General manager Neal Huntington and other front office staff spent much of Tuesday in meetings with other team personnel and player agents, with internal strategic meetings in between. And while little is known of the specifics of those meetings, one thing has been made quite clear: If the Pirates do deal before the week is over, it's not because they will be backing down on their asking prices.
As reported on Monday, the Pirates had made it clear to interested clubs that prying Jack Wilson away would cost two to three prospects, regardless of how much of Wilson's salary the Pirates were willing to take on.
So with reports surfacing on Tuesday that the Pirates were being approached by at least one club interested in outfielder Nate McLouth and starter Paul Maholm, there's no question that the Pirates would have to be significantly compensated before being persuaded to deal any of their high-ceiling young players.
Yes, Huntington has made it quite clear that no one on the club is deemed untouchable. But that's more because of his intention to do his due diligence in seeing what would be offered for one of the team's young cornerstone pieces than it is suggesting that he is trying to move one of them.
"There are certain guys that certainly we would need to get what we, in our minds, believed was an overpay," Huntington said. "Those are deals that you struggle to ask for. You don't want to get a reputation of always asking for too much, but there are certain players that are tougher to move. There are certain players that we are trying to build around."
It's fair to surmise that Huntington had McLouth, Maholm, Matt Capps and Ryan Doumit all in mind as he made that generalized comment.
In fact, the hesitancy for clubs to deal away prospects continues to become more and more the norm. Huntington suggested that the trend was partially a byproduct of an unstable economy and partially a result of watching the success teams have had in winning with homegrown talent.
"The value of young players is higher than ever," Huntington said. "Given the economic impact of what is going on in our society, I think the value of players is becoming even higher, to a point where you could argue that young players are now tremendously overvalued. I think the pendulum has swung very far to the side of overvaluing prospects."
"You don't want to get a reputation of always asking for too much, but there are certain players that are tougher to move. There are certain players that we are trying to build around."
-- GM Neal Huntington
And with the Pirates being in the business of shopping around for young talent, that reality will make their pursuit of finding a desirable deal that much more challenging.
While the Pirates don't appear to be anywhere close to trading away any premier young talent, there are indications that the club still sees a real possibility in dealing one of the organization's middle infielders before the offseason is over.
The Pirates have contacted agent Ryan Gleichowski to inquire about his client, infielder David Eckstein, which suggests that the Pirates are at least still preparing for the possibility of losing Wilson or Freddy Sanchez before the '09 season.
Eckstein is looking for a starting position and would be a capable replacement at either middle-infield spot. But since the Pirates would obviously have to make another move before seriously pursuing Eckstein, there have been no negotiations between the veteran infielder and the Pirates at this time.
While there are still no known suitors for Sanchez, apparently the market for Wilson has not entirely dried up, despite the Tigers backing out of the hunt on Monday.
"I still think that there are teams looking for shortstops, and I still think that there are shortstops available," Huntington said. "What I said yesterday still applies. If there's a good fit, we'll continue to explore it."
There is indeed still a market for shortstops, though it's hard to equate that to there being a market specifically for Wilson.
A team source said that Minnesota does not have serious interest in Wilson, while the Dodgers continue to pursue other priorities and potential infield options. The Orioles and Blue Jays both are in the market for the shortstop, but neither appears to have had Wilson on their radar as of yet.
The Winter Meetings setting always allows for deals to come together quickly, so there is no ruling out the potential of something coming to fruition before the week is over. However, Huntington stressed that leaving Las Vegas with a new player or two in tow is not going to be a barometer for a successful week.
"Everything we do is to get better," Huntington said. "If that meant we walked out of here having laid the groundwork for some conversations, having eliminated some potential areas that we thought might work, then that's sufficient."