Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Pirates Notes: Offseason, Morales, First Base

Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that one reason for the Bucs' relatively quiet offseason is that they didn't want to make moves that would hurt them beyond 2014, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "We'll see if those situations come back available," says Huntington. "If not, we feel good about this club, we feel good about our core. We've got some guys that are deserving of opportunities and if they can't capitalize on those, then we begin to look elsewhere." After an extremely successful 2013 season, the Pirates' only significant moves this offseason have been signing free agent starting pitcher Edinson Volquez and trading for former Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. A.J. Burnett, one of their top starting pitchers in 2013, remains on the free agent market. Here are more notes on the Pirates.

  • Earlier today, one report suggested that, if the price were low enough, the Pirates would have interest in free agent Kendrys Morales to help them at first base. MLB.com's Tom Singer lists the pros and cons of signing Morales — Morales would help the Pirates at designated hitter in interleague series, Singer says, but his limited ability to play first base regularly is a detriment. Also, of course, there's the fact that Morales would cost the Pirates the No. 25 overall pick in the draft this June.
  • The Pirates' current options at first base include Gaby Sanchez (who will almost certainly make the team as a strong option against lefties), Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness. But the Bucs will continue to search for a first baseman to start against right-handers, Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review writes. They might not acquire him until the end of spring training, when teams might be more motivated to make trades as they try to set their rosters.

Minor Moves: Cole Kimball, Omir Santos

We'll round up some minor moves from the day here:

  • The Yankees have signed righty Cole Kimball to a minor league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Kimball, 28, had spent his entire career with the Nationals organization, making a brief big league debut in 2011 with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings (though he both struck out and walked 7.1 batters per nine). Since then, however, Kimball has struggled with shoulder issues. In 2012, he threw just 5 2/3 minor league innings. Last year, splitting time between Rookie ball and Triple-A, Kimball posted a 7.31 ERA in 28 1/3 innings with 8.9 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9.
  • Catcher Omir Santos has inked a minor league pact with the Pirates, the club announced today. The 32-year-old got just one plate appearance last year with the Indians, and has only one season of substantial MLB time under his belt. In 2009 with the Mets, Santos hit .260/.296/.391 in 306 plate appearances. In 222 plate appearances at the Triple-A level last year, he slashed .248/.285/.354.
  • The MLBTR DFA Tracker features four situations awaiting resolution, led by Emilio Bonifacio of the Royals, who is set to be claimed, traded, released, or outrighted by the end of the weekend. He is joined in DFA limbo by Brett Wallace (Astros), Donovan Hand (Brewers), and Jimmy Paredes (Marlins).

Minor Moves: Santos, Heath, Teaford

Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • Catcher Omir Santos has signed a minor league deal (that contains an invite to Major League Spring Training) with the Pirates, the team announced via press release. The 32-year-old spent the 2013 campaign with the Indians organization, batting .248/.285/.354 with three homers in 222 plate appearances at Triple-A Columbus. Santos, who went hitless in one at-bat with the Indians' Major League club last year, is a career .248/.280/.363 hitter in 349 big league PAs.
  • The White Sox announced that they've outrighted right-hander Deunte Heath to Triple-A in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mitchell Boggs, whose deal is now official. Heath, 28, has yielded 11 runs in 9 2/3 big league innings but owns a career 3.70 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 233 1/3 Triple-A innings.
  • The Royals announced that left-hander Everett Teaford has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Omaha. The 29-year-old southpaw was designated for assignment when the team acquired outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Mariners in late January. Teaford has a career 4.25 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 43.8 percent ground-ball rate in 106 big league innings to go along with a solid track record at the Triple-A level.
  • With Teaford's outright, there are only two players that are currently in DFA limbo: Brett Wallace of the Astros and Emilio Bonifacio of the Royals.

NL Central Notes: Votto, Singh, Cards, Cubs, Yoon

Joey Votto is well known not only for his massive, ten-year contract, but also for being one of the game's most dedicated and thoughtful hitters. He is also known as a reserved presence, making his lengthy interview with Lance McAlister of Cincinnati's 700 WLW well worth a listen (hat tip to the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay.) Among other things, Votto dismissed the concept of lineup protection, but says that he did see noticeably better pitches when speedster Billy Hamilton got on base in front of him last year. His favorite stat? wRC+. Touching on roster construction and player evaluation, Votto said that he values all aspects of the game, and finds it is telling that both of last year's World Series contestants featured well-rounded rosters of well-rounded players. Here's more from the NL Central:

  • After missing all of 2013 due to arm injuries, Pirates prospect Rinku Singh tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom that he is working on his arm strength and still plans to reach the Major Leagues.  Singh, 25, famously won a pitching reality show in India in 2008 and subsequently signed a minor league deal with the Bucs.  The story of Singh (and Dinesh Patel, the reality show runner-up) will be told in the upcoming film Million Dollar Arm.
  • The Cardinals lost a number of notable relief arms and could be lacking some depth, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  Gordon lists several minor leaguers who could emerge in Spring Training and be in the bullpen on Opening Day.
  • The Cubs are unlikely to participate in a "bidding war" for Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Though Chicago saw Yoon pitch along with multiple other teams, it sounds as if the club's interest is heavily conditioned on price. 
  • The Brewers are "kicking tires" on several free agent relievers, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee is waiting for the asking prices to come down. Two names that Haudricourt wouldn't be surprised to see added are ex-Brewer Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Marmol, who is a good friend of Aramis Ramirez.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post

Cafardo’s Latest: Arroyo, Cruz, Burnett, Middlebrooks

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares a few hot stove items in his latest Sunday column…

  • Bronson Arroyo has been looking for a three-year deal or at least a vesting option for a third year, which could be holding up his market.  If Arroyo was willing to settle for a flat two-year contract, Cafardo opines, he could find a deal, possibly with the Diamondbacks; Cafardo reported earlier this week that Arizona was "beginning to kick the tires" on the veteran right-hander.  Arroyo recently said that he has yet to receive a concrete offer from any team, despite a lot of interest from around the league.
  • The Dodgers are another team who "are very interested" in Arroyo but don't want to give him a guaranteed third year.
  • Nelson Cruz's market is beginning to heat up, and “there could be up to four or five teams who could take the plunge in the end," a Major League source tells Cafardo.  This interest could manifest itself into a multiyear deal for Cruz, though Cafardo notes that the slugger could still have to settle for a one-year contract.  We've recently seen the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Twins linked to Cruz in rumors, though Texas and Minnesota only seem interested at a greatly reduced price.
  • Cafardo thinks the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes is down to the Pirates, Phillies and Orioles, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees were also exploring a reunion with the veteran right-hander.  The Rays and Blue Jays have also been connected to Burnett, though it seems more likely that Burnett will choose a team located closer to his home in Maryland.
  • The Marlins have "asked a lot" about Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks but there doesn't seem to be a trade fit.  Miami is one of several teams who have asked Boston about Middlebrooks' availability, but the Sox don't want to give up on Middlebrooks' power potential.  Even if the Red Sox re-signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop and Xander Bogaerts took over at third, Middlebrooks would still receive playing time alternating between third and first base.
  • While Jon Lester recently said he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox, Cafardo points out that it might not be a huge discount, as Lester also noted that "you never want to be the guy that takes the market backward."
  • The Red Sox will experiment with Ryan Lavarnway as a first baseman during Spring Training, GM Ben Cherington confirmed.  Since Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway's only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.
  • "There’s a feeling that a team like the Yankees may pluck Fernando Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case David Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task," Cafardo writes.  Rodney was reportedly drawing interest from four teams, though the Yankees hadn't spoken with him since November and may not have enough remaining payroll space to add to the bullpen.

A.J. Burnett Rumors: Wednesday

The free agent pitching market was given a jolt by yesterday's news that A.J. Burnett will return in 2014 and that he's open to pitching for a team other than the Pirates.  Here's the latest batch of news and opinions about the veteran right-hander…

  • With the Phillies having checked in on Burnett earlier this offseason, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that the Phillies could be aided by the fact that assistant GM Scott Proefrock is friends with Burnett and they live in the same neighborhood.  Burnett and Cliff Lee share an agent in Darek Braunecker.
  • Signing Burnett would put the Phillies over their stated payroll limit for 2014, though Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com wonders if the team would spend extra to help attract the fans back to Citizens Bank Park.  Trade protection could also be a factor; Burnett would definitely want some type of no-trade protection in his next contract since he wants to be near his Maryland home, and the Phillies only give out partial no-trade clauses. 
  • In order to fit Burnett into the Pirates' budget, MLB.com's Tom Singer proposes that the Bucs should offer Burnett a one-year, $17MM contract for 2014.  Of that sum, $10MM would be deferred, which Singer feels is a win-win for both sides — the Pirates can keep their payroll in check, while Burnett gets to remain in a comfortable situation while still accepting a market-value contract.  
  • "Burnett might suddenly be the best free-agent starter left," writes Jeff Sullivan for Fangraphs.  Burnett has had a better WAR over the last two seasons than Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo, and teams would be more amenable to signing Burnett to a short-term deal than taking a chance on a longer-term commitment to Jimenez or Santana.

A.J. Burnett Will Pitch In 2014, Test Open Market

A.J. Burnett plans to play this year, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the hurler may be open to pitching for a team other than the Pirates. This news throws a considerable wrinkle into the free agent pitching market.

Prior to today's news, the righty had been expected to pitch for the Pirates or retire, with the latter option looking increasingly likely. Now, he becomes one of the best arms available on the open market. 

Burnett, 37, is coming off of two outstanding seasons in Pittsburgh. After a 202 1/3-inning, 3.51 ERA effort in 2012, Burnett threw 191 innings of 3.30 ball last year. He led all National League starters in 2013 with 9.8 K/9 and a 56.5% ground ball rate. Among free agents, Burnett had the lowest FIP (2.80), xFIP (2.92), and SIERA (3.10).

Burnett landed in the ninth position among baseball's top fifty free agents, according to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. For teams looking to add impact without taking on long-term obligations, Burnett makes for a tantalizing option. That is especially so since, unlike other top rotation arms that remain, he is not tied to draft-pick compensation since the Bucs felt they could not afford to make a qualifying offer. As MLBTR's Steve Adams wrote before the offseason, Burnett would fit nicely in even the game's top rotations.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington has previously indicated that the club was not in a position to pay Burnett at the top of the market, though the club has made clear recently that it remains interested in a reunion. Commenting on today's report, Huntingon told MLB.com's Tom Singer that he was not aware of any new direction from Burnett but could not rule the possibility. "I can't say he has not [decided to test the market]. I'm not aware of every discussion there might have been," said Huntington. "All I can say is, he has been very public with his intent to pitch in Pittsburgh or not pitch at all." Huntington further said that the club's "process continues with A.J." and that there was "nothing new to report," Sawchik reports on Twitter.

The Orioles have been mentioned as a possible alternative landing spot for Burnett given his reported preference to play in close proximity to his Maryland home. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets that Burnett "would be at the top of the club's list." Other Mid-Atlantic clubs could presumably also be particularly appealing to Burnett, and the Phillies have reportedly also expressed interest, Sawchik tweets.

If Burnett sets his sights further afield geographically, many other teams could conceivably be interested. The Rangers have some interest in the hurler, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas. Burnett reportedly nixed a deal that would have sent him to the Angels back in 2012 — the Yankees instead dealt him to the Pirates — leading MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez to peg the Halos (via Twitter) as a longshot to land him via free agency.

The entry of Burnett onto the market could be bad news for the remaining free agent starting crop and could also lead to movement in other segments of the player market. Pittsburgh reportedly will not sign a replacement pitcher if Burnett does indeed leave town, but could repurpose funds towards a first baseman. If he decides to head for another team that is in the market for starters, Burnett would have a significant impact on the balance of supply and demand. And if the Pirates look to add a bat through free agency or, perhaps more likely, via trade, an inverse effect could take result in that arena.

Heyman On Free Agents: Drew, Morales, Jimenez

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman covered a series of free agent topics in an MLB Network appearance last night (hat tip to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca). Among them:

  • The Blue Jays are "in the mix" for shortstop Stephen Drew, presumably viewing him as a second base option. Nevertheless, the Red Sox remain the favorites to land him, as they prefer to play Xander Bogaerts at third and appear willing to give Drew multiple years. Boston could dangle an opt-out clause of some kind to sweeten things for Drew, Heyman adds. There was a competing report last night on the Yankees' interest, but Heyman says that the club "seem[s] more interested in Drew than ever" after landing Masahiro Tanaka.
  • Toronto, says Heyman, figures to be a major threat to land any of the prominent remaining free agents. As he explained further today, the Jays — armed with two protected first-round draft picks — may have made the strategic decision to wait out the market for players that are burdened with draft pick compensation. Likewise, as Heyman wrote today, the Mariners could still figure in on the top of the remaining free agent crop.
  • Kendrys Morales is among the players who Heyman says could land with either of those clubs. The Jays like Morales, but presumably would need to deal first baseman/DH Adam Lind to bring him on board. Likewise, the Rangers could potentially be involved, but would likely have to flip Mitch Moreland for a Morales signing to fit. If one of those clubs did land Morales, the Pirates might be a club that could swoop in on the trade market, says Heyman.
  • The market for Nelson Cruz is looking thin, Heyman says. Cruz may not want to play in Safeco Field, and other possible landing spots like the Orioles and Rangers are focused on pitching.
  • Turning to the mound, Heyman said that Ubaldo Jimenez may now be willing to drop his salary demands and could ultimately land in the three-year, $39MM range. The Blue Jays and Orioles are the most likely clubs to sign Jimenez, according to Heyman, with the O's still concerned about burning a draft pick. Meanwhile, the Indians could still get involved if the price on Jimenez falls even further.

Minor Moves: Chris Leroux, Pete Orr, Blake Davis

Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • 29-year-old righty Chris Leroux has inked a minor league deal with the Yankees, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. The Canadian hurler has 69 2/3 MLB innings under his belt, all in relief, over which he has maintained a 5.56 ERA and 8.1 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9. 
  • The Brewers announced that they've signed infielder Pete Orr to a minor league contract. Orr's deal does not contain an invite to Major League Spring Training, but he will report with the rest of the Major Leaguers and invitees on day one of camp, MLBTR has learned. The versatile 34-year-old has appeared in the Majors with the Phillies in each of the past three seasons and has a career .269/.321/.395 slash line at Triple-A. Orr can play shortstop, second base, third base and both corner outfield positions.
  • MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports (via Twitter) that shortstop Blake Davis has inked a minor league deal with the Pirates. Now 30 years of age, Davis was a fourth-round selection of the Orioles in the 2006 draft and got a taste of the Majors in 2011 with Baltimore, batting .254/.323/.390 in 65 plate appearances. He spent 2013 with the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate, where he slashed .256/.297/.352 in 357 PAs.

Cafardo On Burnett, Tanaka, Morales, Matsuzaka

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checks in with GMs, players, writers, and scouts to help run down the best coaches in baseball.  On his list of bench coaches who are managers in waiting: Brad Mills of the Indians, Torey Luvullo of the Red Sox, Larry Bowa of the Phillies, Tim Flannery of the Giants, and the Brewers' Jerry Narron.  More from today's column..

  • The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if A.J. Burnett retires.  Right now, Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the money that would have gone to the veteran toward that end.  Cafardo also notes that the Orioles could be a "wild card" in the situation since Burnett lives in Baltimore.  
  • While the bids of the other teams are still unknown, one GM threw out the following figures in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes: Yankees $155MM, Cubs $120MM, Diamondbacks $120MM, Dodgers $119MM, White Sox $100MM, Astros $100MM.
  • The Diamondbacks were head over heels for Tanaka, but the fact they weren’t on one of the coasts and they were in a smaller media market worked against them.
  • Scott Boras doesn't represent David Ortiz, but he tells Cafardo that he feels for them.  Boras sees some similarities between the Red Sox star and his own client Kendrys Morales.  Morales is seen by most clubs as a DH rather than a first baseman which is hurting his value.  Boras argues that Ortiz is the featured power hitter in Boston's lineup as a DH and believes that Morales can also provide value in that role.
  • There had been some talk that Daisuke Matsuzaka might go back to Japan to pitch, but the possibility of breaking into the Mets’ rotation with Matt Harvey out intrigued Matsuzaka enough to fight for a spot.
  • The Giants have been through a lot with Pablo Sandoval and even if he has a good season, this could be Pablo Sandoval's last in San Francisco.  Sandoval will be a free agent following the 2014 season.