12/12/2013 3:10 P.M. ET
Work remains after key deals at Winter Meetings
Morton, Volquez highlight signings, but Bucs still looking at first basemen
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Coming off their magical 2013 season, the Pirates traveled to the Winter Meetings with a short to-do list but a lot of variables attached to those target areas.
As they left the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort on Thursday, there's a little more clarity, but still some work to do.
With three main areas they wanted to address, there was some movement on the rotation, a shift in focus on right field based on the market and there remains a question mark at first.
On the latter front, general manager Huntington repeatedly said the club would be comfortable with right-handed Gaby Sanchez in an everyday role, despite his recent struggles against lefties. But it's clear the club is pursuing another everyday option -- free agent James Loney is one player linked to the Pirates in rumors -- or a platoon partner for Sanchez. Trade options for that type of player include Justin Smoak of the Mariners and Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
"We're looking to put the best first-base production together that we can," said Neal Huntington.
After waiting two months for A.J. Burnett to decide whether to retire or sign up for another year, the Pirates have dipped into the "bounce-back" bin once again by agreeing to a one-year deal with Edinson Volquez for a reported $5 million, a pact that has not been announced or confirmed by the club.
The team addressed another rotation issue by coming to terms on a contract extension with Charlie Morton, avoiding his final arbitration year and securing him into his free-agency years.
Of the other two main areas the Pirates intended to target this offseason, the one that appears more set at the moment is right field. Having seen how shallow the outfield market is, the team is now geared toward using internal options while they await the arrival of top prospect Gregory Polanco.
One area of surplus for the Pirates and interest from other clubs is left-handed relief, where they have Tony Watson and Justin Wilson, two players they like -- but they aren't the only ones who like hard-throwing lefties early in their careers.
"We'd like to continue to have two of them, but if something makes us stronger as an organization, that's something that we'll entertain," Huntington said.
Deals done: The Morton extension is official, reportedly worth $21 million over the next three years with a club option for 2017 that would pay him $9.5 million, with a $1 million buyout.
The Volquez deal has yet to be announced, and likely will take a few days pending a physical.
The Pirates also took care of another role they were hoping to fill, which is a utility infielder to specifically complement Jordy Mercer at shortstop. The club reportedly re-signed Clint Barmes to a one-year, $2 million deal, bringing the veteran back for his third season in Pittsburgh. The 34-year-old appeared in 144 games in 2012 and 108 games in '13.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Pirates lost 21-year-old left-hander Wei-Chung Wang to the Brewers in the Major League portion of the Draft, meaning Milwaukee will have to keep Wang on their 25-man roster during the regular season or offer him back to the Pirates.
Goals accomplished: It's unclear whether the rotation is now set with Volquez on board, and whether that means Burnett's stay is over. The Morton extension shores up part of the team's arbitration slate, which still includes Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker.
Unfinished business: First base is still an open book. Huntington said he wouldn't shy away from a three-year deal for a free agent if it's the "right player, right deal" -- and it's three years that Loney reportedly is seeking, perhaps for as much as $30 million. That might be out of the Pirates' range, but it's clear Loney fits the profile for the everyday option. Trade options would complement Sanchez.
Team's bottom line: "We're basically going through the ebb and flow of the meetings and try not to get caught in the emotional wave that can sometimes happen, and just continue to make sure we're working to make logical, rational decisions for the betterment of the organization." -- Huntington
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.