Starting pitchers Oswalt, Jackson spurn interest from Pirates

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

Even a chunk of cash as large as $10 million will not buy the Pirates an upper-tier free agent unless that player wants to play in Pittsburgh.

According to multiple industry sources, the Pirates in recent days engaged in serious, detailed discussions with the agents for pitchers Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson. In both cases, however, talks were derailed when the player said he'd rather play elsewhere.

Jackson accepted a one-year, $10 million contract Thursday from the Washington Nationals. The Pirates had offered the right-hander one- and three-year deals for slightly less money per year.

Oswalt is still on the market, and reportedly is seeking a one-year contract for around $10 million. The Pirates reached out to Oswalt's camp but were rebuffed. The right-hander has indicated he'd prefer to start for either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Texas Rangers.

The Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds also are thought to be interested in Oswalt.

The Pirates are on track for an Opening Day payroll of about $48 million, but management has said there still is money in the budget to upgrade the team.

Yet, it's not easy for a team that's finished under .500 the past 19 seasons to lure top-notch free agents.

Oswalt, 34, made it to the playoffs last season with Philadelphia and wants another crack at a World Series ring. Jackson, 28, joined a potentially dominant rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Chien-Ming Wang.

This offseason, the Pirates added five players of note — left-hander Erik Bedard, catcher Rod Barajas, shortstop Clint Barmes, infielder Casey McGehee and outfielder Nate McLouth. McGehee arrived via trade; the others were free agents who will cost a combined $15.25 million this year.

The NL Central race should be more open this season after sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder defected to the American League. However, former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden doesn't believe the Pirates have done enough this winter to improve their chances.

"I view the Pirates as the fourth-best team in the division," said Bowden, who works as an analyst for ESPN and MLB Network Radio. "The acquisitions of stop-gap players like Barmes, McGehee, McLouth, Barajas and Bedard will help them win a few more games, but will also cost them draft position and it still will not be enough to catch the top three teams."

Bowden would not be surprised if Pirates GM Neal Huntington deals some of the new arrivals at the July 31 trade deadline.

"Huntington's ability to trade these of type of players for prospects in July will potentially have more value to the organization than the few additional games they'll win because of the acquisitions," Bowden said.

Notes: Danny Clyburn, 37, the Pirates' second-round draft pick in 1992, was shot to death early Tuesday morning in Lancaster, S.C. Clyburn, an outfielder, played 41 games in the majors for the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. ... Free-agent first baseman Dmitri Young will work out for manager Clint Hurdle this week at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Young, 38, has not played in the majors since 2008, when he hit .280 in 50 games for the Nationals. A 13-year veteran, Young has hit 171 homers and is a two-time All-Star.

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