Duke, Maholm: Could they be dealt?

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

A free agent market that seems to be devoid of top-echelon talent on the pitching end (outside of John Lackey) could very well mean that teams will be trying to fill more of those holes via trades. That said, could Pirates starters Zach Duke or Paul Maholm — both of whom are still young and have very affordable contract situations — catch the eyes of pitching-hungry teams?

As was mentioned in the Winter Meetings preview I did on Friday, the Pirates will not rule out dealing either lefty starter. But just because the pitchers may be available does not mean that they are expected to be traded. In fact, outside of Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are not labeling any of their players off limits. The team will listen to offers. All teams would.

Know this, though. The Pirates would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to trade either Duke of Maholm before the 2010 season. Think Nate McLouth — the Pirates were not shopping McLouth last summer, but felt like they had no choice but to pull the trigger on a trade when the Braves came offering a package that Pittsburgh felt was worth more long-term than McLouth was. That’s exactly what would have to happen for Duke or Maholm to be sent packing.

For now, the Bucs are counting on the two left-handers to be anchors in next season’s rotation.

My thoughts? I don’t expect either to be dealt, especially not in Indianapolis this week. But stranger things have happened. Just keep this in mind as you read the rumor fodder that will come out of the Indianapolis Marriott — just because you hear that the Pirates are listening to offers for their players, that doesn’t mean the organization is actively shopping them or even seriously looking to make a deal.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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