Maybe not set for contention. Maybe not even set to break their professional-sports-record 19-year losing streak.
But sources high within the front office confirm that the current 40-man roster is likely to see only nominal changes between now and the start of spring training. That means a few more non-roster invitees, minor-league free agents and the like. The signing of journeyman lefty Jo-Jo Reyes in the past week is probably a good example.
There remains some hope among management of bolstering the starting rotation with a free-agent signing, but the rest of the remaining crop is either too expensive or, in the Pirates' eyes, not as good as what they already have internally. The only free-agent starter signed this offseason was left-hander Erik Bedard.
The most familiar name on the open market, at least to Pittsburghers, is that of another left-hander, Paul Maholm. He was a 2003 first-round draft pick and a rotation fixture the past half-decade before his $9.75 million club option was bought out in late October. Maholm and the team had expressed a mutual openness to negotiating a new deal -- they still do -- but a front-office source told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that is highly unlikely to happen.
That leaves the rotation -- the only area in which the Pirates might reasonably compete as well as they did in the first four months of 2011 -- as Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton and Bedard. Backing them up are Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens, with Lincoln seen as having the best chance to contribute if needed early.
--RHP Charlie Morton is on schedule to be fully recovered from offseason hip surgery in time for spring training, GM Neal Huntington said. "He's on as good of a schedule as we could have hoped," Huntington told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
--LHP Jo-Jo Reyes was signed to a minor-league contract with a spring training invitation.
Reyes, 27, was 7-11 with a 5.57 ERA in 25 starts for the Blue Jays and Orioles. Given the light competition for the fringe rotation spots, look for Reyes to see plenty of duty in 2012.
--RHP Logan Kensing will try to come back to the majors with the Pirates after signing a minor-league contract with a spring invitation. He was a regular for the Marlins and Nationals through 2009, but he missed all of 2010 and much of 2011 to Tommy John surgery. The Yankees signed him at midseason, and he posted a 4.28 ERA for their Class AAA affiliate in Scranton.
--C Michael McKenry has made three trips to visit with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to study video of his hitting and analyze ways he can upgrade. McKenry was sharp defensively last season, but he batted just .222 with a .276 on-base percentage.
--SS Clint Barmes will make for a fine double-play fit, 2B Neil Walker predicted. "You watch him, and you see he just makes all the plays," Walker said. "We're all really happy to have added him, and I think he's going to work out really well for us defensively." Barmes was signed as a free agent.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- New professional scouts hired this winter by GM Neal Huntington in a clear attempt to upgrade the team's major-league evaluations
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's amazing to me, the number of people that still talk about it." --- C Michael McKenry, on his July 8 three-run home run that many observers consider the greatest moment in PNC Park's 11-year history. A Pittsburgh TV station re-aired the game in its entirety in early January.