Pirates not shopping McLouth
Outfielder at the center of much trade speculation Tuesday
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nate McLouth replaced Jason Bay on Tuesday in terms of the Pirates outfielder most often linked to trade discussions during the second day of the four-day Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
However, just as talks about sending Bay elsewhere have fizzled, there seems to be no imminent plans for the Pirates to part with McLouth either.
Midday on Tuesday, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington denied reports that the front office is shopping McLouth to other clubs, despite the Pirates' excess in outfielders. However, that doesn't mean Huntington isn't answering his phone when it rings.
"We are not actively looking to trade Nate McLouth," Huntington said. "We're not actively looking to trade anybody. As clubs call, we listen. If there is a price they are willing to pay that makes sense for us, then we'll have to act at some point.
"Nate is a guy we like a lot," he continued. "He is a great fit. We feel like there are a lot [of people] in the [Pirates front office] that wish we could get him every day at-bats."
Huntington also reiterated that the Pirates have not come close to pulling the trigger on any trades involving McLouth, or any other player for that matter, thus far in Nashville.
Various reports on Tuesday had McLouth linked to discussions with the Cubs, Braves, Phillies and Padres.
Even though center fielders have been in high demand this offseason, Huntington remains eager to let McLouth and Nyjer Morgan battle for an everyday spot in the outfield come Spring Training. Huntington continued by adding that he would anticipate Chris Duffy, the third true center fielder the Pirates have on their 25-man roster, to begin the season in Triple-A.
"He needs to show that he's healthy," Huntington said, of Duffy. "He needs to get some at-bats. He needs to play himself back into everyday shape."
While McLouth received the most speculation Tuesday, it's actually a corps of Pirates relievers -- Damaso Marte, John Grabow and Salomon Torres -- who have piqued the interest of the majority of the clubs that have come to the Pirates looking to work out a deal.
Because the Pirates believe that all three of those pitchers could be used in an eighth-inning setup role next season, the Pirates are willing to entertain offers for any one of the three. Marte and Torres are both signed through 2008, with club options for 2009, while the Pirates have Grabow under their control for another two seasons.
"Of all the areas where we think there is going to be some activity, it would probably be with one of our relievers," Huntington said. "If we can get a young player back where we have five or six years of control that we think can impact us in a similar or greater way, that's certainly something we'll have to approach and look at."
However, the lack of bullpen depth beyond those three arms and closer Matt Capps is something the Pirates will strongly consider before pulling the strings on any deal that would ship away a reliable reliever.
"If we trade a reliever, would we like to get one back? Yes," Huntington said. "But if it's a guy that makes sense from us, then we're not going to walk away from a guy that we think can make a bigger impact for us a year or two from now."
Bay talks soften: While Bay's availability in a deal drew vast interest on Monday, it appears that the left fielder is not currently the centerpiece of any further trade talks.
Discussions between the Indians and Pirates regarding Bay have reportedly stopped, as the Indians now have their sights on obtaining a corner outfielder elsewhere. And according to a high-ranking baseball official with the Rangers, the Pirates' asking price in exchange for Bay was simply way too high for Texas to continue with serious discussions.
Pittsburgh interests Tomko: Though veteran pitcher Brett Tomko and his agent, Joe Longo, have already talked to a half-dozen teams trying to pique their interest in the right-handed free agent, Longo said on Tuesday that he remains optimistic that he will get a chance to talk with the Pirates before the Winter Meetings conclude.
Longo first contacted Pittsburgh about a week ago to gauge how interested the club might be in adding a veteran back-of-the-rotation starter. Since passing along this preliminary information, Longo has not heard back from the club.
"Here's a good veteran guy who is a good innings eater," Longo said of Tomko. "I was thinking that with the young team that they have there, he could be a good veteran presence, kind of like a Shawn Chacon was last year."
What type of salary Tomko would demand hinges on a few factors. First, the number of free agent starters who have signed contracts so far this offseason is small due to the number of marquee pitchers still being discussed in potential trades. Once free agent starters begin signing, it will become clearer as to what salary slot Tomko would fit.
Also, though Tomko still prefers to remain a starter, his price tag will ultimately be determined by what role a team wants to plug him in to.
"I think his mindset now is that he has 10 years as a starter and that's where he is comfortable with," Longo said. "But if those guys come to him and have a plan, I'm sure he would listen. All he wants to do is help a team win."
Tomko split last season between the Dodgers and the Padres, going 4-12 with a 5.55 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings pitched.
Kuwata update: Masumi Kuwata arrived in Los Angeles on Monday to have a doctor examine his right ankle, which he had surgery on back in September. Assuming the checkup went as expected, Kuwata is expected to start playing catch within the next week.
The 39-year-old right-hander said that he will not make a decision about whether or not he would be interested in accepting a Minor League contract from the Pirates until after he returns to pitching off the mound.
Bucs bits: Former Pirates pitching coach Jim Colborn has been hired by the Rangers as the organization's director of Pacific Rim operations. With Colborn's hire, the only members of Pittsburgh's former coaching staff not to have taken a job with a Major League team are manager Jim Tracy and bench coach Jim Lett.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.