Bucs have quietly productive Meetings

Bucs have quietly productive Meetings

INDIANAPOLIS -- The annual Winter Meetings came and went in Indianapolis this week, with the Pirates talking and listening, but hardly acting on anything.

The Pirates brass traveled west on I-70 not expecting to do much and that proved to be just the case. They were hardly the only team that remained quiet on the news front, though that's not to say that minimal action equates to little accomplished.

"We expected to be relatively quiet coming in, and we're leaving having had a lot of discussions about players on various levels," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Perhaps we've laid the groundwork for something bigger down the road, or we take this group to Spring Training and look to add to it via free agency, or maybe a small trade here or there."

The biggest news related to the Pirates this week became official on Thursday afternoon, when the team announced the signing of free-agent shortstop Bobby Crosby. The two sides agreed to a one-year deal with a $1 million base salary.

Signing Crosby gives the Pirates another option at short. He can compete with Ronny Cedeno to win the starting job out of Spring Training, and even if he doesn't, the Pirates can at least rest easy knowing they have a capable backup should Cedeno suffer an injury or prove to be an ineffective starting option.

Otherwise, the Pirates spent most of the week engaged in talks with multiple clubs on various fronts. There was plenty of outside interest in catcher Ryan Doumit and lefty starters Paul Maholm or Zach Duke, but the Pirates have made it clear that in order to deal any of their projected core players, the club would have to be overwhelmed by an offer.

There remains no urgency to make any sort of trade, which has the Pirates sitting in favorable bargaining position. The organization will especially keep an eye on how the market for starting pitching sets itself over the next few weeks. As starters come off the free-agent board, other teams just might ramp up their pursuit of the Pirates' young starters.

Deals done: Crosby is it on this front. Interestingly enough, this will mean that the Pirates have now signed a backup infielder at all three of the Winter Meetings since Huntington took the GM post with Pittsburgh. It was Ramon Vazquez last year and Chris Gomez in 2007.

The Pirates' only other signing this week was inking right-hander Vinnie Chulk to a Minor League contract. Chulk will compete for a spot in the Pirates' bullpen next spring.

Rule 5 activity: Pittsburgh took outfielder John Raynor with the second pick in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Raynor, who had been in Florida's Minor League system, will have the chance to make the Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder for the club. He hit .257 with 24 doubles, six homers, 36 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 66 Triple-A games last year.

The Pirates also made a selection in the Minor League portion of the Draft, taking shortstop Rodolfo Cardona off Baltimore's Double-A Bowie roster. Pittsburgh was one of seven teams that did not have any of its unprotected players selected.

Goals accomplished: With the signing of Crosby, the Pirates found the shortstop they have been looking for to challenge Cedeno for the starting spot. The signing also solidified the Pirates' infield options for next season. Either Cedeno or Crosby will win that starting job at short, while the other will join Vazquez and Delwyn Young as backup infield options.

Unfinished business: The club's most immediate priority remains bullpen help, and expect the Pirates to continue to be aggressive in the middle and lower tiers of that market. Pittsburgh would seem to need left-handed help more than anything, though Huntington has emphasized that the priority is simply bullpen help in general.

Also, the Pirates are expected to continue to keep an eye on available options for a fit at right field and/or first base. The team is known to have expressed interest in Rick Ankiel on that front, though the Bucs will likely have to wait until the market settles a bit more before really becoming aggressive in its pursuits.

GM's bottom line: "The nice part of where we are is the players that teams want from us, we don't have to move. We have to be compelled to move. If we get a good baseball move and we're compelled, we do it. If not, we're happy to take the guys we have into Spring Training and continue to look to add to it." -- Huntington

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