This will be the year the Pittsburgh Pirates finish over the coveted .500 mark. Sure, the Buccos didn't make headlines with the moves they made this winter but they did make themselves better. Shortstop was a position they wanted to upgrade and with the addition of Clint Barmes they did just that. Another position they wanted to beef up was at first base. They not only have Garrett Jones returning to that position more or less on a full time basis but they added some help with the versatle Casey McGehee who can play first or third giving them much needed depth like they haven't had in recent years.
With Rod Barajas behind the plate, they get a guy who can handle a pitching staff unlike anything we saw in years with Ryan "No-Mitt" Doumit and Chris Snyder departing with very little fan-fare. Barajas will most likely share time with another defensive stalwart in Mike McKenry, who won the fans of Pittsburgh with his gritty play much like Mike Lavalier did the last time the Bucs were good. Nate McLouth is another fan favorite who will be back this year to provide outfield depth as well as a nice bat off the bench. This aquisition makes an already strong group stronger with last year's rookie phenom Alex Presley in left, Allstar Andrew McCutchen in center, and talented Jose Tabata roaming his hero Roberto Clemente's old position in right. Speed kills, and this outfield will have plenty to burn as they run down fly balls in the gaps helping their improved pitching staff along the way.
Speaking of improved pitching, the Pirate arms will not only benefit from their speedy outfield, they also benefit from having another year of experience under their belt. With Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Charlie Morton, and Brad Lincoln gaining confidence from pitching at the major league level... they join veterans Kevin Correia and new-comer Eric Bedard in a battle for spots in the starting rotation. Look for one of their young studs... Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole to either start the year or come up sometime during the season to make the pitching staff even stronger. The Bucco bullpen, which was a strength for the team last year, should only get better with a healthy Evan Meek joining Daniel McCutchen, Chris Resop, and "The Hammer" Joel Hanrahan, making this the year the Pirates finally get over the hump and finishing with a winning season.