Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

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.

Pirates Discussing Extension With Gregory Polanco

The Pirates and outfielder Gregory Polanco‘s representatives at the Beverly Hills Sports Council have rekindled talks on a long-term contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The two sides discussed a seven-year deal last May, which would have been a precedent-setting contract for a young player with no Major League service time. However, Polanco’s camp didn’t bite on the contract, largely due to the fact that it contained three club options with salaries in the low eight-figure range that would’ve maxed out at $50-60MM over its entirety if all three options were exercised. That deal would’ve seemed team-friendly even if Polanco were to develop into an average regular, but many see him destined for stardom.

Polanco, just 23 years of age, was one of baseball’s top prospects heading into the 2014 season and made his Major League debut in June. Though he got off to a torrid start, Polanco eventually cooled, and his overall batting line checked in at a pedestrian .235/.307/.343 in 312 plate appearances. That production came as a 22-year-old in his first taste of MLB, however, and his Minor League track record — Polanco has batted .325/.385/.495 with seven homers and 17 steals in just 71 Triple-A games — is tantalizing to say the least.

The Bucs already have two-thirds of their brilliant young outfield locked up long-term, as both Andrew McCutchen (six years, $51.5MM) and Starling Marte (six years, $31MM) have signed long-term contracts in recent years. An outfield of Marte, McCutchen and Polanco locked up for the foreseeable future would be enough to make any team envious, but Heyman notes that the chances of a deal being completed before Opening Day are unknown.

Long-term deals for players with fewer than a year of Major League service time have been few and far between, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker. The most recent case was Jon Singleton‘s five-year, $10MM contract with the Astros last spring, but that came when he had zero big league service time. Polanco, who has just 103 days of Major League service, would become the highest-paid player ever in his service class where he to sign the type of deal that Heyman outlined above. Of course, it’s not certain what terms and parameters are being discussed by the two sides at this juncture.


Central Notes: Hicks, Pirates, Madson

The Twins have optioned Aaron Hicks to Triple-A Rochester, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. Heading into Spring Training, Hicks had seemed to be the likely choice for the Twins’ starting center field job. He has struggled this March, however, putting up a .206/.300/.324 line that’s very consistent with his career .201/.293/.313 performance. The demotion is another setback for the former first-round pick, who is still struggling to establish himself at age 25. It appears the team will go with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson in center field. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Pirates while visiting with the Bucs and Twins Friday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I think the Pirates have tremendously benefited by (owner) Bob Nutting’s presence and leadership,” Manfred said. “For those of you who know the history, you’re not going to be surprised to hear me say I am a huge Frank Coonelly fan. I think he’s done a fantastic job as president of the Pirates, including his selection of (general manager) Neal (Huntington).” Coonelly worked in the commissioner’s office before becoming the Pirates’ president. Manfred added that his controversial comments about banning defensive shifts were only an idea, and that the league isn’t likely to make changes in that area, particularly given the feedback he’s gotten about it.
  • Ryan Madson‘s opt-out with the Royals is May 1, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 34-year-old Madson, who’s had a mess of injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, is attempting a comeback with Kansas City. He’s gotten decent results so far, striking out four batters and walking none in seven spring innings. The Royals have another month to evaluate him, however, which makes sense — one imagines he’ll still need time to prepare to pitch in meaningful games, given all the time off he’s had.

NL Central Notes: Bryant, Kang, Reds, Cardinals

Cubs president Theo Epstein said yesterday that he’s never taken a Minor Leaguer and put him on an Opening Day roster with zero prior big league experience, but super-prospect Kris Bryant feels like he could be the exception to that rule, writes ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers“I look at it as ‘Why not me?” Bryant said on Friday. “I think I’m the type of guy that can go out there and do it. I’ve made it a point of mine to come out here and show them that I can.” Bryant, of course, is the talk of Spring Training with nine homers and a ludicrous .406/.472/1.313 batting line in 36 plate appearances. The Cubs, though, can delay his free agency by a full season if they keep him in the Minors for a bit less than two weeks to open the season. While Cubs management and ownership naturally insists that any decision would be baseball-related as opposed to business-related, it seems likely that Bryant would be recalled early in the season once the year of team control is gained.

More from the NL Central…

  • Jung-ho Kang has struggled to a .111 average in Spring Training thus far, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is still planning on bringing the Korean infielder north with the club to open the season, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve seen some really good things,” Huntington told Biertempfel in regard to Kang.
  • Chris Dominguez, Brennan Boesch, Ivan De Jesus and Irving Falu are all competing for the Reds‘ final bench spots, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, and each has performed well in Spring Training. Manager Bryan Price also noted that the rotation isn’t yet settled. Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis and Raisel Iglesias are all in the mix for the final two spots, and Price explained how his club is looking beyond statistics to determine who will fill those roles. In general, he spoke very highly of DeSclafani, so it seems likely that he’ll be in the rotation to open the year.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required/recommended) about his tendency to hang onto young pitching and his deviation from that process by trading players such as Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to land John Lackey and Jason Heyward“Believe it or not, even though in these deals it appears like we’re giving up the control factor, we felt they were fair deals for both sides,” said Mozeliak. “Put it this way: We understand the risk.” Mozeliak went on to discuss the increased importance teams now place on prospects as opposed to the 1990s and early 2000s, noting that cost control has become an increasingly large factor in trades. The Cardinals, Goold writes, have an in-house algorithm and scouting process to assign dollar values to players, which they use in free agency and in trades. Said Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr.: “Our model is value-based, and what we want to do is get value back for value given. Because there is always opportunity to use resources to acquire talent.”

NL Notes: Cubs, Taylor, Caminero

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the team is likely to start the season with three catchers, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes. Having Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo all start the season with the team does limit Joe Maddon’s tactical possibilities somewhat, but Epstein says that Maddon supports having three catchers. Having three would also allow the Cubs to be somewhat more flexible in using their catchers to pinch-hit, and would give the team depth in case of an injury. Rogers notes, though, that common sense suggests the Cubs would still consider trading Castillo if the right offer came along, and that the Cubs might be trying to improve their negotiating position by giving the impression they’re not desperate to deal Castillo. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • With Denard Span out with after having core muscle surgery, top Nationals prospect Michael Taylor is making a strong case to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. But there are reasons to wonder about his readiness, Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckerman writes. Taylor is hitting .324/.324/.765 in 34 plate appearances this spring, but he’s struck out 11 times without walking. Taylor exhibited similar issues in his 43 plate appearances in the big leagues last year, and he has limited experience at Triple-A, so sending him there might be best for his development.
  • Reliever Arquimedes Caminero, who the Pirates acquired in a minor deal with the Marlins in February, is very likely to make the Bucs out of camp, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Caminero is out of options and has been very impressive this spring, striking out 12 batters in eight innings with a fastball that reaches into the high 90s. Caminero says the Bucs have helped him improve his delivery. “(They are) just simplifying things that were there that I didn’t notice much and now I’m noticing,” says Caminero. “I’m just going easier in my mechanics. I was trying to throw too hard. … I feel more confident. I’m hitting my target more often.”

NL Central Links: Bryant, Martinez, Pirates

If the Cubs keep Kris Bryant at Triple-A to begin the season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal believes the MLBPA should file a grievance as a matter of principle.  It would be a mostly symbolic gesture (“The case law overwhelmingly favors the clubs,” according to one of Rosenthal’s sources) yet it would indicate that the players’ union is serious about addressing this service-time loophole when the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated next year.  It would also be a big-picture show of strength by the union, as some player agents feel that the MLBPA has a bit too lenient on some recent issues.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • The Braves initially asked for Carlos Martinez when they began discussing the Jason Heyward trade with the Cardinals, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  The Cards refused, just as they’ve steadfastly turned down other trade offers for Martinez in recent years, yet Miklasz wonders why the club is so committed to keeping Martinez but is hesitant to give him a regular rotation job.  Miklasz argues that if the Cardinals have any doubts about Martinez, they might be better served by dealing him now while his stock is still high.
  • Arquimedes Caminero has been impressed scouts this spring, and the Pirates may be forced to put the out-of-options righty on the roster in order to keep him, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  Keeping Caminero in the bullpen could force John Holdzkom to start the year at Triple-A, as while Holdzkom has pitched well himself in camp, he still has minor league options.
  • Speaking of the Pirates‘ roster crunch, GM Neal Huntington told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a move could possibly be made to address the Bucs’ several out-of-options players.  “We have some guys who are out of options who may be of interest to other clubs,” Huntington said.  “We may make a small trade … or claim somebody on waivers or lose somebody on waivers. We still have some (roster) decisions to make and are always open to improving our talent level.”
  • The Reds have told veteran southpaw Paul Maholm that he won’t be earning a rotation job, though Maholm isn’t yet considering opting out of his minor league deal with the club, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes.  “We still have some time left in camp,” Maholm said.  “I’m trying to pitch and get ready for the season. Those are decisions we have to make at the date that’s set up. Until then, I’m just going to pitch.”  The Reds would have to pay Maholm $100K to retain his services if he’s not going to make their Major League roster, as per his status as an Article XX(B) player.

Quick Hits: Breslow, Kang, Marlins

Reliever Craig Breslow, the Red Sox‘ representative to the MLBPA, is opposed to an international draft and would like for it to remain possible for international free agents to receive bonuses as big as Yoan Moncada‘s, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. A huge deal like Moncada’s would likely be impossible with an international draft in place. “I think while, intuitively, people may look at a guy who has never played here and gets a big signing bonus and there’s potentially some envy, I think the greater membership (of players) understands that anytime we can eliminate restrictions to signing, that’s a good thing,” says Breslow. On Sunday, Breslow visited with MLBPA head Tony Clark, who has voiced skepticism about the idea of an international draft. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Jung-ho Kang, who signed this offseason for four years and $11MM plus a posting fee of around $5MM, provides the Pirates with a low-cost insurance policy throughout their infield, Newsday’s David Lennon writes. Second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez can become free agents after 2016, while third baseman Josh Harrison will become eligible after 2017 (and can be moved around the diamond if needed). That means the Pirates could turn to Kang at one of a number of positions, perhaps getting a starter at a cost of only a few million dollars a year. “If he turns out to be a regular player, it’s a great signing for us,” says Huntington. “If he turns out to be a role player, it’s still an OK signing for us. And if we’ve missed, well, it won’t cripple us. But it will hurt us.”
  • Marlins president David Samson says the team’s decisions to sign Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich arose out of their struggles in 2012, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. That year, the Marlins prepared for the opening of their new ballpark by acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano. Those big outside acquisitions didn’t work out, and the Marlins finished 69-93. “I truly felt that opening the ballpark and making splashes was the way to do it and it didn’t lead to sustainability,” says Samson. “That was a big moment for all of us in our history and I got it wrong, completely, almost in every way.” Instead of building their team around veterans, then, they’re focusing on keeping the right core players in Miami.