Winter Meetings: Tigers back off Wilson
LAS VEGAS -- The Detroit Tigers are out of the Jack Wilson scenario.
The Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be waning.
On deck: The Minnesota Twins.
The first day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings at the Bellagio hotel threw a large wrench into the Pirates' clear attempts to trade their veteran shortstop, with Detroit choosing a far less expensive option by signing free agent Adam Everett to a one-year deal worth $1 million plus incentives.
The Tigers likely represented the best chance for a Wilson deal to happen quickly, as they and the Pirates had scheduled -- then canceled -- a meeting about Wilson.
"Looks like this is going to take awhile," one source close to the discussions said.
Wilson, who drove to the meetings to check out the event and enjoy a day or two with some friends, seemed to feel the same way.
"I don't know what's going to happen or when," he said. "It is what it is. You get used to it. It's a little different when it's in the offseason. During the season, you can have issues with concentration and getting ready for a game."
Wilson allowed to some disappointment about Detroit, as he would have welcomed a chance to play for manager Jim Leyland and his former manager, Lloyd McClendon, the hitting coach.
The Tigers' decision, as with so much in the majors this offseason, was driven by economic concerns. Although the Pirates were willing to pay part of Wilson's salary -- $7.25 million this year, plus an $8.4 million club option for 2010 and $600,000 buyout -- and Wilson was willing to restructure the second year, it still was not enough.
Other teams have cited the sagging economy and the Pirates are no exception.
"I think the economy is real," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We need to be cognizant of how we spend our dollars. We need to be aware of what might not be there in the future."
What that impact means in the Wilson scenario is that the Pirates surely will have to pick up a portion of his salary, wherever he might go. And that could complicate things, if the Pirates are not confident they are receiving fair value for the player and money.
A further complication is possible in the dwindling number of musical chairs for shortstops, another team and player crossed off with Everett's signing. "I think there are teams that still need shortstops, and there are still shortstops out there. As the options narrow from the buyer's and seller's perspective, there still needs to be the right fit," Huntington said.
"But, as we sit here right now, Jack Wilson is our shortstop for the 2009 season, and that's not a bad thing. Jack's loved by the fans, and he's fun to watch on defense. A healthy Jack Wilson will be a productive Jack Wilson."
But a happy Jack Wilson?
Wilson was asked if he might already have crossed the bridge to another team, at least in his mind.
"Not yet," he replied. "I mean, you think about it. But I'm still with the Pirates."
The Dodgers remain in need of a shortstop and, persistent reports out of Los Angeles to the contrary, reignited talks about Wilson last week. But there was been no known continuation over the weekend or at these meetings. Moreover, the Dodgers last night reopened talks to re-sign free agent Rafael Furcal.
"The Dodgers are just lying low," one source said.
The Twins' emergence was a surprise to some in the industry, word developing yesterday morning, but perhaps it should not have been: Everett was their shortstop part of last year, and the others they employed at the position were ineffective defensively.
As with other teams, Minnesota would expect the Pirates to pay part of Wilson's tab, but a possible return was not known. The Twins' system is deep with prospects, though, so a match on that front seems plenty doable.
One player Minnesota is shopping for a trade is Delmon Young, 23, a talented, sometimes troubled outfielder. He batted .290 with 10 home runs and 69 RBIs over 152 games last season, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said in a recent interview that Young will not be part of his outfield in 2009.
There was scant mention of the Pirates' other players known to be on the trade market -- second baseman Freddy Sanchez, first baseman Adam LaRoche, reliever John Grabow and catcher Ronny Paulino -- mostly, it appears, because the high-spending teams are trying to first see if they can address needs through free agency.
Huntington was asked if a trade of Wilson would lessen the chance that Sanchez would go, too. The Pirates are remarkably shallow in middle-infield depth throughout the system.
"I don't think they're attached at the hip," Huntington said of Wilson and Sanchez.
"Each situation will be evaluated independently, and we'll do what we think is right for the organization. If we get the right fit for one, that doesn't prohibit us from looking for the right fit for the other. If we get the right fit for both, we move both. If we don't get the right fit for either, we keep both."
On other fronts:
• The Pirates still were a player for free-agent infielder Mark Loretta as of yesterday afternoon, agent Bob Garber confirmed, but he wound up agreeing to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Dodgers late last night.
• Huntington acknowledged that a corner utility infielder is a free-agency target but did not identify any.
• Among the biggest names of the free agents -- in terms of stature -- is pitcher Pedro Martinez. He is 37 and coming off a string of injuries, but he has made clear he wants to pitch in 2009. The Pirates have not made an offer, but it does not sound as if they have ruled it out, either.
• Eight teams have expressed interest in free-agent reliever Derrick Turnbow, including the Pirates, but no resolution should be expected until mid-January, when Turnbow plans to have a throwing session in front of scouts. The idea is to prove that his ailing shoulder -- which shut him down in the middle of last season with the Milwaukee Brewers and prompted him to rest for six months -- is fine. The Pirates have not made an offer.
• The Pirates' evaluators have focused on five possible choices in the Rule 5 draft, Huntington said, a strong sign that they will take at least one player in picking fourth overall. One player, reliever Evan Meek, was chosen last year. Huntington added that he expects to be "more active" in the minor league portion than last year, when the Pirates claimed four players.
NOTES -- Outfielder Brandon Moss, who had knee surgery in October, had a "very positive" checkup in Pittsburgh last week, Huntington said, and should be ready to participate "in a protective mode" all through spring training. ... Pitcher Phil Dumatrait, who had surgery, remains "a little behind" and might be considered only for a relief role if he does not resume throwing soon. ... The Veterans Committee of the Hall of Fame did not choose former Pirates outfielder/first baseman Al Oliver, part of the 10-man ballot. ... The Pirates signed right-handed pitcher Brian Slocum to a minor league contract. In 30 appearances for Class AAA Buffalo in the Cleveland system, including 11 starts, he went 3-7 with a 4.85 ERA. ... Dr. Edward Snell, one of the Pirates' team physicians, was named physician of the year by his major league peers. ... Huntington was joined by all eight special assistants. The only invited party not on hand was special adviser Chuck Tanner, who recently had gall bladder surgery.
First Published December 9, 2008 12:00 am