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Bucs have money to spend at Meetings

Bucs have money to spend

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Here's a quick look at the Pirates' checklist and standing as the organization prepares for the Winter Meetings at the Bellagio in Las Vegas next week.

Club needs

Veteran starter: Though the club already has as many as 10 in-house candidates for next season's rotation, general manager Neal Huntington has made it a priority to seek a veteran starter to balance out that group. The amount of youth and inexperience in the current rotation candidates is still fairly significant, with Ian Snell having made the most career starts (101) in the group. Any veteran starter Pittsburgh pursues would likely be a middle-to-back-end-of-the-rotation fit.

Right-handed bat: The losses of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady may have netted prospects for the organization, but they did not address the immediate loss of right-handed pop in the middle of the lineup. The Pirates' power is confined mostly to the left-handed side (Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth and switch-hitter Ryan Doumit), leaving a right-handed bat still missing. Pittsburgh would most likely look to add a bat by acquiring an outfielder or a one-year fit at third base.

Shortstop: Obviously, there is no need to acquire a shortstop if fan-favorite Jack Wilson remains with the club. However, Detroit is after Wilson, and the Pirates will certainly listen to any clubs interested in taking Wilson and his $7.25 million salary in return for some young talent. If Wilson is dealt, the Pirates will need to make finding a shortstop a priority. Ideally, the club would love to net a young, Major League-ready shortstop prospect in return for Wilson, but even a short-term fix would do.

Bullpen depth: The bullpen picture is still a bit fuzzy, though it will become a bit clearer when the club announces if it will be tendering contracts to Tyler Yates, Denny Bautista and Jason Davis. Still, with left-hander John Grabow among the candidates to be traded, there is some need to make some additions to the 'pen through some form of acquisition.

Bench players: There is no guarantee that any of the team's veteran bench players -- Doug Mientkiewicz, Chris Gomez, Jason Michaels and Luis Rivas -- will return, making it necessary that Huntington find replacements elsewhere. The Pirates are certainly interested in re-signing Mientkiewicz and Michaels, but in the meantime, they will likely look to sign a handful of players as Minor League free agents to fill the vacancies.

Trade possibilities

No one on the club fits in the category of needing to be traded. And according to Huntington, the Pirates are not actively shopping any of their players. However, in the same breath, Huntington said that the club is willing to listen to offers to any player on the roster. In other words, there are no untouchables, though McLouth, Doumit and Paul Maholm are pretty close to that category.

With that said, any trade talk would likely center around these players:

Wilson: As stated above, Wilson has been at the forefront of the Pirates' Hot Stove headlines. It's not that the Pirates don't have the financial flexibility to afford Wilson's salary, but he's just the next veteran in line to be moved for younger talent.

Grabow: The lefty reliever is entering his final year before free agency, making him a target to be traded so the Pirates can ensure receiving some sort of compensation for him. Grabow is expected to gain widespread interest from other clubs.

Ronny Paulino: After being replaced as a starter by Doumit in 2008, Paulino will not assume anything more than a backup catching role next season. With catching depth scant across the league this offseason, clubs will likely inquire about Paulino's availability. Remember, it wasn't too long ago that Paulino hit .310 in his rookie season.

Top prospects

Unlike other clubs, the Pirates have no intentions of mortgaging their future by dealing prospects for immediate fixes. If other clubs wanted to pilfer the Pirates' farm system, these are some of the top prospects in it. However, don't plan on any of these players being dealt.

1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Pedro Alvarez
3. Jose Tabata
4. Neil Walker
5. Brad Lincoln
6. Daniel McCutchen
7. Bryan Morris

Payroll

Big contracts they might unload: Comparatively, there really isn't a big contract to be had on this roster. Wilson's contract -- $7.25 million in 2009 with an $8.4 million club option for 2010 -- would be the closest to fitting into this category. While not overly pricey for one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, Wilson simply doesn't fit in the Pirates' long-term plans, making him a prime target to be dealt.

Arbitration-eligible:
Bautista, RHP
Raul Chavez, C
Davis, RHP
Doumit, C
Zach Duke, LHP
Grabow, LHP
LaRoche, 1B
Maholm, LHP
McLouth, OF
Yates, RHP

Summary: The Pirates' payroll came in just under $49 million this season and will likely hover around that same number in 2009 as well. The Pirates have shed money with the departures of Bay, Nady and Matt Morris, but there will be a number of significant raises on hand for certain first-time arbitration-eligible players. Management has repeated that it has money to spend (likely somewhere in the $10-15 million range), but the club feels no need to spend that money just for the sake of saying the team is increasing its payroll.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
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