Pirates owner Nutting confident despite budget limitations

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) Pittsburgh Pirates chairman Bob Nutting wants Andrew McCutchen to end his career with the team. But Nutting stopped short of saying how far he'd go to hammer out a new contract with the All-Star center fielder.

Nutting spoke to the team for about 30 minutes Wednesday at the end of his three-day visit to spring training camp.

McCutchen, 29, has two years left on the $51.5 million contract he signed before the 2012 season. McCutchen last week said he has no desire to leave Pittsburgh and indicated he wants an extension.

''We are committed to try to find an opportunity,'' Nutting said. ''There is no one who we'd like to have for a career in a Pirates uniform more than Andrew.''

The Pirates have consistently ranked among the lowest payrolls in the majors under Nutting, who became the principal owner in January 2007. The team is expected to have a payroll of about $97 million this year.

On opening day last season, the Pirates ranked 25th among the 30 big league clubs with an $88.5 million payroll. They won 98 games, their highest total since 1991, and got a National League wild-card berth.

This past offseason, the Chicago Cubs - who beat the Pirates in the wild-card game - committed $276.25 million on four free agents. The defending NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals spent $108.5 million on four players.

The Pirates signed pitchers Neftali Feliz, Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio; and infielders Sean Rodriguez and John Jaso for a total cost of $19.4 million.

Nutting was asked if general manager Neal Huntington could have been more active on the free-agent market.

''We use the word opportunistic,'' Nutting said. ''He does a calculus each time he makes a move to make sure we're doing everything we can to maximize short-term impact, long-term impact. We make sure we're doing the right thing for the club to build strength on the field as well as to build strength throughout the organization.''

The Pirates have earned a postseason berth in each of the past three seasons. They were eliminated by the Cardinals in the 2013 Division Series and lost the past two wild-card games.

Nutting does not believe spending for massive free-agent deals will lead to more success in the playoffs.

''I don't have any concern we're facing a battle we can't win,'' Nutting said. ''I think this is a group that's proven we can succeed in a very challenging division, in a very challenging sport.''

When constructing their roster, the Pirates want to focus more on drafting and developing their own players than shopping for free agents. That was the message Nutting gave when commissioner Rob Manfred asked for input on the ongoing talks for a new collective bargaining agreement.

''(Manfred) has done a really good job . giving us an opportunity to express concerns, directions, ideas,'' Nutting said. ''The (negotiating) team he has put together will be able to pull those pieces together to ensure competitive balance and access to (amateur) talent - those issues are critical for the Pirates - and build those into a larger package of proposals.''

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NOTES: Heavy rain forced the Pirates to move their workouts indoors on Wednesday. ... Athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said Gerrit Cole is able to throw off the mound with ''no restrictions, no reservations.'' ... Third baseman Jung Ho Kang took indoor batting practice with bench coach Dave Jauss making batting practice-speed throws. Kang has not yet been cleared to face live pitching on the fields.

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