Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Extension Notes: Springer, Polanco, Sandoval, Ramirez

Here are some notes on past, present, and future extension situations around the game:

  • The Astros‘ extension offer to then-unpromoted prospect George Springer actually would have guaranteed him just $7.6MM over four years, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. This news represents a correction of Rosenthal’s original report, which cited a $23MM guarantee over seven years. In fact, says, Rosenthal, the $23MM would only have been reached through the exercise of three club options, which would have covered years five through seven of the deal. While this certainly changes the nature of the cost/benefit equation that Springer faced, he would have been subject to team control through 2020 regardless — as is the case at present.
  • Likewise, Rosenthal clarifies some details of the offer made by the Pirates to fellow top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco, reporting that the team’s offer would have guaranteed six or seven years in the range of $20MM to $25MM. The length and total guarantee would have shifted based upon whether or not Polanco qualified for an additional year of salary arbitration as a Super Two player. (In that respect, then, the offer looks to be quite similar to the terms agreed upon by the Rays with Chris Archer. As MLBTR reported, Archer’s $25.5MM guarantee hinges upon whether he reaches Super Two status, as expected; if he does not qualify, he would be promised just $20MM.)
  • Rosenthal also touches on the situation of free agent-to-be Pablo Sandoval of the Giants. Though talks are currently not taking place, the club is not “ruling out” making another run at an extension for the third baseman. On the other hand, Rosenthal notes that San Francisco could consider adding a different player at the hot corner through free agency or could look to piece together a platoon. Sandoval, who landed in the ninth slot in MLBTR’s first 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings, has struggled to a .191/.262/.294 start through his first 149 plate appearances in 2014.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says that he is still interested in trying to lock up another pending free agent, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Ramirez took the top spot in MLBTR’s list of the top 2015 free agents heading into the year. While he has struggled at the plate recently, Ramirez still owns a .257/.339/.447 slash with five home runs and three stolen bases through 171 plate appearances, though defensive metrics have been down on his work in the field in the early going. “He’s still somebody we’d love to have back,” said Colletti, who noted that he has conveyed that continued interest to Ramirez’s representation.

Prospect Notes: Buxton, Astros, Rodon, Polanco

Byron Buxton, the Twins‘ top prospect and perhaps the top prospect in all of baseball, re-injured his wrist today while sliding into third, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The extent of the injury isn’t yet known, and Buxton will soon have an MRI. 2014 has likely been a frustrating season for Buxton — he injured his wrist in spring training and sat out the entire season until last week. He has played just five games so far this season, all at Class A+ Fort Myers. Here are more notes on prospects.

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was in Raleigh yesterday to watch NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon, a candidate to be taken first overall in next month’s draft, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Rodon struck out nine batters and walked one in seven innings. “We’re still gathering information,” says Luhnow. “I know where I personally stand, but I haven’t seen these guys near as much and seen nearly as many guys as everybody else.”
  • Calling up Gregory Polanco this weekend would have been a great move for the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Polanco continues his hot hitting for Indianapolis (he’s currently at .374/.434/.580), and the Pirates are short on outfielders, with Travis Snider serving a suspension (and with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen both currently out of Saturday’s game with injuries). The Pirates will also be on “Sunday Night Baseball” this weekend. Of course, Polanco’s arbitration status will likely be a factor in the Pirates delaying his promotion until mid-June, by which point he will be past the Super Two threshold.

NL Notes: Polanco, Nady, Montero, Cubs

We learned recently that the Pirates had offered a seven-year contract extension to outfield prospect Gregory Polanco, who has of course yet to take the major league field. The extension tender was particularly interesting because of the contrast between Polanco’s situation and that of players like the AstrosGeorge Springer, whose similar extension offer came from a non-contender (and who has since been promoted), and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, who does not have an obvious spot at the MLB level. Those looking for more thoughts on this situation have a few pieces to check out. In a piece for Grantland, Ben Lindbergh breaks down the overall promotion picture, explaining that several organizations employ quite a different philosophy than strict service time controllers like the Bucs and Rays — and noting that there are very real risks to holding down talent. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that the Pirates are now in a tough spot, given their desire to save money but equally obvious team need for Polanco. Meanwhile, over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron writes that the discount demanded by the team on Polanco’s reasonably anticipated earnings was just too great, and opines that Pittsburgh should be willing to up its guarantee by $10MM to $15MM.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • It is virtually certain that outrighted veteran Xavier Nady will decline his assignment and become a free agent, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock (via Twitter). The 35-year-old veteran stands at a .135/.238/.405 triple-slash in 42 plate appearances on the season. He did put up a quality .296/.360/.456 line in 495 trips to the plate at the Triple-A level last year.
  • The Mets have a detailed plan in the works regarding highly-rated pitching prospect Rafael Montero, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. With an innings limit in play, New York hopes to work Montero as a reliever (first at Triple-A, then in the bigs) before sending him back to the minors to stretch back out and join the MLB rotation later on in the season.
  • The first three picks of the amateur draft appear fairly set (at least at this point), which could make the Cubs (who hold the fourth overall choice) the first true wild card. With Tommy John victim Jeff Hoffman now likely out of play, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune says that possibilities include prep arm Kyle Freeland, TCU lefty Brandon Finnegan, or high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson.

Pirates Offered Gregory Polanco Seven-Year Deal

7:09pm: Pittsburgh made the offer during Spring Training, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While the options came with relatively low values given what Polanco may ultimately hope to command through free agency, Heyman says they would have pushed the total achievable value of the deal into the $50MM to $60MM range.

6:40pm: The Pirates recently made top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco a seven-year contract offer that would have guaranteed him just under $25MM, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Polanco rejected the extension, which included three club options on the back end.

The offer appears to be quite similar to that made by the Astros to fellow outfield prospect George Springer, which of course was also declined. Like Springer at the time of his offer, Polanco has yet to taste any big league action and could be awaiting promotion due to service time considerations. While Springer has since made his way to the bigs, and is now on track to qualify for Super Two status if he stays up, Polanco could be destined to be held at Triple-A until the Bucs feel confident he will not reach enough service time to qualify for an extra year of arbitration.

Polanco, 22, is off to an impressive start in his first substantial stint at the highest level of the minors. Through 127 plate appearances, he has a .397/.449/.621 line with four home runs and six stolen bases (though he’s been caught four times). Polanco opened the year in the top quarter of most top-100 prospect lists and cracked the top 10 in the view of Baseball America, which calls him a true five-tool player.

Though Passan’s report does not specify a timeline on discussions, he says the offer was made “recently.” Assuming that the seven years would have started in 2014, the extension would have bought out Polanco’s six years of team control and first free agent season, while transferring control to the team over three more years of potential free agent eligibility.

From the Pirates’ perspective, Polanco seems to represent a likely upgrade over the team’s current right field platoon. Needless to say, regardless when the call-up is made and whether a long-term deal is ultimately reached, Pittsburgh hopes that the athletic youngster will slot alongside Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte to form the league’s most exciting young outfield combination.

NL Central Links: Reds, Singh, Rolen

Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…

  • With Jay Bruce possibly needing knee surgery and facing a 3-4 week absence, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (all Twitter links) looked at the Reds‘ options for replacing the slugger on the roster.  They could recall Donald Lutz, who owns a 1.172 OPS in 82 Double-A plate appearances this season, but with Lutz currently suffering from the flu, Fay thinks the Reds could pursue a trade if Lutz doesn’t recover soon.  Fay thinks Cincinnati will try to bring back Roger Bernadina, who is currently in DFA limbo after being designated for assignment on Saturday; if Bernadina isn’t claimed by another team, the Reds can outright him to the minors and immediately recall him.
  • Rinku Singh‘s journey from teenage javelin thrower to Indian reality show winner to Pirates farmhand will be chronicled in the upcoming film Million Dollar Arm, and Singh tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (who has a cameo in the movie) that he hopes his story can help inspire children in his home country.  Singh missed last season due to injury and is sitting out the 2014 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery but had he stayed healthy, Rosenthal notes, the southpaw would probably be in Double-A by now.  Singh posted a 3.00 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 3.61 K/BB rate in 72 relief innings at high-A ball in 2012.
  • The trade of Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays in January 2008 is the one move John Mozeliak really regrets, the Cardinals GM tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required).  A rift between Rolen and then-manager Tony La Russa drove the deal rather than baseball-specific reasons, Mozeliak admits.  Troy Glaus, who St. Louis received in the deal, had a strong 2008 season but quickly declined, while Rolen delivered 11.3 fWAR between 2008-10.

Quick Hits: Cain, Int’l Prospects, Bush, Boras

Matt Cain has been placed on the 15-day DL in order to recover from a cut on his right index finger that already cost him one start earlier this week.  While making a sandwich in the Giants’ clubhouse last Tuesday, Cain dropped a knife and tried to catch it in mid-air, cutting his finger in the process.  While the injury isn’t serious and Cain could return to the rotation as early as Saturday, the Giants ace may have earned himself a mention in future lists of oddball MLB injuries.

Here are a few notes from around the baseball world…

  • The Rangers have done the best job of signing international prospects since 2006, as ranked by Baseball America’s Ben Badler.  Not only has Texas signed 14 international players (the second-most of any team in that span), but several of them are making waves in the minors and the likes of Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar have contributed to the Major League club.  The Royals, Pirates, Twins and Red Sox round out the rest of the top five in Badler’s rankings.
  • Former first overall draft pick Matt Bush is halfway through a 51-month prison sentence and he talks to FOX Sports’ Gabe Kapler about his regrets and his battles with alcoholism.
  • Scott Boras’ inability to adapt to the new qualifying offer system in free agency is why clients Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew are still waiting for new contracts, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel opines.  While Boras has pulled impressive deals seeming out of nowhere for many clients in the past, McDaniel argues that teams have more information now and are less apt to give up a draft pick or commit major dollars to “second tier free agents.”
  • Fangraphs’ David Laurila catches up with right-hander Mike Ekstrom about playing in Italy and his Baseball Round The World website, which chronicles the experiences of Ekstrom and other players who continue their careers in far-flung locales.  Ekstrom pitched 61 Major League innings with the Padres, Rays and Rockies from 2008-12 and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Athletics’ and Angels’ systems.

Quick Hits: Cardinals, Pirates, Angels, Jurrjens

So far, the Cardinals haven’t benefited from the offseason trade that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Grichuk played well at the Triple-A level before being promoted, but his ability to make contact remains cause for concern, Miklasz argues. Meanwhile, Peter Bourjos has struggled, and so has Matt Carpenter, which means the Cardinals haven’t gotten the third base upgrade they hoped for, either. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington denies a recent rumor that his team is still seeking a first baseman despite recently trading for Ike Davis, Bucs Dugout’s David Manel reports. “I typically hate to comment on any specific rumor, but it sounds like somebody, somewhere is trying to create a market,” Huntington says. The Bucs currently have Davis and Gaby Sanchez platooning at first.
  • The Angels‘ bullpen struggles might lead one to think that they’ll have to go out-of-house for an upgrade, but the answer to their problem might lie in the minors, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.  “It’s funny, but right now, our primary weakness at the major league level is our primary strength at the minor league level,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “We have some really nice bullpen arms in the system, and that’s fortunate.”
  • Jair Jurrjens is looking to make a comeback after having knee surgery last fall, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. He is currently throwing 90 MPH. After posting a 2.96 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 152 innings with the Braves in 2011, Jurrjens has struggled badly in the big leagues. He spent most of 2013 with the Orioles’ and Tigers’ Triple-A affiliates in Norfolk and Toledo, respectively.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Cafardo On Morales, Pirates, Buehrle, Hanrahan

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is over his breakup with the Red Sox and now thriving in his new environment with the Marlins.  The catcher is not only hitting well, but overseeing one of the most talented young pitching staffs in baseball. “It’s been fun being back home and just being a part of this team and watching us grow together,” Saltalamacchia said. “I think last year the guys were saying here that we really weren’t a team and now it seems we’re coming together. We have each other’s back. We look out for each other. We win together and we lose together. We know what we have to do to get better as a team.”  More from today’s column..

  • Ike Davis‘ play since his trade from the Mets (.205/.279/.333 in 43 plate appearances) has not deterred the Pirates from trying to acquire a first baseman. However, the Pirates still don’t believe Kendrys Morales is the answer, believing he wouldn’t hold up playing every day and that he should be a DH.
  • Scouts are already indicating the Blue Jays will be a major team to pay attention to at the trading deadline. If they start fading, scouts view Mark Buehrle as a top target of contending teams. There’s also Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to consider, but Buehrle, given his ability to pitch in either league at a high level and to work quickly and effectively, will be valued.
  • It appears Joel Hanrahan, the newest member of the Tigers, will need about a month to get back into playing mode.  Both Hanrahan and GM Dave Dombrowski declined to give a timetable on Friday’s conference call.
  • Mark Mulder, 36, is out of his boot and continues to rehab his torn Achilles tendon.  He says he’d “absolutely” get back out on the field if he heals properly from his injury, but he also has a long way to go before he knows that he’ll get there.  Mulder signed with the Angels after a six-year layoff but saw his comeback bid cut short by the injury.

Minor Moves: Cubs, Gonzalez, Russell

We’ll keep track of today’s minor transactions here, with the newest moves at the top of the page…

  • The Cubs moved right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa to the 60-day disabled list today, creating a 40-man roster spot for Chris Coghlan, the club announced.  (Southpaw Zac Rosscup was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Coghlan on the 25-man roster.)  Fujikawa underwent Tommy John surgery last June and isn’t expected back on the mound until at least midseason.  In making the Cubs’ Major League roster, Coghlan will now earn $800K as per the minor league contract he signed with Chicago in January, and he has another $250K available to him in incentives.
  • The Padres have acquired shortstop Benji Gonzalez from the Pirates for cash or a player to be named later, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Gonzalez, a seventh-round pick in 2008, hit .232/.314/.294 for Class A+ Bradenton in 2013. The Padres have assigned him to Lake Elsinore, which is at the same level.
  • The Reds have signed pitcher Adam Russell to a minor-league deal, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The Diamondbacks released Russell in March. In 2013, the 31-year-old posted a 2.37 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 60 2/3 innings for the Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk affiliate. He has pitched for the White Sox, Padres and Rays, last appearing in the big leagues in 2011.

NL Central Notes: Samardzija, Polanco, DeJesus

Homer Bailey‘s extension with the Reds could have a ripple effect within the NL Central, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Bailey’s six-year, $105MM deal greatly exceeded a five-year extension offer the Cubs made to Jeff Samardzija.  It has been widely speculated that Samardzija will be traded or leave in free agency rather than remain a Cub, though Bailey himself isn’t so sure.  “I think the Cubs will spend money where they feel like it’s needed,” Bailey said.  “And maybe it will be Samardzija. We don’t know that.  The Cubs might be playing a bluff card. That’s part of going into a negotiation, too. There’s so many strategies.”

Here’s the latest from around the division…

  • If the Pirates are really keeping Gregory Polanco at Triple-A to keep him from reaching Super Two status, it’s a lose-lose situation for all parties, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  Ownership could save money on Polanco’s future arbitration years, but Sawchik makes the point that those savings could cost the Bucs a playoff berth (and playoff revenue) this year since the Pirates need Polanco’s bat.
  • Polanco’s Triple-A dominance could be hurting him in some respects, MLB.com’s Tom Singer opines, as the Pirates might be waiting to see how Polanco deals with adversity before calling him up to the Major League level.
  • Polanco’s situation is detailed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and one scout had high praise for the young outfielder.  Polanco was called “as close to the perfect player as you can get” and the scout described him as “Dave Parker with more speed, and Darryl Strawberry without the off-field baggage.”
  • Unlike former teammate Matt Garza, David DeJesus didn’t necessarily feel relieved to be traded from the Cubs last summer, the outfielder tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney.  DeJesus still has a house in the Chicago suburbs and enjoyed his time in Wrigleyville, but the Cubs’ continual moving of veterans could harm the club’s youth movement.  “Young guys have to follow leadership. I followed Mike Sweeney,” DeJesus said.  “You learn how to be a professional at that time. When they keep losing those guys, it’s going to be tougher. They’re going to have to grow up real quickly.”