BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Although the Pittsburgh Pirates were not major players in the free-agent and trade markets this winter, owner Bob Nutting is optimistic the team can build on last year's success.
After making the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, the Pirates lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. This offseason, three key players — A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau — left via free agency.
The Pirates' moves this winter got little fanfare. They signed Edinson Volquez for $5 million, re-signed Clint Barmes to be a utility infielder and traded for backup catcher Chris Stewart.
"I think the additions were strong," Nutting said Wednesday during a brief visit to the team's spring training camp. "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."
The team opened camp last week with open jobs at first base and right field. General manager Neal Huntington continues to seek an everyday first baseman and has checked in on free agent Kendrys Morales.
Morales turned down a qualifying offer from the Seattle Mariners in November. That means the Pirates would have to forfeit their first-round draft pick (No. 25 overall) if they sign Morales.
With an expected payroll of around $78 million so far, Nutting said the Pirates could have the financial flexibility to sign a free agent such as Morales. Nutting also did not rule out giving up the draft pick.
"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 or talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious."