Bucs' lone trade is swap of catchers
Pirates acquire Jaramillo for Paulino; Wilson remains for now
LAS VEGAS -- General manager Neal Huntington will leave Las Vegas with one offseason trade completed. And no, it did not involve Jack Wilson.
Though the week started with speculation that Wilson would be the one on the move, Huntington instead swapped catchers with the Phillies late on Wednesday, with Jason Jaramillo coming to the Pirates in exchange for Ronny Paulino.
Jaramillo, who has been put on the 40-man roster, will compete to make the big league club in Spring Training. It would appear that his main competition would be Robinzon Diaz, though the Pirates are also still hopeful of re-signing experienced backstop Raul Chavez.
"We think there is an upside with the bat, switch-hitter, a nice complement for [starting catcher] Ryan [Doumit]," Huntington said of Jaramillo. "We like the way he catches. We like the way he throws."
Jaramillo has no Major League experience, but he has spent the last two seasons in Triple-A. In 2007, he played under Pirates manager John Russell with Triple-A Ottawa.
Last season, the 26-year-old Jaramillo hit .266 with 20 doubles, eight home runs, 39 RBIs and 48 runs in 115 Triple-A games. He was a midseason International League All-Star and entered the season as Philadelphia's 10th-best prospect.
It became quite clear during the season that management did not see Paulino as a critical piece of this organization moving forward. He played through Spring Training under the assumption that he would begin the season as the starting catcher. On Opening Day, however, Paulino sat in favor of Ryan Doumit and never regained favor.
As a backup, Paulino appeared in 35 games and hit .218 with 18 RBIs before being optioned to Triple-A on June 5. Paulino then dealt with an ankle injury before eventually rejoining the Pirates as a September callup. He made only one start in September, though.
Paulino's standing at the end of 2008 was certainly a stark deviation from where he was at the end of 2006, when he finished the season with a .310 batting average in his rookie season.
"Ronny's a talented player," Huntington said. "At one point in time, he was a highly thought of young catcher. I think he did need a change of scenery. We like Jason Jaramillo a lot, and if we didn't get a player we liked a lot in return, we would have held on to Ronny. It's a good fit for both catchers."
|"We like Jason Jaramillo a lot, and if we didn't get a player we liked a lot in return, we would have held on to Ronny [Paulino]. It's a good fit for both catchers."|
|-- GM Neal Huntington|
After the deal had been announced, Huntington said that Wednesday's trade was "probably" the only deal that the club would make by the end of the Winter Meetings. That means that there is no trade involving Wilson imminent and may not be one at all this offseason.
It became clearer as the week progressed that the suitors for Wilson quickly dwindled. That was partly a result of the Pirates' asking price -- two to three prospects -- and partly a byproduct of other clubs filling their shortstop voids with other players.
The Pirates are going to continue to look to deal Wilson as the offseason continues, but in the meantime are content with penciling him in as the team's Opening Day starting shortstop.
Much like the talk involving Wilson, this week in general proved to be much more heavily saturated with rumors than with deals and signings actually being done. Much of that can be attributed to an unstable economy and how that will affect each team's financial flexibility.
"It's amazingly quiet," Huntington said. "I've never seen anything like it, and I don't know if one or two pieces is going to lead to a flood of action. I think everyone is trying to figure each other out and who still has money to spend on free agents."
Huntington acknowledged that the Pirates did receive a number of inquiries about the availability of the organization's four most intriguing pieces -- Ryan Doumit, Paul Maholm, Matt Capps and Nate McLouth. However, with the Pirates' demands being hefty, those talks never progressed beyond the feelers being put out.
As for the Pirates' pursuit of players in the free-agent market, there, too, appears to be no signings imminent despite the opportunity to talk with a number of agents. One player still believed to be one of the team's targets is David Eckstein, who, through his agent has had discussions with the Pirates.
"Some of the conversations that we felt were moving in a positive direction have kind of halted," Huntington said. "Some of the conversations where we thought we were on the outside looking in have moved forward. The reality is we're at a position where we may try to get something done quickly, but we know we're not alone on the players."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.