Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Central Notes: Polanco, Wada, Twins, Sox, Rodon

The Pirates will send top prospect Gregory Polanco back to the minor leagues today, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). However, Polanco’s demotion is likely to be relatively short-lived, as the 22-year-old could rejoin the team as soon as next Monday, when rosters expand. Polanco got off to a blazing start to his MLB career, but he’s cooled significantly since that time. He’s hitting .241/.308/.349 on the season as a whole, but he batted just .219/.276/.337 from July 1 through present day. Rosenthal tweets that Jose Tabata is expected to get the call to replace Polanco for the time being.

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

  • Though the Cubs have been making headlines by stockpiling high-upside young talent, the success of 33-year-old left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is making the organization consider him as an option beyond the 2014 season, writes the Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell“He is pitching very, very well. There are decisions that have to be made. He certainly has put himself in a good position,” manager Rick Renteria tells Mitchell. Wada, who signed a minor league deal this offseason, pitched to a 2.77 ERA in 113 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, and he’s continued his success in the Majors. Since being promoted, Wada has turned in an outstanding 2.56 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate in 45 2/3 innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators FIP (3.55), xFIP (3.61) and SIERA (3.50) all feel that while he’s been a bit fortunate, he’s still been highly effective.
  • Speaking with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twins GM Terry Ryan clarified a comment that he made last week in which he suggested that manager Ron Gardenhire would return in 2015. Ryan explained that his comment was made off the cuff, without any consultation, and that no one’s job — including his own — was guaranteed in 2015. Twins owner Jim Pohlad did state last fall that Ryan’s job as GM was his for as long as he wanted to remain GM, but “everybody’s got a breaking point,” Ryan said to Miller. “I would never hold Jim Pohlad to that statement, because it wouldn’t be fair to him. We’re losing way too many games here for anybody to put that kind of faith in anyone.”
  • White Sox general manager Rick Hahn appeared on the Mully and Hanley show last Friday and said that his staff is pleased with the results of the 2013-14 offseason, and he expects to be active in free agency this offseason. Hahn also sang the praises of top pick Carlos Rodon, saying that he’s even more advanced than the team had anticipated, and his transition to pro ball has been nearly seamless. Hahn did downplay, to an extent, the rumors surrounding a potential September callup for Rodon: “…ultimately the decision to bring him up or not bring him up is going to be about what’s best for his long-term development. We’re going to have to be real cautious before we decide just to bring him up and run him out there in big league games this year.”

NL Notes: Solarte, Wang, Papelbon

Yangervis Solarte has made a good impression on the Padres since arriving from New York in the Chase Headley trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. He’s versatile (playing second base, third base and outfield), and he’s hit .271/.347/.383 in 126 plate appearances so far, coming up with several big hits. That’s not bad at all for a solid defender playing in Petco Park. The Padres can move him around the diamond to accommodate their other players. “He’s shown he’s capable of holding down a major-league job,” says manager Bud Black. “What role that is, I think depends on the makeup of the other 12 position players.” Here are more notes from the NL.

  • It’s unclear what the Brewers will do with Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang, Caitlin Swieca of MLB.com writes. Milwaukee selected Wang from the Pirates last fall even though he hadn’t played above rookie ball. He predictably struggled out of the Brewers’ bullpen, but since hitting the DL with shoulder tightness in July, he’s transitioned back into starting while on a rehab assignment at the Class A level. It’s unclear whether the Brewers will recall him in September.
  • The Phillies have had trouble drumming up interest in closer Jonathan Papelbon even though he’s cleared waivers and the Phillies are willing to eat some of his salary, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Papelbon’s declining velocity might be a one problem, but as Rosenthal points out, he’s gotten good results despite it. His personality might be another issue, but GM Ruben Amaro insists Papelbon is well behaved, even though he’s opinionated.

Pirates Claim Bobby LaFromboise, Designate Field

The Pirates have announced that they’ve claimed pitcher Bobby LaFromboise from the Padres. San Diego designated the lefty for assignment last week. To make space on their 40-man roster, the Pirates designated infielder Tommy Field for assignment.

LaFromboise has spent the 2014 season in the bullpen at Triple-A El Paso, posting a 4.75 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 53 innings. The 27-year-old pitched 10 2/3 innings for the Mariners last season, striking out 11 batters and walking four while allowing eight runs, seven earned. The Padres claimed him in April.

The Pirates claimed Field from the Angels two weeks ago. He’s hit .289/.359/.452 at the Triple-A level in 2014 while playing second base, shortstop and third base.



Minor Moves: Obispo, Brown, Rodriguez

Here are today’s minor transactions from around the league…

  • Pirates right-hander Wirfin Obispo has been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (on Twitter). The 29-year-old was designated for assignment last week when the Bucs claimed catcher Ramon Cabrera off waivers from the Tigers. In 25 2/3 innings with Indianapolis, Obispo has posted a 3.16 ERA with 8.4 K/9, though he’s posted a fairly high 4.6 BB/9 rate as well.
  • Red Sox outfielder Corey Brown has been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, according to the team’s transactions page. Brown, 28, was designated for assignment on Aug. 17 to create roster space for right-hander Steven Wright. He has a strong track record at Triple-A as a whole, but he scuffled a bit in 2014, posting a .226/.294/.452 batting line.
  • The Yankees have signed right-hander Wilking Rodriguez, per the club’s transactions page. Rodriguez was released by the Royals after the team’s acquisition of Josh Willingham, but the 24-year-old posted solid stats between Double-A and Triple-A this season: a combined 2.36 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 26 2/3 innings. Rodriguez also made his big league debut for the Royals this year, firing two scoreless innings with one hit, one walk and one strikeout.

Central Links: Dirks, Cubs, Morton, Meyer, Reds

Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks suffered yet another setback in his return from back surgery i a rehab game on Sunday, according to James Schmel of MLive.com. Dirks sustained the second hamstring injury of his rehab assignment, and while the results of a Tuesday MRI have yet to be disclosed, it’s looking unlikely that he will play for the Tigers at all this season, writes Schmel. There are just 13 games remaining in the minor league regular season, and Dirks may not have enough time to rehab and prepare himself to suit up for the reigning AL Central champs this year.

Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Much has been made of the Cubs‘ plan to pursue top-of-the-rotation arms this offseason, but GM Jed Hoyer said to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times this weekend that a veteran position player is a priority as well. “…[T]here’s a lot of positions on the field that we want to dedicate to the guys that are here or to young players,” said Hoyer. “But I do think it’s important to have some veteran guys with good approaches that these guys can lean on… … It’s certainly something we want to find.”
  • Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was originally placed on the disabled list for a hip issue, but he has now been diagnosed with a sports hernia, he told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Morton will try to return in 2014, but that doesn’t appear to be a certainty, and even if he does, offseason surgery remains a possibility.
  • Twins top prospect Alex Meyer is right where he should be in regard to the team’s projected innings limit, GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ryan will watch Meyer’s final home start of the year next week but is not ready to concretely say that the flamethrower will receive a September call-up. The Twins would need to add Meyer to the 40-man roster to do so, but as Berardino notes, that would happen following the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft anyway. Meyer ranked on the midseason Top 50 prospect lists of ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, placing as high as 12th overall (on B-Pro’s list).
  • Following the Reds‘ recent four-game losing streak — each of which featured the bullpen blowing a lead — John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines that it’s time to shift the focus to 2015. Fay examines the club’s chances of contending and writes that they won’t be big players on the free agent market, as is typically the M.O. of owner Bob Castellini. Fay also notes that the Reds debated moving a starting pitcher at the non-waiver trade deadline, but Castellini wouldn’t sign off on a sale. Fay feels that a starter, such as Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos, could become trade bait in the offseason with the Reds in need of a bat.

Blue Jays Claim Matt Hague From Pirates

The Blue Jays have claimed first baseman Matt Hague off waivers from the Pirates, Toronto announced via press release. Hague has been optioned to Triple-A.

Hague, 28, has only limited MLB experience but was swinging well this year at Triple-A Indianapolis, slashing .267/.365/.448 with 14 long balls over 386 trips to bat. Pittsburgh designated him for assignment (and ultimately exposed him to waivers) to make roster space for the acquisition of reliever John Axford.


Minor Moves: Brad Mills, Ernesto Frieri

Here are the day’s minor moves …

  • The Blue Jays have outrighted southpaw Brad Mills to Triple-A Buffalo, according to the team’s transactions page. Mills, 29, was designated for assignment by the Jays on Tuesday and will have the option to elect free agency rather than report to Triple-A, having been outrighted in the past. He has a 9.15 ERA in 20 2/3 Major League innings this season but a sensational 1.81 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 89 1/3 innings between the Triple-A affiliates for Milwaukee and Toronto this season.
  • After clearing waivers, righty Ernesto Frieri has accepted an assignment to the Pirates‘ Triple-A affiliate, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com reports on Twitter. After starting the season as the Angels’ closer, Frieri was dealt to Pittsburgh and then designated for assignment when he failed to right the ship. Though other clubs might have been willing to take a chance on him, Frieri’s $3.8MM first-year arbitration salary no doubt scared off any claims. It seems all but certain at this point that Frieri will end up being non-tendered in the offseason.

Pirates Designate Matt Hague For Assignment

The Pirates have designated Matt Hague for assignment and placed right-hander Stolmy Pimentel on the disabled list in order to clear roster space for the recently acquired John Axford, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Hague, a 28-year-old infielder, went 0-for-2 in his only two plate appearances for the Buccos in 2014. In a previous stint back in 2012, he batted .229/.270/.257 in 74 plate appearances — his only other Major League experience. The former ninth-rounder and Oklahama State product has been solid for Triple-A Indianapolis this season, batting .267/.365/.448 with 14 homers in 386 PA.


Pirates Acquire John Axford

The Pirates have officially acquired righty John Axford from the Indians, the clubs have announced. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the transaction (via Twitter). Axford, 31, joined Cleveland on a one-year, $4.5MM free agent contract after being non-tendered by the Cardinals.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

Pittsburgh added the righty through a straight waiver claim , tweets ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. That means the club will be on the hook for the approximately $1.1MM that he is still owed this year, though it will not need to part with any young talent to add the veteran arm.

On the year, Axford has posted a 3.92 ERA with 10.5 K/9 but a troubling 6.5 BB/9 over 43 2/3 innings. He does have a career-best 54.1% groundball rate, but advanced metrics have not been impressed on the whole (4.71 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 3.80 SIERA). Axford opened the season as the Cleveland closer, and picking up ten saves in the process, but lost the job with inconsistent performance. He has been much better of late, though saw his ERA jump 78 points in his last outing (August 8th) when he gave up four earned runs on three hits and an ill-timed home run.

Axford has now been dealt in August for the second time in as many seasons. Last year, the one-time Brewers closer moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis in late August. Though Axford has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, it seems rather likely that he will be a non-tender candidate once again. As with Ernesto Frieri, who was recently acquired and later outrighted by the Pirates, early-career save opportunities make it difficult to justify tendering contracts to non-elite bullpen arms.

For the Bucs, Axford represents another attempt to shore up a pen that has failed to match last year’s unit, which was third in baseball with a collective 2.89 ERA. In 2014, the Pittsburgh relief corps has put up a negative fWAR tally and combined to allow 3.52 earned per nine.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pirates Designate Wirfin Obispo For Assignment

The Pirates announced that they have designated right-hander Wirfin Obispo for assignment in order to make room for catcher Ramon Cabrera, who was claimed off waivers from the Tigers earlier today. Cabrera will report to Double-A Altoona, according to a team release from the Pirates.

The Pirates claimed Obispo, 29, off waivers from the Braves back in June, and he’s pitched rather well for their Triple-A affiliate. In 25 2/3 innings with Indianapolis, Obispo has posted a 3.16 ERA with 8.4 K/9, though he’s posted a fairly high 4.6 BB/9 rate as well. He struggled to a 4.66 ERA with the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate and has a 3.80 ERA on the season as a whole between the two clubs. Obispo has never reached the Major League level, but he’s turned in a combined 4.01 ERA over the past three seasons at Triple-A, averaging 9.1 strikeouts and 5.3 walks per nine innings pitched.