By John Perrotto
Neal Huntington smiled when it was relayed to him that another baseball executive had told a reporter that, “the Pirates have been as aggressive as any team so far in free agency and it seems like they are talking to everybody.”
“I wouldn’t say we’re talking to everybody,” said Huntington, the Pirates’ general manager. “However, we are talking to some people who we feel could come here and make a difference in helping our organization move forward. We’ve expressed interest in some very good players and they have expressed interest in return, saying they know we are building around some very talented young players, like the direction we’re taking and are interested in being a part of it.”
Huntington would not name any names. However, it is no secret that left-hander Jorge De La Rosa is at the very top of the Pirates’ wish list and they plan to aggressively pursue him. It will likely take a deal of at least four years and $40 million to land the 29-year-old and some industry sources believes that De La Rosa could wind up with a deal as big as five years and $55 million because of the lack of pitching on the open market.
The Pirates have never signed a free agent to contract of nearly that magnitude. However, Huntington said they would not shy away from paying top dollar if they feel it is money well spent.
“We would be comfortable going multiple years with a player if we were confident we would get value throughout the life of the contract,” he said. “What we want to avoid is a situation where in the latter years of the contract we have an unproductive player who is causing us not to have the payroll flexibility we would want and need.”
The Pirates are also interested in a number of pitchers whose careers have taken a downturn in recent seasons because of injuries, notably left-hander Jeff Francis and right-handers Jeremy Bonderman and Brandon Webb.
The Pirates are also looking to add pitching via the trade route and might have a match with Boston.
The Red Sox have long liked switch-hitter Ryan Doumit and are intrigued by the idea of plugging him into the lineup at various spots, including catcher, first base or one of the corner outfield positions.
The Pirates have interest in a number of younger Red Sox pitchers, including left-hander Felix Doubront and right-handers Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa.
John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com