Brandon Finnegan Rumors

Reactions To Johnny Cueto Trade

After months of speculation, the Reds finally parted ways with pitcher Johnny Cueto.  On Sunday, the Reds and Royals finalized a deal that sends Cueto to KC for pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed.  In this deal, the Reds landed two lefties who could blossom into mid-rotation starters and a third lefty who can be placed in the back of their rotation right away, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America writes.  Here’s a look at some of the reactions to the Cueto deal..

  • It’s unlikely that the Reds will reacquire Cueto in free agency this winter, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.  Rosecrans wouldn’t be surprised to see the Reds make a run at Mike Leake – another rumored trade candidate – this winter, but he doesn’t expect that reunion to happen either.
  • Cueto told reporters “It’s a good trade. But I am sad,” Nick Groke of The Denver Post tweets.
  • If Cueto gets the Royals where they want to go in 2015, it won’t matter whether he stays or leaves, Richard Justice of MLB.com writes.  GM Dayton Moore definitely weakened his farm system, but Cueto gives them a chance to win big this year.
  • One AL scout told Jack Magruder of The Sports Xchange (on Twitter) that Reed is the sleeper in the deal.  That scout sees Reed’s future as a reliever and also feels that Finnegan best fits in a bullpen.
  • Finnegan and Lamb will head to Triple-A, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.  Finnegan will be used as a starter.
  • The Reds did well in the deal considering that Cueto is a rental, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweets.  Finnegan and Lamb, he says, both need more time to develop but they both have upside.
  • The Reds got a great return, but this was a deal the Royals had to make, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.
  • Here’s a sneak peek at what Cueto might look like in his new Royals jersey, from our official Instagram page.  For the latest from MLBTR on Instagram, follow us today – @traderumorsMLB.

Royals Acquire Johnny Cueto From Reds

The Reds announced that Johnny Cueto has been traded to the Royals for left-handed pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed.  The Reds are also sending cash considerations to KC, according to the Royals’ press release.

Cueto, 29, is months from his first shot at free agency, and the fourth-place Reds were been rumored to be shopping him for a while now. Along with the Royals, the Dodgers and Blue Jays were among teams that have been connected to Cueto. However, KC has come out on top.

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Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Cueto impressed in his final start as a member of the Reds when he threw eight shutout innings at Coors Field on Saturday night.  Just minutes prior to the game, the right-hander wasn’t sure if he’d even be getting the start.  The possibility of a KC trade apparently was so close last night that pitcher Michael Lorenzen had been warming up before the game, prepared to take Cueto’s place.  The deal fell through, for a time, but the two teams reconnected Sunday morning to complete a swap.

Cueto has been a rumored trade candidate for some time now but the Reds were apparently reluctant to move any of their key pieces before this year’s All-Star Game, which was played in Cincinnati.  Now that the All-Star festivities are in the rear view mirror and the Reds are at 43-52, there was little reason for them to hang on to the ace.  Cueto is earning a relatively modest $10MM salary in 2015, of which less than $4.3MM remains.

Through 19 starts this season, Cueto has posted a 2.62 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.  For his career, Cueto has posted a 3.21 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 across eight seasons with the Reds.  Cueto didn’t get to pitch in front of his fans in this year’s All-Star game but he did earn an All-Star nod in 2014, his best complete season to date.

Finnegan, a left-hander, was rated as the No. 55 prospect in the nation by Baseball America heading into the 2015 season.  In seven starts and four relief appearances this season between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Finnegan has posted a 5.00 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 6.3 BB/9.  Those numbers aren’t impressive, but they also came in a limited sample size of 27 innings.  At the big league level this year, Finnegan owns a 2.96 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 14 relief appearances.

Rated as the No. 18 prospect in the country by Baseball America prior to 2011, the 25-year-old Lamb has ascended the ranks of KC’s farm system but has yet to make his big league debut.  Tommy John surgery in 2011 kept him from pitching for the better part of two seasons and slowed his development.  So far this season, however, he’s looking sharp in Triple-A Omaha, pitching to a 2.67 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 17 starts. In years past, BA has praised Lamb for his control and changeup.

Reed, a left-handed reliever, has split his time between Advanced-A ball and Double-A this year.  Across 15 starts and three relief appearances, the 2013 second-round pick has pitched to a 2.53 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.

The agreement was first reported byKen Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  Details added by Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter), Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter), Mark Sheldon of MLB.com (on Twitter), and John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter).


AL Central Notes: Graham, Pelfrey, Salazar, Finnegan

Word in the scouting community is that the Twins made a great Rule 5 pick-up in righty J.R. Graham, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets. Graham was once a top-100 prospect with the Braves, who would receive him if he cannot stick with Minnesota or another club for the duration of the year. He scuffled in his second attempt at Double-A last year, throwing 71 innings (including 19 starts) of 5.58 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 3.3 batters per nine.

Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the AL Central:

  • The Twins might benefit from shipping Mike Pelfrey to a team that needs starting depth in exchange for a lefty pen piece, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey is, however, owed $5.5MM this year, which as Berardino notes would stand to complicate any trade efforts. The 31-year-old righty recently spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his situation, saying that he feels good and is preparing to embrace whatever role he is given.
  • The Indians optioned righty Danny Salazar to Triple-A today, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. The 25-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance — in thirty career big league starts, he has struck out more than ten and walked less than three per nine — but has yet to put it all together and struggled badly this spring. With 162 days of service to his name, Salazar will pick up a year of service so long as he spends any real amount of time in the bigs, though a prolonged stint in the minors could jeopardize his ability to qualify as a Super Two down the line. Zach McAllister, T.J. House, and Josh Tomlin are now the three arms in the mix for the club’s final two rotation spots.
  • Also headed back to the minors is Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan, as Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports. A draft pick turned late-season star in 2014, Finnegan had a rough go in his first big league camp and will also benefit from the chance to develop as a starter. “We just thought it was better for him to go down,” said manager Ned Yost. “He had a huge workload last year. He hasn’t been real sharp in Spring Training. Just get him back down, get him going again. And have him ready for whenever we need him.” Of course, the club intends to be careful with limiting Finnegan’s workload, so it remains to be seen how much impact he can have at the major league level. Then again, the loss of Tim Collins leaves the club relying on Franklin Morales and Brian Flynn as pen lefties, so it is not hard to imagine a need arising. Finnegan has 28 days of service thus far, so a few months in the minors would likely keep him shy of a full year of credit.


AL Central Notes: Dozier, Tigers, Finnegan

It’s already been a busy day for AL Central news.  We’ve learned Corey Kluber and the Indians aren’t close in contract negotiations, MLBTR’s Zach Links has a pair of interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan and right-hander Mike Pelfrey, and Minnesota also grabbed headlines by inking second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20MM extension.  Here’s even more from around the division…

  • Dozier, Ryan, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony and Dozier’s agent Damon Lapa discussed the contract during a press conference today (Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the details).  The two sides discussed extensions of up to eight years in length, but they instead settled on a deal that only covers Dozier’s arbitration years and doesn’t include any club options.  “In Brian’s case, we felt it important to restrict the club’s ability at the back end of the contract to have any options or anything like that,” Lapa said.  “To us that resulted in a shorter term, but we feel in the long run that’s in Brian’s best interests. It preserves his ability to hit free agency on time at 31 as opposed to some of the other players who will be in their mid-30s.”
  • While retaining the ability to test free agency was a key point for Dozier, he made it clear that he would like to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota.  He’s quite open to a future extension with the team and “hopefully this [contract] is a stepping stone for something possibly even longer.”
  • “There are rumblings some talks are in the works” between David Price and the Tigers about an extension, Tony Paul of the Detroit News writes.  Price said two weeks ago that there hadn’t been any negotiations between the two sides but he expected the club to approach him before the start of the season.
  • Also from Paul’s piece, he suggests the Tigers should explore extending J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos now in order to gain cost certainty over the young players, pick up another year or two of team control and possibly score a bargain if they keep producing.  While I’m sure the Tigers would take a team-friendly figure if they could find it (especially with Martinez coming off a huge 2014 season), they might be more inclined to wait a bit longer to make sure of what they really have in either player.
  • Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan will begin the season at Double-A, the team announced yesterday.  Finnegan, the Royals’ first-round draft pick last July, was fast-tracked to the majors after just 27 minor league innings and he made some important bullpen appearances for K.C. during their playoff run. There was some question as to whether Finnegan would pitch out of the Royals’ bullpen again on Opening Day or if he’d continue developing as a starter at Triple-A, though GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the move to Double-A was made because “we’re still learning about Brandon.”  Pitch counts and workload were also factors, though Moore was pleased with how Finnegan accounted for himself while in the bigs.

Central Notes: Floyd, Cingrani, Morales, Harris

Indians right-hander Gavin Floyd, who re-fractured his right olecranon last week, is set to have surgery on Tuesday, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Floyd, who has pitched sparingly over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and the original olecranon fracture in his right elbow, was expected to serve as a veteran presence in a largely inexperienced Indians rotation after signing a one-year, $4MM deal. Now, however, Cleveland is unlikely to receive any contribution from Floyd this year.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani is being shifted from the rotation to the bullpen, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as most figured the left-hander would step into the rotation following the trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Cingrani has worked as a starter in the past and racked up excellent strikeout numbers, but he’s had shoulder issues as well, so perhaps the team feels this will keep him healthier. Cuban right-hander Raisel Igesias, meanwhile, will be stretched out to work as a starting pitcher.
  • Franklin Morales is building a strong case to take the injured Tim Collins‘ spot as a left-hander in the Royals‘ bullpen, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Morales has fired six scoreless innings and impressed Kansas City decision-makers. Brandon Finnegan is a well-regarded prospect and could have a shot at making the team, but the team still would like to develop him as a starter and he also hasn’t pitched as well this spring. No final decisions have been made on the situation, writes McCullough.
  • The Tigers added another player to camp yesterday when they reportedly signed Jiwan James, and another addition may on the horizon as well. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the team may add veteran infielder Brendan Harris, presumably on a minor league deal. The 34-year-old Harris is a career .256/.314/.381 hitter in the Majors, with his best seasons coming between the Twins and Rays in 2007-08. Harris hasn’t played in the Majors much since 2010, however, receiving just 117 plate appearances with the Angels and hitting .206/.252/.355.

Injury Notes: Darvish, Minor, Collins, Edgin, Turner, Wieters

There is a silver lining to the Yu Darvish injury for the Rangers, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. In short, if Darvish undergoes a UCL replacement, he will be nearly certain not to trigger any of the award-based opt-out provisions in his contract. Thus, while Texas would lose his services for 2015, they would in all likelihood gain him for 2017 — when, it might be hoped, the team will be in better shape for contention.

We have already seen significant injury news relating to four other pitchers today, and that’s not all:

  • The Braves got a positive update on starter Mike Minor as Dr. James Andrews concurred with club orthopedist Javier Duralde that an MRI showed no structural issues with Minor’s left shoulder, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Minor will nevertheless sit out at least two weeks to rest his arm, and president of baseball operations John Hart says that the team will likely turn to internal options to fill in.
  • Andrews will take a look at another arm tomorrow when Tim Collins of the Royals checks in, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. An MRI has already showed ligament damage to his left elbow. The final determination of whether he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery could have fairly significant ramifications for the club not only this year but into the future, as youngster Brandon Finnegan could be pressed back into relief duty.
  • Another club with a possible LOOGY issue is the Mets, whose top southpaw reliever Josh Edgin will undergo an MRI after experiencing a velocity drop and elbow soreness, as The Record’s Matt Ehalt reports. Missed time from Edgin would figure to pose difficulties given the team’s relative dearth of southpaw depth. As Ehalt explains, Scott Rice is in on a minor league deal and provides an option, while Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin is joined by fellow youngsters Jack Leathersich and Dario Alvarez on the 40-man roster.
  • Jacob Turner of the Cubs has been shut down with a flexor strain and bone bruise in his right elbow, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers tweets. The out-of-options Turner was probably destined for the Chicago ‘pen after the club claimed him off waivers late last year and picked up his $1MM option for 2015. It would appear that a DL stint will likely be in the cards for the start of the year, which in some ways gives the team more flexibility to give Turner a chance to start during a rehab period.
  • Orioles backstop Matt Wieters is just one week away from getting back behind the dish for a spring game, as Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. Nearing a full return from Tommy John surgery, Wieters has already advanced to throwing to second at as much as 80% in practice. Given the rehab process he has just endured, the free agent-to-be says that his next contract is not where his focus is at present, as Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes.

Quick Hits: Vogelsong, Royals, Lee, Erasmo

Ryan Vogelsong seemed to be on the verge of signing with the Astros before he eventually rejoined the Giants, and the righty hinted that there was something unusual about how negotiations broke down with Houston.  According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the issue was that after agreeing to sign Vogelsong to a one-year, $4MM deal, the Astros wanted to pay Vogelsong less after viewing the results of his physical.  Both Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and Vogelsong’s agent Dave Meier declined to comment to Heyman about the situation.

Here’s some more from around the baseball world…

  • The Royals are focused on winning now, which could change their handling of prospects Brandon Finnegan and Christian Colon, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes.  There is “a pretty healthy discussion going on within the Royals’ organization” about Finnegan, who could be a key left-handed bullpen weapon for K.C. this season, though such usage could also hurt his development as a future starter.  A similar argument could be made about Colon and whether he’d be better served playing every day at Triple-A or coming off the Royals’ bench as a utilityman.
  • Though he has a 2016 option that vests if he pitches 200 innings, Cliff Lee is entering his last guaranteed year under contract.  The Phillies southpaw told reporters (including David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News) that he’s hasn’t thought about what lies beyond the coming season.  “We’ll see what it brings,” Lee said.  “I definitely do not want to go out the way things happened last year, I don’t want that to be the way I finish my career, but at the same time I’m not going to sit there and try to fight that to get it done. I want to go out there and have fun and feel good and make it be a positive thing instead of it be a battle physically.”
  • Erasmo Ramirez is facing a roster crunch, as the out-of-options righty doesn’t appear to have a clear path to either a rotation or bullpen role with the Mariners, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes.  The M’s don’t want to lose Ramirez but Dutton hears from multiple rival officials that Seattle stands little chance of sneaking Ramirez through waivers and down to the minors.  The Mariners also don’t stand to get much of a return in a possible trade, as one rival exec rhetorically asks, “How much are you going to give up for a guy who is likely to be on waivers in a few weeks?
  • The Giants will certainly monitor the market for right-handed hitting outfield bats in the wake of Hunter Pence‘s injury, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes, though the club won’t jump to make a move.
  • Using 2014 attendance figures and Forbes’ evaluations of franchise values, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards calculates each team’s “expected payroll” to see how clubs spend in relation to their markets.  The Tigers outspend their market by the most while the Yankees rank last, though Edwards explains that ranking is slightly misleading since luxury tax payments aren’t factored into the equation.
  • Besides division rivals or intra-market rivals, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOX Sports) looks at other pairs of teams that rarely seem to make trades with each other.
  • Injuries to several relievers could result in one or two young arms getting a shot in the Diamondbacks‘ Opening Day bullpen, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes.

Central Notes: Morales, Finnegan, Castillo, Pirates, Marshall

While it may seem curious to some that the Royals are adding relief arms such as Franklin Morales because of the perceived strength of their bullpen, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes that the bullpen isn’t as deep as the team would like. The Royals are hoping for a return to form from Luke Hochevar, but he’s less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Tim Collins and Louis Coleman each posted FIP marks of 4.80 or higher with poor strikeout-to-walk ratios, and other candidates such as Rule 5 pick Jandel Gustave, journeyman Joe Paterson and reclamation projects Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton offer little certainty. While 2014 top pick and late-season bullpen weapon Brandon Finnegan is an option, the club still wants to develop him as a starter, which likely means more time in the minors.

Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Finnegan, for his part, tells McCullough that he would prefer to open the season with the Royals as a reliever than go back to the minor leagues as a starting pitcher (Twitter link). Of course, it’s not surprising that he’d prefer to remain with the Major League club any way that he can, however, as McCullough points out, it’s also not his decision. Certainly, Finnegan’s long-term value to the club would be increased were he able to make it as a starting pitcher, and he may not have to wait that long for a shot, as Jeremy Guthrie can become a free agent next winter.
  • While some players will admit that a trade suits them best when their path to playing time becomes obscured, Welington Castillo tells Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that he hopes to remain with the Cubs even after their acquisitions of Miguel Montero and David Ross (Twitter link). Castillo looks to be an expensive and perhaps superfluous third catcher at this stage, and there have been some indications that the 27-year-old may find himself with a new team before Opening Day.
  • Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette argues that the Pirates should have found a way to avoid arbitration with Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Vance Worley rather than ending up in hearings that resulted in a savings of a mere $50K. While Cook is accurate that the money saved was minimal, GM Neal Huntington explained via email that the team’s goal was “to simply explain why the club’s submitted salary is a more accurate salary for the player based on other comparable past and current players than the player’s submitted salary.” I’d add that teams feel a sense of responsibility to the rest of the league to manage arbitration salaries, as the arbitration process is based largely on statistical comparables.
  • Reds lefty Sean Marshall has had a minor setback in recovery from his June shoulder surgery and isn’t throwing from the mound yet, he tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. However, Marshall is pleased with how his offseason has progressed and isn’t concerned about having to slow things down a bit. The 32-year-old has pitched just 24 1/3 innings since signing a three-year, $16.5MM extension with Cincinnati, though he was among the game’s elite left-handed relievers the three seasons prior (2010-12).

AL Central Notes: Hughes, Tomas, Petricka, Finnegan

Phil Hughes‘ excellent season with the Twins has been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for Minnesota, and his final start on Wednesday had plenty of significance. Hughes whiffed five hitters and walked none, giving him an 11.63-to-1 K/BB ratio on the season — a new Major League record. However, it rained in Minneapolis for a little over an hour after the eighth inning, causing Hughes’ start to end even though he had thrown just 96 pitches. That caused Hughes to fall an unthinkable one out shy of a $500K bonus — an incentive he would have triggered upon reaching 210 innings. As Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com tweeted after the game, manager Ron Gardenhire said Hughes will not pitch in relief this weekend in order to reach the $500K bonus — meaning that poor weather (Hughes also had a Sept. 13 start rained out) will likely cost him half a million dollars. Hughes told Bollinger that he was very aware of what he needed to do Wednesday in order to secure his final contractual incentive but took the terrible luck in stride, saying, “Some things aren’t meant to be.” Hughes did earn $250K worth of bonuses for reaching both 180 and 195 innings, bringing his 2014 salary to $8.5MM.

More from the AL Central…

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Chris Iott of MLive.com that the Tigers had scouts on hand to see Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic this past Sunday, but he wouldn’t tip his hand as to whether or not his club was scheduling a private workout with the slugger. The Rangers and Phillies have both had private workouts with Tomas, who was the subject of MLBTR’s first Free Agent Profile of the upcoming offseason. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Tomas for seven years and $105MM — a contract that would be a record-setter in terms of total guarantee and average annual value for a Cuban player.
  • While the White Sox figure to add to their bullpen this offseason, Jake Petricka has carved out a role as future member of the group, writes Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. The 26-year-old Petricka has seen time in the closer’s role this season, converting 14 of 18 save opportunities and pitching to a 2.88 ERA in 72 innings. While he doesn’t have an elite strikeout rate (6.9 K/9), his 63.9 percent ground-ball rate ranks fifth among qualified relievers. Fellow right-hander Zach Putnam — he of a 1.98 ERA in 54 2/3 innings — also figures to be a bullpen cog for the South Siders going forward, Kane notes.
  • Though he was only drafted three and a half months ago, Brandon Finnegan has emerged as a bullpen weapon for the Royals, and assistant GM J.J. Picollo tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the team won’t rule out Finnegan breaking camp with the team in 2015. The team’s ultimate vision is to use Finnegan as a starter, so it’s more likely that he begins next year at Double-A or Triple-A, McCullough notes. Still, the team plans to replace James Shields internally, writes McCullough, and Picollo refused to put any hard limitations on Finnegan’s trajectory: “I don’t think it’s out of the question that he would start (the season) in the major leagues. … I’m not saying it’s what we’re going to do. But he’ll be given an opportunity to win a job on the team.”

Central Notes: Finnegan, Indians, Frieri, Pirates

Newly-signed Royals first round draft pick Brandon Finnegan will start his pro career at Class A+ Wilmington, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. The Royals project Finnegan will only pitch about 45 or 50 pro innings after pitching for TCU this season, but the start at Class A+ could indicate that the Royals hope Finnegan will be in the big leagues in a relatively short period of time. “I just have confidence in myself,” says Finnegan. “Now, I’m not 6-4. I’m only 5-11. But I feel like I’ve got the stuff that’s good enough to pitch in the pros right now.” Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • The Indians need to add a good starting pitcher more than they need a good hitter, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Corey Kluber has excelled, but the rest of Cleveland’s rotation hasn’t been nearly so helpful — three pitchers who started the year in the rotation are now either in the bullpen or Triple-A.
  • New Pirates pitcher Ernesto Frieri looks forward to playing in a new league and division, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “Maybe this is going to be good for me because it was a little bit of a struggle for me in the American League West,” Frieri said. “When you’re in one league for a while, hitters get to know you, and they make adjustments. I’m pretty confident everything is going to change over here.” The Pirates acquired Frieri on Friday for another struggling reliever, Jason Grilli.
  • Bucs GM Neal Huntington tells SiriusXM’s Jim Bowden (via Twitter) that the Pirates don’t have “glaring holes” but will still try to upgrade where possible. The Pirates’ offense has been about average and just added Gregory Polanco to fix its hole in right field. The Bucs’ pitching is perhaps questionable, but the Pirates have had a recent series of strong performances from starters like Jeff Locke and Vance Worley to aid what had been a weak rotation.