NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The on-again, off-again trade talks between the Pirates and Cleveland Indians regarding Jason Bay are most assuredly off.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, asked yesterday afternoon if any conversations between him and Cleveland are dead, replied with a terse, firm, "Yes."
He paused and repeated, "Yes."
The Pirates and Indians hooked up at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Opryland Hotel to revive talks regarding Bay, and the teams formed the framework of a five-player deal in which Bay and catcher Ronny Paulino would go to Cleveland for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, catcher Kelly Shoppach and either starter Cliff Lee or a younger pitching prospect.
The Pirates met again at 8:30 a.m. yesterday but, even before they emerged, Indians officials not only were pronouncing any deal dead but also claiming that the teams had not communicated at all during the Winter Meetings.
A Pirates official reaffirmed yesterday that the talks happened and that they involved the players in question.
It was mentioned to Huntington that baseball deals often are pronounced dead but find fresh life, such as the previous management's six-month haggling with the Atlanta Braves last year that resulted in the Adam LaRoche trade. He was asked if that could be the case here, too.
"You've seen it enough that it is something that can happen," Huntington said. "But you also see that, when trade talks die, they die. There are so many moving parts that I don't think there are any absolutes. Today, it's dead. Forty-eight hours from now, four weeks from now, who knows?"
It was not immediately clear why this version of the trade fizzled, nor why each team seemed so intent on declaring it could not be resurrected.
It could be that the Cleveland pitcher was the sticking point, with the Indians wanting to move the $10.5 million Lee is owed the next two seasons and the Pirates preferring a prospect to address their sagging minor-league system. A Cleveland source described the likely target as being Aaron Laffey, a 22-year-old left-handed starter who had a 4.56 ERA in nine starts for the Indians last season.
On another front, the Pirates and New York Yankees are discussing a trade involving Damaso Marte. Another left-handed reliever, John Grabow, has come up, too, but the focus is thought to be on Marte. The Pirates and Yankees had not made contact regarding relievers until Tuesday night.
The Philadelphia Phillies, too, spoke with the Pirates about Marte and Grabow.
"Some teams have jumped in for our relievers," Huntington said. "But I see nothing imminent."
If Marte or Grabow is not moved, the Pirates almost surely will leave Nashville without making a trade. But they are believed to have more than one firm offer on the table, and those probably will not dissipate when the Winter Meetings end today.
"There have been times that we felt a deal was realistic and could happen and, for whatever reason, it just doesn't come together," Huntington said. "I think we've laid some groundwork in different areas. There are some player values that are being questioned right now that maybe, after we get through the offseason, might change."
That could mean Bay and center fielder Chris Duffy demonstrating they are healthy in spring training and beyond. Or it could mean the Pirates tendering outfielder Xavier Nady by the Dec. 12 arbitration deadline, which they plan to do.
The Pirates pick second in the Rule 5 draft this morning, and they might have a shot at Cleveland outfielder Brian Barton, seen by some as the most talented player available. He might fall to the Pirates because Tampa Bay, which has the top pick, is believed to be passing. Then again, the Rays could trade the pick.
Barton, 25, has a .316 career average in the minors but is coming off September knee surgery.
Huntington said there are "two or three players" the Pirates like, adding that they are weighing if any of those is better than the player they would have to remove from their full 40-man roster.
The Pirates' players with the best chance of being lost in the draft -- though that chance is minimal -- are relievers Josh Sharpless and Jesse Chavez.
NOTES -- Manager John Russell said the team will have a four-day voluntary minicamp in early January in Bradenton, Fla. Only pitchers, catchers and select position players returning from injuries will attend. ... Reliever Salomon Torres, in defending himself against Huntington's challenge Tuesday to get in better shape this offseason, said that day that he was working out "every day" at PNC Park. He corrected that yesterday, saying he has been to the ballpark three to four days each of the past three weeks. ... The Pirates discussed a deal with St. Louis last month that would have sent shortstop Jack Wilson to the Cardinals for outfielder Chris Duncan, but that is no longer in play. Wilson probably will not be traded this offseason.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com .