Monday, November 3, 2008

Buc Moves... Or How Neal Huntington Kills The Winter

OK, today starts the GM meetings at Dana Point, California. And besides the usual hot stove talk and some early preening in anticipation of the December 8th winter meeting wheeling and dealing in Vegas, what better time to give up the Pirate's post-season moves?

First, all the Bucs that could declare free agency did. Doug Mientiekwicz, Chris Gomez, Jason Michaels, Luis Rivas, Franquelis Osoria and Ty Taubenheim (in September) have opted for the open market. The contract's up on the first four players; Ty and Frankie got cut. Pittsburgh says it would like to bring Dirt Dog and Jay Michaels back if the price is right.

Needless to say, none are A or B Type free agents (see below), so the Pirates won't be getting any draft picks when they go.

John Van Benschoten, Marino Salas, Ron Belisario and Yoslan Herrera were all removed from the 40-man roster. They're still in the organization, but have a long road ahead of them to get back to the promised land. JVB, Salas, and Belisario can declare for minor-league free agency, but the suits say they'd like to keep them.

That leaves 36 slots filled on the 40-man, though two are being kept warm for Phil Dumatrait and Tom Gorzelanny, who are on the 60-day DL. The roster has to be set in stone by November 20th for the Rule 5 draft during the winter meetings, held on December 11th.

Ten Pirate players are arbitration eligible this season: LHP Paul Maholm, LHP Zach Duke, LHP John Grabow, RHP Denny Bautista, RHP Jason Davis, RHP Tyler Yates, C Raul Chavez, C Ryan Doumit, 1B Adam LaRoche, and CF Nate McLouth. All but Davis are expected to get offers, and LaRoche may yet get a contract.

He's signed one-year deals the past two seasons and by-passed arbitration, but couldn't come to terms for a long-term deal before the 2008 season. The Pirates, as we hear, plan to offer long-term contracts to Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit, too.

The first Pirate signing of the year is Gift Ngoepe, a 5'9", 165 pound shortstop from suburban Johannesburg, South Africa. He'll play in the World Baseball Classic next year and then report to the Pirates. Ngoepe is an 18-year old switch-hitter, and a protege of Barry Larkin. At his age, he's probably off to GCL rookie ball.

All the injured Pirates - Phil Dumatrait, Brandon Moss, Tom Gorzelanny and Freddie Sanchez - are expected to be ready to go by camp in February, although Moss is iffy after getting his knee scoped a month ago.

Joe Kerrigan took over the pitching reins from Jeff Andrews after stops in the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Expos organizations. They're still looking for Lou Frazier's replacement as first base coach.

Jim Benedict was named a special assistant to the GM, with Jim Flores being given the West Coast scouting gig. Benedict's forte is in scouting and pitching, working previously with the Indians, Yankees, Dodgers, Expos, and Rangers.

Lou DePaoli was tabbed as the Chief Marketing Officer. He'll oversee all of the team's marketing, ticket sales and corporate sales efforts. DePaoli previously worked for the Atlanta Spirit organization, where he pushed the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL, and Phillips Arena. He was responsible for all marketing, ticket sales, and sponsorship sales efforts for the organizations.

So if you're a season ticket holder, expect a letter from Lou shortly.

The free agent listings came out. Three ex-Pirates are Type A free agents - Brian Giles, Ollie Perez, and Damaso Marte. Type B free agents with Bucco bloodlines are Solly Torres, Brian Shouse, and Moises Alou.

Not all these players have declared yet; some may re-up with their current team.

Guys with Pirate ties that are just plain ol' free agents as of Sunday are Sean Casey, David Ross, Dennys Reyes, Emil Brown, Julian Tavarez, Jon Lieber, Matt Herges, Arthur Rhodes, Joe Biemel, Tony Armas, Jr., Daryle Ward, Josh Fogg, Mike Lincoln, Cesar Izturis, and Ron Villone. They've all opted for the market.

All the talk is about who's gonna land Manny, Mark Teixeira, CC, Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe, AJ Burnett... it's funny how the Pirate's name hasn't come up in conversation yet.

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