On November 20th, the hot stove league officially begins; that's when the free agents reach the market.
Not to worry; the Pirate suits took a lot of the drama out the day by trading away all their walk-year players during the season. They'll be looking at "mid-tier" players, but don't expect much; maybe a bullpen lefty or outfielder. Pittsburgh has signed just three free agents in the suits previous two seasons.
But there are other roster decisions on the horizon.
They have to decide if they want to tender/sign Matt Capps, who is in his second arbitration year, along with Zach Duke. Jeff Karstens and Ronny Cedeno are arbitration eligible this year, too, though they dodged a big bullet when Ross Ohlendorf fell a few measly hours short of joining Karstens as a Super Two player.
Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit are safely under contract, along with Ramon Vazquez.
They also have a small army of players that are out of minor league options, and so have to stick with the big team or risk being lost to another club. They are Jose Ascanio, Ronny Cedeno, Robby Diaz, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, Jeff Karstens, Andy LaRoche, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Moss, and Delwyn Young,
The forty-man roster dance should be interesting, though, and it has to be set on the same day. The team's internal evaluators have to decide who to add, or risk losing them to the Rule 5 draft. (If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor league contract originally signed when 19 or older, or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the offseason.)
Brad Lincoln, Bryan Morris, and Gorkys Hernandez are shoo-ins, while Ramon Aguero, Kyle Bloom, Shelby Ford and Jim Negrych are, to some degree, in play, too.
Anthony Claggett, Phil Dumatrait, Jeff Sues, and Justin Thomas are all possibilities to get the ax; maybe Brian Bixler and Luis Cruz, also, though we think they should be OK for one more go-around.
The Bucs have already pared Denny Bautista, Chris Bootcheck, Eric Hacker, Craig Hansen, Steve Lerud, Virgil Vasquez, and Tyler Yates from the protected list. Bootcheck and Yates became free agents.
The forty-man now sits with 36 spots taken, but remember that Jose Ascanio and Evan Meek are on the DL, and need added to the list. So there's at least another body or three about to lose their 40-man status.
And this year consists of comparatively easy decisions for the suits; in another season or two, the arbitration and Rule 5 guys will become a flood. Then we'll find out how well they've scouted their own talent.