Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

NL Notes: Harper, Zimmermann, Marlins, Pirates, Rasmus

The latest salvo in Bryce Harper‘s grievance against the Nationals over his arbitration eligibility was fired yesterday when Harper failed to appear at NatsFest, the team’s annual fan convention. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including James Wagner of the Washington Post, “We’re disappointed he’s not here, but he chose not to be here because of the grievance.” Harper responded with a statement provided by his representatives and quoted by Wagner, “I have attended NatsFest each year and always enjoy my experience with the fans, but was unable to attend this year’s event due to matters out of my control. I look forward to next year’s NatsFest.” The grievance hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in New York. If Harper wins his grievance, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.5MM arbitration award for the outfielder (as opposed to the $1.5MM base his contract stipulates for 2015), which will create a larger platform for future arbitration earnings.

In other news and notes involving the National League:

  • Jordan Zimmermann reiterated his desire to sign an extension with the Nationals, but only at the right price, reports CSNWashington.com’s Chase Hughes. “If it’s a fair value, like I have said all along, I would gladly sign,” said Zimmermann. “But at the end of the day, it’s gotta be something that’s fair and if it’s not, then I’ll be moving on.
  • The Marlins are not willing to trade either Henderson Alvarez or Jarred Cosart for a first baseman, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jackson also reports the Marlins have had more talks with Michael Morse in recent days and he represents the best realistic option to upgrade the position.
  • The Marlins are listening to offers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi; but, while the Pirates view him as a “terrific young pitcher” and “someone we’ll keep looking at,” club president Frank Coonelly says they are not close to bringing him to Pittsburgh, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer.
  • In a separate Singer tweet, Coonelly also downplays the return of Edinson Volquez. “Two years for $20MM not far off for Volquez,” Coonelly said. “He could get that. It probably won’t be here.
  • The Cubs have met recently with Colby Rasmus and are one of several teams to show interest in him, reports Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes identified the Cubs as a potential landing spot for Rasmus back in September while the Orioles and Royals have also been linked to the free agent center fielder.
  • With the elevation of Jeff Bridich to general manager, Rockies manager Walt Weiss has more independence in running the team with the front office no longer maintaining an offfice in the clubhouse and is more involved in player personnel decisions, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

Quick Hits: Stanton, Mets, Tulowitzki, Miller, Mariners

The Marlins do not think they’ll have to pay out the entire $325MM balance of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, Pirates president Frank Coonelly told a crowd (including the Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel) at PirateFest Saturday. Speaking very candidly for a team president, Coonelly recalled a recent conversation with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson: “They said to me, ‘You don’t understand. (Stanton) has an out clause after six years. Those first six years are only going to cost $107 million. After that, he’ll leave and play for somebody else. So, it’s not really $325 million.'” Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Mets should trade for Troy Tulowitzki, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Yes, Sherman says, Tulowitzki has $106MM on his contract and a long list of injuries, but if he were a perfect player, the Rockies would not trade him at a reasonable price. (In fact, they still might not trade him at a reasonable price.) And the time is right for the Mets, who have plenty of promising pitching but don’t have a shortstop. A trade for Tulowitzki could be just the risk the Mets need, Sherman writes, like their trade for Gary Carter 30 years ago. As for Tulowitzki, Sherman says that it’s “a poorly kept secret in the game is just how badly he wants out of Colorado now.” He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but the Rockies’ front office would likely consult him about a possible trade, and Sherman thinks he would appreciate the chance to play for the Mets.
  • The Cardinals say they are not actively pursuing Max Scherzer, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Scherzer is from the St. Louis area, and he reportedly met with the team earlier in the offseason.
  • A Mariners official says the team doesn’t want to trade Brad Miller, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. “[U]nderstand this: We’re not looking to trade him,” the official says. “I’m not saying it won’t happen, but it’s a lot less likely than some people seem to think.” Dutton adds, however, that Miller was part of a deal the Mariners proposed to try to get Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. The Dodgers then demanded the Mariners include either Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. The Mariners declined, and the Dodgers agreed to trade Kemp to the Padres instead.
  • The Twins have shown interest in former Reds third baseman Jack Hannahan, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com tweets. Hannahan was born in St. Paul and went to both high school and college in the Twin Cities. He played sparingly in 2014 and posted just a .470 OPS in 50 plate appearances, so as Wolfson notes, the Twins would likely have interest in him only on a minor league deal.

Pirates To Sign Radhames Liz To Major League Deal

DECEMBER 13: The Pirates have made the Liz deal official, and it’s not a two-year deal, but rather a one-year deal worth $1MM. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review explains that the Pirates were uncomfortable with the results of Liz’s physical, which led to the lesser deal.

NOVEMBER 21: The Pirates have signed right-hander Radhames Liz to a Major League contract, tweets ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net was the first to report that he’d been signed to a big league deal, reporting it as a two-year, $3MM contract (Twitter link).

Some may remember the hard-throwing Liz from his days with the Orioles, with whom he pitched from 2007-09. Liz ranked as a Top 100 prospect per Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, but he struggled greatly in those three seasons, pitching to a 7.50 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 6.2 BB/9 in 110 1/3 innings. Following his time with Baltimore, the Dominican hurler spent a season with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate before heading overseas to pitch in Korea.

Liz reinvented himself as a member of the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization, compiling a 3.51 ERA with 454 strikeouts against 240 walks in 518 2/3 innings over a three-year stint. Those numbers are no small feat in the hitter-friendly KBO, and Liz’s best season was his last in Korea — a 3.06 ERA with a league-leading 188 strikeouts in 202 2/3 innings.

The righty returned to pro ball in North America in 2014, notching a 2.95 ERA in 61 innings with the Blue Jays’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Liz was said to be mulling over multiple seven-figure offers to return to Japan or Korea, but the Pirates were able to convince him to stay, apparently with a two-year contract that comes with little financial risk.

Pittsburgh is known for revitalizing pitchers under coordinator Jim Benedict and pitching coach Ray Searage. The team has worked wonders with the likes of A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Vance Worley and Edinson Volquez in recent seasons. Liz will be the next reclamation project, it seems. He averaged nearly 94 mph on his heater back in his Orioles days and has what one scout from the Dominican Republic described to Stark as “power stuff” and a “vicious curve.”



NL Notes: Desmond, Alvarez, Gomes

Free-agent-to-be Ian Desmond is focused on the upcoming season, but he would love to stay with the Nationals past 2015 if he can, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes. The Expos drafted Desmond in 2004, and he’s been with the organization ever since. “I was 18 when I signed, I had like four armpit hairs. Now I’ve got three kids,” says Desmond. “This is an organization I’ve been with a long time. Obviously I want to be here and play here, but this is a business.” Here’s more from the National League.

  • The Pirates plan to play Pedro Alvarez at first base against both lefties and righties, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. “It’s going to be Pedro’s job to keep,” said manager Clint Hurdle at today’s PirateFest. That suggests that the Pirates are unlikely to hunt for a replacement for righty first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who they recently designated for assignment and then non-tendered. Brink also notes, however, that right-handed catcher Tony Sanchez will get work at first base and could potentially win a bench job, giving the Pirates an extra option in case Alvarez continues to struggle against lefties after hitting .175/.241/.263 against them last season.
  • The Reds are looking for outfielders, but they haven’t shown interest in Jonny Gomes, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Gomes played with the Reds from 2009 until they traded him to the Nationals midway through the 2011 season, but it seems they aren’t interested in a reunion after he hit .234/.327/.330 in 321 plate appearances for Boston and Oakland in 2014.

Pirates Designate Josh Lindblom

The Pirates have designated reliever Josh Lindblom for assignment, the team announced. The move was made in conjunction with the team’s announcement of the signing of Radhames Liz.

Pittsburgh claimed Lindblom off waivers from the Athletics just five days ago. Lindblom, 27, only made one appearance at the big league level last year in Oakland. Over 84 minor league frames, he posted a 5.79 ERA while striking out 6.4 and walking 2.8 batters per nine. In parts of four seasons in the bigs, Lindblom owns a 3.82 ERA.


Rays, Pirates Complete Sean Rodriguez Trade

DEC. 12: The Rays announced that they have acquired right-hander Buddy Borden from the Pirates to complete the trade (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times).

The 22-year-old Borden was Pittsburgh’s seventh-round pick out of UNLV in 2013 and spent this past season in the Class-A South Atlantic League. There, he pitched to a 3.16 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 128 innings (26 starts, 27 appearances total). At the time of the draft, Baseball America (subscription required) praised his durable, athletic build and a 90-92 mph fastball that could touch 95. However, BA also noted that his secondary pitches were below average, which could point to relief work in the long-term.

DEC. 1: The Pirates announced that they have acquired infielder Sean Rodriguez from the Rays in exchange for a player to be named later and cash considerations. First baseman Gaby Sanchez has been designated for assignment to clear roster space.

Rodriguez was designated for assignment by the Rays last week. The 29-year-old, projected to earn $2MM via arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, posted a career-high 12 home runs in 2014 with a career-best .232 isolated power mark, but the rest of his stats took a tumble. Rodriguez batted .211/.258/.443 on the whole, walking at a career-low 3.9 percent clip while striking out in nearly 26 percent of his plate appearances.

Rodriguez is able to play all four infield positions as well the outfield corners, and he generally has posted plus defensive marks as an infielder. The Pirates are set to enter the season with Josh Harrison at third base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at first, and Rodriguez can back up all four of those positions at a reasonable price.

Sanchez, who turned 31 in September, struggled through one of the worst seasons of his career at the plate this past year, batting just .229/.293/.385 with seven homers. The right-handed hitting Sanchez is best served as a platoon bat, as evidenced by the 170-point differential between his career OPS marks versus lefties and righties. He did hit a respectable .256/.318/.429 against southpaws in 2014, so he’d make a good platoon partner for someone like Adam Lind in Milwaukee. However, with a projected arb salary of $2.7MM, interested teams may first hope that he can be claimed off waivers or even clears waivers rather than giving up a minor prospect in a trade.


NL Central Notes: Lester, McCarthy, Cozart, Reds

The trust that Jon Lester has in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer from their days together in Boston is singled out by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan as the key reason why the lefty chose Wrigley Field as his next home.  Here’s some news from around the NL Central…

  • The Pirates were one of the finalists for Brandon McCarthy, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes.  The Bucs weren’t known to be connected to McCarthy in the offseason rumor mill, though they fit as a logical contender for his services.  Even with Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett signed, Singer thinks the Pirates could still look to add starting pitching, such as re-signing Edinson Volquez.
  • Other teams feel that the Reds will look to trade Zack Cozart now that they’ve acquired Eugenio Suarez, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link).
  • With Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon respectively traded to the Marlins and Tigers, Reds GM Walt Jocketty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) that the team can start to explore other upgrades now that they’ve addressed their payroll concerns.  “We’re in a better position to start looking at some other possibilities to improve our club — the hitter we’re looking for and some bullpen depth,” Jocketty said.  “We’re close to where we need to be, [payroll-wise]. Now we can concentrate on filling some of the needs.”
  • In an Insider-only post, ESPN’s Keith Law looks at the Reds‘ two pitching trades and feels the team got more from Detroit than they did from Miami.  Law thinks Suarez is an improvement over Cozart and Jonathon Crawford could potentially be the Reds’ closer of the future.
  • Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo are two of several prominent Brewers entering the last year of their contracts, and MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy opines that the Crew could explore trading the two starters if they think Mike Fiers or Jimmy Nelson can be viable rotation options.

Winter Meetings Rumors: Giants, Santana, Marlins, Morneau, Dodgers, Angels

Needless to say, it was a frenetic end to the Winter Meetings. Over the course of the morning, several forward-looking reports emerged. We’ll round those up here:

  • The Giants are focused on free agent starter James Shields, according to Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News (via Twitter). San Francisco is alive on both Shields and Ervin Santana, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle adds on Twitter. The club met with Shields in San Diego, as Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported yesterday (Twitter link).
  • The Twins are still trying to land Santana, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who adds that the GiantsRoyals, and Yankees have also expressed interest in the free agent righty.
  • The Marlins are still looking hard at the free agent and trade market for a first baseman, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. A deal could come at any time, Spencer adds.
  • Attempts by the Marlins to deal for Justin Morneau of the Rockies have fallen apart, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer. He hears that Miami could rekindle talks with the Pirates regarding a Pedro Alvarez-for-Nathan Eovaldi swap.
  • Communications between the Marlins and Rockies regarding Morneau will continue, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports on Twitter, though Harding’s source says he is not sure if the potential match “has legs.”
  • The Dodgers did not make their moves as a prelude to dealing away Zack Greinke or dealing for Cole Hamels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has already done its heavy lifting with yesterday’s series of moves, says Sherman.
  • After trading away second baseman Howie Kendrick, the Angels are “open to opportunities” for additions at the position, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Halos are not interested in free agents Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew, per Dipoto. Of course, the team just added Josh Rutledge to join in-house option Grant Green in the current mix.

Pirates, Neil Walker Have Discussed Extension

The Pirates have spoken to second baseman Neil Walker about an extension, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The negotations are not active at the present time, however, and the two sides aren’t close regarding the financial terms of a potential deal.

We would love nothing more than to have Neil Walker end his career as a Pirate,” says Bucs GM Neal Huntington. “We understand he’s a really good player. We understand the local implications and the local ties he has.”

Walker, a Pittsburgh native, had an outstanding season in 2014, hitting .271/.342/.467 in 571 plate appearances. On its face, though, an extension would seem tricky for the cost-conscious Bucs. They control Walker for the next two seasons, with Walker being projected to make $8.6MM in 2015; after those two seasons, Walker will be 31, and the Pirates are probably unlikely to be highly motivated to commit to him beyond that point. He’s already a marginal defensive second baseman and might have to move elsewhere within the next couple years, which could become a problem if his offense slips. And with his arbitration-year salaries already so high, there’s no financial reason for him to settle for a cheap long-term deal.


Pirates Acquire Antonio Bastardo

The Pirates have acquired southpaw reliever Antonio Bastardo from the Phillies in exchange for minor league left-hander Joely Rodriguez. After adding Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett to the rotation, Pittsburgh was thought to now be turning its attention to acquiring relief pitching, and now the Bucs have added a solid bullpen arm from their in-state rivals.

Bastardo has a 3.36 ERA, 2.61 K/BB and an impressive 11.6 K/9 over 216 2/3 IP with Philadelphia since 2011.  The lefty is solid against both right-handed and left-handed batters, though control is something of an issue, as Bastardo has posted a 4.6 BB/9 over the last three seasons.  Tony Watson was the only other established lefty in the Pittsburgh bullpen, so Bastardo’s addition gives the Bucs another solid late-game option against left-handed hitters.

Rodriguez posted a 4.84 ERA, 4.9 K/9 and 1.70 K/BB rate over 134 Double-A innings last season. The 23-year-old has mostly been used as a starter over his six pro seasons and has a career 4.02 ERA over 441 1/3 minor league innings.

Robert Murray was the first to report the deal, with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirming that the two sides were close to an agreement. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the trade had been finalized, with Joel Sherman of the New York Post reporting Rodriguez’s involvement. (all links to Twitter) CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury initially reported Pittsburgh’s interest in Bastardo earlier today.