NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's the trade rumor that just won't die. The Indians spent Wednesday morning squashing a report that they had rekindled talks with the Pirates about acquiring left fielder Jason Bay. The two sides did discuss a deal involving Bay before arriving to the Winter Meetings, and, according to a Pirates official, those talks did resume Tuesday night. But Indians officials insist the conversations never reached the serious stage.
A report in Wednesday's Pittsburgh Post Gazette said the two clubs had completed the framework of a deal in which the Indians would receive Bay and catcher Ronnie Paulino for catcher Kelly Shoppach, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and either left-hander Cliff Lee or a Minor League pitcher. Such a framework, however, would have obvious sticking points. Though the Indians could stand to make an upgrade in left field, Bay is coming off a down year in which he batted .247 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs while battling knee problems. Yet the Pirates view him as one of their cornerstone players, and, hence, have a steep asking price for him. The Indians, meanwhile, are hesitant to part with any of their depth in starting pitchers -- a pack that includes Lee. They also recognize the upside of Gutierrez and the inherent value of a solid backup catcher like Shoppach, who works every five days, when pitcher Paul Byrd is on the mound and Victor Martinez starts at first base. Of course, none of this is to suggest that the talks couldn't pick up again at some point this winter, as Pirates GM Neal Huntington -- a former Indians front office staffer -- told the Post-Gazette. "There are so many moving parts that I don't think there are any absolutes," Huntington said. "Today, it's dead. Forty-eight hours from now, four weeks from now, who knows?" Tiger take: Indians general manager Mark Shapiro knows what everyone else in baseball now knows -- the '08 Tigers will have a beast of a lineup. Now that Miguel Cabrera has been added to a lineup that already included the likes of Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco and Carlos Guillen, some are already speculating that the Tigers could score upwards of 1,000 runs next season. "That's a New York Yankee-esque lineup," Shapiro said. "Fortunately, we've got good pitching." The Indians, who face the Tigers 19 times next year, will need it. But obviously, Shapiro and the Indians aren't conceding the division, in the wake of the Tigers' blockbuster trade with the Marlins.
"We expected them to be good, but we just need to focus on ourselves and putting together the best team possible and our players going out and executing," Shapiro said. "If that happens, we're going to be fine." In general, Shapiro can't help but notice the growing disparity in talent between the AL and NL. That disparity is only aided by trades such as the one announced on Wednesday. "It shifts more of the balance to the American League," Shapiro said. "I'd sure like to see some of the players head to the National League once in a while. It's unbelievable the amount of talent that keeps shifting to the American League." Looking up Lewis: Tribe reliever Jensen Lewis has a pretty sweet setup. Lewis rents an apartment here in Nashville with fellow Vanderbilt alumnus David Price, who was the No. 1 overall pick of the Rays in this year's First-Year Player Draft. Lewis and Price made a gentleman's bet that the first one of them to reach the big leagues would receive free rent for a year from the other. Lewis got the call in July. Price is still waiting for his. "He was the second call I made [when promoted]," Lewis said with a smile. Lewis is spending his winter working out on the Vanderbilt campus. "I think this offseason is just a good time to understand we accomplished some things," Lewis said. "But, at the same time, I'll go into next year with the mentality that I'm trying to win a job and win a spot on the team. Last year is last year and we'll start all over again." Lewis is excited that the Indians have added Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi, even though it might affect his role in the 'pen. "We'll learn from him, he'll learn from us, and, all together, it's going to make us a better club," Lewis said. As for the Tigers' lineup, well, Lewis is ready for the challenge. "You look at their lineup on paper, and it's got to be the best out there," he said. "For us, it gives you more of a sense of urgency in our division. But we've got a real good club. We've got pretty much everybody coming back. We'll just have to go out and execute." No incentive: The Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Wednesday to approve a resolution in which, starting in 2013, all contracts that have financial terms attached to major awards will not be eligible for consideration for that award. The resolution stems from Curt Schilling's new contract, in which the Red Sox right-hander will receive a $1 million bonus if he gets at least one Cy Young Award vote. The members of the BBWAA, who vote on the annual awards, view the situation as a potential conflict of interest. A BBWAA committee will discuss the issue with the Players' Association and MLB at a future date. For his part, Shapiro believes awards should be based on statistics. "The only one that I think really works is the Rolaids [Relief Man of the Year Award], because it's directly calculated," he said. "I guess All-Star [incentives] can stay in there, because, more and more, the players are responsible for that. I'd rather have objective metrics [determine award winners]. But that would have to be bargained in the CBA, and it's been opposed in the past." Tribe tidbits: Expect the Indians to lose an outfielder with the No. 1 overall pick of the Rule 5 Draft for the second straight year. Last year, the Rays acquired Ryan Goleski and immediately shipped him to the A's, who ended up returning him to the Tribe. This year, the Rays are rumored to be interested in Brian Barton, who is coming off non-reconstructive surgery on his right knee. ... The Indians and Scott Parker, the agent for C.C. Sabathia, were expected to meet on Wednesday to have preliminary discussions about a contract extension for the ace left-hander. ... Manager Eric Wedge and his wife, Kate, are expecting the birth of a baby boy in February. The couple's first child, their daughter Ava, was born in April of '06. They have not yet decided on a name for the new kid on the block.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.