Cervelli acquisition caps busy week for Pirates
Huntington takes proactive approach at General Managers Meetings
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The General Managers Meetings are portrayed mostly as an opportunity for baseball executives to lay some groundwork for future transactions. Well, Pirates GM Neal Huntington did more: He hit the groundwork running this week, coming away from the Arizona Biltmore with two additions to what already has been a productive offseason.
The Bucs' headlining move was Wednesday's trade with the Yankees for catcher Francisco Cervelli. But the day before, Huntington had swung a deal with Colorado for righty reliever Rob Scahill. And even before getting the Bombers and the Rockies to say "Yes," the Bucs got a "No" on Monday from Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano to their qualifying offers -- which could make them a powerhouse in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
"A good couple of days. We were able to get a jump on the market by acquiring a catcher, and also picked up a pitcher," Huntington said on Thursday, before joining the GMs' exodus from the meetings.
Huntington had rolled up his sleeves even before arriving here, recently acquiring a pair of versatile infielders -- Jake Elmore on waivers from the Reds and Justin Sellers for cash considerations from the Indians -- and another right-handed bullpen candidate in Preston Guilmet, also for cash from the Orioles.
All five newcomers immediately went on the Pirates' 40-man roster. So a full month before the Winter Meetings -- baseball's true bazaar -- that's a 12.5 percent turnover.
All five players also have some Major League experience, none as extensive as Cervelli, who had been in pinstripes since 2008.
Elmore and Sellers had two attractions to the Pirates: They are both versatile middle infielders, and both still have a Minor League option.
"The options give us flexibility," Huntington said. "Seems that this year, more than ever, guys on the Minor League free-agent market are out of options, which would make them hard to bring up as a short-time fit. We thought [Elmore and Sellers] were worthwhile acquisitions for depth."
Either would essentially play the role filled in 2014 by Clint Barmes, the Pirates' fourth and "forgotten" free agent.
"We'll keep the door open to Clint [returning]," Huntington said. "We love what he has done for us, and he's such a great pro in the clubhouse."
Guilmet and Scahill could figure in the bullpen reconstruction that began with the trade of lefty Justin Wilson for Cervelli. The Bucs kept their bullpen intact from 2013-14, and eventually regretted what had been an unorthodox decision.
Despite the rejections by Martin and Liriano, Huntington will continue to make an earnest effort to sign both. If he can't, it will still be a win-win situation.
One, the Pirates will have a lot of cash to allocate to fill other needs, most predominantly in the starting rotation and at first base.
Two, by signing with other teams, Martin and Liriano would return Draft compensation that will have the Bucs sitting pretty in June. Although the exact pecking order is yet to be determined by which teams sign the eight other free agents who rejected qualifying offers (Michael Cuddyer signed with the Mets before he had to make that decision, and Victor Martinez has re-upped with the Tigers), the Pirates would be in place for three of the top 40 picks in the Draft -- their regular No. 22 selection, plus two compensation picks following the first round.