Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

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

Free Agent Notes: Sandoval, Miller, Martin, Gomes, Carter

The Red Sox are trying to set up a visit to Boston for Pablo Sandoval, perhaps as early as next week, reports the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Sandoval has drawn interest from four clubs, per Cafardo, but the Red Sox and Giants are the two most serious suitors. David Ortiz has been pitching Boston to Sandoval and trying to persuade him away from San Francisco, Cafardo hears.

Some more free agent notes as baseball news slows down following the conclusion of the GM Meetings…

  • A hefty 22 teams have reached out to agent Mark Rodgers regarding Andrew Miller, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Heyman adds that one team that’s unlikely to make a play for Miller is the Cubs, who are more focused on lengthening their ‘pen with lower-profile acquisitions. Reports yesterday indicated that the Cubs were out on David Robertson as well.A
  • Heyman also writes that the Dodgers are serious about making a run at Russell Martin but still facing competition from the Cubs, Pirates and Blue Jays. The Pirates, Heyman hears, are said to have already made a strong bid to retain Martin. Despite their acquisition of Francisco Cervelli, he notes, the Pirates are not out on Martin.
  • Six clubs have shown interest in Jonny Gomes to this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The Cubs are believed to be one of those clubs, though Gomes isn’t close to any kind of decision and is still “early in the process.”
  • Right-hander Anthony Carter, who spent this past season in Japan, will not have his mutual option with the Nippon-Ham Fighters exercised, MLBTR has learned. Carter technically has to clear waivers in Japan before he can become a free agent and become eligible to sign with a Major League organization or a different club in NPB. The 28-year-old posted a 3.97 ERA in 45 1/3 innings of relief in Japan this season and has a lifetime 4.93 ERA at Triple-A. His best season came in 2013 with the Red Sox when he posted a 3.47 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 at Triple-A.

Pirates Acquire Francisco Cervelli For Justin Wilson

Another Yankees catcher is on his way to Pittsburgh, as Francisco Cervelli has been acquired by the Pirates in exchange for lefty reliever Justin Wilson, the teams announced tonight.

Francisco  CervelliCervelli’s arrival in Pittsburgh could be protection against losing free agent Russell Martin, though Heyman tweets that the Bucs are still in on Martin. As things stand, the 28-year-old would presumably pair with Chris Stewart in the club’s mix behind the dish. (Oddly, all three of those backstops, of course, went to Pittsburgh from New York.)

The Pirates are getting a catcher who has performed well in limited recent action. Unfortunate injuries — a foul tip and collision followed by a hamstring strain — cut Cervelli short in each of the last three years, holding him to just 225 plate appearances. But he does own a .291/.373/.447 slash in that stretch, and could be a solid piece if he can stay on the field. Because of his limited ability to rack up statistics, Cervelli is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn only $1.1MM next year.

Wilson, meanwhile, is just 27 and is still a year shy of arbitration eligibility. He took a step back last year in terms of ERA, though metrics like FIP felt he was just as good in 2014 as he was in 2013; both place him in the mid-3 earned run range. On the whole, over the last two years Wilson owns a 3.03 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 over 138 1/3 frames.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported, on Twitter, that the Pirates had acquired Cervelli, and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweeted that Wilson was headed to the Bronx in exchange.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rockies, Pirates Swap Right-Handers Scahill, Carle

The Rockies announced that they have traded right-hander Rob Scahill to the Pirates in exchange for fellow righty Shane Carle. The Rockies designated Scahill for assignment last week.

Scahill, 27, totaled a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings with the Rockies this season and has pitched to a 4.42 ERA in 57 frames with the Rockies over the past three years. He’s averaged 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in the Majors while featuring solid life on his fastball — an average of 94.4 mph.

The Pirates selected Carle in the 10th round (299th overall) of the 2013 draft. At the time, Baseball America wrote (subscription required and recommended) that he’d previously run his heater up to 94 mph with good sink, but that velocity declined in his final college season before being drafted. He throws from a three-quarter arm slot, per BA, with a fringy slurve and changeup. Carle has pitched well in two seasons with the Pirates organization, though he’s also a college arm that has only been tested against Class-A pitching, so the numbers may be a bit deceiving. Still, he’s posted a 3.26 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 187 2/3 innings as a professional.



Francisco Liriano Rejects Qualifying Offer

Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano has officially rejected his qualifying offer, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Many have speculated that Liriano was a candidate to be the first player to accept a qualifying offer, but he and agent Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency will head into the open market in search of a multi-year deal instead. As I noted in Liriano’s free agent profile last week, even if the market doesn’t materialize the way they’d hoped, a one-year deal at or near the rate of the qualifying offer should be available late in the offseason, as it was for Ervin Santana. I pegged Liriano for a three-year, $40MM contract in that profile even with a QO attached.

Liriano, who turns 31 this offseason, was excellent in a pair of injury-shortened seasons with the Pirates. In 323 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 52.4 percent ground-ball rate. His K/9 rate over the past two seasons is second only to Max Scherzer among free agents, and his ground-ball rate ranks fourth. Liriano’s injuries weren’t the most troubling with Pittsburgh, either. He broke his non-throwing arm in a fall in his apartment in the 2012-13 offseason and suffered an oblique strain that kept him out for the first month of 2014.


Pirates Make Qualifying Offers To Martin, Liriano

NOVEMBER 9: Martin will decline the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The move comes as no surprise given the strong market developing for his services. As we learned yesterday, the Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, and Blue Jays are the early front runners.

NOVEMBER 3: The Pirates have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers to both Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano, the team announced.

Both moves have been expected to varying degrees. Martin was seen as the likelier candidate, but Liriano is coming off a pair of strong, albeit injury-shortened seasons, and figures to seek a more lucrative multi-year deal on the open market.

Martin batted .290/.402/.430 for the Pirates this season and has come to be regarded as one of the game’s most elite defensive backstops based on his ability to control the running game and his exceptional pitch-framing skill. Liriano, meanwhile, pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 168 innings this season and turned in a combined 3.20 ERA in 323 1/3 innings with the Pirates over the past two seasons.

Both Liriano and Martin will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the offers. In Martin’s case, with his rumored price tag soaring north of $50MM over the past couple of months, conventional wisdom says that he’ll turn the offer down. Some may find Liriano a better bet to accept the offer, and while that’s true, doing so would expose him to the risk of an injury or a down season. It seems more likely to me that he’ll decline the QO in search of a multi-year deal, looking to the case of Ervin Santana last year as a worst-case scenario. Santana declined the $14.1MM qualifying offer from Kansas City and still signed a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves months later. (Santana also received a QO of his own earlier today.) By declining the offer, Liriano is at most risking a few million dollars, as even with a draft pick attached, he could likely find $12MM+ on a one-year deal, if not the entire value of the QO as Santana did last season. However, accepting would be risking the upside of $15-20MM more than the QO on the open market.

MLBTR readers can keep track of all players who receive a qualifying offer by using our Free Agent Tracker.


NL Notes: Stults, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Liriano

The Padres decision to designate left-handed pitcher Eric Stults for assignment was based on finances rather than performance, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz, Stults was projected to earn about $4.6MM via arbitration after a season in which he posted a 4.30 ERA and 17 losses. Stults, 35 next season, represents a solid depth piece at the back of a rotation due to durability and decent stuff. However, the Padres are in need of offensive help and have plenty of pitching. The rotation is already filled without Stults, and Sanders names another five pitchers who can serve as additional depth. The cash savings will ostensibly be applied to the offense, and it’s possible Stults will return to San Diego on a lesser contract.

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart spoke with MLB Network Radio on a variety of topics. Arizona won’t be in the market for the top three free agent pitchers according to Stewart (tweet), but they may be more involved on Kenta Maeda (also Twitter). As for top prospect Archie Bradley, Stewart would like to see him get more seasoning at the Triple-A level before reaching the majors (via Twitter).
  • While Cubs GM Jed Hoyer downplayed the possibility of a “supercharged offseason” yesterday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes they are poised for a spending spree. He figures they have $70MM in available payroll. The Cubs have an “acquisition window…through the 2015-2016 offseason,” so we shouldn’t expect all of that money to be used this winter. Howover, several of the biggest market clubs like the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and Phillies are trying to be cost conscious this offseason, which makes now a good time to strike on top players.
  • Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano is still considering his qualifying offer and “several options,” tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That could hint to a possible multi-year contract offer from the Pirates or other clubs, although that’s just my speculation. MLBTR’s Steve Adams covered Liriano’s free agent profile earlier this week and ultimately estimated a three-year, $40MM deal.

NL Notes: McCutchen, Hamels, Diamondbacks

Pirates star Andrew McCutchen rarely gives long, opinionated interviews, so his lengthy and relatively candid discussion with Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is surprising. McCutchen, who is controlled through 2018, says that he would like to play the rest of his career in Pittsburgh. He also says, however, that the Pirates’ front office needs to do more to provide him with a championship-caliber supporting cast, and he suggests that the Pirates’ platoon arrangement at first base in particular is a problem. “You can have a platoon in the outfield every now and then,” says McCutchen. “Outfield platoons, I understand. But when it comes to the infield, you need that group of guys who are always going to be there.” The Pirates platooned Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez at first in 2014, and Davis, Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez are candidates to play there next season. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The Phillies want “at least three” top prospects, including two who are ready for the big leagues, in return for Cole Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. It’s not currently known who is on Hamels’ limited no-trade list (which he updated at the beginning of the month), but Salisbury suggests that Hamels would have been smart to add the Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers so that he can demand that his new team pick up his 2019 option as a condition of a trade.
  • GM Dave Stewart says the Diamondbacks won’t be bidders for Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields this offseason, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio tweets. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has said that the team will look for starting pitching this offseason. There have been few or no indications that the D-backs plan to pursue top-tier pitchers, however.

Poll: Who Will Sign Russell Martin?

Earlier today, we learned that free agent catcher Russell Martin will meet with four teams – the Cubs, Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. In fact, he’s already met with Chicago. Other clubs may become involved in the bidding, but this is the initial group upon which to focus. Martin’s price is expected to soar due to a dearth of catcher talent on the market.

Initially, it appeared that the Pirates might pull out all the stops to re-sign Martin. The club is thin at catcher with Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart occupying the top of the depth chart. While the need for Martin is obvious, the ever-increasing rumored cost might push them out of the market.

The Cubs and Dodgers are a better financial fit, since we know both teams can afford Martin at any reasonable cost. They have a decent internal options – Wellington Castillo for the Cubs and A.J. Ellis for the Dodgers – so they’re not desperate for a backstop in the same way as the Pirates. The Cubs recently dismissed a well-regarded manager to hire Joe Maddon, so a similar move at catcher is easy to picture. The Dodgers are supposed to be more financially responsible with Andrew Friedman at the reins. We’ll see if and how that affects their pursuit of Martin.

From the outside, the Blue Jays look like a dark horse candidate, although catcher has been an area of concern since they traded away prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole are currently under contract to man the position, but neither player is close to Martin’s talent level.

Of course, the infamous mystery team could rear its head. A few clubs who could conceivably join the fray include the Angels, Tigers, RangersMariners, White Sox, and Nationals.


Russell Martin To Meet With Four Teams

It is early in the free agent process, but the Cubs have already met with top backstop Russell Martin, Bruce Levine reports for CBS Chicago. Martin is also expected to visit and undertake preliminary discussions with the PiratesDodgers, and Blue Jays, according to Levine. It is far from clear, of course, that Martin’s market will ultimately be limited to that group. After all, he figures to draw broad interest around the game.

Incumbent Cubs catcher Welington Castillo struggled with his offense and framing last year, and the big-market Cubs have money to spend, so it’s unsurprising they would have interest in Martin. In Los Angeles, catcher A.J. Ellis hit just .191/.323/.254 last season, and the Dodgers’ new saber-friendly front office will likely place a high value on Martin, particularly given his work behind the plate. The Jays have had internal discussions about pursuing Martin and making current starting catcher Dioner Navarro their primary DH.


Pirates Claim Jake Elmore

The Pirates have claimed infielder Jake Elmore off waivers from the Reds, the teams have announced.

The 27-year-old Elmore went to Spring Training with the A’s last season but wound up being claimed off waivers by the Reds in August. He picked up 12 plate appearances over five games with Cincinnati and is a lifetime. .221/.288/.291 hitter in 221 plate appearances at the big league level.

Elmore spent most of last season at the Triple-A level where he batted .281/.376/.345. He’s a lifetime .313/.407/.422 hitter in 1136 plate appearances at the Triple-A level and holds the distinction of having appeared at all nine positions on the diamond with the Astros’ Major League team over the course of the 2013 season, including an evening where he appeared as a pitcher and a catcher in the same game (Aug. 19, 2013).