Pirates talk Maholm trade with several teams
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ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates were discussing a trade of starter Paul Maholm with several teams in advance of Major League Baseball's 4 p.m. deadline today, but they were adamant they would complete one only if the price is right.
And that price, according to two high-ranking team sources Friday, preferably would include a starting pitcher ready to contribute in Pittsburgh.
General manager Neal Huntington declined to discuss any specific trade scenario, but he did illustrate in an interview Friday what his expectation would be involving a starter.
"If the package is appropriate for one of our starting pitchers, we are willing to consider a move," Huntington said. "If the interest is in one of our starting pitchers who is one year away from free agency, that shifts the tolerance accordingly, as we would be able to reinvest their potential dollars into a major-league starting pitcher -- via trade or free agency -- and add valuable multiyear pieces to our major-league club and/or system. Again, we will need to feel good about the return to make a move."
Huntington did not identify any starters, but he made reference to players close to free agency, and only Paul Maholm and Zach Duke fit that bill. Duke is unlikely to be sought, if only because he is three starts removed from a stint on the disabled list for a sore elbow muscle.
Late Friday night, the Pirates reached agreement on a trade with Arizona for catcher Chris Snyder, according to a source in Phoenix.
Snyder, 29, is batting .231 with 10 home runs, which is close to his career average of .233. Defensively, he has thrown out 30 percent of runners trying to steals and has been charged with only six errors in parts of seven seasons with the Diamondbacks.
It is expected that the trade will involve a minimal return on the Pirates' end, mostly because Arizona is eager to shed salary and almost surely will need to pick up some of Snyder's guaranteed pay: He is due $1.7 million the rest of this season, $5.75 million next season, and there is a club option worth $6.75 million for 2012 with a $750,000 buyout.
The source in Phoenix said Major League Baseball's approval of the cash transaction is all that has kept the deal from formal completion.
It remains to be seen how the Pirates would use Snyder, as the current catchers are longtime starter Ryan Doumit, currently out with a concussion, and Erik Kratz, who further distinguished himself defensively in the 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals early this morning by throwing out all three runners who tried to steal.
One industry source said early this morning that the Pirates might flip Snyder as part of another trade, but that was not confirmed by anyone directly involved.
Back to Maholm ...
The Los Angeles Dodgers had expressed interest in Maholm for weeks, but their attention Friday seemed to be mostly on another left-hander, the Chicago Cubs' Ted Lilly, and there were indications from some national outlets early this morning that the Dodgers could be close to a deal there.
Earlier Friday evening, when it appeared more likely that the Pirates and Los Angeles would hook up on Maholm, two scouts identified possible matches for the Pirates out of the Dodgers' system as left-hander Scott Elbert, 24, and right-hander James MacDonald, 25. Elbert, a flamethrower, was 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA in nine starts for Class AAA Albuquerque before being placed on the inactive list because of apparent dissatisfaction with the Dodgers. McDonald is 6-1 with a 4.41 ERA for Albuquerque.
San Diego had been reported as being close to a deal with the Pirates for Maholm by several national outlets, but a high-ranking official with the Pirates said that never was the case and described the Padres as "just fishing."
The New York Mets also were being linked to Maholm.
Maholm is the Pirates' highest-paid player on the active roster at $4.5 million, and his salary will climb to $5.75 million for 2011. Beyond that, there is a club option for 2012 worth $9.75 million. If it is not exercised, he can be a free agent with a club buyout of $750,000.
The deadline provided most of the buzz in the visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium, with Maholm and veteran relievers Octavio Dotel, Javier Lopez and D.J. Carrasco all candidates to be traded.
For Maholm, the 28-year-old left-hander who has been a steady part of the Pirates since being their first-round draft pick in 2003, the nerves were evident. He fidgeted with his iPhone in checking for updates, and calling acquaintances for more.
He shrugged it off when asked about it, though.
"It is what it is. Tomorrow, we'll know," Maholm said. "It's kind of an odd feeling. I came up through this system, I know absolutely everyone involved with the Pirates. It would be different."
Maholm stressed, without being asked, that his preference is to stay.
"Like I've always told Neal and everyone, I want to win, and I want to win here. I want to be on the team that turns it around. If it has to be that I play for a contender, great. But until they say that it happens, I'm here."
The interest level in the three relievers apparently is not as high as the Pirates had hoped -- though teams continued to inquire, particularly, on Dotel -- and Huntington reiterated that he feels no urgency to move any.
"We have received moderate interest level in our veteran relievers, but we will need to feel good about the return to make a move," Huntington said.
Huntington added that he does not envision moving any of the team's younger players: "We do not see moving a core piece."
Manager John Russell oversaw the clubhouse during mass exoduses each of the past two deadlines, but he described this one as "really quiet" from the Pirates' perspective.
"I'm not really worried about it," he said. "The last couple of years, we looked at making good baseball trades to infuse talent into our system. We're not looking to do that now. If anything, we're looking to help ourselves build around this group. So, if we add something now, it's going to be something to help this group move forward not just this year and the next and the next."
It remains to be seen how trading someone out of the rotation could help the Pirates in that timeframe: Their starters are a combined 19-54 with a 5.51 ERA, both of those figures second-worst in Major League Baseball. Maholm has not risen much above that at 6-9 with a 4.52 ERA, but he still has been the staff's best.
Russell was asked, in particular, how he would feel about losing a starting pitcher: "You would hope that we'd replace it in a trade. That would be my thought. But, if you don't, again, it's for the betterment of what we're doing."
First Published July 31, 2010 12:00 am