Bucs' broad approach pays dividends
Team adds several complementary pieces, not one big one
DALLAS -- A relatively quiet start to the week at the Hilton Anatole turned busy on Wednesday and put the Pirates' front office in position to depart with a dwindled checklist of needs.
While the Pirates' activity earned little recognition from a national perspective, the club is confident that it leaves Dallas better equipped to improve upon the 72-win season it had in 2011. The Bucs' roster tweaking was done through an approach to allocate money more broadly rather than targeting a limited group of big-name free agents.
"We could have invested everything in one big blue-chip stock, or we could have invested it in a portfolio," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We decided to take the portfolio approach. Again, we wanted to fill the holes that we had. We believed that was the best way for us to approach our offseason."
The Bucs' rotation picture is much clearer with the addition of Erik Bedard. It now looks like Bedard will join an otherwise all right-handed group that includes Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, James McDonald and Kevin Correia.
Other moves made this week have solidified backup options for the infield, outfield and catching position. The Pirates' decision to release Ross Ohlendorf has also cut into the list of arbitration-eligible players on the roster. Pittsburgh has until Monday to determine whether it wants to tender offers to those remaining eight players who fall in this category.
Before returning to Pittsburgh, Huntington did acknowledge that the Pirates have the financial flexibility to continue to add this offseason. That's not to say, though, that fans should expect a big splash in the immediate future. The Pirates' activity moving forward is likely to center on improving depth more so than filling obvious voids.
The one area that the Pirates could still look to upgrade substantially would be first base, which has no obvious starter at the moment. The Pirates will remain in touch with Derrek Lee, who rejected their arbitration offer this week, but it does not appear likely that Lee will land back in Pittsburgh.
Deals done: Pittsburgh filled two holes by inking a pair of free agents to one-year Major League deals. Bedard, who signed a $4.5 million contract, will slot into the rotation and likely be the Pirates' only left-handed starter. The club also leaves Dallas with Nate McLouth back in tow. The former Pirate will serve as the club's fourth outfielder, though he has the potential to earn more regular playing time if he performs.
The Pirates' only trade of the week came late on Wednesday, when the club acquired infielder Yamaico Navarro from the Royals for Minor Leaguers Brooks Pounders and Diego Goris. Navarro enters the mix of players competing for a bench spot as a backup infielder.
The Pirates signed catcher Jose Morales to a Minor League deal and removed Ohlendorf, Pedro Ciriaco and Jason Jaramillo from the roster to clear spots for the new additions.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Pirates selected infielder Gustavo Nunez from the Tigers with the eighth pick in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Nunez profiles as a backup shortstop candidate, though he has not yet played higher than Double-A. Though defensively polished, Nunez has to prove that he can hit and that he is recovered from an ankle fracture that required surgery in September.
Pittsburgh lost pitcher Brett Lorin to the D-backs. Lorin was one of five players the Pirates netted in the 2009 Trade Deadline deal that sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to Seattle.
Pittsburgh also made two selections in the Minor League portion of the Draft. Left-hander Aaron Poreda (Padres) was added to Triple-A Indianapolis' roster. Catchers Francisco Diaz (Phillies) and Charles Cutler (Cardinals) were taken in the Double-A portion of the Draft.
Goals accomplished: The need to add a left-hander to the rotation was taken care of with the addition of Bedard, and McLouth provides the insurance the Pirates need behind a trio of young outfielders.
Besides those two signings, much of what the Pirates did was designed to improve their bench options. Morales gives the club another candidate for the job as backup catcher. Navarro and Nunez enter the competition for bench roles as infielders.
Unfinished business: The Pirates' early aggressiveness has them in a spot where they feel little necessity to be especially active the rest of the winter. The club has already added a new starting shortstop and catcher, as well as another experienced starter and outfielder. First base remains an area in question, particularly after Lee declined the Pirates' arbitration offer on Wednesday.
Lee remains a target for the Pirates, though the club also seems content to open the year with some combination of Garrett Jones/Nick Evans/Jake Fox/Matt Hague playing first if needed.
The Pirates will continue to scour the relief market to see what might be available there. The team will also look to further fortify its bench. It's unlikely that the Pirates will be making any big splashes in the free-agent market the rest of the winter.
GMs bottom line: "We feel like as we've gone through the offseason, we've made some bigger moves that make our Major League club better directly. We also feel like we've made some smaller moves that make our Major League team and our organization deeper. We'll still look to continue to find moves to make us better, but we feel like we've taken a big step forward, whether it's the bigger moves or the smaller moves. We've put this organization in position to take another big step forward next year." -- Huntington
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.