By Rob Biertempfel
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Good day, and welcome to day 3 …
UPDATE 11:50 am – I’ve heard the Pirates are mulling a cluster of “six or seven” FA starting pitchers. Their interest in Ivan Nova is well-established. I figure the uncertainty over Andrew McCutchen‘s situation — specifically, what kind of pitching the Pirates would get back in a trade and if/how that would immediately impact the rotation — is a clog in the drain. Once that situation is resolved, one way or another, things probably will keep moving slowly.
>>> The annual lunch with reporters and all 30 big league managers gets under way at noon today. Last year, the Neil Walker trade was finalized during that luncheon. In 2013, news of Charlie Morton‘s contract extension broke during that lunch. Will McCutchen be dealt before dessert is served today?
UPDATE 2:37 pm – Dessert was some sort of chocolate thing. Tasty, but I never got coffee, which was a bummer. Still no signs of life from the Pirates’ war rooms at the Gaylord Resort.
>>> During a discussion this morning about the Pirates’ quest for pitching help, it was noted that the Diamondbacks have a stable of young, controllable arms. Some of them are coming off rough seasons, but still have upside — the kind of pitchers that often pings the Pirates’ radar.
However, there could be a couple of roadblocks to the Pirates and D’backs making a deal. Arizona is seeking controllable relief pitching, which is not a great match with the Pirates. Also, there is the Mike Fitzgerald factor.
Fitzgerald was the Pirates’ traveling sabermetrics guy — they’re the first MLB team to have one on the road with them at all times — who last week took a job with the D’backs. Fitz has the poop on all of the Pirates’ top players, which could tip the playing field toward the D’backs in trade talks.
The Pirates have lost several other members of their braintrust over the past few years: Mark DelPiano, Jim Benedict, Jeff Banister. Is GM Neal Huntington worried that his secrets are being spread throughout MLB with each departure?
“If it were stagnant and a single-level model, yes,” Huntington said. “We’re working to continue to evolve and get better. We have lost some talented people and that’s a part of why we do this. That means we’ve helped them grow.”
Huntington said the Pirates have had “an immense amount” of requests by other clubs to interview their staff members. “Some have chosen to stay with us, some have interviewed and not gotten jobs, some have gotten jobs,” Huntington said. “Part of our challenge is to continue to replenish. We need to be very good in our selection process, not only on the player front, but with our staff as well. We feel every time we lose somebody, it’s an opportunity for us to grow and get better … a different voice, a different mind set, a different thought process.”
>>> The Pirates met on Tuesday with the agent for free-agent LHP Derek Holland. Duritng the confab, the Pirates did not indicate which direction they’re heading, but a source said things could move quickly either way later today.
>>> It doesn’t seem likely the Pirates will pick anyone on Thursday in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft. However, they could lose a player such as 3B/OF Eric Wood.
Wood was named to the Arizona Fall League top prospects team after batting .330 with five doubles, three homers and 20 RBI in 23 games. At Double-A Altoona last season, he hit .249/.339/.443 and improved his strikeout and walk rates. Was it a mistake to leave Wood off the 40-man roster and expose him to the Rule 5 draft?
“I’ll tell you on Friday,” Huntington said with a laugh. “We certainly recognize that he took a step forward this year. He had a nice Arizona Fall League and he’s continued to do some good things in winter ball. We talked a lot about should we protect him. As we walked through our criteria, we knew it was a risk. We recognize we may not see him again if he gets selected in the Rule 5 draft. We also recognize it’s really hard to carry a guy for a full year, especially if you’re going to try to be a competitive team.”
Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must remain with their new teams for the entire season or be offered back to their original club.