Bucs Sign Ryan Church, Alter Balance Of Power In National League

The Pirates have officially signed outfielder Ryan Church to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with incentives after he passed a physical earlier this week.

Church is a 31-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder coming off a mediocre, semi-injured season in which he hit .273 / .338 / .384 in 399 PA for the Mets and Braves. He is a purportedly excellent defensive outfielder, both statistically and by reputation, and would represent a defensive plus as a corner outfielder for the Pirates, and in the three seasons prior to 2008 hit a combined .274 / .352 / .468 in part-time duty while displaying some moderate pop (averaged 20 HR per 162 GP in that span).

Ostensibly, any player who willingly agrees to be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ fourth outfielder prrrrrobably isn’t the league’s most sought-after free agent (he may have been – we’ll just never know for sure), but that also doesn’t mean he’s a bad fourth outfielder option. Church may be coming off an injury-troubled season with just 4 homers, but he’s a solid defender and a decent on-base guy, plus his cheap one-year-deal should keep him from blocking Jose Tabata should Tabata prove major-league ready by midseason, as opposed to a longer-term, more expensive deal for Rick Ankiel, whom the Pirates might have felt more obligated to play. Fangraphs offers some more numbers in support of the move, calling Church “a perfect fit for a a rebuilding team like the Pirates.”

Because Church is left-handed, he doesn’t create an ideal platoon situation in first/right between himself and lefties Garrett Jones and Matt Clement, but whatever, so the Pirates have a glut lefties at the corners — it’s not exactly their biggest problem. They’ll be just like the Phillies, only terrible.

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