Duke Welker Rumors

Pirates Release Duke Welker

JULY 14: The Pirates have released Welker, per the MLB.com transactions page.

JULY 9: The Pirates have designated right-hander Duke Welker for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for infielder Matt Hague, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter).

Welker, 28, underwent Tommy John surgery last month after allowing six runs in 11 innings of work at the Triple-A level this season. After seeing his prospect star fade as a starter in the Pirates’ minor league system, Welker shifted to the bullpen full-time in 2010 and began to experience success. Baseball America ranked him as Pittsburgh’s No. 26 prospect heading into the 2013 season, and he went on to post a 3.57 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 63 innings of work.

Welker was traded to the Twins as a player to be named later in last August’s Justin Morneau trade, but the Twins flipped him back to the Bucs in a swap for left-hander Kris Johnson this offseason. The former second-round pick made a brief cameo with Pittsburgh’s big league club last season, pitching 1 1/3 perfect innings with one strikeout.

The 28-year-old Hague was hitting .267/.363/.456 with 13 homers in 333 plate appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He spent some time with the Pirates in 2012 and batted .229/.270/.257 in 70 trips to the dish and hasn’t made it back to the Majors since. He will be available for tonight’s game with Starling Marte having been placed on the bereavement list, the Pirates announced.

NL Notes: Dodgers, Brewers, Morales, Zimmerman, Welker

Tyler Stubblefield was stuck at low-A ball last year for the Padres at age 25. This year, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock, he played a key role in recommending the team’s first-round draft choice, N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner, as San Diego’s area scout for eastern George and North and South Carolina.

Here’s the latest from the National League:

  • It is time for the Dodgers to initiate a shake-up, opines Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link). While the team undeniably has talented pieces, they have not fit together well, says Olney, who recommends that the team consider bringing up top prospect Joc Pederson to play center and installing the defense-first Erisbel Arruebarrena at short. Of course, those moves would have repercussions involving key veterans Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, among others, but Olney says that dramatic action may be necessary with the club still sitting well back of the Giants in the NL West.
  • The Brewers do not seem like a good fit for Kendrys Morales, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes on Twitter. McCalvy says that two key questions — Morales’s ability to handle first and the team’s ability to fit him in the payroll — make a signing unlikely.
  • Ryan Zimmerman says that he is not sure that he will ever return full-time to third base for the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports“I don’t know if I’m the best option over there anymore,” he said. “I’ve always said I’ll play until someone is better than me, or I’m not the best option at that position.” It will be fascinating to see how the Nats proceed when Bryce Harper returns, which is expected to occur around the turn of the month. While the team would have several options heading into 2015 — Zimmerman could stay in left and the team could deal Denard Span, or he could move to first if Adam LaRoche leaves town — the mid-season calculus is even more complicated. It seems hard to imagine that the team would leave second base in the hands of Danny Espinosa while taking away significant at-bats from any of the other players just mentioned. It seems at least possible that the Nationals could explore some creative trade possibilities to right-size the everyday lineup.
  • Pirates righty Duke Welker underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, reports Tom Singer of MLB.com (via Twitter). The towering 28-year-old was the player to be named later in last year’s Justin Morneau deal, but later returned to Pittsburgh in exchange for lefty Kris Johnson.

Pirates Reacquire Duke Welker From Twins

4:07pm: The Twins will receive left-hander Kris Johnson from the Pirates in exchange for Welker, the teams have announced via press release.

Johnson, 29, seems to have a shot at making some starts for the Twins at some point next season after pitching to a 2.39 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 135 2/3 innings for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2013. That will, of course, depend on how the Twins' offseason hunt for pitching shakes out, but few teams have less rotation stability than the Twins. MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger spoke with GM Terry Ryan, who said the team plans to leave Johnson in a starting role (Twitter link).

Like Welker, Johnson made his big league debut with the Bucs in 2013, making three relief appearances and one spot start. After allowing two runs in six innings of relief work in his debut, Johnson was torched for five runs in just two innings in a spot start versus the Cardinals.

Johnson, who is represented by agent Matt Sosnick, was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 40th overall pick in the 2006 draft as compensation for the loss of Johnny Damon via free agency. He signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates following the 2011 season and has enjoyed his two most successful minor league seasons with Pittsburgh since.

3:48pm: Just six weeks after trading him to the Twins as part of the return for Justin Morneau, the Pirates have reacquired right-hander Duke Welker from Minnesota, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). It's unclear what the Twins are receiving in return at this point, Passan adds.

Welker, 27, was acquired as a player to named later in the Morneau deal. The Pirates also sent outfielder Alex Presley to Minnesota as part of the trade. Welker posted a 3.57 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 63 Triple-A innings this season and made his Major League debut with the Pirates, hurling 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

After a five-year absence from the Pirates' Top 30 prospect lists (per Baseball America), Welker resurfaced at No. 26 prior to the season. Drafted in the second round as a starting pitchers, a slew of injuries derailed his prospect status for a number of years. BA wrote this past offseason that since converting to a reliever, Welker's fastball had topped out at 98 mph and he could emerge as a setup man for the Buccos.

Twins Acquire Duke Welker

The Twins have acquired right-hander Duke Welker from the Pirates as the player to be named later in the Justin Morneau deal, the teams announced.  Morneau was traded to Pittsburgh on August 31st for outfielder Alex Presley and a PTBNL or cash.

Welker, 27, made two major league appearances in 2013 but spent the bulk of the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, posting a 3.57 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.  The 27-year-old was rated as the No. 26 prospect in the PIrates' system by Baseball America at the start of the year after a five-year absence from the list.  The 6'7" hurler had a lot of hype after being taken in the second round of the 2007 draft but injuries held him back in subsequent years.