Bay drawing interest at Winter Meetings
All-Star outfielder believed to be coveted by Indians, Rangers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jason Bay's name floated freely around the vast and open halls of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Monday, as the left fielder is confirmed to be the target of a number of different clubs, most notably by Cleveland and Texas.
A rumor on ESPN.com surfaced during the day that Cleveland and Pittsburgh were discussing a possible deal that would send Bay to the Indians in exchange for catcher Kelly Shoppach and left-hander Cliff Lee.
Asked if he knew if there was any substance to the rumor, Bay sounded surprised.
"I have not heard one bit," Bay said over the phone. "You [reporters] are my eyes and ears. I get all my information from reading."
Though Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, did not return voicemails left for him on Monday, Bay said that in his latest conversation with his agent, Urbon had heard nothing regarding trade talks involving his client.
This latest speculation linking Bay to Cleveland isn't the first of this offseason. With the Indians in need of a power-hitting left fielder, and with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington's connections to Cleveland, there seems to be substantial reasons to believe that a deal between the two teams could be worked out.
With the Pirates looking to continue infusing infield depth into their system, they may require Indians third-base prospect Andy Marte as a piece of any pending trade.
One baseball executive confirmed on Monday that Bay's name has drawn the interest of a number of other clubs as well, though it is known that the Rangers are one team that has already had preliminary talks with the Pirates.
"We've had some conversations with them," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on Monday. "But nothing has bubbled to the surface."
Though Texas was originally thought to have been interested in center fielder Nate McLouth, the club has since focused its efforts on acquiring a corner outfielder. What makes the Rangers interest in Bay significant is that Texas has an excess of what Pittsburgh needs most -- relief pitching.
The Rangers have suitable high-end right-handed relievers like Joaquin Benoit, Frank Francisco and Kameron Loe, who may be of interest to a Pittsburgh club searching for some stable and experienced late-inning, right-handed relief. Texas righties Scott Feldman and Wes Littleton would also likely be among those that the Rangers would part with.
Either way, Bay said he is going to keep his cell phone close over the next few days.
"I wouldn't be surprised either way," Bay said of the possibility of being traded. "I know people are looking at me, but you would just like to know sooner rather than later. I haven't put a lot of stock in it just yet because you can't believe everything that you hear."
Rumor mill: While Bay's name has been most prominent, the Pirates left fielder isn't the organization's only player being looked at by potential suitors.
McLouth continues to draw some interest, with San Francisco and San Diego among the clubs reportedly looking at the outfielder. There was also speculation on Monday that the Rockies would be interested in looking at a possible trade scenario in which they could land veteran Matt Morris, a veteran starter who had piqued Colorado's interest a few years back.
Asked to assess whether or not the organization could be expected to make at least one deal before the end of the week's meetings, Huntington wasn't ready to commit one way or another.
"The ebb and flow of trade talks is absolutely amazing," the general manager said. "You may seem perfectly aligned at one given moment and then another club pops in and starts talking about another player and the line kind of shifts and then goes away.
"We know we need to get better," Huntington continued. "We know we need to add depth to the system. But there is no sense of urgency that we have to do something. I think that's when you get in trouble -- when you fall into the artificial timeframe of feeling like you have to do something. I think that's when you make mistakes."
In addition, Joe Longo, the agent for free-agent pitcher Brett Tomko, confirmed that the Pirates are among the list of teams that he wishes to talk with while in Nashville this week. However, Tomko, an 11-year veteran, has said that he ultimately would prefer to return to a starting role, a guarantee that the Pirates may not be able to make unless they are able to deal Morris.
Pitchers coveted: While young, affordable and talented starting pitching remains a hot commodity among all clubs, Huntington said he will remain cautiously hesitant to deal away starters Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke.
"Realistically, no," Huntington said when asked if he expected to deal one of the four young arms in the Pirates' rotation. "It would have to be a very compelling trade to trade one of those starting pitchers. In order to move one of those guys, it would have to impact us significantly in a number of different ways."
Though the Pirates have been approached by numerous clubs desiring one of the team's four young starters, no offer has been intriguing enough to garner serious consideration.
Putting the pieces together: Though the Pirates' acquisition of Josh Wilson off waivers on Monday began addressing the team's need to add infield depth to the Major League roster, Huntington later confirmed that the team is still aggressively pursuing a veteran corner infielder, most likely via free agency.
"We would love to find a veteran presence to [add to] the mix," Huntington said. "[We want] someone who can bring a veteran presence to the clubhouse and is accepting of [a backup] role, and wants to try and help the young players. There are a couple guys out here who we are talking with, and hopefully we'll land one here some time this month."
Among a number of experienced and affordable third basemen available on the free agent market are Russell Branyan, Aaron Boone, Jeff Cirillo and Abraham Nunez.
Options added: Huntington confirmed on Monday that though Brad Eldred and John Van Benschoten were expected to be out of options after spending the last three seasons on the team's 40-man roster, Major League Baseball has granted each an extra option year because of extensive time missed due to injuries.
Eldred missed nearly the entire 2006 season after fracturing his left thumb and damaging a ligament in his joint. Van Benschoten sat out the entire 2005 season and much of 2006 recovering from two shoulder surgeries.
While Eldred and Van Benschoten are protected for another season, right-hander Sean Burnett did not receive an extra option. As a result, Burnett must make the team's 25-man roster out of Spring Training or will likely be claimed by another team through waivers.
Rule 5 Draft: Though the Pirates' two waiver claims and two subsequent roster moves have their 40-man roster completely filled, Huntington left open the possibility of the team still being active in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
"There are a couple of guys on the Rule 5 eligible list that we are talking about," Huntington said.
If the Pirates, who have the second overall selection in the Rule 5 Draft, decide to make a pick, they would have to open up a roster spot by either trading for a non-roster player or releasing someone. Any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team's 25-man roster through the entire next season or be offered back to their original team.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.