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Closer to hone: Bucs forming offseason plans

Pittsburgh deciding between full rebuild, minor tweaks entering Winter Meetings
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Now, perhaps, the Pirates' offseason plans will come into sharper focus.

It has been more than two months since the Bucs' season ended. That time has been filled with meetings, staffing changes and minor transactions. But for the most part, the Pirates have been bystanders in an offseason dominated by two names: Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Now, perhaps, the Pirates' offseason plans will come into sharper focus.

It has been more than two months since the Bucs' season ended. That time has been filled with meetings, staffing changes and minor transactions. But for the most part, the Pirates have been bystanders in an offseason dominated by two names: Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.

Pittsburgh made its best bid for Ohtani, the two-way Japanese superstar who wound up signing with the Angels. They watched two National League competitors vie for Stanton's massive power, then saw him land with the Yankees. But now that general manager Neal Huntington and the rest of the front office has arrived in Florida for the Winter Meetings, maybe the Pirates will get in on the action.

"We've got the same mindset going in that we established once the month of October was over," manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday. "We analyzed. We evaluated. We set targets of people that we like. We know teams that are in need, where we have a surplus.

"We're ready to go in. We'll listen and we'll watch, and we'll see what happens."

Hot Stove Tracker

The Winter Meetings officially begin Monday morning and run through the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, and the Pirates' direction remains unclear. Will they fortify their existing roster, confident that only minor tweaks on the margins will be enough to contend next season? Or will they rebuild?

Either way, there will be plenty of action during the coming days. Huntington will hold a daily briefing with the press, and Hurdle will address the media on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. ET. That coverage will appear daily on Pirates.com, and you can follow for updates on Twitter @adamdberry.

The Pirates left last year's meetings with only Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Webb, who was eventually returned to the Yankees. But they also went home with Andrew McCutchen, despite strong interest from the Nationals.

Coming off two consecutive losing seasons, what could the Pirates add to make another run to the postseason with McCutchen, entering his final year of club control? Most of their improvement must come from within, but they could use more power, a left-handed reliever and maybe a true fourth outfielder.

Rumors and reports have connected them to infielder Neil Walker, reliever Xavier Cedeno and starter Jaime Garcia, but it's important to remember -- especially as the speculation ramps up this week -- that the Pirates do their due diligence on just about every available player who might fill a need.

As quiet as the past two months have been, the Hot Stove buzz can amplify in a hurry at the Winter Meetings. Over the next four days, we'll see what kind of noise the Pirates are looking to make.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates