The Annual Baseball Winter Meetings are set to kick off this week in Orlando and will conclude on December 12th. 2013 marks the 112th year of the meetings. The Winter Meetings is generally the high point of the “hot stove league”. Free agent signings and offseason trades usually peak during the week of the Winter Meetings. The Rule 5 draft also takes place at this event.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will go to the 2013 Winter Meetings with a number of questions still to be answered. They’ve already lost RF Marlon Byrd, 1B Justin Morneau, and 1B Garrett Jones from the 2013 squad. Starting Pitcher A.J. Burnett and SS Clint Barmes are potential losses that are still unsigned. The Pirates have yet to sign a major league player this offseason. The only pickup of note so far was the acquisition of backup catcher Chris Stewart. The biggest holes the Pirates would like to fill is at 1B and starting pitcher. They have been rumored to have interest in free agent 1B James Loney. They have also been tied to trade rumors involving Mark Trumbo, Mitch Moreland, and Logan Morrison. The Bucs came up short in an attempt to sign starting pitcher Josh Johnson. The biggest rumor of the offseason to date is the Pirates’ supposed interest in trading for the Rays all-star hurler David Price. We can firmly place that rumor in the “no way in hell” category. It will be interesting to see what, if anything the Pirates accomplish this week at the meetings. Will it be a quiet week, or will it be like these five notable Winter League Meetings from past years?
1954 Winter Meetings – Selected Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft. This is one of the top 2 or 3 most significant transactions in the Pirates history. Clemente would become a Hall of Fame player. He led the team to a World Series title in 1960 and 1971.
1975 Winter Meetings – Traded Willie Randolph, Ken Brett, and Dock Ellis to the Yankees for Doc Medich. This one-sided deal helped elevate the Yankees back to prominence. Medich gave the Pirates one OK season. He posted an 8-11 record with a 3.52 ERA in 1976 before being dealt to the A’s prior to the 1977 season. Dock Ellis was exceptional for the Yankees in 1976. He posted a 17-8 record and a 3.19 ERA. Randolph would become a 6 time all-star and was a stalwart for the Yankees for more than a decade.
1977 Winter Meetings – The Pirates were involved in a trade with four teams in which they gave up Al Oliver and Nelson Norman and acquired Bert Blyleven and John Milner. Oliver was an all-star caliber player that helped the team win a World Series in 1971. But Blyleven and Milner were key additions that would help the Pirates win their next championship in 1979.
2000 Winter Meetings – The Bucs wanted to bolster the team in preparation for their inaugural season at PNC Park. GM Cam Bonifay attempted to do so by opening the checkbook for the free agent signings of Derek Bell and Terry Mulholland. The signings were finalized and announced on December 10, 2000 at the Winter Meetings. Mulholland was an extreme overpay for a relief pitcher. Bell turned out to be a complete disaster. He hit just .173 in 46 games with the Pirates before going into “Operation Shutdown”.
2003 Winter Meetings – The organization became a laughingstock when they lost five players in the first six picks of the Rule 5 draft. The players selected were Chris Shelton, Rich Thompson, Frank Brooks, Jeff Bennett, and Jose Bautista. A side note to this dark moment in Pirate history was that they actually had four players selected from the Rule 5 draft the year before. That makes it a whopping nine Rule 5 players the Pirates lost in a two year period!