Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

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.”


Cafardo On Samardzija, Blue Jays, Price, Rodriguez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the 20 biggest disappointments of the 2014 season so far.  Near the top of the list: the Rangers unfortunate rash of injuries.  Texas will be without Prince Fielder for the rest of the season and Jurickson Profar‘s status is up in the air as well.  In total, the Rangers have had 14 players land on the disabled list, twice as many as any other team.  More from Cafardo..

  • Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija is being watched more than any pitcher by major league scouts. Among those watching are the Blue Jays, who are more convinced than ever they can win the AL East if they obtain a top starter like Samardzija. Meanwhile, one major league scout tells Cafardo that Toronto is still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison.
  • There’s some concern about David Price‘s performance this season when it comes to Price, including a 3-mile-per-hour dropoff in velocity in recent outings, but one AL GM doesn’t believe the Rays will have trouble getting what they want in a deal.  “Unless there’s a reason to believe he has something wrong with his shoulder, pitchers have ebbs and flows with velocity throughout a season,” said the GM. “Price will be fine.”
  • The Pirates designated Wandy Rodriguez for assignment last week and they won’t find a deal for him if the medicals are too bad, but the feeling is that some team will take a chance.
  • If new Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa starts hiring people in Arizona, Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque could be brought aboard for a front office role.

Pirates Designate Phil Irwin For Assignment

The Pirates announced that they have designated right-hander Phil Irwin for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Josh Wall, who was claimed off waivers from the Angels (Twitter link).

Irwin, 27, made one start for the Bucs in 2013, allowing five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings. That start marks the lone Major League appearance for the former 21st-round draft pick. Irwin first reached Triple-A as a 25-year-old and spent 10 innings at that level last year as a 26-year-old. He’d been solid there until this season, where he has surrendered 21 runs in 21 2/3 innings.


Pirates Claim Josh Wall Off Waivers From Angels

The Pirates have claimed righty Josh Wall off waivers from the Angels, tweets Angels communications director Eric Kay.

Wall, 27, made only two appearances for the Halos this year, allowing six earned runs in just one inning of work. He has minimal previous MLB experience with the Dodgers, who included him with right-handers Steve Ames and Angel Sanchez last season as part of a trade package to acquire Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins (the real benefit for Miami, of course, was shedding Nolasco’s remaining $6MM or so in salary). The Halos claimed Wall in October after he was removed from the Marlins’ 40-man roster in some end-of-season maintenance.

Working at Triple-A over recent campaigns, Wall has consistently posted earned run averages in the mid-4.00 range, striking out better than eight batters and issuing around four free passes per nine. He continued that trend at Triple-A Salt Lake this season, fanning 11 and walking five en route to a 4.22 ERA in 10 2/3 innings of work.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Cards, Yanks, Phelps, Asche, Turner

In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports quotes one rival executive that said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak realizes he has more talent than anyone else — and he’s reluctant to get rid of it.” (That reluctance is illustrated by Mozeliak’s comments to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as the GM told him that external changes aren’t much of a consideration at this time.) Rosenthal looks at some of the recent improvements in the Cardinals’ offense and echoes Goold’s initial report that patience seems the likely route for St. Louis at this point.

More trade-, draft- and prospect-related highlights from a lengthy piece that also looks at slow starts in the AL East and a surprising start from the Twins…

  • The Yankees have better pitching depth than many realize, Rosenthal opines, noting that Adam Warren could be moved into the rotation when Shawn Kelley is healthy again. He also points to a quartet of hard-throwing relievers at Triple-A — Diego Moreno, Jose Ramirez, Danny Burawa and Branden Pinder. A trade is still something the Yanks will likely explore, but despite the aforementioned depth, the team likely doesn’t have the firepower to land someone like Cliff Lee, in Rosenthal’s eyes. They have little more to offer than relief help and high-end catching talent and could be competing with at least two other AL East teams in the Orioles and Blue Jays.
  • David Phelps wasn’t the Yankees‘ priority when scouting director Damon Oppenheimer went to see Notre Dame play prior to the 2008 draft. Oppenheimer was scouting Phelps’ teammate Kyle Weiland, but Phelps impressed him with his competitiveness, prompting Oppenheimer to push for him in the 14th round, which looks to be a nice bargain pickup six years later.
  • The Phillies are having internal discussions about moving Cody Asche to the outfield in 2015 in order to clear room on the 25-man roster for top prospect Maikel Franco at third base.  Though Rosenthal doesn’t mention this, that does raise the question of what will become of Domonic Brown, the team’s left fielder who is once again struggling after what looked to be a breakout 2013 season.
  • Rosenthal hears that NC State shortstop Trea Turner is drawing interest from teams in the No. 6-10 range of the upcoming draft. The fleet-footed shortstop also has pop in his bat (he’s second in the ACC in homers), but some scouts wonder if he can stick at shortstop. Rosenthal points out that both the Mariners (No. 6) and the Mets (No. 10) have needs at shortstop heading into a draft that is light on college shortstops.
  • Analysts from the Pirates and Marlins made the same comment to Rosenthal in the past week: the most useful data regarding defensive shifts comes from where hitters put the ball in play against a team’s own pitchers. The Marlins aren’t particularly focused where batters hit the ball against soft-tossers, due to the flamethrowing nature of their rotation. Likewise, the Pirates’ shifts are based largely on batted ball data against Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton.

NL Notes: D’Backs, Rockies, Cashner, Gonzalez, Davis

The news of the day was out of Arizona, where the Diamondbacks made a bold move to add Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa atop the club’s baseball operations department. Many observers hailed the move, with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writing that the experienced and respected LaRussa could effect a “cultural overhaul” akin to that delivered to the Orioles by Buck Showalter. Of course, LaRussa’s role will be much broader than that of Showalter, and he’ll face quite a different challenge from the one that brought him to Cooperstown.

Here’s more from the D’Backs and the rest of the National League:

  • The immediate reaction to LaRussa’s hiring was that embattled Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and/or manager Kirk Gibson could be on their way out. After reporting that a further shake-up would likely not occur in the immediate future, Bob Nightengale of USA Today provided some details on the previously unknown terms of the extensions given to both of those team leaders before the start of what has turned into a trying season (via Twitter). Towers’s deal takes him through 2016, while Gibson’s contract is believed to run through 2015, says Nightengale. Of course, that does not mean that the pair is ensured to last until those pacts expire.
  • If the Rockies decide to shop for pitching, the club will have plenty of teams banging on the door for a chance to add one of their top two prospect arms (Jon Gray and Eddie Butler), reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link). But Rosenthal says that the team is more likely to bring one or both of those power righties up, noting that the team seems to have solid rotation depth.
  • Padres staff ace Andrew Cashner was placed on the 15-day DL today after experiencing discomfort and inflammation in his right elbow. As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the 27-year-old says he is “not worried about my ligament at all.” Nevertheless, he will undergo a precautionary MRI on Monday. After a solid 175-inning, 3.09 ERA campaign last year, Cashner has elevated his game this year with a 2.35 ERA through 57 1/3 frames (7.4 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9). He is earning a $2.4MM salary for 2014, his first arb-eligible campaign, and should be in line for a big raise if he can stay on the mound and keep producing at those levels.
  • Meanwhile, Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez suffered through a second-straight rough outing today, and manager Matt Williams said after the game that the club has been monitoring complaints of shoulder stiffness. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, Gonzalez will undergo precautionary testing tomorrow, including an MRI. When asked if he was experiencing any health issues, Gonzalez gave a response that seems open to interpretation. “Realistically, arm was dropping a lot,” he said. “I guess we’ll see.”
  • First baseman Ike Davis has regained his form at the plate since being traded to the Pirates, Jorge Arangure writes for the New York Times. Davis has compiled a .286/.383/.414 line through his first 81 plate appearances in Pittsburgh. In part, it bears noting, Davis has benefited from platoon usage: on the year, he has yet to record a hit in 15 plate appearances against same-handed pitchers, while sporting a nifty .902 OPS against righties. After several up-and-down years with the Mets, Davis said he is keeping his focus on the present and does not bear any ill-will to his former club.

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.