According to the PBC Blog over at the PG, Zach Duke and the Pirates have agreed to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration, which is always good. Duke made 2.2 million this past year, so I could see him getting around 3.8 mil this year, which is very good value, as he was a 2.5 WAR player this past year, which would hypothetically get him around 11 million if he were a free agent. Either way, it's just a technicality but it's always nice to avoid the arbitration process, as those can be nasty. I should have the official terms of the contract later. (UPDATE: terms of the deal are 4.3 million, more than I expected, but still a very fair deal).
But the more interesting news to me would be the addition of Brandon Jones off of waivers from the Braves. By itself, I'm always for adding someone with his pedigree (CHONE projects him as being a 1.7 WAR player this year), but he must take a spot on the 40-man roster, and that's where it gets tricky.
The Pirates already have guys like John Raynor, Brandon Moss, John Van Every, and Ryan Church to back up the projected starting OF of Milledge/McCutchen/G. Jones. Now maybe they don't think Jeff Clement will be ready to start at 1B by opening day, but even then, you have only one spot to fill in RF. Or maybe they don't have confidence in Milledge (like I do)... One things' clear, this most likely spells the end for John Raynor; as a rule 5 pick, Raynor has to stay on the 25-man roster most of the season, but (now) with the glut of options, I can't see him making the team and sticking around.
The Pirates will have to make room for Jones, which won't be easy either. They could return Raynor now, but I don't see that happening. They could make a trade like they did with Donnelly by shipping off Brian Bixler (Delwyn Young, Moss, Jakubauskus, or hopefully Ramon Vasquez). I could also see them remove one of the minor leaguers who they don't think will be claimed by another team (Claggett, Diaz). I think it's an interesting move though, as the Pirate's could have an extremely athletic OF of Milledge/McCutchen/B. Jones (coincidentally, all were Florida state HS stars). More later...
UPDATE: The Bucs designated Steven Jackson for assignment which makes room for Brandon Jones (actually Jones was already on the 40-man, while Ryan Church was actually added in this move). I don't really understand this as I think Claggett would make more sense since Jackson has actually proven he can pitch in relief at the ML level. Initially, there was talk of trading Jones immediately with someone else in order to make room on the 40-man, but that hasn't happened yet.
We'll have to wait and see, because something is not right here, although I hope the Pirates can hold onto Jackson, because he adds depth to the bullpen (but the more I look at his stats, he was a bit lucky last year and is probably nothing more than replacement level- he walked more than he struck out and his HR/FB % was an unsustainable 3.8. He could get better, but he will be 28 this year).