PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' front-office contingent is prepping to travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the start of the Winter Meetings. And they are ready to spend ... if the price and fit are right.
The Pirates entered the offseason with needs, and they have available money to address those needs. However, general manager Neal Huntington has yet to make any significant additions. With all 30 teams represented and dozens of agents present, the annual Winter Meetings can often jump-start or accelerate discussions.
Pittsburgh isn't revealing how much financial flexibility it has this winter, but it is known that the club has been aggressive in its pursuit of free-agent targets. While the organization needs to add some complementary pieces to complete next season's bullpen and bench, the Pirates are looking for impact additions, too.
Below is another look at the club's offseason checklist:
Starting pitching: This remains need No. 1 for the Pirates, though the club's free-agent options have drastically thinned in recent weeks. With Jorge De La Rosa, Javier Vazquez, Jon Garland and other mid-tier starters already having signed elsewhere, the Bucs appear to have one of two options to address this need. The club is actively scouring the trade market to see if a starter could be acquired that way. Pittsburgh is also considering pitchers coming off injuries who would take a low guaranteed base salary with built-in incentives.
Right-handed bat: If everything worked out to the Pirates' liking, the club would add a right-handed hitter who can fit into the middle of the lineup and play right field or first base. Pittsburgh has players it can mix and match at the two positions, but a right-handed complement would present another option.
Shortstop: This isn't the top priority, but Pittsburgh will continue to keep its eye out to see if there is an available upgrade over Ronny Cedeno. The Pirates are concerned about Cedeno's lack of consistency on offense and defense. If the Bucs don't land a new starting shortstop, the club could go after a veteran backup.
Relief pitching: Assuming the Pirates don't use Joel Hanrahan or Evan Meek as trade bait, the club appears set for the eighth and ninth innings. However, it still needs some help getting there. Huntington is unlikely to set aside a significant amount of money to rebuild the 'pen, but he has been successful bringing in options under Minor League deals in recent years.
Who they can or need to trade:
C Ryan Doumit: As soon as the Pirates acquired catcher Chris Snyder at the Trade Deadline, speculation began about Doumit's future with the organization. Though Doumit and Snyder are set to cost nearly $11 million next year, the Bucs don't have to trade Doumit. In fact, he is a candidate to be their right fielder next season. However, if Doumit's value is high enough and the right offer is there, he is expendable.
RHPs Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia, Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke; C Tony Sanchez; LHPs Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson; OF Starling Marte and Andrew Lambo; INF Chase d'Arnaud
The Pirates are not in position to start dealing away top prospects to address needs this offseason, so don't expect to see any of these names in any trades they might make. The organization is especially interested in developing its own pitching and cannot afford to give up those top pitching prospects.
Big contracts they might unload:
Arbitration eligible: Hanrahan, Ross Ohlendorf.
The Pirates are not divulging the exact number of dollars owner Bob Nutting has made available to spend this offseason, but there is significant money available. The recent departure of Zach Duke freed up about another $5 million that had been allocated to the 2011 payroll. While the Bucs will continue to be built primarily with their young players, the organization probably has about $15 million-$20 million to spend if it finds the right complementary players to add before next season.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.