Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Marlins Likely Not Done Making Moves

The Marlins acquired reliever Bryan Morris from the Pirates for the No. 39 overall draft pick on Sunday, and they aren’t through wheeling and dealing, with MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reporting that at least one more is likely this week. It’s unclear whether that means another trade or some other type of transaction, but Frisaro writes that a move could happen “within the next few days.” He notes that the Marlins’ “proactive” approach is unusual, since teams do not typically make many trades this early in the season.

The Marlins wanted to add bullpen help, particularly after losing Carter Capps to injury, and Frisaro writes that Morris, a hard-throwing righty with big-league experience fit the bill. The Marlins also still possess three of the top 43 picks in the draft, including the No. 2 overall pick.

Pirates Claim Wirfin Obispo

The Pirates have announced that they’ve claimed reliever Wirfin Obispo off waivers from the Braves and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Braves designated Obispo for assignment yesterday. The Pirates’ claim comes hours after their trade of fellow reliever Bryan Morris to the Marlins, so Obispo should help them replenish their relief depth.

Obispo, 29, had pitched 19 1/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this season, posting a 4.66 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9. The Braves added the hard-throwing righty to their 40-man roster following a 2013 season in which he posted a 3.53 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 63 2/3 Triple-A innings. Obispo has never pitched in the Majors, but he pitched in parts of four seasons in Japan from 2007 through 2011.

Marlins Acquire Bryan Morris From Pirates

The Marlins announced that they have acquired right-hander Bryan Morris from the Pirates in exchange for the No. 39 overall pick in the 2014 draft.  The No. 39 pick is Miami’s Competitive Balance Round A selection and is worth roughly $1.58MM.

We feel this trade will have a positive impact on our organization in the short, moderate and long term,” said Bucs GM Neal Huntington in Pittsburgh’s press release. “In the short term, this trade will add a quality prospect to our system that will enhance our ability to make additional prospect for major league player type deals while helping us to better sustain crucial prospect depth. Additionally, we feel we have made this move from a position of strength as we have kept our core bullpen intact. In the moderate and long term, we add an additional first-round talent that we project to play a significant role on future Pirates’ teams.”

Morris, 27, has pitched to a 3.46 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 over the last three seasons with the Pirates.  In late March, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported that the PIrates were open to dealing Morris and Jeanmar Gomez, though they were a little more reluctant to part with the latter since he can also start.  Morris is out of options this year and the Bucs have had a logjam in the bullpen this season.  In short, the Pirates are dealing from a surplus to add a promising talent to their farm system.

Of course, the Marlins still have choice picks at the top of the draft.  They own the No. 2 overall pick, the No. 36 pick in the Competitive Balance Round A portion after they were unable to sign Oregon pitcher Matt Krook last year, and the No. 43 pick, the second pick of the second round.  For the Pirates, the deal gives them a pick to think about in between their No. 24 and No. 64 selections.

NL Notes: Mets, Pirates, Sandoval

For the Mets and for other teams throughout baseball, undergoing a rebuilding process provides no guarantee that process will actually work for a sustained period of time, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman argues that the Pirates prove that point — they had been rebuilding for years before they finally reached the playoffs last season, but this season they’re struggling yet again. (Even the Pirates’ playoff year depended heavily on outside additions A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon.) Highly-touted young players like Pedro Alvarez don’t always gradually improve as projected, just as Ike Davis (now a Pirate) did not gradually improve with the Mets. Still others, like Matt Harvey, undergo significant injuries. Sherman argues that building the core of a team through one’s farm system is not without risk. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The Las Vegas 51s have announced that the Mets have optioned top prospect Rafael Montero back to them. Montero made four starts for the Mets, posting a 5.40 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 20 innings. The move clears space for the Mets to promote fellow pitcher Buddy Carlyle. The Mets will replace Montero in their rotation with Daisuke Matsuzaka, as Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets.
  • Pablo Sandovalbelongs in San Francisco,” and the Giants ought to work out a new deal with him before he’s eligible for free agency this fall, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins writes. Not only is Sandoval a popular player, Jenkins argues, but his positive outlook helps in the Giants’ clubhouse. Also, the Giants’ relative lack of organizational concern about plate discipline makes the team a good fit for the free-swinging Sandoval. Jenkins thinks the Giants might be able to get a five-year deal with Sandoval done before the All-Star break.

Pirates Place Wandy Rodriguez On Release Waivers

MAY 30: The Pirates have placed Rodriguez on unconditional release waivers, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter).

MAY 22: The Pirates announced that they have re-instated Russell Martin from the 15-day disabled list and designated left-hander Wandy Rodriguez for assignment.

The DFA marks a somewhat surprising end to what has been an injury-riddled Pirates tenure for Rodriguez. Acquired from the Astros in 2012 (in exchange for Colton Cain, Rudy Owens and Robbie Grossman), Rodriguez totaled just 164 1/3 innings in parts of three seasons with Pittsburgh.

Rodriguez was healthy and effective for the Bucs after the acquisition in 2012, pitching to a 3.72 ERA in 75 innings. However, a forearm strain limited him to just 62 2/3 innings last season, and right knee inflammation cost him three weeks earlier this season. Still, with the exception of 2014, the veteran southpaw has pitched well when healthy.

This season, he’s registered a 6.75 ERA with a 20-to-8 K/BB ratio and a whopping 10 homers in 26 2/3 innings. Never one to throw particularly hard, Rodriguez’s average fastball velocity is a career-worst 88.3 mph this season. Still, given his $13MM salary ($5.5MM of which is being paid by Houston) and the fact that the Pirates have previously bought low on pitchers with potentially fluky homer-to-flyball ratios (A.J. Burnett, Mark Melancon and, to a lesser extent, Francisco Liriano), it’s a bit surprising that Rodriguez was the odd man out.

Pittsburgh will have 10 days to trade, outright or release Rodriguez, though his salary and recent injury problems make it highly unlikely that someone would claim him on waivers. A trade is unlikely for the same reason, unless the Pirates were to kick in some cash. Rodriguez is earning $13MM in 2014 — $5.5MM of which is being covered by the Astros. In other words, with more than a quarter of the season gone, Pittsburgh is eating roughly $5.33MM worth of salary, which is a sizable chunk of its $72MM Opening Day payroll.

Rangers Claim Phil Irwin

The Rangers have claimed right-hander Phil Irwin off waivers from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A Round Rock, executive vice president of communications John Blake announced (on Twitter). The Rangers’ 40-man roster is now full, Blake adds.

The 27-year-old Irwin is one of three players to have been designated for assignment by the Pirates in the past week, as Wandy Rodriguez and Vin Mazzaro both found themselves victim of the DFA as well. Irwin has a strong minor league track record, including a 3.25 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 445 1/3 innings since being selected in the 21st round of the 2009 draft.

Irwin pitched well in his Triple-A debut as a 25-year-old and was solid in 10 innings there last season as well (0.90 ERA). However, he missed most of the 2013 season after undergoing surgery to correct a nerve issue in his elbow and had allowed 21 runs in 21 1/3 innings at Triple-A this season. Irwin has one Major League appearance, which came last season when he made a spot start for the Bucs and allowed four earned runs on six hits and four walks with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

NL Notes: Taveras, Cardinals, Padres, Davis

The Cardinals are currently determining how to find big-league playing time for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I actually think from a baseball standpoint he could play in the big leagues,” says GM John Mozeliak. “But we’ve got to determine playing time up here with the current roster. Are we at a point where we’re willing to take away at-bats from the current roster and give them to somebody else?” If the Cardinals were to promote Taveras to play regularly, they would have less playing time for some combination of Allen Craig, Matt Adams, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. Taveras is currently hitting .319/.369/.527 in 198 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • While the Cardinals don’t have playing time for their Triple-A outfield talent right now, Strauss writes that they simply don’t have as much Triple-A pitching talent as they’ve had in recent years. Of course, that’s mostly because they’ve graduated so many talented pitchers in the past few seasons, including Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness. If the Cardinals want to add another strong pitching option this season, Strauss argues, they’ll have to do it via a trade.
  • There are rumors that the Padres could fire manager Bud Black, but Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests that it might be worth remembering GM Josh Byrnes’ history firing his manager when he was the GM of the Diamondbacks. In 2009, Byrnes fired Bob Melvin and replaced him with A.J. Hinch. Melvin had a terrific third act as manager of the Athletics, and both Byrnes and Hinch were fired a little more than a year later. Like Byrnes, Hinch is now in the Padres’ front office.
  • Now that first baseman Ike Davis is hitting, life with the Pirates is different than it was with the Mets, MLB.com’s Tim Healey reports. “Going to get coffee, I don’t get hitting tips,” says Davis. “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But I don’t need to think about my stance at 9 in the morning.” Davis is back in New York as the Pirates play at Citi Field this week.

Draft Notes: Astros, Huntington, Rodon

We’re under two weeks away from the first round of the 2014 amateur draft, which kicks off on June 5.  Here’s a collection of draft-related info…

  • No one knows what the Astros are going to do with the first pick,” an executive from a team with a top-six draft pick tells Peter Gammons.  Another rival executive feels Houston may not take Carlos Rodon first since “many of the Astros people believe that picking a pitcher at the top is a gamble because of the historical predictability of pitchers.” (Though of course, the ‘Stros took Mark Appel last year).  The exec feels the Astros are “looking…closely” at high school outfielder Alex Jackson, and if Houston passes on Jackson, the Marlins also like him a lot as the potential second overall pick.  Miami is favored to draft a hitter due to the number of pitching prospects in their system but “they love [Tyler] Kolek and it would be hard to pass on Rodon,” Gammons writes.
  • Also from Gammons’ wide-ranging column, he polls executives about which teams had the best drafts of the last decade, and also muses about there would be much more casual fan interest in the draft if picks could be traded.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington feels that a deep selection of talent is available, write Charlie Wilmoth and David Manel of Bucs Dugout. Huntington also addresses the pressure to select local players and how the Bucs are adjusting to picking near the end of the first round rather than with an early selection.
  • If Rodon does go first overall, it doesn’t seem like the Astros would give him a record bonus simply because of how the draft’s rules have changed, Baseball America’s John Manuel writes.  Scott Boras (Rodon’s adviser) argues that MLB should alter the draft format since the current rules hurt teams at the Major League level; the agent suggests such changes as not subjecting first-round contracts to the salary allotment cap or not taking away a team’s first round pick for signing free agents.

Pirates Designate Vin Mazzaro For Assignment

The Pirates have designated right-hander Vin Mazzaro for assignment, the team announced.  Righty Brandon Cumpton has been called up from Triple-A in a corresponding move.

This is the second time that Mazzaro has been designated for assignment this season, as the reliever was previously DFA’ed at the end of Spring Training.  He cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A rather than become a free agent in April.

All these transactions may have more to do with a roster crunch than a commentary on Mazzaro’s performance, as the righty was a big part of the Pittsburgh bullpen in 2013.  He posted a 2.81 ERA, 2.19 K/BB rate and 5.6 K/9 in 73 2/3 IP last season and was very effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters.  Mazzaro had a 3.48 ERA in 10 1/3 innings for the Bucs this season, plus 10 2/3 scoreless innings at Triple-A Indianapolis.  As a first-time arbitration eligible player last winter, Mazzaro and the Pirates avoided a hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $950K deal for 2014.

Mazzaro joins two other Pirates (Wandy Rodriguez and Phil Irwin) in DFA Limbo according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.  Padres right-handers Blaine Boyer and Billy Buckner are the only two other players currently in limbo.

NL Notes: Davis, Ramirez, Ervin

Ike Davis will return to Citi Field Monday, but the Pirates‘ first baseman isn’t concerned about his return to Queens, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. “Truth is, it’s not something big to me,” Davis says. “Just gotta do it, go and try to beat the Mets.” After a rough ending to his career in New York, Davis has played well since the Mets traded him in mid-April for reliever Zack Thornton and a PTBNL — he’s hitting .295/.391/.421 so far for Pittsburgh. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • Cubs infielder Mike Olt is a fan of new Triple-A Iowa player/coach Manny Ramirez, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes. The two played together last season at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers organization, but the connection goes back further than that — Olt says Ramirez tossed him a ball when an 11-year-old Olt was sitting in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium and Ramirez was playing outfield for the Red Sox. Olt says Ramirez remembered the incident, since he doesn’t usually throw balls into the stands.
  • Reds outfield prospect Phillip Ervin attributes his struggles in 2014 to self-imposed pressure after being a first-round pick and receiving a $1.8MM bonus last season, C. Trent Rosecrans writes for Baseball America. Ervin, 21, is hitting .209/.271/.302 in 203 plate appearances for Class A Dayton, a level at which he hit well in a handful of games near the end of last season. “You want to just impress people, put up the numbers for the fans, and you always hear stuff,” says Ervin. “I feel like sometimes I try to do too much just to keep other people happy rather than just go out and have fun.”