Pirates interested in Rick Ankiel, Hank Blalock

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Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates have “made contact with” free agents Rick Ankiel and Hank Blalock, both of whom would fit the team’s apparent plan to pursue players looking to “revive their careers.”
Kovacevic notes that the Pirates could bring in a free agent like Ankiel or Blalock on a short-term contract and then, depending on whether or not the team is in contention, either hang onto the player or use him as trade bait while clearing room for a prospect like Jose Tabata.
Garrett Jones will start somewhere after his huge rookie season. He’d likely play right field if Blalock is brought in to play first base, but could also play first base is Ankiel is signed to play right field. The latter strikes me as a far more intriguing option, because Jones’ glove is lacking and an outfield with Lastings Milledge in left, Andrew McCutchen in center, and Ankiel in right would be among baseball’s best defensively.

Report: Nationals sign Joaquin Benoit to a one-year deal

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Nationals have signed reliever Joaquin Benoit to a contract. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post adds that it’s a one-year major league deal worth $1 million.

Benoit, 40, spent last season with the Phillies and Pirates. He put up a mediocre 4.65 ERA with a 46/22 K/BB ratio across 50 1/3 innings. Only 8/13 innings came with the Pirates as he dealt with a left knee injury that kept him out of action for much of the final month and a half. He also left the team in mid-September to attend to a family matter in the Dominican Republic.

Given his age and declining performance, as well as the Nationals’ bullpen depth, Benoit doesn’t figure to pitch in many high-leverage spots, but that could change with injuries.