Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Pirates Claim Josh Lindblom, Outright Angel Sanchez

The Pirates have claimed righty Josh Lindblom off waivers from the Athletics, Pittsburgh has announced. Oakland recently designated him for assignment.

In a corresponding move, the Bucs outrighted right-hander Angel Sanchez to Triple-A. Sanchez was claimed by Pittsburgh back in July. He has yet to appear above the Double-A level.

As for Lindblom, the 27-year-old saw just one MLB appearance last year. He tossed 84 minor league innings, working to a 5.79 ERA with 6.4 K/9 versus 2.8 BB/9. Lindblom has played in parts of four major league campaigns.


Quick Hits: Leake, Craig, Liriano, Masterson

Reds pitcher and regular MLBTR reader Mike Leake keeps track of offseason trade whispers but tries not to worry about them, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes.  “I’m curious. I check MLB Trade Rumors every day just to see what’s new,” says Leake, a potential trade candidate this winter. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You sit and wait and see if your name is thrown in a trade.” Leake notes that he would be happy to remain with the Reds, but would be understanding if they traded him.

  • If the Red Sox decide to deal Allen Craig, there will be interest despite his poor 2014 season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  The Marlins and Brewers have had interest in the past, and one evaluator expresses confidence that Craig’s performance last season was derailed by injuries and not by a steep decline in ability.
  • Also from Cafardo, Francisco Liriano would be a good fit in either the NL or AL, but teams are concerned about giving him more than a three-year deal since he’s never been an innings-eater.  The Pirates remain interested in retaining him but not on a four-year contract.  Some executives feel the “tipping point” of Liriano’s market will be if at least one team is willing to give that fourth year, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
  • Liriano is one of the Pirates‘ top targets, sources tell Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • Justin Masterson has received a lot of interest but no actual offers yet, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports.  Laurila suggested in a recent column that Masterson could be a good candidate to be converted to relief pitching, though no teams have approached him with that idea and Masterson wouldn’t be interested if they did.
  • Also from Laurila’s piece, he talks to Burke Badenhop and the righty reliever said he felt he improved his free agent stock by posting strong numbers against left-handed batters in 2014.
  • Ichiro Suzuki‘s market is “not hot,” agent John Boggs tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).  Boggs is trying to push his client’s ability to play all three outfield spots and a bat that delivered a .284 average in 2014, hoping that teams won’t shy away because Ichiro is entering his age-41 season.
  • It would be surprising if the Rockies pulled off a blockbuster deal involving Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes.  “If I was a betting man, I sure wouldn’t put down money on a trade,” a Major League executive tells Saunders.  The likeliest scenario is that neither player is traded (if at all) until they’ve proven they’re healthy.

Quick Hits: Red Sox Pitching, Gregorius, Pirates, A’s

The Red Sox could avoid damaging, long term contracts to starting pitchers, suggests Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. There are as many as seven or eight high quality hurlers on the trade market with one year of club control. Boston can trade from its depth to acquire one of those names – like Jeff Samardzija – rather than commit big money to Jon Lester or assume Cole Hamels‘ contract.

  • Along a similar vein, the Red Sox don’t need Lester, writes Tony Massarotti of Boston.com. The Sox do need pitching and Lester is one of the best starters available. But the market is flooded with great substitutes. If the bidding on Lester goes beyond a reasonable comfort zone, why not look at a more affordable alternative?
  • The Pirates have at least $15MM to spend and would like to add a starting pitcher, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Vance Worley are the current rotation members with Charlie Morton expected to open the season on the disabled list. The club recently added Clayton Richard on a minor league deal for depth, and Pittsburgh is expected to finalize a deal with Radhames Liz soon. Both are viewed as insurance rather than an opening day rotation candidate. The club is keeping close tabs on Francisco Liriano and would like to re-sign him.
  • Didi Gregorius might not have the right psychology to thrive with the Yankees, opines Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic. McManaman spoke with a scout and ex-teammate who both said Gregorius can let things get to him. In the New York pressure cooker, that could be a problem. McManaman also criticizes Gregorius’ bat, but I’m more optimistic on that count. He hits relatively well (for a shortstop) against right-handed pitchers and his defense easily makes up for his other offensive shortcomings. He’s demonstrated surprising pop on occasion and a slightly fly-ball centric approach. Those should play very well at Yankee Stadium.
  • The A’s have a busy offseason ahead of them, writes Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area. Traditionally, they use the Winter Meetings to lay groundwork for future trades. A deal involving Brandon Moss is already in the works, and Samardzija is expected to receive plenty of attention. Oakland would like to find a shortstop with one of those two players. They may turn to the free agent market to add a right-handed reliever. Buy low candidates like Jason Grilli, Casey Janssen, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano fit the club’s modus operandi.


Minor Moves: Beavan, Herrera, Sitton, Kohn, Carrera, Obispo

Here are the latest minor moves …

  • The Diamondbacks have signed righty Blake Beavan to a minor league deal, via the MLB.com transactions page. The former first-round pick was outrighted by the Marines back in August.
  • The Cubs inked second baseman Jonathan Herrera, per the same source. Herrera lost his roster spot with the Red Sox a month ago after a fairly disappointing campaign in Boston.
  • The Angels re-signed righty Yoslan Herrera on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Herrera had been non-tendered yesterday.
  • Likewise, southpaw Kraig Sitton has re-signed with the Rockies on a minor league deal a day after being non-tendered, the club announced via Twitter. Sitton posted a 3.68 ERA last year at the Double-A level.
  • Righty Michael Kohn has gone to the Braves on a minor league deal with a big league camp invite, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Kohn originally signed with the Rays but was designated off the 40-man roster.
  • The Blue Jays announced the signing of outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to a minor league deal. Carrera was designated recently to clear space for the Tigers’ claim of Josh Zeid.
  • The Brewers have signed righty Wirfin Obispo, the club’s player development account tweeted. Obispo, 30, spent last year with the Braves and Pirates organizations and worked to a 4.12 ERA over 48 Triple-A frames.

Pirates Sign Clayton Richard To Minor League Deal

The Pirates announced that they’ve signed left-hander Clayton Richard to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.

Richard hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2013, but the Relativity Sports client was a mainstay in the Padres’ rotation from 2010-13 after being acquired in the Jake Peavy trade with the White Sox. A shoulder impingement cut his 2013 season short, and he went on to have surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome in the offseason. He did get back on a mound to throw 21 1/3 minor league innings with the Diamondbacks last year. The Pirates will hope that Richard is another in the long line of pitchers they’ve revitalized, although the minor league deal is a more minimal investment than their previous reclamation projects.

Now 31 years of age, Richard posted a 3.88 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 520 innings for the Padres in 2010-12, twice topping the 200-inning mark. He boasts a career ground-ball rate of 50 percent — an attribute to which the Pirates have been attracted in other pitchers over the past few years. Pittsburgh is known to be incredibly aggressive with its infield shifts, and that trait should help maximize Richard’s ground-ball tendencies if he ultimately makes the club.


Arbitration Breakdown: Mark Melancon

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Mark Melancon has mostly bounced back and forth between closing and set-up roles over the last few years, but after starting 2014 as a set-up man, he finally put together a 30-save season. Since Melancon also had 14 holds accumulated early in the season, he became a rare player who had both solid set-up numbers and solid closing numbers in the same season. Saves and holds are highly dependent on factors outside of a pitcher’s control — mainly when he gets used — but they both factor into arbitration prices. Melancon also was great at performing well independent of context. With a 1.90 ERA in 71 innings, his run prevention skill adds to his arbitration case this winter, too.

Mark  Melancon

One of my goals for the arbitration model that I always strive for is to mimic real life to the extent possible. However, since the model is an algorithm, it cannot mimic the process perfectly, and I think the model really overstated Melancon this year. The model itself projected a $5MM raise from $2.6MM to $7.6MM, but the application of “The Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player cannot beat the previous record for his role and service class by more than $1MM, keeps Melancon at a $4.275MM raise (topping Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise in 2007 as an Arb 2 reliever), which would put him at $6.875MM. Even still, it is hard to make the case that Melancon will actually be earning that much next season.

The reason that the model is so bullish on Melancon is because he has impressive numbers in three different important categories: ERA, saves, and holds. The model knows that relievers who excel in a couple of these categories earn much more than those who only thrive in one, and it has inferred that Melancon’s success should translate to a record-breaking number. He is getting credit for being a full-time closer—because many solid closers do not get enough opportunities to rack up 33 saves in the first place—and for being a semi-regular set-up man with 14 holds. Many set-up men who share the role do not even top 14 holds in a season. On top of that, his 1.90 ERA puts him in elite status.

Of course, despite my belief that the model exaggerated Melancon’s likely salary, it was difficult to find many comparables. I tried to look for anyone in recent history who had at least 25 saves and at least 10 holds in his second year of arbitration eligibility. The only such pitcher that existed was Tyler Clippard, who had 32 holds and 13 saves two years ago, but Clippard had a 3.71 ERA, almost double that of Melancon. It seems likely that Melancon has a strong enough case to crush Clippard’s $2.35MM raise. Clippard also did not have the same history of saves that is often important in arbitration cases. He had only one career save before his 2012 season, but Melancon had already accumulated 47 saves before 2014.

I tried to look for pitchers who had just 20 saves and five holds, and only one extra pitcher emerged. Juan Carlos Oviedo had 30 saves and 5 holds four years ago, but he also had a pedestrian 3.46 ERA. His $1.65MM raise is very unlikely to look appropriate for Melancon. Going back further than five years added a couple more hybrids to the bunch—Brad Lidge in 2007 and Kevin Gregg in 2008. They got raises under $2MM as well, and neither had an amazing ERA or even had 10 holds. Looking for hybrid closer/set-up man types was not producing guys who had great seasons. Instead, it was finding guys with talent but who allowed a few too many runs.

That led me to abandon the holds criteria altogether. If we start with the idea that Melancon is a closer, and then give him a little bump for his set-up numbers, we may get somewhere more quickly. How many closers had 30 saves and ERAs under 2.00 like Melancon over the last few years? A very stale case, Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise in 2007, arose as a possibility. He had 47 saves along with 1.73 ERA. Although that case is typically too old to be considered, it could serve as a clue. If Melancon’s 14 holds had all been saves, his case would look very similar. However, with eight years of salary inflation on top of that, Melancon could be in a position to get a more notable raise.

Jonathan Papelbon got a $3.1MM raise in his second year of arbitration eligibility in 2010 with a 1.85 ERA and 38 saves. Of course, he had 113 career saves going into his platform year, so he may have a slight advantage over Melacon’s 47. Joel Hanrahan in 2012 got a $2.7MM raise after a 1.83 ERA season in which he accumulated 40 saves. That could also serve as a solid comparable for Melancon, but without the set-up credentials. Hanrahan only had 20 pre-platform saves. No one else even managed a 2.50 ERA, so the other historical raises for second-year arbitration eligible relievers are less applicable. However, it is worth noting that several guys did get raises over $2.5MM.

Putting all of this together, Melancon’s case does seem genuinely unique. Hanrahan’s $2.7MM and Papelbon’s $3.1MM both look like reasonable comparables, with a few more saves and far fewer holds. I could see Melancon being able to successfully argue past K-Rod’s $3.275MM raise from eight years ago, but that could be challenging because of the 47 saves that K-Rod had in his platform season. On the other hand, an argument of Papelbon/Hanrahan’s raises near $3MM, plus a set-up man bonus of $500K or so, could put Melancon past K-Rod. My best guess is that Melancon gets a raise of about $3-3.5MM, good for a $5.6-6.1MM salary in 2015. That is nowhere near where the model puts him, but it seems more realistic in light of the relevant comparables that could be drawn upon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


2014-15 National League Non-Tenders

Major League clubs have until 11pm CT tonight to tender contracts to players for the 2015 season. We’ll run down the list of National League non-tenders here, and update it as reports come in. Remember that you can track all of the action using MLBTR’s Non-Tender tracker, and we offer a full list of non-tender candidates (in the estimation of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes). Also important for reference is the set of arbitration salary projections from MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz. Click here for an explanation of the process, and be sure to check out this piece featuring some interesting observations from Tim regarding non-tender considerations.

  • The Rockies have non-tendered lefty Kraig Sitton, the team announced.
  • The Pirates have non-tendered Gaby Sanchez and Chaz Roe, the club announced. Sanchez was in DFA limbo.
  • The Cardinals will non-tender Daniel Descalso, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. That move seemed rather likely, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reported last night.
  • Lefty Wesley Wright and catcher John Baker have been non-tendered by the Cubs, the team announced. Wright certainly qualifies as a surprise, as the 29-year-old was solid for the Cubs and was projected to earn just $2MM.
  • The Reds have non-tendered righties Logan Ondrusek and Curtis Partch, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Giants have tendered all arb-eligible players contracts, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News reports on Twitter.
  • The Mets have announced that Eric Young Jr. has been non-tendered, ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin tweets.
  • The Braves have dropped the biggest non-tender news of the day thus far, releasing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to the open market. Otherwise, the only teams announcing to this point have decided to tender all of their players.
  • There will are no non-tenders to report for the Diamondbacks, who have announced that they have tendered contracts to all eligible players (via MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, on Twitter).
  • The same holds true for the Marlins, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter link).
  • The Nationals have announced that they have tendered contracts to all ten eligible players, per Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com (via Twitter). Washington had previously agreed to avoid arbitration with one other player from the packed class (Kevin Frandsen).

NL Notes: Tomas, Liriano, Marlins, Harper, Braves, Gattis

The Phillies never made an offer for outfielder Yasmany Tomas, agent Jay Alou Jr. tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Alou said that the club was engaged throughout the process, but that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. gave the impression that he had to “clear salary” before he could put dollars on the table. “His hands were tied,” Alou said in reference to Amaro. For his part, Amaro said only that “it was clear the Diamondbacks valued him higher than we did.” The ownership group has not created any “impediments” to his baseball operations staff, he added.

More from the National League:

  • With a line of quality pitchers queuing up behind Jon Lester and company, the Pirates are staying engaged with their own outgoing free agents, Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Dejan Kovacevic recently reported that the club hoped to return both hurlers, even after adding A.J. Burnett.
  • Indeed, Pittsburgh is making clear to agents of other free agent starters that Liriano is their top priority on the rotation market, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports. Though the Bucs would stand to give up the sandwich pick they would receive were Liriano to sign elsewhere, he has been quite a valuable contributor to the team’s winning ways over the last two seasons.
  • The Marlins are unlikely to lock down any new extensions before the Winter Meetings, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com tweets, though that does not mean that the team is not making a legitimate effort to work out more deals. With offers on the table or soon to be delivered to several young players, the team appears to be making a push to follow the model that the Braves pursued last year.
  • Bryce Harper and the Nationals are headed towards a grievance in December to resolve the long-lingering question whether his contract permits him to opt into arbitration, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. (To understand the background, read this post from last November.) Rosenthal wonders whether the Nats would be better served not fighting the point, if the club hopes to have a shot at extending Harper.
  • As the Braves continue to weigh their trade options, the team is more likely to deal Justin Upton than to move both he and Evan Gattis, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets. The team has still not ruled out a scenario in which both players are traded, though that would obviously create quite a void in the middle of the team’s lineup.
  • Interestingly, the Braves had extended discussions earlier this offseason with the Astros about Gattis, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Atlanta wanted Houston to take a pairing of Gattis and the struggling B.J. Upton in a trade, but that involved too much payroll for the latter to stomach. The Braves expressed interest in both Dexter Fowler and Carlos Corporan in the talks. Rosenthal says that the original line of discussion faded, but that other talks involving Gattis could arise between the teams in the future.

Minor Moves: Leach, Nix, Pirates, Martin, Brown

The Brewers have re-signed left-hander Brent Leach to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link). The 31-year-old Leach has an opt-out clause as well as Asian buyout language worked into his contract. Leach enjoyed a solid campaign at Triple-A Nashville last year, posting a 3.28 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 while holding lefties to a .220/.331/.330 batting line.

Some more minor moves from around the game…

  • Infielder Jayson Nix elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment from the Royals, according to the club’s transactions page. The seven-year veteran is a career .212/.282/.345 hitter that has shown a bit of pop and some speed while playing third base, second base, shortstop and the outfield corners in the past.
  • The Pirates announced that they have signed outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, catcher Sebastian Valle and third baseman Deibinson Romero to minor league deals with Spring Training invites. Hernandez, 27, saw big league action with the Bucs back in 2012 and spent parts of four seasons in their minor league system. He’s a .272/.340/.367 hitter at the Triple-A level. Valle, 24, was formerly one of the Phillies’ top prospects per Baseball America, but his bat never caught up to his glove. He’s a lifetime .234/.265/.384 hitter at Double-A and has minimal Triple-A experience. Romero, 28, has spent his career with the Twins but never reached the bigs. He has a .266/.366/.412 line in two seasons at Triple-A.
  • The Dodgers announced that lefty Jarret Martin has been outrighted to Triple-A after being designated for assignment upon the club’s acquisition of Mike Bolsinger. The 25-year-old had a 3.29 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings at Triple-A last year, but he also walked an alarming 48 batters.
  • Outfielder Corey Brown has signed a minor league deal with the Rays, per a tweet from his agents at O’Connell Sports Management. The 29-year-old is a Tampa native that has batted .171/.244/.390 with a pair of homers in 46 big league PAs to go along with a career .249/.326/.458 batting line at Triple-A.

Quick Hits: Pirates, Bruce, Rule 5 Draft, Capuano

The Diamondbacks won the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, signing the Cuban outfielder to a six-year, $68.5MM contract and drawing praise from some around the baseball world, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.  One AL scout called the contract “a great deal,” since another AL scout told Piecoro that “most people thought it would cost between $80MM-$100MM” to sign Tomas.  It’s possible that the Snakes were able to get a relative bargain, however, due to concerns that other teams had about Tomas’ defense and plate discipline, not to mention career numbers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional that fell well behind the totals posted by such stars as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.

MLBTR wishes all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and here are some items from around baseball to go with your pumpkin pie for dessert…

  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly tells Dejan Kovacevic of DKOnPittsburghSports.com that the team’s payroll “certainly can and I suspect will” top the $90MM mark in 2015.  This works out to roughly $20MM in available funds by Kovacevic’s calculations, and “everything I’m hearing is that most, if not all, of that money will be committed to starting pitching,” with the Pirates hoping to re-sign both Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez.
  • The Reds are looking for multiple “inexpensive Major League-ready players” in exchange for Jay Bruce, a rival scout familiar with the team’s demands told Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.  Cincinnati is known to be listening to offers for Bruce, though it could just be a case of due diligence rather than a legitimate desire to deal the outfielder.
  • The Rule 5 Draft is coming up on December 11, and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper lists some of the intriguing names that are likely or unlikely be picked in two weeks’ time.  BA’s Matt Eddy, meanwhile, examines some of the key statistics and factors that led several prospects to be added to team’s 40-man rosters in advance of the draft.
  • Chris Capuano said “there’s a lot of truth to” rumors he is interested in pitching in Japan next season, the veteran lefty told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).  “It piqued my interest back in 2006….we’re considering it,” Capuano said.  The 36-year-old posted a 4.35 ERA, 2.47 K/BB and 7.5 K/9 over 97 1/3 IP in 2014, making 12 starts for the Yankees and 28 relief appearances for the Red Sox.
  • The Mariners would be hard-pressed to deal starting pitching given their lack of rotation depth, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, and thus a rumored Hisashi Iwakuma-for-Yoenis Cespedes deal doesn’t make much sense for the team.
  • If GM Brian Cashman truly believes David Robertsonchecks every box” for what’s expected from a Yankees closer, then the team should’ve re-signed Robertson by now, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News opines.  The Robertson/Dellin Betances combo was a major strength for the Yankees last season, though Betances might not be ready to take over the closer’s role.  Plus, as Feinsand argues, “who takes over the setup role if Betances moves to the ninth? Andrew Miller? Luke Gregerson? If you’re going to pay a free-agent reliever, why not spend on the one you’ve drafted and developed yourself?”