Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth

Offseason In Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates spent much of the winter trying to insulate themselves against the potential departures of players who had been keys to their successful 2013 and 2014 seasons. In the end, they spent surprisingly heavily, given their usual thriftiness, signing two familiar starting pitchers and adding a high-profile but largely untested Korean infielder.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

  • None

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Pirates lost catcher Russell Martin, a key to their franchise-changing 2013 and 2014 campaigns and a bargain to the franchise when he signed following the 2012 season for two years and $17MM. Martin headed to Toronto at a dramatic markup, with the Pirates receiving only a draft pick in return. In Martin’s place, the Bucs acquired former Yankees backstop Francisco Cervelli, who has struggled to stay healthy and isn’t likely to hit nearly as well as Martin did, since Cervelli’s strong offensive performance in a small sample last year was largely BABIP-fueled. Via StatCorner, however, Cervelli and backup Chris Stewart have both ranked as above-average pitch framers in each of the last four seasons, potentially giving the Pirates an edge that won’t be reflected in their catchers’ offensive numbers. Cervelli and Stewart aren’t likely to replace Martin’s .290/.402/.430 2014 season at the plate, but they could approximate Martin’s value behind it at a fraction of the cost.

The Bucs also faced uncertainties in their rotation, given that Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez were eligible for free agency. The Bucs re-signed Liriano for $39MM, more than doubling Martin’s record for the organization’s largest ever free agent contract. To some extent, the Pirates paid heavily for their own handiwork, as their combination of framing, defensive shifts and strong coaching had helped Liriano rebuild his value after he posted consecutive seasons with five-plus ERAs in 2011 and 2012. But the Bucs needed pitching, and there were few better bets on the market, with Brandon McCarthy the only pitcher in the Pirates’ presumed price range who might have been as good a fit for their ground-ball-heavy approach. Liriano’s price was reasonable, too, given that McCarthy and Ervin Santana, pitchers in a similar tier, each got four years and more money (although it should be noted that McCarthy, unlike Liriano and Santana, did not require the loss of a draft pick).

The Pirates’ replacement for Volquez (another pitcher whose value skyrocketed thanks in part to the Bucs’ planning and coaching) fell into their laps in November, when A.J. Burnett told his agent he was only interested in playing in Pittsburgh. Burnett had rejected a $12.75MM player option to remain in Philadelphia, and he took a significant discount to return to the Pirates. Burnett’s peripherals declined with the Phillies, and at 38, he’ll be hard-pressed to repeat his excellent performances with Pittsburgh 2012 and 2013. Like Liriano and Volquez, though, he’s a good fit for the Pirates given his ground ball tendencies and the Bucs’ defense and ballpark, so some rebound from his disappointing, hernia-plagued 2014 season is likely.

The Pirates also allowed Clint Barmes, a light-hitting shortstop whose good glove was often a crucial part of the Bucs’ swarming infield defense, to leave for the Padres via free agency. With Jordy Mercer remaining as the Pirates’ starter, the Bucs first aimed to replace Barmes’ glove by collecting low-cost infielders, including Sean Rodriguez, Justin Sellers, Pedro Florimon and Jake Elmore (who is already out of the organization). Rodriguez, who can also play the outfield, still looks like a fit for the Pirates’ bench, but the Bucs’ plans for the others likely changed in December, when they unexpectedly won the bidding for Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang. The Bucs then signed Kang to a four-year deal with an option for 2019.

It’s hard to tell what to expect of Kang, the first position player from the KBO to arrive in US baseball via the posting system. The 27-year-old posted a ridiculous .356/.459/.739 line with Nexen in 2014, although the KBO is an extremely hitter-friendly league with a competition level significantly lower than that of the Majors, and there are questions about Kang’s ability to handle shortstop in the big leagues. He’ll likely start the season as a bench option for the Pirates. If he proves he can handle big-league pitching, however, he might not stay there. Mercer has never been a star, first baseman Pedro Alvarez is strikeout-prone and erratic, second baseman Neil Walker has struggled to stay healthy, and third baseman Josh Harrison is versatile and can be moved back into his previous super-utility role, so there could be opportunities for Kang to start at some point in the future.

Kang wasn’t the only player from the KBO the Pirates added, also signing Dominican pitcher Radhames Liz, who pitched for the LG Twins from 2011-2013, to a cheap one-year deal. Liz started in Korea, but the Pirates have already suggested they’re likely to use him in relief — not a surprise, given the 31-year-old’s live arm and history of control issues.

To make up for the departure of lefty Justin Wilson in the Cervelli deal, the Bucs traded lefty prospect Joely Rodriguez to the Phillies for Antonio Bastardo, who they’d also reportedly pursued at the 2014 trade deadline. As a fly ball pitcher, Bastardo doesn’t match the Pirates’ usual pitcher type, but he whiffed 11.4 batters per nine innings last season and should give the Bucs an effective second lefty to pair with Tony Watson.

Finally, the Pirates signed Corey Hart to a cheap deal to provide a right-handed bat at first base and in the outfield. Hart effectively replaces Gaby Sanchez, who struggled while serving as the right-handed side of an underwhelming platoon with Ike Davis in 2014. Hart himself missed the entire 2013 season due to injury and had a terrible 2014 in Seattle, but he was well above average in three straight seasons before that, so he might have some upside that Sanchez doesn’t. At $2.5MM (plus some incentives for plate appearance thresholds he isn’t likely to reach), Hart poses little risk.

Questions Remaining

The Bucs have few obvious holes, but it’s unclear whether they have the talent necessary to topple the Cardinals and hold off the Cubs in the NL Central. (And while the Brewers and Reds aren’t as likely to contend, they won’t be complete pushovers either.) With the departure of Travis Snider in a deal with the Orioles, the Bucs will lean heavily on Gregory Polanco in right field. Polanco, who has stratospheric upside, should certainly start, but he struggled in his rookie season in 2014. He has more than enough talent to make the necessary adjustments, but if he doesn’t, the Pirates’ outfield picture could get interesting, particularly if Kang proves he’s good enough to start somewhere in the infield — in that case, Kang could take over at third with Harrison moving to right.

The Pirates’ new first base platoon of Alvarez and Hart might or might not pan out. Alvarez, who had to be moved off third after a series of throwing misadventures last season, has barely played his new position. And then there’s his offense — he’s only two years removed from a 36-homer 2013 campaign, but he has strikeout issues that dramatically limit his ability to hit for average. He improved his plate discipline in 2014, but his new approach perhaps cost him power, as he went from one home run every 17 plate appearances to one every 25. He’s set to make $5.75MM in his penultimate season before free agency eligibility, and this year could be his last in a Pirates uniform, since the arbitration process threatens to pay him more than he’s worth.

The Pirates will also have to determine who belongs in their rotation. Liriano, Burnett and Gerrit Cole are easy choices, along with Charlie Morton, as long as Morton remains on track after having hip surgery late last season. After that, there’s Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, both of whom are out of options. Worley was the better of the two last season, posting a 2.85 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, so he could take over the fifth spot. Locke is too valuable to designate for assignment and probably isn’t ideally suited to relief work, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Pirates trade him near the end of Spring Training if all their big-league starters are healthy. If they did, it would make sense to get a starting pitcher who has options. The Bucs’ rotation depth took a hit in early March when it was revealed that Brandon Cumpton, a starter on the 40-man roster who figured to begin the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, needed to visit Dr. James Andrews.

The Pirates’ biggest problem, though, is that they’ll have to make up for some individual performances they probably won’t get again. Cervelli is capable, but he’s not Martin. Harrison produced an out-of-nowhere 4.9-WAR season that he’s unlikely to repeat, given his previous performance record, although his breakout was fueled in part by an increase in his line-drive rate that’s probably sustainable to some degree. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Neil Walker had terrific seasons as well. Breakouts from Polanco or Cole would help offset likely declines at other positions. If flame-throwing rookie reliever John Holdzkom can pitch as well over a full season as he did for the Pirates in September, that would help, too.

Deal of Note

USATSI_7997081_154513410_lowresThe Pirates spent most of the offseason accumulating veteran talent where they could, but they went in the opposite direction when they traded Travis Snider to the Orioles for pitching prospects Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault. They had traded two young pitching prospects, Joely Rodriguez and Buddy Borden, in previous offseason deals, so their return in the Snider deal allowed them to replenish their farm system. But it still seemed like an odd trade — even with the left-handed Polanco projected to take over for the Snider in right field, Snider had a clear role on the team as the Bucs’ only projected lefty bench option. Snider hit a solid .268/.338/.438 and produced 1.7 fWAR in just 359 plate appearances last season, so his loss is a significant one, at least on the surface.

Many projection systems think Snider and minor-leaguer Andrew Lambo will produce at about the same rate next year, though, and Snider had never previously had a big-league season like the one he had in 2014. So perhaps the Pirates thought they sold high on Snider while clearing a space for Lambo, who clobbered Triple-A pitching for the second consecutive season last year. And while trading Snider for prospects seems like the behavior of a rebuilding team, not a contending one, GMs increasingly seem to be pursuing multiple goals at once — not just trying to win now or just trying to win later, but trying to do both at the same time.

Overview

Pirates GM Neal Huntington, his front office, and the Bucs’ coaching staff have now produced two straight teams that were better than they appeared to be on paper. The Pirates target pitchers who induce buckets of ground balls, then get the most out of what seem to be average infield defenses with expert positioning. Add in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and the NL’s lack of the DH, and many Pirates pitchers during the last two years — Burnett, Liriano, Volquez, Charlie Morton, Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes — were probably as likely to succeed with the Pirates as with any other team in baseball. The way the Bucs help pitchers, chronicled in detail in Travis Sawchik’s forthcoming book Big Data Baseball, is specific and sophisticated enough that certain types of pitchers — ground-ballers who can pitch into the Bucs’ shifts — give the Pirates a significant edge on their competition. The number of pitchers it even makes sense for them to pursue in any given offseason is thus fairly small.

Because of their pitcher support system, the Pirates have a good chance at continued success in the future despite payrolls that most of their fans still find frustratingly low. They have a collection of relatively cheap pitching that they are ideally suited to nurture. They have a franchise player, Andrew McCutchen, who’s under control for four more years thanks to one of the most team-friendly contracts in the game, and an emerging star in Starling Marte who’s signed to a team-friendly deal of his own. The Bucs also have one of baseball’s better farm systems, with Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon set to join their rotation by 2016 and Josh Bell perhaps set to take over for Alvarez and Hart at first base around then. By 2018, after which McCutchen is eligible to depart via free agency, maybe those players will be part of a Pirates core headed by Marte, Polanco and Cole.

2014-2015 was about as flashy as Pirates offseasons get, and yet, by the standards of most other teams, they did very little. In fact, with Martin gone, they probably even downgraded. But the Pirates’ plans don’t center on flashy offseason moves. Or, as Huntington puts it, “We’ll never win the offseason.” They probably won’t head into any season in the near future as a favorite to win the World Series, or perhaps even as a runaway favorite to win their division. But they do look like they could continue to contend for the next several seasons, 2015 included.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: International Draft, Viciedo, Rollins

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is not yet willing to endorse an international draft, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. “The idea of a worldwide anything or an international anything in a lot of ways sounds great in theory,” Clark says. He adds, though, that “to simply take a system that appears to work — and I say ‘appears’ purposely — appears to work in one place and plop it down in another is a dangerous proposition.” Clark suggests that the draft seems to work reasonably well in the U.S. and Canada, where players have high school degrees or even some college, and can therefore approach the draft from an educated perspective. Latin American players, though, often sign at much younger ages. Clark does add, though, that an international draft will be a “topic of discussion.” Here’s more from around the game.

  • The Blue Jays‘ minor-league deals for Dayan Viciedo and Johan Santana aren’t risky, but those two players could cost over $9MM with incentives if the Jays do roster them. With that in mind, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm wonders why the Jays signed Viciedo and Santana (who presumably have some chance of making the team, and therefore earning their big-league salaries) rather than pursuing bullpen help. The Blue Jays made some big moves early in the offseason when they acquired Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, but have been quiet lately, even though their bullpen is a bit thin. A cheap deal for someone like Burke Badenhop or Joba Chamberlain might have made sense, Chisholm suggests.
  • On a related note, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons doesn’t seem overly enthused about the Viciedo addition, John Lott of the National Post writes. “He was available,” says Gibbons. “He’s got some big-league time in. Been successful, to a certain extent. Bring him to camp, see what he is.” Viciedo will play first base and third base in camp, as well as left field.
  • Rule 5 pick David Rollins is excited to compete for a job as the second lefty out of the Mariners‘ bullpen behind Charlie Furbush, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com writes. Manager Lloyd McClendon doesn’t want a lefty specialist, but rather someone who can work multiple innings. That role might work for Rollins, who started 12 games last year for Double-A Corpus Christi in the Astros’ system.

NL Notes: Gordon, Burgos, Stewart, Preller

Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon is a better bet than projection systems indicate, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues. Steamer and PECOTA foresee regression for Gordon next season, but Rosenthal points to examples of late-blooming speedy players like Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and Tom Goodwin as evidence that Gordon (who didn’t start playing baseball until he was a junior in high school) ought to be able to retain some of the improvements he made in the first half of last season. Rosenthal also suggests being traded from Los Angeles to Miami might be good for Gordon, in that he’ll get to work with top infield instructor Perry Hill with the Marlins. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Diamondbacks prospect Enrique Burgos‘ current GM, Dave Stewart, was also his agent before the Dbacks hired him last September. Burgos credits Stewart for helping him improve last season, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Burgos walked 50 batters in 46 1/3 innings with Class A South Bend in 2013, but he took a new attitude with him to Class A+ Visalia last year and halved his walk rate while posting 13.7 K/9 in 54 2/3 innings of relief. “Before, a lot of people would tell me that I looked so nice on the mound,” says Burgos. “But with the stuff that I have, I can’t be nice. That was one of the things [Stewart] told me. You have to think you’re the man up there, instead of being so nice.”
  • Fellow GMs thought new Padres executive A.J. Preller would be aggressive, but his ultra-busy offseason took the rest of baseball by surprise, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The fact that the Padres hired Preller in August gave him time to figure out how best to remake his team, his former boss and Rangers GM Jon Daniels says. “I think the fact that he got in early gave him the chance to truly evaluate what they had and make this decision that people didn’t anticipate,” says Daniels. “I think the assumption was they might trade some of their pitching and build the system, especially with his background in the amateur markets. That’s where I give him a lot of credit. He said, ‘No, we can win right now,’ and did it in a creative fashion.”


Minor Moves: John Axford, Mark Rogers

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

  • The Rockies have selected the contract of reliever John Axford and moved pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the 60-day disabled list, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. That the Rockies would add Axford isn’t surprising — when they signed Axford to a minor-league deal last month, MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted that it was likely Axford would make the team. Axford’s addition to the 40-man is significant, given that he’s set to make $2.6MM in the Majors, with the possibility of making up to $1.5MM more with incentives. Axford posted a 3.95 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 in 54 2/3 innings with the Indians and Pirates last season, offering his usual blend of strikeout stuff and control troubles.
  • The Rangers have signed right-hander Mark Rogers to a minor league contract, tweets EPSN’s Jerry Crasnick. Rogers, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Brewers and a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2005 and 2006, has seen his career derailed by shoulder injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. The 29-year-old made two appearances last year for the Mariners‘ Triple-A affiliate before being released. He then hooked on with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League making 18 starts with a line of 4.17 ERA, 4.6 K/9, and 6.2 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings. Rogers’ last MLB action came in 2012 with the Brewers.

NL Notes: Shields, Guerrero, Marlins

James Shields is already providing value to the Padres, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “Having him in here is going to be super valuable for this pitching staff,” says Tyson Ross. Shields has impressed the Padres with his attitude and his preparation — he’s already showed many of his teammates his personal book of scouting charts on opposing players. Ross and Robbie Erlin add that they’re looking forward to watching Shields work to see how he stays so durable — Shields has pitched over 200 innings in eight straight seasons, and as Lin notes, Ian Kennedy is the only other Padres starter who’s reached the 200-inning threshold. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Infielder Alex Guerrero is facing a crucial year in Dodgers camp, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes. Guerrero, who’s now in the second year of a four-year deal, cannot be optioned to the minors this season without his permission, so if the Dodgers don’t find space for him on their active roster, they’ll have to to trade or release him. “I don’t want to go down. I’m not going down,” Guerrero says. “I feel like I can get better here at this level and play every day. I think that’s what every player wants.” Guerrero, 28, hit well at Triple-A last season even given the offense-heavy environment at Albuquerque, batting .329/.364/.613 in 258 plate appearances. The Dodgers have a crowded middle infield, however, with Justin Turner and Darwin Barney also available to back up Howie Kendrick at second base, and there are questions about Guerrero’s defense.
  • The Marlins still have plenty of prospect depth despite their offseason trades, president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Marlins dealt Andrew Heaney, Austin Barnes, Anthony DeSclafani and others this offseason, but they still have top 2014 pick Tyler Kolek, along with Justin Nicolino, Trevor Williams, Avery Romero and other solid prospects. Catcher J.T. Realmuto and pitcher Jose Urena top their list of prospects further up the chain. “We have a lot of upper level prospect depth,” says Hill.

East Notes: Hart, Hardy, Belisario

John Hart had to be persuaded to take over the Braves GM job, but team president John Schuerholz is excited about the work Hart and likely successor John Coppolella have done so far, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “The combination of John Hart and John Coppolella has been dynamic, absolutely dynamic,” says Schuerholz. “The work those two have done, in tandem, has been sensational.” This offseason, Hart and Coppolella have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis in an attempt to add young talent. The timing was right for the Braves to re-tool, Hart says. “The Nationals are in their perfect window right now. The Marlins are getting better. If you’re going to take, if you will, sort of a regroup year, this would be a good one.

  • When J.J. Hardy traded power to remain in the everyday lineup last season, he may have hurt his earning potential. Hardy is unsure if he would have re-signed with the Orioles had he not dealt with a painful back injury last season, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore inked Hardy to a three-year, $40MM extension during the playoffs last year. Hardy was aware of the trials suffered by Stephen Drew and former teammate Nelson Cruz in the previous offseason. Qualifying offers to both players left clubs wary about signing them. Hardy opted to forgo the experience entirely, although he also says he’s happy in Baltimore.
  • Rays non-roster invitee Ronald Belisario injured himself climbing out of a pool earlier in the winter, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The reliever fractured his non-throwing shoulder prior to signing with the Rays a month ago. He didn’t have the injury checked out until he reported to camp. Belisario is on a split contract that would pay $1.5MM if he makes the team. Since he won’t be on the field for at least two weeks, his chances of breaking camp with the team look small. This injury probably explains why his deal with the Blue Jays fell through.

Phillies Notes: Rollins, Herrera, Oliver, Aumont

Former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins viewed the Dodgers as his number one choice for a new club, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. But if a deal hadn’t been reached, Rollins would have considered a trade to the division rival Mets. Rollins said, “I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there.” Rollins clarified that he’s unsure if he would have ultimately accepted a trade to New York. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that the Mets inquired about Rollins in November but were told he would not accept a trade.

  • The Phillies are working quickly to evaluate Rule 5 picks Odubel Herrera and Andy Oliver, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Herrera will start in the outfield and Oliver will pitch an inning of relief as the Phillies take on the University of Tampa in an exhibition Sunday. Neither Herrera, who posted good on-base percentages in the Rangers system, nor Oliver, a hard-throwing but wild lefty from the Pirates organization, expected to wind up with the Phillies. “This is a good opportunity for me,” says Oliver. “I feel like I’m in a better place than where I came from.”
  • In addition to Oliver, Phillippe Aumont and non-roster invitee Jeanmar Gomez could make the opening day bullpen due to transactional reasons, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. The Phillies acquired Aumont in 2009 as part of the haul from the Mariners for Cliff Lee. He’s the lone remaining asset from that trade and is out of options. If he does not make the club, he’ll be subject to waivers. Gomez, 27, would have to earn a spot on the 40-man roster, but the club isn’t in a position to pass on viable major league pitchers. He has a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances over the last two seasons, although his peripherals suggest we should expect something closer to a 4.00 ERA.

AL Notes: Rodon, Hamilton, Zito

Top 2014 White Sox draft pick Carlos Rodon could receive more attention in Spring Training with ace Chris Sale out with an avulsion fracture, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Chris Beck, Scott Carroll, Brad Penny and Francellis Montas could also get extra looks. GM Rick Hahn emphasizes, however, that the timing of Rodon’s eventual promotion to the big leagues will be dictated by how ready he is, not by a vacancy in the rotation. After racing through the minor leagues and getting all the way to Triple-A after signing last year, Rodon appears close to being ready, although he only has a total of nine minor-league outings under his belt. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The terms of Josh Hamilton‘s likely suspension following his relapse are, clearly, secondary to the relapse itself, and what’s most important is Hamilton’s recovery. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes, though, that the impending suspension could have implications for the Angels‘ payroll. The team will save about $126K for every day Hamilton is suspended. They’ll also save the prorated portion of the Hamilton contract’s $25MM average annual value against the luxury tax threshold. It’s probably too late for them to use any of that money on free agents, but Gonzalez notes that they could spend it on players they add in-season. Gonzalez also writes that Hamilton’s suspension would begin at the start of the season, when he could still be rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
  • Barry Zito will appear in his first game action since 2013 when he faces the Cubs in Cactus League action on Thursday, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Zito is in camp on a minor-league deal with the Athletics after taking a year off following the Giants’ decision to decline his 2014 option. “I have a fresh perspective,” he says. “I’ve got my passion back, and I just want to continue to work hard and go out and enjoy competing. I guess you could say I’m competing against all these guys, but for me, it’s more about competing against myself.”

Quick Hits: Japanese Signees, Phillies, McCutchen

This season will mark the first since 1995 that features no new players from Japan, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby notices. Heading into the offseason, Hiroshima Carp pitcher Kenta Maeda looked like the most likely to make the leap to the Majors, but the Carp decided not to post him. Then infielder Takashi Toritani, who also looked like a candidate to cross the Pacific, re-signed with Hanshin. For the last decade, Japanese players have arrived at a rate of about three per season, with Masahiro Tanaka and Tsuyoshi Wada (who actually signed with the Orioles prior to the 2012 season) making their debuts last year. Here’s more from around the league.

  • Phillies pitchers Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon top the list of players who could be dealt before Opening Day, MLB.com’s Jim Duquette writes. Lee will need to prove he’s healthy after missing time due to an elbow injury last season. Last week, he faced hitters for the first time since July. Duquette lists the Dodgers, Marlins and Blue Jays as possibilities for Papelbon. The reliever has a limited no-trade clause, but last week he expressed interest in pitching for the Blue Jays.
  • Andrew McCutchen‘s current $51.5MM contract with the Pirates, which tops out at a mere $14MM per season before the Bucs get a $14.5MM team option in 2018, is one of the most team-friendly in the game. But that doesn’t mean it’s turned out badly for McCutchen, GM Neal Huntington tells MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “It has worked out well for him. He is a very wealthy young man,” says Huntington. “He has been open about saying that the financial comfort and security freed him up to just go play. He didn’t have to worry about the risk of injury, or the risk of not performing. The contract has been a part of why he became such a great player.” Huntington goes on to point out that teams assume risks when they sign players to long-term deals, and even if a contract results in a player being underpaid, as is the case with McCutchen, he’s free to sign a bigger deal once his contract is over.

Minor Moves: Jesus Pirela

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Rangers have signed righty Jesus Pirela, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy writes. The 25-year-old Pirela spent five seasons in the Phillies organization, then ultimately wound up pitching for Veracruz last season and becoming one of the best relievers in the Mexican League, posting a 1.51 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 53 2/3 innings. Eddy notes that the Rangers scouted him in the Mexican Pacific Winter League this offseason.