Wilson available, for right return
Bucs being patient as they mull trading veteran shortstop
PITTSBURGH -- One of these days, Jack Wilson will put on a different uniform from the one he has worn the past eight seasons. Or maybe he'll retire without that day ever coming.
But until one of those two possibilities happen, it's a given that Wilson's name is going to come up in trade talks. It has each of the past few years near the July Trade Deadline, and with the Hot Stove season open, the speculation has begun again.
So as the Pirates prepare to listen to offers and decide what their desired return would be from trading their starting shortstop, the question becomes whether this is will be the year when Wilson actually gets moved.
The trade market for Wilson can be narrowed down to a handful of teams. Over in the American League, the Orioles and Tigers have listed acquiring a shortstop among their top offseason priorities. It's hard, however to see Wilson fitting into Baltimore's plans.
Baltimore has the payroll flexibility to be able to afford Wilson's contract -- $7.25 million in 2009 with an $8.4 million club option in 2010 -- but the fit is less than ideal. The Orioles lack shortstop depth in their farm system, so they are likely leaning toward acquiring a young shortstop who could be more of a long-term fit.
The Orioles would be assured of only two years of Wilson's services, and he has discussed the possibility of retirement in order to spend more time with his family after his current contract expires.
While those realities will almost certainly chase away the Orioles, they could attract the Tigers.
It's no secret that Detroit has been after Wilson for a while now. The Tigers believed they had a deal for him at the '07 Trade Deadline, only to have then-Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield go a different direction. So now, Detroit is back.
The Tigers exercised the buyout on the contract of their '08 shortstop Edgar Renteria, leaving the club without a Major League-ready shortstop for next season. But unlike the Orioles, Detroit does not need a long-term solution. Prospect Cale Iorg is likely just one more year away from becoming the team's starting shortstop.
As a result, Wilson could be an ideal fit in Motown. But it's not a slam dunk.
There are questions about whether the Tigers would want to dole out more than $7 million for what would essentially be a one-year stopgap. And Detroit has recently been in touch with the Red Sox about a deal to acquire shortstop Julio Lugo. While that deal is a ways from consummation, it's also not dead. Acquiring Lugo would eliminate the need for Wilson.
And then there are concerns on the Pirates' end. Unlike years past, the Pirates do not need to dump salary this offseason, so their asking price for Wilson is expected to be high. They'll be selling his value as a defensive specialist and clubhouse leader, but it remains to be seen how Wilson's down offensive year this past season could hurt his overall value. He missed half the season with lingering injuries and finished the year with only 22 RBIs.
That's not going to stop the Pirates from setting a high asking price, but it could stop teams from meeting it. GM Neal Huntington would likely seek pitching and high-level prospects in return for Wilson, who is currently the longest-tenured Pirates player. The club would also be trying to net a young shortstop -- if possible -- to take Wilson's place.
Detroit is believed to be willing to part with two prospects in a deal for Wilson, but not much more. The Tigers hold a number of young outfield prospects, though that's not the Pirates' most immediate need. Detroit doesn't seem to have a significant pool of pitching prospects available for the taking, and even a young shortstop could be hard to pry away from them.
With Iorg being groomed as the Tigers' next shortstop, the Pirates could possibly lure Detroit's other top shortstop prospect, Danny Worth. But such a deal would have to include more than just Wilson from Pittsburgh.
Because there is no urgency to deal Wilson, if the Pirates don't get someone to match their asking price, it's conceivable that Wilson would remain with the club for the start of the 2009 season and then be shopped in July.
There was another wrinkle added to this discussion over the weekend, when it was reported that the Pirates, Tigers and Marlins could be talking about a swing deal that would send catcher Matt Treanor to the Pirates, who would then ship Treanor and Wilson to Detroit. Since this deal would address two Detroit needs, the Pirates would be able to get a better return package.
In addition to the Orioles and Tigers, the Twins, Cardinals and Dodgers have all expressed interest in acquiring a shortstop.
However, while the Twins are looking for a defensive specialist for the left side of its infield, it is more likely to go the third-baseman route. Wilson isn't on their radar.
As for the Cardinals and the Dodgers, with plenty of shortstops on the free-agent market, including Rafael Furcal, Renteria and Orlando Cabrera, as well as a number of young shortstops that other teams are shopping, there is no indication that they are after Wilson either.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.