The Pirates have signed right-handed reliever Elmer Dessens to a one-year minor league contract. Dessens, who will turn 37 on January 13, began his career with the Pirates and pitched for the team in 1996-1998.
Dessens is unlikely to adequately fill the teamís need for a late-inning, right-handed reliever. He struggled through injuries in 2007, posting an ERA of 7.15, a WHIP of 1.68, striking out 22 and walking 12 in 34 innings pitched. At his age, we should not expect to see any improvement. However, there is no risk with this signing. It is a minor league deal, so the Pirates are not on the hook for any significant salary. Dessens had an ERA+ of 101 in 2004, 115 in 2005, and 102 in 2006. Over that time, he struck out 162 batters and walked 72 in 247.2 innings. He also has some experience starting. Those are not extraordinary numbers, but they are respectable. If he can return to that level of pitching, he would be a nice addition to the Piratesí bullpen. If he performs as he did in 2007, the team can let him go without remorse. Neal Huntington should be making more of these types of moves in an effort to stabilize the bullpen. Sign as many guys like Dessens as possible, and hope a couple perform well. A solid bullpen can be built with scraps.
In addition, if someone like Dessens pitches at an adequate level in the first few months of the season, he might be valuable as the trade deadline approaches.