Amid reports that the Pirates are interested in signing a veteran left-handed hitter coming off a down year like Rick Ankiel, Hank Blalock, or Kelly Johnson, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette suggests that they may end up simply going with young, in-house left-handed hitter Jeff Clement instead:
The deeper we get into this offseason, the clearer it is becoming that the Pirates want to see what Clement has, with maybe some urgency toward doing so before Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata arrive to crowd things further. They do nothing less than rave about what Clement did at the plate in Indianapolis right after the trade, and they sound as if they are very much looking forward to seeing if that translates.
Clement was once a top catching prospect, but just about everyone seems to have given up on the notion of him sticking behind the plate defensively and Pittsburgh got him from Seattle in the midseason deal for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson. While playing first base rather than catcher significantly lowers Clement’s overall upside, his bat still projects to be an asset. He’s struggled through 75 games in the majors, but the former No. 3 overall pick hit .279/.368/.492 with 59 homers and 95 doubles in 359 games at Triple-A.
Those aren’t spectacular numbers, especially spending four seasons at the same level, but Clement has 25-homer power and should supplement a modest batting average with a good number of walks. And as Kovacevic notes, at 26 years old and with over 1,500 plate appearances logged at Triple-A the time has come to see what Clement can do with 150 starts against big-league pitching. He’s certainly no worse of a bet than someone like Johnson or Blalock, and at a fraction of the cost with much more upside.