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On 2010 Pirates: Ryan Church joins list of players on the downside of their career
By John Perrotto
It isn’t easy to be outsmarted by former Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield but I was at the winter meetings in Orlando in 2006.
The Pirates had a chance to obtain outfielder Ryan Church from the Washington Nationals at those meetings in a trade for right-hander Ian Snell. While the Pirates spent most their energy during those three days on obtaining first baseman Adam LaRoche, who they eventually pried loose from the Atlanta Braves a month later in a trade for closer Mike Gonzalez, I was advocating a move for Church.
Church had hit 17 home runs in 390 at-bats in 2006. As a 28-year-old left-handed hitter with emerging pop in his bat, I thought he would be in position to blossom for the Pirates at PNC Park.
Littlefield turned down the Nationals’ offer and I can’t say I blame him. Church hasn’t amounted to all that much in the three subsequent season, hitting .273 while averaging 10 home runs and 53 RBIs a season. That’s pretty much only one step above Brandon Moss.
Just a little bit more three years later, Church is on the verge of finally joining the Pirates. They have agreed to terms with him on a one-year contract as a free agent, provided he passes a physical examination.
However, it is hard to get excited about Church now. He missed a large chunk of the 2008 season with the New York Mets because of concussions and was hampered by back, elbow and hamstring injuries in a 2009 season split between the Mets and Atlanta Braves.
Church will likely be used primarily in a reserve role or, at most, as a bridge in right field until prospect Jose Tabata is summoned from Class AAA Indianapolis sometime around midseason.
Church also joins the GM Neal Huntington’s growing collection of off-season acquisitions, guys who were once good players but are now on the downsides of their career, a group that includes Aki Iwamura, Bobby Crosby and Javier Lopez.
The types of players Littlefield used to specialize in acquiring.