Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

Minor Moves: Chase D’Arnaud

Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.

  • Pirates infielder Chase d'Arnaud has been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis, the Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel tweets. The Pirates had designated d'Arnaud for assignment earlier in the week in order to clear roster space for fellow infielder Brent Morel. D'Arnaud hit .238/.288/.350 in 262 plate appearances for Indianapolis in 2013. He has 157 career big-league plate appearances, most of them coming in 2011.

NL Central Notes: Morel, Samardzija, Cubs, Lorenzen

The Pirates claimed Brent Morel off waivers because they felt they needed a better "Plan B" in the event of an injury to Pedro Alvarez, manager Clint Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh has been following Morel since 2011 and had interest in him when he was placed on waivers in December, writes Brink. Toronto claimed him then, but Pittsburgh got their second chance this week and claimed him based on his solid defense, hands and power, said Hurdle. Morel told Brink that he's thankful for the opportunity and that, as a Steelers fan, he's excited to play in Pittsburgh.

A few more NL Central links as we await the start of the weekend…

  • Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that trade talks don't bother him, but instead simply put a chip on his shoulder when he pitches. Wittenmyer writes that the Blue Jays and D'Backs have shown interest in Samardzija this winter, and an executive from a third team called the 29-year-old a "monster in the making." Samardzija is used to pitching in front of scouts for numerous other clubs and simply smiled as he told Wittenmyer, "You want to put on a good show for them."
  • ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers took a look at the scenarios to watch in Cubs camp during Spring Training yesterday, most notably wondering if February pickup Emilio Bonifacio can supplant Darwin Barney at second base. He also examined whether or not July 2013 acquisition Mike Olt can recover from his vision issues and take the third base job from Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
  • Michael Lorenzen was a two-way player when the Reds selected him 38th overall in last year's draft, having served as an outfielder and closer for Cal State Fullerton. In a piece for Baseball America, C. Trent Rosencrans reported that the Reds have told Lorenzen he will focus on pitching, and not only that, but they value him as a starting pitcher. Lorenzen sounded pleased with the decision and has already been talking with college-closer-turned-starter Tony Cingrani in Spring Training. "I’m picking his brain," Lorenzen told Rosencrans. "We’ve been in the same situation as a college guy moving quick. He’s been really good with me."

Seven Teams Watch Johan Santana Throwing Session

TODAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides a list of the other clubs who sent representatives to watch Santana: the Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Rangers. Scouts in attendance told Heyman that Santana still needs to build his arm strength back up, but looked to be in great shape and threw as expected given his point on the recovery curve.

YESTERDAY, 5:40pm: The Orioles were among the teams to see Santana, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The club could be interested in bringing him in on a minor league deal, says Encina.

3:26pm: Throwing in Fort Myers today, rehabbing starter Johan Santana showed his current form to seven teams, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Santana mostly threw in the high-70s, topping out at just 81 mph, though he did flash his usually phenomenal change.

Though those numbers sound less than promising, the workout comes very early on in the process for Santana to regain strength on the mound following a second shoulder surgery, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Indeed, a mid-season return has always been the early target for Santana. Agent Peter Greenberg said there is no "firm date," with Santana committed to "tak[ing] it conservatively this time" and "not rushing things."

Per the above two reports, both the Yankees and Twins were among the teams with scouts in attendance. 

Pirates Designate Chase d’Arnaud For Assignment

TUESDAY: Though they have 10 days to make a move, the Pirates have already placed d'Arnaud on waivers, tweets MLB.com's Tom Singer.

MONDAY: The Pirates have designated infielder Chase d'Arnaud for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Brent Morel, according to the team's transactions page.

The 27-year-old d'Arnaud (the older brother of top Mets prospect Travis d'Arnaud) is a career .208/.232/.275 hitter in 157 plate appearances for the Pirates. Formerly a fourth-round pick of the Pirates, d'Arnaud has never been with a different organization. In six minor league seasons, the shortstop/second baseman has a career .261/.339/.397 batting line. He's also swiped more than 30 bases in three different seasons and has been successful in 153 of 185 stolen base attempts in the minors (83 percent).

Pirates Claim Brent Morel

The Pirates announced that they have claimed infielder Brent Morel off waivers from the Blue Jays. Toronto designated Morel for assignment last week after claiming right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Orioles. Pittsburgh will announce a corresponding 40-man roster move later today, according to a team press release.

Morel cracked Baseball America's Top 100 list as a White Sox farmhand prior to the 2011 season but has slashed just .229/.276/.333 batting line in 669 Major League plate appearances. A bulging disk in his back has played a large part in the offense decline for the 26-year-old, who in 2010 batted .322/.359/.480 across two minor league levels. He's drawn praise for his glove at third base, though Toronto was reportedly going to use him at second base.

Quick Hits: Rangers, Pirates, Rockies, Bonds

Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus are the only two position players remaining on the Rangers roster who played in the 2010 World Series against the Giants, the Associated Press writes.  "You realize sometimes how crazy baseball is and how everything can change in a couple of years," Andrus said. "It's crazy. That's why you have to enjoy every second, every moment of this. Because you never know what's going to happen in the future." Here's more from around baseball.

Latest On Stephen Drew

Here's the latest on free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, courtesy of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:

  • The Mets offered Drew a salary in the neighborhood of $9.5MM, the same amount Drew made last year, but Drew rejected it. The Mets remain the team with the most need for Drew's talents.
  • The Red Sox have not made a new offer to Drew since Ryan Dempster decided to take 2014 off and forfeit his $13.25MM salary for the year.
  • The Pirates have "spoken about Drew," but are currently more concerned with finding an upgrade at first base. They currently have youngster Jordy Mercer penciled in at shortstop, and would have to sacrifice the No. 24 overall pick in the draft to sign Drew.
  • The Blue Jays could look to Drew for help at second base.
  • Heyman also notes that the qualifying offer, which has dramatically reduced the market for Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz and other free agents, also has mostly helped big-payroll teams, as the Yankees and Red Sox have extended nearly half of all qualifying offers.

NL Notes: Cashner, Rizzo, Drew, Mets, Dodgers, Pirates

With the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to the Padres and Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs now over two years distant, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at its background and how it has played out to date. While both players have proven that their talent plays at the big league level, each still comes with questions. Nevertheless, the trade appears to have been quite an equal swap at this point, he opines.

Here's more from the National League:

  • The Mets hesitation with respect to shortstop Stephen Drew relates to the team's valuations of him and internal option Ruben Tejada, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo"At the numbers he's looking for," a source told DiComo, "we don't think he's worth it compared to what we have." At this point, a trade of Ike Davis is a more likely outcome than the signing of Drew, says DiComo.
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said today that a platoon was possible at second base, a prospect that Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times questions. Both Alexander Guerrero and Dee Gordon — the two likely platoon options — are converting from shortstop, and each brings lots of uncertainty to the table. Guerrero, the club's most expensive offseason acquisition, has reportedly had some struggles moving to the other side of the bag, but putting his right-handed bat in a platoon role would significantly limit his plate appearances.
  • In spite of a resoundingly successful 2013 campaign, Pirates GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle will both go into the season without a contractual assurance that they'll be around for another. As Rob Biertempfel of the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review reports, Owner Bob Nutting said today that extensions for the two are not a major priority, though he indicated that he'd be amenable to talks at the right time. "What they've done for the organization in good and bad times really is tremendous," said Nutting, "and I hope they're with the organization for a long time. My expectation is they're going to be critically important pieces of this organization as we go forward."
  • Nutting also indicated that the Pirates would still consider giving up a draft pick to sign a free agent, Biertempfel further reports"Certainly nothing is off the table," he said. "But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious." The Bucs have spoken with first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, Biertempfel notes, though the extent of the team's interest remains unknown.

Orioles, Pirates Still Interested In Ike Davis

Although Mets Spring Training is underway and Ike Davis trade rumors have largely died down as of late, a pair of clubs is still interested in the 26-year-old. ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that the Pirates continue to monitor Davis' status in camp, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Orioles are still interested in acquiring Davis to serve primarily in a DH capacity.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington told Stark yesterday that the team is confident in its internal candidates to serve as a platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez — namely Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness and Travis Ishikawa. However, Huntington added:

"That doesn't stop us from looking elsewhere. It’s just that now, our bar has been set a little bit higher, as to 'How do we make the club better?' And 'How do we make the club better at the right situation for us?'"

As for the Orioles, acquiring Davis would allow them to add some more power while preserving the No. 55 pick in the draft — a selection that would be forfeited should the team go the free-agent route by signing either Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz. Davis would also be significantly cheaper in terms of salary, as he's slated to earn just $3.5MM this season. However, Mets GM Sandy Alderson has made it clear that he will not simply give Davis away. Previous reports indicated that Alderson has asked the Orioles to part with top pitching rospect Eduardo Rodriguez in a Davis trade.

Sherman also reports that at one point this offseason, the Mets and Rays were discussing players that could be added to a Davis-for-Matt Joyce swap before Tampa finally proposed a straight one-for-one trade. The Mets rejected that deal, and Tampa closed the door on talks by signing James Loney to a three-year, $21MM contract.

Davis batted .205/.326/.334 overall last season but fared very well upon his recall from the minor leagues after being sent down in early June. The former first-round pick posted an .872 OPS over his final two months, including a .290/.468/.522 triple-slash in August. An oblique strain cut his strong finish to the season short, sidelining him for the entire month of September.

Pirates Still Looking For Left-Handed Bat At First Base

The Pirates are not giving up on the possibility of adding a left-handed-hitting first baseman through trade, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Though efforts to date have not proven fruitful, Pittsburgh is still hoping to find a platoon partner for rigty Gaby Sanchez.

The club is still keeping an eye on how camp plays out for long-rumored target Ike Davis and the Mets. Other possible options — like Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland — could become available depending upon what happens with the several key free agents that remain.

Though GM Neal Huntington says that he is confident with the club's in-house candidates, including Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness, and Travis Ishikawa, none have proven to have an above-average big league bat. And Huntington acknowledged that an addition remains possible. "That doesn't stop us from looking elsewhere," he said. "It's just that now, our bar has been set a little bit higher … If there's something that makes us better, and makes sense for us, we'll still look to do that."

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