Q: Dejan, If the Pirates didn't like Shawn Chacon and his 7-6 with a 5.82 ERA for $3.6 million before the Jason Schmidt and Ted Lilly signings, why would they like Chacon after? If I am considering buying a Gremlin but don't like the price of $1,000, and my neighbor buys a Buick for $50,000, should that really change my mind on the Gremlin?
Tony Verdream of South Side, Pittsburgh
KOVACEVIC: My understanding is twofold, Tony:
First off, Chacon was not retained with the idea of being one of the five starters, though he surely will get a chance at that. He was retained with the idea of having some depth to the rotation and, in the interim, pitch long relief. The Pirates were fortunate last year, I think, to have had all their young guys stay healthy pretty much the entire season. That happens rarely. And the next right-hander down the depth chart is John Van Benschoten, who still has to show he is healthy.
Second, I got the idea the Pirates thought they could get this wish through free agency. But when they saw some of the money being paid to Adam Eaton and the like, they went back to Chacon, figuring he could provide what they wanted -- possibly more, if reverts to his top form -- and for a lesser price.
From what I have gathered, there was plenty of internal debate about this subject. Those in favor of pitching depth won out.
Q: Dejan, I try to read your stuff daily, but did I miss the day when you reported that bringing Humberto Cota back was going to solve the Bucs' hitting needs?
What possible good is this?
Sam Capuano of Saratoga, N.Y.
KOVACEVIC: The Pirates' view on this, apparently, is that there is a lack of catching at the major-league level and that they might benefit from retaining the player for depth purposes. That might mean trading Cota, or it might mean trading someone else.
Or, taken from a different direction, it might mean retaining Cota to be the Sunday catcher for Ronny Paulino while Ryan Doumit moves into a role of first base/right field.
Still and all, the move is surprising. Cota obviously is coming off a poor season and, most glaring, was all but buried in the final month behind Paulino, Doumit and even recall Carlos Maldonado, who since has been removed from the 40-man roster. Very, very clearly, the coaching staff was not enamored of Cota's work.
Oh, and to repeat something that's in today's news coverage regarding Chacon and Cota: Each can be cut in spring training. This seems to be the biggest part of the Pirates' thinking right now, actually.
Q: I like your "82" idea, Dejan ... but we could take it a small step forward.
It may seem a modest, even embarrassing goal to be just average, but take a look at how many regular-season wins got the Cardinals to the World Series last year. In this division, no team is too far away from a run at the playoffs. That should be the goal.
John Dankosky of Winsted, Conn.
KOVACEVIC: Right. Good way of looking at it.
OK, 83 it is. Or should it be 82, being that the goal of winning a World Series in 2007 surely is easier to mock than the snapping of the 14-year losing streak?
Either way, we need a slogan. Something short, catchy, maybe that rhymes.
Until tomorrow ...