The Pirates plan to try to fill their power void this off-season by pursuing Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel as a free agent, according to the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
According to the paper, the Pirates think Ankiel's poor season is a fluke and that he is likely to rebound to his 2008 form when he showed he was a 25-30 homer a year guy before shutting down his season early due to injury.
Rick Ankiel is congratulated after hitting a go-ahead homer. AP photo.
The Bucs might have a point. Ankiel's swing has been oddly altered since his May injury, absorbed when he ran into the centerfield wall while tracking down a fly ball. Since then, when he landed hard on his shoulder, Ankiel seems to be swinging more with his arms than using his torso and legs. And he seems to be swinging as hard as he can to make up for some lost bat speed. If he could get healthy and get back to a more sound stroke, he could be a tremendous free agent steal.
For two short stretches in June, Ankiel seemed to shorten his swing and he was more successful. On June 9-12 he was 9-for16 with a pair of 3-for-5 games and a 2-for-3. He took a couple of oh-fers as it seemed he had reverted back to his bad habits. But then he had a stretch of five games where he was 6-for-18. After that it has been all hit and miss.
Ankiel is making $2.825 million this year, which isn't much for a guy with 25 homer power. I hate to see the Cardinals let him go after all the team has gone through with him over the years. But it seems like management may be running out of patience with his trouble staying healthy, plus there is no place to play him if Matt Holliday is re-signed and Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick already onboard to play the other two outfield slots.
The market for Ankiel is going to be somewhat limited by the fact that he is thought to have a fragile ego. Boston, New York, Philadelphia and other tough media markets may be out of the picture because the fans and press would make his life miserable. That means he's probably not going to get stupid money from someone (unless it's the Cubs. They always seem to have more money than brains.) Pittsburgh would be a low pressure destination. But if ankiel is going to sign on the cheap, I wonder if he might be more interested in inking a deal with his home state Marlins.
To read the Post-Gazette story, click here.