Buzz surrounding Wilson diminishes
Bucs exploring options for shortstop, add backup corner infielder to list
LAS VEGAS -- There is still plenty of time for the Pirates to seek out potential trade partners for Jack Wilson this week and in the next two months. However, by the end of Day 1 at the Winter Meetings, the possibility of Wilson remaining in a Pirates uniform is looking more and more viable.
Pittsburgh lost one potential suitor for Wilson, as the Tigers have found a shortstop fit with free agent Adam Everett. While Detroit has not officially announced the signing, it is expected to do so before the end of the Meetings.
As the Tigers fell out of the mix on Monday, newspaper reports surfaced that identified Minnesota as the newest player in the Wilson sweepstakes. However, an official team source told MLB.com that the Twins are not interested in Wilson at this time.
Minnesota is still setting its sights on re-signing Nick Punto and then upgrading the left side of the infield by acquiring a third baseman. Though Punto is being courted by a handful of other teams, he continues to express interest in reaching a deal with the Twins, where he would be able to start.
With the Tigers out of the mix and Minnesota not believed to be a serious suitor, the Dodgers appear to be the only other club left that has had any previous interest in the veteran shortstop. And even that interest appears to have waned lately as the Dodgers wait to see where shortstop Rafael Furcal lands. If Los Angeles reaches a deal with Casey Blake, as it is believed to be close to doing, that, too, would lessen the Dodgers' pursuit of Wilson.
According to one Major League source, the Pirates' asking price of Detroit for Wilson was two to three prospects, regardless of how much of Wilson's salary the Pirates were willing to pick up. As a result, it can be expected that Pittsburgh would be asking that same price of the Dodgers as well.
Though the shortstop market appears to be drying up, general manager Neal Huntington still has not ruled out dealing Wilson.
"I think there are teams that still need shortstops, and there are shortstops out there," Huntington said on Monday afternoon. "As the options narrow, there still needs to be the right fit. We're still exploring to see if there is.
"As I sit here right now, Jack Wilson is our shortstop for the '09 season," Huntington continued. "That's not a bad thing. Jack Wilson is loved by the fans and is fun to watch on defense, and a healthy Jack Wilson will be a productive Jack Wilson."
Wilson, who is in Las Vegas until Tuesday, has prepared himself for the possibility of being dealt, though he reiterated that there would be no hard feelings with the Pirates if he is not. In fact, he'd prefer it that way.
"I'm just living until they tell me I'm not a Pirate," Wilson said from the Bellagio hotel lobby Monday morning. "I would love to return to Pittsburgh."
|"As I sit here right now, Jack Wilson is our shortstop for the '09 season. That's not a bad thing. Jack Wilson is loved by the fans and is fun to watch on defense, and a healthy Jack Wilson will be a productive Jack Wilson."|
|-- GM Neal Huntington|
There has been speculation that Mark Loretta is one free agent on the Pirates' radar to fill that void. However, Loretta's agent, Bob Garber, confirmed on Monday night that Loretta had agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Dodgers.
As for the necessity of landing a veteran starter, Huntington reiterated that the organization continues to make that a priority.
"A pitching coach helps to a certain level. Player-to-player certainly takes it to another level," Huntington said, addressing the importance of landing a veteran starter. "We don't want to put too much pressure on a young starter to be a mentor and a nurturer to the other young starters. But we're not just going to sign a veteran pitcher to make us feel better."
Doing so this week could be challenging, however, as the Pirates still seem squeezed by the fact that the top-tier pitchers on the free-agent market have not yet signed.
Huntington also cited the growing national economic concerns as a legitimate factor in the team's activity this offseason. Despite the organization being in good financial standing, the uneasiness of the economy may keep Huntington from spending all the money that had been made available to him.
"The money that we thought we had available to spend this offseason, we have to be a little bit more sensitive to spending that money," he said. "It has to be something that we strongly feel makes us significantly better, not incrementally better."
Huntington also addressed the team's preparation leading up to Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Huntington said that the Pirates have some level of interest in up to 15 available players and are especially focusing their research on four to five in the next two days.
The Pirates' 40-man roster currently sits at 38, giving Huntington the flexibility to make a Rule 5 selection, and he will likely do so. Pittsburgh will also be active in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.