Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
The Padres announced they have traded outfielder Jaff Decker and right-handed reliever Miles Mikolas to the Pirates for first baseman/outfielder Alex Dickerson. Both Decker and Mikolas were designated for assignment last week.
Decker, 23, was taken with the 42nd overall pick in the 2008 draft. He ascended to Triple-A for the first time in 2013 and hit .286/.381/.443 in 105 games. He also saw 13 games on the varsity squad with most of his action coming in August. Decker entered the 2013 season ranked 23rd on Baseball America's list of Top 30 Padres prospects, with BA noting that he has a walk-first, hit-second approach at the plate and could profile as an offensive-minded reserve outfielder. He is capable of handling all three outfield spots.
The 23-year-old Dickerson was born and raised in the San Diego suburb of Poway, graduating from Poway High School in 2008 before playing baseball at Indiana University. Dickerson spent all of 2013 with Double-A Altoona, hitting .288/.337/.494 in his first year at that level. Dickerson entered the season ranked as the Pirates' No. 11 prospect according to BA and MLB.com, the latter of which currently has him 13th overall among Bucs farmhands. BA praises his ability to use the whole field, while MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo is impressed with his understanding of the strike zone.
Mikolas, 25, has 27 big league games to his credit over the last two seasons but he spent the bulk of 2013 in Triple-A, posting a 3.25 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 54 outings. He entered the season ranked 25th among Padres prospects, per BA, who noted that he has a good curveball and can touch 98 mph with fastball that doesn't have much movement on it. BA wrote that his ceiling may be a middle reliever or setup man, but he has a high probability of reaching that level.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Berkman, 37, appeared in 73 games for the Rangers this season, batting .242/.340/.359 -- hardly the numbers that Texas was hoping for when signing Big Puma to a one-year, $10MM contract last offseason. Berkman was slowed by injuries once again this year -- primarily hip inflammation but also some pain in the same surgically repaired right knee that cost him the majority of his 2012 season.
It feels like a long time ago that Berkman revived his career with a stellar 2011 campaign that helped the Cardinals to a World Series victory. The switch-hitting slugger slashed .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers that season, earning himself a one-year, $12MM extension with the Cardinals that proved to be a sunk cost due to the aforementioned knee issues.
Berkman is a career .293/.406/.537 with 366 home runs. If he decides to call it quits after this season, he'll have banked just north of $124MM in his big league career, according to Baseball-Reference.
Here are today's minor transactions from around the league...
- The Yankees announced that they traded right-hander Ben Paullus to the Padres for utility man Dean Anna. Anna, who recently celebrated his 26th birthday, posted an .892 OPS in Triple-A last season. Paullus, 24, worked his way up to Advanced-A Tampa last season.
- Right-hander B.J. Hermsen has been outrighted from the Twins' 40-man roster, the team announced. The 23-year-old posted a 4.81 ERA In 86 Double-A innings this season, but his strikeout rate fell to just 3.7 per nine innings. The low whiff rate was likely to blame for the whopping 117 hits he allowed in those 86 frames.
- Minnesota also announced that it has signed outfielder Chris Rahl to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The 30-year-old spent 2013 with the Nats' Triple-A affiliate. Rahl is a .292/.325/.443 hitter in 700 Triple-A plate appearances and can play all three outfield spots.
- The Pirates announced the signing of five players to minor league deals, three of whom have big league experience. Right-handers Seth McClung, Josh Kinney and Collin Balester are all veterans of multiple seasons. The others -- right-handers Jay Jackson and Jake Brigham -- each split last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
- The Rangers announced that left-hander Edwar Cabrera has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A. Texas claimed the 26-year-old from the Rockies back in October. A shoulder injury cost him the entire 2013 season, but Cabrera has an impressive minor league resume: a 3.13 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 501 innings.
- The Astros have released right-hander John Ely, according to the team's transactions page. Ely underwent Tommy John surgery after just four innings of work at the Triple-A level in April. The 27-year-old has a 5.70 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 115 1/3 career big league innings, though he was excellent for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in 2012. Ely pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 168 2/3 innings that season.
- The Nationals have signed right-hander Gabriel Alfaro to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. The 30-year-old has spent the past two seasons pitching for the Guerreros de Oaxaca in the Mexican League, compiling an impressive 2.58 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 52 saves in 129 innings as the team's closer.
Midnight tonight is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from being selected in next month's Rule 5 Draft. There should be no shortage of players being added, and we'll run them down here in this post...
- The Brewers announced that they've added first baseman Hunter Morris, first baseman/outfielder Jason Rogers and right-handers Brooks Hall and Kevin Shackelford to their 40-man roster.
- The Braves announced that they've added left-hander Carlos Perez, right-hander Luis Vasquez and infielder Elmer Reyes to their 40-man roster. MLB.com's Mark Bowman tweets that the Braves had only recently signed Vasquez, 27, to a minor league deal. His entire career to this point has come in the Dodgers' minor league system.
- The Reds have added catcher Tucker Barnhart, right-hander Chad Rogers and outfielders Juan Duran and Ryan LaMarre to their 40-man roster, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- In addition to McGuire, the Blue Jays announced that outfielder Kenny Wilson has been added to the 40-man roster as well (Twitter link).
- Catcher Tommy Joseph, left-hander Rob Rasmussen and outfielders Aaron Altherr and Kelly Dugan have been added to the Phillies' 40-man roster, the team announced.
- Right-hander Kirby Yates and southpaw C.J. Riefenhauser have been added to the Rays' 40-man roster, according to their agency, the Beverly Hills Sports Council (Twitter link). The Tampa Tribune's Roger Mooney reports that infielder Vince Belnome and righty Jesse Hahn have been added as well (also on Twitter).
- In addition to Aguilar, the Indians announced that they've added right-handers Bryan Price and Austin Adams, infielder Erik Gonzalez and outfielder Carlos Moncrief to the 40-man roster (Twitter link).
- The Red Sox announced that right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, outfielder Bryce Brentz and third baseman Garin Cecchini have been added to the 40-man roster. Ranaudo (No. 79) and Cecchini (No. 82) each rank among the Top 100 prospects in the game, per MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
- The Twins have added left-hander Logan Darnell, outfielder Max Kepler, middle infielder Jorge Polanco and first baseman Kennys Vargas to their 40-man roster, the team announced via press release.
- The Rangers announced that they have added right-handers Lisalverto Bonilla and Ben Rowen to the 40-man roster as well as infielder Luis Sardinas. Bonilla was acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for Michael Young last offseason. Sardinas currently ranks as the No. 70 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
- Badler tweets that the White Sox have added second baseman/shortstop Carlos Sanchez to their 40-man roster. Sanchez batted just .241/.293/.296 in his first full season at Triple-A this year, but he did so as one of the league's youngest players, as he didn't turn 21 until late June. The White Sox also announced that outfielder Trayce Thompson has been added to the 40-man roster.
- John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group tweets that the Athletics have added right-hander Raul Alcantara to their 40-man roster. Alcantara had a tremendous rebound campaign in 2013, pitching to a 3.11 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 156 1/3 innings between Class-A and Class-A Advanced. Alcantara is one of the players they received along with Josh Reddick in the Andrew Bailey trade, which I profiled in retrospect prior to the season.
- Badler tweets that the Rockies have added 20-year-old Jayson Aquino to their 40-man roster. Though Aquino has just 64 innings of full-season ball, all coming at Low-A, Badler feels he's a good arm to protect. The left-hander posted a 4.34 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.
- The Blue Jays have added right-hander Deck McGuire to their 40-man roster, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportnet. The 2010 first-rounder has struggled in since reaching the Double-A level last season, though he improved in 2013 to post a 4.86 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. The Jays now have 38 players on their 40-man roster, Nicholson-Smith adds.
- The Pirates have added top prospects Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson to their 40-man roster, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (on Twitter). Polanco currently ranks 13th on MLB.com's list of Top 100 Prospects, and Hanson comes in at No. 39 on the list.
- The Indians have added first baseman Jesus Aguilar to their 40-man roster, tweets Badler. The 23-year-old slashed .275/.349/.427 with 16 homers at Double-A Akron in 2013 and is enjoying a strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League, according to Badler.
- The Tigers announced that they have added left-hander Kyle Lobstein, right-handers Justin Miller and Jose Valdez, first baseman Jordan Lennerton, shortstop Eugenio Suarez, center fielder Daniel Fields and right fielder Steven Moya to their 40-man roster. As MLB.com's Jason Beck points out, this places their 40-man roster at 39 players (Twitter link).
4:07pm: The Twins will receive left-hander Kris Johnson from the Pirates in exchange for Welker, the teams have announced via press release.
Johnson, 29, seems to have a shot at making some starts for the Twins at some point next season after pitching to a 2.39 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 135 2/3 innings for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2013. That will, of course, depend on how the Twins' offseason hunt for pitching shakes out, but few teams have less rotation stability than the Twins. MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger spoke with GM Terry Ryan, who said the team plans to leave Johnson in a starting role (Twitter link).
Like Welker, Johnson made his big league debut with the Bucs in 2013, making three relief appearances and one spot start. After allowing two runs in six innings of relief work in his debut, Johnson was torched for five runs in just two innings in a spot start versus the Cardinals.
Johnson, who is represented by agent Matt Sosnick, was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 40th overall pick in the 2006 draft as compensation for the loss of Johnny Damon via free agency. He signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates following the 2011 season and has enjoyed his two most successful minor league seasons with Pittsburgh since.
3:48pm: Just six weeks after trading him to the Twins as part of the return for Justin Morneau, the Pirates have reacquired right-hander Duke Welker from Minnesota, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). It's unclear what the Twins are receiving in return at this point, Passan adds.
Welker, 27, was acquired as a player to named later in the Morneau deal. The Pirates also sent outfielder Alex Presley to Minnesota as part of the trade. Welker posted a 3.57 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 63 Triple-A innings this season and made his Major League debut with the Pirates, hurling 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
After a five-year absence from the Pirates' Top 30 prospect lists (per Baseball America), Welker resurfaced at No. 26 prior to the season. Drafted in the second round as a starting pitchers, a slew of injuries derailed his prospect status for a number of years. BA wrote this past offseason that since converting to a reliever, Welker's fastball had topped out at 98 mph and he could emerge as a setup man for the Buccos.
2:31pm: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (via Twitter) hears that Johnson's finalists are all NL teams, some likely on the west coast.
1:45pm: Josh Johnson has narrowed his decision down to three or four teams, agent Matt Sosnick tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the Pirates are among the finalists. A deal could be done "in the short-term," Sawchik adds, reminding that Johnson is seeking to rebuild his value on a one-year deal (Twitter links). Last night, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Johnson reached out to the Padres and Giants early in the offseason to inform the teams that they were his first choice.
Johnson, 30 in January, posted a bloated 6.20 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings. Sabermetric stats such as xFIP (3.58) and SIERA (3.73) feel that Johnson was victim to some bad luck, and his .356 BABIP and 18.5 percent homer-to-flyball ratio would back that line of thinking up.
Of course, the bigger issue with Johnson is his health. Johnson pitched through tendonitis in his knee all season and also hit the disabled list due to a forearm strain and triceps inflamation this season before undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow in early October. Johnson is one of the game's most talented arms but has only topped 200 innings in a season once, and in fact has only thrown more than 100 innings four times in a Major League season.
The Pirates are a logical suitor for his services as they've recently enjoyed success in buying low on talented pitchers coming off down seasons. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon have all enjoyed tremendous success in a black and gold jersey. Johnson didn't receive a qualifying offer and therefore won't require his new team to surrender a draft pick.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson runs down some potential replacements for departed Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett. Two of the names (Sam Perlozzo and Mike Quade) have both served as big league managers in the past. Here's more on the various coaching vacancies from around the league...
- The Padres have promoted Dave Roberts to bench coach and Jose Valentin will take over as the club's new first base coach, MLB.com's Corey Brock reports. Roberts had served as San Diego's first base coach for the past three seasons and has been with the organization since 2010. Valentin managed the Padres' Class A affiliate in Fort Wayne for the past two seasons.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times confirms multiple reports out of Venezuela that the Tigers have hired Omar Vizquel as their first base coach (Twitter link). Vizquel, 46, spent 2013 as a roving infield instructor with the Angels and last played in the bigs with Toronto in 2012. The owner of 11 Gold Gloves, Vizquel is widely regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops of all time. It's tough to imagine the Tigers finding a better mentor for Rookie of the Year runner-up Jose Iglesias.
- The Pirates announced that they have promoted Jeff Branson to hitting coach and added Jim Livesey the the Major League coaching staff. Branson, 46, has spent 12 seasons in the Pirates organization, serving five years as a minor league hitting coach and five as a minor league manager. In 2013, he worked with hitting coach Jay Bell on the Major League staff and assisted in the implementation of the team's hitting program. Livesey, 47, has 11 total years of experience in the Pirates' system. He took a five-year hiatus to coach in Japan in the middle of that stretch but has been the team's minor league hitting coordinator for the past three seasons.
Pour a tall cup of coffee and open up a Baseball Reference tab. It's time for this Saturday morning's minor moves, via the Pacific Coast League and International League transaction pages (except where otherwise noted) ...
- The White Sox have signed lefty David Purcey to a minor league deal. The 31-year-old had rejected an outright assignment from the Sox in late October to become a free agent. Purcey made 24 apperances for the Sox's major league club in 2013, posting a 2.13 ERA but walking 6 batters per nine innings.
- The Dodgers signed first baseman/outfielder Jamie Romak to a minor league deal, according to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter). Romak's deal includes a July 1st opt out. The 28-year-old posted a .242/.322/.461 slash line with 22 homers in 134 games for the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate last season.
- Right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, 30, has signed with the Rays, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Lowe was battered in just eleven appearances with the Angels last year, but posted a 3.60 ERA across 2009-12 and has continued to notch high strikeout totals while being stashed in the upper minors.
- The Cardinals signed third baseman Scott Moore, a thirty-year-old who has thrived at Triple-A but has yet to have a real shot in the bigs. Last year, over 485 plate appearances in the Oakland and San Diego organizations, he hit .271/.353/.448 with fourteen long balls. In his most extended MLB action, a 2012 stint with the Astros, Moore hit a more-than-respectable .259/.330/.448 with nine home runs in 228 plate appearances.
- Right-hander Jim Miller is back with the Yankees on a minor league pact after making just one MLB appearance last year, an ill-fated inning-and-a-third that resulted in three earned runs. The 31-year-old had been a solid member of the A's pen just one year prior, however, as he registered a 2.59 ERA in 48 2/3 innings for Oakland. Miller did flash a 13.1 K/9 rate during his 63 1/3 Triple-A innings last year, a somewhat intriguing mark given his manageable walk rates. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com had the news first on Twitter.
- Lefty reliever Will Startup will stay with the Tigers after he notched a 3.41 ERA in 58 Double-A innings last year. Startup reached Triple-A as a 21-year-old back in 2006, but before joining Detroit had landed with the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012.
- The Giants have inked two righties to minor league deals, bringing aboard Jason Berken and Daryl Maday. Berken, 29, has thrown in 110 MLB games, including 28 as a starter, and recorded a 5.36 ERA over 248 2/3 innings. He spent last year at the White Sox' Triple-A affiliate, where he managed a 3.80 ERA in 161 innings -- all as a starter -- and posted 6.5 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. Meanwhile, at 28 years of age Maday has yet to see San Francisco, but will continue to keep the dream alive in the Giants system. He has bounced between Double-A and Triple-A since 2008, and now serves primarily as a reliever. Last year, Maday notched a cumulative 4.17 ERA in 49 2/3 innings, with 7.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
- The Pirates signed first baseman Miles Durham and catcher Francisco Diaz to minor league deals. At age thirty, Durham has spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh organization, other than a brief Independent League stint, and apparently served as a player-coach last season. Dia, 23, has all the markings of a light-hitting backstop (two career home runs in 1,115 plate appearances), though he has reached base at a productive clip in the low minors.
- Longtime Yankees farmhand Walter Ibarra has agreed to play short in the Cubs organization on a minor league pact. The 26-year-old reached Triple-A for the first time last year. Known for his defense, Ibarra failed to himpress with a cumulative .276/.308/.367 slash across 212 Double-A and Triple-A plate appearances in 2013.
- And the Nationals have reached agreement with a player by the name of Josh Johnson -- not the starting pitcher, but the middle infielder and third baseman who has been in the Nats' system since 2010. Last year, playing at both of the two highest minor league levels, the 27-year-old Johnson put up an impressive .293/.390/.458 line in 300 trips to the plate. He was especially impressive in his short time at Syracuse, where he had a .924 OPS and was a perfect six-for-six in stolen bases in just 111 plate appearances. Washington also added catcher Sean McCauley to the fold on a minor league pact. The 24-year-old was brought back to professional baseball by the Nats last year in a coaching capacity after losing his career to injury.
- The Rangers have signed righty Zach Russell away from the Cards' system. The 24-year-old reliever topped out with a brief Double-A stint last year, but struggled there.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen were respectively announced as the American League and National League Most Valuable Players, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America.
This is the second consecutive year that Cabrera has captured the MVP trophy, making it three years in a row that a Detroit player has won the award after Justin Verlander's MVP year in 2011. While Cabrera's 2013 season lacked the history of his 2012 Triple Crown campaign, he achieved another unique treble by leading the league in every slash line category (.348/.442/.636) and also hitting 44 homers and 137 RBI.
Cabrera captured 23 of 30 first-place votes from the writers and finished second on the other seven ballots. Angels outfielder Mike Trout was Cabrera's runner-up for the second straight year, claiming five first-place votes and 19 second-place votes. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson each received one first place vote and finished third and fourth overall on the ballot, with Yankees second baseman (and free agent) Robinson Cano finishing fifth.
McCutchen's race to the MVP Award wasn't nearly as close, as he captured a whopping 28 of 30 first-place votes. McCutchen was an all-around threat, hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, stealing 27 bases, scoring 97 runs and providing a strong (+8.4 UZR.150) glove in center field -- he generated 8.2 WAR according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. He becomes the first Pirate to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992.
Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second in the balloting despite not receiving any first-place votes. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received those other two firsts and finished in third place, followed by teammate Matt Carpenter in fourth and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in fifth place.
Clint Hurdle of the Pirates and Terry Francona of the Indians have won the Manager of the Year awards in their respective leagues, MLB.com announced Tuesday night. The other finalists in the National League were the Braves' Fredi Gonzalez and the Dodgers' Don Mattingly. In the American League, the other finalists were John Farrell of the Red Sox and Bob Melvin of the Athletics.
Hurdle led the Pirates to a 94-win season, making 2013 their first winning season and first playoff berth since 1992. The team exceeded expectations in 2013 thanks to strong pitching and an aggressive approach to defensive shifts. Hurdle received 25 of 30 possible first-place votes. Francona, who led a revived Indians team to 92 wins, received 16 of 30 possible first-place votes. He narrowly beat out Farrell, who had 12 first-place votes.