Gonzalez trade talks find obstacles

No match yet with Yankees, Braves, Red Sox

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Mike Gonzalez to ... nowhere?

The Pirates' attempts to trade their closer for a left-handed power hitter appear to have hit a dry patch on all of the most prominent fronts.

The New York Yankees have offered outfielder Melky Cabrera, but he lacks the power that general manager Dave Littlefield is seeking and is not considered to be enough. It is believed that there have been no meaningful talks between the sides this week.

The Atlanta Braves have dangled first baseman Adam LaRoche, but they are unwilling to give him up for just Gonzalez. Trouble is, their other needs are for a second baseman to hit leadoff, or a long-term center fielder to eventually replace Andruw Jones. The Pirates have a second baseman available, Jose Castillo, but he does not fit Atlanta's profile. They have a center fielder, too, in Chris Duffy, but his name is not known to have arisen.

Atlanta seems focused more on discussing LaRoche with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels, teams better equipped to suit the Braves' needs.

An industry source close to the Pirates said that a three-team trade involving the Yankees and Braves -- one that would have sent Gonzalez to New York, LaRoche to Pittsburgh and Cabrera to Atlanta -- was "pretty much a done deal" until last weekend. But he added, "I don't know what happened from there."

No officials with the Pirates or Braves have acknowledged any three-team talks, publicly or privately.

The Boston Red Sox have maintained interest in Gonzalez, but they have no good match for a power hitter and, thus, little chance of getting him.

It has become abundantly evident that Gonzalez, who was 24 for 24 in saves as a 28-year-old, first-time closer last season, is Littlefield's primary chip in landing a power hitter of similar pedigree and age.

Asked yesterday to describe the level of interest in Gonzalez, Littlefield replied, "Not surprising. Look at the numbers, at what he's done. When you look around the major leagues, there are not many really good left-handed pitchers in the bullpen."

He cited the Toronto Blue Jays' B.J. Ryan, who had 38 saves and a 1.37 ERA last season in the first year of a five-year, $47 million contract.

"B.J. Ryan is certainly one of them. After that, Gonzalez is certainly comparable, if not better, than almost everybody else. This is a good pitcher, and teams are aware of that."

Littlefield has stressed that there is no urgency on the Pirates' part to move Gonzalez and that Gonzalez is being discussed with other teams only because of the need to upgrade the offense.

NOTES -- The Milwaukee Brewers have made a four-year offer to free-agent starter Jeff Suppan. That is twice as long as the Pirates' lone offer ... The Pirates signed minor-league catchers Omar Falcon and John Castellano, and outfielder Brett Roneberg. Falcon, 24, batted .264 with seven home runs for the Seattle Mariners' Class A affiliate in Inland Empire. Castellano, 29, batted .333 with seven home runs, mostly with the Philadelphia Phillies' Class AA affiliate in Reading. Roneberg, 27, batted .303 with 10 home runs and 74 RBIs for the Pirates' Class AA affiliate in Altoona.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Mike Gonzalez has drawn interest from teams this offseason.
Click photo for larger image.
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Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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