OK, we've known since last season that the Pirates have been floating Jack Wilson's name around MLB trade circles. There's even been some smoke wisping over his fire. What is the shortstop market now, and how does Jack Splat fit in?
Here's the guys on the market: Raphael Furcal (Dodgers), Orlando Cabrera (White Sox), Edgar Renteria (Tigers), Omar Vizquel (Giants), Juan Castro (Orioles), Juan Uribe (White Sox), Alex Cintron (Orioles), Alex Cora (Red Sox), Craig Counsell (Brewers), David Eckstein (Diamondbacks), Adam Everett (Twins), Jerry Hairston (Reds), Cesar Izturis (Cardinals), and Nick Punto (Twins).
You can add Julio Lugo (Red Sox) to the list; Boston would love to unload his remaining 2 years and $18M obligation and let Jed Lowrie play everyday. Khalil Greene (Padres), JJ Hardy (Brewers), Yunel Escobar (Braves) and Brent Lillibridge (Braves) are also said to be on the market, but their price tags will probably prove prohibitive.
Here's the teams that are looking: Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, Toronto, St. Louis, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Oakland, Minnesota, and San Diego.
LA and Detroit want short-term help; both have hotties (Ivan DeJesus Jr., Chin-Lung Hu & Angel Berroa in Los Angeles, Cale Iorg and Danny Worth in Motown) in their system that should be ready to join the fray in 2010-11. Cincy is in the same boat, but they have Alex Gonzalez and Jeff Keppinger coming back, so they're not looking to add much but insurance.
Toronto's looking for a stick. The Giants, Twins, O's and Cards are empty in the hole, while the A's are looking for an upgrade over Bobby Crosby. The Padres are hoping to dump Khalil Greene's salary, but it looks like they may just end up keeping him.
There's a lot of SS's out there, but except for Furcal, Renteria and Cabrera, the guys are ham-and-eggers or senior citizens.
The hot stove gossip has Furcal going to Oakland or maybe SF, and his signing will start the rush. The Giants, Twins, and Cards are rumored to be tied into either/or Renteria and Cabrera, so that leaves the Pirates with a handful of suitors for Wilson.
Detroit and LA would top the list. Both are looking for a good glove guy with a set price tag and no long commitments to block their up-and-comers. That's Jack Splat to a tee.
The Tiger's needs dovetail neatly into the Buc's strengths. Besides needing a shortstop, they're looking for a catcher and bullpen arm. The Pirates do have five backstops stashed on the 40-man, and Tyler Yates and John Grabow are both reputedly of interest to Motown's decision makers.
It seems the Tigers aren't too enamored with Ronny Paulino, or otherwise the Matt Treanor rumors wouldn't have popped up. Now there's been some whispers that they might up the ante and try to land Ryan Doumit, changing a relatively minor deal into a blockbuster.
Detroit would have to put some combination of SS Danny Worth, RHP's Rick Porcello, Cody Satterwhite, or Zach Miner into play, we'd assume, and maybe one of their highly touted first base prospects, Jeff Larish or Ryan Streibly.
Jack Splat is Jimmy Leyland's kinda down and dirty player, and they did offer Jair Jurrjens for him last year. Still, GW thinks it's more likely that Wilson will end up in Motown with either Paulino or a reliever for Worth and another prospect. But it could get interesting.
Wilson, though, isn't the only guy on their radar. The Tigers just ended contract-swap talks with Boston about Lugo, and the Motown papers report that they're looking at veteran stop-gaps at a minimal wage, like Alex Cora.
LA is another possible landing spot, but owner Frank McCourt has been making noises about cutting payroll, and quite frankly, we don't consider Hu to be superior to Brian Bixler.
Now what Neal Huntington thinks may be another matter entirely, but our take is that Pittsburgh wants a high-level return above Hu and extra OFer Delwyn Young, who look more like throw-ins than centerpieces, and that will make or break any potential deal.
Saint Louis is next in line if they're left out in the cold when the Big Three sign. They have a couple of young shortstops in the system, AA Jose Martinez and high A Peter Kozma, though the Pirates would probably look at some StL minor-league pitching first if they talk turkey with the Redbirds.
San Francisco and the Twin Cities have shown no love for Wilson at all so far, and Baltimore is talking to our our ol' bud, Cesar Izturis. But if they're interested, well, it's a tough match. Their minors are slowly rebuilding, but by and large their better prospects are still in the lower levels of the organization, with some nice OF/1B bats.
The Pirates would likely want some upper level players for a deal to click, though they may be tempted by a couple of young thunder sticks, something that's sorely lacking in the Pittsburgh organization.
The market has played out in the Pirates favor this year. There's a lot of demand and not much talent, so Wilson's injury plagued year may not devalue him as much as feared. It does look like the iron's hot, and the market's dominoes will fall into place once Furcal signs. We'll be surprised if Jack Splat lasts through the winter meetings.
So hey, there's the grist for today's rumor mill. Caveat emptor!