Pirates take Rodriguez in Rule 5 draft

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Pirates came away from Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, which ended Thursday, with two starting pitchers in Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen, a possible everyday right fielder in Matt Diaz and, on the final day, a possible utility type in Rule 5 draft pick Josh Rodriguez.

Shortstop, anyone?

Or will it be Ronny Cedeno again?

"We've always been prepared to go into the season with Ronny as our shortstop," general manager Neal Huntington said after the Rule 5 draft at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. "But, like we do in everything, we're always looking for an upgrade. If we get it, great. If we don't, we enter the season with someone we feel comfortable with, and that's Ronny."

The Pirates had been among the finalists in trade talks for two shortstops, but the Tampa Bay Rays traded Jason Bartlett to the San Diego Padres and the Minnesota Twins traded J.J. Hardy to the Baltimore Orioles.

The St. Louis Cardinals are shopping Brendan Ryan, but the market is otherwise thin. The Pirates are not interested in Orlando Cabrera, perhaps the top shortstop in free agency.

Of the meetings as a whole, Huntington said: "We've had a large number of conversations, trade-wise, free-agent-wise. Some have fallen off the cliff and gone nowhere. Some have led to things. Some are still in conversation. So, we feel like we've made ourselves better. That was the goal coming in, and we'll continue to work as we leave here."

The Pirates picked first in the Rule 5 because they had the worst record in the majors in 2010 and claimed Rodriguez from the Cleveland system.

Rodriguez, who will turn 26 in two weeks, batted .297 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs split between Class AA Akron and Class AAA Columbus and playing a key role in the latter winning the International League title. His career average is .266, with 44 home runs in 455 games.

Scouts generally liked the pick, in large part because Rodriguez finally broke out after two-plus seasons in Class AA. But there were two red flags: One is that he already was old for his level, and two is that his fielding percentage in 300 games at shortstop is a very low .947. For comparison, Cedeno, who committed a team-high 18 errors for the Pirates, was at .969.

"We like him as a guy to compete to make our club as a middle-utility player with upside to potentially become an everyday player," Huntington said. "He's a solid defensive shortstop, can swing the bat a little bit, bounce around, play second or third, probably even run him out the outfield."

Can he play shortstop in the majors?

"Our guys feel like he can be a shortstop, maybe not an everyday shortstop."

More Rule 5

The Pirates lost a player in the Rule 5, too, as Kansas City claimed pitcher Nate Adcock with the No. 5 overall pick.

Adcock, a 22-year-old right-hander, went 11-7 with a 3.38 ERA in 26 starts for high Class A Bradenton, with 113 strikeouts and 38 walks.

"We knew by not protecting him, there was a chance we'd lose him," Huntington said. "But I can't protect them all."

In the minor-league portion of the Rule 5, the Pirates claimed two Class AA players, center fielder Brad Chalk from San Diego and catcher Travis Scott from the Los Angeles Angels. Chalk, 24, batted .229. Scott, 25, batted .254 with five home runs.

Duke trade complete

The Pirates received minor-league starter Cesar Valdez from Arizona as the player to be named in the Zach Duke trade two weeks ago.

Valdez, 25, is a 6-foot-2 right-hander who went 1-2 with a 9.65 ERA in nine appearances, including two starts, with the Diamondbacks. With Class AAA Reno, he went 6-10 with a 5.90 ERA in 20 appearances, including 18 starts.

Huntington said the delay in the trade's completion was to wait until after Rule 5 to ensure Valdez would not need to be protected on the 40-man roster.

That roster, now at 37, will be full when the signings of Correia, Olsen and Diaz become official.

Maholm on market?

There was word in the hotel lobby over the final 24 hours of the meetings that the Pirates were making starter Paul Maholm available to potential trade partners.

Maholm was shopped at the July 31 deadline, too.

Dotel return?

The Pirates are one of seven teams interested in reliever Octavio Dotel, per ESPN Deportes. Dotel is represented by Danny Horwitz, who also represents Kevin Gregg, another reliever the Pirates like.

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more on the PBC Blog at www.post-gazette.com/plus .


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