Strong bench again important goal for Pirates

Strong bench again important goal for Pirates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Heading into last season, general manager Neal Huntington proudly called the 2015 club the deepest team he'd ever assembled with the Pirates. The Bucs took pride in their bench, believing -- and eventually proving -- it would help them rest players and withstand injuries throughout the year.

But the Pirates lost a great deal of that depth to free agency this offseason, leaving them with a mostly unproven group of reserves. So you can add bench upgrades to the Pirates' wish list this offseason.

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"It's an area that we certainly will continue to explore," Huntington said Tuesday, the second day of the Winter Meetings at the Opryland Hotel. "We've got some young players that we feel are ready to step in and provide similar production to some veterans that have done that role in the past.

"At the same time, we did really like our depth a year ago, and our depth showed up. The ability for [manager Clint Hurdle] to rest a regular because he didn't have that far of a step down to put that role player in, that is important."

Pirates exploring different first base options

At this point, the Pirates' position player reserves would be first baseman/corner outfielder Jake Goebbert, who has played in only 51 Major League games; outfielder Keon Broxton, who appeared in seven games in his debut last season; infielder Pedro Florimon, a capable defensive shortstop who's hit just .199 in his career; and either Jung Ho Kang or Josh Harrison, depending on who starts at third base. Chris Stewart is expected to return as the Pirates' backup catcher.

The Pirates are interested in bringing back the versatile Sean Rodriguez, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rodriguez mostly served as a defensive replacement for first baseman Pedro Alvarez last season, but Huntington said the Pirates intend to employ a more traditional utility man next year.

"That helps a manager a ton, and that versatility helps," Huntington said. "In a perfect world, if we were to bring someone like Sean back in again, it would be to play multiple positions defensively and be a threat with the bat."

The Pirates also are trying to bolster their bullpen. Hurdle would prefer to have three lefty relievers at his disposal, and the Bucs currently have two on their projected roster: setup man Tony Watson along with Bobby LaFromboise, who is out of Minor League options.

But the Pirates generally prefer to avoid employing a left-handed specialist, as they believe having to carry such a player winds up putting unnecessary stress on the rest of their pitching staff, so a third left-handed reliever may turn out to be more of a luxury than a need.

"The bottom line is, it's getting seven relievers that Clint Hurdle has confidence [that they] can go get outs," Huntington said.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.