Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
The Pirates announced that they have claimed infielder Brent Morel off waivers from the Blue Jays. Toronto designated Morel for assignment last week after claiming right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Orioles. Pittsburgh will announce a corresponding 40-man roster move later today, according to a team press release.
Morel cracked Baseball America's Top 100 list as a White Sox farmhand prior to the 2011 season but has slashed just .229/.276/.333 batting line in 669 Major League plate appearances. A bulging disk in his back has played a large part in the offense decline for the 26-year-old, who in 2010 batted .322/.359/.480 across two minor league levels. He's drawn praise for his glove at third base, though Toronto was reportedly going to use him at second base.
Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus are the only two position players remaining on the Rangers roster who played in the 2010 World Series against the Giants, the Associated Press writes. "You realize sometimes how crazy baseball is and how everything can change in a couple of years," Andrus said. "It's crazy. That's why you have to enjoy every second, every moment of this. Because you never know what's going to happen in the future." Here's more from around baseball.
- The Pirates are still in search of a first baseman, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Of course, the Bucs have been linked to Justin Smoak, Adam Lind, Ike Davis, Moreland, and others this offseason.
- The Rockies have nixed their plan to move Carlos Gonzalez to center field, writes MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Colorado told Gonzalez he'd move to center after they traded their former center fielder, Dexter Fowler, to the Astros in November. However, the arrival of Drew Stubbs means that CarGo can stay put.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't seem too concerned about Barry Bonds' presence being a distraction for the club during spring training, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has fortified his lineup with power this offseason and improved the bullpen and now he wants to see results, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.
- Astros catcher Jason Castro never let trade speculation get to him, even when it really heated up over the offseason, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
- The Mets offered Drew a salary in the neighborhood of $9.5MM, the same amount Drew made last year, but Drew rejected it. The Mets remain the team with the most need for Drew's talents.
- The Red Sox have not made a new offer to Drew since Ryan Dempster decided to take 2014 off and forfeit his $13.25MM salary for the year.
- The Pirates have "spoken about Drew," but are currently more concerned with finding an upgrade at first base. They currently have youngster Jordy Mercer penciled in at shortstop, and would have to sacrifice the No. 24 overall pick in the draft to sign Drew.
- The Blue Jays could look to Drew for help at second base.
- Heyman also notes that the qualifying offer, which has dramatically reduced the market for Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz and other free agents, also has mostly helped big-payroll teams, as the Yankees and Red Sox have extended nearly half of all qualifying offers.
With the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to the Padres and Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs now over two years distant, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at its background and how it has played out to date. While both players have proven that their talent plays at the big league level, each still comes with questions. Nevertheless, the trade appears to have been quite an equal swap at this point, he opines.
Here's more from the National League:
- The Mets hesitation with respect to shortstop Stephen Drew relates to the team's valuations of him and internal option Ruben Tejada, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. "At the numbers he's looking for," a source told DiComo, "we don't think he's worth it compared to what we have." At this point, a trade of Ike Davis is a more likely outcome than the signing of Drew, says DiComo.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said today that a platoon was possible at second base, a prospect that Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times questions. Both Alexander Guerrero and Dee Gordon -- the two likely platoon options -- are converting from shortstop, and each brings lots of uncertainty to the table. Guerrero, the club's most expensive offseason acquisition, has reportedly had some struggles moving to the other side of the bag, but putting his right-handed bat in a platoon role would significantly limit his plate appearances.
- In spite of a resoundingly successful 2013 campaign, Pirates GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle will both go into the season without a contractual assurance that they'll be around for another. As Rob Biertempfel of the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review reports, Owner Bob Nutting said today that extensions for the two are not a major priority, though he indicated that he'd be amenable to talks at the right time. "What they've done for the organization in good and bad times really is tremendous," said Nutting, "and I hope they're with the organization for a long time. My expectation is they're going to be critically important pieces of this organization as we go forward."
- Nutting also indicated that the Pirates would still consider giving up a draft pick to sign a free agent, Biertempfel further reports. "Certainly nothing is off the table," he said. "But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious." The Bucs have spoken with first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, Biertempfel notes, though the extent of the team's interest remains unknown.
Although Mets Spring Training is underway and Ike Davis trade rumors have largely died down as of late, a pair of clubs is still interested in the 26-year-old. ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that the Pirates continue to monitor Davis' status in camp, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Orioles are still interested in acquiring Davis to serve primarily in a DH capacity.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington told Stark yesterday that the team is confident in its internal candidates to serve as a platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez -- namely Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness and Travis Ishikawa. However, Huntington added:
"That doesn't stop us from looking elsewhere. It’s just that now, our bar has been set a little bit higher, as to 'How do we make the club better?' And 'How do we make the club better at the right situation for us?'"
As for the Orioles, acquiring Davis would allow them to add some more power while preserving the No. 55 pick in the draft -- a selection that would be forfeited should the team go the free-agent route by signing either Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz. Davis would also be significantly cheaper in terms of salary, as he's slated to earn just $3.5MM this season. However, Mets GM Sandy Alderson has made it clear that he will not simply give Davis away. Previous reports indicated that Alderson has asked the Orioles to part with top pitching rospect Eduardo Rodriguez in a Davis trade.
Sherman also reports that at one point this offseason, the Mets and Rays were discussing players that could be added to a Davis-for-Matt Joyce swap before Tampa finally proposed a straight one-for-one trade. The Mets rejected that deal, and Tampa closed the door on talks by signing James Loney to a three-year, $21MM contract.
Davis batted .205/.326/.334 overall last season but fared very well upon his recall from the minor leagues after being sent down in early June. The former first-round pick posted an .872 OPS over his final two months, including a .290/.468/.522 triple-slash in August. An oblique strain cut his strong finish to the season short, sidelining him for the entire month of September.
The Pirates are not giving up on the possibility of adding a left-handed-hitting first baseman through trade, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Though efforts to date have not proven fruitful, Pittsburgh is still hoping to find a platoon partner for rigty Gaby Sanchez.
The club is still keeping an eye on how camp plays out for long-rumored target Ike Davis and the Mets. Other possible options -- like Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland -- could become available depending upon what happens with the several key free agents that remain.
Though GM Neal Huntington says that he is confident with the club's in-house candidates, including Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness, and Travis Ishikawa, none have proven to have an above-average big league bat. And Huntington acknowledged that an addition remains possible. "That doesn't stop us from looking elsewhere," he said. "It's just that now, our bar has been set a little bit higher ... If there's something that makes us better, and makes sense for us, we'll still look to do that."
In the wake of reports that the Angels made a four-year, $52MM offer to Matt Garza in December and pulled it before he could respond, Garza himself confirmed to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy that the Halos did make (and quickly pull) an offer. Garza says that he was on vacation with his wife, celebrating their anniversary: "I was on vacation with my wife and I didn’t want to be disturbed, and it was like, ‘Here it is, we’ll pull it in a certain amount of hours.’ I didn’t have a chance to respond, so I just said, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.'" Garza wound up receiving a slightly smaller guarantee from the Brewers ($50MM), though his deal could be worth as much as $67MM if his fifth-year option triggers and he maxes out his contract's incentives. Garza told McCalvy that upon meeting Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, he felt the club genuinely wanted to sign him, and that was a big factor in his decision.
Here's more from the AL West...
- Don't rule out a return to the Mariners for Kendrys Morales, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo hears that the Pirates aren't willing to forfeit the draft pick they would need to sign Morales. He also hears that Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette can't get the financial go-ahead from owner Peter Angelos to meet Morales' asking price.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wonders if it would be the best fit for all parties if Nelson Cruz returned to the Rangers on a one-year deal. Grant speculates on some contract specifics that could allow Cruz to earn more than the $14.1MM qualifying offer he rejected, and wonders it the two sides could agree in advance not to go the qualifying offer route next offseason.
- Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis knows the timing of the flexor tendon injury that has shelved him for the last season-and-a-half was horrible (he was three months from free agency), but the 35-year-old is keeping his head up, writes ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett. Rather than lament his misfortune, Lewis instead said that he prefers to count his blessings: "Baseball has given me the opportunity to play and make good money and do it as long as I have."
- Athletics lefty Tommy Milone might appear to be behind Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin on the depth chart, but he's been assured by manager Bob Melvin that he's in the running for a rotation spot, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. The A's currently have six starters for five rotation spots, but there's been little talk of them trading an arm.
Here's the latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- Rival executives aren't all enthusiastic about Craig Kimbrel's new deal with the Braves, citing the downside risk in long-term deals for closers. Rosenthal notes, however, that Kimbrel's new contract could reduce the Braves' payouts in what would have been his arbitration years.
- The Braves' new ballpark galvanized the team's recent extension spree, GM Frank Wren says.
- The Red Sox have enough depth that they don't need to worry about replacing Ryan Dempster in their rotation. The $13.25MM they would have paid Dempster also might not have a huge impact on whether or not they sign Stephen Drew. Signing Drew would cost the Red Sox the compensation pick they would receive if he were to sign elsewhere, and it would have implications for youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks as well.
- A.J. Burnett says the two years he spent with the Pirates marked a new phase of his career. "I found who I was again, I guess," says Burnett. "I will never put myself in the same category as a (Roy) Halladay, ever. But as far as mentor-wise and player relations-wise, I became that guy over there. ... It showed me who I was, who I could have been for a long time that I wasn't." After the Yankees traded him to Pittsburgh, Burnett emerged as a leader to younger pitchers like Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton.
Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija isn't optimistic that he'll be able to work out a contract extension with the Cubs, and is preparing for the possibility of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The two sides continue to disagree about Samardzija's worth, and it appears the sticking points are Samardzija's belief that his value will continue to increase, and his concerns about the organization's rebuilding plan. "Both sides are justified; it’s not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept," he says. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Despite a quiet offseason, Pirates GM Neal Huntington believes his team is well-positioned, MLB.com's Mike Bauman writes. The Pirates did not add any impact talent over the offseason, and replaced A.J. Burnett with Edinson Volquez. Nonetheless, Huntington cites owner Bob Nutting's willingness to spend on aspects of the franchise unrelated to Major-League payroll, such as drafting, Latin American bonuses, scouting and player development, as crucial to the Pirates' success. And at the big-league level, Huntington feels the Pirates' offense should improve in 2014.
- Despite ties to manager Terry Francona, new minor-league signee Aaron Harang doesn't have the inside track on the Indians' fifth-starter job, reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. "Nothing has changed from what we've said about Carlos [Carrasco] or Josh [Tomlin]. We're just trying to have depth," says Francona. "We were very honest with Aaron. He's going to get a chance to show what he can do."
As camps open around the game, let's take a look at a few notable free agents who remain unsigned:
- Though long-time shortstop Derek Jeter is now set to retire after the year, and the club faces questions around the infield, the Yankees are still not interested in adding Stephen Drew, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. Marchand notes that the club could have its eye on a bigger fish as an eventual replacement for Jeter, suggesting the possibility of looking at next year's free agent market or trying to trade for a big-contract star like Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes. But the availability of those options remains unclear, especially given that the Yanks possess a farm that most regard as below average. And while 2015 currently promises a nice crop of free agent shortstops -- headlined, at present, by Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Asdrubal Cabrera -- it is far from certain that all of those players will reach the open market.
- Echoing Marchand on the Yankees' interest, ESPN.com's Buster Olney told WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via WEEI.com's Jerry Spar) that Drew's market looks poor. The Pirates make sense in theory, says Olney, but the club seems very unlikely to give up its first-round pick to land him. Olney opines that the shortstop's best bet, at this point, could be to wait and see if a contender loses an infielder to injury. Though he agrees that Drew faces difficult market, Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth argues that Drew and agent Scott Boras should instead act quickly to speed up negotiations and get the best deal possible.
- Of course, one obvious landing spot all along has been the Red Sox, who could use Drew to bolster the left side of the infield without giving up a pick (other than the one they stand to gain should he sign elsewhere). As WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports, however, Boston has settled into the position that it would be interested in a one-year arrangement. That could take the form of a straightforward one-year deal, or could be structured with a low-value player option for a second season (like Adrian Beltre's 2010 deal) that would spread the contract's luxury tax impact.
- The Twins, who have been mentioned as a dark horse suitor for both Drew and outfielder Nelson Cruz, likely have sufficient payroll space to make an addition, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. But the team is not willing to meet the demands currently being floated on those players, and has not been in recent contact on either.
- Bean Stringfellow, the agent for starter Ervin Santana, rejected an apparent rumor that the Blue Jays had offered his client a three-year, $27MM deal, reports John Lott of the National Post. Stringfellow also dismissed the rumor that he had earlier demanded five years and $112MM for Santana. Though some clubs may hope to wait out the market for prices to fall, Stringfellow says he is not concerned by that possibility. "The calendar doesn't really affect us in that regard," he said. "The teams need the pitching by Opening Day. That's when the bell rings. I think a lot of clubs might think that as [Opening Day] gets closer, the price comes down. I would simply say to that, 'You're not filling your need for pitching, so I don't know why our value is any less when your need is still as great as what it was.'"
- Though Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to comment on any offers to Santana, he said that the club would remain true to its internal valuations of free agents. "We just haven't been able to line up on value, on years and dollars," Anthopoulos added with regard to the team's possible targets.
- Another team that is reportedly dabbling in the starting pitching market is the Mariners. The club is not just looking at top options like Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), but is casting a "wide net" in its search for an arm.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson is looking for a major league deal, sources tell MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he received good reports from Madson's recent throwing session, but did not leave the impression that Philadelphia was the likely landing spot. "Our reports were good when we saw him," said Amaro, "so he's going to sign somewhere." As Zolecki notes, Philly may be unwilling to give out a major league deal, especially given Madson's injury history and the recent signing of A.J. Burnett.