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On eve of Winter Meetings, Bucs eye upgrades

Pirates head to Florida looking for a right fielder and a first baseman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Pirates reached the postseason for the first time since 1992 this past season, and now they're going to Disney World -- that is, to work toward doing it again in 2014.

After a long-awaited leap into October, the Pirates are headed to baseball's annual Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, where general manager Neal Huntington and the rest of the Pittsburgh baseball operations staff will be manning the team suite and chatting with colleagues in the lobbies.

The Pirates come to the sport's annual convention of trades, signings and rumors primarily looking for a right fielder and a first baseman, as teams and agents get together all in one place for a four-day session.

The main focus for Huntington and Co. will be to replace two veterans who were acquired during the season and have since departed as free agents -- Marlon Byrd (Phillies) and Justin Morneau (Rockies). The Pirates could go the trade or free-agent route for either position, but anything for a right fielder is expected to be relatively temporary, with outfield prospect Gregory Polanco on the cusp. On top of that, the Pirates have players still in-house who can fill the spots.

"We have capable internal replacements. If there's some way to make the club better, we'll continue to explore those [options]," Huntington said last week.

The Bucs also would like to find out soon about the future of A.J. Burnett, whom they'd welcome back as a strong veteran presence in an otherwise youthful rotation -- if he doesn't retire.

Once the wheeling and dealing begins at the Winter Meetings, will have it all covered, with all 30 beat reporters working the Swan and Dolphin from the moment the hotel begins filling up Sunday night through the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning.

Besides the usual mix of news and rumors, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce what is expected to be a strong contingent of electees from the Expansion Era (1973-present), as well as the annual honors for broadcasters and writers. Also, will hand out its Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) Awards, and MLB managers will meet with the media to give their take on baseball's shopping season.

Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle, the National League Manager of the Year, is scheduled to hold his media session on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Fans are encouraged to take part by filling the comments section at this week with their own suggestions for getting the club back to the postseason.

Note to readers: With regular Pirates club reporter Tom Singer on the mend following surgery, national reporter John Schlegel will be covering the Pirates throughout the Winter Meetings with articles on and updates on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates