LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Pirates spent a big chunk of 2017 without a dedicated fourth outfielder on their roster, instead shuffling a variety of super-utility men and converted infielders into the corner spots as they dealt with Starling Marte's suspension and Gregory Polanco's various injuries.Pittsburgh may address that
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Pirates spent a big chunk of 2017 without a dedicated fourth outfielder on their roster, instead shuffling a variety of super-utility men and converted infielders into the corner spots as they dealt with Starling Marte's suspension and Gregory Polanco's various injuries.
Pittsburgh may address that need this offseason, general manager Neal Huntington said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, but it sounds like that will only happen if the Bucs find a fit with a fourth outfielder who represents a clear upgrade over their existing options.
"We're looking [for an extra outfielder] via trade or free agency," Huntington said, "but it has to be something that makes sense for us."
If there is no such match, the Pirates have several backup plans in place.
Rookie Jordan Luplow could back up Marte and Polanco, start on occasion and serve as a right-handed bat off the bench. Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez have experience in the outfield. Jose Osuna played some right field last season, and top prospect Austin Meadows may soon be ready for the big leagues if he stays healthy and succeeds in Triple-A.
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But Luplow has only 269 plate appearances above Double-A, Frazier and Rodriguez are key parts of the Bucs' infield plan, Osuna will spend most of his time next spring at first and third base, and Meadows needs more seasoning after a shaky Triple-A debut last season.
Bringing in a more experienced outfielder would permit the Pirates to keep the status quo. Jarrod Dyson, Jonathan Jay and Austin Jackson are among the available free-agent outfielders who could fill a reserve role, but it's unclear how actively the Pirates are pursuing those options.
"Does it allow us to continue to have Jordan Luplow get at-bats in Triple-A? He didn't have a ton of at-bats down there a year ago," Huntington said. "If that's where we end up, that's great. If we end up with Jordan on our Major League team, we'll go forward with that as well."
Around the horn
• Huntington said that the Pirates are more willing to consider using Tyler Glasnow in relief than they were this time last year. It's not about anything Glasnow has done, Huntington said, but a product of Pittsburgh's rotation depth that could force a starter or two into the Opening Day bullpen.
"This year, with some other guys coming [from] behind, with the advancement of [Nick] Kingham, with some other guys on the horizon, we feel we could put one -- maybe two -- of our young starters in the bullpen if that's our best club," Huntington said.
• Huntington said that the Pirates will use their remaining international bonus pool money in some way. They have $2.26 million, which they'd hoped to put toward Shohei Ohtani had he considered signing with them.
"History tells us there's still a lot of good players out there," Huntington said. "The reality is, there are a lot of good players that are signed over the course of the year. Whether it's using that money directly in the international market, or [using] some of that money via trade to acquire a player or players that we think impact us in a different way, we anticipate utilizing that money fully, some combination of signings and trades."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.