— When free agency opened up, the Pirates were among the first teams contacted by Jim Lindell, the agent for free agent starting pitcher Jeff Francis
The two sides have remained in contact leading into this weeks Winter Meetings which are underway in Dallas. The 30 year old Francis went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts last season for Kansas City.
Francis who has been “injury plagued”, dealing with shoulder issues, logged 183 innings in 2011, showing for at least one season that he can endure a starters load.
Francis was one of Clint Hurdle’s aces for the Rockies 2007 team that advanced to the World Series. That season Francis won 17 games and earned the nickname “Jeff Franchise”. The Pirates pursued Francis last off-season and made an offer.
Francis made $3.65 million last season with the Royals after reaching incentives. He is looking for a deal that could net $4 million per season. Lindell and Francis are willing to wait it out like last off-season when Francis didn’t sign until January.
Several teams are interested and an interesting dynamic is that Francis is not looking to be relied on as a No. 1 starter on a bad team, which Francis’ camp believes attributed to his 6-16 record last season.
The Pirates are not considered favorites to sign Francis and are unlikely to meet Francis price tag.
— Two underrated areas the Pirates are exploring the market for is help at third base and a No. 3/No. 4 outfielder.
The team is showing interest in former Pirate Nate McLouth and there is mutual interest from both sides. The Pirates have been among 2-3 teams that McLouth’s reps reached out to and are targeting, as Pirates officials will be meeting with McLouth’s reps of the Sparta Group this week.
McLouth, 30, is looking to rejuvinate his career. He was an All-Star for the Pirates in 2008, hitting 26 home runs, while batting .276 with an .853 OPS. After signing a three year, $15.75-million contract, McLouth was traded to Atlanta in 2009 where he struggled mightily the pastÂ two seasons.
McLouth hit just .228 with 4 home runs and 28 RBI’s. It was a slight improvement from 2010 when McLouth batted .190 for the Braves.
Not many times former Pirates are interested in returning but this is one of them.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have internally discussed Japenese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and despite their being no posting fee, the team is not pursuing Iwakuma at this point.
On December 1st, teams were permitted to begin negotiations with Iwakuma but the Pirates have yet to place a call into Iwakuma’s reps at Cobbe Sports, source confirms.
The Oakland Athletics paid a reported $19.1 million posting fee to negotiate with Iwakuma last winter but the two sides were not able to reach an agreement. Iwakuma is regarded as the second best pitcher in Japan.
—- Check in later for John Perrotto’s Daily report on the Pirates from the Winter Meetings in Dallas —