Pirates notebook: Huntington narrows team's offseason targets
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Pirates general manager Neal Huntington offered clarity regarding the team's offseason targets Monday afternoon on the first day of the winter meetings.
Huntington said the Pirates likely will fill right field internally and indicated the search to add run production will likely focus on first base. The Pirates also continue to seek a veteran pitcher while waiting on A.J. Burnett to make a decision on his 2014 status, and the club is in the market for a utility middle infielder, an indication Jordy Mercer is in line to begin the season as the starting shortstop.
“We'd like to resolve the starting pitching situation whether it's A.J. (Burnett) or whether it's not,” Huntington said. “We'd like to add a bat. … (First base) is one of the sports where we believe we can help provide a little more offense. … The outfield market is very shallow, so we are leaning toward staying in-house but still open to some trades.”
While Huntington declined publicly to comment on free agents and other teams' players, free agent first baseman James Loney is thought to be high on the Pirates' wish list, and multiple reports also connected the Pirates to Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison on Monday.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon did not sound confident Loney will be back with the Rays. Loney is thought to be seeking at least a three-year contract worth up to $10 million per year.
“I think he's in a position right now to probably go after the best contract he's ever going to get,” Maddon said.
Surplus to trade?
Huntington feels the club has a pitching surplus as it explores the trade market, particularly relief pitching.
“We feel like we have some reliever options at the big league level,” Huntington said. “We have some starting depth … We feel like we have some arms if we got the right return.”
Huntington again declined to outline the money he has available to spend this offseason but he did indicate the club has some financial flexibility within a relatively limited budget.
“We expect an increase. If we get the right pieces and parts it will increase,” Huntington said. “If we don't get the right pieces and parts, it won't increase as much.”
Huntington said the Pirates are unlikely to pursue free agents tendered qualifying offers, players if signed who would require the Pirates to forfeit their first-round pick. That removes the top free agent shortstop, Stephen Drew, one of the top first basemen, Kendrys Morales, the top outfielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and the top starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, from the Pirates' board.
“It would be awfully tough for us to surrender a draft pick,” Huntington said. “Because we are mortgaging our future for our present, and that's something we've talked about not wanting to do. We've talked about continuing to work to sustain this. We don't want to break it one year and we have five more losing seasons.”
Huntington on rehabbing lefty Wandy Rodriguez (elbow tendinitis): “He's in the early stages of throwing program and feeling good. He's on track for the start of spring training.”
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
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