Last week, I asked the Mailbag readers to send me the moves that they would make this offseason if they were able to take over as Pirates GM for one day. The response was overwhelming, and I'll get to those shortly.
First, I'd like to answer one "traditional" Mailbag question to clear up any confusion about the Rule 5 Draft that I may have inadvertently contributed to with a story I wrote immediately after the Bucs' 40-man roster was announced on Nov. 20.
Why would the Bucs not protect Wardell Starling? Last year, Starling, who is only 23, made 28 starts between Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona and was 10-9 with a 2.98 ERA. He didn't pitch well in Hawaii Winter Baseball (1-3, 5.28), but I saw him pitch at Altoona, and he had great stuff. Did they not protect him just because he didn't pitch well in Hawaii?
-- Lee Y., Mechanicsburg, Pa.
I asked Pirates GM Dave Littlefield about his decision to protect fellow pitching prospects David Davidson and Romulo Sanchez over Starling.
"We liked them all," Littlefield said. "We just think Davidson has achieved very well. He's got a strikeout pitch. He's a left-handed reliever. Sanchez has some of the stuff we don't have a whole lot of. He's got a power arm; he throws extremely hard; he's got a big, strong body and he's done well in the winter leagues. We think there is a high ceiling there, so we prioritized those guys higher than anybody else that we didn't put on the roster."
Now, to the mistake I made. When I originally submitted the 40-man roster story late last Monday night, I said that prospects such as Starling, Brian Bixler and Jesse Chavez did not need to be protected as a result of changes in the new labor agreement. An hour or so later, I changed that sentence to include only Bixler, but enough people had read my original story that it caused some confusion.
After talking to Littlefield, he told me that Bixler and Chavez did not need to be protected from exposure to the Rule 5 Draft this year, just Starling. I hope that this clears things up.
GM for a DayI would like to thank all of those folks who took the time to participate in this new mailbag feature. There were literally hundreds of submissions, and I read each and every one of them. I've done my best here to give the readers a sampling of some of the ideas that our amateur GMs suggested:
Given the Pirates' resources and available cash to spend in the offseason, if I was GM for a day I would try to acquire Mark Teixeira from the Rangers. I would be willing to part with one of my young starting pictures (Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke or Tom Gorzelanny) and also Mike Gonzalez. Brad Eldred would be expendable as well if needed to make the deal work. Teixeira at first base would fill the Pirates' need for a power bat at that position. Teixeira, along with Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez, would give the Pirates a middle core to their lineup that would rival what Minnesota has with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter. The remainder of my efforts would be to use what cash is left over to sign my veteran right-handed pitcher. Although I don't know if Jeff Suppan would be available now for that price, I would look at him first, followed by Jeff Weaver and Adam Eaton. -- Nick K., Steubenville, Ohio
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The first move I would make is to trade Jose Castillo to St. Louis for Chris Duncan. The Cards have a hole at second, and Duncan is said to be expendable. He is a left-handed batter who hit 22 home runs in limited at-bats, and he is young and affordable. I would then sign either Gil Meche or Vicente Padilla. This would take a large chunk of the $10-13 million we have to spend, but we need a pitcher that can miss some bats occasionally. With these two moves, we'd still have the quality young pitching, could play Duncan at first, slide Sanchez to second and play Jose Bautista at third. I'd go for a Xavier Nady/Jody Gerut platoon in right field. Then, as the season progressed, another trade could be made, possibly giving up one of the young pitchers for more bats. -- Dave B., DuBois, Pa.
If I were GM for a day, I would go after Aubrey Huff. Huff probably falls under the radar screen of many GMs, and since he is coming off a so-so year (.267, 21 HR, 66 RBIs), he might be relatively cheap to get. Huff's production could escalate back to what it when he averaged 25-plus homers in his last four full seasons with the Devil Rays. Factor in that he is the lefty we covet who can play both first and third and that he won't be 31 until next December, and I think he could be the missing link in a lineup like ours. -- Chris S., Queens, N.Y.
Since Alex Rodriguez thrives in small-market settings, as GM for the day I would try to trade Duke, Maholm or Gorzelanny along with Salomon Torres and Castillo, for A-Rod. We could let Sanchez play second base with A-Rod at third. Rodriguez would fill the stands and give the Bucs a much-needed pop in the lineup. The Yankees would have to pay for some of his contract, but we could do it. -- Matt D., Pittsburgh
I would make a trade with the Orioles for Nick Markakis. His track record is short for sure -- no Triple-A time and a single season in the big leagues, but he turned it on as the year progressed and improved when opposing pitchers were supposed to get better at figuring him out. He's left-handed, plays right field and will be cheap for the next few years, making near-minimum salary. His affordability buffers the gamble on the unknown of his career so far. I think Baltimore could be looking for bullpen help, so it would probably cost us John Grabow, Matt Capps or Torres. -- Pedro B., Pensacola, Fla.
Adam LaRoche is still young and hasn't played six years in the big leagues. The Pirates could actually keep LaRoche at a low price, and he brings the power the Pirates are hoping for at first base. With the pitching woes the Braves had last year, and also the talks that Marcus Giles could end up in San Diego, I would trade a young pitcher and possibly Castillo to the Braves for LaRoche. -- Brad H., Shippensburg, Pa.
I would send Castillo, Shane Youman and cash to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Chad Tracy. -- Michael B., Rochester, N.Y.
I think the Pirates should pursue Eaton and Jose Guillen. They are both realistic free agents that the Pirates could afford, and both could improve our team dramatically. They are also much younger than the older free agents we so often sign. -- Fred W., Washington, Pa.
Considering the Dodgers' recent re-signing of Nomar Garciaparra, I would trade Gonzalez and Nady to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney, outfielder Matt Kemp and southpaw prospect Greg Miller. I also would consider trading Jose Bautista and Gorzelanny to Texas for third baseman Hank Blalock. Blalock is still only 25, and he should come back strong after playing through injuries. -- Scot A., Middletown, Pa.
I would try to trade Maholm and Torres to the Reds for Adam Dunn. You can then bring Sean Burnett up and keep Shawn Chacon as a fifth starter. I'd give a contract extension to Gonzalez and save the rest of the money for the next offseason to acquire a right-handed starter to accompany the young staff. -- Jordan S., Morgantown, W. Va.
I think that the Pirates should definitely go after Carl Crawford this winter. It will take some good young pitching to get it done, but thankfully we've got a lot of that. This is what I propose: Maholm, Eldred and Damaso Marte to Tampa Bay for Crawford. I think that the young, lefty arm of Maholm, the veteran bullpen presence in Marte, and the vast power potential out of Eldred could possibly get it done. -- Tim S., Tucson, Ariz.
As I'm sure a lot of Bucs fans do, I do a lot of backseat GMing during the year, so I definitely like your idea here. I would sign Huff. Since he is a versatile player, his exact position would depend on who else I am able to obtain. I would trade Castillo, Torres and, if need be, Bautista for Jake Westbrook of the Cleveland Indians. Finally, if my wallet would allow me to, I would sign Doug Mientkiewicz. -- Ben C., Virginia Beach, Va.
The first trade I would make is Chris Duffy to the Marlins for Mike Jacobs. It would probably take more prospects to get the deal done, but that's one I would do. The second deal I would make is to trade Gonzalez and Gorzelanny to the Devil Rays for Crawford. This trade would add speed and a solid left-handed bat in the lineup. Capps or Torres could easily replace Gonzalez as the closer. -- Brad W., Greensburg, Pa.
I think the Pirates should make a run at signing Trot Nixon. He's a proven winner, a hard worker and a good clubhouse guy. He would fill the Pirates' need for a left-handed bat, and he has proven he can hit for power (27, 24 and 28 home runs from 2001-2003). Nixon has played a well above average in right field and would also allow the Pirates to shift Nady to first base until Eldred is ready. Although Nixon's salary may be a bit too high for the Pirates ($7.5 million in 2006), they might be able to sign him for around $5 million per year if other teams show little interest in him. The only drawback may be that Nixon has had his share of injuries the past few seasons. -- Patrick L., Washington, D.C.
I would trade Grabow and Marte for Joe Koshansky of the Rockies. We can throw in Rajai Davis, too, if it helps to get it done. This would be two Major League players for a solid Minor League talent, and the Rockies would fill some obvious needs. I would also spend some of my millions that are usually reserved for free agent signings in Latin America for scouting young talent there. Perhaps it is one place, although high risk, that the Pirates can outspend the richer teams for more obvious talent. -- Bob B., Plum, Pa.
I would trade Maholm, Ryan Doumit and a Minor League starting pitcher to the White Sox for Freddy Garcia or Javier Vazquez, depending on which one is available for this package and fits the budgeted amount to spend. I'd sent Nate McLouth, Grabow and Youman to the Rockies for Brad Hawpe. I'd trade Castillo or Bautista and a combination of Minor League prospects to Oakland for Dan Johnson and a Minor League position player. -- Ron A., Lincoln, Neb.
If I were Pirates GM, I would look to target Shea Hillenbrand in free agency. He's a decent hitter who can play first or third base. He fills two potential holes if Sanchez is moved to second base. Other than that, I really wouldn't waste my money on free agents. Also, I wouldn't trade any of our good, young pitchers unless I was offered an overwhelming deal. Keep playing the kids and hope they improve. -- Brian C., Pittsburgh
I would like to see the Bucs trade Jack Wilson to the Red Sox for Willy Mo Pena, and then have Bautista play third base and Sanchez at shortstop. Pena could play center or right field. The Pirates can then sign one of these right-handed pitchers: Suppan, Weaver, Jason Marquis, Steve Trachsel or John Thomson. -- Dustin J., Philipsburg, Pa.
If I were GM for one day, I would trade Gonzalez to the Houston Astros -- since I already have Torres as a closer -- to acquire Morgan Ensberg and Wandy Rodriguez. Ensberg at third base would allow Sanchez to move to second base. Wandy would also be a good middle reliever to add to the 'pen or a possible fifth starter. That deal would eat up about $5 million, leaving me about another $8 million to spend on signing Suppan to anchor my starting rotation. -- David M., Corpus Christi, Texas
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.