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Russell looks ahead to busy offseason

Russell looks ahead to busy offseason

CHICAGO -- Though the Pirates still have a series left to play in 2009, it's never too early to start looking into the offseason, an offseason in which general manager Neal Huntington has vowed to be more aggressive in scouring the free agent market than he was during the last two years.

When asked about what needs he would most like to see addressed this offseason, manager John Russell stayed vague in his response, yet still managed to highlight the obvious need for some offensive help.

"To say what specific area, we'll see what the board holds," Russell said. "I don't know -- is it a left fielder? Is it a second baseman? Is it a pitcher? I don't know. We'll just have to look into it and see what's available. Offensively, we've struggled. It would be nice to find a bat that can be productive."

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Heading into Thursday, the Pirates ranked 14th in the National League with a .252 season batting average. This season, only two teams -- the Giants and Mets -- have shown less power than the Pirates, who have hit 123 home runs. Since the All-Star break, the Pirates rank last in the Majors with a .241 average.

Over the last two seasons, Russell has seen his team sapped of most of its middle of the lineup bats. In 2008 it was Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, who were sent away. This year, Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche all left during a two-month span.

Russell also cited the desire to add a veteran arm or two to a young bullpen. The club has no defined left-handed setup man heading into next season, something the Pirates did have before both Damaso Marte and John Grabow were traded.

Both Russell and Huntington downplayed the need to have a left-handed reliever when Grabow was dealt away. However, it appears that in a perfect world, there would be one available for Russell to call on in 2010.

"Yeah, absolutely," Russell said when asked if a lefty reliever is on the wish list. "When we had Grabow and Marte last year, those were nice options to have because they were not only good against lefties, but against right-handers as well. It would be nice. There are probably 29 other teams looking for that as well, so it's not an easy position to fill. But we'll obviously look into that."

It's no secret that the Pirates have the payroll flexibility to be active and aggressive this offseason. However, management has cautioned that money won't be spent just so the team can say it did so.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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