By John Perrotto
The Pirates’ offense certainly could use help after finishing 15th in the 16-team National League in runs scored this year.
The Pirates plan to look for that help through free agency once players being hitting the open market 15 days after the World Series ends.
While the Pirates won’t be players for someone like Matt Holliday _ after all, they are owned by the penny-pinching Bob Nutting _ they are looking at a number of free agents who are still relatively young and could be signed at a reasonable price.
The Pirates would like to add a corner infielder and one player they have targeted is Hank Blalock, who has spent his entire eight-year career with Texas. Blalock is just 28 but five years have passed since he made back-to-back appearances in the All-Star Game in 2003 and 2004.
Blalock did play in 123 games this year after being limited to 58 and 65 games in 2007 and 2008. He also hit 25 home runs. However, the bad news was his batting average was .234, his only base percentage was a paltry .277 and he struck out 108 times in 495 plate appearances.
One of the Pirates’ other top off-season priorities is finding a middle infielder who could push incumbent second baseman Delwyn Young and shortstop Ronny Cedeno in spring training. An interesting name being bandied about is Khalil Greene.
Greene had a horrible 2009 with St. Louis as he hit .200 with six homers in 79 games. He has also struggled with social anxiety disorder the past two seasons, which landed him on the disabled list for a time this year.
However, Greene is 30 and only two years removed from a 27-homer season with San Diego.
There are a few factors that make the idea of signing Greene intriguing.
Greene was born in Butler before moving to Key West, Fla., when he was 5 years old but still has plenty of relatives in the region and has often talked about how much he enjoys his visits to Western Pennsylvania.
He would also, in theory, be under less stress playing for a franchise that has had 17 straight losing seasons and little hope of contending in 2010.
Another player the Pirates are said to be particularly intrigued by is
outfielder Rick Ankiel, who won’t be re-signed by St. Louis after hitting .231 with 11 homers in 122 games this year while striking out 99 times in 404 plate appearances.
However, Ankiel did hit 25 homers in 2008. Furthermore, he may have a little more upside than the average 30-year-old outfielder because he spent the first seven seasons of his professional career as a pitcher until switching positions after being plagued by severe control problems.