Source: Bucs intensify interest in SS Crosby

As the Pirates continue to explore additional shortstop options for next season, it is believed that free agent Bobby Crosby is at or near the top of the priority list right now.

An industry source characterized the Pirates’ level of discussion with Crosby’s agent, Paul Cohen, as “pretty extensive” and confirmed that talks have intensified recently. Up to seven clubs have inquired about Crosby this offseason, though the baseball source said that two or three of those teams have shown particularly strong interest. It’s unknown which clubs, other than Pittsburgh, that includes.

About half the teams that have asked about Crosby have targeted him as a potential shortstop, while others are considering him a super utility option. Crosby has played all four infield positions at one time or another with Oakland and appeared in one game in the outfield as well.

Crosby has been in Oakland’s organization since he was selected in the first round of the 2001 First-Year Players Draft. He was the American League’s Rookie-of-the-Year award winner in 2004 despite hitting only .239, and Crosby has had a higher batting average than that just once in the last five seasons.

He is coming off a season in which he appeared in only 97 games as he battled through some injuries. The infielder finished the year hitting .223 with six homers and 29 RBIs.

Last season was also Crosby’s final year in a five-year contract that paid a total of $12.75 million. He pocketed $5.25 million in 2009, but is unlikely to approach that salary figure in 2010. Crosby is expected to sign a one-year deal with the intent of increasing his value before entering the free agent pool again next winter.

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