ShareThis Page

Pirates zero in on moves to make during offseason

| Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010

Andy LaRoche missed his chance with the Pirates.

When LaRoche arrived in July 2008 as part of the Jason Bay trade, management hoped he would cement the starting job at third base. Instead, LaRoche failed to hit and had uncharacteristic defensive lapses.

"We expected more," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Andy is an example of why you can't count on just that one prospect (at any position). They don't always make it."

LaRoche will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, but he said he wouldn't be surprised if the Pirates do not tender him an offer. That would make him a free agent.

"I have no idea what their plan for me is," he said. "Do I have a role here next year• Will I be traded• Will I be non-tendered?"

LaRoche is not the only player to be weeded out as the Pirates reshape their lineup. It happened last year to Brandon Moss and might be in the process of happening with Lastings Milledge. The next one to go might be Jeff Clement, who is recovering from another knee surgery, or Garrett Jones.

Three veterans — Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit — have contracts that, in the Pirates' view, don't necessarily provide value for those players' production. That makes them potentially expendable this offseason. The Pirates will search the free-agent and trade markets for upgrades at starting pitcher, first base and right field.

Jones will return at first base in 2011, but probably not as a full-time starter. His future is clouded by age (he'll turn 30 in June), injury (for the second year in a row, he's hindered by shoulder problems) and declining production (he's batting .216 against left-handers).

Potentially, there will be several marquee first basemen — such as Derrek Lee, Paul Konerko and Carlos Pena — on the free-agent market, but don't expect the Pirates to chase them.

"A platoon (at first base) may be the best way to improve this club," Huntington said. "If we can find a right-handed bat that complements Garrett and beats up on left-handed pitchers better than he does, that might be our best fit."

Clement, a left-handed hitter who will be out of minor league options next year, likely is not in the mix. He had microfracture surgery Wednesday on his left knee and might not be ready for the start of spring training.

John Bowker, acquired at the end of July, is getting a long look in the season's final days. But he also has a poor career average (.132) against lefties, which indicates he might be a better option for right field.

Milledge, 25, will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. His age and potential make it likely the Pirates will keep him, but he might have to settle for a part-time role with Bowker.

Duke is a good bet to be non-tendered. Despite a 7-14 record and 5.68 ERA, Duke almost certainly would get upwards of $6 million next year through arbitration.

Most of whatever money the Pirates spend on free agents this winter likely will go toward pitchers. They might be able to get a value price on a veteran such as Todd Wellemeyer, Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Bonderman or David Bush.

"We'll look at the trade market and free-agent market," Huntington said. "But the bottom line is, we've got to continue to be smart about how we allocate our resources. It's going to be an interesting offseason. We're going to work hard to supplement this group, but we can't just throw $55 million at somebody because he makes us feel better.

"Whether it's $2 million, $10 million or something higher than that, we've got to make sure we feel comfortable that this guy is, ideally, a multiple-year fit or, if it's a shorter-term fit, he fills a hole that we can't fill internally."

Additional Information:

On the market

Some potential free agents this offseason at positions where the Pirates may try to improve:

» First base: x-Lance Berkman, Aubrey Huff, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, Carlos Pena, Fernando Tatis

» Right field: Jose Guillen, Brad Hawpe, Gabe Kapler, Austin Kearns, x-Jason Kubel, Jayson Werth

» Starting pitcher: Jeremy Bonderman, Dave Bush, Justin Duchscherer, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Millwood, Brad Penny, Javier Vazquez, Todd Wellemeyer, Jake Westbrook, x-Chris Young

x-player's contract has 2011 option

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.