Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Central Notes: Mesoraco, Iglesias, Harrison, Hunter

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco did not travel with the team and instead remained in Cincinnati to undergo an MRI on his hip, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Catcher Kyle Skipworth will fill in for the time being, as he’s had his contract selected from Triple-A, the Reds announced. (A corresponding 40-man move will happen prior to tonight’s game.) The Reds entered the season with quite a few injury question marks, but Mesoraco was not thought to be one. Clearly, losing Mesoraco for any significant amount of time would be crushing for a Cincinnati team that many have already picked to struggle in the NL Central, though it’s too early to tell exactly how great the level of concern surrounding Mesoraco should be.

A few more notes from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards breaks down Raisel Iglesias‘ debut against the Cardinals yesterday, noting that while the start didn’t alleviate concerns about Iglesias’ ability to work deep into games, he showed enough to suggest that he can get big league hitters out on a consistent basis, even if it ultimately has to come in a relief role. With Homer Bailey nearing a return from the DL, the Reds will have to make a decision between Iglesias and veteran righty Jason Marquis. For the time being, that’s been solved by optioning Iglesias to Louisville, but Edwards wonders if it’d be a better decision to eventually let Iglesias develop at the highest level — a move that would seemingly force Marquis into the bullpen or off the Cincinnati roster.
  • Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke to Pirates GM Neal Huntington about the decision to pursue a long-term contract with Josh Harrison“When you believe in the person and you believe in the abilities of that person, and it aligns with where you want to go, you’re able to find the common ground, it makes all the sense in the world,” Huntington told Brink. As Brink points out, not all deals of this nature work out — he uses Jose Tabata as a particularly regrettable deal for the Pirates — but the cost certainty they provide is valuable. Brink notes that the Bucs will be on the hook for $42.25MM in 2017 — the last guaranteed year of the Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano contracts — for the combined salaries of Harrison, McCutchen, Liriano and Starling Marte.
  • Torii Hunter told reporters prior to today’s home opener that the Royals, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles were all interested in him before he made the decision to sign with the Twins, tweets the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino. The Royals, in particular, seemed to tantalize Hunter, per Berardino“Those guys going to the World Series, that was very appealing,” Hunter added.

Quick Hits: Cubs, Kimbrel, Bryant, Pirates

Teams have quickly accepted the importance of the mental side of the game, reports the Associated Press in the New York Times. For example, the Cubs view mental skills coach Josh Lifrak as an equal to their hitting and pitching coaches. The article describes part of the process used by the Cubs, Nationals, and Red Sox, although all teams have probably adopted some form of mental skills development.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • Padres senior advisor Trevor Hoffman was thrilled by the team’s recent trade for Craig Kimbrel, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Kimbrel follows Hoffman (the all-time NL leader in saves) in a line of strong Padres closers. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to have a guy at the backend, even before I got here and continuing with Huston (Street) and Joaquin (Benoit),” says Hoffman. “The street cred [Kimbrel has] built in the game over the last four, five years really separates him from the rest of the group as one of the top-echelon closers in the game.”
  • The Cubs‘ decision to send Kris Bryant to the minors to start the season led to controversy, but now that he’s there, the team has him working on playing outfield, Gordon Wittenmyer writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). While many assume that Bryant will be activated as soon as next week, the Cubs may legitimately be concerned about finding him a defensive home.
  • If the Pirates have money to spend at the trade deadline this year, they could target an ace pitcher, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The payroll is cheap thanks to a number of young players and team friendly extensions. That could make Cole Hamels a potential fit. He, like Andrew McCutchen, has four years remaining on his contract. My thought: it’s at least conceivable that the Phillies would take on a large portion of his contract for the right prospects. To be clear, this is not to say that the Pirates have inquired about Hamels, only that a fit might exist.

Minor Moves: Florimon, Peguero, Adrianza, Tracy

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias will make his major league debut tomorrow, writes Jason Haddix for MLB.com. He’ll be opposed by Cardinals hurler Carlos Martinez. The Reds committed to a seven-year, $27MM contract with Iglesias during the 2014 season.
  • The Orioles selected the contract of knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa, writes Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com. Wesley Wright was added to the disabled list in a corresponding move. Gamboa, 30, had yet to reach the majors although he figures to bounce back and forth this year. He’ll serve as depth in case Kevin Gausman is needed in long relief in the next couple games.
  • Pirates utility man Pedro Florimon has cleared waivers, tweets Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has been outrighted to Triple-A. Per Brink (also Twitter), since Florimon has been outrighted before, he can decline and become a free agent. Brink is told no decision has been made.
  • The Rangers have announced that they’ve selected the contract of corner outfielder Carlos Peguero and recalled pitcher Jon Edwards. They’ve also moved Derek Holland (shoulder) to the 60-day disabled list and Ryan Rua (ankle) to the 15-day disabled list. Peguero is in the Rangers’ lineup tonight. The 28-year-old Peguero has played briefly, and not particularly impressively, for the Mariners and Royals in parts of four big-league seasons, but he’s demonstrated serious power in the minors (with 30 homers for Triple-A Omaha last year) and in Spring Training.
  • The Giants have outrighted infielder Ehire Adrianza to Triple-A Sacramento, MLB.com’s Chris Haft tweets. The team designated Adrianza for assignment last week. Adrianza, 25, hit .237/.279/.299 in 106 plate appearances while playing mostly shortstop and second base for the Giants last season.
  • The Yankees have announced that they’ve promoted lefty Matt Tracy. To clear space for Tracy on the 25- and 40-man rosters, the Yankees optioned lefty Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and moved Ivan Nova to the 60-day disabled list. Tracy will need to be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Tracy’s stay on the roster could turn out to be short, however — the Yankees can use some quick bullpen reinforcements after their 19-inning game against the Red Sox last night, and Tracy would presumably join the team for that purpose. The 26-year-old posted a 3.76 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 150 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
  • Two players remain in DFA limbo, via MLBTR’s DFA Tracker: lefty Sam Freeman (Rangers) and outfielder Carlos Quentin (Braves).


Rangers Claim Stolmy Pimentel

The Rangers have announced that they’ve claimed righty Stolmy Pimentel from the Pirates. To clear space on their 40-man roster, the Rangers have transferred Lisalverto Bonilla to the 60-day disabled list. The Bucs designated Pimentel for assignment last week.

The 25-year-old Pimentel is out of options, so he’ll join the injury-ravaged Rangers’ 25-man roster, with a forthcoming move yet to be announced. He has strikeout stuff, with a good fastball and 10.5 K/9 in the Pirates’ bullpen last season, but he also walked 16 batters in 32 2/3 innings and posted a 5.23 ERA. He was mostly a starter throughout his minor-league career (which included several stops with the Red Sox before he headed to Pittsburgh in the Joel Hanrahan deal), but it might be hard for him to develop as a starter without being able to head back to the minors first.


Pirates, Gregory Polanco Table Extension Talks

The Pirates and Gregory Polanco were known to be taking a second try at working out a long-term deal after last year’s negotiations didn’t result in an agreement, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the sides have again decided to put their extension talks on hold. According to Heyman, the two sides will revisit an extension following the 2015 season.

Of course, by that point, the price tag could rise significantly for Pittsburgh. The 23-year-old Polanco has been considered one of baseball’s brightest young players for quite some time, as he first began to surface on Top 100 prospect lists prior to the 2013 season. Last year, Polanco hit .328/.390/.504 with seven homers and 16 steals in 305 Triple-A plate appearances before being called up to the Majors. Polanco was the talk of baseball when he hit .338/.416/.441 through his first 16 games, but he cooled and finished the season with a .235/.307/.343 line.

A big year for Polanco would likely make the asking price for his agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council significantly higher, though they also run the risk of Polanco’s struggles continuing and Pittsburgh significantly reducing the bounds of its comfort zone. Per Heyman’s report, the Pirates were willing to make Polanco the highest-ever offer for a player with less than one year of service time — Chris Archer‘s $20MM extension currently holds that distinction — but the two sides weren’t able to agree on the salaries of the option years that would be included in the deal.

The Pirates already control Polanco through at least the 2020 season, which will be his age-28 season. Locking in Polanco to a deal with at least one club option would ensure that both he and Starling Marte are under team control through the 2021 season. Center fielder and 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen is under club control through the 2018 season.


Pirates Designate Stolmy Pimentel And Pedro Florimon

The Pirates have announced they have designated right-hander Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Pedro Florimon for assignment. The Pirates were forced into these moves since both Pimentel and Florimon are out of options.

The Pirates now have 10 days to either trade, release, or outright the pair to the minors.


Minor Moves: Tomas, Oliver, Brignac, Zito

Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Diamondbacks have optioned Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, the team reports via Twitter. The club signed Tomas for $68.5MM over the offseason. He struggled both defensively and offensively this spring. A stint in Triple-A should give him time to adjust to the outfield and improve his plate approach.
  • Phillies Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver has elected free agency after he was outrighted, the club announced via Twitter. The hard throwing lefty has struggled with walks throughout his career. That continued this spring with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts in 12 and two-thirds innings. The club also announced on Twitter that they reassigned catcher Rene Garcia, first baseman Russ Canzler, and infielder Cord Phelps to Triple-A.
  • Marlins utility infielder Reid Brignac has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. In 905 major league plate appearances, Brignac has a .222/.266/.314 line.
  • Athletics pitcher Barry Zito has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Jane Lee of MLB.com. The former star is working his way back from a one-year hiatus. He posted a 4.79 ERA in 20 and two-thirds spring innings. The 37-year-old struck out 14 and walked five. A former ninth overall pick of the A’s, the southpaw struggled after moving across the Bay to San Francisco on a seven-year, $126MM contract. That deal concluded after the 2013 season.
  • The Red Sox have released Casey Crosby, Bryan LaHair, and Matt Hoffman per the MLB transactions page. Crosby was once a top prospect with the Tigers, but the 26-year-old lefty has yet to develop command. Lahair, 32, had a nice run with the Cubs in 2012 when he hit .259/.334/.450 with 16 home runs in 380 plate appearances. He spent the 2013 season in Japan and split 2014 between Cleveland’s Double and Triple-A clubs.
  • The Phillies have released shortstop Tyler Greene according to the MLB transactions page. Greene, an 11th round pick, was once rated among the Phillies’ best prospects. He missed the entire 2014 season and has never posted a strikeout rate below 33 percent at any level.
  • The Giants have released pitcher Edgmer Escalona per the MLB transactions page. Escalona pitched in parts of four seasons for the Rockies, accruing 100 innings. He has a career 4.50 ERA with 6.39 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9.
  • The Cubs have released lefty pitcher Francisley Bueno according to the transactions page. The 34-year-old has pitched in parts of four season for the Braves and Royals. The soft tossing lefty has a career 2.98 ERA with 4.92 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9 in 60 innings. He’s a pure platoon pitcher.
  • The Braves released former closer Matt Capps per MLB.com. The righty last appeared in the majors in 2012. He has a career 3.52 ERA with 6.53 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9. He’s thrown just 12 minor league innings over the last two seasons – both with the Indians.

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Pirates Acquire Hunter Morris From Brewers

The Pirates have acquired first baseman Hunter Morris from the Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later, the clubs announced. The 26-year-old had already been outrighted over the offseason.

Morris has spent most of his time at Triple-A over the last two seasons, slashing .260/.315/.453 and hitting 35 home runs in 902 plate appearances. He earned the organization’s minor league player of the year award back in 2012. A left-handed hitter, Morris will presumably land with the Bucs’ top affiliate.


Clayton Richard Declines To Opt Out From Pirates Deal

Lefty Clayton Richard decided to allow his opt-out clause to expire yesterday, despite the fact that he was not added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster, Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reports. Richard’s opt-out was negotiated into his deal; he is not an Article XX(B) free agent and thus lacks the automatic protection provided by that status.

Richard said that he is not sure if and when he can opt out in the future, but noted that his representatives were set to discuss his contract with GM Neal Huntington. The 31-year-old has been effective in spring — he allowed 3 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two — and likely would have drawn interest elsewhere. Instead, he’ll provide a potentially useful depth option for Pittsburgh.

“€œI’m still here,€ Richard tells Williams. “We just thought it would be best to stay here and work some stuff out. I’ve had such a good experience with everyone here. We’re going in the right direction. It seems like the right move to stay here and keep on making that progress.”


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.