Last week, you might have noticed that I did a FanHouse post about Rocco Baldelli being re-diagnosed with an ion channel disorder that’s very treatable, as opposed to the previous diagnosis of mitochondrial disorder. When I wrote that, I thought to myself that Rocco would make a very interesting buy-low candidate for a team like the Pirates, even though the Pirates don’t really need outfielders. Well, apparently that’s not deterring the Pirates because the Post-Gazette is reporting today that they’re very interested in the free agent Baldelli.
The company line is that the Pirates are mostly interested in adding a right-handed bat to the outfield with Nate McLouth, Brandon Moss, and Nyjer Morgan (gulp) slated to start the year in the outfield. Even if Badelli’s not fully recovered, he can play against lefties once or twice a week and give the Pirates some outfield depth. What makes this talk interesting is that there’s a much better chance today that Baldelli’s healthy than there was a week ago. Doctors have thought that most of his injury problems since 2004 have all been related to whatever was causing his fatigue. If his disorder is treatable, then it’s possible that his injury problems will go away.
It’s impossible to know what Baldelli’s capable of at this point. He hasn’t played regularly for an extended period since 2004 (unless you count his 92 games in 2006), but he was an incredibly promising prospect for Tampa before all of the injury trouble started and in 30 games last year, he put up an above average OPS and showed some nice pop. Perhaps most intriguingly, he was an excellent center fielder and his presence, again if fully healthy, could move Nate McLouth to a corner spot at the start of the year and really strengthen the outfield defense.
I know that this is going to immediately kick off lots of “Ohhh nooooo we’re going to trade McLouth!!!” or “Well, why did we even trade for Brandon Moss?!?” talks, but I doubt the Pirates are looking at things like that. In Baldelli, I see a talented player that may be worth much more than his market price down the road and I think the Pirates see the same thing. It’s likely that the market for Baldelli is going to grow in light of this new diagnosis, but he’s certainly worth taking a chance on. What, exactly, do the Pirates have to lose?