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First base options thinning as winter meetings go on

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 1:57 p.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With the Pirates focusing their energies and dollars on pitching at the winter meetings, upgrading first base now figures to be the club's foremost concern.

And those options are thinning.

The Seattle Mariners traded for Miami first baseman Logan Morrison and signed free agent first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart on Wednesday. Those moves could make Seattle incumbent first baseman Justin Smoak available for trade. Free agent James Loney also is thought to remain high on the Pirates' wish list.

“It's still a strong (first base market),” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “Obviously Seattle's move … it takes a couple of guys off the market but it might put one back on. In our minds there's still some strength to it.

“We'll continue to look to see if there's something that makes us better.”

Pirates interested in former Cy Young winner Santana

The Pirates requested the medical records of two-time American League Cy Young winner Johan Santana and planned to meet with Santana's camp, according to Chris Leible of the Legacy Agency, which represents the veteran left-handed pitcher.

Santana is throwing from 180 feet, according to Leible, and continues to progress from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2013 season with the Mets.

Santana is close friends with the Pirates' Francisco Liriano.

Alvarez has permanent home?

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the club has no plans to move Pedro Alvarez to first base, despite some speculation from analysts that he might end up sliding across the infield.

Alvarez has committed 27 errors in each of the past two seasons.

“The only thought I hear about sliding out is from people outside our clubhouse,” Hurdle said. “We're a better team with him impacting the baseball, offensively, when he's at third base. He wants to play third base. And as long as Pedro wants to play third base and works hard at playing third base, I'm with him.”

Barmes still on radar

While Jordy Mercer is in line to begin the season as the team's starting shortstop, the Pirates still have interest in re-signing veteran Clint Barmes to a reserve role.

“We've kept an open door with Clint as we've progressed to try and fill that middle utility spot,” Huntington said. “Are we the right fit for him? The right fit for us? That remains unanswered.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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