Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

NL Notes: Mets, Manuel, Wilson, Choo, Abreu

The Pirates' failure to sign Mark Appel with the eighth overall selection in the 2012 draft created a ripple effect where the Mets passed on free agent Michael Bourn and eventually gave playing time to rookie Juan Lagares, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. As compensation for not coming to terms with Appel, the Pirates were awarded the ninth overall pick in this past June's draft, knocking the Mets' choice (11th) out of the protected Top Ten. This was an important considersation for the Mets in deciding to not bid on Bourn, explains Sherman, who cites this as a pefect example of "sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make." Here's news from other NL teams who aren't neccessarily going to follow that old adage:

  • Ex-Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (via Bowden on Twitter) he wants to continue managing and is open to all opportunities, including the Nationals
  • In that same interview (also from a Bowden tweet), Manuel says the Phillies' plan is to "reload," not "rebuild," needing regular players to fill holes, including adding a starter, and redoing the bullpen. 
  • Speaking of the Phillies, little has changed with the radio silence regarding their agreement with Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, who reported earlier this month the two sides have hit a snag in finalizing their six-year, $48MM deal.
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, they will have a better idea at the end of today when Brian Wilson will be activated. GM Ned Colletti was a guest of Bowden and Duquette on MLB Network Radio and said the call should be made in "another day or two" (as quoted by Gurnick's colleague, Andrew Simon). Colletti also explained he signed Wilson because he only cost money, not prospects, and there's a familiarity with him from his days as the Giants' closer. "We think it's a very low-risk, high-reward situation," said Colletti. "He wanted to be here. He has a home in L.A. Rivalry and all that aside -- we all know what that's all about -- he wanted to restart his career and we're going to give him that opportunity here in the near future."
  • Four years and $60MM is the guess as to the asking price of Reds centerfielder Shin-Soo Choo in free agency this winter, tweets the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay. Choo placed fifth in MLBTR's most recent 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • The Pirates have scouted Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu in three recent international tournaments and will be on hand for his expected September showcase, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We like him," GM Neal Huntington said. "It will be interesting to see where the bidding goes." That bidding could exceed $60MM.

Pirates Sign Kyle Farnsworth

The Pirates announced, via press release, that they have signed right-hander Kyle Farnsworth to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. The 37-year-old Farnsworth was released by the Rays on Sunday after being designated for assignment.

Farnsworth posted a 5.76 ERA with 5.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 45 percent ground-ball rate in 29 2/3 innings for Tampa Bay this season -- his third year with the club. He served as the Rays' closer in 2011, saving 25 games with a 2.18 ERA over the course of 57 2/3 innings. He's lost some life on his fastball in the past two seasons but still averages a healthy 92.5 mph on the pitch. Farnsworth is represented by Meister Sports Management.

Pirates Sign Kelly Shoppach

The Pirates have signed catcher Kelly Shoppach to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Indianapolis, the team announced via press release. The 33-year-old Shoppach recently opted out of a minor league pact with the Nationals that he had signed after being released by the Mariners earlier in the year.

Shoppach hit .196/.293/.346 with three homers in 35 games for the Mariners and was leaned upon heavily with the demotion of Jesus Montero. It's not surprising that Shoppach, who has a drastic platoon split, struggled when pressed into everyday action. He's batted just .204/.289/.367 against right-handed pitching in his career but owns a healthy .261/.355/.501 batting line against southpaws. He did struggle against lefties this season, but those struggles came in a small sample size of 30 plate appearances.

Shoppach originally signed a one-year, $1.5MM contract with the Mariners this offseason, of which Seattle still must pay the majority. He drew interest after opting out of his deal with the Nats, reportedly receiving an offer from the Cardinals.

Quick Hits: Trout, Pirates, White Sox

MVP awards are supposed to be based on a player's value to his team, but voters don't ordinarily take contract considerations into account, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes. If they did, Passan says the Angels' Mike Trout, who is making just $510K this year compared to Miguel Cabrera's $21MM, would likely win the AL MVP this year. The next-most-valuable player, when considering performance and salary, would be Matt Harvey, who is making $499K. Of course, players like Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw, who have higher salaries but also provide spectacular performance, are still extremely valuable even after factoring in their contracts. But Passan quotes Padres analyst Chris Long, who makes a distinction between value (that is, the degree to which a player outperforms his salary) and mere performance. Most MVP debates only consider the latter. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that he believes fewer players are being placed on waivers than last August, and that more players are being claimed, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review tweets. That might suggest it will be difficult for the Pirates, and perhaps other teams as well, to pull off August trades.
  • GM Rick Hahn has the White Sox on the right course, Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago writes. Hayes argues that Hahn's trading has added high-level prospects (particularly Avisail Garcia, acquired from the Tigers in the Jake Peavy deal) and depth (in the form of the other three prospects acquired from the Red Sox in the same deal). Hahn also cleared salary by trading Peavy, Alex Rios, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. "Although this wasn’t how we wanted to spend the July and August trading periods, overall we are pleased with both the return talent-wise as well as the flexibility created by the deals," says Hahn.
  • With their trades, the White Sox cleared $10.7MM in salary in 2013 and $27MM in 2014, Baseball America's Matt Eddy notes. Eddy has compiled a list of what each team traded at the deadline, and what it received in return.

Quick Hits: Santana, Liriano, Porter, Samardzija

The Royals' trade for Ervin Santana was the best move of the offseason, ESPN's Buster Olney writes. Santana has posted a 2.97 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in a resurgent season in Kansas City. Right behind the Santana deal, Olney says, was the Braves' deal for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson, followed by the Orioles' signing of Nate McLouth. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Olney's ESPN colleague Jerry Crasnick writes about Francisco Liriano's surprising season with the Pirates. Sure enough, just hours after Crasnick's article was published, Liriano allowed ten runs against the Rockies at Coors Field. But he has still been a big part of the Pirates' stellar year, and for very cheap -- Liriano has a complex contract based on the timing of his return from a broken humerus suffered last offseason, but the deal tops out at $4.75MM for 2013, and includes a reasonable vesting option for 2014. Crasnick also names the Rays' James Loney, the Mets' Marlon Byrd, and others as being among the best cheap signings of the offseason.
  • Astros manager Bo Porter isn't planning on returning to Washington to manage the Nationals after Davey Johnson retires at the end of the season, Brian McTaggart and Chris Abshire of MLB.com report. "I'm the Houston Astros manager," says Porter. "I'm 100 percent entrenched into getting our situation here to where it is we want to be. The situation in Washington is completely out of my hands and -- I'm going to give you my famous one -- out of my jurisdiction." Porter is in the midst of a multi-year contract with the Astros, McTaggart and Abshire note, and could only leave for the Nats if the Astros decided to trade him or just let him depart. Neither scenario seems likely, however.
  • Jeff Samardzija has struggled recently, but the Cubs don't think his contract situation has anything to do with it, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Samardzija allowed nine runs on Thursday against the Phillies, four starts after allowing nine against the Angels. "We’ve had some dialogue at different times, but nothing’s really changed on that front, so I don’t see why he would start pressing now as opposed to other times," says Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. Before the non-waiver trade deadline, Samardzija's name occasionally appeared in trade rumors, but it never looked particularly likely that the Cubs would deal him. The two sides reportedly will discuss a contract extension after the season is over. Samardzija is eligible for free agency after 2015.

International Notes: Portorreal, Phillies

Here are notes on two recent international signings.

  • The Pirates have signed Dominican outfielder Jeremias Portorreal for $375K, Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reports (and Ben Badler of Baseball America confirms). Badler notes that Portorreal, 16, could become a power bat, although he will likely be limited to first base or a corner outfield spot.
  • Recent signee Luis Encarnacion adds depth to the Phillies' already-large collection of young third basemen, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer writes. The Phillies already have Cody Asche, Maikel Franco and Zach Green at third base. "I hope we have a problem where guys are competing for job," GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says. "These things always have a way of working themselves out, but I hope Maikel Franco becomes the guy we think he can become because he’s the prototypical run producer from the corner." Of course, it will be many years before the 16-year-old Encarnacion enters the picture at the Major League level, and he may well be at a different position once he does.

2014 Vesting Options Update

As we turn to August, here's a look at the players who have vesting options for the 2014 season..

  • Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013.  The Nats were relying on Suzuki during the first half of the season when Wilson Ramos was sidelined, but Ramos returned to action on July 4th, sliding Suzuki back down the depth chart.  The 29-year-old is 45 starts shy of the needed mark with 52 games remaining, so Suzuki's chances aren't too strong.  if/when the option doesn't vest, it'll become a club option worth $8.5MM with a modest $650K buyout.
  • Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has 185 PAs in 53 games this season.  The veteran has had more than his needed total in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years, but he'll have his work cut out for him in 2013.
  • Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on March 26th and he'll begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday.  Needless to say, his option won't vest.
  • Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances.  Berkman has 282 plate appearances to his credit and the good news is that despite whispers that he might call it quits after his latest hip troubles, he pledges to return this season.  Unfortunately for him, his rehab assignment isn't scheduled to get underway until the end of this week and 550 sounds like a longshot.
  • Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13).  This was a longshot to begin with, but shoulder surgery earlier this season makes this one impossible.
  • Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season.  After logging 21 and 1/3 innings in 2013, Myers was sidelined with tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow and has yet to return.  When he does come back, it's possible that the Tribe will move him to the bullpen.
  • Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has racked up 111 and 1/3 innings through 21 starts this season.  Zito probably won't get to lock in his sizable 2014 salary.
  • Johan Santana, Mets: His $25MM option could have vested with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award, but he won't have a chance at that thanks to a season-ending tear in his pitching shoulder.

It's also worth noting that Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014, but it can vest at any of three levels - $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM - based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of his right arm injury.  It's not known how many days the hurler must steer clear of right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option, however.  The left-hander made his season debut on May 11th and has a 2.02 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 through 16 starts this season.

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Huntington, Ramirez

Here's a look at the latest out of the National League Central..

  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes the right side of the infield and filling out the starting rotation are the major decision points for the Brewers' brain trust before the team gathers next spring in Phoenix.
  • Within the same piece, Haudricourt notes the rationale of Pirates GM Neal Huntington for not trading away prized prospects for a much-needed outfield bat. "We were willing to do something stupid," Huntington said. "We just weren't willing to do something insane."
  • While the players involved in the Matt Garza trade are getting settled in with their new clubs, there are still Rangers players that could wind up joining the Cubs, including Neil Ramirez.  Ramirez, who could be the PTBNL if the Cubs don't instead opt for a duo of different Texas pitchers, is waiting to learn his fate, write T.R. Sullivan and Master Tesfatsion of MLB.com.

Ed Creech contributed to this post.

NL Notes: Trade Deadline, Cedeno, Detwiler

This year's quiet trade deadline is indicative of a brand of baseball in which youth is prized and the strategy of absorbing salary in deadline trades isn't as viable as it once was, Derrick Goold says in an article for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. With sellers such as the White Sox asking for "top 50" or "top 15" prospects in trades for their veterans, according to Goold, NL Central contenders the Cardinals, the Reds and the Pirates opted to stick with the teams they already had in place. Moving too many prospects in a trade is "the quickest way to head in the wrong direction," Pirates GM Neal Huntington opined. On to more Saturday night NL links:

  • The Padres signed shortstop Ronny Cedeno to a minor league deal with the knowledge that starting shortstop Everth Cabrera may be suspended on Monday in connection with the Biogenesis investigation, GM Josh Byrnes told Bill Center of The San Diego Union-Tribune“From Josh’s standpoint, we have to make sure we are covered at shortstop in case we need one,” manager Bud Black said.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer expects the waiver trade period to be more active than the non-waiver one, Manny Randhawa of MLB.com reports. However, Hoyer notes that there's some luck involved in putting together a trade after July 31. "If the wrong team claims a guy and won't give up any talent, you're kind of stuck, so waiver deals can work out, but you can also get stuck and not be able to make a deal," Hoyer said.
  • Nationals starter Ross Detwiler's lingering back issues may cause him to miss the rest of the season, manager Davey Johnson indicated in an article by Amanda Comak of The Washington Times. As Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reported in July, many rival executives expected the Nats to acquire a starter after Detwiler hit the DL early last month. However, GM Mike Rizzo's lone July deal was a trade to acquire bench bat Scott Hairston from the Cubs.

Quick Hits: Deadline, Traded Prospects, Buyers/Sellers

After one of the slowest trade deadlines in recent history, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet spoke with 22 Major League executives (most of whom were GMs and assistant GMs) on whether or not they felt the deadline should be moved back. The idea behind a later trade deadline would be allowing fringe contenders a bit more time to assess their status, now that a second Wild Card has been implemented in each league. Of the 22 surveyed, 13 were in favor of moving the deadline back for various reasons. Here's more from around the league...

  • Baseball America's Jim Callis ranked the Top 10 prospects who exchanged hands at this season's deadline, and Mike Olt, who is now property of the Cubs following the Matt Garza trade, headlines the list (subscription required).
  • ESPN's Keith Law offers up his rationale for thinking that the Phillies, Brewers, Mets, Rockies and Mariners should have sold. He adds that the Royals, Pirates and Rangers should have been more aggressive buyers in the final days of this year's deadline (ESPN Insider required).
  • Bud Norris went through the strange experience of being traded from the Astros to the Orioles while the two teams were playing each other, and MLB.com's Alyson Footer looks at other examples of this rarity.

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