By John Perrotto
It doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface and brings back bad memories of the days when Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield served as the Pirates’ general manager.
The Pirates signed free agent right-hander Octavio Dotel to a one-year contract with a vesting option for 2011 on Wednesday. This from the same team that decided to cut closer Matt Capps loose last month rather than go to a potential arbitration hearing with him.
Capps is 26 years old and had a combined 66 saves in the last three season, albeit he had a bad 2009 that included a 5.80 ERA and gave Pirates enough pause that they decided to release him rather than risk having to pay him $4 million or more if he won an arbitration hearing.
However, Dotel is 36 and had a total of 12 saves over the last three seasons. On the surface, it smacks of the Pirates giving up a young player in order to accept a quick fix, something that happened all too often under Bonifay and Littlefield and is a major reason why the franchise has set a major North American professional sports record with 17 consecutive losing seasons.
The signing of Dotel, coupled with the off-season additions of veteran free agents as left-handed reliever Javier Lopez, right-handed reliever Brendan Donnelly, infielder Bobby Crosby and outfielder Ryan Church, make it seem as though the Pirates have turned their back on their latest youth movement that started last season when GM Neal Huntington gutted the roster by making seven trades in June and July.
However, Huntington was reassuring Wednesday in announcing the Dotel signing that the Pirates aren’t changing course for approximately the 93rd time in the last two decades.
“We’ve tried to have some semblance of balance on the roster,” Huntington said. “Dotel and Donnelly will help our relievers mature. Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church are not old players by any stretch but they’ve been around competitive environments, in maybe some environments similar to this. Hopefully, their experience as well as their on-field results will help us.
“We’ve certainly not abandoned the youth movement by any stretch of the imagination but it is important to complement that youth with experience to help those players learn. Coach-to-player education is fantastic but player-to-player sharing is also an outstanding way to help them.”
Meanwhile, Huntington feels he has pretty much completed an extreme makeover of the bullpen by signing Dotel to be its anchor with holdover right-handers Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek likely sharing set-up duties with Lopez.
Right-hander Kevin Hart is likely to land in middle relief, a role many scouts feel he is better suited for, if he is beaten out by Daniel McCutchen for the fifth starter’s job in spring training. Right-hander D.J. Carrasco, signed a free agent last week, will be used as an innings eater as might right-hander Chris Jakubaukas, a waiver claim from Seattle in November.