Pitcher Paul Maholm is a “veteran.” So is Zach Duke. But only on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Both of them are still arbitration eligible. Ross Ohlendorf (acquired from the Yankees in 2008) can be put into this group as well.

The same is somewhat true for recent acquisitions—shortstop Ronnie Cedeno, second baseman Akinori Iwamura, outfielder Ryan Church, and utility infielder Bobby Crosby.

Cedeno is the new “Jack Wilson,” after the latter declined to Cedeno’s level (meaning that Jeff Clement, who we got in the two for one trade, was a “free roll,” although a crappy one). Cedeno costs less than Wilson because he’s still in his arbitration years.

Iwamura was an arbitration-eligible player, but one his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, didn’t mind releasing. Church, another arbitration year player, is still a question mark for health reasons. Crosby was a bottom-of-the-barrel free agent who commanded a bottom-of-the-barrel salary of just over $1 million.

On the other hand, fielders Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker just arrived from AAA. Throw in Garrett Jones and Andy McCutchen if you go back to the beginning of last year.

Only Ryan Doumit even passes for a veteran among “career” everyday Pirates, although additions Lastings Milledge and Andy LaRoche also have comparable experience.

This means that about half the Pirates’ position players were recently AAA, and only Crosby is post-arbitration. 

Much the same is true with pitching. Nearly half of our starter innings have come from pitchers (Brian Burress, Jeff Karstens, Brad Lincoln, Dan McCutchen, and Charlie Morton) who are either in AAA now or have been earlier this year. The “veterans” were listed above in the opening paragraph.

Past trades have gutted the lineup. Our rookie outfielders may be suitable replacements for people like Xavier Nady and Nate McLout, but we haven’t truly replaced former second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who is having a good year elsewhere for $7 million.

We should have also tried to re-sign or “contract extend” Jason Bay for perhaps $10 million a year after he indicated that he wanted to stay in 2008. (The lower cost of living and lesser spotlight might have made this equivalent to what he is getting in New York.)

And if he had chosen to walk, as Sanchez did (after a low-ball team offer), it would have been his decision, not the Pirates’.

There are times when the Pirates play like a AAA team. The reason is simple: Much of the team recently arrived from there. And most of the rest aren’t that much farther along.

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