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Pirates notebook: Team not likely to offer Morneau during exclusive-rights period

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Justin Morneau watches the game against the Cardinals from the dugout Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Justin Morneau watches the game against the Cardinals from the dugout Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring during the third inning against the Cardinals on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring during the third inning against the Cardinals on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

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Top free-agent first basemen

Player 2013 team Age G HR RBI Avg OPS

Kendrys Morales Mariners 30 156 23 80 .277 .785

Justin Morneau Twins/Pirates 32 152 17 77 259 .734

Corey Hart* Brewers 32 149 30 83 .270 .841

James Loney Rays 29 158 13 75 .299 .778

Mike Napoli Red Sox 32 139 23 92 .259 .842

Note: Age on Opening Day 2014 * — Didn't play in 2013; stats are from 2012 season

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Travis Sawchik and Rob Biertempfel
Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 2:39 p.m.
 

Although finding a first baseman is one of the Pirates' top offseason priorities, free agent Justin Morneau does not appear to be the answer.

On Thursday, Morneau told the Tribune-Review he does not expect an offer from the Pirates during the team's exclusive-negotiating period, which ends Monday.

Clubs could begin negotiating with their free agents after the World Series, which ended Wednesday night.

“They have said they don't expect to do anything before the window is closed but are still interested,” Morneau said in an email. “My options are wide-open.”

The Pirates acquired the former American League MVP in an Aug. 31 trade with the Twins.

In 31 games with the Pirates, including six in the playoffs, Morneau batted .267 with no home runs and three RBIs.

Before Morneau arrived, Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones platooned at first base. Overall in 2013, Pirates first basemen ranked 25th in the majors in home runs and RBIs.

Sanchez made $1.754 million this season and is going into his second year of arbitration eligibility. Jones, who has two years of arbitration eligibility left, made $4.5 million in 2013 and is a non-tender candidate.

The deadline to tender contracts is Dec. 2.

Rodriguez decision due

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez must decide in the next few days whether to trigger his $13 million contract option for 2014.

If Rodriguez activates the option, the Pirates will be responsible for $7.5 million, and the Houston Astros will pay the rest.

Persistent forearm pain limited Rodriguez to 12 starts this season. He pitched in 13 games for the Pirates in 2012 after being acquired in a trade with the Astros.

General manager Neal Huntington said he believed Rodriguez will be healthy by the start of spring training.

Burnett still in limbo

Neither the club nor A.J. Burnett has given any indication yet whether the right-hander will retire. Near the end of the season, Huntington said the team will do “everything in our power” to lure Burnett back. Huntington did not say if that includes making a $14.1 million qualifying offer by the Monday deadline.

Burnett turned down repeated requests by the Tribune-Review for comment.

Burnett, who will turn 37 in January, went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.215 WHIP this past season. In Game 1 of the NL division series, Burnett was torched for seven runs in two innings by the St. Louis Cardinals. He then was bypassed in favor of rookie Gerrit Cole as the Game 5 starter.

Missing memento

When catcher Tony Sanchez returned to his offseason home in Miami and unpacked his gear, something was missing: the ball from his first hit in the major leagues. Wednesday night, Sanchez bemoaned the loss in a tweet: “It's official. I lost my 1st big league hit baseball.”

On June 23, in the second inning against the Angels, Sanchez mashed a 2-1 fastball from Joe Blanton. The ball stuck in the right-field wall at the base of the scoreboard for a ground-rule double.

After the game, the ball was given to Sanchez. He took it with him a few days later when he was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis. Sanchez spent the final two months of the season with the Pirates. Somewhere along the way, he lost track of the baseball.

Better odds next year

Oddmakers Bovada and Pregame.com both gave the Pirates 25-1 odds to win the World Series next year. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 5-1 favorites to win the 2014 Series. A pair of NL Central foes — the Cardinals (10-1) and Reds (16-1) — also are among the frontrunners. A year ago, the Pirates' odds were listed at 30-1 by Bovada.

Going into the 2013 season, the Boston Red Sox were given 22-1 odds to win the World Series. Wednesday, the Red Sox clinched the title by beating the Cardinals, 6-1, in Game 6.

Travis Sawchik and Rob Biertempfel are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Biertempfel at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib. Reach Sawchik at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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