Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors


Central Notes: Pirates, Burnett, Cardinals, White Sox

Pirates GM Neal Huntington has had a lot of ups-and-downs over the course of his tenure in Pittsburgh, but his confidence never wavered, writes Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  “If (Bob Nutting) made a different decision a year ago, I would have walked out the door believing this organization was much better off than when we walked in the door, and believing that they were a few good decisions away from being a playoff-caliber team,” Huntington said. “(I'm) very grateful, very thankful, that we had the opportunity to see the 2013 season to its fruition. My hope is that all it has done is reinforce that commitment and that bond, because we've got a lot of talented people doing a lot of good things.”  Here's more out of the AL and NL Central..

  • A.J. Burnett may prove to be too pricey for the Pirates, but Tom Singer of MLB.com suggests a creative solution to help facilitate a reunion.  The veteran pitcher wants to spend as much time with his family as possible, so Singer wonders if Burnett might be willing to take a page out of Roger Clemens' book and sign with the club in the summer.  That would allow the Bucs to only pay him a prorated portion of the eight-figure deal the pitcher likely seeks.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter) that he'd like to trade a young starting pitcher for a "young controllable shortstop."  The Cards have been heavily rumored to be seeking a shortstop to give them an upgrade over Pete Kozma.
  • Jim Margalus of South Side Sox wonders why Paul Konerko's future with the White Sox hasn't been resolved yet.  The slugger struggled through injuries in 2013 and Margalus gets the sense that beat writers are more keen on seeing him return to Chicago than fans.



Cafardo On Trumbo, Ethier, Kemp, Arroyo, Red Sox

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe offers up a primer for this week's GM Meetings.  Cafardo's first rule for the meetings is to never believe a GM when he says that a player will not be traded.  New Marlins GM Dan Jennings has said that Giancarlo Stanton won't be moved, but everyone has a price.  Cafardo also cautions not to buy into the notion that the Tigers won't find a way to enhance the team and also keep Max Scherzer after next season.  Here's more from today's column..

  • If the Red Sox don’t re-sign Mike Napoli, the 27-year-old Mark Trumbo will be on their list of players to pursue.  Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, is under club control until after the 2016 season and boasts tremendous right-handed power.  The Angels could use a third baseman and a pitcher and Cafardo wonders if Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront might suit them. The Pirates and Rays could also be fits for the Halos slugger.
  • One or both of Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp could be dealt this offseason thanks to the Dodgers' surplus.  The Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, and Blue Jays are among the clubs that could have interest.
  • The Phillies are among the clubs that have shown interest in Bronson Arroyo, but no offer has been made just yet.  The Giants and Twins have also been reported to have interest in the durable veteran, but none of the interested teams have put an offer on the table just yet.
  • While the Blue Jays have other priorities, they’ll also dip into the outfield market if they feel Melky Cabrera can’t give them what they expected.  Cabrera recently had a spinal tumor that was causing him leg pain removed.
  • Despite having a glut of pitchers, the Red Sox are still high on Tim Hudson.  To make room for the 38-year-old, the Red Sox could move Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster if they have to.  However, teams seem more interested in John Lackey since he'll earn the minimum salary in 2015.  A clause in Lackey's contract called for him to get the minimum in '15 if he underwent Tommy.John surgery.
  • The Red Sox probably won't offer more than a couple of years to retain Stephen Drew with his market rapidly expanding.  The Yankees could be a fit with Derek Jeter being in the final year of his contract and likely to see more DH time.
  • A few GMs are already lamenting the cost of free agent pitching with possible $80MM-$100MM price tags on the likes of Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco.  That's why the Yankees' pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, a potential No. 2 starter, makes more sense than paying big bucks for a No. 3 or 4 type.
  • The Blue Jays picked up Adam Lind's option, but don't be surprised if Toronto tries to move him.



Huntington: Qualifying Offer For Burnett Did Not Fit Budget

In an interview last night, Pirates GM Neal Huntington told David Todd of 970 ESPN (audio link) that the club did not make A.J. Burnett a qualifying offer because it could not afford the $14.1MM hit to its 2014 budget. (Hat tip to Bucs Dugout, where MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth discussed the impact of Huntington's words from the Pirates' perspective.) 

Though the Bucs will increase payroll, said Huntington, a qualifying offer-level salary occupies a "significant chunk of your payroll" for low-budget clubs. Comparing the Pirates to teams like the Rays and A's, he explained that building a winner in a small market is more complicated than just getting players at reasonably sub-market rates:

"It's not where we value A.J. Burnett, it's how do we build a championship team in the big picture. And as we look to fill some of the other gaps that we have, or we look to upgrade some of the other spots we feel we'd like to upgrade and should upgrade if possible, we felt that $14MM in one player was a bit steep for us." 

Huntington sounded less than sanguine about the odds of a return, saying only that Pittsburgh is "still kind of trying to keep that door open" while declining to answer whether discussions were active. After earning every bit of his $16.5MM salary last year, Burnett would apparently need to accept a significant salary cut to don gold and black again in 2014. (After correctly forecasting that the Bucs would not extend a QO, MLBTR's Steve Adams predicted that Burnett would ultimately take a salary cut to $12MM on a one-year deal.) 

On the other hand, there are certainly strategic explanations for these comments. Burnett may have burned some leverage by saying he'd either come back to Pittsburgh or retire, perhaps leaving more room for the Buccos to try and bust down the rate. As Huntington discussed in the interview, his club's narrow margin for error makes every dollar count, and any savings on the Burnett deal could make a big difference in the club's other offseason plans.

Huntington went on to criticize the QO system, noting that the Yankees and Red Sox made six of the thirteen offers. The system "didn't really do what it was intended to do," said Huntington, offering his opinion that the Indians and Royals probably hope that their offerees -- Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana -- decline.

On the issue of national TV money, Huntington noted that, contrary to the oft-repeated line, "it's not $25MM to every team." That is an average, he said: the team does not yet have its precise distribution, and the Commissioner could hold back some dollars for league-wide initiatives.

Either way, according to Huntington, small market teams won't get any relative advantage from the new money. Todd suggested that the high payroll clubs would begin to have luxury tax issues if they spent up their new cash, resulting in a net benefit to small-market clubs. But Huntington said the luxury tax "hasn't been that big of a drag on those [teams] that have gone over it," at least when they can avoid too many years in a row above the line.



Rosenthal On Nats, Scherzer, Phillies, Price, Rangers

The Nationals are looking to add an "elite" starting pitcher via trade, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and they're in luck, as both Max Scherzer and David Price have been rumored to be available this winter. Rosenthal explains his reasons behind believing that Scherzer could be a better fit, highlighted by the fact that Nats GM Mike Rizzo drafte Scherzer in the first round when he was the Diamondbacks' scouting director. Rosenthal's sources maintain that the Tigers aren't shopping Scherzer at this point but rather just listening to offers. Here's more from a jam-packed column from Rosenthal...

  • The Phillies have kicked around the idea of trading for Price, but it's unlikely to happen. The Phils would likely have to include top prospect Jesse Biddle in a potential package and perhaps Domonic Brown as well. Also, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recognizes that his club has multiple needs and that he will need to make multiple additions rather than going "all-in" on one big splash like Price or free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
  • While many will argue that Tim Lincecum's deal doesn't impact the free agent markte for starting pitchers because it was the Giants paying to keep one of their own, Rosenthal points out that other starters and their agents will argue the direct opposite -- "that the Lincecum contract was merely the outgrowth of supply-and-demand economics." In particular, he feels that it hurts the Pirates in their quest to retain A.J. Burnett. Rosenthal wonders how the Bucs can possibly retain Burnett after Lincecum got $17.5MM per year when they didn't even want to offer Burnett a $14.1MM qualifying offer.
  • The Rangers are once again pondering their infield logjam and whether or not to trade one of Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler. Kinsler could also be moved to first, though it may be less appealing that moving Kinsler and his salary ($57MM through 2017). Kinsler's contract makes him the easier of the two to trade. Figuring out the middle infield and securing some salary relief could be the key to the Rangers' offseason, he adds.
  • The Mariners consider right-handed pop their biggest need, and Rosenthal wonders if they'll take a second run at Mike Napoli, who they tried to land last offseason.



Arbitration Eligibles: Pittsburgh Pirates

Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work.  The Pirates are next in our series.  Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.

Though Jones faced lefties in only about five percent of his plate appearances, the left-handed hitter still compiled a dismal .233/.289/.419 line on the season.  He's topped 20 home runs in three of his five years with the Bucs, and can still be a useful platoon bat.  However, with arbitration likely to push Jones' salary past $5MM for 2014, I think he'll be non-tendered.

Infielders Walker, Alvarez, and Sanchez should be in good standing for 2014.  Walker's production remained consistent.  Despite extension talks in the past, the Pirates have yet to extend the Pittsburgh native.  Howie Kendrick's four-year, $33.5MM deal could serve as a model, though Walker would probably have to top $40MM to account for being a Super Two.  Alvarez made the All-Star team and hit 36 home runs with 100 RBI this year, though he also led the NL in strikeouts and posted a .296 OBP.  I'd be cautious in considering an extension, but it's probably a moot point with the Boras Corporation representing Alvarez.  Sanchez did what was asked of him, hitting lefties extremely well while facing them almost 40% of the time.  He'll probably be retained.

Snider and McKenry are on thinner ice.  Snider, a former first-round pick in '06, had a chance at running away with the Pirates' right field job but failed to produce and battled injuries.  There's a decent chance he's non-tendered, especially since he's out of options.  McKenry surprised with a dozen home runs in part-time duty last year behind the plate, but a knee injury that eventually required surgery ended his 2013 season in July.  Even if Tony Sanchez gets the backup nod next year, McKenry seems cheap enough to retain in Triple-A for depth.

Morton had Tommy John surgery in June 2012 and made his 2013 season debut a year later.  The 29-year-old groundball pitcher put together a strong 116 innings, posting a 3.26 ERA.  Now he's entering his contract year, so the Pirates must decide whether to try to extend him.  The Bucs might want something like two years and $12MM or three years and $20MM, plus a club option in either case, since Morton has yet to reach 175 innings in a season.  If Morton plays out his contract year and approximates his 2013 success over a full season, the price will rise quite a bit and he can avoid option years. 

Melancon had a breakout year in the Pirates' bullpen, making the All-Star team and posting a 1.39 ERA in 71 innings.  He racked up 16 saves when closer Jason Grilli went down, plus 26 holds as Grilli's setup man.  As good as he was in 2013, I don't think there's a need for the Pirates to pursue an extension unless it's very team-friendly.  Mazzaro rode a 52.2% groundball rate to a strong relief season, and should also have a spot in next year's pen.

Assuming the Pirates tender contracts to Walker, Alvarez, Morton, Melancon, Sanchez, McKenry, and Mazzaro, they're looking at an estimated $19.7MM for seven arbitration eligible players.



Pirates Do Not Make Qualifying Offer To A.J. Burnett

The Pirates did not extend a one-year, qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

Burnett, 37 in January, pitched to a 3.30 ERA with 9.8 K/9 (the highest rate in the National League), 3.2 BB/9 and a 56.2 percent ground-ball rate in 191 innings in his second season with the Pirates. Burnett has publicly stated that his decision this offseason is between returning to the Pirates and retiring, so the Pirates likely felt that they didn't need to risk the $14.1MM salary. If he elects to pitch again, it's possible that the Pirates could work out a one-year deal at a lower rate, as I projected in my free agent profile of Burnett, predicting one year and $12MM to return to the Bucs.



Free Agent Profile: Marlon Byrd

When the Mets took a minor league flier (lame pun intended) on Marlon Byrd, the transaction was met with little enthusiasm. Such is the case with minor league deals for veterans. Most fans enter the offseason dreaming on big names and high-upside rebound candidates, neither of which were overly applicable to Byrd. Mets fans and Pirates fans alike benefited from Byrd's rebound, and he'll carry a career-best .294/.336/.511 slash line and 24 homers into free agency.

Strengths/Pros

Byrd has typically been able to hit for average and get on base at a solid clip, as evidenced by his career .280/.336/.425 batting line. Even if he can't repeat the surprising power that he showed in 2013, there's plenty of reason to expect helpful contributions in terms of batting average and OBP. Byrd-marlon-pirates

The power that he showed in 2013 is tough to completely write off, however; his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES, will be able to point out the fact that Byrd's .220 ISO ranked second among qualified free agent hitters, trailing only Mike Napoli.

Byrd was particularly deadly against left-handed pitchers, slashing .344/.376/.583 with eight homers in 178 plate appearances, but he was no slouch against same-handed pitching either. Byrd batted .268/.318/.480 against right-handers in 2013, giving him a 129 OPS+ against right-handed pitchers and a 157 mark against lefties.

In the outfield, Byrd can play center field in a pinch and graded out as an outstanding defensive right fielder. He posted a +2.6 UZR/150 in right field, but The Fielding Bible loved him at +12 runs saved in his 1168 innings.

The only truly bad season that Byrd has had in recent history was 2012. That year aside, he's posted an OPS+ of at least 96 and wRC+ of at least 94 in each season dating back to 2007. Interested parties can reasonably expect at least a league-average offensive performance out of Byrd with the upside for quite a bit more.

Because he was traded midseason, Byrd is unable to receive a qualifying offer (not that the Pirates would've extended one anyhow). He will not be tied to draft pick compensation.

Weaknesses/Cons

With such a strong showing in 2013, it's easy for some to forget that Byrd looked like he was finished as a Major Leaguer in 2012. Prior to his age-36 renaissance, Byrd mustered just a .210/.243/.245 batting line in 153 plate appearances between the Cubs and Red Sox in a season that was also marred by a 50-game suspension. Byrd acknowledged that he made a mistake in using a banned substance to help recover from a surgical procedure. Byrd was quoted as saying that he was "mortified by [his] carelessness" and accepted his suspension without protest.

Byrd has never been one to draw many walks, and 2013 was no exception as he earned a free pass in just 5.4 percent of his trips to the plate. That mark actually represented his highest rate since 2008 with the Rangers. Unfortunately, it also came along with a career-worst 24.9 percent strikeout rate. Byrd's 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate was the seventh-highest among qualified hitters, and his 40.7 percent chase rate on pitches out of the zone ranked 10th. To sum it up in a concise manner: plate discipline isn't really Byrd's strong point.

Personal

Early in October, John Perrotto wrote that Byrd's ebullient personality made him a quick favorite in the Pirates' clubhouse. Dave Caldwell of the Wall Street Journal wrote in June that Byrd was beloved and respected in the Mets' clubhouse as well, with David Wright talking about the importance of the example that Byrd set with his work ethic.

Caldwell added that Byrd's wife, Andrea, used to send him a copy of a speech from Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of each season, but that is no longer necessary. As ESPN's Doug Padilla wrote prior to the 2012 season, Byrd has Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" tattooed on his arm, beginning with the lines: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better." (Padilla's piece has the full quote)

Market

The Pirates have said they will try to retain Byrd, and there's mutual interest in a reunion between Byrd and the Mets. Beyond that, any team with a corner outfield hole and in need of a cheap upgrade could look to Byrd as an option.

The Phillies are one team that is known to be looking for right-handed pop to balance out their lineup, and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he doesn't view Darin Ruf as an everyday player. Byrd was dealt from the Phillies to the Nationals in a change of scenery deal back in 2005 after questioning his role with the team, but then-GM Ed Wade and manager Charlie Manuel no longer occupy those roles and it's been more than eight years, so a return could be plausible.

The Rockies could give Byrd a look and move Michael Cuddyer -- who was one of baseball's worst defenders in right field -- to first base to replace the retiring Todd Helton. The Royals are prioritizing right field and second base this offseason, and Byrd will be more affordable than Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz. The Rangers let Byrd walk in free agency once when they felt they had cheaper internal options in Julio Borbon and David Murphy. Now in need of a corner bat if Cruz isn't retained, a return would seem to make sense. Other teams that would make sense include the Orioles, Giants and Mariners, to name a few.

Expected Contract

Right-handed pop is in short supply on the free agent market, and even with some regression, Byrd offers a plus glove in right field. Because Byrd and the Levinsons can point to the 2012 season as an abnormality, a two-year deal doesn't seem far-fetched. Byrd has always been an under-the-radar commodity, and there's little historical context for a 35-year-old outfielder posting an unexpected four-WAR season after a year in which he was below replacement level. Byrd's case is fairly unique, and as a result it leaves us with little historical context to make a prediction.

Jonny Gomes' two-year, $10MM contract with the Red Sox may seem a good comparison upon first glance, but Gomes got that contract coming off a season in which he played just 99 games, and his defense is generally not considered a positive. That contract seems like the floor for Byrd, but I think the demand for right-handed power bats and the bulk of teams looking for a corner outfield upgrade will allow Byrd to beat Gomes' deal. In recent years we've seen corner bats Melky Cabrera and Jason Kubel land two-year deals for $16MM and $15MM, respectively, and my expectation is that Byrd will match Cabrera with a two-year, $16MM deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



NL Central Notes: Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs

Big changes are in store for the Cardinals' roster, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. In the bullpen, Strauss lists John Axford and Edward Mujica as two players who are unlikely to return next season, while David Freese, Pete Kozma and Carlos Beltran could be gone on the position player side. Let's run through the latest from around the NL Central:

  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold provides a postmortem on the Cardinals' season in a radio interview with 101Sports.com.
  • St. Louis brass have yet to decide on whether they'll try to re-up with Beltran, though parting ways with the outfielder would allow them to start Allen Craig in right field, as the club would like to do, Goold says. Such a move would also open a spot for outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, while Matt Adams could get regular time at first base.
  • The Pirates must address holes at first base and right field this winter, and will probably also look to acquire a starter, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Brink profiles several options that are available in free agency, including James Loney at first and Corey Hart in right.
  • MLBTR's Steve Adams examined departing Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau in an entry in our Free Agent Profile series earlier today.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times rounds up the current state of the Cubs' managerial search, reporting that the club expects to have hired a skipper sometime around the end of the week. 



Free Agent Profile: Justin Morneau

On July 7, 2010, Justin Morneau was hitting a ridiculous .345/.437/.618 for the first-place Twins in their inaugural season at Target Field. Morneau would leave that game early after taking a knee to the head from John McDonald while trying to break up a double play. It was later learned that Morneau suffered a severe concussion on that slide. He wouldn't play again in 2010, and three years later, the Canadian slugger is still searching for his All-Star form. A last-minute trade sent the former American League MVP from the Twins -- the only organization he'd ever known -- to the Pirates to help deepen Pittsburgh's lineup for a postseason push, and he'll hit the open market for the first time this winter.

Strengths/Pros

Morneau hit .259/.323/.411 with 17 homers in 2013. His slash line is a slight improvement over that of a league-average hitter, and his .152 isolated power mark is also slightly above the league average of .146. He rediscovered his power stroke late in the season, belting nine homers in the month of August before being traded to the Pirates on Aug. 31. His final at-bat in a Twins uniform was an upper-deck, go-ahead homer against Yu Darvish in Texas.  Morneau-Justin

The Fielding Bible's DRS stat has long been a fan of Morneau's work at first base (he was +8 runs in 2010 prior to his concussion), and he's done a fine job there once again in 2013. Morneau has saved five runs with his glove, per DRS. He's been roughly average, per UZR/150.

Morneau makes contact better than the average first baseman. His 17.3 strikeout percentage is a significant improvement over the league average of 22.2 percent.

Among free agent options at first base, only Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds hit more home runs than Morneau. Reynolds, however, posted a sub-.300 OBP while striking out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances. Morneau might not be an elite bat anymore, but the only available first basemen with clearly superior seasons to his in 2013 were Napoli and James Loney. Morneau offers more power than Loney, and unlike Napoli, he will not be attached to draft pick compensation.

Weaknesses/Cons

The power just isn't there for Morneau like it was when he was an annual 30-homer threat, and there's no guarantee it will ever return now that he's turning 33 in 2014. His walk rate has also declined; Morneau walked in 11.3 percent of his plate appearances in his peak from 2007-10, but he walked in just 7.9 percent of his trips to the plate in 2013.

Part of the reason that Morneau was so lethal in his prime was his ability to hit left-handed pitching, but that too has eroded. From 2006-10, Morneau hit .282/.331/.492 against same-handed pitching, but over the past three seasons that slash line has deflated to a platoon-worthy .206/.246/.274. Just five of his 40 homers dating back to 2011 have come against southpaws.

The concussion is far from the only injury with which Morneau has dealt since 2010. He's undergone four different surgeries to fix issues ranging from bone spurs in his wrist and foot to a herniated disk in his neck. The neck issue resulted in a pinched nerve that Morneau said prevented him from feeling the pointer finger in his left hand for most of the 2011 season.

Personal

Morneau met his wife, Krista, in Minnesota. The couple and their two children make their home in the suburbs of Minneapolis. A lifelong hockey fan, Morneau grew up idolizing goalie Patrick Roy and has worn Roy's No. 33 throughout his career (he switched to 66 in Pittsburgh, as 33 is retired there in honor of Honus Wagner). No. 33 is also the number of another of his Canadian idols -- Larry Walker. Justin and Krista are active within the community, having started the Justin Morneau Foundation, which seeks to support underserved communities. He is known to have many superstitions, such as eating the same sandwich from the same restaurant in St. Paul prior to each home game.

Market

Morneau and his agent, Mark Pieper of SFX, approached the Twins about a potential contract extension this summer but were rebuffed at the time. Minnesota has no clear replacement waiting in the wings, with Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello both posting sub-par big league numbers. The team may want to leave first base open for a potential position change for Joe Mauer, but a reunion between the two sides does make some sense.

Morneau may be better suited to play for a team in a hitter-friendly ballpark (Target Field certainly does not qualify, especially for left-handed batters). The Blue Jays have long been rumored to have interest, but there doesn't necessarily appear to be a fit with Lind and Edwin Encarnacion set to handle DH and first base.

Morneau could follow the path that Loney and many others have taken and seek to rebuild his value with the Rays, who would have no shortage of platoon options available. He could also be a first base option for the Red Sox, Brewers, Rockies or Rangers. Pirates GM Neal Huntington could also look to retain Morneau at a reduced rate.

Expected Contract

Morneau earned $14MM this season in the final year of a six-year, $80MM extension he signed with the Twins in 2008. He won't come close to that type of money this offseason and may have difficulty securing a multiyear contract. Reynolds' line of .221/.335/.429 from 2012 isn't that dissimilar from Morneau's production in 2013, but Morneau is considered a better defender and doesn't strike out nearly as often. Reynolds signed for one year and $6MM with the Indians last offseason.

Another solid, albeit slightly dated comparison could be Derrek Lee, who signed for one year and $7.25MM with the Orioles after hitting .260/.347/.428 in 2010. Ultimately, I expect Morneau to take a one-year, $7MM contract in a hitter-friendly atmosphere to try to rebuild some free agent value for next offseason.

Phot courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Minor Moves: Ryan Buchter, Wirfin Obispo, Felix Pie, Simon Castro

Here's your list of today's outright assignments and minor moves from around the league...

  • The Braves have added two minor league relievers -- lefty Ryan Buchter and righty Wirfin Obispo -- to the club's 40-man roster, per the International League transactions page. The move was designed to prevent both pitchers from qualifying for minor league free agency. Buchter, 26, fanned 15 batters per nine innings last year in 62 Triple-A innings to go with a less-flattering 7.4 BB/9, and ended up with a 2.76 ERA. The 29-year-old Obispo, meanwhile, put up 9.9 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9 in Gwinnett over 63 2/3 innings of 3.53 ERA ball. Both could get a look for an MLB bullpen role in Spring Training.
  • The Pirates have outrighted Felix Pie off their 40-man roster, and the outfielder has elected free agency, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune (Twitter link). The 28-year-old former top prospect hit just .138/.194/.172 in 31 plate appearances for the Pirates in 2013 and slashed .251/.321/.390 in 396 plate appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • The White Sox have outrighted right-hander Simon Castro to Triple-A Charlotte, removing him from the 40-man roster, the team announced on Twitter. Castro twice appeared on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects as a Padres farmhand and found himself headed to Chicago as part of the Padres' trade for Carlos Quentin. Though he was sharp in his big league debut this season, totaling 6 2/3 innings in the Majors, Castro limped to a 5.83 ERA in 92 2/3 innings at Charlotte.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.









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