Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

NL Central Notes: Tomas, Martin, Jackson, Reds

The Pirates had scouts in attendance at Yasmany Tomas‘ weekend showcase, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer, but GM Neal Huntington didn’t sound overly optimistic about the team’s chances. “We like the player,” Huntington told Singer. “We will participate in the process. As it has with most Cuban players, the market may take it above a place where we feel comfortable.”

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that while Pirates owner Bob Nutting is the one who ultimately determines payroll, Huntington is the one who distributes the funds. And while Huntington doesn’t like the idea of allocating more than 18 percent of a team’s payroll to one player, Sawchik opines that Russell Martin is the rare case in which an exemption should be made. He notes that it’s unlikely for teams to go beyond four years for Martin, and they’re also unlikely to go as high as Brian McCann‘s $17MM average annual value. The Pirates can get by offering Martin something close to $60MM over four years, Sawchik writes, and given the lack of alternative options, he feels they’d be wise to do so.
  • It’s best for both the Cubs and Edwin Jackson if Chicago can orchestrate a change of scenery for the beleaguered right-hander next season, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Jackson, owed $22MM from 2015-16, has been a good citizen through his significant struggles in Chicago and remains positive, but both sides need to move on from a bad situation, Rogers continues. The Cubs’s best chance at moving Jackson is likely to swap him for another bad contract or to pay a large portion of his remaining salary, though as Rogers notes, it may be best to move on “no matter how they get rid of him.”
  • While many Reds fans are convinced that the team needs to add a power bat to play left field, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the team should instead prioritize on-base percentage in a left field upgrade. Cincinnati’s team OBP dropped from .327 in 2013 to .298 in 2014. Shin-Soo Choo, who reached base 300 times last year, was replaced by Billy Hamilton, who is on pace to reach 184 times. Joey Votto, who reached 316 times in 2013, spent most of this season on the DL, and the team’s No. 3 hitters have combined to reach just 206 times as a result. Pointing to the team’s struggles in one-run games (22-38), Fay notes how important a healthy Votto and an OBP-focused left fielder could be to the team.

Volquez Hopes To Re-Sign With Pirates, Seeks Multi-Year Deal

Pirates starter Edinson Volquez is interested in re-signing with the Pirates as a free agent, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The 31-year-old righty is also interested in achieving a multi-year deal in the coming offseason.

Certainly, Volquez has made good on the one-year, $5MM deal he signed with the Pirates before the season. He has worked to a 3.15 ERA over 185 2/3 frames, easily his most productive output since his emergent 2008 season. That is a factor in Volquez’s desire to return to Pittsburgh. “I think I signed in the right place with the right coaches,” said Volquez. “They made me a better pitcher this year. So, I’d like to stay here.”

On the other hand, Volquez made clear that he hopes to parlay those numbers into a multi-year commitment. “You always want to sign for more than one year,” he said. “Especially now that I’m 31 years old, I’d like to sign with someone for two or three years and stay a little bit longer.”

It remains to be seen what level of interest the Pirates have in a reunion. Ultimately, if Volquez finds other clubs willing to plunk down a significant guarantee over two or three years, it is hard to see the Bucs beating the market. As stellar as Volquez’s bottom line has been in 2014, he has succeeded despite a middling K/BB rate of 6.3 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. With a .263 BABIP also playing a role in the outcomes, ERA estimators see little difference in Volquez’s performance as against recent years, when his earned run numbers came out less favorably.


Quick Hits: Red Sox, Martin, Cardinals

The Red Sox‘ trades of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront this summer created opportunities for younger Red Sox starters, but those young pitchers haven’t taken advantage, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo have all been underwhelming this season. “What that group is learning is that it’s a sizable jump from Triple-A to here,” says manager John Farrell. “It’s a matter of learning challenges at the major-league level.” The Red Sox aren’t necessarily planning for all those pitchers to be successful, and they figure to pursue starters this offseason, but getting one or more solid starters out of the group of De La Rosa, Workman, Webster and Ranaudo would provide a big boost next season. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.

  • The Pirates‘ organizational philosophy of finding buy-low players is likely to keep them from re-signing impending free agent Russell Martin, David Manel of Bucs Dugout writes. The Pirates appear to be bracing for fan backlash if they don’t re-sign Martin, and GM Neal Huntington points out that his organization might be about to become a “victim of its own success,” as Manel puts it. “Russ is one of those unique circumstances where we got beat up and highly criticized for signing him when we did,” says Huntington. “And if he does walk out the door, we’ll get highly criticized when he does walk out the door.”
  • The results of the Cardinals‘ in-season trades have been mixed, but their outfield has improved thanks to the team’s flexible approach, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Justin Masterson hasn’t pitched well and Lackey hasn’t made a huge impact, and Oscar Taveras hasn’t hit well filling in for the departed Allen Craig. The Cardinals have, however, done well in the second half throughout their outfield in general, with Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk putting up solid numbers in center and right field, respectively.


NL Central Notes: Martin, Huntington, Brewers, Cubs

As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.

Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.
  • Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
  • The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
  • In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.
  • What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.

Red Sox Notes: Tomas, Castillo, Uehara, Alvarez

Despite their outfield logjam, the Red Sox will be in attendance for Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford spoke with Boston’s newest outfielder, Rusney Castillo, about his countryman and received strong reviews. “He’s a really high quality baseball player, and a really good person,” said Castillo through an interpreter. “He’s got a ton of power. For his physique, he actually moves pretty well. He’s pretty quick for a big guy.” Castillo agrees with scouting reports that say Tomas isn’t the same athlete that Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes is, but likened his power to that of Jose Abreu.

More from Bradford and some additional pieces on the Red Sox…

  • Red Sox owner John Henry told Bradford, via email, that the team’s near-miss on Abreu fueled the club’s aggressiveness on Castillo. Boston bid just $5MM less than the White Sox did to secure Abreu, prompting Henry to admit: “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework.” 
  • GM Ben Cherington appeared on the Dennis & Callahan radio show to discuss a number of Red Sox topics, and WEEI’s Jerry Spar has some highlights. Cherington said that while the team doesn’t consider Castillo to be have one elite tool, they feel he’s very good in a lot of categories and should be a quality Major League outfielder. Cherington stopped short, however, of proclaiming Castillo the team’s center fielder in 2015. (The Arizona Fall League announced today that Castillo will play there this offseason, which should give Boston more time to make that evaluation.) He also addressed the Mookie Betts situation, noting that the team most likely projects Betts as an outfielder moving forward and has not discussed playing him at third base.
  • “I think it’s safe to say we would still have interest in keeping him here,” Cherington said in that same appearance when asked about Koji Uehara. Cherington praised Uehara’s accountability during his recent rough patch, and that accountability is an appealing factor when pursuing a new contract. Boston has yet to make an offer or discuss a new contract with Uehara at this time, per Cherington.
  • As John Tomase of the Boston Herald points out, the Red Sox, by some metrics, have had the worst production in the league at third base. As such, they’ll be on the hunt for third basemen with power this offseason, preferably ones that hit left-handed or are switch-hitters in order to balance out a right-leaning lineup. Tomase expects Pedro Alvarez to be on the team’s list, as the club tried desperately to sign him as a 14th-round pick out of high school back in 2005. Boston was willing to offer Alvarez $850K and showed a late willingness to push the number closer to Alvarez’s $1MM asking price, but he instead attended Vanderbilt. The decision paid off, as Alvarez was drafted No. 2 overall and received a $6MM signing bonus from the Pirates three years later. Tomase speculates that a swap of underachieving third basemen — Alvarez and Will Middlebrooks — might make sense for both clubs (presumably, other pieces would be required in such a deal).
  • The right-leaning nature of Boston’s lineup is the focus of the latest from Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe, who notes that the Sox currently project to have just one regular lefty bat in the lineup next season — David Ortiz. While others such as Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley and the switch-hitting Daniel Nava could be worked into the mix, the team cannot afford to have such a glaring deficiency, as other clubs will exploit it, writes Massarotti.

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

NL Central Notes: Cubs, Castillo, Martin, Bourjos

Cubs catcher Welington Castillo wants to be part of the future in Chicago, but he understands that in order for that to happen he likely has some more improvement to do, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Castillo, 27, is entering his prime-age seasons but doesn’t hear his name mentioned alongside younger core players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Castillo specifically mentions that he recognizes the fact that baseball is a business and he can’t assume that he will be in a starting role. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer again said to Wittenmyer that the team plans to add at least one everyday veteran this winter, leading Wittenmyer to speculate on Russell Martin, who would give the Cubs a major defensive boost behind the plate. While catching coach Mike Borzello feels that Castillo is “the best in the business” at blocking pitches, Castillo ranks at the bottom of Baseball Prospectus’ Blocking Runs Added stat and ranks 72nd among 97 catchers in extra strikes via pitch framing (also via B-Pro). Hoyer, however, did give Castillo a vote of confidence: “I really believe in Welly. … He doesn’t get mentioned a lot when we talk about our established young veterans, but he can be in that mix as well.”

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers also has quotes from Hoyer on his desire for veteran leadership, and Rogers wonders if the club would pursue a veteran such as Jonny Gomes to help out in left field. While he notes that Gomes, of course, wouldn’t be an everyday player, “a quasi-starter who has winning experience might be the best option” given the lack of starting-caliber bats at positions of need for the Cubs, Rogers opines. He, too, notes that Martin would be a good fit in Chicago, though.
  • Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the extraordinary preparation and conditioning that have contributed to Russell Martin‘s brilliant season. Brink spoke to Martin’s coaches and teammates about what he means to the club, with GM Neal Huntington stating that the club is going to do everything it can to re-sign its catcher. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the fact that Brink notes that the Pirates offered Martin a two-year, $17MM deal and a three-year, $21MM deal when signing him prior to the 2013 season. Martin explains to Brink that he didn’t want to sign for three years, because he felt he could improve his stock on a two-year pact, which he has done in dramatic fashion.
  • One veteran scout tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Cardinals outfielder Peter Bourjos is the best defensive center fielder he’s seen in 38 years as a scout. Bourjos and Randal Grichuk were acquired from the Angels with the idea that one of them would be the team’s everyday center fielder in 2015, writes Hummel, but Jon Jay‘s solid offense has muddied the picture and left the Cardinals with choices to make. Bourjos has hit better of late, boosting his season batting line to .241/.305/.367, and he drew praise from manager Mike Matheny as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals decide to proceed, not only in the next few weeks, but in the offseason as well.

Quick Hits: Hernandez, Castillo, Martin, M’s, Pirates

Left-hander Yasmany Hernandez has left Cuba for an undisclosed third country with the goal of signing a MLB contract, per Diario De Cuba (h/t Baseball America’s Ben Badler). Badler provides a scouting report on the 23-year-old, who led Serie Nacional with a 1.66 ERA this past season. Hernandez will be exempt from international bonus restrictions after pitching five seasons in Serie Nacional, but Badler doesn’t expect teams to show as much interest in Hernandez as fellow Cubans have drawn. Here are more notes from around the game.

  • Badler also recently appeared on the Providence Journal’s Super Two podcast with Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson, where he discussed new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. Badler says teams are becoming increasingly receptive to spending big money on Cuban players thanks to the successes of players like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, adding that the added power Castillo demonstrated since leaving Cuba increased his value on the market.
  • Free-agent-to-be Russell Martin would be a great fit for the Cubs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Signing Martin would involve making a significant financial commitment and giving up on Welington Castillo as a starting catcher, but Martin could help mold the Cubs’ young pitching and provide a strong example for the rest of its young roster.
  • The Mariners will not retain national cross-checker Butch Baccala, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Baccala is the scout who sent Jesus Montero ice cream during a minor league game while Montero was rehabbing, seemingly as an insult regarding Montero’s weight. Montero threw the ice cream at Baccala and was suspended.
  • The Pirates had a quiet trade deadline, but they’ve had a strong second half anyway, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. In particular, they didn’t complete a trade for a starting pitcher and didn’t improve what appeared to be a weak bullpen. Since then, though, their bullpen has quietly become a strength, thanks in part to the emergence of John Holdzkom, and their offense has papered over any rotation issues. “You’ll get second-guessed no matter what you do,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “That’s just the nature of the world. So you gotta do what you feel in your gut is right.”
  • The Rays are ready to see what they’ve got in Nick Franklin, who they’re promoting Monday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays, of course, acquired Franklin from the Mariners in the three-team deal in which they sent David Price to Detroit. Since the trade, Franklin has hit .210/.288/.290 in 113 plate appearances for Triple-A Durham, although his track record indicates he’s capable of hitting better.
  • Padres assistant director of scouting operations Don Welke, who arrived recently from the Rangers organization along with new GM A.J. Preller, is enjoying his first month with San Diego, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Welke and other members of the Padres’ front office are currently in Arizona, where they’re watching Padres prospects play in the instructional league.

NL Notes: Mets Payroll, Martin

Earlier in the week, we learned the Mets expect to maintain a steady payroll in the low-to-mid-$80MM range. Although the club may prefer to avoid trading from their pitching depth or adding significant payroll, they’ll need to be opportunistic to succeed in 2015, writes The New York Post’s Joel Sherman. The club is well aware that free agent signings can backfire and pitching depth can vanish with the pop of a couple ligaments. Per Sherman, the New York’s perceived plan to spend when fans return to the ballpark is “backwards.” The franchise spends less on player salaries than the mid-market Braves, yet they have powerful potential revenue streams from their Northeast location, relatively new stadium, and TV network. Sherman suggests the club remain open to signing a few veterans like Melky Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, or Mike Morse. An alternative source of value could be to pick up possible castoffs like Matt Kemp or Jose Reyes.

  • Alderson is “right” to note that money doesn’t equate to success, says Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Madden emphasizes the Mets woeful performance in recent free agent markets, but he also believes the club should be open to expanding payroll in the right move – including trades. He mentions Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes as a sort of ideal trade target.
  • Russell Martin is a stealth MVP candidate and the Pirates need to re-sign him, writes David Golebiewski of GammonsDaily.com. Martin blends offense and defense at a critical position. While the Pirates are generally penny pinchers, they should do what is necessary to retain the 31-year-old free agent. In addition to his personal virtues, Pittsburgh lacks a viable internal replacement. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes believes “a four-year deal north of $50MM” to be possible.

Quick Hits: Velocity, Clark, 2015 Draft, Astros, Pirates

The introduction and development of the radar gun has had a profound effect on baseball, Danny Knobler explores in a piece for Bleacher Report. Pitching speed has always been recognized as a key tool, but its increasing standardization in measurement and emphasis in amateur scouting has played an undeniable role in the velocity explosion at all levels. Speed readings deliver valuable information and come with some downsides, but for better or worse the gun’s influence will continue. Here are a few more interesting recent articles from around the web:

  • Matt Clark‘s decision to gamble a bit and opt out of his minor league deal with the Mets has paid huge dividends for the 27-year-old journeyman, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Now with the Brewers, Clark says he sensed that there was little chance he’d be promoted and elected free agency in June. Bob Skube, Milwaukee’s Triple-A hitting coach, was Clark’s hitting coach with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate at one point and made a pitch for the organization to pursue him when Nashville first baseman Hunter Morris broke his arm. Clark, who spent last season in Japan and had never cracked a big league roster, hit his way to a September callup and has homered in two straight games.
  • Prospect watchers have begun to turn their attention to the 2015 amateur draft, so let’s take a look at the latest. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides a “way-too-early” list of the top 51 prospects, along with some other names to watch. Sitting atop the ranking is high school shortstop and FSU commit Brendan Rogers, with last year’s first overall choice — the unsigned and possibly JuCo-bound Brady Aiken — right behind him.
  • Looking back at recent draft choices, Baseball America’s John Manuel writes that the Astros will need to go to work developing Mark Appel and the recently-acquired Colin Moran to avoid a lot of hard questions about the decision to pass on Kris Bryant last year. Given Moran’s skillset — hard work, polished approach, and quick hands, but not the power and athleticism of Bryant — his best-case scenario might be to join the trajectory of Kyle Seager, says Manuel.
  • The Pirates have enjoyed a distinctive advantage this year in losing few player days to the DL, writes Ben Lindbergh of Grantland. Manager Clint Hurdle praised the team’s strength and conditioning staff, though he admitted he wasn’t sure that there was any one thing the Pirates are doing better than rival clubs. Still, players such as Chris Stewart, Neil Walker and Russell Martin all praised strength and conditioning coach Brendon Huttman. GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t comment on any specific tactics that might be ahead of the curve, stating, “I’d prefer to leave that behind the curtain.”
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports examines the journey of former Arizona State and Notre Dame head coach Pat Murphy, who has transitioned to managing the Padres’ Triple-A club after a controversial exit to his NCAA career. Murphy’s intensity is said to be toned down, and Brown spoke with numerous players who lauded Murphy as one of the best managers they’ve ever had. Veteran reliever Blaine Boyer ranked Murphy alongside Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Bud Black. Brown, like many of Murphy’s players, is of the opinion that the 55-year-old Murphy could eventually be a big league manager.