Winter Meetings: Capps, Doumit in trade talks
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Even if the Pirates are not outright shopping any of their players, they are discussing potential trades involving closer Matt Capps, catcher Ryan Doumit and, to a lesser extent, starters Zach Duke and Paul Maholm.
Sounds fairly significant, right?
Asked about Capps and Doumit yesterday on the opening day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, general manager Neal Huntington replied: "We've had conversations on a number of players, where clubs have asked us if we would consider moving them. Our standard answer is: We're open to any good baseball trade."
Remains to be seen if it winds up that way.
Capps is one of the Pirates' three players eligible for salary arbitration, along with Duke and shortstop Ronny Cedeno. The team has until midnight Saturday to decide if they will tender them contracts and risk going through a process that almost invariably gives the player a raise. If a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent.
Capps made $2,425,000 last season, most of which was quite the struggle -- he had a 5.80 ERA in 57 appearances -- and the Pirates' preference is to give little or no raise.
Two sources confirmed yesterday that the Pirates have threatened to non-tender Capps, although that tends to be a negotiating tactic.
Huntington was asked early in the day if he planned to tender all three of his players and, after pausing, replied, "That's a good question."
Later, he clarified: "Barring any unforeseen circumstance, we intend to tender our arbitration-eligible players."
Capps shrugged off any speculation.
"I hear a lot, sure," Capps said. "I know that I'd love to be in Pittsburgh. But my passion is the game of baseball, whether that's with the Pirates or someone else."
Several teams have asked the Pirates about Capps, including the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays.
At the same time, the Pirates, too, are looking for relief of all kinds, and trading Capps would create yet another hole. Moreover, Capps would be getting traded at low value, something Huntington mostly has avoided in his two years.
The same applies to Doumit: He is coming off a .250 season with 10 home runs, his production and effectiveness limited by missing two months to a fractured wrist.
Here again, the Pirates would have to fill this hole if there is a trade, or enter the season with Jason Jaramillo as the starter while finding another way to compensate for the already ominous offense.
Doumit is drawing interest from a handful of teams, including the Rangers and Seattle Mariners.
Huntington said "it's safe to assume interest" in Duke and Maholm, as nearly every team in baseball covets a durable left-handed starter. The Pirates likely are doing little more listening at this point, but Huntington did not rule out a move.
"There's no question it's tough to replace 190-plus innings, as our two left-handers have given us," he said.
Asked if he needed a major leaguer in return, Huntington added: "To take a player with much less upside just because he's major league ready doesn't make sense for us as an organization. And we feel we have some options internally with Kevin Hart, Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln."
The Pirates were involved in three minor moves:
• They signed right-handed reliever Vinnie Chulk to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Chulk, who will turn 31 this month, missed much of last season to a sprained right ankle. He had a 3.75 ERA in eight appearances with Cleveland, a 2.08 ERA in 18 appearances for the Indians' Class AAA affiliate.
• They lost utilityman Luis Cruz to the Milwaukee Brewers on a waiver claim.
• They outrighted minor league reliever Jeff Sues to Class AAA Indianapolis.
There now are two openings on the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft Thursday, but Huntington said, "It's too early to say we're definitely going to take somebody." The Pirates will pick second.
• The Pirates had made a play for free-agent shortstop Adam Everett, but he agreed yesterday to re-sign with the Detroit Tigers for one year at $1.55 million. Bobby Crosby remains on their target list for that position, as Huntington seeks to push Cedeno, and that status might escalate with Everett gone.
• The Rangers have placed right-handed reliever Willie Eyre on waivers, and the Pirates are known to be interested.
Danny Murtaugh, manager of the Pirates' 1960 and '71 World Series champions, missed on his second bid for the Hall of Fame. The Veterans Committee, meeting here, announced yesterday that it cast 8 of 16 votes in favor, with 12 being needed.
The Pirates will hold the line on season-ticket prices in 2010, while adding a half-season plan, an extended-payment plan and children's discounts. This will mark the eighth consecutive season without an increase, the longest such streak of any MLB team.
The half-season plan encompasses opening day, all Friday- Sunday games, and the interleague series against the Chicago White Sox.
The extended payment plan, introduced last year, will allow for smaller payments over a longer period.
First Published December 8, 2009 12:00 am