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12/13/08 12:25 AM EST
Bucs sign Vazquez to two-year deal
Veteran provides club depth at all four infield positions
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
The Pirates on Friday finalized a two-year contract with free-agent infielder Ramon Vazquez that had been in the works for several days.
Vazquez, 32, reportedly will earn $4 million in the deal and is Pittsburgh's first Major League free-agent pickup since the end of the season. He spent the past two seasons as a backup infielder for Texas and -- for now -- projects to the same role in Pittsburgh, though that could change if discussions at the Winter Meetings turn into a trade of shortstop Jack Wilson.
Whatever Vazquez's role, the Pirates are banking that his career year in 2008 was no fluke. He got exactly 300 at-bats in each of his two Rangers seasons but had much better results in Year 2, boosting his batting average and on-base percentages from .230 and .300 to .290 and .365, and his RBIs from 28 to 40.
"He's a nice Major League option for us," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Friday night after attending an event with season seatholders. "He can play second, short and third as a backup man or potentially as a regular if one of our guys were to get hurt or if we were to make a move.
"He certainly is more than capable of hitting right-handed pitching and if we complement him with the right guy we could have a pretty good platoon there. For the immediate future, we think he supplies us with some quality Major League depth, and that's important."
A left-handed hitter, Vazquez batted .310 (78-for-252) with six home runs off right-handed pitchers last season. He also hit .353 (49-for-139) with runners on base.
In eight big league seasons with five teams, Vazquez is a .257 hitter with 21 home runs and 160 RBIs. He has experience at all four infield positions but mostly has appeared in the field as a shortstop, playing there in 247 games, including 183 of his 446 career starts.
According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blog post, Vazquez received a $250,000 signing bonus and will earn a $1.75 million salary for 2009 and a $2 million salary for 2010.
He temporarily filled Pittsburgh's 40-man roster, but that changed at midnight ET when the team non-tendered pitcher Denny Bautista, leaving one open spot.