Word of continued talks between the Pirates and Indians regarding a trade involving left fielder Jason Bay spread around the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center early in the day after it was reported that the two clubs met again Tuesday evening.
What followed was a denial by various Indians sources that the two sides ever talked on Tuesday, and then confirmation from a Pirates baseball source close to the situation that talks absolutely did occur.
But by the end of all the back-and-forth confirmations and denials, one thing was clear: Jason Bay is not going to Cleveland for the time being.
Asked frankly if all talks with the Indians were now dead, general manager Neal Huntington paused, and then responded.
"Yes," he said, before pausing. "Yes."
The two teams' most recent discussion surrounded what is believed to have been a five-player exchange, in which the Pirates would have given up Bay and catcher Ronny Paulino for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, catcher Kelly Shoppach and either a Minor League pitching prospect or lefty Cliff Lee.
While the Pirates appear more than content to leave Nashville with Bay still as their Opening Day left fielder, Huntington did leave open the possibility of rekindling trade talks with the Indians later this offseason. However, according to another baseball source, the likelihood of a deal getting done appears very slim.
"That is something that can happen," Huntington said, referring to trade talks being revived well after the end of the Winter Meetings. "Other times, when trade talks die, they die. "Today, it's dead. Forty-eight hours from now, four weeks from now, who knows. There are no absolutes when you're talking about trades."
Though interest in Bay has been widespread so far here this week, there is reason to believe that it could be advantageous for the Pirates to hold on to the outfielder in hopes that a resurgence in 2008 will improve his value.
The 29-year-old left fielder is coming off his worst season as a full-time starter, a season in which he hit a career-low .247 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs. Assuming that Bay returns next season with two healthy knees and confidence in his swing, his stock should drastically improve. And, consequently, other clubs may be more willing to meet the high asking price that the Pirates have in exchange for the two-time All-Star.
"If we were to trade some of these guys that came off bad years or came off injuries-plagued years, we're not going to get the true return on them," Huntington said. "[If] they go out and they perform to their true expectations, to their abilities, their value should absolutely go up."
San Diego is also believed to still be interested in Bay, though the Padres remain hesitant to consider offering up third base prospect Chase Headley in any sort of deal.
Rumor mill, part 2: While Huntington said that no new teams came to the Pirates on Wednesday expressing interest in any of the Bucs' relievers, there was confirmation that the Pirates did continue talking to clubs who have shown a continued interest in nabbing one of the Pirates' veteran arms.
A Major League source confirmed that members of the Phillies' and Pirates' front offices met on Wednesday to discuss the availability of left-handers John Grabow and Damaso Marte, as well as center fielder Nate McLouth.
According to the source, the Pirates' asking price for both McLouth and Marte was too high for the Phillies to begin serious considerations. And though Philadelphia is said to still be interested in Grabow, there is some lingering concern about his health.
Reports also surfaced on Wednesday that the Pirates and Yankees met to discuss the possibility of New York landing Marte in an offseason deal. However, with the Yankees believed to be leading the hunt in signing left-handed free agent Ron Mahay, there may no longer be a need to meet the Pirates' demands in exchange for Marte.
"We'll continue dialogue with some that we have been talking to for a while and some that have jumped in here during the meetings," Huntington said, specifically referencing trade talks concerning relievers.
Snagging talent: Unless something drastically changes overnight, the Pirates will take advantage of their second-overall selection in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft to make an addition to their 40-man roster.
"There are two or three guys that we are looking at right now," Huntington said Wednesday afternoon. "As we sit here today, I think we are looking to take a player [Thursday]. There are players that we like. There are players that we think can help us."
In order to make a selection, the Pirates will have to remove someone from the team's 40-man roster, though there have been no indications at this point as to who that player would be. The cost to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft is $50,000, with the stipulation being that a team must keep a selected player on its roster for the entirety of next season or offer them back to their original team for $25,000.
Among the players available in this year's Rule 5 Draft include three first-round selections from the 2003 First-Year Player's Draft: Chris Lubanski (outfielder, fifth overall), Ryan Harvey (outfielder, sixth overall) and Eric Duncan (first baseman, 27th overall). With Huntington's connections to Cleveland, the club may also look closely at Indians outfielder Brian Barton, who has also been left unprotected.
Garnering Gomez: Despite confirmation from Chris Gomez's agent that the 36-year-old free agent infielder had agreed to terms of a contract with the Pirates, Huntington cautioned everyone to hold off on calling it a done deal just yet.
"We are deep in conversations with Chris. Nothing is done," Huntington said. "When and if something is finalized, we will let you know. There are some things that we are still working through."
Gomez's agent, Alan Meersand, said on Tuesday that the two sides had agreed to terms on a one-year, $1 million contract, pending a physical. In addition, speaking from his home in Irvine, Calif., on Tuesday, Gomez said that a deal had been agreed upon and that his physical had already been scheduled.
Bucs bits: Pirates manager John Russell confirmed that he will be running a four-day minicamp in Bradenton, Fla., in early January, primarily for pitchers, catchers and other players who have recently been rehabbing an injury to attend.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.