Winter Meetings Notebook: A Quiet First Day

Is it just me, or does it seem like day one of the MLB Winter Meetings was the calm before the storm for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

I don’t think the Pirates are going to light the world on fire and sign a few top free agents, or make some blockbuster trade, but it certainly looks like we could see some moves in the next few days.  Consider the following events:

-The Pirates need one spot cleared on the 40-man roster by today, December 8th, at 5 PM EST, so that they can make a Rule 5 selection.  The Pirates have already cleared two spots, losing Luis Cruz to the Milwaukee Brewers via waivers, and outrighting Jeff Sues to AAA after Sues cleared waivers.  The extra spot either means two Rule 5 draft slots, or it means a move could be coming soon.  Neal Huntington is still non-committal about taking a player in the Rule 5 draft, although I don’t think they’ll pass it up.

-The Pirates had shown interest in Texas reliever Willie Eyre, who would have required a waiver claim and a spot on the 40-man roster.  However, Eyre cleared waivers, so the open spot obviously isn’t for him.

-The Pirates were linked to Adam Everett by several outlets, and Everett was reported to be interested in signing a one year deal and competing for the starting shortstop position.  Everett ended up re-signing with Detroit for $1.55 M for one year.  The Pirates have said they want to add a shortstop to push Ronny Cedeno defensively.  With Everett off the board, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says the Pirates will increase their pursuit of Bobby Crosby, who the Pirates were linked to before the rumors with Everett started.

-Dejan Kovacevic reported that the top priority would be adding a left handed reliever, mentioning Noah Lowry and Ron Villone, two names we’ve already heard linked to the Pirates, as well as Joe Beimel as a possibility.

So to recap, the Pirates have two spots open on the 40-man roster, they’re not committing to making a Rule 5 pick (which probably won’t be the case, but could mean they won’t be making two picks), and they’re rumored to be looking at Bobby Crosby and left handed relievers.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see a deal tomorrow, specifically Crosby since that seems more and more to be the top priority at the end of day one, especially with Everett gone, and Luis Cruz claimed by Milwaukee.

I’d be surprised if the Pirates add a left handed reliever that would take up a 40-man roster spot.  Ron Villone seems like an NRI candidate, and Noah Lowry hasn’t pitched since 2007, so it’s very unlikely he gets a 40-man roster spot from anyone.

Trade Rumors

Of course we’ve had trade rumors to follow, though nothing substantial.  The players rumored are Matt Capps, Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, and Paul Maholm.  Here is a rundown of each situation:

Matt Capps - Capps is coming off of a down year, although he claims part of that is due to getting away from his fastball and throwing more sliders.  FanGraphs confirms this, as Capps threw 10 percent fewer sliders and 10 percent more fastballs in 2009, compared to his successful years in 2007 and 2008.

John Perrotto reported today that the Pirates are trying to trade Capps, and are giving serious consideration toward non-tendering him.  We heard this topic back in September as well on Capps, although Neal Huntington shot it down by saying the Pirates plan to tender offers to their arbitration eligible players (Ronny Cedeno, Zach Duke, Matt Capps).

That doesn’t mean a trade won’t be in the mix, as we’ve already seen Capps offered to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy earlier this off-season.  I think the Pirates would be better off keeping Capps and seeing if he rebounds from his 2009 season, which would increase his trade value from it’s current low point.

Ryan Doumit - Most of the Ryan Doumit rumors are suggesting that teams are asking about the Pirates’ starting catcher, which isn’t a surprise since catching is rare this off-season.  Jon Paul Morosi reported today that four teams were interested in Doumit, and speculated that Toronto, Seattle, and San Francisco could be three of those teams.  Doumit is also coming off a down year, although I don’t think that will affect his trade value, as teams know what they’re getting with Doumit when he’s healthy.

Doumit is the guy I’d be least surprised to see traded, as there is a demand for catchers right now, and the Pirates have Jason Jaramillo to take over as the starter until Tony Sanchez arrives (which could be in 2011).

Zach Duke/Paul Maholm - Duke is coming off a big season, but his value is probably at it’s peak.  Maholm is coming off a down year compared to his 2008 season.  There have been a few mentions that people are asking about the two left handers, but Huntington doesn’t seem too eager to trade these two, citing the innings they provide to the rotation.  I think a trade with either player would require an offer that blew the Pirates away, and I don’t think that offer is coming with guys like Rich Harden, John Lackey, and Justin Duchscherer on the free agent market.

Signings/Additions

The only addition made by the Pirates today was adding free agent reliever Vinnie Chulk.  Chulk was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.  He will compete for a bullpen spot out of Spring Training.

Chulk is a good risk to take.  In 2007 he had a 3.57 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, a 7.0 K/9, and a 2.4 BB/9 ratio in 53 innings in relief with the San Francisco Giants.  If he puts up a season similar to that 2007 campaign, he will be a steal for the bullpen.

Winter Meetings Information

-Follow BUCCO Fans.com on Twitter to get instant Winter Meetings updates.

-Keep track of all of the Pirates’ off-season additions with The Off-Season Tracker.

-Follow the Pirates’ 2010 payroll on the 2010 40-man roster/payroll page.

-The Rule 5 draft is Thursday.  Check out my preview of the players available:

Catchers
Middle Infielders
Outfielders
Left Handed Pitchers
Right Handed Pitchers

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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