• Talks between the Buccos and the Indians have supposedly been on and off all week long, and though it was rumored the two teams were close to a five player swap that would send Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino to the Tribe in exchange for Cliff Lee, Kelly Shoppach, and Franklin Gutierrez, the deal was never made and talks appear to have died down, if they ever began at all.
To be honest, it’s a deal that I think has some serious potential, although I don’t see it happening until the season has begun. I have faith that Bay can bounce back strong next season, since I firmly believe that injuries were the main deterrent to his ’07 campaign. For that reason, it’s probably best for the Pirates to hold on to Bay into the start of the season, in hopes that the Tribe will offer a little bit more. Either Jeremy Sowers or Fernando Cabrera, both young pitchers with plenty of potential, could be good fits if Bay bounces back strong.
That said, Gutierrez is a guy I like a lot. He showed some improved power in ’07, belting 13 home runs in just 271 at bats, and his OPS increased for the third straight season.
Also, Shoppach could be a good fit, as he brings a stronger defensive presence behind the plate. His offensive numbers took a considerable jump from his sophomore year, and although I think Paulino can learn a lot from new manager John Russell, I wouldn’t complain about seeing Shoppach behind the dish for the Bucs next year, especially if Paulino continues to struggle early on in the season.
• The Pirates filled a hole when they signed utility man Chris Gomez to a one-year deal. Gomez is a perfect fit for the Buccos, as he can play good defense at 2nd or 3rd, and can fill in very effectively as a pinch-hitter. Though he sports just a .261 average for his career, Gomez is hitting an impressive .293 over the past 4 seasons, with an OBP right around .350. If Freddy Sanchez or Jose Bautista go down with injuries early in the season, don’t be surprised to see Gomez step in and make the Pirates think twice about rushing either of the current starters back into action.
• CF Nate McLouth has been garnering a lot of team’s attention, including the Cubs, Padres, Phillies, Giants, Marlins and Braves. With so many teams interested, it would be a very good idea for GM Neal Huntington to listen carefully to any offers, as McLouth is certainly expendable to a Pirates club stocked with outfield potential.
• Other rumors that I’ve come across include a potential Damaso Marte and/or John Grabow to the Yankees deal. One report I saw even had Ian Snell and Ian Hughes somehow mixed into the deal, but I highly doubt that there is anything behind those rumors.