12/09/08 5:51 PM EST
Mientkiewicz's agent to meet with GM
Utility player craves chance at everyday job in Pittsburgh or elsewhere
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The Pirates have not made Mientkiewicz any formal offer since the end of the season, though both sides mutually agreed at the end of the year to allow Mientkiewicz to scour the market to see what was available -- both in terms of playing time and dollar figures -- before discussing specific contract details.
Mientkiewicz has said that he has been contacted by "a handful" of teams already this offseason, and that Landry is contacting a number of other teams this week to see if there is interest elsewhere. Mientkiewicz has not yet been offered a formal contract by any club.
"I'm everybody's backup plan right now," Mientkiewicz said. "It all depends on the timing of when these big guys start falling."
While Mientkiewicz doesn't expect to be signed as a starting first baseman this offseason, the utility player does hope to get a chance to sign with a club that will give him the opportunity to compete to play every day.
"I want an opportunity to win a job," he said. "I want the chance to know I'm in the mix. I want the chance to know that if I play well, I'm going to play. That's how I'm approaching this winter."
That wish list would seem to preclude him from seriously entertaining an offer from the Pirates to return. With Adam LaRoche at first, there is not expected to be much playing time available there. Mientkiewicz would also certainly be a backup option for right field and third base, though again, it's unlikely that Mientkiewicz would be able to go into Spring Training with serious consideration at landing a starting role.
However, Mientkiewicz has not by any means ruled out a possible return to Pittsburgh. He reiterated his gratitude to Huntington for giving him a chance to make the team last spring, and sees a backup role with the club as still being an intriguing option if a better offer doesn't present itself.
"Neal stuck his neck out there for me last year," said Mientkiewicz, who signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates just before the start of Spring Training. "I will give him the final crack [at making an offer]. Loyalty is not everywhere in this game, but Neal gave me a chance."
Mientkiewicz said he does not plan to make his final decision based on a dollar amount, adding that the available playing time will take a higher priority than money. Mientkiewicz said he would not be opposed to signing a Minor League deal if necessary. He also said that he will not base his decision primarily on the state of the team.
"Do I want to win? Obviously, I do," Mientkiewicz said. "Me being me in Pittsburgh was very frustrating, but also very rewarding. Those fans took to me immediately. And I want to be there when [manager] John [Russell] turns things around.
"If Pittsburgh wants me back, I'm certainly going to consider it."
Huntington said on Monday that adding a corner infielder remains on the club's radar. And several times this offseason he has confirmed the organization's interest in bringing Mientkiewicz back in a backup role. By meeting with Landry this week, Huntington should have a better gauge on whether or not Mientkiewicz's desires match up with the Pirates' needs.
Mientkiewicz, a former Gold Glove first baseman, hit .277 with 30 RBIs in 285 at-bats last season. He started 66 games, primarily at first and third.
In order to increase interest in his service, though, Mientkiewicz is working to sell his season as more of a success than maybe those raw statistics would indicate.
"I'm convinced that if I had had 500-600 at-bats last year, I would have had 85 RBIs," he said. "I was facing the best closers in the game late, or the cream-of-the-crop guys when I was starting for the first time in a week."
Mientkiewicz does have a point. His walks-to-strikeouts ratio was the best in his 11-season career, and he had his highest on-base percentage since 2002.
While Mientkiewicz said he would not wait until February again to sign a contract, he also speculated that it will still be at least a few weeks before he comes to terms with a team.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.