Pittsburgh Pirates – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-06-23T20:16:07Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[2018 Amateur Signings: 6/22/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125604 2018-06-23T05:48:25Z 2018-06-23T05:48:25Z Let’s round up Friday’s draft deals of note. As always, the rankings referenced come courtesy of FangraphsMLB.comBaseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law; Fangraphs and MLB.com scouting reports are available to the public free of charge, while the others require subscriptions.

  • The Pirates have a deal with second-rounder Braxton Ashcraft, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. Aschcraft’s $1,825,000 bonus comes in well over the slot value for the 51st overall selection ($1,382,400). The Baseball America (#58) and MLB.com (#64) analysts were highest on the reputedly athletic hurler, who’s regarded more for his projectability than his present ability on the mound. He’ll forego a commitment to Baylor to join the Bucs, who have inked most of their top picks but are still trying to work things out with sandwich round selection Gunnar Hoglund.
  • Astros second-rounder Jayson Schroeder also lands over slot, Callis tweets. Like Ashcraft, Schroeder is a high-school righty who still needs polish but has shown promising tools. He’ll take home a $1.25MM bonus after being taken 66th overall, a choice that carried a $965,300 allocation. Schroeder had been slated to attend the University of Washington.
  • The Brewers announced their deal with second-round choice Joe Gray, with Callis again tweeting the dollars. Gray lands right at the $1,113,500 allocation for the 60th selection. He’s another toolsy player who’ll forego a collegiate commitment, but in his case he’s an outfielder who has decided against a run at the University of Mississippi. A quality defender with power, Gray is seen as possessing significant upside — if his hitting ability can catch up to his other talents. Notably, the Brewers have yet to ink first-rounder Brice Turang. And amateur scouting director Tod Johnson suggested today that a deal is not inevitable, telling Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter link): “Obviously he and his family have to make a decision as to whether he wants to get on the field and start playing professionally, or go down to LSU and go that route.”
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Place Francisco Cervelli On 7-Day Concussion DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125592 2018-06-23T00:48:32Z 2018-06-23T00:02:41Z The Pirates announced just before today’s game that they placed catcher Francisco Cervelli on the 7-day concussion DL. Fellow backstop Jacob Stallings has been recalled to take his place on the active roster.

That’s unwelcome news for the Bucs, who say that Cervelli alerted the organization to symptoms last night, per MLB.com’s Adam Berry (via Twitter). At this point, the prognosis is unknown.

It is hard to overstate Cervelli’s importance to a Pirates club that is trying to hang in a tough NL Central race. He has been not only one of the team’s best players, but one of the very most productive receivers in all of baseball. In just 218 plate appearances, Cervelli has already set a career-high with nine home runs and carries a .257/.390/.486 slash with a healthy 14.2% walk rate.

If the Pirates can’t stay close enough to a postseason berth, of course, some summer trade movement is likely. In that event, Cervelli could be a major possible trade asset — if, that is, the 32-year-old is at full health.

Under the three-year, $31MM extension Cervelli signed early in the 2016 season, he’s owed $10.5MM this season and $11.5MM for 2019. Those contract rights could hold appeal for contenders, but the injury questions have certainly mounted in recent seasons.

The veteran backstop missed significant time in 2017, ending the season on the DL owing to a quad injury. Earlier in the year, he twice spent time on the concussion DL. Unfortunately, today’s news represents a continuation of a rather extensive history of head injuries for Cervelli.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Neal Huntington Discusses Jung Ho Kang]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125244 2018-06-18T02:11:31Z 2018-06-18T02:11:13Z
  • The Pirates reinstated infielder Jung Ho Kang from the restricted list and optioned him to Triple-A on Friday. General manager Neal Huntington spoke about Kang on Sunday (via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review), saying “we need to see quality plate appearances” in the minors and “we need to see him doing the things he did before to show us he can be major league ready again.” If that happens, the Pirates will be happy to welcome Kang back, Huntington suggested. “We would love to have a healthy and productive Jung Ho Kang back on this major league team,” he said, “because if that player comes back, he’s going to help us win games.” Kang did indeed help Pittsburgh win games from 2015-16, but he then earned his third DUI in his native South Korea prior to the 2017 season and hasn’t played in the majors since.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Deadline, Rotation, Middle Infield, Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125241 2018-06-18T00:16:43Z 2018-06-18T00:16:05Z The Pirates have fallen to earth since a solid start and now sit a game below .500 (35-36), but general manager Neal Huntington told reporters before Sunday’s loss to the Reds that he still has a buyer’s mindset as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. “We’ve had more conversations about adding players at this point in time than we’ve had about subtracting players,” Huntington said (via Adam Berry of MLB.com), adding that “our intent is to continue to give this club every chance in the world to show us that we can continue to do the things that we did the first six weeks, eight weeks to put ourselves nine games over and that we can dig out of this hole that we’ve dug ourselves over this tough stretch of 30 days.” The Pirates are sitting in fourth place in a tough NL Central, seven games behind first-place Milwaukee, but they’re only 3 1/2 out of a wild-card spot. With several playoff-contending teams on their schedule in the next several weeks, the Bucs will have an opportunity to make up ground on their competitors and end up as buyers. But if the Pirates drop out of the hunt pre-deadline, they could ultimately market some of their shorter-term players, as Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported this week.

    More from Pittsburgh…

    • Right-hander Trevor Williams has scuffled of late, as he recorded a 5.51 ERA in May and then allowed seven earned runs in six innings in his only June start thus far. Nevertheless, there aren’t any plans to pull him from Pittsburgh’s rotation and replace him with impressive rookie Nick Kingham, who’s currently in the minors, Huntington said (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “Our focus with Trevor right now is to get that secondary stuff back to being effective, to get the four- and the two-seam fastball command back to being effective, and [we] believe that we’re going to be able to do that and work from there,” stated Huntington, who noted it’s unfortunate for Kingham that “we’ve got six guys that we believe can help us win major league games as starting pitchers right now.” In Huntington’s estimation, that group includes the 26-year-old Williams, who, to his credit, has been a respectable starter since debuting in 2016. Williams has combined for 216 innings of 4.15 ERA ball and posted 6.6 K/9 against 2.95 BB/9 in 40 starts.
    • The Pirates are considering promoting middle infield prospects Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, but call-ups don’t seem imminent, Brink suggests. Starting middle infielders Josh Harrison (second base) and Jordy Mercer (shortstop) have been reasonably effective, and Huntington expressed confidence in reserve Sean Rodriguez, even though he has hit just .159/.286/299 in 126 plate appearances. Playing time would be hard to come by for the prospects, then, and the Pirates don’t want to promote them unless they’re going to see regular action. Both Newman, MLB.com’s seventh-ranked Pirates prospect, and Kramer (No. 8) have logged above-average production at the Triple-A level this season. Neither Newman nor Kramer is on the Bucs’ already full 40-man roster, though, which stands as another roadblock in the way of the “Seinfeld” tandem.
    • More from Brink, who writes that Huntington took some of the blame Sunday for the woes of Pittsburgh’s bullpen. “The general manager didn’t give the manager a legitimate eighth-inning guy or seventh-inning guy, speaking in conventional terms,” said Huntington, whose team entered Sunday tied for 25th in the majors in bullpen ERA (4.56). As Brink points out, the Pirates’ season-opening plan to have Michael Feliz and George Kontos set up closer Felipe Vazquez didn’t work. Feliz, whom the Bucs acquired over the winter from Houston as part of the teams’ Gerrit Cole trade, has registered a 6.18 ERA over 27 2/3 innings. And Kontos managed a subpar 5.03 mark in 19 2/3 frames before the Pirates released him last month.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Reinstate Jung Ho Kang, Option Him To Triple-A]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125040 2018-06-15T19:05:58Z 2018-06-15T19:05:58Z The Pirates announced Friday that they’ve reinstated infielder Jung Ho Kang from the restricted list and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. While he won’t be with the big league club for the time being, Kang is now back on the 40-man roster (which is full) and will once again begin earning the pro-rated portion of this year’s $3MM salary. Through season’s end, that will afford him approximately $1.73MM.

    Kang, 31, didn’t play in the Majors last year or for the first two and a half months of the 2018 season due to legal troubles in his native South Korea. The former Nexen Heroes star was arrested and charged with his third DUI during the 2016-17 offseason, which left him unable to secure a work visa and forced him to miss the entire 2017 season. He secured a visa to return to the Majors last month and has been on the Pirates’ restricted list while working out at their Spring Training facility and, eventually, playing games at the minor league level.

    Kang performed terribly in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, to the point where he was released by his club, but he looked better in a seven-game stint with Class-A Advanced Bradenton upon returning to the Pirates organization. Kang hit .417/.531/.875 with three homers in 32 plate appearances against High-A pitching before going 1-for-15 in a four-game stretch at Indianapolis prior to his reinstatement. He’ll continue trying to round into form there, hoping for an eventual return to Pittsburgh.

    That, of course, is hardly a given. GM Neal Huntington suggested in an April radio appearance that this Kang’s last chance with the organization. He’ll likely need to produce at the Triple-A level before he’s even considered an option, though for all of his considerable off-field issues, a healthy Kang would admittedly give the Pirates a potent bat to plug back into their lineup. In his first two seasons at the big league level (2015-16), Kang batted .273/.355/.483 with 36 homers in 837 plate appearances.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Agree To Terms With First-Rounder Travis Swaggerty]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125029 2018-06-15T15:30:38Z 2018-06-15T15:30:38Z The Pirates are in agreement with first-round pick Travis Swaggerty, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). The former University of South Alabama center fielder’s deal, which is still pending a physical, will promise him a $4.4MM signing bonus. That checks in a bit shy of the No. 10 overall slot’s value of $4,560,200.

    Swaggerty, 20, was one of the more well-rounded bats in the draft. His junior season with the Jaguars saw him bat .296/.455/.526 with 13 homers, 10 doubles and nine steals (14 attempts) over the course of 57 games and 277 plate appearances. Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs ranked Swaggerty fourth in the draft class, as did ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required). Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com rated Swaggerty 11th among draft-eligible prospects, as did the team over at Baseball America (subscription link).

    Swaggerty draws average or better ratings for each of his tools, with his current calling card coming in the form of plus speed and defense in center field. He drew plenty of walks this season, and most scouting reports agree that he’s added some strength and lift to his swing, giving him solid power potential as well. MLB.com’s report suggested Brett Gardner as a loose comparison, noting that Swaggerty has more power and less speed than Gardner had at this point in his career. Fangraphs’ report notes that he has some mechanical issues in his swing that prevented him from performing at a level that’s more commensurate with his tantalizing set of tools, so the Pirates will work to further hone his approach at the plate as he transitions into pro ball.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Pirates’ Deadline Planning]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=125011 2018-06-15T01:54:35Z 2018-06-15T01:54:35Z The Pirates appear to be preparing to deal away some veteran assets this summer, according to reporting from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. While the Bucs have obviously not yet committed to a path, Morosi tweets that the organization is “likely” to offer up some of its shorter-term players at the trade deadline.

    It’s not surprising to hear that the Pittsburgh organization has begun to think about selling this summer. After a strong opening run, the club has faded fast and now sits two games under .500 and eight games back in a tough NL Central division. With three quality teams stacked ahead in the standings, it’s a bit difficult to see the Pirates staying in the hunt all season long.

    Under the circumstances, says Morosi, the club plans to open the door to trades barring a sudden reversal of fortunes. Given the caveats sprinkled through the report, it’s clearly too soon to declare the Pirates a deadline “seller.” But the trend lines are all pointing in that direction, as Fangraphs’ playoff odds tracker illustrates.

    We held off on including any Bucs players in our recent ranking of the top fifty trade deadline candidates. As we noted there, however, the club has a solid list of assets that it could put on the market. It’s worth checking through some of the top names to consider here, as some will likely appear on the next iteration of our top-fifty list.

    There aren’t many pure rental pieces. Shortstop Jordy Mercer would be an appealing infield addition for the right contending team. Sean Rodriguez has struggled but could still turn himself into an asset given his versatility. Though his deal includes an option for 2019, corner infielder David Freese will mostly be viewed as a rental piece and could draw some interest as an experienced bench bat.

    The Bucs are much more interesting when you expand the search to players that are under contract for future seasons. Veteran backstop Francisco Cervelli, a respected defender who is on fire with the bat, would make for an interesting entrant onto the trade market. He’s under contract for 2019, which increases his appeal but also his value to Pittsburgh. Similarly, righty Ivan Nova has another year to go on his deal. He isn’t thriving in the results department, but his peripherals remain quite strong and he’d be a nice addition for a team looking to add good innings to a rotation. Utilityman Josh Harrison remains a quality, versatile player who’d fit just about anywhere. His remaining two years of contract control aren’t cheap, but they come via option. And Corey Dickerson could still be of interest with another arb season left, though he has cooled of late.

    There are yet more controllable pieces worth considering, too. While the Pirates would surely be hesitant to blow up their core, they’ll surely also listen if the market comes to them. Closer Felipe Vazquez is playing under an amply affordable extension, while Jameson Taillon continues to be a quality rotation piece. In both cases, the Pittsburgh front office will no doubt hold out for exceedingly high returns, if they’re really all that willing to talk at all. The same would hold true of star outfielder Starling Marte or other controllable position players, in all likelihood.

    For the time being, then, it’s all guesswork as to which of those players might turn up in another uniform. Any chatter on deadline moves is surely still in the preliminary stages, if it’s really even taking place at all for a team that is still straddling the fence with ten weeks of the season in the books.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Nova, Kingham, Frazier, Kang]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124665 2018-06-10T19:39:00Z 2018-06-10T19:38:11Z
  • More on the Pirates, who promoted veteran infielder Jung Ho Kang from Single-A to Triple-A on Sunday, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. It’s an important development for Kang, who was a quality regular with the Bucs from 2015-16 but hasn’t played in the majors since then because of off-field problems. Kang racked up his his third DUI in his homeland of South Korea during the 2016-17 offseason, and he’s still on the restricted list as a result. Unsurprisingly, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in April that Kang is likely down to “his last chance with us.”
    • The Pirates activated righty Ivan Nova from the disabled list and optioned fellow righty Nick Kingham to Triple-A prior to Sunday’s game. Nova returned after a finger injury shelved him for two weeks. His presence is unfortunate for Kingham, who continued his strong rookie season Saturday with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball in a loss to the Cubs. Overall, the 26-year-old Kingham has pitched to a 3.82 ERA with 35 strikeouts against seven walks in 35 1/3 innings (six starts).
    • Additionally, the Pirates optioned utility player Adam Frazier to make room for the addition of catcher Jacob Stallings from Triple-A. It’s a somewhat surprising demotion for Frazier, who offered league-average offensive production (.283/.347/.402) over 614 plate appearances from 2016-17 while seeing action at several positions. Frazier’s defensive versatility has continued this year, as he has lined up at second base and all three outfield spots, but his batting line has fallen to .237/.318/.356 in 152 PAs.
    • More on the Pirates, who promoted veteran infielder Jung Ho Kang from Single-A to Triple-A on Sunday, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. It’s an important development for Kang, who was a quality regular with the Bucs from 2015-16 but hasn’t played in the majors since then because of off-field problems. Kang racked up his his third DUI in his homeland of South Korea during the 2016-17 offseason, and he’s still on the restricted list as a result. Unsurprisingly, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in April that Kang is likely down to “his last chance with us.”
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Place Richard Rodriguez On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124533 2018-06-09T19:15:10Z 2018-06-09T19:14:44Z
  • The Pirates have sent righty reliever Richard Rodriguez to the DL with shoulder inflammation, Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. The club recalled righty Dovydas Neverauskas from Triple-A in a corresponding move. Pittsburgh doesn’t expect Rodriguez to miss a significant amount of time, but even a short-term absence could hurt. The 28-year-old rookie has burst on the scene with a 2.38 ERA and 13.1 K/9 against 1.19 BB/9 in 22 2/3 innings this season.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Ivan Nova Progressing Toward Return]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=124275 2018-06-06T20:05:51Z 2018-06-06T15:23:15Z Pirates righty Ivan Nova seems reasonably close to a return, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. He received good reports after throwing a pair of simulated innings, suggesting that his sprained ring finger won’t keep him out very long. Obviously the club will wait to see how he responds before moving things forward, but it seems reasonable to think that Nova could make it back in relatively short order given that he last pitched on May 24th. The Bucs would certainly like not only for Nova to return, but also for him to turn things around on the bump. He carries a 4.96 ERA through 61 2/3 frames, though his peripherals have been in his typical range and suggest he has been a bit unfortunate.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jung Ho Kang To Begin Playing In Minor League Games]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123704 2018-05-31T16:01:42Z 2018-05-31T16:01:42Z The Pirates are set to send Jung Ho Kang out on a minor league assignment as he builds up for an eventual return to their big league roster, tweets Adam Berry of MLB.com. Kang will initially be assigned to Class-A Advanced Bradenton.

    Kang is currently on the restricted list after missing the 2017 season and the entirety of the 2018 season, to date, after being charged with his third DUI in his native South Korea in the 2016-17 offseason. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote earlier this month that Kang can remain there until he’s deemed ready to rejoin the big league roster, so Kang won’t be paid or accumulate any MLB service time until he’s actually ready to return to the Major League roster.

    That outcome, of course, doesn’t appear to be a given. Kang played poorly in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, hitting just .143/.219/.202 with 31 strikeouts in 96 plate appearances before being cut loose by his club. The Pirates aren’t under any obligation to actually bring Kang back to the roster if his performance doesn’t merit that promotion, and GM Neal Huntington suggested in a radio appearance late last month that this Kang’s last chance with the organization.

    The 29-26 Pirates are currently six games out of first place behind the surging Brewers in the NL Central but just two games back of a Wild Card spot, so it seems they’ll look to see whether Kang is capable of returning to the form he showed in 2015-16 when he hit .273/.355/.483 with 36 homers in 837 plate appearances. He’ll earn the pro-rated portion of this season’s $3MM salary for any time spent on the team’s active roster, though Huntington’s comments from April cast some doubt as to whether the organization would consider exercising next year’s $5.5MM option, barring a highly productive finish to the 2018 season.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Felipe Vazquez Dodges Major Injury]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123475 2018-05-28T20:34:10Z 2018-05-28T20:14:55Z
  • There was fear on Sunday that Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez suffered a serious forearm injury, but it seems he dodged a significant blow. Vazquez told Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters Monday that he’s doing fine, adding that he expects to be available again Tuesday. “I felt like a little pop, but it was not — it looked worse than it really happened,” he said.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Place George Kontos On Release Waivers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123233 2018-05-28T17:58:25Z 2018-05-28T17:55:34Z MAY 28: The Pirates have placed Kontos on unconditional release waivers, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette tweets.

    MAY 25: The Pirates have designated righty George Kontos for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot was needed for the activation of fellow right-hander Joe Musgrove from the DL.

    Kontos, 32, had turned in a nice showing last year upon arriving in mid-season, and has generally produced excellent earned-run averages in the majors. But his peripherals have rarely matched his bottom-line numbers and the veteran had struggled quite a bit to open the 2018 season.

    Through 19 2/3 innings in the present campaign, Kontos carries a 5.03 ERA with just 4.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. He had shown a breakout ability to generate whiffs last year with a 16.4% swinging-strike rate, but he’s sitting at just 8.5% in 2018.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: Which Surprise Team Has Best Shot At Playoff Berth?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123461 2018-05-28T17:59:40Z 2018-05-28T15:55:54Z As the 2018 MLB season nears the one-third mark, the playoff races in each league are beginning to take shape. While it’s no surprise that the majority of the sport’s so-called super teams have lived up to the billing thus far, several unexpected contenders may be emerging to challenge for postseason berths. None of the Mariners, Athletics, Braves, Phillies or Pirates were popular playoff picks entering the campaign, but all are in contention at this point, and a few of those teams even possess elite records.

    The most successful of those clubs has been Seattle, which is one of just five teams with a winning percentage above .600. The Mariners have raced to a 32-20 mark (.615), the fourth-best record in the American League, even though they’ve had to go without superstar second baseman Robinson Cano for two weeks and won’t get him back in the near future. Cano suffered a fractured right hand in mid-May, but the 80-game suspension he incurred almost immediately after that injury is the more costly blow because it’ll render him ineligible for the playoffs – if the Mariners qualify, that is.

    A postseason berth for Seattle would be its first since 2001, thus snapping the longest playoff drought in American sports. There’s clearly plenty of work for that to happen, particularly for a team that hasn’t been spectacular statistically and possesses a less shiny 27-25 Pythagorean record. But the Mariners’ actual record right now is so impressive that they won’t need to be great from here on out to remain firmly in the mix throughout the regular season. FanGraphs is projecting a mediocre 56-54 win-loss total over the Mariners’ final 110 games, but even in that scenario, they’d finish with 88 victories – three more than Minnesota amassed in 2017 en route to an AL wild-card berth.

    The wild card is likely the M’s only path to the playoffs, as even though they’re just one game out of the AL West race, there’s little question the reigning World Series champion Astros will pull away with the division. Given the talent in the AL, a wild-card spot will be tough to come by for the Mariners, but general manager Jerry Dipoto seemingly increased his team’s odds last week when he acquired reliever Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span from the Rays. The Mariners already owned one of baseball’s best bullpens without Colome, and his presence should make Seattle an even harder out in close games. At 15-8, the Mariners have been one of the majors’ top teams in one-run contests this season.

    Staying in the AL West, Oakland has perhaps exceeded expectations at 28-25, though it has scored fewer runs than it has allowed (234 to 237). Still, despite its underwhelming Pythagorean mark (26-27), FanGraphs is projecting an above-.500 final record for Oakland (82-80) – which would be its first such season since 2014 and could keep it in the discussion into September. However, with the Yankees or Red Sox (whichever team doesn’t win the AL East), Angels and Mariners among the teams fighting for two wild-card positions, a playoff position looks a bit unrealistic for the A’s.

    Over in the National League, both the Braves (30-21) and Phillies (29-21) have gone from serving as longtime NL East doormats to looking like two of the premier teams in the game. Milwaukee, arguably a surprise team but one that did garner some preseason hype after winning 86 games in 2017, is the lone NL club with a superior record to Atlanta and Philadelphia. And only the Cubs have a better run differential than the Braves, who have outscored their opponents by 60 (261 to 201).

    The Braves’ arduous, years-long rebuild is clearly paying dividends now, as a host of players under the age of 25 – including Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna (who’s now on the DL), Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara and A.J. Minter – have been among their driving forces this year. With that group joining a few slightly older, already established players (superstar Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Mike Foltynewicz, to name a few), Atlanta looks as if it’s going to be around for a long time. And it might be ready now to return to the playoffs, where it hasn’t been since 2013, though the NL East is going to be a dogfight with both the Phillies and favored Nationals (29-22) right behind the Braves.

    As for those Phillies, they own an even longer playoff drought than the Braves (six years), but that streak doesn’t look as if it’ll last much longer. Like Atlanta, Philadelphia went through a few years of suffering while simultaneously managing to stockpile young talent (Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Seranthony Dominguez, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Scott Kingery) that has either already established itself in the majors or is in the midst of doing so. Philly’s also a sleeping giant in terms of payroll, a club capable of spending alongside other big-money juggernauts, and it’ll put that advantage to use in the coming years. It already started last winter with the expensive free-agent signings of Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana, two additions which have paid off so far (Santana did endure a poor April, but he’s gotten off the mat this month).

    As with the Braves, the Phillies should be around for a while, and a playoff spot this year certainly isn’t out of the question. Although, despite their tremendous starts, FanGraphs is projecting both teams to finish with 82 wins and extend their playoff droughts.

    Baseball’s other Pennsylvania-based team, the low-payroll Pirates, lost the battle for public opinion over the winter when they traded two veteran cornerstones (Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole) for younger players and didn’t sign any free agents to major league contracts. Some Pirates fans even called for owner Bob Nutting to sell the team in the wake of those deals, but he didn’t oblige.

    Now, the Pirates are a solid 28-24 (plus-22 run) and have gotten there with some help from Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove, two players acquired in the Cole package. Fellow offseason acquisition Corey Dickerson – whom general manager Neal Huntington stole from the Rays in another trade – has been even better, while veteran holdovers Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli are also amid excellent seasons. Pittsburgh may be able to hang in the race all year, then, for the first time since 2015 – its most recent playoff berth. It’s going to be an extremely tall task to actually return to the postseason, though, with six NL teams – including the division-rival Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals – ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings and several more breathing down its neck.

    Every year in baseball, surprise teams emerge to upset the preseason apple cart. Just as the Twins, Diamondbacks and Rockies crashed the playoff party last year, at least one of the Mariners, Athletics, Braves, Phillies or Pirates could do it in 2018. The question is: Which team has the best chance to play into the fall?

    (poll link for app users)

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Felipe Vazquez Feeling Forearm Soreness]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123433 2018-05-28T00:53:09Z 2018-05-28T00:53:09Z Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez felt soreness in his left forearm during the last two pitches of his appearance today against the Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Elizabeth Bloom reported.  The southpaw didn’t speak to the media himself after the game, though Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk confirmed that Vazquez was receiving treatment.  It’s too early to gauge the seriousness of the problem, though obviously any sort of forearm issue is of great concern, particularly for a pitcher who throws as hard as Vazquez.  His fastball has dropped in velocity this season (96.8 mph as opposed to 98.5 mph in 2017), though this year’s total is closer to his career average, so it could be that 2017 proves to be something of an outlier, or perhaps it’s still too early in the 2018 campaign to make conclusions.  Vazquez has a 3.54 ERA and 9.74 K/9 through 20 1/3 frames for the Bucs this year, with an increased walk rate and a decreased swinging-strike and grounder rate from his outstanding 2017 season.  On the flip side, Vazquez has also yet to allow a home run this year, and he has had some bad luck the form of a .333 BABIP and only a 65.5% strand rate.

    Vazquez’s breakout 2017 earned him a four-year, $22MM extension from the Pirates in the offseason, locking him up as a building block on the Pittsburgh roster.  Losing Vazquez for any amount of time would be a significant blow to a Pirates team that has surpassed expectations by staying competitive in the NL Central and in the wild card race.  Michael Feliz and Edgar Santana are likely the top candidates to take over as closer if Vazquez did have to hit the DL; it’s possible that the Bucs could target ninth-inning help at the deadline if they stayed in the race, though payroll would certainly play an issue in any acquisition.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Clint Hurdle Discusses Decision To Keep Austin Meadows In Majors]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123326 2018-05-27T01:01:47Z 2018-05-27T01:01:04Z When the Pirates promoted outfield prospect Austin Meadows on May 18, the plan was for him to quickly return to the minors, manager Clint Hurdle told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters Saturday. However, Meadows’ “performance was eye-catching,” according to Hurdle, which convinced the team to keep him around when it activated fellow outfielder Starling Marte from the disabled list Saturday. With Marte, Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson, the Pirates now have their starting outfield intact again, but Hurdle still sees enough opportunities for the 23-year-old Meadows to justify keeping him in the majors. “We need to continue to monitor [Corey] Dickerson’s on-field innings,” Hurdle said. “Marte’s bouncing back, we’re going to be smart with, and Polanco. So I think between the four of them, and a true fourth outfielder, we’ll be able to have the opportunity to get everybody playing time.” Meadows was out of the lineup for the Bucs’ game on Saturday, but he did collect a pinch-hit appearance. He didn’t reach base in that at-bat, dropping his line to a still-stellar .433/.433/.867 over his first 29 major league trips to the plate.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Ivan Nova Could Go On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123308 2018-05-27T01:15:01Z 2018-05-26T23:22:56Z
  • Pirates starter Ivan Nova has a strained ligament in his right index finger and may be headed to the DL, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic tweets. To prepare for Nova’s potential absence, the Pirates had their Triple-A affiliate pull righty Nick Kingham from his start after just one inning on Friday, per Mason Wittner of MLB.com. The 26-year-old Kingham made the first three big league starts of his career earlier this season and held his own, with a a 3.44 ERA/2.56 FIP and outstanding strikeout and walk rates (10.31 K/9, .98 BB/9) across 18 1/3 innings. While Nova hasn’t been nearly as effective as Kingham, he has logged playable numbers over 11 starts and 61 1/3 frames (4.96 ERA/4.28 FIP, 6.86 K/9, 1.46 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent groundball rate).
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Pirates Activate Starling Marte, Option Jose Osuna]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123285 2018-05-26T17:05:18Z 2018-05-26T16:55:08Z After reporting earlier today that Starling Marte could be activated from the DL if he felt good upon arrival to PNC Park, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets that Marte has indeed been reinstated, with the Pirates optioning first base/outfield type Jose Osuna to the minors.

    The quick DL stint for Marte is obviously best-case scenario for the Pirates, who must have been concerned at first considering the dubious nature of oblique injuries in general. Marte’s kicked off the 2018 season with a bang, hitting .308/.366/.503 with six homers and ten steals, so his return to the lineup is excellent news for Pittsburgh, who’ve been a .500 team in his absence.

    The more interesting implication of this transaction is that outfield prospect Austin Meadows survived the roster crunch. Meadows was promoted to the big leagues for the first time ever following Marte’s placement on the disabled list, despite hitting a tepid .294/.336/.397 in Triple-A this season. His performance in the majors, however, has earned him a longer look: Meadows has homered three times and struck out just twice while hitting .448 in his 29 MLB plate appearances.

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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Gomez, Sanchez, Marte, Bird, Prado]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123283 2018-05-26T16:35:44Z 2018-05-26T16:35:44Z Rays outfielder Carlos Gomez has been activated from the 10-day disabled list; he’d been sidelined since May 16th with a strained groin. The injury was thought to be minor at the time, and the fact that Gomez missed only the ten-day minimum leaves little room to doubt his health at this time. That doesn’t mean his performance comes without questions, though, as the veteran is slashing just .200/.252/.345 on the season. No corresponding move was required for Tampa Bay, as their roster was two men short following yesterday’s surprising trade with Seattle.

    And now a flurry of other injury-related items from around the league…

    • David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that Anibal Sanchez could be the Braves’ starter on Tuesday following a successful rehab start on Friday. Mark Bowman of MLB.com takes it a step further by quoting manager Brian Snitker, who reportedly said that Sanchez is indeed penciled in to start Tuesday’s game. Sanchez has a 1.29 ERA in three appearances (two starts) on the season.
    • Adam Berry of MLB.com writes that Starling Marte will be activated from the DL by the Pirates today if he reports to the ballpark feeling ready to play. It’d be a remarkably quick return for the 29-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined with an oblique injury. Injuries of that type have a reputation for lingering and causing players to miss extended time. One has to wonder what Marte’s potential activation would mean for the red-hot Austin Meadows, who’s managed more homers in the big leagues thus far (3) than strikeouts (2).
    • The Yankees have reinstated first baseman Greg Bird from the disabled list, optioning infielder Ronald Torreyes to Triple-A in a corresponding move. Marc Carig of The Athletic notes that the move makes plenty of sense considering the versatility of Gleyber Torres and the fact that a removal of Neil Walker from the roster isn’t reversible. Bird entered the season with plenty of hype surrounding him, but has yet to make his 2018 debut thanks to right foot surgery.
    • In a move that was widely expected, the Marlins placed Martin Prado (hamstring) on the 10-day DL today, recalling J.T. Riddle from Triple-A to take his place on the roster. It’s the latest in an unfortunate series of injuries for the formerly-durable Prado, who made only 147 trips to the plate last year following eight straight seasons with at least 500 PA.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Colon, Bibens-Dirkx, Odor, Rangers, Anthopoulos, Bae]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123274 2018-05-26T14:41:11Z 2018-05-26T14:22:27Z Timeless right-hander Bartolo Colon celebrated his 45th birthday this week, so he’ll soon become just the 18th player in major league history to pitch in the majors beyond that benchmark. Colon is also the oldest to hurl a pitch since Jamie Moyer back in 2012. Value metrics are divided on his effectiveness so far this season; Baseball Reference pegs his contributions at 1.6 WAR, while Fangraphs believes his 2018 production to be exactly replacement level. In any case, it would have been difficult at season’s outset to imagine Colon exceeding his current results. A 3.51 ERA and 7.20 K/BB ratio are welcome numbers to a Rangers rotation that sports the sixth-highest combined ERA in major-league baseball.

    It’ll be fun to see just how long Colon can keep up this pace. But in the meantime, here are some minor notes from last night…

    • In other Rangers news, Jeff Wilson of the Star Telegram examines the job security of a pitcher and a position player in Arlington. Austin Bibens-Dirkx pitched well on the whole in his last start (though he was a victim of some bad fielding behind him), Wilson notes that the club is more likely to give Matt Moore a longer look before ceding his spot in the rotation to Bibens-Dirkx. Meanwhile, Wilson notes that struggling second baseman Rougned Odor has two options remaining. With Jurickson Profar putting together quality at-bats of late, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa producing at a better clip than Odor, there’s a chance the club might consider letting the latter work out his issues in the minors.
    • In a subscription-only piece for The Athletic, Bill Shaikin examines the storyline of Alex Anthopoulos leaving the Dodgers organization to run a Braves club that’s currently leading the NL East. While Anthopoulos felt like he had “as good a job as there was in baseball” with the Dodgers, his reshaping of the Braves’ payroll has helped to set them up for success as they near the end of a lengthy rebuild. Trades of Jim Johnson, Matt Kemp and some international bonus pool money shipped to the Angels has set the stage for Atlanta to complement its young core through free agency and perhaps even the midseason trade market.
    • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provides an update on Pirates prospect Bae Ji-hwan via Twitter. Bae is reportedly on his way back to the United States after cooperating with police in South Korea on suspicion of a domestic violence incident. He’ll be allowed to participate in baseball activities pending the outcome of an investigation into said incident. Bae was one of a few players that the Braves reportedly offered “extra-contractual compensation” recently and were thus barred from signing in the last international signing period.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Release Tyler Jones]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122964 2018-05-23T01:23:33Z 2018-05-23T01:23:44Z
  • The Pirates have released right-hander Tyler Jones, according to John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com. Jones, 28, has had some promising seasons in the upper minors, but hasn’t shown as well in the last two campaigns. Homers have been an issue for Jones thus far, as he has been tagged for a 5.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 16 2/3 innings with the Bucs’ top affiliate.
    • The Nationals signed outfielder Jaff Decker to a minors contract, the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (via Twitter).  The 30-year-old has appeared in each of the last five MLB seasons, posting a .510 OPS over 191 career plate appearances with the Padres, Pirates, Rays, and A’s.  Decker signed a minor league deal with Atlanta over the winter but was released earlier this month.
    • The Pirates have released right-hander Tyler Jones, according to John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com. Jones, 28, has had some promising seasons in the upper minors, but hasn’t shown as well in the last two campaigns. Homers have been an issue for Jones thus far, as he has been tagged for a 5.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 16 2/3 innings with the Bucs’ top affiliate.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[A Look In At Felipe Vazquez's Start To The Season]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122962 2018-05-22T20:14:02Z 2018-05-22T13:41:41Z
  • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at a few interesting subjects involving the Pirates. In particular, she dives into the question of fastball velocity in regard to closer Felipe Vazquez, whose slight loss of speed does not seem to represent much cause for concern — particularly since he has actually increased the spin rate on the offering. Though Vazquez only carries a 3.86 ERA on the year, it’s worth noting too that he has been hurt by a 58.3% strand rate. That said, while Vazquez is still getting loads of swinging strikes, his walk rate has gone backwards and he isn’t getting as many grounders as he has in years past. At this point, he hasn’t shown quite the level of dominance he did in 2017, but there’s not yet any reason to believe he won’t be a quality late-inning arm for the foreseeable future.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates To Activate Josh Harrison On Sunday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122746 2018-05-20T02:34:51Z 2018-05-20T02:34:06Z
  • The Pirates plan to activate second baseman Josh Harrison from the disabled list Sunday, manager Clint Hurdle told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other reporters Saturday. Harrison has been out since mid-April with a fractured left hand, and fellow second base options Sean Rodriguez, Max Moroff and Adam Frazier haven’t been particularly productive in his absence. The club optioned Moroff to Triple-A on Saturday.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Prospect Ji-hwan Bae Accused Of Domestic Violence]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122666 2018-05-19T01:11:08Z 2018-05-19T01:11:08Z Pirates prospect Ji-hwan Bae is facing allegations of domestic violence, according to reports from Naver Sports (Korean language link) and Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (subscription link). Bae has left the organization — at the request of investigators and with the team’s permission — to appear in his native South Korea.

    At this point, it does not appear that charges have been filed. But the police are looking into a formal complaint from Bae’s former girlfriend, who also issued a comment to Biertempfel. She asserts that Bae physically and verbally abused her beginning on New Year’s Eve of 2017.

    Bae, who is only 18 years of age, originally signed with the Braves in the fall of 2017 as an international free agent. The infielder was considered one of the most talented players available in that year’s amateur market. Not long after he had formally joined the Atlanta organization, though, Bae was declare a free agent along with numerous other amateur players as part of the penalties leveled against the Atlanta organization for impermissible signing practices.

    Not long after, Bae agreed to a $1.25MM bonus with the Pirates. He had been playing in extended Spring Training thus far in 2018. Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington tells Biertempfel that the club has notified Major League Baseball as required but that Bae is presently eligible to “participate in baseball activities during this review,” though it is not clear whether there are any specific plans for whether and how he will re-join the organization.

    Needless to say, the allegations are deeply troubling. Presumably, they will be investigated fully both in South Korea and by the MLB commissioner’s office. The agreement that governs domestic violence matters at the MLB level included a provision that the commissioner’s office would promulgate rules to address players, like Bae, who are not on 40-man rosters. Those do not appear to have been made available publicly, but presumably largely reflect the standards that apply to MLB players.

    Under the MLB-MLBPA policy, players can be placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation and, ultimately, face suspension regardless of whether criminal authorities pursue charges. In one recent case involving a minor-league player, the Astros released Danry Vasquez after he was suspended indefinitely by MLB following a horrific episode of domestic violence.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Promote Austin Meadows, Place Starling Marte On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122598 2018-05-18T18:48:00Z 2018-05-18T18:45:14Z May 18: The Pirates have announced Meadows’ promotion and Marte’s placement on the DL.

    May 17: The Pirates announced tonight that they’re planning to promote top outfield prospect Austin Meadows tomorrow. Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic first reported that the Bucs were planning to call up the long time top prospect. Biertempfel adds that he’ll be stepping into the roster spot of Starling Marte, who’ll land on the disabled list with a right oblique strain.

    Austin Meadows | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Meadows, 23, has long rated as one of the game’s most promising outfield prospects. The ninth overall pick in 2013, Meadows entered the season ranked among the game’s top 50 prospects, per Baseball America (44), MLB.com (45), Fangraphs (47), Baseball Prospectus (34). After a down season at the Triple-A level in 2017, Meadows is hitting .281/.326/.380 with a homer and eight steals (in nine attempts). He’s struck out in just 20 of his 131 plate appearances but also drawn just seven walks.

    The promotion will give the Pirates their first regular-season look at Meadows against Major League pitching. Hamstring injuries throughout his minor league tenure likely delayed Meadows’ timeline, and while he still has yet to truly overpower Triple-A pitching as he did at the Double-A level, there’s plenty of reason for optimism regarding his bat. Scouting reports on Meadows credit him for having an above-average to plus hit tool with average power and plus speed. Those wheels serve him well defensively, also, as he’s capable of playing center field, though more recent scouting reports on him forecast a potential move to left field when all is said and done.

    It’s possible that this is merely a short-term promotion for Meadows, but oblique injuries tend to keep players on the disabled list for around a month, so he may also get a reasonably prolonged look in the outfield with Marte on the shelf. With Andrew McCutchen now in San Francisco and Corey Dickerson only controlled through 2019, Meadows will be fighting to show the Pirates that he deserves the long-term spot in the outfield that the organization has long hoped he’d eventually claim. For the time being, it seems likely that Meadows will man center field, with Dickerson and Gregory Polanco flanking him in the outfield corners.

    As for Marte, his loss shouldn’t be undersold. Though the 29-year-old disappointed fans and the organization alike in 2017 when he was slapped with an 80-game suspension following a failed PED test, he’s bounced back extraordinarily well in 2018, hitting at a career-best .308/.366/.503 pace with six homers, five doubles and an NL-best four triples — all while racking up 10 steals in 13 tries and walking at a career-high 8.6 percent clip. That’s quite a lot of production to subtract from the lineup and leaves Meadows with some sizable shoes to fill, though if he can simply hold his own at the plate in his first exposure to MLB pitching and play capable defense in center field, the Pirates will surely be pleased with that outcome.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Josh Harrison To Begin Rehab Assignment Monday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122246 2018-05-13T21:43:16Z 2018-05-13T21:43:57Z
  • Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison will begin a rehab assignment Monday at the Double-A level, Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror reports (Twitter link). Harrison has been on the shelf since suffering a fractured left hand on April 15. It seems he’ll make it back to the majors within the expected six-week window, though.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Central Notes: Reyes, R. Rodriguez, Taillon, Senzel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122101 2018-05-12T14:13:17Z 2018-05-12T14:13:17Z The presence of Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes is somewhat of a strain on the Tigers’ roster. Evan Woodberry of mlive.com takes an extensive look at the topic, and notes that the speedy outfielder’s most definable job so far this season has been as a pinch runner for the aging Victor Martinez. While injuries mount for Detroit, other players have been forced to shoulder a heavier workload, including Mikie Mahtook, who had to start Wednesday’s game against the Rangers despite being jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. While Reyes certainly has a bright future, Woodberry points out that he’s clearly overmatched by big-league pitching in the present; he’s only managed to collect three soft singles so far this season and has an average exit velocity below 80 MPH. In accordance with the Rule 5 boundaries, Reyes must remain on the Tigers’ 25-man roster for the entirety of the season or be returned to his former club (the Diamondbacks). Few around baseball have any doubt that his future is bright, but rostering him for the entire season could prove a significant burden for a club that’s already going to have a hard time winning baseball games.

    Onto some items from the NL Central…

    • Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs writes that the Pirates found a winning lottery ticket in the form of recent minor-league free agent Richard Rodriguez. The 28-year-old right-hander has been just about as dominant as a pitcher can be, evidenced by his 15.53 K/9 and microscopic 0.16 FIP on the young season. He’s already been worth half a win above replacement, as Sawchik points out, which is remarkable considering we’re not even halfway through May. Sawchik has plenty of other interesting facts throughout a deep look into RichRod’s dominance, including the whiff rate on his fastball, his first-pitch strike percentage and the way he’s attacking hitters.
    • In other Pirates news, right-hander Jameson Taillon exited last night’s start with a finger laceration. According to Adam Berry of MLB.com, Taillon is frustrated at the freak accident and hopes it won’t cost him a start. “It just got worse and worse. It’s tough in the short term to come out of a game, but hopefully by coming out when I did, we’ve kind of mitigated it,” Taillon said. “Hopefully I won’t miss starts down the road.” The budding Pirates ace has had something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde season so far, allowing 15 earned runs in his three losses but permitting just three across his other five starts.
    • Nick Senzel’s vertigo is back, and the Reds prospect has landed on the 7-day DL as a result. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com notes that Senzel hasn’t played since being removed from a May 3rd game after just one plate appearance. Vertigo is a condition that brings on dizziness spells and causes the victim to lose balance. Reds president Dick Williams told reporters recently that the club is “being very cautious” with their top-ranked prospect, and at the moment there isn’t a clear timetable for when he’ll be able to resume playing. The club has been playing Senzel at both second and third base this season in hopes of increasing his versatility and finding him a spot at the big league level.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Sullivan On Corey Dickerson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121913 2018-05-09T13:37:00Z 2018-05-09T13:24:19Z
  • Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan examines the excellent work turned in thus far in 2018 by new Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson. It really has been a fascinating showing to this point, as Dickerson is not just producing good numbers — a .333/.371/.550 slash — but is doing so while making vast improvements in his contact rate. Bucs fans will certainly want to give a full read to understand why and how the 28-year-old has thus far managed to change his approach and boost his productivity so significantly.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Option Nick Kingham To Triple-A]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121803 2018-05-07T20:37:36Z 2018-05-07T20:37:36Z The Pirates announced this afternoon that they’ve optioned righty Nick Kingham back to Triple-A Indianapolis. The 26-year-old was the talk of baseball when he took a perfect game into the seventh inning in his MLB debut, though his second start (four runs in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts against one walk) offered more mixed results. Kingham’s spot in the rotation will likely go to Joe Musgrove, who is nearing a return from the DL, though more immediately, his roster spot is going to infielder Jose Osuna, who has been recalled from Triple-A. Chad Kuhl’s strong weekend outing likely bought him some additional length on his leash, but it still seems likely that Kingham will be starting games for the Pirates again at some point in 2018, whether due to injury or poor performance from one of the club’s other young starters.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Kang Reports To Pirates' Spring Facility]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121538 2018-05-04T03:58:58Z 2018-05-04T03:54:52Z
  • Jung Ho Kang has reported to the Pirates’ Spring Training facility in Bradenton, Fla., writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Manager Clint Hurdle explains that the plan for Kang is to get him into game shape over the course of the next month — he’ll remain on the restricted list and won’t be paid or accrue service time during that period — as he prepares for in-game action. “There will be no game activity until we get his arm in shape, his legs in shape, get him swinging, get our people to look at him and evaluate him and then go from there,” says Hurdle. Kang is preparing for a return to the Pirates after sitting out the 2017 season upon being convicted of a third DUI in his native South Korea and subsequently being unable to acquire a work visa.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Musgrove Pitching In Rehab Games, Will Join Rotation When Healthy]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121458 2018-05-03T04:38:52Z 2018-05-03T04:38:52Z
  • Pirates righty Joe Musgrove threw 36 pitches in a rehab outing, writes Oliver Macklin of MLB.com, 29 of which went for strikes. Manager Clint Hurdle added that Musgrove threw his cutter, slider and changeup in the outing and demonstrated “firm” velocity on his fastball. Perhaps more notable is the fact that Hurdle confirmed that Musgrove will indeed be rejoining the Pirates’ rotation when he returns from the disabled list. That could be bad news for rookie Nick Kingham, who turned in one of the best debuts in recent MLB history when he flirted with a perfect game through more than six innings this past Sunday. Kingham is slated to start Friday for the Buccos, though Hurdle said in announcing that earlier this week that there was nothing guaranteed beyond that point. Speculatively speaking, right-hander Chad Kuhl has also struggled in 2018 (5.01 ERA, seven homers in 32 1/3 innings), so perhaps he could be bumped if Kingham impresses in his second big league start.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Move Steven Brault To Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121230 2018-04-30T20:58:53Z 2018-04-30T20:58:53Z The Pirates are moving left-hander Steven Brault to the bullpen, tweets Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. For the time being, that means that righty Nick Kingham will remain in the rotation and get another start on Friday on the heels of yesterday’s historic debut, during which he took a perfect game into the seventh inning.

    Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters, however, that there are no guarantees for Kingham beyond his second start. The club has a number of off-days on the horizon, and righty Joe Musgrove is expected to return later this month. Of course, Kingham already bought himself a second start after what looked to be a spot start Sunday, and it stands to reason that another strong performance could further force the Pirates’ hand. Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl will continue to hold down the top four spots in the Pittsburgh rotation, with either of Kingham or Musgrove now looking to be the leading candidates for the final spot.

    [Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]

    Brault, meanwhile, will give the Pirates a much-needed lefty in a bullpen where closer Felipe Vazquez is the lone southpaw. Josh Smoker opened the season in the ’pen but has since been optioned to Triple-A, leaving Hurdle with a heavily right-handed relief corps.

    Even if Kingham is in the Majors to stay, he’s spent enough time in the minor leagues this season to fall shy of a full year of MLB service time. He’ll be controlled through the 2024 season at the very least, though he’s currently on track to qualify as a Super Two player, meaning he’d be eligible for arbitration four times rather than the standard three.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Huntingont: Kang On "Probably His Last Chance With" Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121161 2018-04-30T01:54:11Z 2018-04-30T01:54:11Z
  • Jung Ho Kang’s impending return to the Piratesis probably his last chance with us,” GM Neal Huntington said on his weekly radio show with Joe Block (hat tip to MLB.com’s Adam Berry).  Kang received a work visa earlier this week and is preparing to rejoin the Pirates organization after spending all of 2017 on the restricted list following a DUI conviction in South Korea.  Should the infielder face any more off-the-field issues, things “are not going to go well for” Kang with the team, Huntington said.  It isn’t any surprise that Kang is on a very short leash given his past history, and he very well could be entering his last few months with the Bucs regardless of how he might perform if and when he returns to the majors.  It doesn’t seem likely that the Pirates will exercise their $5.5MM club option on Kang’s services for 2019, barring a major turn-around.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Place Enny Romero On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121086 2018-04-29T21:26:21Z 2018-04-29T21:08:58Z 4:08pm: Pittsburgh intended to designate Romero, but it instead placed on him on the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement, according to a team announcement (via Adam Berry of MLB.com).

    10:33am: The Pirates have designated left-hander Enny Romero for assignment, per a team announcement. Romero’s roster spot will go righty Nick Kingham, who will make his first career start Sunday.

    It may go down as a short stay in the Pittsburgh organization for Romero, who joined the team off waivers two weeks ago after the Nationals designated him. The 27-year-old Romero’s shining moment with the Pirates has actually come with the bat, as he smacked a double – his first career hit – in an appearance against the Rockies on April 18.

    Unfortunately for Romero and the Bucs, his time on the mound with the club hasn’t been as memorable. Prior to Sunday’s designation, he struggled somewhat across four innings, yielding five runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. Overall, Romero has combined for 142 MLB frames with a 4.69 ERA/4.06 FIP, 9.7 K/9 against 4.56 BB/9 and a 40.4 percent grounder rate with the Rays, Nats and Pirates.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Joe Musgrove To Begin Rehab Assignment Tuesday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121067 2018-04-29T13:37:06Z 2018-04-29T13:36:26Z
  • Pirates righty Joe Musgrove is slated to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets. Musgrove joined the Pirates over the winter as a key part of their Gerrit Cole trade with Houston, but a muscle strain in his pitching shoulder has delayed his debut with the club. Barring any setbacks, Musgrove should be four rehab starts away from returning to the majors, Berry suggests.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Notes: Bruce, Kang, Stratton, Panik, Gohara, Pennington]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121014 2018-04-28T23:29:26Z 2018-04-28T18:30:10Z Mets outfielder Jay Bruce has been taking ground balls at first base, James Wagner of the New York Times reports. Wagner adds that the Mets may consider playing him there in order to open up room for Brandon Nimmo to receive everyday playing time again. First base incumbent Adrian Gonzalez has struggled mightily thus far, with just a .203/.300/.320 batting line on the season. It’s still only April, but in light of his struggles last year with the Dodgers, Gonzalez’s leash might be fairly short. That’s particularly true since Nimmo reached base in half of his 38 MLB plate appearances this season. It’s fair to think that the Mets are looking hard for ways to lock Nimmo into an everyday role.

    Other news out of the NL…

    • Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang won’t receive any discipline from MLB, nor will the team dole out any punishment, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on Twitter. Kang was denied a U.S. visa for all of last year due to multiple DUI-related arrests. He’s finally able to return to the Pirates as of Thursday.
    • Today, the Giants reinstated Chris Stratton from the paternity list, optioning outfielder Austin Slater to Triple-A Sacramento in a corresponding move. Within hours, however, the club reversed its reported stance on Mac Williamson’s status, placing him on the seven-day concussion DL. The move allowed the Giants to recall Slater, who’s directly replacing Williamson. Stratton sports an impressive 2.32 ERA and 2.69 FIP across five starts this season, though the fact that he hasn’t allowed any homers despite a 37.8% hard contact rate suggests he might have been a bit lucky in that regard. Stratton will take his scheduled turn through the rotation today against the Dodgers.
    • In other Giants news, second baseman Joe Panik has been placed on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb. The club correspondingly purchased the contract of second baseman/outfielder Alen Hanson, who leads the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with a .403 batting average. The club moved Mark Melancon to the 60-day DL in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Hanson.
    • The Braves have reinstated left-hander Luiz Gohara from the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Gohara suffered a sprained ankle during a spring training outing, and had exhausted the maximum amount of time allotted for rehab starts. He’ll likely make a couple more starts in the minors before returning to help the Braves at the major league level. Gohara had figured to be a prominent part of Atlanta’s rotation before the season began.
    • The Reds announced that infielder Cliff Pennington has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Louisville. Pennington, who signed a minors deal in the offseason, made the club out of spring training camp as a bench player. However, he’s struck out in nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances thus far and has yet to sock an extra-base hit.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates To Promote Nick Kingham]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120947 2018-04-27T14:47:55Z 2018-04-27T14:42:31Z The Pirates will promote right-hander Nick Kingham to make his Major League debut and start Sunday’s game, reports Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter).

    Now 26 years old, Kingham was widely regarded as one of the game’s top 100 overall prospects back in 2014-15 and looked to be on the precipice of the Major Leagues when a torn ulnar collateral ligament torpedoed his 2015-16 seasons. Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, tossing just 31 1/3 innings that season and just 46 frames late in the 2016 season upon completing his rehab.

    The 2017 season marked his first healthy season since 2014, and while he didn’t dominate, the 2010 fourth-rounder did turn in a solid 3.95 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 with a 45 percent ground-ball rate. He’s off to a torrid start to the 2018 season — as MLBTR’s Jason Martinez noted when including Kingham in the first 2018 edition of Knocking Down The Door — having logged a microscopic 1.59 ERA with a 27-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 49.1 percent grounder rate in 22 2/3 innings. He’s yet to allow a home run this year and allowed only eight in 2017.

    [Related: Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]

    It could very well prove to be a spot start for Kingham — MLB.com’s Adam Berry suggested as much, on Twitter — though it would seem as though there’s at least one possible starting job that Kingham could eventually seize. The rotation jobs of Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl all seem safe, even with Taillon’s struggles in his past two outings, though southpaw Steven Brault’s spot is less solidified. In four starts this year, Brault has posted a 5.06 ERA with a 12-to-11 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings. He did open the year with three innings of scoreless relief work, but his overall body of work has not been especially impressive to date.

    Regardless of whether Kingham arrives for a day or for the rest of the season, he’ll fall shy of a full year of Major League service time, so the Pirates will be able to control him through at least 2024. It’s worth noting that the 2018 season represents Kingham’s final option year, despite the fact that he’s never pitched in the Majors. The Buccos had to add him to the 40-man roster two offseasons ago in order to protect from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft (which he quite likely would have been). That’ll make it all the more important for Kingham to establish himself, to an extent, in the Majors this season. He’ll be out of options next spring and have to make the Opening Day roster, be exposed to waivers or traded to a team willing to carry him.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 4/26/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120928 2018-04-26T21:56:04Z 2018-04-26T21:56:04Z Here are Thursday’s minor moves from around the game…

    • The Pirates have traded minor league outfielder Todd Cunningham to the White Sox, per a club announcement. John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com first broke news of the trade (via Twitter). The Bucs will receive a player to be named later in return. The 29-year-old Cunningham spent parts of three seasons in the Majors with the Braves (2013, 2015) and Angels (2016) but struggled to a .207/.256/.264 slash through 130 plate appearances. He’s off to a rough start in Triple-A this season but turned in an excellent .284/.404/.414 batting line in 358 plate appearances between the Cardinals’ and Dodgers’ top affiliates in 2017. In all, the 2010 second-round pick is a career .274/.356/.372 hitter in nearly 2200 Triple-A plate appearances.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jung Ho Kang Receives Visa, Set To Rejoin Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120911 2018-04-26T20:11:04Z 2018-04-26T19:29:42Z Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang has received a work visa and is expected to resume his career with the team, according to a report from Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. Kang had not been able to secure a visa for quite some time after being convicted of a DUI in his native South Korea.

    Kang ended up missing the entire 2017 season. He did play briefly in the Dominican Winter League recently, but that stint was cut short when he failed to perform with his new team. The Bucs control him for the 2019 season via club option, valued at $5.5MM, and he’ll play the remainder of the 2018 season on a pro-rated $3MM salary. While there was some question as to how the Pirates would handle the situation if Kang were to receive a visa, it appears as though the team is willing to welcome him back into the fold without issuing any discipline of its own.

    “We are encouraged by the steps that Jung Ho has taken to date and are hopeful that having the game he loves taken away from him for more than a year has driven home the reality that he must make better life decisions as we move forward together,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement issued via press release. “As we have communicated to him throughout this process, we will work to provide Jung Ho with the resources and support necessary for him to meet the high expectations that we have for him as a member of our organization and our community.”

    For the time being, Kang will remain on the restricted list as he works his way toward MLB readiness with in extended Spring Training at the Pirates’ complex in Bradenton, Fla. There’s no indication from the team as to how long he’ll spend ramping up in Florida.

    A healthy and effective Kang would be an unexpected boost to the Pirates, as the former KBO superstar was quite productive in his first two big league campaigns prior to his legal troubles. In 837 MLB plate appearances, Kang has slashed .273/.355/.483 with 36 homers, 43 doubles and a pair of triples. He’ll give the Pirates an option at multiple infield positions, as he’s seen action third base and shortstop in his two seasons and can also be entrusted to handle second base duties.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Josh Harrison Out Six Weeks With Fractured Hand]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120150 2018-04-16T17:40:53Z 2018-04-16T17:29:05Z The Pirates announced on Monday that second baseman Josh Harrison sustained a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand when he was hit by a Jose Urena fastball in yesterday’s game. He’s expected to return to game action in about six weeks, per the team.

    Harrison, 30, has gotten off to a .263/.328/.351 slash with a homer, two doubles and a stolen base through his first 14 games (64 plate appearances). With the veteran infielder headed to the disabled list, the 11-4 Pirates can turn to Adam Frazier or Sean Rodriguez at second base, though the team’s depth around the infield will be a bit thinned out. Max Moroff and Christopher Bostick could conceivably come up to fill in an infield spot on the bench, though it seems likely that multiple roster moves are on the horizon; the Pirates are also still in need of a 25-man move to accommodate the claim of out-of-options lefty Enny Romero from the Nats.

    Harrison is earning $10MM this season as part of the four-year, $27.3MM deal he signed three years ago. Had the Pirates gotten off to a sluggish start, there’d likely have been trade chatter surrounding Harrison this summer, though so long as they can maintain some of the momentum they’ve built up, that no longer seems likely. Harrison’s deal contains club options for $10.5MM in 2019 and $11.5MM in 2020.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Harrison Being Evaluated After HBP]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120134 2018-04-16T16:15:54Z 2018-04-16T16:12:32Z
  • Pirates infielder Josh Harrison is undergoing further evaluations today after being hit by a pitch in Sunday’s game against the Marlins, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Harrison was hit on the forearm by a 96 mph fastball from Jose Urena and exited the game rather to stay in and run for himself. A rumored trade piece for much of the offseason, Harrison is off to a .263/.328/.351 start to the season for an 11-4 Pirates club. The Bucs would likely turn to either Adam Frazier or Sean Rodriguez if Harrison requires a trip to the disabled list.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Notes: Blackmon, Gyorko, Gregerson, Glasnow, Hellickson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120108 2018-04-16T00:28:16Z 2018-04-16T00:28:16Z Though recently-extended Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon is a star outfielder, he spent his early career trying to make it as a pitcher. Kyle Newman of the Denver Post details Blackmon’s story, beginning with his high school tenure in Atlanta. After struggling to gain any significant attention early on, Blackmon began experiencing arm troubles in his junior year at Georgia Tech. The following season, however, saw him excel as a hitter en route to being drafted by the Rockies. He’s now set to earn nine figures throughout the course of his MLB career. There are some insightful quotes and tidbits in Newman’s article, including this quote from manager Walt Weiss: “I didn’t foresee the power — he’s made some adjustments, and there’s lightning in the bat now because his power numbers are pretty amazing considering the type of player he was when he broke in.”

    More from around the National League…

    • The Cardinals have a pair of players set to return soon in Jedd Gyorko and Luke Gregerson, as Joe Trezza of MLB.com reminds us. In fact, both could come off the DL as early as this coming week. Trezza adds that Gyorko’s situation will complicate the infield alignment in St. Louis, as he could sap some playing time from either Kolten Wong or Matt Carpenter (both of whom are currently ice cold at the plate). Gregerson has thrown four scoreless rehab appearances; he began the season on the DL with a hamstring strain.
    • Tyler Glasnow’s first season in relief has yielded good results so far for the Pirates, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The fireballing righty has allowed just a run across six innings in his first three appearances, in part due to an increase in his spin rate. Brink notes that he’s averaged 2,859 revolutions per minute on his curveball, a mark that’s presently 12th in all of MLB. Glasnow’s also increased his average fastball velocity to 96 MPH. “He’s a little bit more free at ease out there on the mound and being himself,” said Ray Searage, renowned pitching coach for the Pirates. “When you have confidence in yourself and try to execute at the best of your ability, you’re going to be more free and easy.”
    • Jeremy Hellickson will officially start for the Nationals tomorrow, Dan Kolko of MASN reports on Twitter. That falls in line with earlier reports that suggested the possibility. Nats fans are surely glad to see anyone but A.J. Cole, who sports a 12.00 ERA through two starts so far this season. There’s a $2MM salary to gain for Hellickson if he sticks in the rotation, as the terms of his minors pact with the club dictate.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Enny Romero From Nationals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120007 2018-04-14T19:35:48Z 2018-04-14T18:51:55Z The Pirates have claimed left-hander Enny Romero off waivers from the Nationals, as per a Pittsburgh media release.  Romero will claim an open spot on the Bucs’ 40-man roster, and the release stated that he’ll join the Major League roster once a corresponding move is made.

    Washington designated Romero for assignment last week in the wake of a tough start to the season that saw the lefty allow three runs over two innings pitched.  Romero was something of the victim of a roster crunch, as the Nats chose to subtract from their eight-man bullpen to add extra bench depth in the form of utilityman Matt Reynolds.  In 2017, Romero posted a 3.56 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and a 2.83 K/BB rate over 55 2/3 IP for the Nationals.

    Romero will join closer Felipe Vazquez as the only other left-handed reliever on the Pirates’ 25-man roster, with Steven Brault (in the rotation) and Josh Smoker (at Triple-A) representing the only other southpaws on Pittsburgh’s 40-man.  Romero isn’t an ideal candidate, however, to provide balance to the Pirates bullpen since he has been a reverse-splits pitcher over his 138 career innings. Left-handed batters have a healthy .317/.398/.467 slash line against him while right-handed batters have hit just .232/.317/.371.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Select Contract Of Richard Rodriguez, Recall Kyle Crick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119900 2018-04-13T18:57:40Z 2018-04-13T18:57:40Z The Pirates announced today that they’ve selected the contract of right-handed reliever Richard Rodriguez and recalled fellow righty Kyle Crick. Both players were pitching for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. To make room on the big league roster, right-hander Clay Holmes and left-hander Josh Smoker were optioned to Triple-A.

    Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster was at a count of 38 players prior to Rodriguez’s selection, so there’ll be no 40-man move necessary to accommodate him, and the team can even make another addition without needing to open further space. The 28-year-old Rodriguez, a longtime Astros farmhand, broke into the Majors with the Orioles in 2017 but tallied just 4 2/3 frames with Baltimore at the big league level.

    Rodriguez, though, has carved up Triple-A hitters dating back to 2015, working to a 2.54 ERA with a 221-to-65 K/BB ratio in in 219 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate has steadily risen on a year-over-year basis, topping out at 10.2 K/9 in 2017, and he’s already whiffed nine in five shutout innings this season. Last year with the O’s, Rodriguez’s fastball sat at 93.8 mph in his brief big league audition.

    As for Crick, he was one of two pieces acquired in the trade that sent franchise icon Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates to the Giants. The former supplemental first-rounder and top prospect shifted to the bullpen with quite a bit of success in 2017, punching out 12 hitters per nine innings with a 2.76 ERA in Triple-A. That prompted a big league call-up for Crick in San Francisco, where he’d go on to log a 3.06 ERA in 32 1/3 innings — albeit with much more pedestrian marks of 7.8 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9. Crick averaged 95.5 mph on his heater, though, and was superb at limiting hard contact in his time with the Giants (20.5 percent).

    The Pirates undoubtedly hope that he can be a viable bullpen weapon in Pittsburgh, as the hard-throwing 25-year-old can be controlled through the 2023 season. He’d allowed one run with five strikeouts and no walks through four innings of relief thus far in Triple-A this year.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Prospect Bryan Reynolds Undergoes Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119808 2018-04-13T04:12:31Z 2018-04-13T03:46:15Z
  • Pirates outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds will undergo surgery to remove the fractured hook from the hamate bone in his left wrist, the team told reporters (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Adam Berry). The Pittsburgh organization didn’t provide a timeline, though prior instances of that injury in the Majors have often come with a timeline around six weeks. (Each injury, of course, comes with its own set of circumstances.) Reynolds, whom the Pirates acquired in the trade that sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco, incurred the injury on a swing early in the Double-A season.
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