Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Central Links: Alcantara, Bailey, Worley, Masterson, Sox

Originally recalled for a two-day period with Darwin Barney on paternity leave, Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara has been informed that he will be with the team at least through the All-Star break, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Alcantara, who ranked 33rd on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, says he was surprised by the news. Manager Rick Renteria offered praise for the 22-year-old, who collected his first four Major League hits in today’s contest.

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

  • Reds right-hander Homer Bailey left today’s game after five innings due to a slight strain in his right knee, but he won’t see his name added to the list of significant injuries that have stricken contending teams today. The Reds have announced that he is expected to make his next start.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’s glad to see Vance Worley performing well with the Pirates, though he did imply that it’s too early to say that the Twins gave up on Worley too soon: “Give him a little time to see what he does over the course of starts. We’ll talk about that in October. See how it goes. I know he’s done well.”
  • The Indians are hopeful that Justin Masterson‘s two weeks on the disabled list will not only give him a chance to heal, but to help him get his mechanics back in line, reports MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway feels that Masterson’s knee has affected the way he’s been able to land during his delivery, which would explain the sharp decrease in velocity Masterson has seen this year.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn would need to receive an offer that knocks his cell phone out of his hands in order to trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. However, Hahn notes that oftentimes, a trade will come together when a rival club’s initial inquiry is on a player that is unavailable, as it leads to the suggestion of alternative options.

Pirates Designate Duke Welker For Assignment

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.


AL West Notes: Grilli, Angels, Aiken, Morales

In a video interview with ESPN’s Jim Bowden, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto discussed the recent trades his team has made. Regarding the team’s swap of Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli, Dipoto tells Bowden that he received a text message from Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, and the discussions took “about seven minutes” from start to agreement. The Halos’ interest in Grilli dates all the way back to his most recent run as a free agent, says Dipoto, who adds that the team discussed similar deals to this trade before making the move.

More from Dipoto’s chat with Bowden and the rest of the AL West below…

  • Regarding his acquisition of lefty Joe Thatcher, Dipoto notes “that’s one we’d been looking at for quite a long time.” Dipoto adds that Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers had made his interest in Zach Borenstein, who went to Arizona in the deal, known in the past. Perhaps most interestingly, Dipoto implies that the negotiations on the trade took place with Towers. Previous reports have indicated that some organizations weren’t sure about Arizona’s front office hierarchy now that Tony La Russa is in the mix.
  • Asked by Bowden if the Angels were done shopping, Dipoto replied, “We’ll continue to try to find ways to make the team better. Particularly, I’ve talked about the idea that if we can find one more piece for that bullpen.” Dipoto makes sure to qualify that he’s very pleased with the current mix of relievers but remains open to possible improvements at the back of the ‘pen.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who said he’s hopeful the team can reach an agreement with top pick Brady Aiken, but he won’t handicap it either way (Twitter link). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that a ligament issue in Aiken’s elbow has held up negotiations and caused the Astros to drop their bonus offer from $6.5MM to $5MM. Drellich talked to Aiken’s trainer, who claims that the lefty is healthy.
  • With the Twins in Seattle, Kendrys Morales spoke through an interpreter to the Seattle media (including Bob Candotta of the Seattle Times) about his offseason discussions with his former club. Morales said there was a bit of discussion with the Mariners, but as his interpreter says: “…in his heart he just didn’t really want to come back here and be in the same spot. He was taking his chances to see maybe something would get better.”


Indians Acquire Chris Dickerson, Designate George Kottaras

The Indians announced that they have acquired outfielder Chris Dickerson from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Dickerson’s contract will be selected for tonight’s game, and George Kottaras has been designated for assignment to create roster space.

The 32-year-old Dickerson has a spotty Major League track record, but he was having an excellent season for Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates organization. In 280 plate appearances, Dickerson batted .309/.407/.479 with seven homers and 12 steals.

Dickerson grades out as an excellent defender at all three outfield spots, per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved — an attribute that likely appealed to Cleveland with Michael Bourn on the shelf for the next three to four weeks due to a hamstring strain. That glove has come along with a questionable bat for much of his career, however, as he’s batted just .233/.275/.361 over his past four stints in the Majors — a span of 287 plate appearances. Dickerson did have a strong start to his big league career with the Reds, however, hitting .283/.383/.440 through his first 421 PA in 2008-09.

The 31-year-old Kottaras has a strong .286/.385/.714 batting line for the Indians this season, though it’s come in a sample of just 27 PA. Nearly all of his production came in his first game with Cleveland, when he went 2-for-3 with a pair of homers. Nonetheless, Kottaras has long been known to have an excellent eye at the plate and some power. The career .216/.326/.415 hitter has 14 percent walk rate in 847 Major League plate appearances, and his .199 isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average) is well above-average for any hitter, let alone a catcher.


Draft Signings: Gage Hinsz

We’ll keep track of today’s draft signings here.

  • The Pirates have agreed to terms with 11th-round pick Gage Hinsz on a $580K deal, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. $480K of Hinsz’s bonus will count against the Pirates’ bonus pool. Hinsz, a high school pitcher from Montana, was committed to Oregon State. The Pirates have now agreed to terms with all of their draft picks through the first 22 rounds.

Pirates Claim Dean Anna From Yankees

The Pirates have claimed infielder Dean Anna off waivers from the Yankees and he will report to Triple-A Indianapolis, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Anna was designated for assignment by the Yankees Thursday.

Anna made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster and appeared in a dozen games slashing .136/.200/.318 in 25 plate appearances. The 27-year-old has posted similar numbers in Triple-A hitting .192/.283/.292 in 152 plate appearances (36 games).  Anna, however, is only a year removed from being a Pacific Coast League All-Star and leading the PCL in batting average while producing a .331/.410/.482 line in 132 games for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate.

The Pirates’ 40-man roster is now at capacity.


NL Central Links: Brewers, McCarthy, Alcantara, Cubs

The Brewers won’t announce their signing of Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara yet due to the fact that they’re expecting a change to their international bonus pool, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes (Twitter link). Teams can acquire additional bonus money as long as they’ve yet to exceed their bonus pool, so it appears they’ll try to land some additional slots before making the Lara deal official. The two sides reportedly agreed to terms on a $3.2MM signing bonus yesterday, but the team has made no statement. Milwaukee has a bonus pool just north of $2.6MM, per Baseball America.

Here’s more out of the NL Central…

  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that the Pirates have some interest in Brandon McCarthy and wonders if the team could sell high on Vance Worley by flipping him to the Diamondbacks as part of a McCarthy deal. He notes that sabermetric ERA estimators such as xFIP love McCarthy despite an unsightly ERA, while Worley’s strong ERA isn’t sustainable. Sawchik opines that even if the two can’t be traded directly for one another, acquiring McCarthy and slotting him into Worley’s spot would improve the team’s roster.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer offered high praise for top prospect Arismendy Alcantara to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. Hoyer wouldn’t comment on whether or not Alcantara would see the Majors this season but noted that he’s underappreciated due to the big reputations of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Albert Almora. Alcantara is hitting .310/.350/.546 with 10 homers, 11 triples, 22 doubles and 20 steals, and that strong play has “opened [the Cubs'] eyes,” in Hoyer’s words.
  • Rooftop owners in Chicago have agreed not to sue the Cubs if the team adds just one video board and one advertising sign in the outfield, according to a report from Ameet Sachdev, Jared Hopkins and Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune. The team’s most recent vision for the upgrades had a video board and five signs as well as other renovations to Wrigley Field.

Central Notes: Frieri, Cubs, Hammel, Twins

As Ernesto Frieri was en route to the Pirates after being traded by the Angels, he ran into a familiar face at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “I’m waiting for my next flight, so I just went to a bathroom to wash my face. First thing, I look at this guy washing his hands next to me,” said Frieri, “and I thought, ‘I think I know this guy.’”  He was right – that guy was Jason Grilli, the reliever for whom he had been traded hours earlier.  Anyone who has been in the colossal O’Hare Airport can appreciate exactly how unlikely this chance meeting was.  Here’s more from the AL and NL Central..

  • A year and one day ago, the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles rather than waiting until the July 31st deadline was closer.  This year, while there are plenty of scouts watching the Cubs, General Manager Jed Hoyer isn’t positive that we’ll see a similarly timed move this year. “Last year it really came together,” Hoyer said, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “Baltimore was so determined to get a starter. You can always tell when teams have a feel for what we’re looking for. Ultimately, sometimes it takes a deadline to make deals. People get a lot more serious with each day that gets closer to the deadline. It probably works both ways. I don’t think you ever go into July thinking you’re going to make deals early, but sometimes it can come together.”
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have sent at least ten scouts to watch the Cubs since September and several sources tell Gonzales that they have followed Jason Hammel just as closely as they have followed Jeff Samardzija.
  • We saw a bunch of international signings on July 2nd, but Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff says they aren’t in a rush to spend.  “Right now the biggest issue is early committing,” Radcliff said, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “It just doesn’t make sense. You’re talking about 15- and 16-year-olds. You’d think you’d want more time to figure it out and have more people see the players, but people are just throwing their money out there and locking them up earlier and earlier. I think we’re all still figuring it out.”

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Cubs, Arrieta, Pirates

For those weighing a foray into baseball operations, the Brewers have posted two opportunities that may be worth a look: baseball systems developer and baseball systems architect. Here’s the latest out of the NL Central:

  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin says that the club is not looking to make any significant acquisitions, reports Adam McCalvy of MLB.com“Right now, if we stay healthy, I don’t see a major need,” said Melvin, who said that there has been “very minimal activity” around the league to this point. McCalvy says that the bullpen seems the most likely area for an upgrade, though even that is far from a certainty. Otherwise, Melvin downplayed the likelihood of action, even for a veteran bench piece: “I don’t know what you would do. You’re not going to change Rickie [Weeks] and Scooter [Gennett]. You’re not going to change [Lyle] Overbay [and Mark] Reynolds. One piece, maybe, but it’s got to be somebody who can play center field. I don’t know where [a player in the mold of 2011 acquisition Jerry Hairston] would play if we had him now.”
  • The Cubs may be closer to contention than was once thought, thanks to a surprisingly promising set of current MLB starters, writes Rob Neyer of FOX Sports. With an emergent Jake Arrieta — who once again made a serious go at a no-hitter last night — and a host of hitting prospects knocking on the door, Neyer wonders whether Chicago might be better off holding onto Jeff Samardzija and aiming to enter 2015 as a dark-horse contender.
  • Whatever the Cubs do with Samardzija and Jason Hammel — the latter of whom seems particularly likely to be dealt — there is little chance that they will part with Arrieta, who has blossomed in his new environs. As Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes, Chicago looks to have done well to add Arrieta (along with Pedro Strop and cash) in exchange for Scott Feldman one year ago tomorrow. For his part, the righty says (in colorful terms) that he is just happy to be throwing well after a difficult stretch with the Orioles, as Paul Folkemer of PressBox notes on Twitter.
  • Two of the game’s most promising second-half turnaround possibilities play for the Pirates, according to Dave Szymborski of ESPN.com (Insider link). Szymborski names Francisco Liriano and the recently-acquired Ernesto Frieri in listing the players most likely to turn it on after the All-Star break.

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.