- Renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache examined Gerrit Cole’s balky right elbow and found no ligament damage, bone spurs or bone chips, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates ace had only inflammation in his elbow and is expected to return to the team before the regular season is over. Pirates athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk told Biertempfel that the direct source of Cole’s elbow discomfort isn’t known, though the possibility exists that an early-season rib injury led to some altered mechanics that brought about the pain. “I would say it’s tough to say that they’re not related,” said Cole of the rib injury, the triceps strain he suffered in June and the current elbow inflammation. “We do the same motion every time. Anytime that something causes you to alter that kind of thing, you run the risk of paying the price somewhere else.”
The Pirates announced that they have selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Kelvin Marte and, in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, designated fellow southpaw Kyle Lobstein for assignment. Additionally, the Bucs have recalled infielder Alen Hanson from Triple-A and optioned right-hander Jameson Taillon and lefty Steven Brault to their rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League. (That pair figures to be recalled in short order once rosters expand, of course.)
Lobstein, 27, was acquired by Pittsburgh in an offseason trade with the Tigers and wound up tossing 25 innings out of manager Clint Hurdle’s bullpen this season. The soft-tosser worked to a 3.96 ERA with a 15-to-12 K/BB ratio and a 50 percent ground-ball rate while holding opposing lefties to a comedic .083/.241/.083 slash line in an admittedly small sample of 29 plate appearances. Right-handed batters, consequently, tattooed Lobstein at a .324/.400/.507 clip in 81 PAs. In 128 career innings at the big league level, Lobstein has a 5.06 ERA with 5.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 49.8 percent ground-ball rate.
As for Marte, the 28-year-old will be making his big league debut if he gets into a game with the Bucs. The longtime Giants farmhand has pitched to a 3.67 earned run average in 73 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level this season and owns a lifetime 3.39 ERA in 790 2/3 minor league innings.
The Pirates and Yankes have completed the mid-summer swap that sent Ivan Nova to Pittsburgh, per an announcement. Outfielder Tito Polo and lefty Stephen Tarpley are headed to New York in the swap as the players to be named later.
As MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined, Nova has been every bit the buy-low, bounceback candidate that the Bucs hoped he would be. Over five starts since coming to Pittsburgh, the 29-year-old has posted a 2.87 ERA over 31 1/3 frames with 22 strikeouts against one solitary walk. Pittsburgh will only get to enjoy the fruits of the turnaround for the next month, as Nova is set to hit the open market after the season, but he has helped keep the club in contention.
In return for Nova, the Bucs will end up parting with a reasonably interesting pair of young players, both of whom cracked MLB.com’s most recent top thirty organizational prospect list. Polo, who just turned 22, cruised through the Class A level but has seen his power dissipate over 247 plate appearances at High-A (.276/.351/.346). The 23-year-old Tarpley — a 2013 third-rounder who came to the Pirates in the deal that sent Travis Snider to the Orioles — has spent the entire year at the High-A level, posting a 4.32 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 over 100 innings.
The Pirates announced that ace Gerrit Cole has been placed on the disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 25, with “posterior inflammation of the right elbow.” Left-hander Steven Brault is up from Triple-A Indianapolis and will assume Cole’s spot in the rotation against the Cubs tonight.
[Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]
This will be the second DL stint of the season for Cole, who missed just over a month earlier this summer when he was diagnosed with a strained right triceps. The fourth-place finisher in last year’s National League Cy Young voting, Cole hasn’t looked like himself since being activated from that initial trip to the disabled list, pitching to a 4.73 ERA and yielding 57 hits in 45 2/3 innings. Overall, he’s posted a 3.55 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 46.1 percent ground-ball rate in 114 innings. All of those rates have gone the wrong direction from last season’s masterful numbers, though there’s been very little loss of velocity for Cole.
Brault, 24, will join the Bucs for the second time this season. Originally acquired from the Orioles in the 2015 Travis Snider trade, Brault allowed four earned runs in 10 innings across a pair of starts earlier this season and has enjoyed a solid season at the Triple-A level as well. In 75 1/3 minor league innings this year, Brault has recorded a 3.70 ERA with a career-best 10.3 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9 to go along with a 41.5 percent ground-ball rate.
The loss of Cole is a tough break for a Pirates team that is presently just a half-game back from the Cardinals in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot. However, the struggles of Pittsburgh’s ace over the past several weeks have arguably been more detrimental, and if a short-term layoff allows him to right the ship prior to a theoretical postseason run, the club could come out ahead in the long haul.
- Corner infielder David Freese accepted a two-year extension offer from the Pirates earlier this week because he likes their players and coaching staff, expects the club to keep contending, and didn’t want to risk encountering a tepid market for his services as a free agent, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Despite a handful of solid seasons with the Cardinals and Angels, Freese went unsigned until March last year before finally settling for a $3MM deal. He has since earned another $11MM in guarantees from Pittsburgh through 2018 by slashing .273/.351/.427 with 12 homers in 407 plate appearances. “I’ve made a lot of money in this game to begin with,” stated the 33-year-old Freese. “This contract helps a little more. Where I play and who I’m around is more important to me.”
- Right-hander Chad Kuhl will likely be in line for a spot in the Pirates’ rotation next season, observes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Not only has the 23-year-old pitched well in 43 2/3 innings (3.50 ERA, 5.56 K/9, 2.27 BB/9), but the Pirates could have a few vacancies to fill in their rotation during the offseason. Righties Ivan Nova and Ryan Vogelsong are impending free agents, and southpaw Jeff Locke is a non-tender candidate. Plus, the Bucs are currently bracing for news on ace Gerrit Cole, who will undergo an examination on his elbow Sunday.
Before he joined Oakland on a one-year, $6MM deal last November, the Red Sox tried to re-sign left-hander Rich Hill as a reliever, while the Pirates made a similar offer to the A’s and wanted him to start, reports Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Hill, who revived his career with four great starts as a member of the Red Sox last September, has carried his success into this year. Despite dealing with multiple injuries, the 36-year-old has put up a sterling 2.09 ERA, 10.21 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 49.5 percent ground-ball rate and 15.7 percent infield fly rate in 82 innings. The A’s dealt him and outfielder Josh Reddick to the Dodgers on Aug. 1, thereby turning a cheap investment into three well-regarded prospects.
Pirates ace Gerrit Cole will miss his next start Monday against the Cubs and will instead travel to Los Angeles to have his a specialist examine his sore elbow, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes (all Twitter links). An MRI did not reveal that Cole has ligament damage (and the Bucs haven’t yet placed him on the DL).
Cole has a fine 3.55 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 114 innings this season, but he’s pitched uncharacteristically poorly in his last four starts, with a 7.06 ERA and a .973 OPS against in that span. Losing him for any significant period of time would be a serious blow to the Pirates, who remain in the race for a National League Wild Card spot — the Bucs’ rotation has improved greatly this month thanks to strong performances from Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl and Ryan Vogelsong, but their rotation had previously been a significant problem.
Biertempfel guesses rookie Trevor Williams will take Cole’s start on Monday, although he notes that newcomer Drew Hutchison (who the Pirates acquired at last month’s deadline for Francisco Liriano and prospects) could also be a possibility. Williams, acquired in an offseason trade with the Marlins, has never pitched in the Majors.
The Pirates recalled top first base prospect Josh Bell over the weekend, and he’ll have a larger role than he had in his brief initial call-up earlier this season (three brilliant pinch-hit plate appearances), GM Neal Huntington tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We brought Josh up to play a decent amount,” said Huntington of the 24-year-old Bell, who has batted a .295/.382/.468 with 14 homers in 114 Triple-A games this season. Bell’s prospect pedigree and strong minor league production, paired with a .167/.306/.250 second half from John Jaso, could well pave the way to everyday at-bats (or something close to it) down the stretch. If he can prove himself to be a consistent hitter in the Majors and one capable of playing a passable first base — Huntington tells Brink that Bell’s defense will “continue to be a work in progress” — Bell could unseat Jaso and lead the team to shop the veteran (and his two-year, $8MM contract) over the winter.
A bit more from the NL Central…
- Reds manager Bryan Price tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Jose Peraza could remain with the team for the rest of the year even if Zack Cozart returns quickly from a minor Achilles injury, but he stopped short of committing to the notion of Peraza sticking in the Majors through the end of the Triple-A season on Sept. 5. As Sheldon notes, Peraza was scarcely used when he spent a month and a half in the Majors earlier this summer, but he’s had a pair of multi-hit games since being recalled to fill in for Cozart at shortstop and could get looks at second base, in left field and in center field over the course of September in an effort to see what he can do with consistent playing time against MLB pitching. It would be somewhat strange for the Reds not to work him into the lineup as much as possible in order to get a better evaluation of Peraza, especially considering the fact that he can be deployed at a number of positions.
- Having watched Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Andrew Benintendi go from the 2015 draft to the Majors less than a year later, Reds third base prospect Nick Senzel said on the MLBPipeline.com podcast that he hopes for a similarly quick ascent (also via Sheldon). Senzel, the No. 2 overall pick in this season’s draft, is hitting .309/.400/.545 with seven homers in 46 games with Class-A Dayton. He hasn’t been moved quite as aggressively as Bregman, who played at Class-A Advanced during his debut season, but neither Swanson nor Benintendi topped Class-A last season and both still made it to the bigs this year. “You look at those guys … get there their first full year, as a player and a college hitter that makes you hungry to get up there,” said Senzel.
- Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano isn’t likely to return to the team in 2016, GM David Stearns tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The 38-year-old has been sidelined by an elbow injury since late May, and a platelet-rich plasma treatment hasn’t sped along his recovery as much as had been hoped. Stearns notes that Capuano “is still very motivated to make it back and continue his career,” so it sounds as if there’s a good chance he’ll aim to return in 2017 if he can’t do so at the tail end of the present season.
- Another Brewers southpaw, Sean Nolin, recently underwent Tommy John surgery after trying to stave off the procedure, Haudricourt further reports. He, too, tried a PRP treatment but did not improve enough to avoid a UCL replacement. Milwaukee outfielder Rymer Liriano, meanwhile, has faced slow going after being struck by a pitch in the face this spring. Though he has now begun baseball activities, Liriano won’t be able to make it to the majors this year. Instead, says Stearns, he may be able to participate in fall instructional league action.
2:05pm: Freese’s deal also allows him to make up to $1MM per year in bonuses based on plate appearances, tweets Heyman.
1:55pm: Freese’s deal guarantees him a total of $11MM, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (Twitter link). The contract is front-loaded, paying him $6.25MM in 2017 and $4.25MM in 2018. His club option is valued at $6MM and comes with a $500K buyout.
1:44pm: The Pirates announced that they have reached a two-year extension with infielder David Freese that contains a club option for the 2019 season. Freese is a client of CAA Sports.
Freese, 33, inked a one-year, $3MM contract with the Pirates late in the offseason that has proven to be a terrific value for the club, as the former Cardinals/Angels third baseman has batted .276/.355/.437 with a dozen homers through 391 trips to the plate in 107 games this season. That he was available on a one-year deal in March was largely a function of that fact that there was little in the way of demand for third basemen on either the trade or free agent market this winter. He’ll now forgo the risk of sitting through that level of uncertainty again with a new two-year deal that presumably affords him a raise on his modest 2016 salary.
The Pirates took some heat from their fans following last month’s trade of Francisco Liriano and a pair of prospects in exchange for Drew Hutchison and a good deal of salary relief, but the savings from that swap — which freed Pittsburgh from Liriano’s $13MM salary in 2017 — look like they’ve already begun to be reallocated in the form of this deal. Freese will continue to give manager Clint Hurdle another option at third base in addition to Jung Ho Kang, who has twice been on the disabled list this season and is also currently the subject of a criminal investigation. He’s also made 43 appearances at first base this season and has even made a pair of cameos at second base, giving Hurdle multiple options when it comes to utilizing him over the next two to three seasons.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league, each courtesy of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy unless otherwise noted…
- The D-backs have outrighted left-hander Adam Loewen to Triple-A Reno following last week’s DFA. The 32-year-old has spent time as both a pitcher and an outfielder over the life of his pro career but has returned to the mound for the past few seasons. He yielded 10 runs in six big league innings with the D-backs this year but had a 3.43 ERA in 39 1/3 innings with Reno prior to the original purchase of his contract. Loewen has whiffed 44 batters in that time, but he’s also walked 28, demonstrating some significant control problems.
- Outfielder Daniel Robertson has been outrighted to Triple-A by the Mariners. He, too, was designated for assignment last week but, like Loewen, ultimately cleared waivers. The 30-year-old can handle all three outfield positions and has a solid .289/.361/.394 batting line in parts of five Triple-A seasons to go along with a .277/.322/.325 slash in 298 big league PAs.
- The Angels have outrighted second baseman Sean Coyle to Double-A after he was designated for assignment last weekend. The Halos picked up the former Red Sox prospect on waivers earlier this year, but his .140/.252/.237 slash in 110 plate appearances with the Angels’ Double-A affiliate led to the loss of his 40-man roster spot.
- The Angels also released fleet-footed outfielder Quintin Berry from their Triple-A affiliate. The 31-year-old Berry batted .270/.348/.325 with 35 stolen bases in 45 attempts over the life of 100 games/395 plate appearances this season. Berry’s wheels have landed him a big league job in each of the past three Septembers, and another club could look to add him to the 40-man roster when rosters expand in September in order to give its manager a late-inning weapon on the basepaths.
- Left-hander Josh Outman has been released by the Pirates. The 31-year-old inked a minor league deal with Pittsburgh earlier this summer and wound up posting a 4.95 ERA in 20 innings with the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. That number isn’t exactly eye-catching, but Outman did post a solid 15-to-3 K/BB ratio and, in 23 plate appearances, limited left-handed hitters to a miserable .100/.217/.100 batting line with eight punchouts, so perhaps a team in need of a lefty specialist will consider him for the season’s final month.