Pirates’ Nutting: No free agent off the table
BRADENTON, Fla. — As they continue to seek an everyday first baseman, the Pirates will not rule out free agents who are attached to draft-pick compensation, owner Bob Nutting said Wednesday.
“Certainly nothing is off the table,” Nutting said. “But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious.”
The Pirates have inquired about free agent Kendrys Morales to fill the hole at first base. Because Morales turned down a qualifying offer from the Seattle Mariners in November, the Pirates would have to forfeit their first-round draft pick (No. 25 overall) if they sign him.
Without talking specifically about Morales, Nutting said the Pirates could have the financial flexibility to sign another free agent. He also did not rule out giving up a draft pick.
Nutting took questions for about 20 minutes during his annual visit to the team’s spring training camp. Nutting said he is optimistic about the upcoming season, even though the Pirates mostly were spectators in the free-agent and trade markets over the winter.
After losing A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau to free agency, the Pirates signed No. 5 starter Edinson Volquez, re-signed utility infielder Clint Barmes and traded for backup catcher Chris Stewart.
“I think the additions were strong,” Nutting said. “I am very enthusiastic about the team we’ll put on the field. Are we in a strong position to compete and excel in 2014? Absolutely. I’m never satisfied, but I’m very enthusiastic about where we are.”
Nutting said it took him a few weeks last year to get over losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games in the National League Division Series.
“That was hard,” Nutting said. “It stunk. We were so close. Then to see, as (the playoffs) went on, we absolutely could have been there, should have been there, could’ve gone farther. In the big picture, I think it’s great for the organization. That little bit of sting is a motivator.”
Wednesday marked the first round of live batting practice for pitchers. On Field 2, Gerrit Cole got a good test from Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco. Francisco Liriano looked sharp on Field 1 facing Starling Marte and Neil Walker.
Also among the 14 pitchers who worked were Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Mark Melancon.
“I liked the rhythm, the intensity and the focus of the guys I saw take the mound,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were ready for it, and we attacked it.”
Travis Snider swung a bat for the first time since cutting his finger with a kitchen knife a few days ago. Snider is fielding and catching as normal but is not cleared to throw overhand.
Liriano learned he would be the Opening Day starter when Hurdle announced it during a team meeting.
“I’m kind of shy, so it was a little embarrassing,” Liriano said. “But at the same time, it’s a great feeling.”
It is Liriano’s second season-opening assignment. In 2009, when Liriano was with the Minnesota Twins, he filled in when Scott Baker went down with an injury about 10 days before the start of the season.