The Detroit Tigers ramped up their pursuit of Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, but the Los Angeles Dodgers remain very much in the mix.
And the latter is the case, in large part, because of money matters.
Wilson has informed the Pirates that he is amenable to renegotiating the final two years of his contract to facilitate a trade to the Dodgers, a team source confirmed yesterday. He is due $7.25 million in 2009 and has an $8.4 million club option for the following year, with a $600,000 buyout. The Dodgers apparently would be willing to guarantee both years for a total in the range of $12 million.
It was not clear, however, if Wilson's offer to renegotiate would apply to other teams, including Detroit. Los Angeles is special to him because he is a native and resident of southern California. He and wife Julie have three young children.
That could disrupt a trade to the Tigers, who are citing payroll pressure in asking the Pirates to take on some of Wilson's salary. The Pirates, adamant that they are eager to make good baseball trades, have told teams they will assume some salary if it upgrades what they receive in talent, but their obvious preference would be to have Wilson address that issue himself by renegotiating.
Wilson holds another card -- Detroit is one of six teams included in his limited no-trade clause -- but he is displaying no intent of using it.
"I don't think that's going to be an issue with me, really," Wilson said. "I loved my time in Pittsburgh, as everyone knows, but I'm not going to block a move."
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, as per standard policy, does not comment specifically on potential personnel moves. He acknowledged in an interview last week that he was discussing Wilson with a few teams.
The Pirates and Dodgers began a fresh round of talks Saturday, one that still focused on two prospects -- shortstop Chin-Lung Hu and outfielder Delwyn Young -- but mostly revolved around Wilson's contract.
The Tigers, who have been discussing Wilson with the Pirates for more than a month, came back Wednesday night with a fresh offer, one that apparently was strong enough to cause a stir in the Pirates' front office. One source said the Pirates recently were scouting first base prospect Jeff Larish in the Arizona Fall League. Larish, 26, is a left-handed power type who batted .250 with 21 home runs and 64 RBIs last season for Class AAA Toledo.
The Newark Star-Ledger erroneously reported on its Web site yesterday morning that Wilson had been traded to Detroit, but denials were strong all around, including from Pirates president Frank Coonelly and Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski, like Huntington, declined comment on Wilson, but he long has coveted him. That includes the July 31 trading deadline of 2007, when Dombrowski offered Class AA pitching prospect Jair Jurrjens to the Pirates for Wilson and was rejected by Dave Littlefield, the Pirates' general manager at the time. Jurrjens, now 22, eventually was traded to Atlanta and just completed a fine rookie season for the Braves, going 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA.
The Associated Press reported that the Tigers are eyeing free-agent shortstop Adam Everett if they do not acquire Wilson.
Wilson, 30, batted .272 with one home run and 22 RBIs in 87 games, his season cut in half by a badly strained left calf that put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. He is the Pirates' most tenured player, and his 1,054 games at shortstop rank fifth on the franchise's all-time list.
He is spending much of his time these days communicating with anyone he can, including teammates, about where he might play next year.
"Right now, all I can do is wait and see," Wilson said.
The Pirates have no viable internal replacement at shortstop should Wilson be traded, although management is holding out hope that youngsters Brian Bixler and Luis Cruz, each of whom has had some success at Class AA, still can blossom.
If he stays, Wilson will be the Pirates' highest-paid player next season.
NOTES -- The Pirates yesterday announced they are freezing prices of single-game tickets for 2009, having previously announced that season-ticket prices would be reduced. "We believe that freezing the prices of individual-game tickets for the 2009 season was the appropriate thing to do in light of the difficult economic climate," Coonelly said. The team also will continue its season-ticket plan of buying 10 games for the price of eight. Single-game tickets go on sale Feb. 21. ... Pitcher John Van Benschoten, cut loose by the Pirates last month, has agreed to terms on a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. ... The Pirates' average salary of $1.2 million in 2008 was second lowest in Major League Baseball, according to the players association report released yesterday. Only the Florida Marlins were lower, at $868,000.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .