Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

Pittsburgh Pirates trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Impact Of Clippard Deal: Beane On A’s, Latest On Zobrist

Earlier today, the Mets added a late-inning relief arm in Tyler Clippard. That move did not come as a major surprise, but it nevertheless created a ripple effect for the two teams involved, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Most notably, perhaps, Athletics GM Billy Beane indicated in his comments on the deal that the team could continue to build up lower-level prospect depth in its summer trades, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports“The Houston Astros have done a really good job of spending the last three or four years really creating a dynamic farm system,” said Beane, “and now they’re starting to reap the rewards of that. If we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach and at least make sure we’ve got young players that are coming through the system that will be here for a few years.” Oakland acquired younger players in both the Clippard trade and the earlier swap involving Scott Kazmir, marking something of a departure from the team’s winter moves (to say nothing of its win-now acquisitions last summer).
  • The Mets had been working on a deal with the Athletics that would have delivered not only Tyler Clippard, but also Ben Zobrist, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. But the clubs honed in on the reliever alone after New York went out and got Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mets are out on Zobrist, though adding a pair of versatile pieces in Uribe and Johnson could lessen heir need.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets have clearly positioned themselves as buyers, and are still looking at corner outfield bats. As we also covered in that link, the Athletics seem uninterested in parting with controllable pieces like Josh Reddick — despite their apparent decision to load up on high-ceiling youngsters.
  • Zobrist will likely be the next player dealt away from the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. She sees the Royals and Nationals as the possible front-runners for his services. Oakland has drawn wide interest in the utility man extraordinaire, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with almost every contender having checked in on him. Joining Kansas City with active interest, per the report, are the PiratesYankees, and Cubs. We’ve heard no shortage of other clubs mentioned in recent weeks as well, as Zobrist’s MLBTR timeline attests.
  • While the Mets are earning plaudits in some circles for adding a quality pen arm without dealing away any top prospects, prospect analysts say that the return for Clippard might be better than many realize. Keith Law of ESPN.com writes that he’d rank Casey Meisner as the organization’s sixth-best prospect, just behind a touted group of names, giving him a #2 starter ceiling. That’s far too much to give up for a few months of a reliever who has not been pitching at an elite level this year, Law argues. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is not quite as high on Meisner, but still tweets that he sees him as a solid return for Oakland.
  • Clippard becomes the second shoe to drop on the relief market, following the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steve Cishek. Check out MLBTR’s round-up of the relief market. We’ve heard rumblings on star Padres Craig Kimbrel today, and there are plenty of other high-end arms that could change hands.

Stark’s Latest: Giants, Hamels, Price, Orioles, Gallardo, Alvarez

The latest deadline rumblings from Jayson Stark of ESPN.com

  • The Giants are still searching for starting pitching, but they’re only looking at top-of-the-rotation arms to pair with Madison Bumgarner in a playoff rotation, Stark hears. San Francisco has checked in on both David Price and Cole Hamels, but they’re not considered a favorite to land Hamels from the Phillies, and there’s still no definitive sense that Price has been made available by the Tigers. Yesterday, Stark reported that the Dodgers and Rangers were emerging as the favorites in the Hamels market.
  • The Orioles are speaking with other clubs to get a feel for what kind of return they could get if they market Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris, Stark hears. However, rival clubs feel the O’s will only sell if they slide to six or more games back in the Wild Card race — and they’re 3.5 games out with four to play before the deadline at this time. If they make up a bit of ground, they could add a bat, but Stark says it’d likely be a bench piece as opposed to a bigger name. Baltimore GM Dan Duquette said last week he would be a buyer regardless of the team’s play, though others have suggested that the Orioles could still end up selling if they struggle enough.
  • Adding help that can be controlled beyond 2015 is the priority for the Rangers, which is why they’re targeting Hamels, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner while also listening to offers on Yovani Gallardo. However, according to Stark, those moves aren’t linked, and Texas could acquire a rotation piece for 2016 but also hang onto Gallardo. Personally, I think Gallardo’s pitched well enough to warrant a qualifying offer. A draft pick and improved odds of making a late run (especially if they do add another rotation arm) present enough value that the Rangers shouldn’t feel obligated to simply take the best offer for Gallardo if the proposed packages aren’t all that impressive.
  • The Pirates are now likely to hang onto Pedro Alvarez after shopping him without success for several weeks. They’ve asked the Brewers, White Sox and Rays about Adam Lind, Adam LaRoche and James Loney, respectively, but with Alvarez in the fold, they’re not likely to make a move at first. Stark adds that multiple sources downplayed the recent reports connecting Pittsburgh to the Red SoxMike Napoli.

Minor MLB Transactions: 7/26/15

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

  • The Pirates activated infielder Justin Sellers from the disabled list and outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets.  Sellers, who has been dealing with an Achilles injury, had been on the 60-day DL, so the move does not change the Pirates’ 40-man roster, which currently stands at 39.
  • The Angels have outrighted lefty Adam Wilk to Triple-A Salt Lake, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. The team designated Wilk for assignment on Friday. Wilk has pitched two innings for the Angels and has spent most of the season in Salt Lake’s rotation, posting a 5.52 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 102 2/3 innings.

Quick Hits: Royals, Pirates, Dodgers, Benoit

Here’s a roundup of the latest trade-deadline-related news:

  • The Royals are still working to upgrade their bench, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.  Kansas City is looking at both infielders and outfielders to improve its reserve group.
  • Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen is now a stronger trade candidate now that the Rays have slipped to 49-51, Morosi tweets.  Jepsen, who is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, owns a 2.88 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 through 45 appearances this season.
  • Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is adamant that his team should not sell before the deadline, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that he’s not necessarily done shopping even after acquiring Aramis Ramirez, Adam Berry of MLB.com writes.  “We’ve shored up what we felt was our biggest soft spot. We’ll continue to look,” Huntington said. “It just gives us some versatility and flexibility to find where we think the next best match and next best fit is.”  However, he wouldn’t specify what area he might target in the coming days.
  • One issue for the Dodgers is that they aren’t willing to part with top prospects Corey Seager or Julio Urias, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.  At that point, there’s a big dropoff to whoever their No. 3 prospect might be, whether it’s pitcher Jose De Leon or someone else.
  • The perception in the market is that the Padres will definitely move Joaquin Benoit before the deadline, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

Pirates Interested In Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino

The Pirates have considered acquiring Mike Napoli and/or Shane Victorino, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Napoli hasn’t been successful at the plate lately but he has been decent defensively, Biertempfel notes.

The Bucs’ interest in Napoli might be a brand new development.  Late last week, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Red Sox weren’t getting any interest in the struggling first baseman.  Napoli has hit just .205/.301/.372 in 335 plate appearances this season, well off the .818 OPS mark he carried through his first two seasons in Boston. If he can rebound, though, he might help the Pirates against lefties while also easing their dependence on Pedro Alvarez, who has struggled defensively in his first season at first base.

Victorino has been injured for much of the past two seasons and has more than $5MM remaining on his 2015 salary.  For his part, the 34-year-old says that he hopes to stay in Boston through the end of his contract. The right-handed Victorino would complement Gregory Polanco in right field, although Polanco has played better lately. Victorino could also potentially help the Pirates’ bench, although he hasn’t hit well in either of the last two seasons and has struggled since returning from a calf injury earlier this month. He’s making $13MM this season, after which he’ll be a free agent.

Pirates Designate Brent Morel For Assignment

The Pirates have designated third baseman Brent Morel for assignment, MLB.com’s Adam Berry tweets. The move clears space on the Pirates’ active roster for fellow third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The Pirates’ 40-man roster now stands at 39, since the Pirates already designated Steve Lombardozzi to clear space for Ramirez on their 40-man roster, but Morel was out of options, so the Bucs could not merely send him back to the minors.

The 28-year-old Morel is a good defensive corner infielder but a weak hitter, as his career .227/.273/.328 line in the big leagues suggests. Morel was hitting .266/.322/.441 in 326 plate appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis before being pressed into duty in Pittsburgh thanks to injuries to infielders Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.

Pirates Looking To Add Reliever; Nothing Close At Present

JULY 24, 12:59pm: There isn’t anything close on deal for a relief arm, Rosenthal now tweets. While Pittsburgh does want to bolster its pen, there are “multiple options in play.”

7:15am: The Pirates are not working on a trade for any of the Diamondbacks’ relievers at this time, a source tells Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Brad Ziegler is one name with the D-Backs that’s been said to be receiving interest, while Addison Reed and Oliver Perez are believed to be available as well. However, it appears the Pirates are looking elsewhere at this time.

JULY 23: Hours after acquiring Aramis Ramirez, the Pirates are working on a second trade, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Rosenthal adds that the target of the current trade is believed to be a relief pitcher, though no specific name or team has been reported at this time.

Adding a relief pitcher would serve to strengthen an area of strength for the Pirates, who already rank third in the Majors with a collective 2.50 ERA from their bullpen. Of course, Pittsburgh’s 3.45 FIP and 3.56 xFIP from the bullpen rank 13th and 10th, respectively, and the Pirates likely know that their current group of relievers could be overachieving.

To this point, the Pirates have been most prominently connected to infield upgrades, back-of-the-rotation arms and possibly outfield upgrades. The bullpen hasn’t been rumored to be a focus for Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, though from a speculative standpoint, the Bucs could stand to potentially upgrade in a few spots. Antonio Bastardo‘s overall numbers are underwhelming, although he’s at least held opposing lefties in check. Still, an improved second lefty could be an area of focus. Rob Scahill‘s 2.08 ERA is strong, but it’s more than a full run and a half lower than his 3.87 FIP and 3.73 xFIP. Rookie Deolis Guerra has been sharp in his debut, but he’s hardly a battle-tested arm, so perhaps the Pirates prefer to deepen their bullpen by adding more experience to the mix.

The Brewers and A’s have both begun to sell pieces, and both have relief arms available. Oakland’s Tyler Clippard is expected by many to be moved prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, while the Brewers are likely open to moving both Francisco Rodriguez and lefty Neal Cotts.

Pirates Acquire Aramis Ramirez

The Pirates and Brewers have announced a trade that will send third baseman Aramis Ramirez to Pittsburgh in exchange for minor league right-hander Yhonathan Barrios and cash considerations. The Pirates are reportedly taking on $3MM of the $5.74MM that remains on Ramirez’s $14MM salary.

[RELATED: Pirates Working On Trade For Reliever]

"<strongThe Pirates have a clear need for infield help after losing both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer to significant injuries that will keep each on the shelf for another four and six weeks, respectively. Offseason signing Jung Ho Kang figures to man shortstop full time for the foreseeable, with Ramirez serving as the Pirates’ everyday third baseman until Harrison is healthy. At that point, Ramirez could either become a part-time option at third and/or platoon partner for Pedro Alvarez at first base. Another option for the Bucs, though, would be to keep Ramirez at third base and shift the highly versatile Harrison to right field, which would likely cut into the playing time of the struggling Gregory Polanco.

Ramirez got off to a brutal start to the season, posting just a .404 OPS through his first 17 games. However, since that time, Ramirez has looked more like himself, batting .270/.327/.477 with 10 homers in 245 plate appearances. He’s been particularly productive in the month of July, hitting a mammoth .352/.422/.500.

Ramirez, who initially came up with the Pirates and has spent his entire career in the NL Central, has said that he intends to retire at season’s end, and he reiterated that fact following today’s trade, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The veteran added that reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008 in his final season, though, would mean a lot to him. Interestingly, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes (also on Twitter) that today marks the 12-year anniversary of the initial trade that sent Ramirez from Pittsburgh to the division-rival Cubs.

Turning to the Brewers’ side of the deal, the 23-year-old Barrios began his career as an infielder but converted to the mound full-time in 2013. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel rated him as the club’s No. 30 prospect heading into the season, writing that he sits 94-98 mph with his fastball and has touched 100 mph at times. Barrios, McDaniel noted, has a low effort delivery for a reliever and is still learning to pitch, so there’s some upside with him. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper calls Barrios a lottery ticket (Twitter link), noting that he has a big arm but lacks quality secondary pitches in addition to having “iffy control.”

Barrios, a native of Colombia, sports a 2.68 ERA in 40 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, though he’s not missing many bats. Barrios has averaged 4.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 2015. He missed more bats in 2013 and 2014, however, and given his velocity, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see those strikeout numbers eventually come around.

NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra first reported that Ramirez was headed to Pittsburgh in a trade (via Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Pirates were taking on $3MM of Ramirez’s salary (also via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.  This post was initially published 7-23-15 at 4:40pm central time.

Pirates Designate Steve Lombardozzi For Assignment

The Pirates announced that they’ve designated infielder Steve Lombardozzi for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who was acquired from the Brewers this afternoon.

The 26-year-old Lombardozzi received just 12 plate appearances with the Bucs at the big league level in 2015, and he saw very little time in the Majors in 2014 with the Orioles as well. Most of the second-generation player’s experience (his father, Steve Lombardozzi, Sr., played six years with the Twins and Astros in the late 1980s) has come with the Nationals, where he served as a utility piece from 2011-13.

In 840 big league plate appearances, Lombardozzi is a .263/.294/.336 hitter. He’s seen time at second base, third base, shortstop and in left field as a Major Leaguer. Lombardozzi has been more effective at the Triple-A level, where he’s posted a career .295/.341/.358 batting line in parts of three seasons.

Deadline Rumors: Cespedes, Cishek, Price, Gallardo, Jays, Royals, Reds, Alvarez, Padres

In another twist regarding the free agent deal he signed out of Cuba, Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes would be effectively precluded from signing with the team as a free agent after this year unless he is traded away in the interim, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. It was already a matter of common knowledge that the club could not make him a qualifying offer after the year, since his deal requires that he be released five days after its conclusion. But Rosenthal now cites a CBA provision providing that a released player also cannot be re-signed by his club until May 15 of the ensuing year. While Detroit could hold Cespedes and attempt to work out an extension at any point up to five days after the World Series, it would otherwise be unable to bring him back unless he sat out a good portion of the 2016 campaign — a highly unlikely scenario. Of course, moving him now would prevent the team from working out a deal until the power-hitting outfielder becomes a free agent. As Rosenthal notes, Cespedes has told friends that he hopes to remain with the Tigers, and Detroit has given every indication that it intends to compete next year even if it moves some pieces this summer.

There are a ton of important deadline developments to cover in the wake of the Scott Kazmir trade, so let’s get to them:

  • There is increasing action on Marlins reliever Steve Cishek, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald report (Twitter links) that there are multiple clubs involved — some with more apparent interest than the previously-reported Cardinals. The Twins are among the teams continuing to monitor the righty, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.
  • The Dodgers currently have David Price of the Tigers as their number one target, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. But the expectation is that Detroit will hold their decision until next week.
  • Indeed, the Giants recently spoke with the Tigers regarding outfielder Rajai Davis, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports on Twitter, but were left with the impression that Detroit is still unsure of its course of action.
  • Another player on the Dodgers radar is Rangers righty Yovani Gallardo, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Though nothing is close, the two clubs have had discussions.
  • The Blue Jays sought to land Kazmir before he went to Houston, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. With the market beginning to move, the team appears to be ramping up is efforts to add a starter, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.
  • Both the Blue Jays and the Royals are “all-in” on Reds starter Johnny Cueto, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden reports (Twitter links). Kansas City is also considering Mike Leake from Cincinnati as well as Jeff Samardzija, Dan Haren, and Mat Latos. But the club is not interested in Cole Hamels, James Shields, or Yovani Gallardo, per the report.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty says he has a green light to sell pieces, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. They’ll make moves “if it makes sense, but we’re not going to give away players,” says Jocketty. “We’ve been talking with a lot of different people, but we haven’t been receiving offers that have us wanting to commit.”
  • One rival general manager tells Passan that the Pirates are working hard to move first baseman Pedro Alvarez (Twitter link). We’ve heard previously that Pittsburgh has interest in an upgrade, and presumably it would make an addition if it can find a taker for Alvarez.
  • Meanwhile, the Padres are officially open for business, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). In addition to Justin Upton, the team could move relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, outfielder Will Venable, and any number of starters. Rosenthal says that Tyson Ross is perhaps the least likely rotation piece to change hands.