The Pirates are entertaining trade offers for shortstop Jack Wilson, multiple sources said yesterday, although it is unlikely he will be dealt by Major League Baseball's July 31 deadline.
The team feels no sense of urgency to move Wilson, by all accounts, but it has made known that it will listen to proposals in hopes of acquiring elite young talent in return.
"There are discussions going on," an industry source outside the team said. "And Jack's name is definitely out there in the baseball community."
General manager Dave Littlefield does not comment on specific trade talks, but a team source said that Wilson is "not on the block" and that "it would take something really significant to give him up."
Management's openness to trading Wilson is surprising in one regard, not so surprising in another.
On the former count, Wilson, 28, signed a three-year $20.1 million extension in February, one that gave the Pirates his rights until 2010. On that day, the Pirates labeled the deal as key toward their hopes of regaining contender status.
Moreover, Wilson has been a popular and productive player since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2000, including an All-Star season two years ago, which means his departure likely would not be received well by the public.
On the not-so-surprising front, there is a ripple set of circumstances that make Wilson seem more expendable now than in the spring:
The most important has been the grand maturation of Freddy Sanchez. He has been playing third base, but he is more than capable at shortstop, too. Some in the organization have doubts about his durability and how the greater range needed at shortstop might affect that, but others feel he might be a better fit there, if only to free up third base for a power bat. Which leads to ...
Jose Bautista, who has shown plenty of power this season, could move back to his natural position at third. While Bautista has fared well in center field and also could move to right, Littlefield has maintained he still considers Bautista a third baseman. (He said in an interview last week that the positions he is trying hardest to address are center and right fields, perhaps another sign in that regard.) Others in baseball believe Bautista has Gold Glove talent there.
Although Jose Castillo has been erratic at second base, his ceiling is seen as too high for the Pirates to give up on him to make space for Bautista and Sanchez in the infield.
Another factor could be at play, too: The limited no-trade clause included in Wilson's contract extension kicks in next year, when he will have the right to choose six teams to which he cannot be dealt. No such clause is in effect now.
At any rate, the players most likely to be dealt by Littlefield remain those eligible for free agency after this season: Craig Wilson, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Kip Wells, Roberto Hernandez and, if he is not signed to an extension, Sean Casey.
Several New York media outlets reported yesterday that the Yankees last week rejected a trade proposal from the Pirates that would have sent Craig Wilson, Burnitz and reliever Salomon Torres there in exchange for outfield prospect Melky Cabrera and another youngster.
A team source rejected the notion that Torres -- another player the Pirates recently signed to an extension, his through 2009 -- is on the block.
"But that doesn't mean people aren't asking," the source said. "People are really knocking on the door for our relievers."
Littlefield has said consistently he covets major league-ready talent in return, but he also made clear when asked about it that does not mean he will shun less developed prospects.
"You're always flexible in these things," he said. "With our situation, with the young team and young pitching staff we have, we're looking to add to that any way we can."Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Shortstop Jack Wilson makes a leaping, off-balance throw to get a Nationals runner at first last night.
Click photo for larger image.
Career numbers for Jack Wilson going into last night's game vs. Washington:CategoryNo.Games802At-bats3,033Runs359Hits799Doubles140Triples27Home runs42Runs batted in271Batting average263On-base percentage303 Note: Wilson was acquired from the Cardinals July 30, 2000, in the deal that sent Jason Christiansen to St. Louis.