Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz is in the midst of a career season in Chicago, and as with every Cubs veteran playing well, he easily could be dealt before the end of the month. The Cubs have already traded his platoon-mate, Scott Hairston, to the Nationals, and the Cubs figure to at least explore the possibility of trading Schierholtz as well.
As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently noted, the Cubs control Schierholtz's rights through 2014 -- the Phillies non-tendered him following the 2012 season with two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, so he still has a year of team control left after this year. Schierholtz is also only making $2.25MM in 2012, so his price in arbitration won't be exorbitant. That means the Cubs don't need to trade him. But it also makes Schierholtz a very attractive trade target right now, particularly in a season in which he's hitting .275/.330/.510.
Also, David DeJesus is currently on the disabled list, and the Cubs control DeJesus' services for 2014 as well. That means DeJesus isn't likely to be traded, and knowing he's likely to stick around may make the Cubs more inclined to deal their other lefty-hitting veteran outfielder.
Schierholtz doesn't really play center field, but he provides reasonably strong defense in a corner. He isn't a typical 30-homer masher, but he does have some power. He doesn't steal many bases, but he's an average, or maybe slightly-above-average baserunner. Dave Cameron at FanGraphs correctly labels Schierholtz a tweener. Schierholtz doesn't have enough of any one skill to be a slugger, or an archetypal leadoff man. The flipside, though, is that there isn't much he does badly, and as a result, he can help both defensively and offensively, particularly when he's platooned. (He has just 31 plate appearances against lefties this year.)
The Cubs should be able to get a solid prospect return for Schierholtz, both because he's playing very well and because his salary won't be an obstacle. The Pirates (whose fans Schierholtz might remind of Nate McLouth, and not just because of his first name) would be an obvious fit. Travis Snider has played horribly in an extended audition in right, and while Jose Tabata has played well recently in Snider's place, Tabata and Schierholtz would fit together nicely in a platoon. The Rangers might also be a possibility, although they would likely prefer a right-handed hitter. Contenders with more stable outfields also might show interest in Schierholtz, since he would be very useful as a fourth outfielder.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates have "no clear priority" at the trade deadline, GM Neal Huntington tells Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on SiriusXM (via Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Twitter). Huntington notes, however, that the team could look for a reliever or hitter. If they pursue a hitter, an outfielder to complement Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte might make sense, although Jose Tabata has hit well alongside them recently. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- Even after the addition of Scott Hairston, Nationals manager Davey Johnson would like his club to acquire another veteran bench player, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports. Ladson notes, however, that the Nationals are more likely to acquire a pitcher, since Ross Detwiler is hurt and Dan Haren has not gotten good results.
- Johnson, however, says doesn't think a deal for a starting pitcher is "in our plans," MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko reports. GM Mike Rizzo doesn't favor rental players, Kolko says, and the Nationals like their minor-league pitching, so they don't see much reason to pursue a longer-term rotation solution via trade.
- The Giants have lost four games in a row and are now in the NL West cellar at 40-50, and they don't have plans right now to be buyers at the tarde deadline, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler tweets. They don't appear ready to sell yet, either, although Knobler guesses that could soon change. If they do sell, Knobler notes that Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence could be on the market.
- The Rockies aren't sure whether they will buy or sell, Knobler reports, noting that this weekend's series against the Dodgers could help them decide. The Rockies are just 4.5 games back in the NL West, but they're 43-48. If they do end up becoming sellers, they will not trade Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, and would have to be "overwhelmed" to deal Michael Cuddyer, Knobler reports.
- The Cubs, meanwhile, have won four games in a row, but that won't keep them from continuing to sell, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. The Cubs are still 14 games out of first place. "Even though we're playing really well there has to be that streak of wins to climb back into something," says manager Dale Sveum. "Especially when you have three to four teams to climb over. It still takes a 10-game winning streak to say, ‘Ok, now we have a chance.'"
If Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports were in charge of the White Sox, he would make Chris Sale available via trade. With an incredibly thin starting pitching market, some smart team is going to capitalize and put a top-of-the-rotation hurler in play and the White Sox should be that team. Some in baseball believe Sale can be had but one GM on the lookout for a starter says that he has had numerous conversations with Rick Hahn, and Hahn never once has mentioned Sale. Sale is only 24 and is in the first year of a club-friendly, five-year, $32.5MM contract that includes club options of $12.5MM for 2018 and and $13.5MM for ’19. Here's more on the White Sox..
- The Red Sox are looking everywhere for relief help and are interested in White Sox relievers Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, and Matt Lindstrom, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The White Sox have been asking for major-league ready or near-ready prospects in their trade talks, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) suggets five blockbuster trades for teams, including a swap between the White Sox and Pirates. Bowden's hypothetical has Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez heading to Pittsburgh for outfielder Gregory Polanco, pitcher Nick Kingham, and shortstop Jordy Mercer. Bowden reasons that the deal will give the White Sox an excellent prospect in Polanco while allowing them to get younger and free up dollars.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves here..
- The Pirates have acquired infielder Brian Bocock from the Nationals to complete the May trade for catcher Brian Jeroloman, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). The 28-year-old will report to Triple-A Indianapolis. Bocock, who is known primarily for his defensive play, has a career .214/.290/.282 slash line at the Triple-A level.
Righty Matt Garza may have put the finishing touch on his Cubs career last night by allowing one run in seven innings in a win against the White Sox. The latest on the best available starter:
- Garza's start was scouted by the Rangers, Indians, Pirates, Blue Jays, and Padres, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Those aren't necessarily suitors for Garza this month, however. Morosi says the Rangers and Indians are "known to have strong interest," while the Red Sox, Nationals, and Dodgers can't be ruled out. Morosi believes Garza probably wants to be paid like Anibal Sanchez on his next contract, which would mean a five-year, $80MM deal. The difference is that Sanchez was coming off three consecutive healthy seasons.
- Though Garza told reporters last night the possibility of a contract extension is 50-50, few believe it's actually a coin flip. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times explains, "Team sources, however, characterize the recent, brief talks as confirmation that the sides aren’t much, if any, closer than they were more than a year ago when they first engaged in talks with little progress." Garza suggested it would be "one hell of a party" to win with the Cubs, and Wittenmyer does note that team is leaving open the possibility of trading Garza now and talking to him again in the offseason.
If you're a fan of Major League Baseball and of reading sports tickers on the television, then July is the perfect month for you. More than 20 trades occurred in July 2012 as playoff-hopeful clubs looked to position themselves for strong second halves of their seasons and robust drives for the postseason.
For just about every veteran player on the move to a contending club in July, there is a prospect or two heading back in the other direction -- towards a rebuilding club desperate for a cost-controlled building block. Close to 80 players changed jerseys last July prior to the looming trade deadline at the end of the month, and the 2013 season is expected to be no different.
But just how many of those young players that changed allegiances have maintained their values with their new organizations? Below is a list of the Top 10 young players who were traded last July. Only players who had not exceeded their MLB rookie eligibilities (50 IP for pitchers, 130 AB for hitters) at the 2012 trade deadline were considered for the article, and the list is in alphabetical order.
Rob Brantly, C (Tigers to Marlins): Given the Marlins' starting catcher gig at the beginning of the 2013 season, the offensive-minded backstop's bat has wilted under the pressure, and he has a .587 OPS in 49 games. The good news is that his defense has improved noticeably -- perhaps thanks to the guidance from veteran second-string receiver Jeff Mathis, an excellent defensive player, and manager Mike Redmond, a former catcher. Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looked at Brantly's inconsistent season.
Matt Dominguez, 3B (Marlins to Astros): It's been an inconsistent season for the young third baseman -- both at the plate and in the field, despite his reputation as a strong defender. Just 23, Dominguez has time on his side as he looks to breathe new life into his withering bat, but questions about his offensive abilities have been floating around since his amateur days. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle penned a piece about Dominguez' focus on the future rather than the past.
Robbie Grossman, OF (Pirates to Astros): Grossman earned a shot at a starting outfield gig in Houston after a hot April in Triple-A. Unfortunately, he posted an OPS of just .553 and was returned to the minors after 28 games. His offensive struggles followed him back to Oklahoma City and he managed a measly .512 OPS in June.
Johnny Hellweg, SP (Angels to Brewers): Hellweg's raw ability is undeniable but command and control issues have haunted him throughout his pro career. Tall pitchers are considered late bloomers in those areas, and the 6'9'' right-handed hurler definitely fits into that category. He recently received his first big league promotion, but he was roughed up during his first two appearances in The Show. Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel spoke to the rookie, as well as his manager, after his first outing.
Tommy Joseph, C (Giants to Phillies): Joseph has experienced a major setback with the bat in 2013. After beginning the year in Triple-A, he hit just .209 before a concussion knocked him out of action. Now healthy again, Joseph is getting back into playing shape while at the A-ball level. The struggles and injury helped to ensure that he missed an opportunity to fill in at the big league level when both Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz went down in Philadelphia. Jeff Schuler of The Morning Call wrote a piece on Joseph's return from the disabled list.
Jean Segura, SS (Angels to Brewers): Perhaps the biggest success story on this list, Segura is currently in the hunt for a batting title in the National League. He also has surprising pop and an outside chance at eventually becoming a 20-20 (HR-SB) hitter. Originally a second baseman, the sturdy but diminutive hitter was relocated to the left side of the infield, but it remains to be seen how long he'll stick there. Either way, he could be a mainstay in the middle of the diamond for years to come. Mike Woods of the Sheboygan Press recently spoke to Segura who admitted to being surprised by his success in 2013.
Jacob Turner, SP (Tigers to Marlins): Turner's value has taken a hit over the past year or two as his stuff has regressed. Scouting forecasts focus more on the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter now, rather than that of the No. 1 or 2 starter ceiling from the early days of his pro career. Despite that, Turner has had an excellent start to the 2013 season at the big league level by posting a 1.76 ERA and holding hitters to a .229 batting average in six starts.
Christian Villanueva, 3B (Rangers to Cubs): The emergence of Mike Olt in the Rangers system made Villanueva expendable. The Cubs third baseman has the chance to develop into a multifaceted player, albeit one without any true standout tool. He's showing solid gap power at the Double-A level but both his batting average and his on-base percentage are down in 2013.
Arodys Vizcaino, SP (Braves to Cubs): Vizcaino, 22, hasn't pitched since 2011, but he's been the property of three organizations thanks to his power arm. The right-hander injured his elbow early on in his career with the Yankees and finally underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of the 2012 season. He looked ready to return in 2013 before undergoing a second surgery on his throwing elbow.
Asher Wojciechowski, SP (Blue Jays to Astros): One of the most unheralded acquisitions of 2012, Wojciechowski was a supplemental first round selection from the 2010 amateur draft. He didn't respond well at all when the Jays attempted to rework his delivery and his results suffered. He has rediscovered his prospect value with the Astros, although inconsistency continues to haunt him. It remains to be seen if his future lies in the starting rotation or the bullpen.
Honorable Mentions: Colton Cain, SP (Pirates to Astros); Kevin Comer, SP (Blue Jays to Astros); Kyle Hendricks, SP (Rangers to Cubs); Marc Krauss, OF (Diamondbacks to Astros); Ethan Martin, SP (Dodgers to Phillies); Carlos Perez, C (Blue Jays to Astros); David Rollins, SP (Blue Jays to Astros).
2012 Trade Deadline Winners: Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers
2012 Trade Deadline Losers: Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays
As we enter July, let's check on the players who are hoping to lock in their options for the 2014 season..
- Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013. The Nats planned to have Suzuki split time at catcher with Wilson Ramos, but Suzuki has started 59 games (counting tonight's game against the Brewers) behind the plate thanks to Ramos' hamstring troubles. Ramos is currently rehabbing in the minors, however, and he could be back in action for the club on Thursday, according to the latest update from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Suzuki is slashing just .226/.286/.332, so it stands to reason that Ramos will see the lion's share of starts if he stays healthy. If Suzuki doesn't reach 113 starts, the Nats will have an $8.5MM club option with a $650K buyout.
- Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. 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 has just 146 PAs so far.
- 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 just resumed baseball activities late last week. Couple that with Manny Machado holding down third base and it's hard to see Betemit's option vesting.
- Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances. So far, Berkman is has 268 plate appearances through 64 games this season. Berkman scared the baseball world when he took a tumble down the stairs of the team plane and tweaked his troublesome right knee, but the injury is said to be minor and shouldn't cost him serious time. In 2011, his last full season, the slugger racked up 587 PAs.
- Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13). This was a longshot anyway, but shoulder surgery in May makes this an impossibility.
- 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 is still working towards his return. When he does come back, the Tribe will move him to the bullpen.
- Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has 91 and 1/3 innings to his credit through 16 starts this season. He'll still need some things to go in his favor, but so far his chances of locking up 2014 are still alive.
- 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.
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 an injury to his non-throwing arm. However, it's not known how many days he has to avoid missing time due to his right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option. Liriano returned to action on May 11th and has looked strong in ten starts. The left-hander has a 2.23 ERA on the year with 9.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.
In his latest column for FOX Sports, Jon Paul Morosi reminds us that you never know which trade deadline move will pay the biggest dividends. For example, the deal that sent Marco Scutaro from the Rockies to the Giants last July ended up being the most influential move of the 2012 season, as Scutaro helped lead the Giants to a World Series title. Here's Morosi's latest...
- Wednesday could be a "soft deadline" for the Marlins to trade Ricky Nolasco. That's the date of Nolasco's next scheduled start and also the day that Henderson Alvarez (Nolasco's probable replacement in the Miami rotation) comes off the disabled list. Nolasco's recent struggles over his last few starts, however, haven't done much to help his trade stock.
- "It may be wise" for the Pirates to investigate acquiring Nolasco, Matt Garza or Bud Norris, Morosi opines. The Bucs could use veteran starting help if Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett are still a ways away from returning from the disabled list.
- Ervin Santana "would instantly become one of the top arms" available if the Royals chose to trade the right-hander. Santana will be a free agent this winter and is on pace (2.74 ERA, 4.67 K/BB, 7.2 K/9) for the best season of his nine-year career, though he has been aided by a low .253 BABIP and a high 82.8% strand rate. The Royals play nothing but contenders until the All-Star break and if they haven't reached .500 by the Midsummer Classic, Morosi speculates they could become sellers.
- The White Sox and Tigers haven't made a deal together since 1989, a fact that Chicago executive VP Kenny Williams notes "hasn’t been for lack of trying or fear on either part. It’s just one of those things.” The two teams could be ideal trade partners this summer since Detroit is looking for relief pitching and the Sox have bullpen arms to spare. Williams joked that he'd happily take one of Detroit's top prospects “for two players of our choosing. We will consider that making good on the Tigers’ steal in ’89," in reference to Williams himself being part of that 24-year-old deal.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports posted a brand new edition of Full Count. Here's a look at the highlights..
- The Pirates should be in the market for a reliever, but their biggest need might be in right field where they rank last in the National League in OPS. The White Sox's Alex Rios would be perfect and he would form an extremely athletic outfield with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. However, Rios makes $12.5MM in each of the next two years and two other possibilities, Michael Morse and David DeJesus, are on the DL. The Bucs are in a tricky spot because they want to improve but they don't want to disrupt their chemistry or budding farm system.
- The Brewers will move just about anybody, but not catcher Jonathan Lucroy because they consider him too valuable to their future. They kept suitors away last winter and this season he has full no-trade protection.
- The Reds will stay open minded about acquiring a pitcher because of the uncertainty surrounding Johnny Cueto. They've got Tony Cingrani to turn to, but they'll need to monitor his innings.
- A scout told Rosenthal that the Rays had a ton of eyes on the Rangers' farm system, fueling speculation that a David Price deal might be brewing, but that's not the case. Price is about to return from a triceps injury and Tampa Bay is trying to win. Barring an outright collapse, they are not even going to entertain the thought of moving the hurler until the offseason. With that said, Texas has long had interest in Price and if/when he becomes available, they'll be at the front of the line.
With nearly half the season in the books, the Washington Post's Barry Svrluga took a look at the offseason's biggest bargains. He starts his list with Marlon Byrd of the Mets, who signed a minor league deal but has contributed 12 home runs and a .258/.309/.493 line in 237 plate appearances.
- The next player to get a nod in the article is the Pirates' Francisco Liriano, who inked an incentive-driven deal with Pittsburgh. He has been nothing short of stellar thus far, carrying a 2.30 ERA over 54 2/3 innings and 10.0 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. Liriano's excellence has combined with a stunning earlygoing for Jeff Locke, continued renaissance for A.J. Burnett, and now the emergence of top prospect Gerrit Cole to give the Buccos a surprisingly excellent rotation.
- Of course, the Bucs just became the first MLB team to fifty wins after decades of poor performances. While the team may not necessarily have any obvious areas that require immediate attention, then, one must wonder whether it will contemplate any bold moves to seize the opportunity this year. As MLB.com's Tom Singer writes, Pittsburgh will be very interesting to watch as the trade deadline approaches. Manager Clint Hurdle explained: "You always need to look and see if you can add to the team strength. ... You pay attention to chemistry, and try to do the right thing."
- In spite of the rotation's excellence thus far, then, one wonders whether it could be an area that the club looks to improve. While the staff currently sports the league's second-lowest ERA, it ranks 11th in FIP, 18th in xFIP, and 20th in WAR. (All links to Fangraphs leaderboards.) Locke, in particular, looks destined for some pretty heavy regression, with his 2.06 ERA belied by a 3.85 FIP and 4.11 xFIP. In addition to possible regression, Pittsburgh's starting depth has been tested already. As Singer reports, the Pirates could be looking at long absences for starters Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald. Rodriguez, in particular, would be a major loss if he misses substantial time. He reportedly has been shut down after experiencing forearm tightness following a toss on flat ground.
- Another team that has experienced pitching injuries, the Dodgers, has made an internal move to try and shore up its late-inning woes. The team announced on Twitter that it has brought up right-handed reliever Jose Dominguez. As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times explains, the 22-year-old has a legitimate 100+ MPH heater. After two drug suspensions earlier in his career, the Dominican native will look to make a bullpen acquisition unnecessary for the Dodgers.
- Sticking with the relief side of the rubber, the Cubs' Kevin Gregg has emerged as an unlikely trade candidate. As MLB.com's Carrie Muskat writes, Chicago already seems to be sizing up replacements for their newly minted closer. Of course, Gregg blew his first save this evening, which could take some of the luster off of his outstanding start. (Gregg's potential replacement, Blake Parker, went on to pick up his first big league save.) But as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained, Gregg's results have largely been supported by his peripherals.
- Another obvious trade candidate, the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco, also struggled in his latest showcase. Nevertheless, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes, Miami has already lined up Nolasco's rotation spot to be occupied by Henderson Alvarez as soon as Wednesday. Manager Mike Redmond says that Alvarez is "going to be on his way" to Miami and that the team will "figure out what we're going to do as far as where we're going to fit him in."
- The Marlins may be forced to return top Rule 5 pick Alfredo Silverio to the Dodgers after the 26-year-old outfielder had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery, writes Spencer. The former prospect had his career derailed by a car accident, but was hoping to re-establish himself in Miami.