Team president Frank Coonelly said this week: "Neal is continuing to work to improve the club and, in particular, is looking to add a bullpen piece or two. Neal continues to talk to representatives for free agents and attempt to identify trades that will improve the club. ... We are likely not finished."
Maybe not, but the bulk of the team apparently is set.
The positional question marks entering the offseason were right field, first base and shortstop. The Pirates signed Matt Diaz to play right in a possible platoon with Garrett Jones, signed Lyle Overbay for first and, in the only non-move of the group, apparently are content to enter the year with Ronny Cedeno as shortstop again. The team likes Cedeno's talent level -- most observers do -- and want to give him one last chance to see if it plays consistently.
The rotation was addressed -- though perhaps not adequately -- by signing Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen, and all that remains, as Coonelly suggested, is relief pitching.
The only current bullpen locks are Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek, and management is expected to decide before spring training which will be closer. Chris Resop is a good bet, too, as is Jeff Karstens as a long man. That leaves other internal possibilities such as Daniel McCutchen, Sean Gallagher, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio, the latter two coming off long-term rehabilitations of shoulder surgeries. It also is possible that a current starting candidate could be bumped to relief.
The Pirates were in contact with several remaining free agents, notably reliever Brian Fuentes, but that interest has cooled.
--Where are the Pirates going to find their left-handed bullpen help? New manager Clint Hurdle had said during the winter meetings that he hoped to add two more lefty relievers, and that was when Wil Ledezma was the only one in that category. Ledezma, removed from the 40-man roster recently, was claimed off waivers by Toronto.
--RHP Joe Martinez was traded to Cleveland for cash considerations a week after the Pirates removed him from their 40-man roster. That leaves them with only reserve 1B/RF John Bowker to show for the trade last summer that sent LHP Javier Lopez to San Francisco, where he became a key piece in the Giants' championship run.
--LHP Brian Burres was re-signed to a minor league contract that would pay $600,000 if he's in the majors. He had a 4.5 record and 4.99 ERA in 20 games, 13 starts, last season, and GM Neal Huntington had strongly suggested when Burres was non-tendered in early December that he could be back. Officially, Burres will go into spring training with a chance to make the rotation, but he almost surely is ticketed for Class AAA Indianapolis.
--The Pirates' top two draft picks from 2010, RHP Jameson Taillon and RHP Stetson Allie, are expected to open their professional careers in the rotation of low Class A West Virginia. Allie being in the rotation might be a surprise to some -- many scouts peg him as a closer because of his limited repertoire -- but management is adamant that it wants to see first if he can start. The thinking is that, with his triple-digit fastball, he would not need to add much to become a top-of-the-rotation type.
--The Pirates are hopeful -- though they're hardly forcing the issue -- that three prospects will challenge for bullpen duty at some point in 2011: LHP Daniel Moskos, LHP Tony Watson and flamethrowing RHP Diego Moreno. Only Moskos has seen time above the Class AA level, and that was an awful, brief stint with Indianapolis last summer, so all would have to show rapid development.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Walks by SS Ronny Cedeno in 37 Venezuelan Winter League games and 138 at-bats, despite the Pirates urging him to be more selective at the plate.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When we looked at offensive, defensive and leadership qualities, we thought that Lyle Overbay provided us with the best overall package at first base." -- Team president Frank Coonelly on why the Pirates signed Overbay out of free agency rather than Derrek Lee or Lance Berkman