Seeking pitching, Bucs working 'different fronts' at Meetings

Liriano remains on GM Huntington's wish list

Seeking pitching, Bucs working 'different fronts' at Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- Typically, general managers' best play when negotiating with agents or potential trade partners is the deadline card. Take-it-or-leave-it offers with a limited shelf life.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington, very transparent with his club's biggest need, knows that card is not in play at these Winter Meetings. It would fall on dead ears of agents representing any pitcher on Huntington's wish list -- such as left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Liriano's market may be considerably hotter than early projections, and will reach boiling point when other pitchers come off the market.

Winter Meetings action

Day 4: Dec. 11 Transaction Official?
OF Matt Kemp
C Tim Federowicz
Traded to Padres No
C Yasmani Grandal
RHP Joe Wieland
RHP Zach Eflin
Traded to Dodgers No
OF Yoenis Cespedes
RHP Alex Wilson
Traded to Tigers Yes
RHP Rick Porcello Traded to Red Sox Yes
RHP Ervin Santana Four-year deal with Twins No
LHP Mat Latos Traded to Marlins No
RHP Anthony DeSclafani
C Chad Wallach
Traded to Reds No
RHP Justin Masterson One-year deal with Red Sox No
RHP Alfredo Simon Traded to Tigers Yes
RHP Jonathon Crawford
IF Eugenio Suarez
Traded to Reds Yes
LHP Ross Detwiler Traded to Rangers No
OF John Mayberry Jr. One-year deal with Mets No
RHP Andre Rienzo Traded to Marlins Yes
LHP Dan Jennings Traded to White Sox Yes

"And it's not just the top-tier free agents," Huntington said. "It's also the guys who could be traded; a lot of pitchers are in their free-agent walk years, and there are various ongoing conversations in the industry. We're engaged on a bunch of different fronts."

After top-tier free agents like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, Liriano is considered a steep fallback because injuries have prevented him from ever having a 200-inning season. Yet, that is precisely the history that could make him appeal to some teams leery about the historic workloads of others on the market.

Or, have you forgotten about Scott Boras' campaign to boost client Scherzer's value by pointing out he has thrown 20,954 pitches in his career to 26,321 by Lester and 29,461 by Shields?

Liriano, Scherzer and Lester will all be pitching in their age-31 season in 2015. And Liriano's arm has made only 18,974 pitches, giving him more saved bullets. Yes, he would have to stay healthy to use them up, but that would seem to make him very valuable on the Boras scale.

"We're looking for five starters who give us a chance to win. We like the guys we would line up right now," said Huntington, adding, "Are there players out there who could make us better? Yes.

"What does it take for us to acquire them? That's what will play out in the coming weeks -- maybe even months."

Meanwhile, believers in karma may have reason to start getting excited by the potential of Radhames Liz, who is, as was Liriano two years ago, a Dominican reclamation project whose contract apparently is being held up by a physical issue.

Two and a half weeks after reports that Liz had agreed to a two-year, $3 million contract, the deal remains unconfirmed. The implication is some issues arose during Liz's physical and the Pirates are trying to rework the deal and make it more incentive-based.

Liriano, you might recall, had a reported two-year, $16 million deal with the Bucs in mid-December 2012, then cracked a bone in his right arm in a household accident later that month. The Pirates steadfastly renegotiated the contract, finally agreeing on Feb. 8, 2013, to a deal that reduced the first-year guarantee from $8 million to $1 million, while adding roster bonuses totaling $3.75 million.

"The holdup is more administrative than anything else," Huntington said of Liz's status. "We're working through details of the contract dealing with language and components."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.