Hot Stove: Another Rule 5 pick? Why not?
With expectations low for the Pirates' level of activity at the Winter Meetings next week in Indianapolis, it could be that their biggest splash will come from that grand leftover pool known as the Rule 5 draft.
Given recent precedent, that might not be all bad.
At the 2007 Meetings, Neal Huntington's first as general manager, the team's Rule 5 pick was Evan Meek, a hard-throwing reliever with a history of control trouble but good upside. Last year, the team's pick was Donnie Veal, a left-hander in the same mold.
And today, each looks like a keeper.
Meek, 26, is coming off a fine first full season in which he had a 3.45 ERA in 41 appearances, as well as a .176 opponents' average from the right side. He gained manager John Russell's trust for later innings deeper into the year and is mentioned in possible closer discussions.
Veal, 25, had to be carried on the roster all year as per Rule 5 terms and had poor numbers -- 7.16 ERA, 20 walks in 19 appearances -- much the same way Meek did the previous year in the same circumstance. But he did some of his most impressive work down the stretch, then dominated the Arizona Fall League.
So, why not dip in the well again?
The Pirates will pick No. 2 overall and, to hear Huntington, they will not pass.
"I'd say that's likely," Huntington said. "There are some players there that our scouts like, some that our analysts like."
The latter was a reference to his numbers-crunchers.
"We have a full 40-man roster, so we'll have to consider that, too."
Rosters were required to be set for the Rule 5 draft only nine days ago, so all teams, including the Pirates, are only partially through the process of sifting through the hundreds of available names for the major league and minor league portions of the draft.
The draft is at 9 a.m. Dec. 10.
• Do not expect any multiyear extensions this offseason. Unlike last year, when the Pirates went long term with Paul Maholm, Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit, management has no plan to try that with anyone this winter. That includes Zach Duke, who can become a free agent after the 2011 season.
• New second baseman Akinori Iwamura is spending his winter in Japan aiming to instruct 1,000 youngsters on baseball. His second-year program is called "Play Ball," and it is comprised of several clinics for elementary school students in and around Tokyo. His motives surely are selfless, but he did acknowledge in the past week to one personal benefit: "Teaching baseball to children helps me to understand it even better."
• The Pirates are close to hiring a new director of baseball operations to replace Bryan Minniti, recently departed to become the Washington Nationals' assistant general manager. Expect the position, mostly an administrative one in the Pirates' structure, to be filled from the outside.
• If Daniel McCutchen does not beat out Kevin Hart for a rotation spot next spring, the Pirates would prefer that he starts in the minors rather than working long relief.
• If the Pirates get their wish and Jeff Clement becomes their everyday first baseman, their lineup soon could have four hitters from the left side with power facing PNC Park's friendly Clemente Wall: Clement, Doumit, Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez. And this, too: Management sounds optimistic that Iwamura, despite averaging a home run every 100 at-bats in North America, can rediscover his power stroke at PNC Park. He averaged 35 home runs a season, most of the pull variety, in his final three years in Japan.
• Reliever Tyler Yates, back to pain-free long-tossing after Tommy John elbow surgery in July, is discussing a minor league contract to rejoin the Pirates. He describes his arm as feeling "great."
• Eighty days until pitchers and catchers report.
First Published November 29, 2009 12:00 am