“Monday’s Daily Five”: Jagr; Bautista; Huntington’s Future; Ike Taylor & more

The Daily Five

*A new feature that will be posted Monday through Friday (Between 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.) on five emerging stories in the Pittsburgh Sports Scene*
1. Penguins GM Ray Shero is returning from the World Championships where the Penguins are expected to pickup organizational meetings this week after Shero and his staff conducted preliminary meetings prior to various members going on scouting trips.
The buzz right now is whether Shero saw enough from Jaromir Jagr at the World Championships where he feels he could be a fit and a factor with the Penguins.
Right now all indications are the Penguins do not intend to pursue Jagr this off-season who has created a media storm due to his flirtation of a possible NHL return and interest in Montreal, Pittsburgh and New York.
One Penguin source told me that the sense is Jagr would have to be the aggressor in orchestrating a return and some influence from owner Mario Lemieux to get Shero and his staff to realistically mull the possibility.
Scouts left World Championships believing Jagr can still help a contender in the right situation.
Shero and his scouts at this point are not inclined to pursue him.
2. The emergence of Jose Bautista (.368 – 16 HR – 27 RBI) as arguably the games best hitter just adds to the Pirates demise over the past 18 seasons. Bautista hit three homers for the first time in his career Sunday, adding to his major league-leading (16) and the 30 year old has evolved into the games most dominant hitter.
There is a large enough sampling where Bautista’s dominance is no fluke. Bautista has 22 more home runs than any other player in the last full year, according to ESPN’s Chris Sprow. Just an incredible number and he’s a great story right now.
Some believed that that Blue Jays jumped the gun in giving Bautista a 5 year – $65 million deal in the off-season but how much of a bargain is that deal now?
SI’s Jon Heyman mentioned last week that Bautista has probably lost out on at least $90 million. “But it looks now like if Bautista had waited, he would have joined Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols in the superstar free-agent market this winter and probably beaten $150 million. And the Jays would have been out of luck, ” Heyman wrote in a feature last week on the off-seasons best bargains.
However, for Bautista at age 29 during the time, getting immediate security of a guaranteed $65 million deal was a no brainer.
The Pirates like the rest of Major League Baseball had no clue Bautista would emerge a few years later as a superstar but the team deserves blame for trading Bautista at a time when there was no urgency to.
This was still a guy who in 2006 hit 16 home runs, followed by 15 home runs in 2007 and had 12 home runs and 42 RBI’s in 107 games during an up and down 2008 season.
The Pirates though made a personnel blunder and were sold on Andy LaRoche and Bautista lost his starting job to LaRoche just days after LaRoche was acquired.
Bautista was optioned to Triple-A on August 13 and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later {Robinzon Diaz}.
Instead of going into the 2009 season with Bautista and LaRoche battling for playing time, the Pirates handed the job to LaRoche. Everyone knows the story from there.
3. A hot topic in the next couple months will be the status of Neal Huntington’s future with the team who is entering the final year of his deal.
Sources indicate Huntington’s future was broached during recent organizational meetings held with the Pirates group of minority owners.
A key for Huntington has been improvement at the MLB level in player development, not necessarily the teams record.
Some positives for Huntington at the MLB level this season has been the signing of Kevin Correia, consistently putting together an adequete bullpen and acquisitions of Jose Tabata, Joel Hanrahan, James McDonald and what’s big for him is the transformation of Charlie Morton who was the key piece of the Nate McLouth trade.
There’s also been some duds of late such as the signings of Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz but Huntington is not on the hot seat by any means and he’s believed to put himself in position to stick around beyond this year.
4. The talk from the local media of Ike Taylor being a lock to resign with the Steelers is being a bit over-rated.
As mentioned in early March, Taylor had no interest in resigning with Pittsburgh before the CBA expired and the intention from high powered agent Joel Segal hasn’t changed and that’s to test free agency.
The plan from Taylor’s camp is to come to the Steelers with the highest offer and give them a chance to match.
The Steelers expect to be competitive but they are not going to break the bank to the point of overpaying, if the market for Taylor ends up being stronger than the Steelers expect.
Whispers coming out of the organization is that the team has a figure they are comfortable with and likely won’t go beyond.
Keep in mind this is team that has several of their young core players set for big paydays in Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Mike Wallace.
Troy Polamalu is also entering the final year of his deal.
5. Did the Steelers have a deal in place with the Washington Redskins to move up to the No. 16 spot in last April’s draft? The answer is no!.
Jim Wexell of Scout.com reported this weekend that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was on XM Radio and said a deal was in place with the Steelers but the Steelers pulled out once the player they wanted came off the board.
Apparently Snyder was never on the radio. Redskins officials have gone to the media denying that Snyder was on the radio saying he hasn’t been on the radio since the Super Bowl week.
The Steelers intended to only explore moving up in the draft if Mike Pouncey fell into the 20’s.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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