BRADENTON, Fla. — Kris Benson doesn’t expect to be pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates past the end of spring training.
Benson, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, said he has been told by his agent that five teams are interested in acquiring him.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what’s going to happen over the next couple of weeks,” Benson said Friday. “I trust what my agent tells me.”
In addition to reports that the New York Yankees are interested, Benson said he thinks the list of suitors includes the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox.
“I know it’s there, I know they are talking, the rumors are flying,” Benson said. “I know they are legitimate. It’s totally in the Pirates’ hands.”
Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield has a policy of not commenting on trade rumors, but he said it is only natural that rumors would surface about Benson, who will make $6.1 million this season.
The Pirates traded high-priced veterans Brian Giles, Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Randall Simon, Scott Sauerbeck, Mike Williams and Jeff Suppan last summer, and they are trying to get out from under the $42 million left on Jason Kendall’s contract.
“First and foremost, we’re going to continually say more than anything else that we want Kris Benson to pitch well for us,” Littlefield said.
Benson, the first overall pick in the 1996 draft, is 35-41 with a 4.27 ERA in five seasons. Since signing a four-year, $13.8 million contract in 2001, he has made only 43 starts because of injuries to his right elbow and right shoulder. He has a 15-15 record since signing the contract.
Littlefield said he hasn’t been ordered to trim the payroll again. The Pirates already have trimmed the payroll from $54 million to between $35 million and $39 million, projected to be the third lowest in the majors.
“We’re just looking for value in every player we have out there. Whatever we’re paying them, we’re hoping to get that level of production,” Littlefield said.
Benson pitched only once in the second half of last season because of right shoulder tendinitis, but he has been healthy this spring. He has made two spring training starts and threw 59 pitches in a simulated, four-inning game Friday.
His next scheduled start is Wednesday.
“It’s encouraging to know teams are interested in you and want you coming back from an injury,” Benson said. “They definitely see the upside when I’m healthy. I definitely have made it known I feel good, I’m healthy and my arm feels great again.”
I would think if he goes to any of those teams and he can stay healthy he'd be a nice little sleeper.