Hanrahan, Meek, Doumit, etc.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Some highlights from GM Neal Huntington’s late-afternoon media confab on the first day of the Winter Meetings:

»»» General impressions: “It’s a lot like the first day of the Winter Meetings always — a lot of conversations, some lead to dead ends and other lead to things coming to fruition. A lot of dialogue.”

»»» Whether the Pirates are open to trading prospects to fill needs for 2011: “We’re open to the right deal. In a perfect world, we’d like to hold on to every prospect we have. But we know that in order to get good players that are the right fit, it’s going to take us some players in return.”

»»» On trade interest for Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek: “We like both guys a lot. We think both are capable of closing at the major league level and we’re looking for value in return.”

»»» Which one is the closer?  “The tough part is, it’s not going to be a spring training competition because you can’t ever really compare (outings). One guy may face somebody’s A ball lineup and the other guy may face a big league lineup. If we do decide on one — there’s been multiple conversations between Clint (Hurdle) and I — we’ll decide before spring training. In early conversations, we’re open to continuing moving both guys, depending on how they match up, but it’s an ongoing dialogue whether we settle on one or go with both.”

»»» Ryan Doumit’s status: “As we sit here right now, Ryan will be our right fielder with some time behind home plate to supplement Chris Snyder. Sitting here right now, Ryan’s going to play a lot. It’s up to him to play well in order to play.”

»»» Regarding rumored trade interest in Andrew McCutchen: “I wouldn’t always believe what you read.”

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Olsen deal set, not final yet

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Pirates on Monday took the first step toward filling their starting rotation by reaching terms with free-agent left-hander Scott Olsen.

If he passes a physical later this week, Olsen, 26, will get a one-year contract. The deal is laden with incentives, due to Olsen’s recent history of shoulder injuries.

Over the past two seasons, Olsen battled shoulder problems and made just 26 starts. In that span, he’s thrown 143 2/3 innings and went 6-12 with a 5.76 ERA.

»»» The crowd stumbling through the lobby here at the Dolphin and Dolphin consists mostly of media, gathering rumors and making small talk. But other folk also pass through, including team officials, agents and players.

This morning, I chatted for a while with ex-Pirates reliever Salomon Torres. I recognized his face immediately, but what caught my eye was his Steelers cap. “I’m trying out for the Steelers next!” laughed Torres, who still lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and kids.

Torres is still trim and fit, and I wondered if he’d be up for another season in the Bucs’ bullpen. “No, my playing days are done,” he said. Torres is at the Winter Meetings trying to drum up business for his baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. He already has contracts with three MLB clubs. You may recall his hasty exit from the Pirates — he was traded to the Brewers for nothing — was soured when, as he claimed at the time, the team backed out of a handshake agreement for an academy.

»»» For fast-breaking Winter Meeting news, you can follow me on Twitter (@RobBiertempfel).

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Oliver, Simmons snubbed by HOF

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Longtime front-office exec Pat Gillick, who pieced together three World Series champs, this morning was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Gillick was the lone candidate chosen by the 16-member Expansion Era Committee. He got 13 votes, one more than the necessary 75 percent.

Former Pirates GM Ted Simmons and outfielder Al Oliver each received fewer than eight votes.

Marvin Miller came up one vote shy of approval. The late George Steinbrenner also was listed in the “fewer than eight votes” category.

The Expansion Era Committee will not vote again until 2013. Next year, the Golden Era (1947-72) Committee will vote for the first time. In 2012, the Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946) Committee will vote.

»»» If I was in Pirates GM Neal Huntington’s shoes and the Rays offered shortstop Jason Bartlett straight-up for Joel Hanrahan, I’d smile and politely say, No thank you.

Bartlett is a bit better offensively (career .345 on-base percentage, .731 OPS) compared to Ronny Cedeno (.284 OBP, .640 OPS). But he is 31 years old and about to unseated by youngster Reid Brignac (whom the Pirates tried to get via trade a couple of years ago). Bartlett also has no arbitration eligibility left, meaning he could be only a one-year rental.

Bartlett could help the Pirates this season — it’d be good to get him in some sort of deal — but Hanrahan has more value short- and long-term.

»»» Speaking of Hanrahan, he and I have set a wager on the Outback Bowl clash of my Nits and his Gators. Not cash on the line — hey, I’m a minimum-wage writer, remember? — but the loser will have to wear the winning team’s T-shirt during spring training. I’m thinking Hanny will look good in blue and white.

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Milledge, Diaz won’t be back

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A couple of weeks ago, the Jason Bay trade pretty much went belly-up when Andy LaRoche was cut loose. Of the four players the Pirates got in that swap, only Bryan Morris seems to have any chance at helping the club in the future.

Last night, the deals that sent Adam LaRoche to Boston and Nyjer Morgan to Washington also lost some of their luster. Argenis Diaz (who came from the BoSox) and Lastings Milledge (from the Nats) were non-tendered and became free agents. Neither made much impact in Pittsburgh and neither is likely to be re-signed by the Pirates.

Milledge, 25, began 2010 as the Opening Day starter in left field. He was shifted to right after Jose Tabata was called up, then was demoted to a platoon role due to his poor run production (34 RBI in 113 games) and defensive struggles.

Huntington is open to trying to re-sign Milledge, who made $452,000 this year. But attempts to work out a one-year deal before last night’s deadline yielded little progress.

“It was a tough negotiation,” GM Neal Huntington said. “As the negotiations went on, we began to explore alternatives. We want to continue to explore those alternatives.”

Diaz, 23, hit .242 in 22 games and did little to distinguish himself during his brief time in the majors. With a younger wave of infielders moving up in the Pirates’ farm system, Diaz is expendable and will not be re-signed.

»»» Left-handers Donnie Veal and Brian Burres also were non-tendered. Veal, a former Rule 5 pickup, is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Burres made 13 starts for the Pirates this past season.

Huntington is optimistic he can re-sign Veal and Burres, and already has made that known to both players’ camps.

»»» The non-tenders created four openings on the 40-man roster, which soon could be filled by free-agent signings.

»»» The Pirates signed shortstop Ronny Cedeno and pitcher Jeff Karstens to contracts to avoid salary arbitration.

Cedeno, who was in his final year of arbitration eligibility, got a one-year contact with a club option for 2012. Cedeno is guaranteed $2 million under the deal.

Karstens will make $1.1 million next year, nearly tripling his salary from this past season.

The Pirates had little choice but to keep Karstens as depth for the starting rotation after they traded Zach Duke and lost out in the bidding for free-agent Jorge de la Rosa. Karstens has pitched well as a starter, but there are concerns about his durability.

»»» The club also tendered offers to right-handers Ross Ohlendorf and Joel Hanrahan, who are both first-time eligible for arbitration.

If they do not sign contracts by Jan. 18, the pitchers and the team will exchange salary figures for arbitration. Arbitration hearings will be held Feb. 1-21.

Ohlendorf, 28, went 1-11 with a 4.07 ERA this year, when injuries limited him to 21 starts. He made $453,000.

Hanrahan, 29, is a candidate to become the full-time closer in 2011. This past season, he went 4-1 with a 3.62 ERA and six saves. The righty made $439,000.

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