Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
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.
The Rangers are in on the Astros' Bud Norris as a back-up plan if they fail to acquire Matt Garza from the Cubs, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports via Twitter. Passan adds that the Pirates, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Giants are all interested in Norris.
Norris has been one of the most talked-about trade chips in July, with an executive telling Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com last week that he could be the next starter to be moved. Norris may not provide as immediate of an impact as Garza, but with a paltry $3MM salary this season and two years of team control remaining after this year, he offers significant long-term value. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Astros' have set the high price of two top prospects in exchange for the hurler.
Norris, 28, has a 3.63 ERA in 114 innings this year, a mark that would be the best of his career. Though his strikeout rate has fallen significantly this season, he's cut his walk and home run rates. The right hander told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart in June that he hasn't discussed a long-term deal with the Astros and understands that a deal may be on the horizon.
The Bucs signed Contreras to a minor league deal in February, on the mend from Tommy John surgery last June. He joined the big league club in May, spent some time on bereavement, hit the DL with back inflammation, and was released in mid-June when the team needed a 40-man roster spot. The Pirates then retained him on another minor league deal, but have now released him again. Contreras was quite good in Triple-A since signing again on June 17th -- he allowed one earned run in 15 2/3 innings with 18 strikeouts and five walks. It seems possible Contreras requested his release to find another opportunity, but that's just speculation.
The Competitive Balance Lottery for the 2014 MLB Draft took place today. Twelve competitive balance picks are awarded, with the first six taking place after the first round's conclusion and the next six taking place following conclusion of the second round. Here are the results, per MLB.com (Twitter links)...
Competitive Balance Round A
Competitive Balance Round B
As explained by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, the teams in the 10 smallest markets and teams with the 10 lowest revenues were eligible to be entered into the Round A lottery. This doesn't mean there were 20 teams in the lottery, as there's overlap in that criteria. All teams who don't win a pick in the first round are re-entered into the second round, along with any team that received revenue sharing this year, which accounted only for the Mariners.
These picks are eligible to be traded, as we saw in 2012. Last year, the Tigers and Marlins swapped Competitive Balance picks as part of the Anibal Sanchez trade. The Marlins received a second Competitive Balance pick when they traded Gaby Sanchez to the Pirates in the offseason.
The A's and Reds are the two eligible teams from this year's selection that were not awarded a Competitive Balance pick.
The trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio writes that the market will pick up rapidly beginning Friday. Here are some highlights from the highly informative article penned by the former GM of the Reds, Expos and Nationals (ESPN Insider required and recommended)...
- Bowden hears there's an 80 percent chance that Matt Garza will be traded before his next scheduled start (Monday or Tuesday of next week). The Rangers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks are still involved, He describes the D-backs as "dark horses," adding that their odds in the Garza sweepstakes would increase if they were willing to part with left-hander David Holmberg.
- The Rockies could also be interested in Garza, but they're not clear-cut buyers right now, and the prospective cost is prohibitive to them. If they were to sell, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle could be had. Michael Cuddyer could be moved, but only if Colorado is "blown away."
- The White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" with offers for Alex Rios thus far. Bowden feels that offers will improve as the deadline draws closer.
- The Justin Morneau era in Minnesota is coming to an end, and the Twins are prepared to trade the former MVP, according to Bowden. The Rays, Pirates and Yankees are said by Bowden to be possible destinations for Morneau.
- The Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers and Braves have all inquired on Twins closer Glen Perkins and been turned away. Those four teams are all monitoring the health of Jesse Crain as well.
- The Yankees are trying to use Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and catching prospect J.R. Murphy to acquire a bat but have had no luck thus far. None of those players figure to interest the Twins in regards to Morneau, Bowden adds, given the impending free agency of Hughes and Chamberlain and the presence of Joe Mauer behind the plate for the Twins.
On January 8th, 2011, the previous Cubs front office led by GM Jim Hendry finalized a trade that brought Matt Garza (and Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup) to Chicago from the Rays for Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, and Brandon Guyer. At the time, ESPN's Buster Olney heard that Andrew Friedman and the Rays "didn't get much in the way of high-end prospects; more depth type guys than impact." Archer, 24, seems ready to challenge that evaluation as a member of the Rays' rotation, while Lee, a 22-year-old shortstop, was knocking on the door of the Majors until a knee injury ended his season in April. It's clear now the Cubs gave up a huge haul to acquire three years of Garza; now their new regime is marketing the remaining two to three months of his services to recoup as much young talent as possible. The latest:
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports echoes Sullivan's earlier report that the Rangers aren't willing to include Martin Perez in a trade for Garza. The Red Sox are said to be "thinking about" Garza and would be a major threat if they entered the fray, according to Heyman. Boston has many pitching prospects acquired by Theo Epstein during his time as the team's GM. The Diamondbacks are in the mix as well, though they may prefer Jake Peavy. The Cubs are likely to place more emphasis on ceiling than proximity to the Major Leagues, according to Heyman, with a slight preference for pitching as opposed to position players.
- The Rangers, Cardinals, Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays, and Dodgers "are the strongest pursuers" with a handful of other teams showing at least cursory interest in Garza, writes David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com. A handful of club executives who spoke to Kaplan consider Garza a very strong No. 3 starter, for whom the Cubs have an "exceptionally high" asking price. Kaplan adds that the Rangers and Blue Jays "are both deciding how far they want to go to acquire Garza." Kaplan's baseball personnel experts feel the Cubs will come close but fall short of the Brewers' Zack Greinke package from last summer, which consisted of shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena. Complicating that comparison is the fact that Segura raised his stock considerably this year; at the time of the deal, Baseball America ranked him 43rd among prospects and ESPN's Keith Law had him outside of his top 50.
- Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospects list came out last week. Prospects in the 35-50 range who play for potential Garza suitors include Joc Pederson of the Dodgers, Anthony Ranaudo and Garin Cecchini of the Red Sox, Alen Hanson of the Pirates, Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays, Mike Olt of the Rangers, Kolten Wong of the Cardinals, and Adam Eaton of the Diamondbacks. Kaplan notes that the Rangers are "thought to be dangling" Olt, a third baseman. A lot of the position players named here either seem unlikely to be traded or aren't great fits for the Cubs, who might prefer to get a pitcher as the headliner.
- The personnel heads who spoke to Joel Sherman of the New York Post picture Garza going to the Rangers, who have the need and the goods to make a deal. 22-year-old southpaw Martin Perez "could be a key element for the Cubs to move Garza to Texas," writes Sherman. The Rangers are not going to give up Perez, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. He names Neil Ramirez, Carlos Pimentel, Leury Garcia, and Luis Sardinas as more realistic possibilities.
The Pirates have won three in a row entering play this afternoon and, at 56-36, are tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central and the best winning percentage in all of baseball. Before today's game with the Mets, GM Neal Huntington met with the media, including MLB.com's Tom Singer (all Twitter links).
- "Experience of last two Julys won't affect what we do, or don't do, this Trade Deadline," Huntington said. The Pirates suffered second-half collaspes and finished with a losing record the past two seasons despite acquiring Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee before the July 31st deadline in 2011 and Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, and Chad Qualls prior to last year's deadline (per MLBTR's Transaction Tracker).
- Given the post-All Star break failures of the last two years, Huntington isn't getting too excited by the Pirates being tied with the Cardinals for the most wins in the NL. "They don't give out half-season awards. You always stay hungry."
- Entering Saturday, the Pirates ranked 25th in MLB with 3.84 runs per game and a big reason is they are batting only .232 with runners in scoring position, including a .219 mark with two outs. Huntington acknowledges, "we have weaknesses. What we don't have are desperate weaknesses."
With today's earlier notes on the division and several relevant bullets from our most recent post, the National League Central continues to be busy. We've also seen another trade deadline hotspot develop in the NL East. Let's look at the latest:
- With Matt Garza taking the hill for the Cubs tonight, ESPN.com's Buster Olney tweets that it is looking increasingly likely that it will be his last time doing so. Olney writes that Chicago is making progress in trade talks with at least two teams, and could be in position to complete a trade over the All-Star break.
- Another piece of Cubs trade bait, outfielder Nate Schierholtz, is expected to get a few days off for general wear and tear. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), the ambiguous reasoning for the time off has led some scouts to suggest that Chicago could be shelving Schierholtz in anticipation of a trade.
- One team that could be in on the Cubs' outfielder is the division-rival Pirates, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. With Pittsburgh failing to receive adequate production from the right field position, Biertempfel says that multiple sources tell him that the team is looking closely at both Schierholtz and White Sox outfielder Alex Rios.
- Everyone's favorite buying/selling fence-straddlers, the Phillies, have suffered a major blow to the team's 2013 chances with the team reporting that center fielder Ben Revere has suffered a broken foot. (Twitter links.) While the full severity is not yet known, Revere is set to see a specialist on Monday and a relatively prolonged absence seems inevitable. With some already wondering whether Ryan Howard's knee surgery could drive the Phils to sell, the loss of Revere -- who had emerged as a major contributor over the last few months -- can only increase that likelihood. MLBTR's Aaron Steen took a look at the Phils' decision-making process last night, before Revere came up hurt.
While most in the baseball world will fly out to Queens for the upcoming All-Star festivities, Cubs president Theo Epstein will miss out on the fun and Pat LaFrieda's steak sandwiches in order to man the phones back in Chicago, writes Tom Ginnetti of the Sun-Times. "These days, more is done on the cellphones,’’ Epstein said of trade talk. "It’s almost harder to get things done when you’re at the All Star Game trying to find people." Here's more out of the NL Central..
- We've been hearing that the price tag on Matt Garza is rather high and with 18 days to go until the trade deadline, it hasn't dipped, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
- The Cubs have put a lot of work into their farm system in recent years and it appears to be in great shape, particularly with this year's addition of No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant, writes Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald.
- The Pirates' unpopular trade of Nate McLouth in 2009 has yielded tremendous results, writes Mike Petriello of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). While McLouth has been up-and-down in the four years since the deal, Pittsburgh landed promising pitchers Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton.
The Pirates have acquired Russ Canzler from the Orioles, according to his agent, William Appleton (Twitter link; hat tip to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). Kubatko tweets that the Orioles will receive right-hander Tim Alderson in the deal. The Orioles PR department has confirmed the move.
Canzler, 27, was designated for assignment when the Orioles acquired Alex Liddi (another DFA casualty) from the Mariners. In 374 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk this season, Canzler hit .276/.369/.430. Canzler is primarily a first baseman but also has significant experience in left field and at third base. The former has appeared in 29 big league games -- three with the Rays and 26 with the Indians.
Alderson, 24, was a one-time top prospect with the Giants after being selected 22nd overall in the 2007 draft. The Pirates acquired him in a trade deadline deal for Freddy Sanchez in 2009, and it was considered to be an impressive pull for the Buccos at the time of the deal. Alderson's star has faded, however, and after failing as a starter he's been shifted to the bullpen. In 29 relief appearances at Triple-A this season, he has a 2.43 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. He did not rank among the Pirates' Top 30 prospects in either of the past two seasons, according to Baseball America.