Central Notes: Pirates, Giambi, Baker, White Sox

With a 1-0 win over the Rangers Monday night, the Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992. 2011 draftee Gerrit Cole pitched seven dominant innings for the Bucs on Monday, and the Pirates have, of course, gotten big contributions from draftees like Andrew McCutchen (2005) and Pedro Alvarez (2008). But much of the Pirates' success in 2013 has stemmed from Neal Huntington's spectacular 2012-2013 offseason. He signed Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin, who have emerged as two of the Pirates' top players behind McCutchen. He also re-signed Jason Grilli, who dominated as the Pirates' closer, and traded for Mark Melancon, who has been even more dominant and who stepped in as closer after Grilli got hurt.

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports digs deep into the construction of the 2013 Pirates, noting that many of this year's Bucs also came from earlier trades. He singles out the then-unpopular Nate McLouth trade, which brought back Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton, as an important one for the Bucs. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Jason Giambi wants to return to play for the Indians next season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. "I would love to play next year," Giambi says. "Hopefully it will be here. I love it here. I love the direction the team is going and the things we've got going here." Giambi is hitting .186/.278/.372 in 198 plate appearances this season.
  • The Cubs are giving Scott Baker starts in September, but it's unclear whether he'll be playing for them next year, writes Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. Baker made his first start since 2011 on Sunday, after missing most of the last two seasons with an elbow injury. The Cubs figure to have Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson in their rotation next year, with a variety of possible back-end options, including Jake Arrieta, Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin. Mooney notes that the Cubs will likely pursue more starting pitching in the offseason.
  • The White Sox will pursue position players via free agency and trade this offseason, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. Sox GM Rick Hahn says he will be "open to" trading young pitching in order to acquire hitters. The White Sox's top young-ish pitchers at the big-league level include Jose Quintana, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Hector Santiago. Chris Sale would obviously be a very valuable trade chip, but he's an elite talent and the White Sox signed him to an extension before the season, so that appears unlikely.

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