Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
Brian Wilson auditioned for teams earlier today, and nearly a dozen clubs sent scouts to watch the former Giants closer, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Knobler writes that a scout in attendance said Wilson looked good and was "not far away" from being able to return to the Major Leagues. His fastball reportedly reached 93 mph on Thursday.
According to Knobler, the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Athletics, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies and Cardinals all attended Wilson's workout. Most of those teams have reportedly been on the lookout for bullpen help, and the Pirates are a logical new addition to that mix given the recent injury to Jason Grilli. The Giants held a private throwing session for Wilson "as a personal courtesy" earlier this week.
Wilson underwent his second Tommy John surgery after just two appearances in 2012 and hasn't pitched for a team since. He was scouted by the Mets in January, but the team was unimpressed. Wilson decided then to wait until he was back to 100 percent before auditioning for teams a second time. From 2007-12 with the Giants, Wilson racked up 170 saves and posted a 2.98 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 290 innings of relief.
The 2013 amateur draft is now fully in the rearview mirror and a new wave of talent has filtered into the professional ranks. Some of the '13 draftees have been riding the buses for more than a month now, while others have only recently pulled on their spikes. Below is a look at first round picks who are off to impressive starts with their new organizations. Standard warnings about reading too much into small sample sizes apply.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (1st overall): The top selection in the 2013 draft has made four starts in the minors and has already earned a promotion, moving from the New York Penn League to the Midwest League. Despite a bit of a layoff between the college season and his first pro appearance, the Stanford alum has displayed good control with just one walk in 13 innings while striking out 13 batters. Curt Rallo, writing for MiLB.com, recently caught up with Appel and spoke to him about the adjustments he's making as a professional baseball player.
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Twins (4th): The highest drafted prep product, 18-year-old Kohl has acclimatized well to his new life as a pro ball player. Stewart, a Texas native, features a 1.80 ERA with nine strikeouts in 10 innings of work over four appearances (two starts).
Clint Frazier, OF, Indians (5th): The 18-year-old Frazier is stinging the ball through his first 18 pro games. He's hitting more than .300 with nine extra base hits. On the down side, he's whiffed 24 times, including nine strikeouts in his last four games. Clearly, he has some further adjustments to make if he hopes to see continued success on the diamond.
Hunter Dozier, SS, Royals (8th): The Royals' first pick received a lot of attention for being an overdraft so the club could later afford pitcher Sean Manaea, who slipped out of first round consideration due to injury concerns. Dozier, though, is making the decision to pick him eighth overall look inspired. He has an .856 OPS and 20 of his 37 hits have gone for extra bases during his time in the Pioneer League. Dozier has also walked more than he's struck out (19-16). His first professional baseball club, the Idaho Falls Chukars, recently published an audio Q&A with the first rounder.
D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners (12th): Peterson was promoted from the Northwest League to the Midwest League on Tuesday and he will leave behind some impressive numbers. The third baseman popped six home runs and posted a .915 OPS in 29 games. He also showed solid contact skills with a strikeout rate of just under 15%, which is impressive given his power output.
Reese McGuire, C, Pirates (14th): The Pirates had two first round selections in 2013 and McGuire has gotten off to a quicker start than his new teammate Austin Meadows. The young catcher is hitting more than .400 with a 1.012 OPS through his first 15 games. He's also impressing behind the plate by catching 50% of base runners attempting to steal. John Lembo of the Bradenton Herald spoke to both McGuire and Meadows about their thoughts of growing up in the Pirates organization.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (16th): Philadelphia has been snakebitten over the past few years when it comes to their first round draft picks, and the organization is clearly hoping for bigger and better things from Crawford. He's off to a good start in Rookie ball where he's compiled 25 hits and seven walks in 18 games, good for a .427 on-base percentage. By getting on base at such a good clip, it should allow him to pile up some steals thanks to his above-average speed.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox (18th): Anderson is the third shortstop on this list who's off to a quick start to his career. Playing in low-A ball, he's getting on base at a solid clip (.371 OBP) while nabbing 12 bases in 15 attempts through the first 32 games of his pro career. One red flag, though, is his strikeout rate of 25%, especially given that power is not a big part of his game right now; an improvement in his contact rate would likely help him improve his on-base percentage even further. Anderson could move quickly through the Sox system, which could help to explain why the club may be willing to part with incumbent shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Michael Teague of MiLB.com spoke to the young prospect shortly after he was named the top junior college athlete in the country for 2013.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Tigers (20th): Crawford has opened his pro career in the New York Penn League and he's expected to be one of the first college-groomed draft picks to reach the Major League level. Through six appearances, he's looking good with a 2.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings of work. He was downright unhittable in three of those appearances (totaling six innings). Lynn Henning of the Detroit News spoke to Crawford's manager in Connecticut about the recent draft pick's positive start to his career.
Billy McKinney, OF, Athletics (24th): After batting just .242 with a .558 OPS in June, McKinney has heated up in July and currently has a .367 average and .861 OPS. The left-handed-hitting Texas native has improved his game in part by making more contact and lowering his strikeout rate. He's also holding his own against southpaws, which is impressive to see from such a young hitter.
6:58am: Chicago right fielders Nate Schierholtz and Alex Rios top the Pirates' wish list, writes Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago. The Bucs "have been watching Schierholtz for more than a month," notes Levine.
Right field is an obvious need for the 60-39 Pirates, who have been using Travis Snider, Jose Tabata, and Garrett Jones there and have gotten an aggregate .228/.291/.360 line. Schierholtz, 29, signed a one-year, $2.25MM deal with the Cubs in December after being non-tendered by the Phillies. At .277/.334/.521 with a career-high five RBIs last night, he's having an excellent campaign. Arbitration eligibility for 2014 is a big plus, though for some GMs Schierholtz has yet to shake the reputation of a platoon bat given his continued lack of playing time and struggles against left-handed pitching.
Levine quotes Cubs president Theo Epstein saying, "I think it is fair to say we have some players who can help other clubs. That would especially be true for players who are not under contract control next season." As you might expect, that's an indication that the team is more inclined to move its impending free agents, such as closer Kevin Gregg, as opposed to someone like Schierholtz.
The Pirates' interest in Rios has been previously noted. He's on the radar of the Rangers, Royals, and Red Sox as well.
The Pirates have designated veteran infielder Brandon Inge for assignment, tweets Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In related moves, the team placed closer Jason Grilli on the 15-day DL, activated Neil Walker from the DL and is planning to recall right-hander Vic Black.
The 36-year-old Inge hit just .181/.204/.238 in 110 plate appearances for the Bucs this season. Over the past three seasons, the former Tigers third baseman has a combined batting line of .204/.261/.321 between Detroit, Oakland and Pittsburgh. He's seen time at second base and in right field in that time to increase his versatility, and he even appeared for five innings at first base and an inning at shortstop this season.
Baseball's central divisions have four clear sellers in the Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, and Twins. At seven games out, the Royals are on the bubble. The team sees "a winning record as an important secondary goal even if they don’t reach postseason," according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, so they may stand pat. Meanwhile, the Tigers, Indians, Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds are the five central division buyers. Links from both divisions...
- In a Q&A mailbag, a reader asks Dutton how hot the seat is under Royals GM Dayton Moore. Dutton writes that despite fan criticism for the team's longtime decision maker, there's nothing to suggest his job is actually in jeopardy. Elsewhere in the mailbag, Dutton notes that there is no indication the team is shopping starter Ervin Santana, and that he does not expect the team to reduce payroll next year.
- "We ought to know and be right on the first couple of picks. But it's those middle-round guys that your scouts push and say, 'We need to get this guy,' who make your organization," Royals senior advisor to the GM Mike Arbuckle told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick in regard to former 10th round draft pick Greg Holland, now the team's All-Star closer.
- "Trying to think like another team, usually the guys who are traded are going better than I am," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko told Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune on his minor league rehab assignment in the Southern League. Konerko, 37, is battling a back injury in the last year of his contract with the White Sox.
- Cubs closer Kevin Gregg is on the trading block alongside starter Matt Garza, and Gregg seems ready to jump to a contender. "Garza’s a headline piece, but I think that in the baseball world, people are looking for relievers. I hope I’m on that list," Gregg told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times recently. The 35-year-old has enjoyed an improbable rise back to prominence and the Cubs' closer job, though he has a 7.36 ERA over the last month.
- Speaking to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Pirates GM Neal Huntington explained that his strong farm system gives him the confidence to make trades without depleting it. Huntington didn't rule out rental players, saying, "We've never gone in with a premeditated view on rentals, whether we want or don't want them. We've gone into the Deadline to impact that year's club as best we could. Now, while it does not make a ton of sense for us to give up an elite prospect for a two-month rental, you've always got to have the majority of attention on today."
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Yesterday, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com heard that a deal that would send Matt Garza from the Cubs to the Rangers could still go "either way". Today, it's a different story. Here's the latest on Chicago's prized right-hander:
- A Major League source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe the Red Sox's interest level in Garza is deepening (Twitter link). This comes in the wake of the news Clay Buchholz will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews tomorrow. Manager John Farrell, as quoted by WEEI.com's Alex Speier on Twitter, explained the purpose of the visit is for "verification and clarification to get some peace of mind."
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (free registration required) calls the Pirates "the team du jour" after GM Neal Huntington's comments earlier today and adds the Orioles, who are scouting the Cubs on their current road trip, are viewed as sleepers for Garza.
- The Cubs have worked to draw competing offers into the Garza bidding in order to create alternatives to Texas, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, including the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer (Twitter link), Garza will "100 percent" make his start tomorrow against the Diamondbacks.
- The Cubs would prefer to deal Garza before his scheduled start tomorrow against Arizona, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
- The Rangers and Cubs were set back in talks to the point where the Rangers are now viewed as only one of many teams now in the mix for Garza, Heyman writes. For now it seems that Texas and Chicago made no progress in overcoming the snag that derailed their swap on Friday night, though the Rangers aren't out of it. The deal that fell apart included a package of Rangers prospects, with third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers C.J. Edwards and Neil Ramirez thought to have been on the table.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
The three most prominent starting pitcher trade candidates reside in baseball's Central divisions: Matt Garza (Cubs), Jake Peavy (White Sox), and Yovani Gallardo (Brewers). The latest on the Garza rumors can be found here while Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune reports at least a half dozen scouts, including ex-Cub GMs Jim Hendry (Yankees) and Ed Lynch (Blue Jays) were on hand to see Peavy's outing against the Braves last night. "There are a lot of eyes on me, period," Peavy said after allowing two earned runs on seven hits during his six-inning stint (96 pitches). "I was trying to win for (27,294 fans) who came to support us. Whatever the scouts see, they see. I love to play and I love to compete. I want to win, that's the bottom line." The bottom line with Gallardo, according to a tweet from ESPN's Jayson Stark, is not a lot of enthusiasm for what two executives called a "4-5 starter" despite tossing six and 1/3 shutout innings against the Marlins last night. Here's more from the Central:
- The Tigers have made initial inquiries with the Padres about their relievers, sources tell FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link). Morosi lists Huston Street and Luke Gregerson as possibilities.
- Both the Tigers and Red Sox are scouting Brewers' closer Francisco Rodriguez, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.
- The Pirates' biggest need is another bat but they are also exploring the pitching market and seeking a bench upgrade, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel (Twitter link), "We know players we want and we know what we're willing to give up. We're willing to stretch lot on some guys, not so much others."
- Huntington acknowledges he has the flexibility to add payroll "within reason," but would not elaborate, per a Biertempfel tweet.
- The Pirates had lost three in a row and Huntington blamed their struggles on BABIP, tweets Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Pirates have also scuffled with runners in scoring position breaking an 0-for-29 drought with a pair of RBI singles this afternoon.
- Brandon Phillips addressed the reaction to his recent comments in a Cincinnati Magazine article, which quoted him as saying the six-year, $72.5MM contract extension he signed with the Reds in 2012 was a "slap in the face" and that GM Walt Jocketty and owner Bob Castellini lied to him during the process. "Do I feel like they lied to me? If someone tells me they don’t have no money and you find $200 million somewhere, what does that sound like?" Phillips told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, referencing the ten-year, $225MM deal first baseman Joey Votto completed with the Reds about a week before his own deal was announced. "I’m very happy for Joey, don’t get me wrong," the second baseman added. "It was basically, if you think about it, I was saying I thought I wasn’t going to be a Cincinnati Red ... if y’all want to take that to the negative way, be my guest, that doesn’t bother me."
- While there has been a great deal of speculation about Justin Morneau and other Twins, rival executives haven’t sensed a big push from Minnesota to make deals, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
The July trade deadline in Major League Baseball is less than two weeks away on the 31st. We don't exactly know who will be on the move, or how many trades will be completed, but we do know that a lot of minor league prospects will be changing uniforms within the next 13 days.
Below is a look at some of the prospects who could be on the move to new organizations looking to build for the future.
Athletics: Oakland hasn't shied away from leaning on young players while in a playoff hunt and recent promotions for pitcher Sonny Gray and infielder/outfielder Grant Green could also serve a secondary purpose: showcasing. Gray, a right-handed hurler, was extremely successful in Triple-A and was lights-out during his one big league appearance before the All-Star break. He could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter, or a high-leverage reliever. Green has played sparingly since his promotion but the former first round draft pick's versatility could be highly coveted.
Indians: Cleveland has one of the top shortstop prospects in (untouchable) Francisco Lindor, which could make fellow infielder Dorssys Paulino expendable in the right deal. Just 18, his numbers don't look great but he's holding his own in Low-A ball at a young age and has shown signs of improvement in June and July.
Orioles: L.J.Hoes doesn't have a huge ceiling but the 23-year-old prospect can play all three outfield positions, as well as second and third base. Currently hitting .308/.405/.413 at Triple-A, he makes good contact and can run the bases well.
Rangers: It would probably take a very intriguing veteran player with more than one year of control but Texas' middle infield depth could allow the club to dangle shortstop Luis Sardinas on the trade market. The 20-year-old infielder is a slick defender with little-to-no power but the ability to hit for average and steal some bases.
Rays: Right-hander Alex Colome made three starts with Tampa Bay earlier this year and the organization's pitching depth could allow the right-hander to be offered in an attractive deal, but he's currently on the Triple-A disabled list with what has been called a "mild elbow strain." Second baseman Ryan Brett, 21, received a 50-game suspension last year, so that cloud is still hanging over his head, but the scrappy baseball player can really hit. He's currently batting .336/.392/.480 with 17 steals in 39High-A ball games.
Red Sox: Boston is in an enviable position with a fair amount of depth that can be used to help strengthen the big league product. The presence of top prospect Xander Bogaerts means that the club can comfortably move third base prospect Garin Cecchini or shortstop Deven Marrero, should the right deal come along, because Bogaerts could probably handle either position at the big league level. Cecchini swings a mean stick but he lacks the prototypical power that teams look for from the hot corner. Marrero's numbers have been respectable in 2013 but nothing to write home about. A team that really liked him in college, though, might be willing to bite.
Tigers: The Tigers system is pretty thin, which could impact the organization's ability to make key moves via the trade market. Outfielder Danry Vasquez is highly projectable thanks to his frame and left-handed swing, both of which hint at future power. Just 19, he's aggressive but makes good contact given his limited experience.
Yankees: Catcher J.R. Murphy could be an attractive name on the trade market, if New York is willing to part with him knowing that Gary Sanchez is not that far behind. Murphy is an offensive-minded backstop who's improved his defensive game, especially with throwing out baserunners.
Braves: On the surface it seems like the Braves haven't really made the amateur draft a priority in recent years and that has hurt the organization's depth. The versatile Joey Terdoslavich's strong performance in Triple-A earned him a promotion to the big league level where he's possibly been showcased for a deal. The pop in his bat, along with his ability to switch hit and positional versatility could make him an intriguing trade target.
Cardinals: The Cardinals have some impressive middle infield depth and former first round draft pick Kolten Wong could become a casualty. The second baseman can hit, but converted third baseman Matt Carpenter has been nothing short of brilliant at the big league level. Any team that acquires Wong is getting a player who's very close to MLB ready.
Diamondbacks: If Arizona is looking to make a big splash at the trade deadline, the club has a lot of pitching depth to deal from, including (likely) untouchables Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs. It would take a special player coming over to Arizona to nab him, but lefty David Holmberg is an underrated talent that could help a lot of ball clubs. His ceiling is probably that of a No. 3 or 4 starter but he's been durable and isn't afraid to throw strikes.
Dodgers: Los Angeles is always rumored to have a lot of irons in the fire and the club is definitely looking to improve itself despite the massive payroll. Southpaw Onelki Garcia, signed out of Cuba in 2012, made just one appearances during the regular season last year. In 2013, he's been very good in Double-A thanks to his above-average fastball. He's mostly viewed as a future reliever but Garcia has made six starts.
Pirates: To get value back, you often have to trade quality players. Pittsburgh has enjoyed breakouts over the past year in the form of infielder Alen Hanson, outfielder Gregory Polanco and pitcher Tyler Glasnow, among others, and that trio is probably safe at the trade deadline barring a blockbuster deal. However, pitcher Luis Heredia could perhaps be had at the right price. The right-hander is just 18 with three years of pro experience under his belt. He's a larger-framed pitcher and hasn't developed quite as hoped, suggesting a modest ceiling as a starter. He's been passed on the depth chart by a number of guys like Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Glasnow.
Reds: Outfielder Jesse Winker doesn't wow with his tools but he gets the most out of his abilities and is one of the safer bets in Cincinnati's system to have a big league career. The 19-year-old prospect has modest power and doesn't steal bases so he's going to have to hit for average to provide value as a hitter -- along with his willingness to take a free pass.
Rockies: Colorado doesn't have much in the way of tradable commodities, but the organization could cash in on the lack of catching depth around the game -- much like the Yankees -- with Tom Murphy. The second-year catcher, who's now 22 years old, has inexplicably been left in Low-A ball all year long despite overpowering the younger competition. He's by no means a finished product and has holes in his game but an OPS over 1.000 is going to attract some suitors.
The Pirates own the second-best record in all of baseball but find themselves in second place in their own division thanks to the Cardinals. Seeking to bolster their lineup for the season's second half, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that GM Neal Huntington has his sights set on Alex Rios and may be interested in Alexei Ramirez as well.
Pirates right fielders have combined to hit .235/.309/.394 this season and played below replacement level as a whole, according to Fangraphs, thanks to poor defense and baserunning. Rios would obviously serve as a massive upgrade for the final two and a half months, as he's hitting .270/.326/.429 with strong defense and baserunning. However, as Heyman notes, the $18MM that he is guaranteed through next season is steep for the Pirates, who opened the season with a payroll just under $67MM.
Ramirez is also costly, as he's owed $23MM through the 2015 season. He's hitting .286/.311/.358 with 20 stolen bases, and advanced metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating love his range at shortstop. Jordy Mercer took over as Pittsburgh's starting shortstop recently, but he's hitting just .188/.246/.188 over his past 18 games and doesn't have much of a track record.
To this point, the White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" in the offers they've received for Rios, but the Pirates have a deep farm system that ranked seventh in baseball prior to the season, according to Baseball America. It stands to reason that the Pirates could put together an enticing offer, especially if White Sox GM Rick Hahn agrees to include cash to help facilitate a deal. The Buccos are not one of the six teams on Rios' no-trade list.
While earlier reports have said that the Twins are likely to trade longtime first baseman Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP isn't drawing significant interest, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Multiple teams that make sense as landing spots are "cool to the idea" at this time, Heyman writes.
The Rangers and Yankees prefer to focus their efforts on acquiring right-handed bats. The Orioles could use an extra bat, but they don't want to pay the $6MM remaining on the final year of Morneau's six-year, $80MM contract. ESPN's Jim Bowden recently connected the Rays and Pirates to Morneau, but Heyman says the Pirates "aren't heavily involved yet," and the financial element is a deterrent to the Rays as well.
Twins-connected sources tell Heyman there's almost no chance that Josh Willingham will be dealt, and closer Glen Perkins is likely to stay as well. The southpaw told Heyman over the All-Star break: "I'd love to be part of the future. And from what I gather, [the Twins] feel the same." Even Kevin Correia, halfway through the first season of a two-year, $10MM deal, doesn't sound likely to be dealt at this time, according to Heyman's contacts.