Pirates can’t afford market-value deals

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Nobody asked me, but . . .

* Call it crying poor or call it telling the truth, but here’s what general manager Neal Huntington told MLB.com this week about the Pirates chances of signing A.J. Burnett: "The unfortunate reality of the market is, if he's into that, he's gonna pitch somewhere else. We've got funds we would gladly allocate to A.J. If he or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere. It's not just Pittsburgh; there are other markets where different resources must be used as effectively as possible. There is money available, but the question is how do we build around A.J.? We've got some other soft spots to address, and where do we go there with the money that A.J. may ultimately cost us?"

* If Huntington is serious about the Pirates unwillingness to pay market value for free agents, it’s hard to imagine any signing this offseason that is going to generate much excitement -- or substantially improve the team.

* The early-season talk of firing offensive coordinator Todd Haley has cooled. As Gerry Dulac reported, not only is Haley in charge of an offense that is averaging almost 29 points in the past four games, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in on course to set a personal season high in yards and is tied for the NFL lead with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers with 47 passes of 20 yards or more. What’s more, Antonio Brown is on pace to catch 116 passes for 1,518 yards, surpassing the team records of Hines Ward (112 receptions) and Yancey Thigpen (1,398 yards). It’s tough to find fault with the OC under those circumstances.

* There was some concern on how high a note Pitt basketball would enter the Atlantic Coast Conference. Those concerns are being pushed aside by the outstanding play thus far of the Panthers (6-0), including two dominating performances Monday and Tuesday of respected opponents, Texas Tech and Stanford. Both games were as good as over at halftime.

* Regardless of which team in the AFC ends up with the sixth seed, it would not be unrealistic to expect a first-round win against the current No. 3 seed, Indianapolis.

* The most prolific passer in Pitt history is the running backs coach for the Green Bay Packers. No, Dan Marino didn’t give up his CBS job. Alex Van Pelt, who shattered Marino’s career passing yards record -- 11,267 to 8,597 -- is the man tutoring Eddie Lacy.

* The Pirates decision to DFA pitcher Kyle McPherson would appear to have nothing to do with no room on the 40-man roster and everything to do with a lack of confidence that McPherson, recovering from Tommy John surgery, will ever make it. Why else would they cut him and keep the likes of Ryan Reid, 29 in April; Duke Welker, 28 in February; Andy Oliver, 26 next week; Chase d’Arnaud, 27 in January and Jerry Sands, 26?

* The goal-scoring drought of Evgeni Malkin -- he’s on pace for 13 -- hasn’t stopped him from ranking fourth in the league in scoring thanks to being No. 1 in assists. Is this the baseball equivalent of Pedro Alvarez becoming a singles hitter? And would the Pirates be happy with that? Are the Penguins happy with the new-look Malkin?

* In the past six games, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has thrown for one touchdown and 10 interceptions and has a passer rating of 44.47.

* The four-year $32 million free-agent contract Jason Vargas signed with the Kansas City Royals could be what Charlie Morton is looking at -- if not more -- after the 2014 season, if he continues to pitch as he has. In 2013, Vargas had a 4.02 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP and a .276 BAA. Morton’s numbers in those three categories were 3.25, 1.28, .261.

* Alex Rodriguez truly was AFraud when he stormed out of an arbitration hearing in protest to the fact MLB commissioner Bud Selig was not ordered to testify. In reality, Rodriguez’s motivation was that he didn’t want to testify. As Murray Chass reported, ''If he had testified and admitted he had used banned substances, it would have been game over. If he had testified and denied using, he could have subjected himself to perjury charges because he would have been testifying under oath, and lying under oath is the same if the individual does it in court or at an arbitration hearing.’’

* The following, convincing as it may be to some, hasn’t changed my healthy degree of skepticism about Gregory Polanco being able to help the Pirates in 2014: When baseball insider Keith Law was asked if Polanco might be ready late in the season, he answered, ''Polanco could play CF right now in the majors.’’

* The Denver Post is reporting that the Colorado Rockies have ''heavy interest’’ in Justin Morneau.

* The sparse crowd for the Pitt-Stanford game last night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is another example that these games -- where teams will travel across the country -- are played for the primary reason of providing programming for ESPN.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Enjoy the holiday. See everyone on Friday.


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