Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Pedro Alvarez Wins Arbitration Hearing Versus Pirates

Pedro Alvarez has won an arbitration hearing against the Pirates and will be awarded with the $5.75MM salary for which he filed as opposed to the team’s $5.25MM offer, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter). The Scott Boras client and former No. 2 overall pick had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5.5MM in this, his second trip through the arbitration process.

The 28-year-old Alvarez wins his hearing in spite of a down season in 2014 that saw his homer total from the previous year halved — from 36 to 18. Alvarez also saw his already questionable defense at third base decline, making an astounding 24 throwing errors in 823 innings at the hot corner. That led to him losing the reins on the everyday job at third base to breakout infielder Josh Harrison. Alvarez will be tasked with shifting to first base on a full-time basis beginning in 2015.

Overall, Alvarez will be receiving a modest $1.5MM raise from last season’s $4.25MM salary. Restored power would go a long ways toward earning him one more significant pay increase in arbitration next offseason as he heads into a contract year; Alvarez will be free-agent eligible following the 2016 campaign.

For the Pirates — a noted “file and trial” arbitration team — this was the third arb hearing they’ve had this winter, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker. The team won a hearing against Neil Walker (who had filed at $9MM against Pittsburgh’s $8MM) and also lost a hearing to Vance Worley ($2.45MM versus $2MM).

Central Notes: Youkilis, Liriano, Murphy, Tigers

Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. The connection will be obvious for many: Youkilis rose to prominence and made most of his impact on the field playing for former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.

Here’s more from the central divisions:

  • Pirates starter Francisco Liriano held talks with the Red SoxTwinsAstros, and Royals before re-signing with Pittsburgh, the lefty told Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (Twitter links). Kansas City went as high as $36MM over three years, said Liriano, who ultimately took home $39MM from the Pirates. Interestingly, Liriano noted that he felt the qualifying offer did not significantly hinder his market.
  • If Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher prove their health this spring, outfielder David Murphy (or another roster candidate) will likely need to be dealt before breaking camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. It may be hard to find a taker without eating a good bit of Murphy’s $6MM salary, should that come to pass. For now, this remains an interesting story to watch over the coming months.
  • While the Tigers do have some worrying signs in their large contracts and low-rated farm, they are not yet facing the kind of difficulties that the Phillies have found, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. If nothing else, Detroit still looks to be legitimately competitive at present, and has time to prepare for a soft landing when its window does finally begin closing.

Central Links: Alvarez, Kang, Hanrahan, Chen

The Pirates and third baseman turned first baseman Pedro Alvarez have their arbitration hearing set for tomorrow, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). That means that by Thursday of this week, we should know whether Alvarez will earn the $5.75MM for which he filed or the $5.25MM figure submitted by the team (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). Alvarez, who turned 28 earlier this month, saw his homer total cut in half from 2013 (36) to 2014 (18) in a season in which he hit .231/.312/.405 overall. The Pirates have already won an arbitration hearing this offseason, beating Neil Walker. He’d filed at $9MM against the team’s $8MM. They also lost a hearing against Vance Worley, who will earn $2.45MM rather than $2MM as a result.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang isn’t making the jump the Major Leagues just for himself, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rather, Kang hopes to be a trailblazer whose success allows other position players to jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to the Major Leagues. “…I know that if I do well, more Korean players will come here,” said Kang through an interpreter. “So while I feel pressure, I’m also very excited about opening the market here for Korean players.” Kang knows the language barrier he faces will be an obstacle, though he’s already met teammates Andrew Lambo and Tony Sanchez and has positive interactions down in Florida. “He seems like a great dude,” Lambo told Biertempfel. “He’ll fit in right. He’s real quiet, obviously, coming from a different country. But he’s also given a (vibe) that he is genuinely friendly and wants to get to know every player, which is really cool.”
  • Joel Hanrahan‘s 2015 contract with the Tigers contains opt-out clauses on April 30 and June 5, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com. As Iott points out, Hanrahan will also be an Article XX(B) free agent this year. As a player who finished the 2014 season on a Major League contract but signed a minor league deal this offseason, he’ll have to be released or paid a $100K retention bonus before sending him to the minors at the end of Spring Training. MLBTR will again cover all of the Article XX(B) free agents in a more in-depth fashion as Spring Training wears on.
  • Left-hander Bruce Chen will have a shot to crack the Indians‘ rotation after signing a minor league deal with an invite to big league Spring Training, but he faces an uphill battle in making the roster, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Cleveland’s top four rotation slots are occupied by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Gavin Floyd. The fifth spot will be competed for by Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister and Chen. Though he could land in the bullpen as well, he’s seemingly behind fellow lefties Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Hagadone and Kyle Crockett on the depth chart.

Central Notes: Kang, Twins, Tigers

The Pirates‘ signing of Jung Ho Kang didn’t represent a big expenditure in terms of today’s baseball dollars but it was a pretty big deal for a historically budget-conscious Pirates team, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes.  Still, the Bucs have one of the smallest payroll in all of baseball.  This year, the Pirates will have doubled their payroll in a six-year span and could still rank in the bottom third of MLB.  The Pirates will continue to receive additional spending money via revenue sharing and television money from MLB’s central fund, which allocates each team with a chunk of money from the league’s national television deals.  As for their own TV deal, team president Frank Coonelly called the Pirates’ local deal “competitive,” and suggested that the team will continue to be forward-thinking in terms of acquiring talent.  “I think our foray into the South Korean market this offseason is an example that we can’t sit still,” Coonelly said. “We’ve got to continue to look to see where the next horizon is and be first on the next horizon if it’s feasible for us.” More from the Central divisions..

  • A Twins official told Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter links) not to put too much stock into the idea that the Twins are still after a right-handed bat. That’s something they could explore, but it probably wouldn’t come until late March.   With that said, the Twins are actively scouring the free agent market and have interest in making minor league depth signings.
  • There are questions abound when it comes to the Tigers, including their new-look rotation which features only two starters who were in the starting five at the beginning of the 2014 season, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes.
  • As spring training approaches, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders which version of A.J. Burnett the Pirates are getting in 2015.  The 38-year-old struggled mightily with the Phillies last season and he hopes to get back to the form he exhibited in Pittsburgh in the previous two years.  For his part, Burnett says he’s healthy from a hernia injury that nagged him throughout the 2014 season.
  • After Travis Snider was shipped to the Orioles, Nesbitt wonders who the Pirates‘ fourth outfielder will be.  Recently, GM Neal Huntington listed about eight names who could fill that void, including the recently-signed Corey Hart.

Central Links: McCutchen, Zito, Albers, Herndon

The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune.  The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today.  He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.

Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…

International Notes: Balfour, Moncada, Olivera, Alvarez, Kang

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tells the emotional story of Rays reliever Grant Balfour and his father David, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Baseball Australia’s Hall of Fame will induct the younger Balfour even before his playing career is over so that his father — a notable figure in the Australian game — can be there to participate. The piece is well worth your time.

Here are the latest reports on the international scene:

  • The Diamondbacks are among the teams expected to watch touted young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada later this week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Arizona has already gone well over its international bonus pool and has been one of the most active teams on the international market. The Cubs, too, will take a look at him (as have many other, previously-reported teams), though they would be unable to offer him more than a $250K bonus unless he waits until after July 2 to sign.
  • Hector Olivera drew hundreds of scouts to his final public showcase, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on Twitter, and seemingly did not disappoint. Per Badler, the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, and Padres were well-represented in attendance. You’ll want to read through Badler’s Twitter feed (some earlier portion of which was compiled here by Baseball America) for more information on Olivera’s impressive display as well as some other notes from the international showcase.
  • Right-hander Yadier Alvarez, just 18, is the latest Cuban citizen drawing buzz. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted recently that he is pushing a high-90s fastball, and today Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports (Twitter links) that his buzz “checks out.” Not only does the young righty work in the mid-90s and touch even higher, he has a “more than usable” change to go with it. That will likely result in a big payday, per McDaniel, who also notes in a tweet that it may take a month or two for him to be cleared to sign.
  • Former KBO superstar and current Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang might just be capable of putting up huge numbers in the big leagues, according to the analysis of Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs. Farnsworth breaks down Kang’s “upper-echelon swing” and compares it to some notable MLB power bats, concluding that the Korean ballplayer could break out with a .280+ batting average and 25 or more home runs in his first MLB season.

Vance Worley Wins Arbitration Case Against Pirates

Right-hander Vance Worley has won his arbitration case against the Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. That means Worley will earn his filing amount of $2.45MM, rather than Pittsburgh’s submission of $2MM.

The 27-year-old was eligible for arbitration for the first time as a Super Two. That means that Pittsburgh can control him for three more seasons if it so chooses.

Worley represents the latest turnaround story out of Pittsburgh. He tossed 110 2/3 innings of 2.85 ERA ball in 2014 after joining the organization on a cash swap last spring. With 6.4 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 and a 49.4% groundball rate, Worley’s peripherals backed his success, though obviously not quite to the outstanding run prevention level he achieved.

Notwithstanding a rough 2013 season — both in terms of performance and results — Worley has consistently generated ERA estimations in the mid-3 to low-4 earned run per nine range. That makes for a useful asset, particularly given his youth and contract status.

With his victory, Worley pushed his earnings closer to, but still shy of, the $2.9MM that MLBTR/Matt Swartz had projected. As always, you can keep up to date on arbitration news by clicking on MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.

Pirates Win Arbitration Hearing Against Neil Walker

The Pirates have won an arbitration hearing against second baseman Neil Walker, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer (on Twitter). Walker, who had filed at $9MM as opposed to the club’s $8MM figure (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker), will earn that $8MM sum in 2015. He’d been projected to earn $8.6MM in arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz — a figure he may have approached had team and player been able to find a middle ground.

The 29-year-old Walker has now gone through the arbitration process three times, and the Super Two player will be eligible once more next winter before hitting free agency in the 2016-17 offseason. Walker had a breakout season in terms of power in 2014 but missed time due to both an appendectomy and lower back pain. He batted .271/.342/.467 with a career-high 23 homers, however, despite appearing in just 137 games.

Durability has long been an issue for the Excel Sports Management client, as Walker went through two turns on the 15-day DL in 2013 (though one was for a lacerated hand upon being spiked) and missed significant time in 2012 due to a herniated disc in his lower back. However, there’s been little question about his productivity when on the field; since establishing himself as Pittsburgh’s everyday second baseman in 2010, the hometown hero has batted .274/.341/.435, averaging 15 homers per season and an adjusted OPS of 116+ (indicating that he’s been 16 percent better than a league-average hitter when adjusting for league and park).

With Walker’s case out of the way, the Pirates have to remaining situations to settle, as both Pedro Alvarez and Vance Worley have unresolved cases.

Minor Moves: Salcedo, Trepagnier, Constanza, Figueroa

Before diving into the latest minor league transactions, check out Steve Adams’ piece about how much work can go into negotiating these seemingly “minor” contracts. Here are today’s moves, with the newest transactions at the top of the post…

  • The Braves traded infielder Edward Salcedo to the Pirates in exchange for right-hander Bryton Trepagnier, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link).  Atlanta signed Salcedo to a $1.6MM bonus in 2010 and he entered the season as the 12th-ranked prospect in the Braves’ system according to Baseball America.  He has yet to find much success at the plate, hitting .230/.297/.375 over 2447 minor league PA and posting only a .651 OPS over 413 PA at the Triple-A level last season.  Trepagnier, a 41st-round pick in the 2010 draft, has pitched mostly as a reliever in his five-year pro career, posting a 4.19 ERA, 1.59 K/BB rate and 7.1 K/9 over 204 innings, none above the high-A ball level.
  • The Braves outrighted outfielder Jose Constanza to Triple-A Gwinnett, according to the International League’s transactions page. Atlanta designated Constanza for assignment last week. The 31-year-old has spent the last four seasons in the Braves organization, including 240 plate appearances at the Major League level.
  • The Yankees have signed Cole Figueroa to a minor league contract with an invitation to their Spring Training camp. The team announced the move as part of its full list of spring invitees. Figueroa owns a .288/.377/.388 slash line over 2944 career plate appearances in the minors, and he made his Major League debut last season, posting a .611 OPS over 49 PA for the Rays. Figueroa was released by Tampa Bay in November.

Pirates Acquire Arquimedes Caminero From Marlins

The Pirates have acquired right-handed reliever Arquimedes Caminero from the Marlins in exchange for cash, Pittsburgh announced. Caminero had been designated for assignment by Miami.

Caminero has an enticing arm that has delivered an average of 11.0 K/9 (against 4.5 BB/9) in his nine years of minor league action. He has seen only limited action at the big league level, posting 19 2/3 frames of 5.49 ERA pitching (albeit with many of the credited runs coming in one rough outing last year).

As he was added to the 40-man roster in advance of the 2011 season, it would appear that Caminero has exhausted his optional assignment seasons. Pittsburgh will take a flier on his mid-90s heater, but it seems he will need to break camp with the big league club or face the waiver wire.