Pirates and Kendrys Morales have “mutual interest”

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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe passes this report along in his always-info-packed weekly Sunday notes column:

Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH, free agent — Morales fits what the Pirates need, a first baseman/middle of the order hitter. There’s mutual interest, but while the Pirates would love him on the right contract, they may also pursue a first baseman via trade. There are a few possible candidates, including the Mets’ Ike Davis, Toronto’s Adam Lind, Texas’s Mitch Moreland, and even Seattle’s Justin Smoak and Boston’s Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.

It’s been a sluggish winter for Morales, who declined a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Mariners in November thus tying himself to draft pick compensation. The 30-year-old batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers and 80 RBI last summer for Seattle, starting 121 games at DH and 31 at first base.

Pittsburgh lost Justin Morneau to free agency and could use a high-impact bat for first base, but the club would have to surrender its 2014 first-round draft pick to sign Morales and that makes a marriage unlikely given the success of the Bucs’ recent youth movement. Andrew McCutchen (2005), Pedro Alvarez (2008), Gerrit Cole (2011), and Neil Walker (2004) were all first-round selections.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.