Would the Pirates be interested in pursuing a player like Hank Blalock, or are we content with the logjam of outfielders/first baseman that are already in the system? It would be nice to mix an established big league bat into the lineup with our young talented players.
-- Bill M., Leechburg, Pa.
The Pirates have not ruled out making a veteran addition to fit in the right-field/first-base mix. That's exactly why they have expressed interest in Rick Ankiel. Management considers itself in a decent position as it looks at the free-agent market. The club would love to go out and get an outfielder/first baseman with a proven bat, some power potential and some experience. However, knowing the club has internal options to fill that role, that player would have to be the right fit. In other words, management does not feel it necessary to make a move.
The right fit would almost certainly have to be someone who would sign a one-year deal, since, as you mentioned, the Bucs have some depth in the system. Ideally, it would also be a low-risk, high-reward player, someone who may be had at a bargain because of a down '09 season. Nabbing this type of player could also present a nice payoff midseason if the Pirates need to trade him to make room for Jose Tabata.
If the Bucs don't sign anyone, it will most likely be Jeff Clement at first and Garrett Jones in right field to begin the season.
This team is obviously in need of some left-handed pitching out of the bullpen, and though he may cost more than what they are considering spending, what do you think about the return of Mike Gonzalez? Is it even possible? Would he even return if offered enough, or is this just a dream of mine?
-- Jeremiah L, Pittsburgh
Well, now that Gonzalez has just reached an agreement with the Orioles, this is a moot point. However, I wanted to reiterate again that the Pirates did not make a run at Gonzalez, nor are they making a run at relievers comparable to him. Huntington made it clear that the club is not in pursuit of the more expensive relief options out there this winter, even after losing Capps and saving the money that was expected to go to him.
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It would certainly be a boost to have Gonzalez, who is a Scott Boras client by the way, in the bullpen, but that's not how the Pirates plan to spend the available money they have. Huntington is adamantly against throwing high dollars at relievers. Period. I realize many of you disagree with that philosophy.
Why wouldn't management go after a homer-hitting outfielder in the free-agent market? I see Jermaine Dye on the market. I know he is older, but with Tabata waiting in the wings, why not sign Dye? He will deliver 30-plus homers and will answer any questions on who will play right field. This will also allow Jones to go back to his natural position.
-- Chris M., York, Pa.
Quite frankly, Dye's desirable salary is more than the Pirates are willing to spend on a short-term solution. As mentioned above, Pittsburgh officials don't see it as a necessity to add an outfielder and aren't going to drain their funds by going after one of the big-name free agents available. Dye is also likely to covet a multiyear deal, something the Pirates won't be interested in offering.
Why did the Pirates give up on Robinzon Diaz? I liked the Diaz and Jason Jaramillo combo catching when Ryan Doumit was injured.
-- Joel N., Girard, Pa.
Diaz and Jaramillo did just fine -- actually, probably better than expected -- when Doumit went down with a wrist injury. However, assuming Doumit can stay healthy, the Pirates have room for one of the two backups. Pittsburgh liked Jaramillo more, primarily because of his defense and strong rapport with the pitching staff. Diaz, who recently signed with the Tigers following his release, had some issues in that regard.
Diaz is out of options, meaning the Pirates would have lost him next spring anyway if he hadn't made the Opening Day roster. Diaz also expressed his frustration with being No. 3 on the depth chart and seemed to have worn out his welcome.
With Diaz gone, Erik Kratz becomes the Pirates' third catcher. The club is eyeing the catchers available this offseason in case another appealing veteran option surfaces.
Is it true that John Van Every has been signed by the Pirates with an invitation to Spring Training?
-- Jim V., Pittsburgh
Yes, Van Every signed as a Minor League free agent after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox in July. And Pittsburgh did recently offer the left-handed hitter a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.
The outfielder appeared in a combined 18 games with Boston in 2008 and '09, but he never appeared in a game in the Pirates' system because of right knee surgery.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.