been better spent. Church’s decline in performance could, in part, have been due to the injuries he suffered in the last 2 years, though, and there’s a chance he might bounce back to the 15HR guy from 2007.
Second, my projection for the bench had been Crosby, Jaramillo, Young, Raynor, Moss/Pearce. Now, it becomes much more uncertain with two of Young/Raynor/Moss/Pearce taking the last spot with Church almost guaranteed a spot (Really think this has to spell the end for Vazquez). Pearce is almost certainly in AAA now because of his option year. Further, it makes me think that the Pirates might use Clement’s final remaining option at least to start 2010, so he can get more work in at 1B in AAA. That would mean Garrett Jones at 1B and Church/Moss in the outfield for the Pirates. So, the bench becomes Crosby, Jaramillo, Church/Moss, Raynor, Vazquez/Young/Pearce. It also makes me curious as to what it does to Jon Van Every who was picked up last year, while he was injured. I like him a lot, and think he could have a legitimate shot at cracking the OF ahead of Moss/Church, but is now almost certain to miss out ala Jones in 2009. At some point, though, Clement will need to come up, and someone will have to be let go (almost certainly Moss/Raynor). The Pirates have options which is good, but they will likely have to let someone go without it being completely clear that they are making the best choice.
The last line of the last paragraph is my primary gripe against the Church signing- there’s nothing against Church, who I like well enough as a player, and fans from Atlanta and New York seemed to like him too, in his time with them. Further, it necessitates an investment of about $2M which could have gone perhaps to bullpen help, or toward a starter (I guess the latter is really unlikely in any event). Heck, it could have gone toward eating Ramon Vazquez’s salary and given Walker/Pearce a shot!
I further wonder what it means for Jose Tabata, who seems less likely now to see playing time in 2010 before September, unless he forces his way in with power!
There is the remote possibility of trades either soon or early in the season, that would help simplify the situation. I don’t see much value, though, in any of the bench players right now, and doubt we’d get anything of value, which is why it strikes me as possible that Clement starts in the minors and the Bucs give Church or Moss a chance to get hot and hope they can get something back. Extremely unlikely, I admit! Still, the months leading up to the season are going to be interesting!