Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

NL Central Notes: Maholm, Bucs, Bryant, EJax, Ricketts

Lefty Paul Maholm has a “standing offer” at Triple-A with the Reds, tweets Jon Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. At present, however, Maholm is looking to secure a big league deal if possible. He was released yesterday by Cincinnati.

Here’s more from the NL Central:

  • The Pirates have pillaged the Yankees in recent seasons, particularly in the catching department, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Both teams have placed significant value on pitch framing, but Sawchik suggests that perhaps Pittsburgh has remained more willing to commit to its ideas in that area. I’m not sure if they were ahead of us, we were ahead of them or if we arrived at this way of thinking at the same time. Actually, they were probably first,” said club GM Neal Huntington. “The two clubs evaluate catchers similarly.”
  • The agent for Cubs third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, Scott Boras, says that starting the season without the game’s top big-league-ready prospect in the majors is tantamount to staging “ersatz baseball,” Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets“MLB is not MLB without the best players,” said Boras.
  • Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, himself a former Boras client, is still waiting to learn what his role will be in 2015, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers reports. It seems likely that he’s headed to a middle relief spot, in spite of the fact that he’s still owed $22MM by the team.
  • Cubs owner Tom Ricketts indicates that his organization is still executing on its plan to build steadily, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports“We knew that if we’re ever going to bring a World Series to Chicago, it’s to be disciplined, and build things the right way,” said Ricketts. We’ve done that. Now, it’s up to us to deliver that promise.” That goes for the team’s player assets as well as its efforts to rehabilitate Wrigley Field, as Nightengale explains.

Pirates Discussing Extension With Gregory Polanco

The Pirates and outfielder Gregory Polanco‘s representatives at the Beverly Hills Sports Council have rekindled talks on a long-term contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The two sides discussed a seven-year deal last May, which would have been a precedent-setting contract for a young player with no Major League service time. However, Polanco’s camp didn’t bite on the contract, largely due to the fact that it contained three club options with salaries in the low eight-figure range that would’ve maxed out at $50-60MM over its entirety if all three options were exercised. That deal would’ve seemed team-friendly even if Polanco were to develop into an average regular, but many see him destined for stardom.

Polanco, just 23 years of age, was one of baseball’s top prospects heading into the 2014 season and made his Major League debut in June. Though he got off to a torrid start, Polanco eventually cooled, and his overall batting line checked in at a pedestrian .235/.307/.343 in 312 plate appearances. That production came as a 22-year-old in his first taste of MLB, however, and his Minor League track record — Polanco has batted .325/.385/.495 with seven homers and 17 steals in just 71 Triple-A games — is tantalizing to say the least.

The Bucs already have two-thirds of their brilliant young outfield locked up long-term, as both Andrew McCutchen (six years, $51.5MM) and Starling Marte (six years, $31MM) have signed long-term contracts in recent years. An outfield of Marte, McCutchen and Polanco locked up for the foreseeable future would be enough to make any team envious, but Heyman notes that the chances of a deal being completed before Opening Day are unknown.

Long-term deals for players with fewer than a year of Major League service time have been few and far between, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker. The most recent case was Jon Singleton‘s five-year, $10MM contract with the Astros last spring, but that came when he had zero big league service time. Polanco, who has just 103 days of Major League service, would become the highest-paid player ever in his service class where he to sign the type of deal that Heyman outlined above. Of course, it’s not certain what terms and parameters are being discussed by the two sides at this juncture.


Central Notes: Hicks, Pirates, Madson

The Twins have optioned Aaron Hicks to Triple-A Rochester, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. Heading into Spring Training, Hicks had seemed to be the likely choice for the Twins’ starting center field job. He has struggled this March, however, putting up a .206/.300/.324 line that’s very consistent with his career .201/.293/.313 performance. The demotion is another setback for the former first-round pick, who is still struggling to establish himself at age 25. It appears the team will go with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson in center field. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Pirates while visiting with the Bucs and Twins Friday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I think the Pirates have tremendously benefited by (owner) Bob Nutting’s presence and leadership,” Manfred said. “For those of you who know the history, you’re not going to be surprised to hear me say I am a huge Frank Coonelly fan. I think he’s done a fantastic job as president of the Pirates, including his selection of (general manager) Neal (Huntington).” Coonelly worked in the commissioner’s office before becoming the Pirates’ president. Manfred added that his controversial comments about banning defensive shifts were only an idea, and that the league isn’t likely to make changes in that area, particularly given the feedback he’s gotten about it.
  • Ryan Madson‘s opt-out with the Royals is May 1, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 34-year-old Madson, who’s had a mess of injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, is attempting a comeback with Kansas City. He’s gotten decent results so far, striking out four batters and walking none in seven spring innings. The Royals have another month to evaluate him, however, which makes sense — one imagines he’ll still need time to prepare to pitch in meaningful games, given all the time off he’s had.


NL Central Notes: Bryant, Kang, Reds, Cardinals

Cubs president Theo Epstein said yesterday that he’s never taken a Minor Leaguer and put him on an Opening Day roster with zero prior big league experience, but super-prospect Kris Bryant feels like he could be the exception to that rule, writes ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers“I look at it as ‘Why not me?” Bryant said on Friday. “I think I’m the type of guy that can go out there and do it. I’ve made it a point of mine to come out here and show them that I can.” Bryant, of course, is the talk of Spring Training with nine homers and a ludicrous .406/.472/1.313 batting line in 36 plate appearances. The Cubs, though, can delay his free agency by a full season if they keep him in the Minors for a bit less than two weeks to open the season. While Cubs management and ownership naturally insists that any decision would be baseball-related as opposed to business-related, it seems likely that Bryant would be recalled early in the season once the year of team control is gained.

More from the NL Central…

  • Jung-ho Kang has struggled to a .111 average in Spring Training thus far, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is still planning on bringing the Korean infielder north with the club to open the season, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve seen some really good things,” Huntington told Biertempfel in regard to Kang.
  • Chris Dominguez, Brennan Boesch, Ivan De Jesus and Irving Falu are all competing for the Reds‘ final bench spots, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, and each has performed well in Spring Training. Manager Bryan Price also noted that the rotation isn’t yet settled. Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis and Raisel Iglesias are all in the mix for the final two spots, and Price explained how his club is looking beyond statistics to determine who will fill those roles. In general, he spoke very highly of DeSclafani, so it seems likely that he’ll be in the rotation to open the year.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required/recommended) about his tendency to hang onto young pitching and his deviation from that process by trading players such as Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to land John Lackey and Jason Heyward“Believe it or not, even though in these deals it appears like we’re giving up the control factor, we felt they were fair deals for both sides,” said Mozeliak. “Put it this way: We understand the risk.” Mozeliak went on to discuss the increased importance teams now place on prospects as opposed to the 1990s and early 2000s, noting that cost control has become an increasingly large factor in trades. The Cardinals, Goold writes, have an in-house algorithm and scouting process to assign dollar values to players, which they use in free agency and in trades. Said Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr.: “Our model is value-based, and what we want to do is get value back for value given. Because there is always opportunity to use resources to acquire talent.”

NL Notes: Cubs, Taylor, Caminero

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the team is likely to start the season with three catchers, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes. Having Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo all start the season with the team does limit Joe Maddon’s tactical possibilities somewhat, but Epstein says that Maddon supports having three catchers. Having three would also allow the Cubs to be somewhat more flexible in using their catchers to pinch-hit, and would give the team depth in case of an injury. Rogers notes, though, that common sense suggests the Cubs would still consider trading Castillo if the right offer came along, and that the Cubs might be trying to improve their negotiating position by giving the impression they’re not desperate to deal Castillo. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • With Denard Span out with after having core muscle surgery, top Nationals prospect Michael Taylor is making a strong case to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. But there are reasons to wonder about his readiness, Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckerman writes. Taylor is hitting .324/.324/.765 in 34 plate appearances this spring, but he’s struck out 11 times without walking. Taylor exhibited similar issues in his 43 plate appearances in the big leagues last year, and he has limited experience at Triple-A, so sending him there might be best for his development.
  • Reliever Arquimedes Caminero, who the Pirates acquired in a minor deal with the Marlins in February, is very likely to make the Bucs out of camp, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Caminero is out of options and has been very impressive this spring, striking out 12 batters in eight innings with a fastball that reaches into the high 90s. Caminero says the Bucs have helped him improve his delivery. “(They are) just simplifying things that were there that I didn’t notice much and now I’m noticing,” says Caminero. “I’m just going easier in my mechanics. I was trying to throw too hard. … I feel more confident. I’m hitting my target more often.”

NL Central Links: Bryant, Martinez, Pirates

If the Cubs keep Kris Bryant at Triple-A to begin the season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal believes the MLBPA should file a grievance as a matter of principle.  It would be a mostly symbolic gesture (“The case law overwhelmingly favors the clubs,” according to one of Rosenthal’s sources) yet it would indicate that the players’ union is serious about addressing this service-time loophole when the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated next year.  It would also be a big-picture show of strength by the union, as some player agents feel that the MLBPA has a bit too lenient on some recent issues.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • The Braves initially asked for Carlos Martinez when they began discussing the Jason Heyward trade with the Cardinals, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  The Cards refused, just as they’ve steadfastly turned down other trade offers for Martinez in recent years, yet Miklasz wonders why the club is so committed to keeping Martinez but is hesitant to give him a regular rotation job.  Miklasz argues that if the Cardinals have any doubts about Martinez, they might be better served by dealing him now while his stock is still high.
  • Arquimedes Caminero has been impressed scouts this spring, and the Pirates may be forced to put the out-of-options righty on the roster in order to keep him, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  Keeping Caminero in the bullpen could force John Holdzkom to start the year at Triple-A, as while Holdzkom has pitched well himself in camp, he still has minor league options.
  • Speaking of the Pirates‘ roster crunch, GM Neal Huntington told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a move could possibly be made to address the Bucs’ several out-of-options players.  “We have some guys who are out of options who may be of interest to other clubs,” Huntington said.  “We may make a small trade … or claim somebody on waivers or lose somebody on waivers. We still have some (roster) decisions to make and are always open to improving our talent level.”
  • The Reds have told veteran southpaw Paul Maholm that he won’t be earning a rotation job, though Maholm isn’t yet considering opting out of his minor league deal with the club, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes.  “We still have some time left in camp,” Maholm said.  “I’m trying to pitch and get ready for the season. Those are decisions we have to make at the date that’s set up. Until then, I’m just going to pitch.”  The Reds would have to pay Maholm $100K to retain his services if he’s not going to make their Major League roster, as per his status as an Article XX(B) player.

Quick Hits: Breslow, Kang, Marlins

Reliever Craig Breslow, the Red Sox‘ representative to the MLBPA, is opposed to an international draft and would like for it to remain possible for international free agents to receive bonuses as big as Yoan Moncada‘s, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. A huge deal like Moncada’s would likely be impossible with an international draft in place. “I think while, intuitively, people may look at a guy who has never played here and gets a big signing bonus and there’s potentially some envy, I think the greater membership (of players) understands that anytime we can eliminate restrictions to signing, that’s a good thing,” says Breslow. On Sunday, Breslow visited with MLBPA head Tony Clark, who has voiced skepticism about the idea of an international draft. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Jung-ho Kang, who signed this offseason for four years and $11MM plus a posting fee of around $5MM, provides the Pirates with a low-cost insurance policy throughout their infield, Newsday’s David Lennon writes. Second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez can become free agents after 2016, while third baseman Josh Harrison will become eligible after 2017 (and can be moved around the diamond if needed). That means the Pirates could turn to Kang at one of a number of positions, perhaps getting a starter at a cost of only a few million dollars a year. “If he turns out to be a regular player, it’s a great signing for us,” says Huntington. “If he turns out to be a role player, it’s still an OK signing for us. And if we’ve missed, well, it won’t cripple us. But it will hurt us.”
  • Marlins president David Samson says the team’s decisions to sign Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich arose out of their struggles in 2012, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. That year, the Marlins prepared for the opening of their new ballpark by acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano. Those big outside acquisitions didn’t work out, and the Marlins finished 69-93. “I truly felt that opening the ballpark and making splashes was the way to do it and it didn’t lead to sustainability,” says Samson. “That was a big moment for all of us in our history and I got it wrong, completely, almost in every way.” Instead of building their team around veterans, then, they’re focusing on keeping the right core players in Miami.

Quick Hits: Concussions, Red Sox, Rays, Richard, Tomas

It may seem obvious, but a study has now shown that concussions diminish offensive performance, reports Nicholas Bakalar of the New York Times. The study appeared in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. A total of 66 position players were included in it. The group hit .249/.315/.393 in the two weeks prior to injury and .227/.287/.347. Some of the players involved never went on the disabled list. Based on the Times article, it’s unclear if more detailed analysis was performed. For example, missing time for any reason would hypothetically reduce performance some unknown amount. So it’s probably incorrect to attribute the entire decline to concussions alone.

Here’s more from around baseball:

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney has “real concerns about the Red Sox,” reports Nik Beimler on WEEI.com. Olney identified problems with four of the five members of the rotation. Rick Porcello was the one guy who didn’t draw a negative comment. While Cole Hamels is often connected to the Sox, Olney thinks they should wait on any trades. “I think there will be a lot of opportunities to trade for pitching during the course of summer.” Even with inconsistent pitching, the club could still hit enough to reach the postseason.
  • The Rays may need to play roster roulette while they wait for Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome to recover, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The rotation will affect the number of NRIs the club can add. Presently, Bobby Wilson, Jake Elmore, Brandon Gomes, and Everett Teaford are battling for one or two spots (pending a trade of David DeJesus). Teaford may have a temporary advantage since he can provide long relief or a spot start.
  • Pirates pitcher Clayton Richard can opt out of his contract at the end of spring training, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Per Richard, he can opt out if not on the 40-man roster. He’s the latest in a long string of reclamation projects for the Pirates. His last successful season came in 2012 when he allowed a 3.99 ERA with 4.40 K/9 and 1.73 BB/9 in 218 innings.
  • Based upon interviews of rival scouts and executives, nobody believes Diamondbacks third baseman Yasmany Tomas can remain in the infield, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Most cited his thick body type, although they also said he doesn’t have the hands for the position. If Tomas moves to the outfield, it will create a roster crunch for Arizona. The current plan is to share playing time in left field between David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, and Cody Ross. Of course, the club could option Tomas to the minors too.

NL Central Notes: Iglesias, Cubs, Tabata

Raisel Iglesias is about to debut in the Reds rotation, a process that began when Reds scout Mark Snipp watched Iglesias pitch in Mexico, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. Iglesias was taller than the Reds had heard he was, and had a good curveball and slider. The Reds were willing to commit $27MM to Iglesias because they viewed him as a starter, while other teams figured he would be a reliever. That marked the Reds’ second high-profile signing of a Cuban pitcher in recent years, the other being Aroldis Chapman. “In both cases, we probably went further (financially) than we thought we would go,” says GM Walt Jocketty. “But we have absolutely zero regrets.” Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • Even if your team is rebuilding, it’s important to have the right veterans, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein tells MLB Network Radio (via the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, who connects the Cubs’ efforts to rebuild to those of the Astros). “When you have a young team, we were the youngest team in baseball last year, and probably will be again this year, it can get really rudderless and lost in a hurry if you don’t have the right veterans around,” says Epstein. “[P]eople … mock that sometimes because it’s hard to quantify but it’s real.” Last year’s Cubs team prominently featured thirty-something players like John Baker, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano and Edwin Jackson even though most of the season focused on trades of veterans and the development of young players.
  • Outfielder Jose Tabata wouldn’t mind if the Pirates traded him, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I want to be in the big leagues, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” says Tabata. “If somebody else gives me an opportunity and the Pirates trade me, that’s OK. I want to stay here, but we’ll see what happens.” In 2011, the Pirates signed Tabata to a long-term deal that has not worked out, and the two years and $8.75MM remaining on that deal will likely be an impediment to any trade, especially since Tabata hit a mere .282/.314/.333 in 186 plate appearances last year and is no longer even on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.

Out Of Options Players: NL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I’ve included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources.  Today, we’ll take a look at the NL Central.

Cubs: Drake Britton, Welington Castillo, Felix Doubront, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Jacob Turner, Travis Wood

Wood, Turner, and Tsuyoshi Wada were expected to battle for the Cubs’ fifth starter job this spring.  Turner has been shut down due to a flexor strain and bone bruise on his elbow, however, so the Cubs can defer making a decision on him since he won’t even be throwing again until mid-April.  Wood seemed like a winter trade candidate, but Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald explains that with the Cubs’ depth thinning out, he’s the favorite to become the fifth starter.  That would force Edwin Jackson into the bullpen, unless the Cubs offload him or even eat his remaining $22MM.

Of the Cubs’ seven relievers, righties Rondon, Strop, Ramirez, Jason Motte, and Justin Grimm seem locked in.  According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago last week, the minor league deal for lefty Phil Coke is a “mere formality,” meaning he’s expected to break camp as the team’s primary southpaw reliever.

That leaves one potential spot for Jackson, out of options lefties Britton and Doubront, and a host of other candidates including Wada if his groin injury proves minor.  Doubront has been hit hard in his two spring outings, while Britton has tallied five scoreless innings.  Injuries may clear up the logjam, but something has to give by the April 5th opener.

There’s also last year’s starting catcher Castillo, pushed aside by winter acquisitions Miguel Montero and David RossMark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Castillo’s situation a few days ago, noting that Arismendy Alcantara‘s versatility could allow the Cubs to open the season with three catchers.  That might be posturing on the Cubs’ part, however, since the team would be better-served trading Castillo for a fair return.

Reds: Jason Bourgeois

Bourgeois will miss four to six weeks with a fractured shoulder, so he’ll be starting the season on the DL.

Brewers: Mike Fiers, Hector Gomez, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Jimenez

Gomez and Jimenez are hoping to earn the team’s two utility infield jobs, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel earlier this month.  Two days ago, Haudricourt tweeted he’d be stunned if Jimenez doesn’t make the team.  Luis Sardinas is in the mix as well, but he may face an uphill battle since he has options remaining.

Jeffress appears to have a spot locked up in the Brewers’ pen, wrote Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak yesterday.

Pirates: Pedro Florimon, Stolmy Pimentel, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, Arquimedes Caminero, Radhames Liz, Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Pedro Alvarez

Worley and Locke are competing to be the Pirates’ fifth starter, with Worley appearing to hold an edge after Locke was knocked around Tuesday.  The Pirates seem willing to put one of them in the bullpen, but a trade is also possible.

Pimentel, Caminero, and Liz are vying for spots in the Pirates’ bullpen.  Charlie Wilmoth of MLBTR and Bucs Dugout feels it wouldn’t be a surprise for all three to make the team, even if it means optioning superior relievers John Holdzkom and Jared Hughes.  Liz, at least, seems a good bet to get a roster spot after signing a big league deal out of Korea during the offseason.  In an online chat yesterday, Pirates beat writer Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined that Pimentel seems the most likely of the three to get dropped.

As Wilmoth wrote in February, it’s hard to see where Florimon fits on this team.  Perhaps the waiver claim made sense in November, but he seems likely to find his way off the 40-man soon.

Cardinals: Sam Freeman, Pete Kozma

MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch looked at the situations of Freeman and Kozma in January.  Freeman, a 27-year-old lefty reliever, has continued this spring to exhibit the control problems that have plagued his Major League career.  He’s a trade candidate.  Kozma, known for his defense, appears to be playing his way into making the team, wrote Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos yesterday.