...And John Perrotto has the rumors. He reports that Dave Littlefield has had preliminary talks with six different teams, and adds that the Bucs are trying to trade Kip Wells and John Grabow for a hitter. Among the possible targets:
-Wily Mo Pena, Reds: A very young player who has shown tremendous power in the majors despite hardly spending any time developing in the minors. He has strike-zone issues, but has already hit pretty well in big chunks of two major league seasons. He's relatively athletic and he's a year and a half younger than Brad Eldred (who I'll get bearish on below), so he seems to have a good shot at a nice career.
-Lyle Overbay, Brewers: I've said before that acquiring Overbay would be unwise, but Brad Eldred's problems with the strike zone and his lukewarm performance in the Arizona Fall League have me hedging a little bit. Eldred's not young, and if the Pirates are ever going to contend, it's going to have to be fairly soon, maybe by 2007 or 2008. There won't be much coming through the pipeline after that. Overbay's not a great player, but he's decent, and he's a lefty; he can share at-bats with Eldred, and take over in the reasonably likely event that Eldred tanks. I wouldn't pay a lot for Overbay if I were the Pirates - he'd be strictly bench material if Eldred took a step forward - but I wouldn't mind having him around, either. He's certainly better than Daryle Ward or some players who have been mentioned as possible offseason targets, like Travis Lee.
-Aubrey Huff, Devil Rays
Huff is another player I wouldn't mind having around, but wouldn't pay much for. His best days are probably behind him at this point. He probably can't handle third, either. Jonny Gomes would be a much better trade target for the Bucs.
-Hank Blalock, Rangers: I don't know. The guy obviously has a great pedigree - the first two players on Blalock's Baseball Reference list of similar players through age 24 are Scott Rolen and Eric Chavez, with Gary Sheffield not far behind. But look closer, and there are warning signs. He's coming off a poor year in which he had a 611 OPS outside the Rangers' hitter-friendly ballpark, and he had a 707 career OPS on the road. I'd love to have him on my team, of course, but the Rangers will probably be asking the world for him. I'd trade any player the Pirates have besides Jason Bay or possibly Zach Duke for him, but that's probably not the issue, since the Rangers would want multiple high-upside players for Blalock.
-Kevin Mench, Rangers: Mench has a 771 career OPS on the road, and he'll be 28 next year. He's not a bad player, but the Pirates would be better served by simply giving playing time at first base and right field to Craig Wilson, Eldred and Nate McLouth, and keeping their pitching talent. Like Wilson, Mench pounds lefties and is only a fair hitter against righties, so it would be tough to use both of them effectively. (Eldred is also right-handed and should also be allowed to hit against lefties.) The Pirates should probably stay away from Mench.