Davis' future with Pirates undecided

Davis' future with Bucs undecided

PITTSBURGH -- By Dec. 12, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington must decide to which of the organization's 10 arbitration-eligible players the Pirates will tender contracts.

In most cases, there is no debate to be had. First-time arbitration-eligible players Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm will certainly be tendered contracts. Adam LaRoche, Tyler Yates, Denny Bautista and John Grabow are all expected to be tendered contracts as well.

The case with right-hander Jason Davis, however, doesn't appear to be as clear-cut.

Huntington said that the Pirates are continuing to weigh their options with Davis, with no decision having been made yet as to whether the club will risk going to an arbitration hearing in order to bring Davis back.

The debate at hand is pretty simple. Davis made $650,000 in 2008, putting him in position to likely command about $750,000 in '09. While that price certainly isn't steep, it may not be cost-effective for the club to set aside that much money for a pitcher who doesn't seem to have a defined role moving forward.

Last season, the Pirates used Davis both in a long-relief role and as a spot starter after an extended stint in Triple-A Indianapolis. In four starts with the Pirates, Davis went 0-2 with a 4.12 ERA. He had a 6.91 ERA in 14 1/3 innings of relief.

"He threw well for us in a couple of starts," Huntington said. "He's an intriguing guy who proved that he can be competitive at the Major League level."

Hot Stove
The problem looking to '09, however, would be fitting Davis into either of those roles again. As of now, there appear be nine viable options for the five starting sports -- Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Duke, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Dumatrait, Daniel McCutchen and Jimmy Barthmaier. And if the Pirates land a veteran starter via the free-agent market, that would make 10.

Davis could be another starting option, though the number of potential starters already in the fold makes it unlikely he would earn a rotation spot immediately.

The club will be in need of a long-term relief option, but that role very well might go to one of the starters who does not make the rotation out of Spring Training. Again, Davis could be in the mix, but the competition would be steep.

The Pirates could also sign a Minor League free agent to assume the role that Davis had last year, and doing so seems the likeliest of paths, as the cost would be significantly less.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.