Pittsburgh Pirates – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Jordy Mercer On Future With Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117831 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z 2018-03-24T04:39:32Z
  • Long-time Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer acknowledges that this could be his last campaign in Pittsburgh, as Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic writes (subscription link). He also says he’s content to allow the situation to “play out” as it will. As Biertempfel explains, the 31-year-old does not appear likely to be in the team’s long-term plans with a variety of interesting middle-infield prospects moving up the ranks behind him.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Re-Sign Daniel Nava To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117817 2018-03-23T15:43:12Z 2018-03-23T15:32:42Z The Pirates have agreed to a new contract with outfielder Daniel Nava, The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel reports (Twitter link).  As expected, the pact is a minor league deal, according to Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  The Bucs released Nava earlier this week but it was widely expected that the two sides would work out another agreement.

    It will still be some time before Nava hits the field, as he underwent back surgery in late February that carried a 10-to-12 week recovery timeline.  Back and hamstring problems limited Nava to just 214 plate appearances in a part-time role for the Phillies last season, though the veteran made the most of his playing time, hitting .301/.393/.421 with four homers and displaying good plate discipline (26 walks against just 38 strikeouts).  It was a solid comeback year for Nava, who bounced around between four different organizations in 2015-16 and managed just a .574 OPS over 314 big league PA.

    The Pirates’ addition of Corey Dickerson dimmed Nava’s chances of regular playing time on the 25-man roster, though the 35-year-old Nava still carries value as a backup and pinch-hit option against right-handed pitching.  Nava will surely be placed on the 60-day DL as he continues to recover from his surgery, so the signing won’t require Pittsburgh to make any 40-man roster moves.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Ray Searage: Tyler Glasnow Making Progress]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117677 2018-03-22T01:42:23Z 2018-03-22T01:42:07Z
  • Pirates righty Tyler Glasnow, a former top prospect, had a rough time in the majors last year, but pitching coach Ray Searage has seen legitimate progress this spring, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details. “Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes,” said Searage, who added that Glasnow “has embraced” the adjustments the Pirates have suggested this year. Searage likened the 2017 version of Glasnow to a deer in the headlights, but now, even though there’s still work to be done, “he’s mature.” The 6-foot-8 Glasnow, 24, will kick off the season in the Pirates’ bullpen, though their hope is that he’ll ascend to the rotation, per Bloom. He made 13 starts in 15 appearances last year and pitched to a 7.69 ERA/6.30 FIP with 8.13 K/9 against 6.39 BB/9.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Expect To Re-Sign Daniel Nava]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117656 2018-03-22T00:15:17Z 2018-03-22T00:14:58Z
  • The Pirates expect to re-sign free agent outfielder Daniel Nava, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Pittsburgh released Nava on Tuesday, but general manager Neal Huntington suggested at the time that the team would like to bring him back. Nava is still on the mend from February back surgery, and the Pirates want him to rehab as a member of their organization. “We anticipate him being a second-half contributor to the major league team,” said Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomcyzk, who noted that “the sooner we can get our hands on him, is the better.”
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Ji-Hwan Bae]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117658 2018-03-22T14:22:04Z 2018-03-21T22:50:08Z The Pirates have signed former Braves prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, as John Dreker and Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com recently reported (subscription link). The well-regarded young shortstop, a recent international signee from Korea, will earn a bonus worth around $1.25MM.

    The addition of Bae means the Pirates have spent roughly $5.25MM of their available $5.75MM pool space for the 2017-18 signing period, MLB.com’s Adam Berry notes. He received the second-largest bonus the organization has ever given to a prospect, trailing only right-hander Luis Heredia, whom the Bucs handed $2.6MM back in 2010. Heredia is now a free agent.

    The 18-year-old Bae had been property of the Braves from this past September until November, when Major League Baseball took him and 11 other prospects from the Atlanta organization because of international signing violations. Thanks in part to those transgressions, MLB hit ex-Braves general manager John Coppolella with a lifetime ban.

    Bae joined the Braves for $300K, but they reportedly had an under-the-table agreement to pay him an extra $600K. After Atlanta signed Bae, special assistant Chad MacDonald offered high praise for the lefty-swinger.

    “He’s very athletic. He stays at shortstop, he’s going to be a solid to plus defender there. His bat-to-ball skills are really good. There’s more power in the bat,” said MacDonald. “If everything clicks, we have a left-handed version of Trea Turner, who I signed in San Diego. Again, maybe not that much power, but certainly the impact speed and defense, with bat-to-ball skills and a left-handed hitter.”

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Release Daniel Nava]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117537 2018-03-20T23:36:13Z 2018-03-20T23:36:13Z The Pirates have released outfielder Daniel Nava, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter).  The 35-year-old veteran signed a minor league deal with Pittsburgh last month but his chances of winning a job dimmed after the Pirate acquired Corey Dickerson.  If the roster crunch wasn’t enough, Nava underwent back surgery in late February, sidelining him for a projected 10-to-12 weeks.

    This might not be the end of Nava’s days in Pittsburgh, however, as Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that he hopes to re-sign Nava to a new deal “to continue his rehab and hopefully help our Major League club later this summer.”  A reunion certainly seems possible, as Nava might prefer to take a new contract now rather than wait until he is healthy to explore options with other teams.

    Whatever the scenario, the outfielder will surely draw some interest given his strong track record against right-handed pitching.  The switch-hitting Nava owns a .281/.374/.404 slash line in 1541 career plate appearances against righties, and he enjoyed a solid (albeit injury-shortened) season with the Phillies in 2017.  Nava hit .301/.393/.421 in 214 PA for the Phils, reviving his career after struggling through lackluster years in 2015-16.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[The Pirates' Main Issue: Pipeline, Not Payroll?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116233 2018-03-05T04:16:15Z 2018-03-04T22:54:50Z The Pirates and Rays have faced criticism from fans and pundits for a lack of spending, plus they were two of the four teams cited in a grievance filed by the players’ union about the quartet’s use of revenue-sharing funds.  ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield, however, argues that the Bucs and Rays didn’t boast big payrolls even when they were in contention, and the larger issue that hurt Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in 2017 was a lack of production from homegrown talent.  Neither club has done a good job of drafting and developing prospects in recent years, and the lack of a strong pipeline of minor league talent is deadly for any smaller-market franchise.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Central Notes: Moustakas, Bryant, Miley, Freese]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116131 2018-03-03T01:41:16Z 2018-03-03T01:41:16Z It has long been suggested that the White Sox would make for an interesting match with free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, but we’ve seen little in the way of a clear connection. But now there’s evidence at least that the sides are “staying in touch,” in the words of Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Whether that means the South Siders have real interest that would drive a significant offer, of course, is not yet clear. Presumably, the club would be intrigued mostly in a value proposition of some kind, perhaps in a multi-year scenario. While few outside observers believe the Sox roster is primed to compete in 2018, Moustakas would boost the quality in the short term and (more importantly) is young enough that he could be installed as a solid asset for future seasons. With little in the way of clear demand from contenders, this remains one of the more intriguing fits on paper.

    • Cubs star Kris Bryant says this winter’s slow-moving free agent market has spurred him to take labor issues seriously, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes“I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come,” says Bryant. His own delayed promotion to start the 2015 season has obviously played a role in spurring his attention to the subject. It’s an interesting read on one of the game’s brightest young players, who says he and other players are readying to take a more proactive role. “I think with this next [CBA] things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to,” says Bryant.
    • The Brewers rotation still has plenty of questions at the back end; indeed, many fans would still like to see an outside addition to provide one answer. As things stand, though, there’s a camp battle underway with quite a few participants. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote yesterday that, while it’s still plenty early, both Wade Miley and Brent Suter have made favorable initial impressions. In Miley’s case, at least, it might even be that his showing already makes him an odds-on favorite to crack the roster. He has over a thousand MLB innings under his belt, after all, and the Brewers might well lose him through an opt-out (he’s an Article XX(B) free agent) if they don’t ultimately put him on the 40-man. Of course, there’s plenty of time yet for candidates to rise and fall in camp.
    • Pirates third baseman David Freese had some salty words for the organization earlier in the winter, but he tells Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they weren’t directed at finding his way to another team. Rather, it seems, Freese was making a call for all in the organization to recommit to winning — a possibility he says he believes in, particularly with the recent acquisitions of Corey Dickerson and Kevin Siegrist. Freese also says he understands he’s not likely to command the lion’s share of the time at third base. “I’ve had a good run in the big leagues,” he said, “and I just want to go out there and win some games.”
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Kevin Siegrist To Minor-League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115623 2018-03-01T19:25:36Z 2018-03-01T19:05:43Z March 1: Siegrist’s contract comes with a $1.5MM base salary if he makes the big league roster, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman.  ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that Siegrist can earn an additional $500K worth of incentives and has a pair of opt-out dates in the deal if he has not been added to the 25-man roster.

    Feb. 24: The Pirates have inked left-hander Kevin Siegrist to a minor-league contract, the team announced today in a press release. He’s received an invitation to spring training camp as well.

    Siegrist had recently pitched before a crowd of about 20 scouts in Florida, making an attempt to show teams he’s healthy and can bounce back after an injury-marred 2017 campaign with the Cardinals and Phillies. Apparently none of those teams were willing to offer Siegrist a major-league contract, but he’ll have a good chance to make a Pirates roster that features George Kontos and Michael Feliz as the top setup options behind newly-extended closer Felipe Rivero. If he does, the Bucs will have the option to control him through the 2019 season via the arbitration process.

    Prior to 2017, Siegrist had enjoyed a largely successful career with the Cardinals. Across 206 1/3 frames with the club from 2013-2016, the southpaw pitched to a 2.70 ERA while racking up 243 strikeouts. He  had a bit of a walk problem (4.10 BB/9), and ERA estimators suggested he outperformed his peripherals a bit (3.87 xFIP), but nonetheless he was solid for the Redbirds, racking up 72 holds and 9 saves during that span.

    Things took a turn for the worst for Siegrist last year, as a forearm strain and spinal sprain forced two separate stints on the DL. When on the field, his velocity and strikeout rate were both down, while his walk rate ballooned to a problematic 5.24 per nine. His 4.98 ERA became an eyesore, and by the end of August, the Cardinals had seen enough; they activated him from the DL only to designate him for assignment immediately.

    Siegrist was quickly claimed by the Phillies, for whom he pitched just five innings during the month of September. He allowed two earned runs and struck out seven. However, his showing apparently wasn’t enough to convince Philadelphia to pay him a minimal arbitration raise on his $1.6MM 2017 salary. The club opted to outright Siegrist off their 40-man roster, and he elected free agency shortly thereafter.

    The towering 6′-5″ Siegrist is just 28 years old. He was drafted and developed by the Cardinals organization, who plucked him out of Palm Beach Community College in the 41st round of the 2008 draft. Though he was a starter in the lower minors, a shift to the bullpen late in his 2012 season at the Double-A level spurred a quick rise to the majors. Siegrist pitched just 7 2/3 innings with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate before he was deemed ready to make his major-league debut on June 6th, 2013, a day on which he struck out four of the six hitters he faced while allowing no earned runs.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Daniel Nava Undergoes Back Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115968 2018-02-28T14:16:06Z 2018-02-28T13:59:35Z Outfielder Daniel Nava, who was in camp with the Pirates as a non-roster invitee, underwent back surgery yesterday, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic was among those to report (via Twitter). The recovery process is expected to keep Nava out for ten to twelve weeks.

    At the time of his signing, Nava was viewed as a likely candidate to earn a share of a corner outfield platoon. But that had already come into question with the team’s recent acquisition of Corey Dickerson, who is now expected to see near-regular duty.

    With the news of the surgery added in, Nava’s outlook in Pittsburgh is decidedly unclear. That’s not to say that it’s a particularly concerning medical outlook; rather, he’s said to be slated for a microdiscectomy, a fairly common procedure that will presumably enable Nava to return without pain.

    Rather, it’s increasingly difficult to see how Nava will fit on the roster. While he’s a switch-hitter, the 35-year-old has long been utilized mostly against right-handed pitching. The results support that usage, as Nava has nearly a 200-point platoon spread in his career OPS numbers.

    With Dickerson and Gregory Polanco on two corners, the Bucs already have a pair of lefty outfield bats. And switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell likely won’t be asked to sit down very often. With Pittsburgh already carrying two third basemen (Colin Moran and David Freese) and two infield/outfield capable utility players (Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez), at most there’ll only be one more bench opening available. Of course, things could look quite a lot different once Nava is ready to return.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Gurriel, Frazier, Gausman, Stroman, Thornburg, Eaton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115908 2018-02-28T04:47:58Z 2018-02-27T19:13:14Z The Astros have shipped first baseman Yuli Gurriel to Houston so his injured hand can be evaluated, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). At this point, the situation is more or less a mystery, with no real indication how the issue arose or just what the club is concerned about. Clearly, though, the team’s training staff has found cause to get a closer look from a specialist.

    Here’s more on some injury situations from around the game:

    • Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier has been diagnosed with a concussion, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Frazier made a leaping catch in yesterday’s Grapefruit League game against the Pirates and stumbled a bit before falling backwards and hitting his head against the base of the left-field wall (video link). Manager Aaron Boone said Frazier will be down for “a few days” and acknowledged the seemingly optimistic nature of that timeline. Frazier is far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster in New York with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Jacoby Ellsbury all on the roster, but he remains a key potential long-term piece for the Yanks.
    • It seems that Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has largely shaken off a home-plate collision yesterday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. The young starter, who is a key factor in the team’s hopes for the coming season, says he “feel[s] pretty good” on the whole despite slamming into Tigers youngster Jeimer Candelario. For the time being, at least, Gausman is expected to take the ball for his next scheduled spring outing.
    • The outlook is at least a bit more worrisome for Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman. Per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, shoulder inflammation is holding Stroman back. Though he has already been cleared by an MRI of structural concerns, Stroman will rest up in hopes of moving past a problem that has evidently been going on for a few weeks. The key Jays hurler says he’s hoping to be fully ramped up for “the very beginning of the start of the season,” even if it’s not Opening Day, though surely the organization will proceed with caution.
    • The Red Sox will welcome reliever Tyler Thornburg back to the hill for the first time since he underwent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. A bullpen session is just one of many steps back, of course, and Thornburg still has some hurdles to clear. He has yet to pitch competitively for the Boston organization (excepting brief spring action last year) since coming over in a trade in advance of the 2017 season.
    • Indications are that Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton is largely progressing well after a long layoff for a torn ACL. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, though, Eaton has yet to appear in game action. That appears to be less a reflection of Eaton’s surgically repaired joint than it is a planned effort to build him up deliberately. “We’re going to take it and be methodical and do it right for the first time and make sure I’m overcooked, so to speak, before I go out there.” While it’s surely tempting to max out Eaton’s reps after a lost season, skipper Davey Martinez emphasized the primary goal is to have Eaton at full speed come Opening Day.
    • The rival Mets are reporting shoulder and back soreness for Yoenis Cespedes and Jacob deGrom, respectively, but those don’t seem to be real concerns at this point, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. However, the New York organization is likely to hold back first baseman Dominic Smith for a while after he was diagnosed with a strained quad. He already seemed to face a difficult task of cracking the Opening Day roster, so this setback is not likely to help the cause. (New reliever Anthony Swarzak just left his relief appearance with an apparent calf injury, as Mike Puma of the New York Post was among those to tweet, though details are sparse at this time.)
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBPA Files Grievance Against Four Teams Over Revenue Sharing Funds]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115882 2018-02-27T17:31:45Z 2018-02-27T15:52:34Z The Major League Baseball Player’s Association has initiated a grievance proceeding against the Athletics, Marlins, Pirates, and Rays regarding those teams’ spending of revenue sharing dollars, according to a report from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

    This general issue has been percolating for some time, even as additional concerns have arisen as to the pace of free-agent signings over the 2017-18 offseason. The MLBPA reportedly engaged with the league office over the Miami and Pittsburgh organizations’ spending earlier this year.

    At the time, MLB and the teams at issue rejected the idea that there was any issue worth exploring further. Clearly, the union disagrees and also feels that two other organizations’ practices merit examination. Per Topkin, the complaint relates to spending both last year and over the present offseason.

    Revenue-sharing dollars — which will be phased out for the A’s under the current Basic Agreement — are required to be spent for improving the MLB performance of recipient clubs. That doesn’t necessarily mean it all must go to player salaries, but though teams are required to report on how they use the money. And as JJ Cooper of Baseball America notes on Twitter, successive collective bargaining agreements have tightened the permissible uses.

    Enforcing the provisions relating to these funds falls in the domain of commissioner Rob Manfred. He can issue penalties, require the submission of a two-year plan, and even order changes with that plan (“after consultation with the Players Association”).

    As Topkin notes, it is not immediately clear what the MLBPA is seeking in relief. The collectively bargained provisions do seem to give the union an interest in ensuring the provisions are followed, though, and perhaps the situation is seen as drastic enough to merit a test of their meaning before an arbitrator.

    In a statement to the Times, the league confirmed receipt of the grievance but stated that MLB “believe[s] it has no merit.” Pirates president Frank Coonelly responded with a combative tone, issuing a statement labeling the action “patently baseless” (via MLB.com’s Adam Berry, on Twitter). Rays owner Stuart Sternberg defended his own organization in less strident terms (via Topkin, on Twitter).

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Sign Michael Saunders]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115593 2018-02-24T00:39:20Z 2018-02-24T00:38:44Z 6:38pm: Saunders can earn $1.5MM on the MLB roster with as much as $500K in available incentives, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets.

    3:36pm: The Royals have announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal. It seems that the recent agreement between Saunders and the Pirates has been torn up.

    When Saunders put pen to paper with Pittsburgh, he was slated to battle with Daniel Nava and others for a spot in the outfield mix. But the Bucs’ recent acquisition of Corey Dickerson left Saunders without much of a path to the MLB roster.

    Saunders’s agent, Barry Meister, says the Pirates allowed his client to pursue other opportunities after the new development, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). Meister says the team “should be commended for their player-friendly, honest and transparent behavior.”

    At the end of the day, then, Saunders will enter a different but perhaps even more promising situation in Kansas City. He’ll still need to earn his way onto the roster, but there’s a solid chance he can do so with a good performance this spring. Outside of Alex Gordon, the Royals are thin in terms of lefty outfield bats; Saunders will presumably compete with non-roster invitees Cody Asche and Tyler Collins in camp for a chance at a role in the majors.

    Saunders is coming off of a miserable 2017 season and has a long history of injury troubles. But he has had some quality campaigns in the majors, including a 2016 effort with the Blue Jays in which he posted a .253/.338/.478 batting line over 558 plate appearances. At his best, he has also graded well in the field and on the bases, so it could be that the 31-year-old still has some productive seasons ahead of him.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Intend To Utilize Corey Dickerson As Regular Left Fielder]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115337 2018-02-23T03:38:48Z 2018-02-23T02:42:03Z Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested today that he expects new acquisition Corey Dickerson to handle the bulk of the action in left field for he coming season, as MLB.com’s Adam Berry report on Twitter. No doubt the Bucs will end up giving Dickerson some time off against lefties; while he performed well against southpaws last year, he has long carried wide platoon splits. But it seems the plan is to give him an opportunity to function as something approaching an everyday player, with the Pittsburgh organization evidently willing to stomach the less-than-stellar glovework Dickerson is reputed to deliver. Perhaps the biggest question will be whether the powerful 28-year-old can overcome an interesting problem identified by Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs in a piece today: a tendency to swing and miss at four-seam fastballs.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Corey Dickerson From Rays]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115511 2018-02-22T19:20:25Z 2018-02-22T19:17:09Z 1:17pm: The Pirates are sending the Rays $1MM as part of the trade, reports Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (Twitter link). In essence, then, they’ll spend an additional $1.45MM to turn Hudson into Dickerson, while the Rays will add a reliever to their ’pen, a prospect to the lower levels of their farm system, and trim $1.45MM from their 2018 payroll.

    12:24pm: The Pirates announced that they’ve acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and cash.

    Corey Dickerson | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Tampa Bay recently designated Dickerson, 28, for assignment in a move that came as a surprise to many. Dickerson posted solid overall numbers in 2017, hitting .282/.325/.490 with 27 homers in 629 trips to the plate. Dickerson, though, faded badly after a strong start to the season.

    Though Dickerson hit .326/.369/.570 with 17 homers through the season’s first three months, that production was supported by a .374 BABIP that he didn’t seem especially likely to maintain. That number came back down to earth from July through season’s end as Dickerson’s strikeout rate rose to nearly 29 percent, and he batted just .232/.273/.397 with 10 homers and an 82-to-16 K/BB ratio in the final three months of the season.

    That said, Dickerson still has an overall track record as a quality bat, as evidenced by a lifetime .280/.325/.504 slash and 119 OPS+. He’ll earn $5.95MM in 2018 and is controllable for one more year via arbitration before he can reach free agency.

    The Pirates desperately needed some outfield help following this offseason’s trade of former face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen, and Dickerson should slot into the organization as the team’s new everyday left fielder. Defensive metrics aren’t exactly bullish on his glovework in the outfield, though he’s graded out as generally average or slightly above-average in left field over the past two seasons after drawing poor marks early in his career with the Rockies. He’ll be joined in the outfield by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, each of whom is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 season.

    [Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]

    Though Dickerson isn’t likely to recreate the massive performance he rode to his first career All-Star appearance in the first half last season, he should nonetheless serve as an offensive upgrade over the Pirates’ internal options in left field. Adam Frazier and Jordan Luplow were two of the main candidates for that gig on the 40-man roster, while veterans Michael Saunders and Daniel Nava are in camp as non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Certainly, the Dickerson pickup places a significant roadblock to either veteran making the roster, and it’s fair to wonder if they’ll ultimately be allowed to seek other opportunities.

    Daniel Hudson | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    In Hudson, the Rays will pick up a hard-throwing veteran reliever looking for a rebound season of his own. Hudson’s contract calls for him to earn $5.5MM this season, so the two contracts nearly cancel each other out. However, the Pirates are also sending cash to the Rays in the deal, so it appears that Tampa Bay will come out ahead, financially speaking, in the swap.

    Hudson, 31 early next month, posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 1.02 HR/9 and a 43.3 percent ground-ball rate while averaging 95.6 mph on his fastball through 61 2/3 innings last year. A converted starter that has twice undergone Tommy John surgery in his career, Hudson has a 4.59 ERA in the ’pen over the past three-plus seasons since making the switch, but secondary metrics have been considerably more optimistic based on his strikeout rates and, outside of last season, his control. In 192 1/3 frames as a reliever, Hudson has a 3.84 FIP and 3.78 SIERA.

    Tampa Bay executives Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom recently downplayed the possibility of the Rays trading closer Alex Colome before the season begins, so it seems that Hudson will pair with recently re-signed Sergio Romo to give the Rays another experienced arm in their setup corps.

    The addition of that pair of veteran arms will allow the Rays to lean less heavily on what had looked to be a largely inexperienced group of relievers outside of Colome and southpaw Dan Jennings. Andrew Kittredge, Chaz Roe, Austin Pruitt, Ryne Stanek, Jose Alvarado and Chih-Wei Hu wiill be among the names vying for the remaining bullpen spots with the Rays this spring now that Hudson is on board.

    [Related: Updated Tampa Bay Rays depth chart]

    Gray, meanwhile, was Pittsburgh’s 13th-round pick in last year’s draft and posted a .269/.329/.486 slash with seven homers and five steals in 53 games for the Pirates’ short-season Class-A affiliate last year. The second baseman was an honorable mention on Fangraphs’ list of the Pirates’ Top 25 prospects, with Eric Longenhagen pointing to a long track record of production as an amateur but also labeling his overall offensive profile as “middling.”

    All told, it’s a fairly underwhelming return for Dickerson, though that’s largely indicative of the manner in which bat-first corner outfielders have been devalued in the current economic climate of baseball. The Rays surely tried to trade Dickerson for much of the winter but seemingly found no takers before designating him for assignment, and even in this swap it seems that Tampa Bay had to agree to take on some salary to work out a deal. Jay Bruce managed to score a three-year, $39MM pact with a similar, albeit superior overall profile at the plate, but both the trade and free-agent markets for good-not-great corner outfielders have been rather tepid over the past couple of seasons.

    It seems plausible that the Rays simply felt they could utilize a full season of Mallex Smith in a corner outfield spot without losing much in the way of overall value, and elected to turn Dickerson into an alternative Major League asset. The surprising trade of Steven Souza that followed Dickerson’s DFA, as the Rays’ front office told it recently, was more or less a function of an unexpected and aggressive pursuit of Souza by the Diamondbacks, who promised a prospect package the Rays felt they could not afford to turn away. The Rays were then able to capitalize on a weak free-agent market and bring in Carlos Gomez at a bargain rate — a move that further reflects the dwindling value of above-average offensive outfielders that aren’t premium defensive assets.

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Michael Saunders]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115434 2018-02-21T17:50:54Z 2018-02-21T17:22:58Z The Pirates have inked a minor-league deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, per a club announcement. He has been invited to participate in the MLB side of camp.

    Saunders, 31, has had something of a roller-coaster career to this point. After an injury-riddled run with the Mariners, he seemed to turn a corner in 2016 with the Blue Jays. Saunders ran up a .253/.338/.478 slash through 558 plate appearances, though the bulk of the output came in the first half of the season.

    The open market was not quite as kind to Saunders as many anticipated, but he still commanded a $9MM guarantee to join the Phillies in advance of the 2017 season. Things just did not work out in Philadelphia, though, as Saunders limped to a .205/.257/.360 slash before being cut loose. He ended up back with the Toronto organization but was not overly impressive at Triple-A or in a brief, late-season return to the majors.

    Those ups and downs have shown up in baserunning and fielding metrics, too, perhaps reflecting the role that injuries have played. Saunders has at times graded as a high-end threat on the bases (2012-13) and corner outfield defender (2014), but received below-average marks in both areas in 2016 before bouncing back somewhat in his 73 total MLB games in the following campaign.

    Pittsburgh enters Spring Training with several options for filling the outfield vacancy created by the trade of Andrew McCutchen. It could be that Saunders will battle Daniel Nava (a switch-hitter who’s much better against righties) for a single spot. Saunders carries narrow platoon splits over his career, it’s worth noting. That represents a point of distinction from Nava, who was productive when healthy last year but has never hit a lick against southpaws.

    Perhaps both players could earn jobs if they are sufficiently impressive, but that seems like a tight fit. The Bucs could utilize southpaw-swinging utilityman Adam Frazier in the outfield, after all. And the team will need to ensure that it has the other pieces needed for a platoon, with right-handed hitters Bryce Brentz and Sean Rodriguez providing options.

    If he’s not able to crack the Opening Day roster, Saunders will presumably spend some time digging in against Triple-A pitching in hopes of getting back to form. (Whether and when he can opt out of his deal is not yet known.) Given the amount of uncertainty at the major-league level for the Pirates, Saunders should at a minimum represent a worthwhile depth option to have on hand.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Bryce Brentz]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115326 2018-02-20T18:59:58Z 2018-02-20T18:47:29Z The Pirates have acquired outfielder Bryce Brentz from the Red Sox, according to an announcement from the Boston organization. Cash considerations will make up the return.

    Brentz, 29, is a former first-round pick who has seen only minimal MLB action in his professional career. He seemed unlikely to hold down a roster spot through camp with the Red Sox working to finalize a deal with free agent J.D. Martinez. In all likelihood, Brentz’s 40-man spot will go to Martinez.

    As a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder, Brentz will have to hit quite a bit to stick in the majors. He did manage just that feat last year at Triple-A, posting a .271/.334/.529 slash with 31 long balls over 494 plate appearances at Pawtucket, and showed well again in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.

    Brentz, who is out of options, will presumably now get a shot at impressing the Pittsburgh brass in camp. He’ll join a group of candidates trying to claim a share of the corner outfield mix, including Daniel Nava, Jordan LuplowJason Martin, and Todd Cunningham as well as top Bucs’ prospect Austin Meadows.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Brewers, Reds, Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115193 2018-02-19T01:45:23Z 2018-02-19T01:45:23Z Reiterating a familiar stance for the Brewers this offseason, GM David Stearns says that the club has confidence in its current group of starters, but they’re exploring upgrades (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). “We’ve explored a variety of starting pitching options out there, and have a pretty good sense of what the market is,” Stearns said Sunday. “Our stance is if we can make an acquisition that we think can meaningfully upgrade the team at a responsible investment level, that’s something we’re open to.” Stearns went on to say that he believes the Milwaukee front office has done a nice job of adding to their depth. This isn’t the first time the Brewers GM has expressed confidence in the club’s current group of starters, though that notion might be met with some skepticism considering the club’s lengthy pursuit of Yu Darvish that ultimately came up short.

    Some other notes out of the NL Central…

    • Stearns expressed confidence in the club’s catching group as well when asked about the possibility of a reunion between the Brewers and Jonathan Lucroy (Twitter links from Haudricourt). The GM thinks that the team got “pretty meaningful production” last year from a position split between Manny Pina, Stephen Vogt and Jett Bandy (though there’s room for skepticism on that front too, considering the team’s catchers combined to finish 20th out of 30 MLB teams by positional fWAR). Haudricourt notes that Bandy is out of minor league options while Vogt’s deal is non-guaranteed, meaning the Brewers may have a tough decision to make during spring training camp.
    • Though Reds franchise icon Joey Votto has shown faith in the club’s rebuild in past seasons, the first baseman seems to be growing impatient, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer“I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball,” he told the press on Sunday. “I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.” Votto certainly did all he could for the Reds during their recent losing stretch. Though the team lost at least 90 games in each of the past three seasons, he managed a stunning .320/.449/.557 slash line with 94 home runs and more walks (385) than strikeouts (338) during that time.
    • In part due to player feedback, the Pirates have made changes to their training staff this offseason that they believe will lead to fewer DL stints on the whole. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the details: Bryan Housand, the team’s new head athletic trainer, and Todd Tomscyk, recently named director of sports medicine for the club, are two of the major cogs in this overhaul. GM Neal Huntington says that Tomczyk in particular will now be able to have a “bigger impact” on the club’s performance team. Notably, the club saw three of its 2017 contributors hit the DL with hamstring strains (Gregory Polanco, Adam Frazier and David Freese); perhaps this change in the club’s training approach could help to curb that issue in 2018.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Pirates’ Josh Harrison]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115131 2018-02-18T17:56:14Z 2018-02-18T17:56:14Z After the Pirates traded franchise cornerstones Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last month, utilityman Josh Harrison suggested he’d like to play elsewhere if “the team does not expect to contend this year or next.” The Pirates haven’t done anything to assuage Harrison since then, he explained to reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) when he showed up to camp on Sunday.

    Regarding a conversation he had with general manager Neal Huntington, Harrison said: “At the end of the day there wasn’t anything said or done that was like, aw man, I can breathe easy. He talked to me, said he wants to win and this or that. At the end of the day I said it’s about action, not speaking.”

    Harrison also knocked the Pirates for a lack of transparency – “Some of it goes with not knowing the direction. I understand the business side. Every year, there’s going to be guys coming in and going out. You just want to know where we stand as a team, where you stand as a player” – and backed up teammate David Freese’s recent comments criticizing the Bucs for an absence of “accountability.”

    “I don’t care how we do it, but things need to be done,” Harrison declared. “As Freese said the other day, it’s got to be urgent and not just from a couple guys, a couple people in the office. It has to be top to bottom. You talk about Freese, he’s a World Series MVP. The guy’s been there. He knows what it takes to win. I think it will go without saying that he and I, even some of the comments he mentioned, had been conversations we’ve had during the season. It’s been brought to light.”

    Although Harrison isn’t content with the state of the Pirates, it’s unclear whether they’re interested in trading him or whether there’s even a market for his services at this point. The New York teams and Toronto have shown the most reported interest in Harrison since last season ended, but both the Mets and Blue Jays have made several moves to address their infield and outfield in recent weeks. Consequently, both teams are likely out of the running for Harrison.

    The Yankees still don’t have a proven second or third base solution, meanwhile, and credible free agent options are dwindling. However, the Yankees only have in the neighborhood of $10MM to $15MM in spending room as they try to stay under the $197MM luxury tax line, which could help prevent a deal from occurring even if the Pirates are open to trading Harrison.

    While Harrison’s $6.825MM luxury tax number for 2018 is affordable, it still might not be palatable for the Yankees, who have recently passed on similarly valuable, similarly compensated free agent infielders (Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, for instance) and could use their remaining money to address their rotation – which is an area they’ve prioritized. Passing on expensive veteran infielders would enable the Yankees to allow promising prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar to sink or swim at second and third, respectively. Torres could start the year in the minors, in part because it would give the Yankees an extra year of control over him, but they’d only need to wait until mid-April to promote him.

    If no trade materializes by Opening Day, the 30-year-old Harrison will start his eighth season in Pittsburgh. Harrison is in the last guaranteed season of the four-year, $27.3MM extension he signed with the Pirates in 2015. He’ll earn $10MM this year and could make up to $21.5MM over the following two seasons, depending on whether his employer picks up his options for 2019 and ’20.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Freese, Moran]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115057 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z
  • David Freese had some frank opinions about the Pirates’ recent lack of success, telling reporters (including Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that more “urgency” and “accountability” is needed within the Bucs’ clubhouse.  “The last two years, we haven’t done as well as we could have because of our environment,” Freese said.  “That’s what I think.  I walk in every day, and it’s not in the air.  The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air.  That’s what you need.  You can say all you want about how we’re going to win, this and that, but if you don’t walk in and you don’t feel it and you don’t see it in people’s eyes, it’s just not going to work.”  The piece is well worth a full read for a different take on the Pirates’ struggles, as Bloom notes that Freese’s criticisms differed from recent comments made by Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez that indicated more frustration towards the front office.
    • David Freese had some frank opinions about the Pirates’ recent lack of success, telling reporters (including Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that more “urgency” and “accountability” is needed within the Bucs’ clubhouse.  “The last two years, we haven’t done as well as we could have because of our environment,” Freese said.  “That’s what I think.  I walk in every day, and it’s not in the air.  The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air.  That’s what you need.  You can say all you want about how we’re going to win, this and that, but if you don’t walk in and you don’t feel it and you don’t see it in people’s eyes, it’s just not going to work.”  The piece is well worth a full read for a different take on the Pirates’ struggles, as Bloom notes that Freese’s criticisms differed from recent comments made by Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez that indicated more frustration towards the front office.
    • Colin Moran suffered a concussion and a facial fracture after a fouling a ball into his left eye last July, and it is quite possible that the injury changed the course of the young infielder’s career.  Moran was dealt to the Pirates last month as part of the Gerrit Cole trade, and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Moran might still be an Astro today had he gotten a longer chance to perform last summer, rather than being sidelined just two games into a midseason call-up.  “I think he would have hit .300, I think he would have hit for power,” Luhnow said.  “We might not have traded him because we might have wanted to figure out a way to keep him on our club.”  Interestingly, it’s also possible to speculate that a healthy and productive Moran would’ve been traded from Houston much sooner, as Moran was reportedly involved in the Astros’ talks with the Orioles about Zach Britton at the July trade deadline (though an injured Houston pitching prospect was the primary reason the Britton deal was scuttled).
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Pirates' Outfield Battle]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114756 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z
  • Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez, and Jordan Luplow are the top choices competing for the open spot in the Pirates’ outfield, and GM Neal Huntington tells MLB.com’s Adam Berry and other reporters that the club feels good about that internal mix.  “We’re comfortable with those three, that between those three we can get a productive outfielder out of that group, one that we feel compares well to the group of free-agent outfielders that are in our scope,” Huntington said.  A new acquisition isn’t yet totally out of the question, however, as Huntington said last week that “There are still players of interest to us. If we’re able to find that common ground, then we’d be open to adding.”
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates To Sign Daniel Nava]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114135 2018-02-06T20:10:20Z 2018-02-06T20:10:20Z The Pirates have reached agreement with free agent outfielder/first baseman Daniel Nava, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). It’s a minors pact that includes a MLB camp invite.

    Nava, who’ll turn 35 in a few weeks, had a nice bounceback campaign last year with the cross-state Phillies. He was limited to eighty games of action owing to injuries, which also perhaps prevented him from being dealt to a contender in the middle of the season, but turned in an undeniably productive overall effort.

    Over 214 total plate appearances, Nava slashed a robust .301/.393/.421. Though he managed only four home runs, he exhibited a command of the strike zone (just 38 strikeouts with 26 walks) of the type that led to his prior MLB success.

    Of course, teams were no doubt also wary given that Nava had struggled over the prior several campaigns. While he grades as a solid defender in the corner outfield, he isn’t exactly a prime asset with the glove. And Nava is pretty clearly a strict platoon asset: the switch-hitter has long been far more successful against right-handed than left-handed pitching.

    For the Bucs, those limitations are just fine. As middling as his production has been against southpaws, Nava dominated (.341/.423/.474) when hitting with the platoon advantage last year. He ought to have a fair shot at earning a MLB roster spot in camp. Odds are — as the Pirates’ updated depth chart suggests — he’ll end up in a time share in the corner outfield.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Josh Smoker Not Surprised He Ended Up With Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113982 2018-02-04T03:42:33Z 2018-02-04T03:42:33Z Checking in on the National League…

    • The Cubs are “still looking to add depth” to their pitching staff, general manager Jed Hoyer tells Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com. “That’s an annual thing you think about. You prepare for injuries even if some years you go unscathed,” he continued. Starting depth does appear to be an issue at the moment for the Cubs, who lack battle-tested options beyond their current projected rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery. Of the other healthy starting possibilities on their 40-man roster, only Eddie Butler brings significant experience in the majors, though he hasn’t been particularly successful. Of course, the Cubs would help their cause quite a bit by signing Yu Darvish (who remains on their radar) or bringing in another high-profile starter via free agency or trade.
    • The Mets are reportedly interested in free agent infielder Eduardo Nunez, but Mike Puma of the New York Post wonders (on Twitter) if the organization’s hitting philosophy may ultimately prevent a signing from occurring. The club “emphasizes selectivity,” Puma points out, and that’s not the case with Nunez. Among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances last year, he had the seventh-lowest walk percentage (3.7) and the 14th-highest chase rate (39.6 percent).
    • Left-hander Josh Smoker went from the Mets to the Pirates in a trade this week, and it didn’t surprise the reliever that he ended up in Pittsburgh (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “I kind of had a feeling that Pittsburgh might have some interest because in the past I had heard rumblings that Pittsburgh had always had a little bit of interest in me,” Smoker said. “I know it’s a team that needs some left-handers, too.” Indeed, Smoker became just the fourth southpaw on the Bucs’ 40-man roster. While Smoker has only managed a 5.02 ERA across 71 2/3 career innings, he’s hopeful renowned Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage will be able to help him break out with his new team. After the trade, Smoker discussed Searage with his friend, former Pirates reliever Matt Capps, who offered praise for the pitching guru.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[East Notes: Marlins, Arroyo, E-Rod, Mets]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113930 2018-02-03T15:03:40Z 2018-02-03T15:03:40Z A 2008 agreement between Miami-Dade county and Jeffrey Loria (and his partners) saw the county fund most of the $515 million government-owned Marlins stadium in Little Havana. In exchange, the county was promised the right to 5 percent of any profits Loria & co. earned if they sold the team within 10 years. Yet Loria’s lawyers have released documents telling the county not to expect any money at all from last year’s $1.2 billion sale of the Marlins, Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald writes. The reasoning from Loria’s camp is that his accountants claim the sale amounted to a net loss of $141MM. The breakdown they offer begins with a $625MM agreed-to underlying value of the franchise, $280MM in debt, circa $300MM in taxes tied to the sale and a write-off of the $30MM fee paid to financial advisors. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says that the city may sue to collect the taxpayers’ fair share of that $1.2 billion. My message is that this community really allowed you to make a lot of money,” he said on Friday. “He should do the right thing. He made profits, and he made big profits. He should share that with the people who allowed him to do that.”

    Here are a few other tidbits from around the league’s Eastern teams…

    • Newly-acquired Rays infielder Christian Arroyo was working out at Tropicana Field on Friday morning, Bill Chastain of MLB.com writes. MLB Pipeline’s 81st overall prospect saw his 2017 season end due to a broken hand, but surgeon Donald Sheridan cleared him for baseball activities after a visit on January 9th. “The hand is great,” Arroyo said. “Right now, it’s about getting back into baseball shape.” The 22-year-old came to Tampa Bay in this winter’s trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco. He hit .192/.244/.304 across 135 plate appearances with the Giants last year in his first taste of big-league action, and figures to be in the Rays’ infield mix for the coming season.
    • Speaking of young players returning from injury, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez could potentially miss a few starts at the beginning of the season after undergoing right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction surgery, Ian Browne of MLB.com writes. “[The injury] happened, like, three times already,” Rodriguez pointed out. “I was just trying to fight to pitch with a knee like that. And I did it. Sometimes there would be ups and downs. Now it’s time to get back to the guy I was before I got the surgery.” The 24-year-old southpaw’s had his share of ups and downs across parts of three seasons with the Red Sox. Last season, he put up 137 1/3 innings for the club while striking out 9.83 batters per nine and posting a 4.19 ERA overall.
    • Eduardo Nunez and Todd Frazier are currently the Mets’ leading choices in their search for an infielder, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports via Twitter. They’re apparently leery of getting “used” by Frazier (presumably for leverage) if he prefers the Yankees as his ultimate destination. In addition, the Mets are reportedly reluctant to bring back second baseman Neil Walker, and aren’t getting any traction in their efforts to acquire Josh Harrison from the Pirates. Lastly, Rosenthal adds that the team is interested in signing Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn out of free agency if their prices dip low enough.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Interested In Melky Cabrera]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113819 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z
  • Melky Cabrera has drawn some interest from the Marlins, Royals, and Pirates.  There hasn’t been much news on the veteran outfielder this winter, with only the Orioles (also mentioned here by Heyman) previously reported to have discussed Cabrera’s services.

  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Josh Smoker]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113732 2018-01-31T19:17:07Z 2018-01-31T18:57:30Z The Pirates have acquired southpaw Josh Smoker from the Mets in exchange for left-hander Daniel Zamora and cash, the two teams announced.  Smoker was designated for assignment by the Mets earlier this week to clear roster space for the re-signed Jose Reyes.

    The hard-throwing Smoker has a 5.02 ERA, 11.7 K/9, and 2.58 K/BB rate over 71 2/3 relief innings in the big leagues, all with New York in 2016-17.  Despite that big strikeout total, Smoker had issues keeping the ball in the park, with 14 homers allowed in his brief career.  He also posted a 5.1 BB/9 rate last season and struggled with control at times over his nine minor league seasons.  Smoker isn’t exactly a young hurler (he turned 29 in November) but he still clearly has some upside in his arm given his big strikeout potential.

    He’ll have an opportunity to continue in the big leagues given the lack of left-handed options in the Pirates’ bullpen.  Closer Felipe Rivero, starter Steven Brault, and Jack Leathersich are the only other southpaws on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, though Brault could end up in the pen if he doesn’t make the starting rotation.

    Zamora was a 40th-round pick for the Pirates in the 2015 draft.  He has posted impressive numbers (2.96 ERA, 10.3 K/9, and 3.50 K/BB rate) over his first 115 2/3 pro innings, all as a reliever.  He briefly cracked the Double-A level last season, tossing three innings for Altoona.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mets, Pirates Maintaining Dialogue On Josh Harrison]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113502 2018-01-29T15:40:28Z 2018-01-29T15:40:28Z
  • The Mets are maintaining a dialogue with the Pirates on infielder Josh Harrison as they look to bolster their lineup, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. A free-agent signing for the Mets at second base remains likelier than a trade, Puma adds, but the team may not make any sort of move until some of the bigger-name free agents have come off the board. Obviously, the Mets aren’t tied to any of the top-tier free agents with a somewhat modestly-priced infield addition thought likely to be their final move of the winter, but some current free agents may first prefer to see if their market changes at all once some upper-tier names are off the board. New York has been oft-linked to Harrison, and the Pirates have reportedly expressed interest in young outfielder Brandon Nimmo.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nik Turley Gets 80-Game Suspension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113394 2018-01-28T01:11:01Z 2018-01-28T01:10:31Z
  • Pirates left-hander Nik Turley received an 80-game suspension Saturday after testing positive for Ipamorelin, a performance-enhancing drug. The 28-year-old will go on the restricted list, thus opening up a spot on the Pirates’ 40-man roster (which was at capacity before his ban). Turley is in his first offseason with the Pirates, who claimed him off waivers from the Twins in November. The former Yankees prospect made his big league debut with Minnesota last season and struggled across 10 appearances (11.21 ERA, 6.62 K/9 and 4.08 BB/9 in 17 2/3 innings).
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[MLBPA Raises Revenue Sharing Concerns Regarding Marlins, Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113295 2018-01-27T01:24:26Z 2018-01-27T01:23:05Z 7:23pm: MLB has seemingly thrown some cold water on the situation in issuing the following statement (hat tip to Adam Berry of MLB.com):

    “We do not have concerns about the Pirates’ and Marlins’ compliance with the basic agreement provisions regarding the use of revenue sharing proceeds. The Pirates have steadily increased their payroll over the years while at the same time decreasing their revenue sharing. The Marlins’ ownership purchased a team that incurred substantial financial losses the prior two seasons, and even with revenue sharing and significant expense reduction, the team is projected to lose money in 2018. The union has not informed us that it intends to file a grievance against either team.”

    5:32pm: Pirates president Frank Coonnelly issued a lengthy statement on the matter, stating that the Pirates are not under investigation (Twitter link via Adam Berry of MLB.com):

    “The Pirates are not being investigated by MLB and the Commissioner has no concerns whatsoever with the manner in which the Pirates are investing its revenue sharing receipts into building a winner. The Pirates have and will continue to invest its revenue sharing receipts in an effort to put a winning team on the field As required by the Basic Agreement, we share with MLB and the Union each year the detail as to how our revenue sharing receipts are used to put a winning team on the field. What the detail shows is that while our revenue sharing receipts have decreased for seven consecutive seasons, our Major league payroll has more than doubled over that same period. Indeed, our revenue sharing receipts are now just a fraction of what we spend on Major League payroll, let alone all of the other dollars that we spend on scouting, player development and other baseball investments, several areas in which we are among the League leaders in spending. Thus, the Commissioner is well-equipped to address whatever ’concerns’ the Union now has over the Pirates’ effort to win.”

    1:33pm: The Major League Baseball Player’s Association has raised concern with the commissioner’s office regarding the Marlins and Pirates, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had recently reported that the union was considering the idea of going to commissioner Rob Manfred with their concerns.

    The root of the union’s concern is whether the two teams are appropriately reinvesting the money that they receive under the league’s revenue-sharing program, both Jackson and Passan noted in their reports. The MLBPA issued the following statement to Jackson:

    “We have raised our concerns regarding both Miami and Pittsburgh with the Commissioner, as is the protocol under the collective bargaining agreement and its revenue sharing provisions. We are waiting to have further dialogue and that will dictate our next steps.”

    As Jackson notes, it wouldn’t be the first time that revenue-sharing concerns regarding the Marlins were raised. A similar scenario occurred back in 2010, at which point Miami did (briefly) increase its spending; the Marlins rolled out their first $100MM+ payroll in 2012,  the debut season of a taxpayer-funded stadium in Miami, only to conduct a massive firesale the following offseason.

    Jackson reports that the Marlins are set to receive roughly $60MM in revenue sharing profits this season and could take home as much as $160MM from the league between that sum, the $50MM BAMTech payout that all 30 clubs are receiving and the national television contract. At present, we have the Marlins projected for a $97MM payroll in 2018, though there are likely still moves on the horizon that would impact that bottom line. The Marlins could very well find an offer to their liking for star catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Jackson also reports that Starlin Castro has asked the team to be traded. (It’d already been reported that he was “hoping” for a trade out of Miami, though this is a more formal declaration of his preference.)

    Neither the Marlins or Pirates have signed a free agent to a Major League deal this offseason; instead, the teams have been largely focused on trading away big league assets. Miami has shipped out Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Yelich, shedding more than $40MM of payroll in the process. Even with all of those dealings, the Marlins still haven’t reached their target of a $90MM payroll, though moving Castro (and possibly Realmuto) would get them to said point.

    The Pirates, meanwhile, have traded Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, though their focus on acquiring MLB-level assets and the remaining presence of players like Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco seemingly indicates that they’re not embarking on an aggressive tanking endeavor in the same manner as the Marlins.

    Pittsburgh seems like a better candidate to step out into the open market and add a mid-range player or two. Beyond the aforementioned focus on MLB-ready assets is the fact that the Pirates have recently opened the season with payrolls in the $95-100MM range but currently projects to just a bit over $85MM in 2018. Obviously, no one would expect Pittsburgh to be a player for a top-tier free agent, but a modestly priced upgrade for the back of the rotation, the outfield or the bullpen nonetheless seems plausible.

    The Commissioner’s Office has not yet released any kind of statement on the matter, though the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that Manfred can impose penalties onto clubs that do not appropriately reallocate their revenue sharing profits. Per the CBA, the commissioner’s office can also:

    “…require a Club to submit a plan for its financial performance and competitive effort for the next two years. Such a plan must include a pro forma financial presentation that specifies its attendance, revenues, payroll, player development expenditures, non-player costs, and capital spending. The Commissioner, after consultation with the Players Association, may direct the Club to change aspects of its plan, including the level of competitive effort reflected in the plan, or take other actions as he considers appropriate (including escrow of a portion of a Club’s revenue sharing payments).”

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Could Pirates Keep Josh Harrison?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113072 2018-01-23T06:23:15Z 2018-01-22T23:54:26Z
  • There has been speculation all winter long that the Pirates would trade Josh Harrison, especially after the team dealt key veterans Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole and Harrison suggested he might like to be the next man out the door. But there are some contrary indications. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has indicated the Pittsburgh organization is still angling to put a winner on the field in the near term, though he hardly ruled out a swap. And a rival GM tells Gammons (see the above link) that he thinks it’s actually increasingly likely that Harrison will remain aboard the Bucs’ ship. Since the bulk of the value brought back in the McCutchen and Cole trades is at or near the MLB level, the club may prefer to keep the useful Harrison in the fold, Gammons’s source suggests.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Ryan Lavarnway To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113054 2018-01-22T19:15:42Z 2018-01-22T19:11:20Z
  • The Pirates announced a slate of non-roster invitees to Spring Training today, including catcher Ryan Lavarnway, whose minor league deals had not been previously reported. Lavarnway, 30, has appeared in parts of six big league seasons with the Red Sox, Orioles, Braves and Athletics. He spent the 2017 campaign in the Oakland organization, though he appeared in just six games at the Major League level. Lavarnway is a career .201/.262/.318 hitter through 420 MLB plate appearances, but he’s logged a much more palatable .274/.365/.421 slash in parts of seven seasons at the Triple-A level. Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings are all ahead of Lavarnway on the 40-man roster, so he’ll likely head to the minors to begin the year if he sticks with the Pirates through all of Spring Training.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Pace Of Play, Prospects, Orioles, McCutchen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113051 2018-01-22T18:55:54Z 2018-01-22T15:56:26Z In his latest column for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal chats with five playersMax Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Paul Goldschmidt, Jerry Blevins and Chris Iannetta — about their concerns over the proposed 20-second pitch clock and their more general thoughts on the league’s pace of play initiatives. All of the players express a willingness to change and acknowledge that they’re in favor of speeding up the game to an extent, though none voiced support of a clock. Iannetta states that the clock “fundamentally changes the way the game is played,” while Goldschmidt shares some concerns he’s heard from Double-A and Triple-A players that have played with the clock but found it to be a headache.

    “In some cases, I heard of ways around the rule,” says Goldschmidt. “You could kind of gimmick it. You could slow down the game. You could step off. It wasn’t like it just forced guys to throw pitches a lot quicker. There was a lot of gray area guys weren’t comfortable with.” Both Scherzer and Blevins, meanwhile, expressed some frustration with the fact that they’re routinely on the mound ready to go but have to wait an additional 20-30 seconds for commercial breaks to end. It’s an interesting read for those who have strong feelings, one way or another, on the newest slate of proposed rule changes to the game.

    A few more notes from around the league…

    • It’s prospect ranking season! Baseball America rolled out their 2018 Top 100 list today, headlined by Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna in the top spot. Of course, the decision was far from easy for them, and the BA staff explained the decision process at length in a separate post for BA subscribers. As JJ Cooper, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser, Josh Norris and Matt Eddy explain in great detail, there were feelings among the BA staff that any of Acuna, Shohei Ohtani or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could have been the No. 1 overall prospect this season. Among the factors considered when trying to reach a consensus were the age-old position player vs. pitcher debate as well as Acuna’s proximity to the Majors relative to Guerrero.
    • Meanwhile, over at ESPN, Keith Law published the first half of his Top 100 prospects today. There are several notable players that have been traded in the past year on the back half of the list, including Sandy Alcantara (whom the Marlins received as the headliner in the Marcell Ozuna swap), James Kaprielian (who went to the Athletics as part of last July’s Sonny Gray trade) and Franklin Perez and Daz Cameron (who went to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander blockbuster). Angels fans will be heartened to see four entrants on the list — Jahmai Jones, Chris Rodriguez, Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell — as their once lowly farm system begins to build back up.
    • Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com looks at the Orioles’ need for a left-handed-hitting outfielder to balance out the lineup and runs down a list of players that have “intrigued various members of the organization.” That includes Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and Nori Aoki, according to Connolly, in addition to other names that have been recently mentioned (e.g. Jarrod Dyson). Trey Mancini and Adam Jones figure to be in the outfield regularly, but the Orioles’ hope is that they can acquire a defensively superior option to Mark Trumbo to slot into right field, thus pushing Trumbo to DH.
    • In a fantastic column for the Players’ Tribune, Andrew McCutchen bids an emotional farewell to the city of Pittsburgh, which he writes “will always be home” and “will always mean everything” to him. McCutchen recounts the overwhelming experience of the standing ovation he received at the Pirates’ final home game of the season last year, as Bucs fans recognized that they may never see him in a Pirates uniform again. He also shares his experience of finding out about the trade, with credit to Neal Huntington for how he handled the process. Fans of the Pirates, Giants and baseball in general will all want to check out the column in its entirety.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Fan Base, Rivero, Harrison, Trades, Kang]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112944 2018-01-20T15:20:46Z 2018-01-20T15:20:46Z There’s some unrest in the Pittsburgh fan base regarding the team’s recent trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Madasyn Czebiniak of TribLIVE.com highlights the story of lifelong Pirates fan Jason Kaufman, who started a change.org petition to force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team. The following excerpt gives a pretty good feel for the petition’s tone: “Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better.” As of 9:00am on Saturday, the petition had over 52,000 signatures; well over the seating capacity of PNC Park. Kaufman is gaining plenty of social media attention with his movement, and has even been interviewed by local radio station WTAE. “We’re tired of the ’same-old, same-old’ saying: ’We’re in this for a championship’ when you’re really not,” Kaufman said. “Don’t tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you’re not doing anything to improve the team.”

    While Kaufman acknowledges that there’s almost zero chance the petition could ever actually prompt Nutting to sell the team, the 43-year-old Kaufman believes the petition is to show the front office that there’s a collective anger towards the front office. He even goes so far as to compare the McCutchen trade to a “death in the family,” saying that the five-time All-Star’s value isn’t just about how he performs on the field, but what he does for the community.

    A few other recent items out of Pittsburgh…

    • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some insightful quotes from Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in regards to his recent extension. He signed the contract at least in part for his level of comfort in the clubhouse and his interest in being relaxed for the next few years. In the reliever’s own words, “It’s not about the money.” Apparently, his sister Prescilla was heavily involved in the negotiations, reportedly even more so than his agent. And it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the McCutchen and Cole trades did not have any effect on the negotiations between he and the Bucs. Rivero came to the Pirates in July of 2016 as part of the return for Mark Melancon. Last season, the left-hander turned in a 1.67 ERA and a 3.03 xFIP. He collected 21 saves following his takeover of Pittsburgh’s closer role in June.
    • In a late response to Josh Harrison’s comments revealing a desire to be traded, Pirates GM Neal Huntington expressed that he wants the team to win “sooner than later” (via Adam Berry of MLB.com). “We love Josh’s passion, love the fire and what he’s done for this team and this organization,” Huntington said. “We want what’s best for this organization.” Yet although he attempts to differentiate the team’s moves from a rebuild, it’s interesting that he describes the 2018 club as “a group of players that’s going to show up every day to defy the odds.” It’s hard to imagine that these comments will ease Harrison’s mind about the Pirates’ ability to compete in the coming season. The 30-year-old infielder can be controlled through the 2020 season.
    • Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports offers a defense of the Pirates’ blockbuster trades, offering some praise for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. In discussing Moran’s value, Heyman adds that he was slated to be a key piece in a trade for Zach Britton before the Orioles cancelled the deal. However, it seems as though the Bucs could have landed a better return for McCutchen had they traded him last offseason, as they reportedly had an offer from the Nationals that included Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito.
    • Jung Ho Kang is making another push to return to MLB, Sung Min Kim of Sporting News tweets. The former Pirates infielder has allegedly arrived in the Dominican Republic in order to apply for a work visa. Kang last played in the majors in 2016, when he collected 21 homers in 370 plate appearances while posting a .255/.354/.513 slash line while playing third base for the Bucs.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Acquire Engelb Vielma]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112887 2018-01-18T23:51:11Z 2018-01-18T23:51:11Z The Giants have acquired infielder Engelb Vielma from the Pirates, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports on Twitter. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first tweeted that Vielma was on the move; he had been designated for assignment recently.

    This’ll be Vielma’s second stop in San Francisco — on paper, at least. He is one of several names that has already bounced from roster to roster via minor trades and the waiver wire this winter, as typically occurs for players that are on the margins of 40-man roster viability. For Vielma, this is the fourth time he has changed hands since September.

    Whether the 23-year-old will end up sticking with the Giants organization remains to be seen. The club could still expose him to waivers again in an attempt to stash him as a non-roster player. Even if he makes it into camp on the 40-man, Vielma will no doubt need to show he’s worthy of continuing to occupy a roster spot.

    Known as a high-end defender who can handle shortstop, Vielma has not yet demonstrated that he’ll hit much when he ultimately reaches the game’s highest level. He was placed on the Twins’ 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in advance of the 2017 season, but went on to slash just .229/.273/.280 in 455 total plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Extend Felipe Rivero]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112681 2018-01-18T17:18:00Z 2018-01-18T16:15:52Z Jan. 18: The Pirates have formally announced the extension.

    Jan. 15: The Pirates have agreed to a four-year deal with closer Felipe Rivero, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). The deal, which will buy out all of Rivero’s arbitration seasons, is believed to guarantee Rivero about $22MM in total, per Rosenthal. It also contains a pair of club options over what would have been his first two free-agent seasons. Interestingly, Rosenthal notes that it’s unclear if an agency was involved in the negotiations. Rivero had recently hired Scott Boras to represent him, though this is the type of extension to which the Boras Corp is typically averse.

    Felipe Rivero | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Rivero will earn $2.5MM in 2018, $4MM in 2019, $5.25MM in 2020 and $7.25MM in 2021. The deal also comes with a $2MM signing bonus, and his contract contains a pair of $10MM options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The 2022 option comes with a $1MM buyout, and the 2023 option has a $500K buyout. In all, that totals the $22MM sum Rosenthal suggested, though the contract would top out at $41MM over six years should both options be exercised.

    Certainly, the timing of the deal comes as something of a surprise. The Bucs, in the past week, have traded longtime top starter Gerrit Cole to the Astros and shipped face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for righty Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.

    The Rivero deal, though, serves an indicator that the Pirates aren’t necessarily eyeing a full tear-down of the roster but are instead intent on turning some (relatively) high-priced and short-term assets into controllable pieces in an effort to manage payroll and re-establish a core of cost-effective young parts. It’s understandably not a popular approach among Pirates fans, but it’s a reality the Bucs have had to accept under current ownership and with one of the league’s worst TV contracts (which reportedly affords them only about $20MM annually — though that deal is nearing its expiration).

    In some respects, the timing of these moves is reminiscent of the Pirates’ salary dump of Francisco Liriano, which was quickly followed up by an extension for veteran third baseman David Freese. The long-term deal for Rivero may ever so slightly lessen the sting of losing both McCutchen and Cole in the eyes of Pirates fans, though it’s nonetheless a difficult sequence of events for Pittsburgh faithful to stomach.

    While the extension for Rivero technically does enhance his trade value, it now seems unlikely that he’ll be moved anytime in the near future. The Bucs now have cost certainty over Rivero for more than half a decade, and his salary won’t even climb higher than $6MM until the 2021 campaign. The Pirates can assuredly hang onto Rivero for the foreseeable future and be confident that he’ll retain plenty of trade value, barring a massive injury or unforeseen decline.

    The latter of those two scenarios seems unlikely, as Rivero has looked legitimately dominant since being acquired in the 2016 deadline trade that sent Melancon to the Nationals. (A trade that, much like Pittsburgh’s recent trades, emphasized MLB-ready talent with extended team control.) In 102 2/3 innings with the Pirates, Rivero has worked to a pristine 2.10 ERA with 11.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a grounder rate right around 50 percent. Rivero’s swinging-strike rate jumped to an enormous 15.8 percent, and his average fastball checked in north of 98 mph.

    His extension comes on the heels of a similar deal for the Padres’ Brad Hand, another southpaw closer, though Rivero’s $22MM guarantee tops the $19.75MM that Hand pulled in, and the two are in different service classes. Rivero’s deal, it seems, is a record for a pitcher in his service class and is the fourth-largest ever agreed to by a reliever at any point in the arbitration process, trailing only Craig Kimbrel, Brad Lidge and Huston Street (MLBTR Extension Tracker link). Of course, that’s largely because relievers are volatile enough that teams don’t often make them the target of long-term deals in their pre-arb and early arb years.

    While the contract’s standing in historical context is among the strongest for an arb-eligible reliever, it nonetheless stands out as a strong deal for the Pirates. It’s not uncommon for upper-tier relievers to clear $10MM annually in their final years of arbitration, but Rivero will make a combined $12.5MM in his final two arb years.

    Rivero figures to continue to hold down the ninth inning for the Pirates, anchoring a relief corps that features Daniel Hudson, George Kontos and A.J. Schugel. Pittsburgh’s bullpen will also very likely feature newly acquired righties Michael Feliz (picked up in the Cole trade) and Kyle Crick (McCutchen trade), and there’s room for further additions of the Pirates feel there’s value remaining on the free-agent market for relievers.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Mets' Interest In Josh Harrison]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112841 2018-01-18T05:28:10Z 2018-01-18T05:27:12Z
  • At today’s press conference to reintroduce Jay Bruce, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson suggested to reporters that his team likely has the budget to make one more notable addition (link via Ken Davidoff of the New York Post). Alderson confirmed recent reports that his preference would be to sign a free agent rather than make a trade. “If we were to try to improve in that area, I think we prefer to sign a free agent, only because it doesn’t require us to give up talent,” the GM said. Alderson acknowledged a trade as a possibility, adding that while his farm isn’t as strong as it once was, the Mets do still have players that have drawn interest from other clubs. There have been suggestions that young outfielder Brandon Nimmo could be on the table if the Mets and Pirates discuss a Josh Harrison trade, though the Post’s Mike Puma tweeted today that the Mets “aren’t particularly enthusiastic” about the idea of trading Nimmo for Harrison.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Meadows, Outfield, Crick, Reynolds]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112822 2018-01-17T23:26:03Z 2018-01-17T23:26:03Z
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down some potential candidates for the Pirates’ outfield — both external and internal — in the wake of the Andrew McCutchen trade. Pittsburgh will likely be on the lookout for a right fielder, with Starling Marte headed to center field and Gregory Polanco shifting to left. Austin Meadows, according to Biertempfel, will head to Triple-A to open the year regardless of how well he plays in Spring Training. (One club source indicated to Biertempfel that Meadows could “hit .900 in Spring Training” and still be ticketed for the minors.) That’s not especially surprising when considering that Meadows posted an ugly .250/.311/.359 slash in his first exposure to Triple-A last year.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law offers his opinion (subscription required and recommended) on the Pirates’ trade for McCutchen, whom he calls a “great” pickup for the Giants, given the putrid output they received from their outfield in 2017 and the low bar that McCutchen has to clear. While neither Kyle Crick nor outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds is an elite young talent, Law opines, Crick offers a potential long-term option in the bullpen and is the type of arm that can “sometimes turn to gold via the alchemy of baseball” despite his history of below-average command (a trait that he did improve in 2017). He calls Reynolds “very interesting,” adding that he considered Reynolds’ to be San Francisco’s second-best prospect at the time of the trade.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Acquire Shane Carle]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112820 2018-01-17T21:25:03Z 2018-01-17T21:25:03Z The Braves announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Shane Carle from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Pittsburgh had designated the 26-year-old Carle for assignment over the weekend in order to clear space on the roster for the players acquired from Houston in the Gerrit Cole trade.

    Carle made his Major League debut with the Rockies in 2017, tossing four innings and surrendering three runs on six hits and no walks with four strikeouts. It’s not a lengthy sample, to be sure, but Carle’s fastball averaged a healthy 93.6 mph in that short time. The 2013 10th-round pick (by the Pirates) spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A in Colorado, where he struggled to a 5.37 ERA in a hitter-friendly setting. Carle averaged 7.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 with a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in Albuquerque — his second go-around at that level.

    Though the Pirates were the team to initially draft Carle, this is the second time they’ll trade him away to another organization. Pittsburgh traded him to Colorado in exchange for righty Rob Scahill about 18 months after he was drafted, only to pluck him back off waivers earlier this winter when the Rockies cut him loose. Carle has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Braves can send him to Triple-A this spring without needing to expose him to waivers. Atlanta already had an open spot on its 40-man roster, so no corresponding move was necessary in order to accommodate Carle. The Braves’ 40-man roster is now at capacity.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mets Were Unwilling To Include Nimmo In McCutchen Talks]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112786 2018-01-17T03:04:05Z 2018-01-17T03:04:05Z
  • Prior to being traded to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen was a known target of the Mets in trade talks. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic shines some more light on the matter (subscription required and strongly recommended), reporting that New York wouldn’t part with outfielder Brandon Nimmo for a one-year rental of McCutchen. New York still believes Nimmo will develop into a quality big leaguer, though Rosenthal adds that the team believes he could be part of a package in talks with the Pirates regarding Josh Harrison. The 24-year-old Nimmo, who was selected 13th overall in the 2011 draft, hit .260/.379/.418 with five homers and a pair of steals in 215 plate appearances as a rookie last season. It would seem that if the Mets are to entertain the notion of moving him, they’d prefer multiple years of control over whichever more established asset they acquire in his place.
  • Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears the same as Rosenthal, reporting that the Mets would indeed be willing to include Nimmo in a trade that would pry Harrison away from the Pirates. However, she adds that the Mets would not part with Dominic Smith in order to obtain Harrison, even with Gonzalez in the fold for 2018 and Bruce (who figures to see some time at first base) locked up through 2020. Ackert adds that the Mets were approached about Smith in multiple trade negotiations this winter but weren’t inclined to include him in any of the proposed scenarios. She also notes that Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes are among the team’s potential infield targets in free agency.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Josh Harrison Suggests Pirates Trade Him If “Team Does Not Expect To Contend”]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112745 2018-01-16T20:45:10Z 2018-01-16T20:28:42Z In the wake of the recent trades that shipped Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole out of Pittsburgh, speculation has turned to the status of veteran Josh Harrison — another player that has long been mentioned as a candidate to be dealt. The veteran utilityman issued his thoughts on the matter today to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

    After discussing his affinity for the team, city, and fans — as well as for the departing players — Harrison laid down a challenge of sorts to the Pirates front office. While he framed it as an expression of what might be “best for the organization,” Harrison seemingly conveyed a clear interest in being dealt if the club is not serious about putting a winner on the field. The full comments are available at the above link, but this seems to be the key passage:

    [T]he GM is on record as saying, ‘When we get back to postseason-caliber baseball, we would love our fans to come back out.’ If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded.

    Of course, just what “expect to contend” might really mean is open to some interpretation. The organization’s top leadership emphasized in the wake of the trades that it still sees the roster as a possible contender. While those comments are themselves worthy of skepticism, there’s room for debate as to just how the Cutch/Cole swaps will impact the team on the field — and time left for further developments to impact the overall picture. What the trades clearly do not portend, in and of themselves, is a full-blown rebuild; both players, after all, were within a year or two or free agency and the deals returned mostly MLB-level talent.

    Interestingly, at least one of the players received, infielder Colin Moran, could help the team cover in the infield if it decides to send Harrison elsewhere. Talks involving the versatile, well-rounded performer have been ongoing over the winter, so a trade wouldn’t be surprising, regardless of the comments he issued today. The Pittsburgh front office no doubt anticipated some disappointment from its remaining veterans — not to mention a more vehement push-back from the fanbase and media — when it moved these core players.

    That said, the Bucs likely don’t face a clear financial imperative to make a move, so far as is publicly known. The team currently has less than $85MM on its books for 2018 after moving most of the relatively significant salaries of McCutchen and Cole. Having opened the last two seasons within sight of $100MM in payroll obligations, there’s some breathing room to work with even with Harrison on the roster. He’s owed $10MM for the coming season and can then be controlled with successive club options ($10.5MM and $11.5MM, with a total of $1.5MM in buyouts).

    Of course, that assessment of the money situation assumes the club is not preparing to draw down its outlay. In truth, that’s not really clear yet. Cashing in players who are getting older, more expensive, and closer to free agency is a longstanding ritual for smaller-market teams that otherwise would struggle to remain competitive without suffering through lengthy rebuilding stretches. But there are several ways to go while remaining mindful of the need to always keep the future in mind.

    Just what the Bucs have in mind currently — a period of salary retrenchment and roster reloading? at least some reinvestment of free payroll on other assets? etc. — is still not entirely know. In a way, how they proceed with Harrison may be the evidence we need to understand the very intentions and expectations that his comment references.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Notes On Pirates Plans Following McCutchen Trade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112740 2018-01-16T18:04:53Z 2018-01-16T17:12:36Z In an Insider post, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney provides some worthwhile perspective on the Pirates’ recent moves, arguing that the organization would be perceived much differently had its 2013-15 postseason appearances gone differently. Some may scoff at the idea that this excuses anything: had the team been better, perhaps, it might’ve achieved playoff glory; that it did not does not bear directly on present decisions. That’s true enough, but it’s also valid to note that a few moments in a few games drastically altered the bigger picture of Pittsburgh baseball, which in turn has impacted the way many will now view the trades of key veterans Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Olney’s juxtaposition of the Bucs with the Royals — whose own postseason successes followed lesser regular-season accomplishments than those of the Pirates, and turned on some magical moments — seems largely apt. Of course, that doesn’t really reduce the sting for the fans. (It’s also fair to note that, for better or worse, Kansas City mostly kept its best veterans around through the ends of their contracts.) It’s an interesting piece worth a read for subscribers.

    • Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
    • As Olney notes in his column and tweeted yesterday, many in the industry expect the Pirates to continue working on trades for veteran players. In particular, Josh Harrison could be on the move — a possibility that has been talked about for much of the winter. The versatile utilityman will surely hold appeal to numerous other organizations, though the full scope of his potential market is not entirely clear at this point.
    • Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Acquire Andrew McCutchen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112657 2018-01-16T01:09:07Z 2018-01-15T23:34:37Z 5:34pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Pirates are covering $2.5MM of McCutchen’s $14.75MM salary.

    5:25pm: It became all the more clear on Monday that Pirates fans are looking at the end of an era, as the team announced that face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen has been traded to the Giants (along with cash considerations) in exchange for young right-hander Kyle Crick, outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds and $500K worth of international bonus pool space.

    Andrew McCutchen | MLBTR Photoshop

    Outfield help has been a priority for the Giants all offseason after last year’s collective unit combined to bat .253/.311/.374 in more than 2000 plate appearances. Inserting McCutchen into that mix should provide a significant boost on the offensive side of the equation, as the 31-year-old turned in a very strong rebound campaign at the plate in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with 28 homers (his highest total since hitting 31 back in 2012).

    Of course, questions about McCutchen’s glovework persisted in 2017 — and it should be noted that the Giants’ outfield defense was the worst in baseball last year. San Francisco outfielders combined to post an MLB-worst -45 mark in Defensive Runs Saved, and they ranked just 28th with a -11.4 Ultimate Zone Rating. The since-traded Denard Span played no small role in those shortcomings, but McCutchen’s marks of -14 and -4.5 in those respective stats  don’t exactly stand out as an indicator that an extensive amount of help is on the defensive horizon.

    If the Giants were to play McCutchen in an outfield corner, perhaps he could post more meaningful contributions in that regard. At present, he figures to line up in center field, though the Giants could yet play McCutchen in left field and acquire a cost-effective center field option with a stronger defensive reputation (someone in the mold of Jarrod Dyson, speaking from a speculative standpoint).

    However, it’s important to note that there may not be room for the Giants to make much of an addition. San Francisco will add more than $9MM to its luxury tax ledger by picking up the final year of McCutchen’s deal, which should place them roughly $7MM from the threshold. San Francisco has reportedly been aiming to remain under the tax cap in order to reset its penalty level.

    [Related: Updated San Francisco Giants depth chart & San Francisco Giants payroll]

    For the Giants, McCutchen is the second notable veteran bat the team has landed via trade this offseason. San Francisco also picked up Evan Longoria in a trade that sent Christian Arroyo, Span (plus the remaining year of his contract) and a pair of minor league pitchers to the Rays. Depending on their willingness to either shed additional payroll or pivot and exceed the luxury tax for a fifth consecutive season, those two big-name acquisitions could prove to be the Giants’ primary offseason acquisitions.

    The McCutchen agreement comes just days after the Pirates shipped right-hander Gerrit Cole to the reigning World Champion Astros, further signaling a transitional period in Pittsburgh, though the pair of trades does not necessarily indicate that a full-scale tear-down is on the horizon for the Bucs. Both Cole (controlled through 2019) and McCutchen (a free agent next winter) were short-term and relatively high-priced assets — especially for a Pirates team that operates on a notoriously thin budget.

    McCutchen is slated to earn $14.75MM in the final season of his contract, whereas Cole had settled at $6.75MM in order to avoid arbitration. The Pirates, then, will be saving a combined $21.5MM with this pair of swaps — money that could, in theory, be reinvested into the 2018 roster. The Pirates have, after all, opened each of the past three season with payrolls in excess of $90MM but now project for a payroll of roughly $82MM in 2018. The Bucs could further reduce that 2018 commitment if the team ultimately finds a trade partner for infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison; the versatile veteran is slated to earn $10MM this season and, like Cole and McCutchen before him, has been an oft-mentioned trade candidate this offseason.

    [Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart & Pittsburgh Pirates payroll]

    Kyle Crick | Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

    The 25-year-old Crick was the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft and ranked among baseball’s top 100 prospects from 2013-15, per various reports. While his rise through the minors was slowed by control issues, he had a strong year in 2017 after converting to the bullpen on a full-time basis.

    In 29 1/3 innings of relief in Triple-A, he posted a 2.76 ERA with 12.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 44.3 percent ground-ball rate. That strong run led to Crick’s big league debut with the Giants; in 32 1/3 innings in the Majors, he logged a 3.06 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and a 37.9 percent ground-ball rate. Crick’s 95.5 mph average fastball velocity and 11 percent swinging-strike rate both pointed to the potential for his big league strikeout rate to catch up to the more impressive level he flashed in Triple-A.

    Crick is controllable through the 2023 season, so he’ll join a lengthy list of controllable assets the Bucs received in the Cole trade as a potential long-term piece that can step directly onto the roster.

    “Kyle Crick is a physical, Major League-ready right-handed reliever who brings a high-velocity, live fastball complimented by a quality slider to potentially pitch in a late inning role for the Pirates,” said Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “Kyle’s power arsenal has resulted in a high strikeout rate complimented by inducing a lot of weak contact. After his first exposure to the Major League level last season, Kyle appears ready to take the next steps in what should be a productive career as a high leverage Major League relief pitcher.”

    Reynolds, 23 later this month, was the Giants’ second-round pick in 2016 and just wrapped up a strong season in Class-A Advanced, where he hit .312/.364/.462 with 10 homers, 26 doubles and nine triples in 540 trips to the plate. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had him fourth among Giants prospects, while Baseball America ranked him fifth among San Francisco farmhands just a few weeks ago (before the Arroyo trade, meaning he’d now rank fourth on their list as well).

    “Bryan is an effective offensive player that also plays quality defense,” said Huntington. “We look forward to working with Bryan to maximize his tools and help him become a quality well-rounded Major League player who can impact a game in many ways beyond his quality bat.”

    As for the Pirates’ immediate future in the outfield, it’s not yet entirely clear how they’ll fill the void. Starling Marte seems likely to slide over from the corner outfield to center field, which should be a defensive upgrade over the life of a full season. Top prospect Austin Meadows showed in 2017 that he’s likely not yet ready for the Majors — Meadows hit just .250/.311/.359 in Triple-A — so the Bucs could turn to a platoon of 26-year-old Adam Frazier and veteran utility man Sean Rodriguez in left field for the time being.

    Alternatively, Pittsburgh could wait out the free agent market and see if any veterans become available on bargain deals. The corner outfield market has no shortage of experienced options (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), and some of those names will undoubtedly have to settle for one-year deals later this winter.

    Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported that talks between the two sides were picking up (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the two sides had reached an agreement (Twitter link). Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweeted that Crick was in the deal. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweeted that Reynolds was likely to be a part of the deal, and The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly confirmed as much. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported that the Pirates would pay some of McCutchen’s salary.

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Giants’ Pursuit Of Outfielders]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112653 2018-01-15T21:54:09Z 2018-01-15T20:13:26Z The Giants and Pirates are engaged in “serious talks” regarding outfielder Andrew McCutchen, according to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter link). At the same time, San Francisco is said to have “gotten more serious” in discussions with free agent Lorenzo Cain, in the words of Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), though he also cautions the sides aren’t close to an agreement.

    It has long seemed possible that the Giants could end up landing either of these two veteran players. Certainly, the connections aren’t new. That reports have emerged on both in near proximity could be interpreted in various ways.

    Regarding McCutchen, the Pirates and Giants have reportedly discussed him in the past, though obviously nothing has come together to this point. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area looked at the connection today as well, including the fact that the San Francisco front office has hoped the Gerrit Cole trade might free up chatter on McCutchen, who is owed $14.5MM in his final season of contract control. Per Pavlovic, the Bucs’ demands to this point have been too rich for the Giants.

    It’s possible to view the offseason developments to date from both organizations as a lead-up to a deal involving McCutchen. The Giants, who’d rather not part with draft picks as compensation for signing a qualifying-offer-bound free agent, have already traded for Evan Longoria, so there’s little question they are pushing to return to contention in 2018. And the Pirates’ recent trade of Cole clearly indicates the organization is willing to move on from highly-paid stars. McCutchen has long seemed a more obvious trade piece than was Cole.

    At the same time, it’s too soon to rule out Cain. Both players could certainly fit on the same roster; at present, only Hunter Pence — himself a question mark after a shaky 2017 season — is firmly in place in the outfield. (Our sister site, Roster Resource, currently places Steven Duggar and Jarrett Parker atop the Giants depth chart in center and left.) Of course, doing so would mean ponying up significant cash as well as prospect assets. Even if the Giants were able to secure a nice price for Cain, they’d almost surely end up flying past the luxury line and he’d unquestionably require draft compensation. Getting Cutch, too, will require only a one-year commitment but will mean parting with at least some young assets.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Grading The Gerrit Cole Swap]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112627 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z Gerrit Cole is a highly visible player — a former first overall pick who landed fourth in the National League Cy Young vote in 2015 — so it’s natural there will be strong opinions about the return he drew in the recent swap between the Pirates and Astros. We have already seen a variety of industry opinions pour in (see here, here, here, and here), but I thought it’d be worth taking the temperature of the MLBTR readership.

    There’s little reason to full describe the elements of the agreement. (MLBTR’s Conny Byrne discussed all relevant elements in detail in his post on the Cole trade.) But here’s a brief account for purposes of facilitating today’s poll:

    Astros receive:

    • 2 years of control over SP Gerrit Cole ($6.75MM for 2018; arbitration for 2019) — following aforementioned 2015 season, Cole was limited by injury in 2016 and pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in a healthy 2017 season

    Pirates receive:

    • 4 years of control over RP Michael Feliz — carries 5.13 ERA (allowing 1.5 HR/9) through 121 MLB innings, but has averaged 12.8 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9
    • 5 years of control over SP/RP Joe Musgrove — former first-round pick has been tagged for a .288/.339/.506 slash and 5.37 ERA over 25 MLB starts, but worked to a 1.26 ERA with 39:6 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings last year after moving to the bullpen
    • 6 years of control over 3B Colin Moran — former sixth overall draft pick slashed .308/.373/.543 with 18 home runs in 338 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, but has yet to receive significant time in the majors
    • 6 years of control over OF Jason Martin — 22-year-old reached Double-A for first time in 2017, slashing .273/.319/.483 with 11 home runs in 320 plate appearances

    Since there are two teams involved with their own set of needs, we’ll ask for grades from each organization’s perspective. For Pittsburgh, clearly, the move was designed to add multiple assets that can deliver value over a longer time frame. If even one of these players really succeeds, it could end up standing as a win. Also of note: the Bucs are said to have passed up a chance at gaining one higher-grade prospect (Clint Frazier of the Yankees) in order to add several contributors.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    On the Houston side, it’s all the more clear. The team resisted parting with its own blue-chip prospects, but gave a variety of useful pieces up to acquire just two seasons of Cole. If one views him as even a quality and durable mid-rotation starter, and does not think the assets parted with will come back to haunt the ’Stros, then this could be seen as a bargain. On the other hand, there are some questions surrounding Cole and it is not difficult to imagine one or more of the more controllable assets sent to Pittsburgh delivering greater value than will Cole’s final two arb years.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Reportedly Liked Clint Frazier Better Than Anyone They Acquired For Gerrit Cole]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112608 2018-01-15T05:55:48Z 2018-01-15T05:55:48Z The Yankees were reportedly willing to part with outfield prospect Clint Frazier in a trade for then-Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole earlier this offseason, but no deal come together between the teams. Although Pittsburgh ended up trading Cole to Houston on Saturday for a four-player package, the Pirates valued Frazier over everyone they got back from the Astros, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. However, the Pirates liked the package they got from the Astros better than the offers the Yankees made, including a final pitch from the Bombers that consisted of three prospects, per Bowden (Twitter link).