Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

NL Central Notes: Weeks, Cardinals, Davis

After covering some Cubs Notes earlier today, let’s take a look around the rest of the NL Central…

  • The Blue Jays haven’t shown any interest in Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks since they’re looking to land a better defender at the keystone, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  (Similar defensive concerns were also the reason for Toronto’s lack of interest in Daniel Murphy, as Heyman reported over the weekend.)  Weeks is hitting .263/.344/.463 in 90 PA against left-handed pitching this season, and would make sense on paper for a Jays team that is need of both second base help and a right-handed bat.
  • The Cardinals are open to acquiring a second or third baseman and have also considered adding a “complement upgrade” for their lineup, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Padres outfielder Seth Smith is cited by Goold as an example of the type of complementary player the Cards are discussing, though Smith himself isn’t necessarily being targeted by the team.  If the Cardinals do add a 2B or 3B, Matt Carpenter would play the other position.
  • The Piratestrade for Ike Davis is over two months old, and Tim Rohan of the New York Times checks in to see how both the Bucs and Mets have progressed since the deal.  The Mets have been very pleased by how Lucas Duda is hitting as the new regular first baseman, and while Davis hasn’t been hitting quite as well (.250/.359/.364 in 217 PA as a Pirate), he mentioned in a recent WFAN interview that he enjoys playing for a team that expects to contend.

Central Notes: Finnegan, Indians, Frieri, Pirates

Newly-signed Royals first round draft pick Brandon Finnegan will start his pro career at Class A+ Wilmington, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. The Royals project Finnegan will only pitch about 45 or 50 pro innings after pitching for TCU this season, but the start at Class A+ could indicate that the Royals hope Finnegan will be in the big leagues in a relatively short period of time. “I just have confidence in myself,” says Finnegan. “Now, I’m not 6-4. I’m only 5-11. But I feel like I’ve got the stuff that’s good enough to pitch in the pros right now.” Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • The Indians need to add a good starting pitcher more than they need a good hitter, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Corey Kluber has excelled, but the rest of Cleveland’s rotation hasn’t been nearly so helpful — three pitchers who started the year in the rotation are now either in the bullpen or Triple-A.
  • New Pirates pitcher Ernesto Frieri looks forward to playing in a new league and division, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “Maybe this is going to be good for me because it was a little bit of a struggle for me in the American League West,” Frieri said. “When you’re in one league for a while, hitters get to know you, and they make adjustments. I’m pretty confident everything is going to change over here.” The Pirates acquired Frieri on Friday for another struggling reliever, Jason Grilli.
  • Bucs GM Neal Huntington tells SiriusXM’s Jim Bowden (via Twitter) that the Pirates don’t have “glaring holes” but will still try to upgrade where possible. The Pirates’ offense has been about average and just added Gregory Polanco to fix its hole in right field. The Bucs’ pitching is perhaps questionable, but the Pirates have had a recent series of strong performances from starters like Jeff Locke and Vance Worley to aid what had been a weak rotation.


Cafardo On Price, Hammel, Pirates, Tigers

Here’s the latest from the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo:

  • With David Price of the Rays on the trading block, Cafardo asks Brewers GM Doug Melvin about the process of trading, or trading for, a top starting pitching. Melvin has been on both sides of that process, having traded Zack Greinke and having acquired Greinke and C.C. Sabathia. Melvin says he would have been willing to trade Greinke within the NL Central, but for an extra charge. “I had teams within the division asking for him, and my approach to that is this: I had no problem doing it, but I had to get a little extra if I was going to do it. And that’s what I told them,” he says. Even assuming that’s the Rays’ policy too, though, it isn’t clear there’s a great matchup between them and any other AL East team. The Blue Jays are one possibility, but Cafardo writes that they seem to be more interested on a lower-tier starter like Jason Hammel of the Cubs.
  • A source tells Cafardo, “You could argue that Hammel is the most sought-after player, positional or pitcher, in the trade market right now.”
  • This season, the Pirates are likely to pursue a starting pitcher and a reliever, but not an offensive player.
  • Victor Martinez wants to stay with the Tigers. One potential hitch as he heads toward free agency, though, is that the Tigers will have to figure out how long Miguel Cabrera will be able to play defense until Detroit needs to move him to DH.

Reactions To The Jason Grilli / Ernesto Frieri Trade

Here’s a collection of reactions to and fallout from the Pirates and Angels’ swap of struggling relievers Jason Grilli and Ernesto Frieri.

  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto would like Grilli to establish himself as the Angels’ closer, but that will depend on Grilli’s performance, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. “Whether Jason Grilli returns to the ninth inning will have to be determined by Jason Grilli,” says Dipoto.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that Frieri will provide the Pirates with a “high leverage option that may pitch in the middle innings,” reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik. “Ernesto is a guy we have pursued for a couple of years and haven’t been able to get him,” says Huntington. “He’s been going through a rough stretch but there’s a lot of things our scouts like, that our analysts like. We feel like we’ve had some success with guys like this in the past.”
  • While many outside analysts were unimpressed with the deal for both sides, Sawchik notes that the Grilli trade has similarities to the Pirates’ December 2012 trade of closer Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt for Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel and two other players. Like Melancon, who was coming off an ugly 6.20 ERA season in Boston, Frieri’s peripherals (11.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) are significantly better than his ERA. The Pirates have had great success with Melancon in the late innings.
  • Catcher Russell Martin, who along with Grilli was a key part of the Pirates’ excellent 2013 season, says he’ll fondly remember Grilli’s tenure with the Bucs, reports Bucs Dugout’s David Manel. “To look back on it can motivate you, it can give you confidence, it can make you believe that what we have here is good,” Martin says. He adds, however, that Grilli struggled after being demoted from the closer’s role. “[J]ust like any athlete, when you’re not doing well and the team’s heading into a different direction, it can leave some sourness,” says Martin “I think Grilli still wanted to be the closer. To have that taken away can be a little frustrating.”

Pirates, Polanco Far Apart In Extension Talks

FRIDAY: Pittsburgh and Polanco appear to be at a stalemate in their negotiations, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The sides have exchanged several proposals, says Heyman, but remain far apart.

Several offers were made in the run-up to Polanco’s promotion. One offer from the Pirates would have given the team control over Polanco through the 2024 season, with Polanco able to earn up to $75MM, most of it through option years at the tail end of the deal. Though Polanco did make counter-proposals, though apparently there has not been enough movement in either direction to bring a deal within sight.

Generally, says Heyman, the continued discussions would not have delivered much more value than the club’s original efforts back in the spring. In part, Heyman says this could relate to the fact that the club had already waited out the Super Two deadline. It also appears that the Bucs looked at the recent Starling Marte extension (which was signed after a full season as a productive regular) as a rough ceiling on the deal’s annual value.

WEDNESDAY: The Pirates and recently called-up top prospect Gregory Polanco are still discussing a long-term extension, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Spanish language link). The sides reportedly had serious negotiations about a deal before the season started, at a point at which Polanco had yet to receive his first promotion.

For his part, Polanco disputed characterizations that he had rejected an earlier extension offer, seemingly indicating that discussions were fluid and ongoing. “We’re still talking,” he said (translation from Spanish is my own). “I have not refused anything. … We’re negotiating, one never takes the first offer.”

Looking ahead, Polanco says that he is trusting matters to his representatives at Beverly Hills Sports Council. He gave no indication that any agreement was imminent, and instead emphasized that he is unsure how talks will ultimately proceed. “I have no idea, I do not know how [negotiations] will continue,” he said. “… I don’t know how much time this could take, it could take one month, five months, until next year, one never knows.” Ultimately, Polanco indicated that he is looking to earn a rate that is comparable to players of similar ability.


Angels, Pirates Swap Ernesto Frieri And Jason Grilli

In a fascinating swap of struggling late-inning righties, the Angels have acquired Jason Grilli from the Pirates in exchange for Ernesto Frieri, Pittsburgh announced via press release.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates

On its face, the deal is a swap of change-of-scenery candidates, and indeed both general managers have described it as such. But context is everything, as always. Frieri is still just shy of 29 years old, and agreed to a $3.8MM salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Meanwhile, Grilli — who is already 37 — is playing out the final year of his two-year pact, under which he is owed $4MM for this season. In sum, while the current salary obligations are a virtual push, the Pirates will also gain the right to control Frieri through arbitration until 2016, if they so choose.

Grilli had served as the Pirates’ primary closing option for most of the past two seasons before being removed from the role recently. The veteran had put together three straight seasons of outstanding pitching in Pittsburgh, tossing a combined 141 1/3 frames of 2.74 ERA ball with 12.8 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9. But 2014 was a different story, as he is allowing 4.87 earned runs per regulation game, with his strikeouts falling and walks rising (9.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9). Some of Grilli’s difficulties can probably be attributed to a susceptibility to the long ball (1.77 HR/9 and 14.3% HR/FB) that may be due for some regression.

Meanwhile, Frieri emerged with the Angels in 2012 after being acquired from the Padres in a rare early-season trade. He went on to put up two good seasons as the Halos’ 9th-inning man, notching a stellar 2.31 ERA in 66 total innings in 2012 before working to a 3.80 mark over 68 2/3 frames last year. As with Grilli, things have gone south quickly: Frieri now sports a 6.39 ERA through 31 innings in 2014. On the other hand, his peripherals (11.0 K/9 vs. 2.6 BB/9 and a 35.3% ground-ball rate that is an improvement over past seasons) suggest at least some hope for a turnaround. Indeed, both xFIP (3.20) and SIERA (2.56) could indicate that Frieri has been somewhat better than his results.

It remains to be seen precisely how the two players will be incorporated into their respective bullpen mixes. Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated that Grilli will not jump straight into the closer’s role, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter), who notes that the club almost certainly intends to move him there in time. “We’ll see where he fits in,” said Scioscia. Of course, subsequent moves could alter things further, as Los Angeles GM Jerry Dipoto indicated in a quote (via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, on Twitter): “This is a step toward addressing those [bullpen] needs, but I’d be surprised if it’s the only step.”

On the other side of things, Pittsburgh has deployed Mark Melancon as its closer since moving Grilli out of the role (and, earlier in the season, while Grilli was rehabbing). It would seem more likely that Frieri ends up working in a set-up capacity, unless Melancon falters. Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that Melancon will indeed be the closer, though he also made mention of Frieri’s experience in that role, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter).


Stark’s Latest: Lee, Phillies, Rays

The latest from ESPN’s Jayson Stark…

  • Phillies ace Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session yesterday and is slated to return around the All-Star break, Stark writes for ESPN.com. Lee’s next step is to throw a simulated game this weekend before heading out on a minor league rehab assignment and returning either just before or just after the All-Star break. Rival teams tell Stark that they expect the Phillies to aggressively shop Lee, and they believe that Philadelphia would eat a significant amount of the remaining $50MM guarantee on Lee’s deal in order to net the right pieces.
  • The Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays and Angels are scouting the Phillies this week, Stark tweets. The Phillies are telling other teams around the league that this week could determine their status as buyer or sellers next month.
  • Stark also tweets that he asked an unnamed club official if any teams other than the Cubs are aggressively selling at this point and was told him that in addition to Chicago, the Rays are “definitely open for business.” Stark’s colleague, Buster Olney, reported yesterday that the Rays would deal David Price “right now” if the right offer came along.

Minor Moves: Whiteside, Texeira, Slowey, Bell, Schlereth

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves from around the league right here…

  • Cubs backstop Eli Whiteside has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, reports Carrie Muskat of MLB.com (via Twitter). The 34-year-old, who saw only minimal action with the Cubs, was designated for assignment on Sunday.
  • The Braves have inked righty Kanekoa Texeira to a minor league deal, according to the MLB transactions page. The 28-year-old, who last threw in the bigs in 2011 with the Royals, threw effectively over each of the last two seasons at Triple-A with the Reds. He had been pitching for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish in 2014 before joining Atlanta.
  • Righty Kevin Slowey has been released by the Marlins, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (via Twitter). Slowey owned a 5.30 ERA through 37 1/3 innings this year, most of which came in relief. He had been a starter for much of his prior time as a big leaguer, and owns a 4.62 ERA over 662 career MLB frames.
  • The Yankees have released reliever Heath Bell, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (via Twitter). Bell, who recently signed a minor league deal, had a 7.50 ERA in five appearances at Triple-A Scranton. In 17 1/3 frames at the major league level with the Rays this year, Bell threw to a 7.27 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
  • The Tigers have acquired southpaw Daniel Schlereth from the Pirates, reports John Wagner of the Toledo Blade. James Schmel of MLive.com tweets that the Pirates will receive cash considerations. This will be Schlereth’s second stint with the Tigers, as he spent the 2010-12 seasons in Detroit’s bullpen after coming over in the three-team Max Scherzer/Curtis Granderson/Ian Kennedy/Austin Jackson blockbuster. Schlereth’s long-standing control problems have been very apparent this season at Triple-A; he’s walked 18 batters and surrendered 18 hits in 18 2/3 innings en route to a 7.23 ERA. On the plus side, he’s also fanned 18 hitters in that time.

Pirates Outright Jose Tabata

The Pirates have outrighted Jose Tabata to Triple-A Indianapolis, the team announced via press release. The move clears space for second baseman Neil Walker to be activated from the disabled list.

Clearly, this is a disappointing outcome for both team and player, as Tabata was once viewed as a building block for the Pirates as they were re-tooling in 2011. Tabata inked a six-year, $15MM extension with the Bucs at the time that contains a trio of club options which can boost the deal to a total of $37.5MM. At the time of the extension, he had backed up a .299/.346/.400 rookie campaign with a .264/.351/.362 batting line and was just a nine days removed from his 23rd birthday.

Tabata, also a threat on the basepaths and a solid defensive left fielder, seemed to have quite a bit of upside, but his bat never progressed much after signing the deal. He hit .243/.315/.348 the following season and has batted .267/.328/.377 in 869 plate appearances since the contract was signed. With Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and now Gregory Polanco occupying the regular outfield spots, Tabata doesn’t have a route to everyday at-bats, though it’s somewhat surprising, given his solid glove in left and decent numbers against lefties, that he wasn’t kept on the roster in a reserve capacity.

Tabata is owed roughly $1.59MM over the remainder of the current season, $4MM in 2015 and $4.5MM in 2016. The buyout on his first option is $250K, meaning he’s guaranteed roughly $10.34MM through the end of 2016. As a player with more than three years of Major League service time that was outrighted, Tabata has the option to reject the assignment in favor of free agency, though in doing so he would forfeit the remaining guarantee on his contract, making the option more or less a moot point.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington reportedly shopped Tabata throughout Spring Training this season but was unable to find a taker.