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Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
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.
The Pirates have acquired switch-hitting infielder Steve Lombardozzi from the Orioles in exchange for cash considerations, Baltimore announced. The 26-year-old has now been traded for the third time, all dating back to last winter.
Lombardozzi cracked the big leagues with the Nationals, serving as a regular utility piece for the club in 2012 and 2013. He was shipped to the Tigers and then on to the Orioles before the 2014 campaign, which he spent primarily at Triple-A. All said, Lombo owns a .266/.297/.341 line over 829 trips to the plate at the big league level.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- After his recent outright, infielder Jake Elmore has elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment with the Pirates, according to the International League transactions page. The 27-year-old utilityman will be on the move yet again, this time after losing his 40-man spot to Jung-ho Kang.
- In addition to confirming the previously-reported signings of Ronald Belisario and Alexi Casilla, the Rays announced today that lefty Robert Zarate has been signed to a minor league deal with a big league camp invite. (Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune has the full story on the team’s spring non-roster invites.) The 28-year-old worked to a 5.11 ERA with 12 strikeouts and ten walks in 24 2/3 inings this winter in his native Venezuela. He has traveled a difficult-to-interpret path, having fallen out of the Blue Jays system after 2008 despite solid numbers and surfaced briefly with the NPB’s Hanshin Tigers over 2012-13.
Let’s run down the day’s minor moves:
- The Pirates announced the signing of righty Josh Wall and catcher Wilkin Castillo to minor league deals with spring invites. And the club also added righty Chris Volstad, per Matt Eddy of Baseball America (via Twitter). Wall, 28, logged just one unsightly inning last year with the Angels but threw 44 1/3 productive innings at Triple-A. Oddly enough, Castillo has spent most of his time in the minors as a backstop but played only left field and second base in brief big league time back in 2008-09. The true utility man has been playing in Mexico since 2012. Volstad, of course, was a fixture in the Marlins rotation from 2008-11, but has seen minimal action since an unsuccessful 2012 run with the Cubs.
- Right-hander Hiram Burgos is heading back to the Brewers, Eddy tweets. Burgos was a 40-man casualty in September, but will remain in the only professional organization he has known. The 27-year-old made one brief, unsuccessful stint in the bigs. He missed significant time last year due to shoulder surgery.
- One additional catcher is joining the Braves organization, Eddy tweets, with Jesus Flores signing a minor league deal. A five-year veteran of the division-rival Nationals, the 31-year-old has bounced around in the upper minors the last two years and will look to extend his career in Atlanta.
JAN 29th: The Pirates have outrighted Elmore to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to MLB.com’s transactions page.
JAN 20th: The Pirates have designated infielder Jake Elmore for assignment, the club announced. The move creates 40-man roster space for the addition of Jung-ho Kang.
Most recently, Elmore was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh from the Reds, but he has also bounced around with the Athletics and White Sox in recent memory. The 27-year-old obviously holds appeal as a utility option, though clubs are wary of holding a roster spot for him when the need arises. Over 221 career MLB plate appearances, Elmore owns a .221/.288/.291 slash.
Longtime big leaguer Miguel Tejada, now 40, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Mexican League’s Pericas de Puebla, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deports reports. Tejada does not appear to be looking to spark another return to the big leagues, but instead says he wants to play out the season and enjoy one more winter league run before hanging up his spikes.
Here are some more notes with an international flare:
- While Yoan Moncada has drawn much of the attention, fellow young infielder Andy Ibanez is a legitimate prospect in his own right, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Ibanez figures to command a pool-busting bonus, says Badler, who breaks down the full history and book on the 21-year-old. Though he lacks the flashy tools of Moncada, Ibanez is framed as a solid all-around player with a promising bat. All said, he is a better prospect than Roberto Baldoquin, who just landed $8MM from the Angels, in Badler’s estimation.
- The transition from playing in one country to another can be difficult on many levels, as Ryan Sadowski — now the first-ever full-time international scout for the KBO’s Lotte Giants — explained to me on a recent episode of the MLBTR podcast. New Pirates addition Jung-ho Kang is in the midst of just such a move, as Bill Mitchell explores for Baseball America. Kang is currently training in the United States with his now-former KBO club, the Nexen Heroes, before heading to camp with the Bucs to begin his new journey.
6:36pm: One name involved in talks, according to Connolly, is Class-A left-hander Steven Brault (Twitter links). Connolly gets the sense that if Brault and a second prospect are sent to the Pirates, the second player would be a hitter.
5:06pm: The Orioles are attempting to acquire Snider for “less” than two minor leaguers at present, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
4:42pm: The Orioles and Pirates have rekindled their previous trade talks regarding Travis Snider, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. While Connolly cautions that a deal is not complete, it seems that the general parameters have been discussed in some depth, as he adds that Snider would cost the Orioles one or two non-40-man prospects — at least one pitcher and possibly another player (that could also be a pitcher).
The 26-year-old Snider (27 next week), formerly one of the Top 10 prospects in all of baseball according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, never was able to live up to those lofty expectations, but he enjoyed a solid season in 2014. Last year with the Pirates, the former Blue Jays top pick batted .264/.338/.438 with 13 homers in 359 plate appearances.
Snider and the Pirates have already agreed to a $2.1MM salary this season, avoiding arbitration. He’s controllable through the 2016 season, as he currently has four years, 91 days of Major League service time. Previous talks regarding Snider involved Brian Matusz, according to Connolly, though he is not under consideration as a part of this deal.
The Orioles lost both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency this offseason and have yet to replace either, with the current starting outfield projecting to feature Alejandro De Aza in left field, Adam Jones in center and David Lough in right field. Both Steve Pearce and Delmon Young could serve as right-handed options at the outfield corners, though Young figures to spend most of his time at DH. The left-handed hitting Snider would give the Orioles a third lefty-swinging corner option, though perhaps the team feels that the defensively oriented Lough is best deployed as a fourth outfielder.
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.
Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…
- The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
- Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
- The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”
The Pirates deserve praise for the depth they’ve built on their Major League roster, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily Insider-only blog post (subscription required and recommended). More and more, Olney writes, the Pirates are beginning to look like the second coming of the perennially-contending Cardinals, with talented players that can handle multiple positions, safeguarding the club against regression and injury. For instance, Josh Harrison can play right field if Gregory Polanco‘s adjustment to the Majors stalls again in 2015, with Jung-ho Kang sliding into third in his stead. Kang could also unseat Jordy Mercer at short if Mercer struggles, and the team has plenty of options at first base in addition to Pedro Alvarez, including Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez and Andrew Lambo. That depth breeds success, which paired with the revitalization of pitchers A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley, makes Pittsburgh a very desirable free agent destination — particularly for pitchers.
More on the Pirates and the NL Central…
- The questions about Kang’s defense may not be an issue given how the Pirates have used shifts to cover up for their generally unimpressive fielding, Fangraphs’ Miles Wray writes. If Kang’s defense isn’t an issue, Wray feels the Bucs made an acceptable risk in signing Kang given his power-hitting potential.
- Javier Baez is having a tough time in Puerto Rico winter ball, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports, as the Cubs prospect is still plagued by strikeouts. It is starting to look like Baez could begin the 2015 season in Triple-A unless he enjoys a big Spring Training.
- Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani are the current favorites to fill the two remaining spots in the Reds rotation, though manager Bryan Price tells reporters (including C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that nothing has been decided. Jason Marquis, David Holmberg and Raicel Iglesias stand out as possible contenders to earn a rotation spot in Spring Training, with Iglesias something of an “X-factor” given how he went several months without pitching while arranging his departure from Cuba.
Recent discussions between free agent James Shields and the Tigers make sense for both sides, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Tigers have a good rotation for 2015 but could lose David Price and Alfredo Simon after the season, meaning Shields could be a good addition both for 2015 and beyond. Morosi adds that the Tigers have maintained contact with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer, although there are no indications that discussions have gotten very far. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Likewise, it makes sense for the Cardinals to sign Scherzer, Morosi writes. Morosi reports that Scherzer and the Cardinals have made known to one another that both sides are interested, but notes that the length and dollar amount of the sort of contract Scherzer is seeking might be an issue for the Cardinals. One way for the two sides to come to terms, Morosi suggests, would be for the Cardinals to offer fewer years (perhaps five) at a high average annual value. (Morosi suggests $156MM, which would give Scherzer the highest AAV ever for a pitcher.) Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said today, however, that the team is not shopping for expensive pitchers (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Twitter).
- The Pirates‘ signing of Jung-ho Kang has upside but comes with little risk, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates’ financial obligations are minimal (about $16MM over four years, including Kang’s posting fee), and if Kang proves effective, he could give the Pirates valuable infield insurance in case third baseman Josh Harrison or shortstop Jordy Mercer don’t continue to work out. (Harrison would appear to be set as a starter for the next couple years after a borderline-MVP-caliber season in 2014, but anything can happen.) Also, Kang is signed through at least 2018, while second baseman Neil Walker has only two years remaining before he’s eligible for free agency. As Sawchik points out in a separate article, Kang could also make plenty of money for the Pirates by attracting advertising from Korean companies.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention today that other teams have inquired about catcher Welington Castillo, but that the Cubs haven’t yet received any compelling offers, Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune tweets. With the additions of Miguel Montero and David Ross this offseason, there’s no obvious role for Castillo in Chicago, even though he has a solid track record as an offensive catcher. Via Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter), Hoyer added that Ross was too good not to acquire, despite Castillo’s talent. The 37-year-old Ross has hit sparingly in the past two seasons but has a solid record as a pitch framer.