Pirates claim two off waivers
Pittsburgh gets infielder Wilson, pitcher Taubenheim
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Though the Pirates have continued to remain inactive on the trade front this offseason, general manager Neal Huntington made his first two moves of the four-day Winter Meetings on Monday when the club made two waiver claims.
In an effort to acquire some much-needed infield depth, the Pirates claimed Josh Wilson off waivers from Tampa Bay. The Pirates also added Ty Taubenheim to the club, claiming the 25-year-old right-handed starter off waivers from the Blue Jays, pushing the total number of waiver claims made by the Pirates this offseason to five.
"The five waiver claims we've made are because the five players we've claimed are incrementally better than the players we've had on our roster at that point in time," Huntington said. "We're not just randomly throwing things against the wall. We're filling in need." The Pirates have designated both first baseman Brad Eldred and right-handed reliever Brian Rogers for assignment in order to make room for both Wilson and Taubenheim on the team's 40-man roster. Eldred and Rogers have 10 days to be traded or to pass through waivers and be outrighted to the Minors.
For Wilson, news of the claim was the realization of a childhood dream. The 26-year-old infielder is a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Mount Lebanon High School. He grew up watching the likes of Barry Bonds, Jay Bell, Andy Van Slyke and Jeff King while dreaming of putting on a Pirates uniform some day.
"I think it's great," Wilson said over the phone on Monday. "It definitely always was my dream as a little kid to play for the Pirates. I didn't see it coming. I always hoped I would get the chance to play in Pittsburgh, and sooner rather than later."
Wilson nearly signed a Minor League contract with the Pirates prior to the 2007 season but opted to sign with the Nationals instead, with the guarantee of a spot on Washington's 40-man roster. Though Wilson started the season on the Nationals' Opening Day roster, he was claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay just a little over a month into the season.
Primarily playing as a shortstop, Wilson appeared in 90 games (72 starts) for Tampa Bay, hitting .251 with 24 RBIs. He also appeared in 27 games at second and eight at third base.
"As we've looked around the industry, that middle utility guy, a guy that has the potential to play legitimate Major League shortstop, is very difficult to find," Huntington said. "Josh has performed well in Double-A and Triple-A with the bat ... and he is a guy that we think could play a role for us [on] the bench in the short term.
"It allows us one less pressing issue as we go through the offseason."
The addition of Wilson will also allow shortstop prospect Brian Bixler the necessary time to further develop at Triple-A next season until he is Major League ready.
After making his Major League debut in 2006, Taubenheim made one start last season for Toronto. In 13 total Major League appearances (eight starts), Taubenheim has allowed 19 earned runs, walked 18 and struck out 26 in 35 total innings.
The Bellingham, Wash., native spent the majority of the 2007 season in the rotation for Triple-A Syracuse, making 19 appearances (16 starts). The right-hander went a combined 4-7 with a 6.37 ERA and struck out 73 in hitters in 89 total innings. Taubenheim also made five Double-A starts last year, going 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA.
With Taubenheim, the Pirates have added another Major-League ready spot starter to their system. A consistent big league role out of the bullpen is also something the Pirates are looking at as a long-term possibility for the righty.
"There is some belief that his stuff may play up out of the bullpen," Huntington said of Taubenheim, whose fastball consistently falls within the 90-92 mph range. "[He] seemed to struggle at stopping the big inning last year, but when his delivery was right, he had some upside as a guy who could give us some middle relief or a spot start."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.