It’s sounding like Wilson Betemit is about to play for his seventh major league team, and fifth in five years.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pirates are nearing a control with Betemit. He’d give the ballclub an insurance option at third base — who hits far better than he defends — should projected starter Pedro Alvarez fall flat on his face again.
Alvarez had a nice rookie season in 2010, showing pop. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft took a major step backward in 2011, however, batting just .191. He struck out more than once every four at-bats, though K’s were a significant problem the year before, too.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hinted at the club’s plans to make a move at third base, for protection.
“Pedro knows coming in that it’s his job, but he’s got to keep his job,” Hurdle said today at the winter meetings. “We’ll probably search to bring somebody in that’s a contingency plan. I think that’s something we have used internally if things don’t work out for the best interst of Pedro and ourselves.
“He’s (Pedro’s) driven. He’s got enough professional pride that’s in the right place that he wants more. He knows how important he can be and the difference he can make in our ballclub if he performs as he thinks he can.”
Betemit, meanwhile, is a serviceable backup. He batted .285 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs in a season split between the Royals and Tigers. He’s also played for the White Sox and Yankees in the last four years.
The Tigers acquired Betemit, 30, from the Royals on July 20 to be their starting third baseman. Struggling Brandon Inge was demoted to the minor leagues the same day.
Inge returned a month later and he and Betemit split duty the rest of the way, Inge often entering in the middle to late innings for defensive purposes. Betemit then played sparingly in the postseason, and when he did play the switch-hitter looked awful at the plate. It was clear the Tigers had lost faith and were not intersted in keeping him.
The Pirates, meanwhile, also were closing in on another second-tier signing: outfielder Nate McLouth, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. McLouth, 30, a native of West Michigan, was an All-Star with the Pirates in 2008, but hasn’t been able to live up to 26-homer, 94-RBI performance since.
Pittsburgh traded midseason in 2009 to Atlanta, where he never got on track. McLouth, a left-handed-hitting center fielder, batted .190 in 2010 and .228 in 2011.
Be sure to check back with Covering the Bases, as Tony Paul blogs throughout the day Monday-Wednesday from the winter meetings.