Bay disappointed by Pirates' lack of roster moves
Jason Bay happily signs autographs along with Neil Walker and Bob Friend at PirateFest at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center last night. But he wasn't happy that Pirates management didn't make any big moves in the offseason.
General manager Neal Huntington, speaking to the media yesterday, wasn't upset with left fielder Jason Bay expressing his displeasure over the Pirates not making any big offseason roster moves.
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Jason Bay clearly felt as if he had no choice but to speak up.
So, he did.
After a few days of ruminating with family, the Pirates' All-Star left fielder yesterday publicly expressed his disappointment with management -- albeit stopping well short of pointed criticism -- for its lack of roster moves this offseason.
- What: 18th annual PirateFest.
- Where: David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
- When: Noon-8 p.m. today; 11 a.m.-4-p.m. tomorrow.
- Tickets: $10 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under, free for children less than 30 inches in height.
- Autographs today: Tom Gorzelanny, John Grabow and Andrew McCutchen, noon-1:30 p.m.; Jack Wilson, Al Oliver and Dick Groat, 1:30-3 p.m.; Jason Bay, Brian Bixler and Richie Hebner, 4-5:30 p.m.; Nyjer Morgan, Bill Madlock and Dave Parker, 5:30-7 p.m.
- Autographs tomorrow: Gorzelanny, Maholm and Walker, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Ian Snell, McCutchen and Madlock, 12:30-2 p.m., Xavier Nady, Morgan and Hebner, 2-3:30 p.m.
- Q&A sessions today: Team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, 6-7 p.m.; players and coaches, 3-4 p.m.
- Youth clinics: Russell and pitching coach Jeff Andrews, 5-6 p.m. today, noon-1 p.m. Sunday.
- Charity: Fans who bring a non-perishable food item to the Community Corner booth will get a free poster and 2008 schedule.
"I kind of painted myself into a corner when I said last year that there needed to be some moves made, whether I was part of that or not," Bay said at the team's annual media luncheon at PNC Park. "And there were some moves, but probably not the type I was referring to. There was a lot of management and coaching moves. I still think there needs to be player moves."
He stressed that settling for a winning record, even after going 68-94 last summer, even after 15 consecutive losing seasons, was not enough.
"I think that, for a championship-quality team, you need to make more moves. And I'm not talking about the .500 team we can be. I don't think anyone in this room is going to tell you we're a championship-quality team. There still needs to be more moves. And you know what? I'm not trying to tell people anything they don't already know."
The way Bay saw it, remarks he made to the media after the final game of last season obligated him to go public again.
"We've had basically the same group the last four years," he said Sept. 30. "To think we're going to win 100 games or go the World Series next year with the exact same team ... it would be a little foolish. I'm not saying you need an overhaul, but something's got to change."
As Bay put it yesterday, "You say something like that, you've got to come back to it."
The Pirates, making no secret of being focused on the future under new general manager Neal Huntington, have signed only one major-league free-agent this offseason, utility infielder Chris Gomez. There also have been five waiver claims, a Rule 5 draft pick and more than a dozen minor-league contracts.
By every measure, too, the bullpen and bench have been weakened by the departures of Salomon Torres, Shawn Chacon, Josh Phelps and Cesar Izturis.
Some players privately are unhappy about what they see as a lack of support from management. Others, privately and publicly, are happy about certain player subtractions and, in some cases, grateful for the chance to prove they can perform better than they did in 2007.
Huntington has shopped some prominent veterans for trades, including Bay, outfielder Xavier Nady and starter Matt Morris, but did not like the return offers. He also negotiated with several prominent free agents, including relievers Luis Vizcaino, Ron Mahay and Jeremy Affeldt, but did not like the dollars they ended up getting elsewhere.
Told of Bay's comments, Huntington said he has "great respect for Jason Bay and his desire to win" and did not sound at all displeased.
"We aggressively pursued many pieces for the 2008 team," Huntington said. "We can't sign free agents just to appease the public. We can't make trades when players are at their lowest value just to make ourselves feel better."
He pointed, specifically, to the bullpen, which will enter spring training with four openings.
"That's the most difficult position to factor. You can throw money at it and be unsuccessful. You can try all-power and be unsuccessful. What we're trying to do is create options. You see teams all around baseball, Cleveland, Kansas City, Anaheim and others who succeed all different ways."
Huntington also did not hesitate when asked how he expected a 94-loss team to improve with so little roster movement.
"It comes back to most of our guys being younger and, statistically, it is rational to expect them to be better. They should be getting better. We have a number of players -- and they'd be the first to admit this -- who underperformed. Look, we're not preaching that this team is going to contend. We can't say that. But we can say it will be better. How much better? It's going to be very, very interesting to see."
Huntington said no player has approached him directly with roster suggestions, but he added he would welcome any input.
"Absolutely. You always want open lines of communication. I know our players want to win. We all do."
Bay, naturally outspoken, often felt muzzled by previous management, but he seemed genuinely appreciative not only for Huntington's candor about the team's direction but also for the freedom he felt in saying what he did.
"Give Neal credit," Bay said.
Bay is plenty aware that the Pirates tried to trade him, just as he is aware that his backward-step 2007 -- .247 average, 21 home runs -- lowered his value and rendered that difficult. He also recognizes that, once he performs to his ability again, it surely is just a matter of time before the Pirates try again. He is due $13.5 million the next two seasons, and he represents the team's best chance to secure the elite prospects it covets.
Will trade talk distract him?
"You just go out and help your team win," Bay said. "Right now, I'm a Pittsburgh Pirate."
Asked if he would prefer to be traded, he quickly replied, "No, not at all. I've always wanted to be a Pittsburgh Pirate. But I've wanted to play for a winning group of Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully, we can turn this team into a winner."
One significant component of the Pirates winning, of course, will be a return of the pre-2007 Bay. And, to that end, Bay expressed optimism, largely because he expects to be fully healthy.
Each of his first four springs with the Pirates, he was coming off a surgery or injury. But this time, after a wonky right knee slowed him last season, he described the knee as "100 percent" and predicted it would stay that way because of a training regimen he has undergone in a Seattle gym aimed at strengthening his legs. He said he and new hitting coach Don Long, who lives 15 minutes from his home, already have noticed an upgrade to his swing in private workouts.
"I found a whole different level of being in shape," Bay said. "My legs were deficient in strength, partly because I was always coming off some injury in the offseason and never had this chance. I've got a much better foundation now."
NOTES -- The Pirates and San Diego have been in touch this week regarding the Padres' continued interest in Nady, but no deal seems imminent. ... Nady, troubled by a hamstring injury all last season, said specialized workouts have helped it regain full flexibility. Of possibly being traded for the third time in the past five years, he joked, "I don't know if people just don't like me or what." ... Morris, whose $9.5 million salary will take up 20 percent of the payroll, said of being dealt, "I know it's very likely to happen, and I understand. But I hope they keep me because we're winning and they feel I can be part of it." ... There has been little progress between the team and closer Matt Capps regarding a long-term contract.
First Published January 26, 2008 12:00 am