Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Huntington On Free Agency, Burnett, First Base

In a Q&A yesterday with several bloggers, including Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout (and, of course, MLBTR), Pirates GM Neal Huntington tackled a series of transactional issues. You'll want to give a read to Charlie's writeup to get the full picture, but here are some key takeaways:

  • Huntington addressed previous comments in which he reportedly said if A.J. Burnett "or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere." He did not deny the quote, but said it did not capture what he meant to convey. "What I certainly intended was that top-tier free agents, if they're looking for top-tier dollars, they're going to play somewhere else," said Huntington. "And that's not just Pittsburgh. That's probably half to maybe two-thirds of the markets in baseball." Huntington pointed to last year's signing of Russell Martin as an instance of the franchise topping the market for a player it valued highly; "so, it's not that we won't pay market value when it's appropriate."
  • Huntington added for the "right player, right contract, we'll absolutely go three years. We can go to four years if we need to. But it's got to be the right player for the right contract. It's just the margin for error is a little easier with some of the bigger-market clubs."
  • Burnett is still an option for the Pirates. "We're working to be as patient as we can with A.J.," Huntington said. "A.J. would be our biggest free-agent acquisition if he chooses to come back, so we've tried to keep that door open as long as we can."
  • Huntington denied the signing of Edinson Volquez will affect the team's pursuit of Burnett. "If A.J. decides to come back and we can make it work, we'll figure something out."
  • Huntington said there is a reason why the Pirates haven't been linked to many free agents. "We don't promote what we're doing. I don't call this reporter and say, 'Can you get our name in this mix?' We don't want some people to know what we're doing. We like to work in the background. I like nothing more than to surprise some people with a move, because we don't need to announce what we're doing."
  • Huntington said the front office hasn't been on the sidelines and is working hard, but admits, as compared to last offseason, he hasn't "felt this huge sense of urgency." Filling the Pirates' need at first base is a prime example. "The first base market is evolving. There's some guys that have gone off the board that we liked, but not for a cost that we felt was appropriate for us."

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Central Notes: Twins, Indians, White Sox, Pirates

Let's run through some late-night Central links …


Minor Moves: Asencio, Bocock, Ely, Martinez, Blanco

Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • Jairo Asencio has signed with the KIA Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization, MyKBO.net tweets. The Orioles acquired the 30-year-old righty from the Brewers all the way back in March, using him for just 2 1/3 innings this year. Asencio has a career 5.34 ERA in 43 big league appearances, but has been much better at Triple-A, where he's pitched to a 2.56 ERA across 165 games.
  • The Royals announced that they have signed infielder Brian Bocock and outfielder Johermyn Chavez to minor-league contracts. The 28-year-old Bocock has 38 big league games on his resume and last appeared in the majors in 2010 with the Phillies. He has a career .226/.297/.309 minor-league line. Chavez, 24, has never appeared in the big leagues. He's hit .261/.340/.438 in nearly 3,000 minor-league plate appearances. The Bocock deal was originally reported by Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish on Twitter.
  • The Red Sox have signed pitcher John Ely and re-signed Miguel Celestino to minor-league deals, WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports. Ely, 27, missed most of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery but had a strong year in Triple-A in 2012, posting a 3.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 168 2/3 innings for Albuquerque. Celestino, 24, posted a 6.12 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 for Double-A Portland in 2013.
  • The Pirates have signed utilityman Michael Martinez to a minor-league deal, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. Martinez, 31, hit .300/.352/.407 for the Phillies' Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate in 2013. He also picked up 40 plate appearances at the big-league level.
  • The Diamondbacks announced that they've signed veteran catcher Henry Blanco to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite. Earlier today, Arizona was reportedly close to signing Blanco, who hit .142/.228/.246 with the Blue Jays and Mariners in 2013. Blanco, 42, played with the Diamondbacks in 2011 and 2012.
  • The Cubs announced that they have signed outfielder Ryan Kalish to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Kalish, 25, was originally drafted by the Red Sox when Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer were with Boston.
  • The Cubs have also signed catcher John Baker to a minor-league deal with a non-roster invite, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The light-hitting Baker played briefly with the Padres in 2013, and also appeared in Tucscon (Padres) and Albuquerque (Dodgers) in Triple-A.
  • The Tigers outrighted infielder Dixon Machado to Triple-A Toledo, according to an MILB.com release. Machado hit .215/.264/.295 with Class A+ Lakeland in 2013. The Tigers designated him for assignment last week.

Charlie Wilmoth and Aaron Steen contributed to this post.



Quick Hits: Yankees, Grilli, Tomko, Rays

It may be a bit early, but Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) grades everyone's offseason to date in the American League.  The Yankees get a B+ for holding firm in the Robinson Cano negotiations and the A's get an A for their acquisitions of Craig Gentry, Luke Gregerson, and Jim Johnson.  Teams like the IndiansBlue Jays, and Orioles, on the other hand, will need to do more if they want better marks from Bowden.  Here's this afternoon's look around baseball..


James Loney To Rays Further Thins First Base Market

With Corey Hart and Logan Morrison heading to the Mariners and James Loney agreeing to return to the Rays this week, the Pirates and Brewers remain on the hunt for a first baseman, as MLB.com's Anthony DiComo notes (via Twitter). The Astros could be on the lookout for a first baseman as well. With Mike Napoli (Red Sox) and Justin Morneau (Rockies) also gone, there isn't much left on the free-agent market, which means teams still hoping to acquire a first baseman will probably also consider trades. Here's a look at the main options still available.

  • Matt Adams, Cardinals. Adams is far better than most of the players listed below, but the Cardinals would only be likely to move him in a major deal. It would be very hard for the Pirates or Brewers to pry him away, since they're both NL Central teams, and the Astros likely don't have the big-league talent the Cardinals would need in order to decide to part with him. His .284/.335/.503 line in 2013 would be a valuable addition to any big-league lineup, however.
  • Kendrys Morales, free agent. Morales might be the highest-profile name remaining as a free agent, but after a season in which he hit .277/.336/.449 while playing poor defense (in the 31 games in which he played first base), he declined the Mariners' qualifying offer. It's hard to see many teams, including the Pirates and Brewers, give up a draft pick for the right to sign a defensively-limited player on the wrong side of 30. It appears likely that Morales will end up back with an AL team, as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa recently noted.
  • Ike Davis, Mets. The Mets seem determined to trade either Davis or Lucas Duda. Davis may be the more attractive of the two candidates, due to his power, although he'll also be more expensive than Duda in arbitration this year. The Mets also seem more inclined to trade Davis. With Loney off the market, there's now a clear path for the Mets to deal Davis to either the Brewers or Pirates. There may be a feeling around baseball that they waited too long, however, with Mike Puma of the New York Post recently tweeting that a source recently told him the Mets were going to "sell low" on Davis. The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough, meanwhile, tweeted, "The Mets' slow, steady march toward trading Ike Davis for something like a right-handed relief prospect is such a drag." In any case, it's hard to see the Mets getting much for Davis, or any team getting particularly excited about installing him at first, after he hit .205/.326/.334 in 2013, even though he batted .286/.449/.505 after the All-Star break. Davis appears set to make about $3.5MM through arbitration in 2014.
  • Justin Smoak, Mariners. With Hart and Morrison both heading to Seattle, Smoak is now available, with the Mariners likely favoring a big-league contributor, rather than a prospect, in return. It remains to be seen how much other teams might want Smoak, however — the former top prospect has hovered around replacement level for his career, and at 27, it may be that his once-highly-regarded bat won't ever carry him. Smoak hit .238/.334/.412 in 2013.
  • Mitch Moreland, Rangers. Moreland's name has appeared in trade rumors since Texas traded for Prince Fielder, but he currently still has a role in Texas at DH. That could change somewhat, however, if the Rangers sign Shin-Soo Choo or re-sign Nelson Cruz, but right now, there appears to be no pressing reason for the Rangers to trade Moreland unless they want to. Moreland hit .232/.299/.437 in 2013, but unlike any of the trade candidates mentioned above, he does play plus defense at first base.
  • Adam Lind, Blue Jays. Lind, who batted .288/.357/.497 in 2013, is a well-above-average hitter, but he's not much of a defender at any position. Also, like Moreland, he has a clear role on his current team as a DH. The Pirates recently asked the Jays about Lind, only to have the Jays ask for Neil Walker in return. If the Blue Jays do trade Lind, he probably won't come cheap.
  • Mike Carp, Red Sox. WEEI's Rob Bradford recently tweeted that Carp was receiving plenty of attention on the trade market, which is no surprise — unlike Davis and Smoak, Carp hit well in 2013, and unlike Moreland and Lind, he has no clear starting role with his current team. Carp played mostly first base and outfield in 2013, but with Jackie Bradley Jr. expected to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, and with Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes expected to play in the corner spots, he won't necessarily be needed in the outfield next year. There isn't much room elsewhere, either, with Mike Napoli and David Ortiz returning at first base and DH, respectively. If Carp hits .296/.362/.523 again, the Red Sox can surely find space for him, but if another team approaches them with a nice offer, they could easily deal him, too.
  • Eric Chavez, free agent. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman recently reported that the Pirates were one of several teams to check in on Chavez, and upon inspection, it's easy to see why. The veteran hit .281/.332/.478 in Arizona in 2013, and while he has limited experience at first base and isn't the defensive star he once was at third, it's easy to imagine he would be at least average defensively if he were to move across the diamond. He might also be relatively cheap, since he was a part-time player in 2013. He's an injury risk, but with Pittsburgh, in particular, he wouldn't have to play every day, since Gaby Sanchez would start against lefties.
  • Kevin Youkilis, free agent. Youkilis missed most of the 2013 season due to injury and wasn't good when he played, but he was a valuable asset as recently as 2011. He'll be 35 in March, however, and showed signs of decline in 2012, so it's fair to wonder how much he has left. He also prefers to play on the West Coast, so he may not want to sign with Milwaukee or Pittsburgh.

Pirates Designate Ryan Reid, Jerry Sands

The Pirates have announced that they've designated pitcher Ryan Reid and outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment. The two moves make room on their 40-man roster for pitcher Edinson Volquez and shortstop Clint Barmes.

Reid came up through the Rays system before signing with the Pirates as a minor-league free agent prior to the 2013 season. He pitched well in both Triple-A and in a brief stint in the big leagues, posting a 2.73 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 59 1/3 innings the minors, but the Bucs did not make him a September callup. The Pirates acquired Sands from the Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan / Mark Melancon deal, but he never appeared in the big leagues for the Bucs and posted a disappointing .207/.311/.329 season for Triple-A Indianapolis.


Pirates Sign Edinson Volquez

FRIDAY: The Pirates have officially announced the signing.

WEDNESDAY: The Pirates have agreed to terms with right-hander Edinson Volquez on a one-year, $5MM contract, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Volquez is represented by the Wasserman Media Group.

Volquez-Edinson

Buying low on Volquez continues a trend for the Pirates, who have picked up A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon via trade or free agency in recent years when each was coming off a poor season. The 30-year-old Volquez was released by the Padres last season after posting a 6.01 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 142 1/3 innings. He looked better in a brief, 28 1/3 inning cameo with the Dodgers, pitching to a 4.18 ERA with a 26-to-8 K/BB ratio.

Volquez's 4.07 xFIP was significantly lower than his 5.71 ERA on the season — a commonality that exists between he, Burnett, Liriano and Melancon at the time of their acquisition by the Pirates.

Volquez will join Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Wandy Rodriguez and the recently extended Charlie Morton in the Pirates' rotation. That seems to fill Burnett's spot in the rotation, suggesting that perhaps he's leaning toward retirement and the Pirates have moved on in favor of a cheaper option with similarly high upside. Back in 2008, Volquez finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting when he posted a 3.21 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 196 innings. Control has always been an issue for Volquez, but his fastball velocity has typically remained strong. After averaging 93.6 mph on his fastball from 2008-12, he averaged 92.5 mph in 2013.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pirates Sign Clint Barmes

FRIDAY: The Pirates have officially announced the signing.

THURSDAY 11:39am: Barmes and the Pirates have agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal, Olney reports (on Twitter).

11:13am: Clint Barmes has agreed to terms with the Pirates, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. ESPN's Buster Olney was the first to report that the Meister Sports Management client was nearing a return to Pittsburgh (Twitter link).

Barmes, who turns 35 in March, batted .211/.249/.309 with five homers for the Bucs in 2013. Though his offensive numbers were lackluster, he played stellar defense at shortstop, posting a +14.2 UZR/150 and +12 Defensive Runs Saved in just over 800 innings at the position.

Barmes will split time with Jordy Mercer upon returning. Though Mercer is a superior offensive player — he batted .285/.336/.435 — he doesn't have much of an offensive track record to this point in his career and isn't considered a strong defensive player.


Orioles Interested In A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett still hasn't decided whether he'll pitch in 2014, but if he wants to continue his career, the Orioles are interested, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko tweets. Kubatko also notes that the Orioles met with Frontline, which represents Burnett, at the Winter Meetings. Burnett lives in Monkton, Maryland, about a half-hour north of Baltimore.

Burnett had previously indicated that he wanted to retire as a Pirate, but since then, he has taken his time deciding whether or not to return in 2014. The Pirates did not extend a qualifying offer to Burnett, with GM Neal Huntington telling Tom Singer of MLB.com, "If he or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere." Burnett pitched 191 innings for the Pirates in 2013, posting a 3.30 ERA with 3.2 BB/9 and a league-leading 9.8 K/9. Burnett's 56.5% ground-ball percentage also led the National League.


Mets, Brewers Still Talking Ike Davis

FRIDAY: The Brewers and Mets are still talking about Davis, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However, Milwaukee is holding firm in its stance that it will not part with right-hander Tyler Thornburg. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reported earlier in the week that the Mets had asked for Thornburg in return for Davis.

Haudricourt adds (also via Twitter) that if the Brewers are still in talks for Davis, it's likely an indication that Loney is still asking for too much in terms of years and/or average annual salary.

THURSDAY, 12:46pm: The Mets and Brewers met to discuss Davis on two separate occasions at the Winter Meetings, tweets Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Rays and Pirates are also possibilities for Davis, he adds.

10:23am: According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, all indications are that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin could move quickly to address his first base need. Melvin is meeting with Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Haudricourt continues, so it's possible the two sides could work out a deal for Ike Davis. The Brewers have some interest in James Loney, but negotiations with him would be more complicated with other teams such as Pittsburgh in the mix, Haudricourt adds (Twitter links).

The Brewers missed out on a pair of their top first base targets yesterday, with each heading to the Mariners. Seattle reached an agreement with Corey Hart and swung a trade for Logan Morrison within an hour's time, leaving the Brewers with a sizable hole at first base.