Bucs patient as free agency opens
GM Huntington says club won't be in on top tier of available players
PITTSBURGH -- While much of the country was already asleep, Major League Baseball was busy ushering in the beginning of its offseason's frenzy. The free-agency period opened up in full at 12:01 p.m. ET on Friday, as teams lost exclusive negotiating rights with players on their '08 clubs who had filed for free agency.
In other words, everyone's services are now up for grabs.
For the Pirates, the exclusive two-week window to talk dollar figures with free agents Doug Mientkiewicz, Chris Gomez, Luis Rivas and Jason Michaels has ended. However, because the club already expected -- and to some extent encouraged -- each of the four players to consider offers elsewhere, there was never an expectation to get any of the four players signed before the market opened up in full.
So what does the opening of the free-agent market mean for the Pirates. Well, not much in the immediate future.
General manager Neal Huntington has already acknowledged the fact that his club is not in the market for any of the marquee free agents. And as a result, Huntington is planning on allowing the market to set itself before making a significant dive.
"We're not going to play on the first tier [of players] and the first tier is going to establish the market," Huntington said late last week. "We are in touch with a number of players that we are interested in, but much of their decisions will come after that market is set. We're not going to set the market at any rate."
While the Pirates may not be a significant player early, that's not to say the organization doesn't already have its priorities laid out. A veteran starter and a right-handed power bat top that list, though the bench will have to be almost entirely revamped as well.
But most likely, it won't be until after that first echelon of players sign that the Pirates will be able to get a better grasp of which available players might be the best fit financially. The organization has publically stated that dollar figures won't be as restraining this offseason as in years past; however, there is still little anticipation for the Pirates to spend a significant amount in the market.
As for their pursuit of the their own four players who filed for free agency, the Pirates have not ruled out any of the four as potential returners in '09. However, with each of the four exploring options elsewhere, no signings are expected to be imminent.
"Basically, the conversations we've had with them is to go explore the market and see what's out there," Huntington said, specifically citing conversations with Michaels and Mientkiewicz. "As soon as they know what's out there, then they can come back to us and we can begin to talk in more financial terms."
None of the four is a Type A or Type B free agent, meaning if the player signs elsewhere, the Pirates will receive no compensation in return.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.