PITTSBURGH – The Pirates won't be confused for the Phillies anytime soon. But while their state rivals were busy with Cliff Lee on Tuesday, at least Pittsburgh jumped into the shallow end of the free-agent pool.
The Pirates announced the signing of outfielder Matt Diaz and first baseman Lyle Overbay. Diaz, 32, who hit .250 for Atlanta last season, signed a $4.25 million, two-year contract with a signing bonus of $250,000, while Overbay, 33, who hit 20 home runs last year for Toronto, received a $5 million, one-year deal.
The additions likely will allow the Pirates to trade Ryan Doumit, who is primarily a catcher but has also played the outfield. He is due $5.1 million in 2011.
Overbay had 37 doubles last year with the Blue Jays, but batted just .243 with 67 RBIs, the second fewest among all major league starting first basemen with at least 475 at-bats at the position.
The Pirates, again restricting their free agent activity to budget-priced players, plan to start Overbay at first. Garrett Jones and Diaz are expected to platoon in right field. Jones hit .247 with 21 homers and 86 RBIs last season as Pittsburgh's primary first baseman.
"Lyle Overbay is a solid major league player," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said, "and we expect him to have a positive impact on our club offensively, defensively and in the clubhouse."
Pittsburgh has had 18 straight losing seasons and its 57-105 record was its worst in 58 years.
Against left-handed pitchers, Diaz hit .273 with five home runs in 2010, and .412 with six homers in 2009.
"Matt Diaz is a quality fit for our club," Huntington said, "as a right-handed hitting outfielder whose abilities and approach will impact the team on and off the field."
Neither Diaz nor Overbay were tendered contracts by their former clubs, thus allowing them to become free agents.
Overbay should upgrade what was the majors' worst defense last season. He led the AL in double plays and assists by a first baseman. His best season at the plate came in 2006 with Toronto when he hit 20 home runs and 46 doubles with 92 RBIs.
Overbay made his major league debut with Arizona in 2001, was traded to Milwaukee before the 2004 season and dealt to Toronto before the 2006 season. In parts of 10 years, he is a .274 hitter with 122 home runs and 524 RBIs.
Diaz's best season was in 2009, when he established career highs in at-bats (371), runs (56) and home runs (13), while hitting .313.