Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
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.
The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central...
- Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
- For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
- Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
- Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. "In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it."
- The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
- Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Here are the lastest minor transactions from around the league...
- The Indians announced yesterday that they've agreed to a minor league deal with former big leaguer Kyle Davies. The right-hander did not receive an invite to Major League Spring Training, however. Davies, still just 30 years old, spent the 2013 season pitching with the Twins' minor league system as he recovered from shoulder surgery. Davies posted a 3.41 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 across three levels, though he didn't pitch at Triple-A. He has a 5.59 ERA in 768 Major League innings between the Braves and Royals.
- The Pirates announced today that they've inked Taiwanese lefty Yao-Hsun Yang to a minor league pact with an invite to big league Spring Training. Yang has a career 3.08 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in Nippon Professional Baseball, but he's thrown just 90 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old spent last season pitching in the Japanese minor leagues, according to the Pirates' release.
- Three players are currently in DFA limbo: Jimmy Paredes and Chris Hatcher of the Marlins along with the Reds' Henry Rodriguez. You can keep an eye on their statuses using MLBTR's DFA Tracker.
Major League Baseball is dealing with several employment issues not relating to big league players. As Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported yesterday, MLB owners voted in January to permit teams the authority to take away pension plans from any employees that do not wear a uniform. (The effect would be prospective only.) MLB COO Rob Manfred noted that the vote does not require such a course of action and said no team has cut pension benefits, while asserting defined contribution plans are a reasonable alternative retirement structure. Though Rubin reports that some clubs appear primed to make reductions, Manfred disputed that it was inevitable. Meanwhile, as Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs details, MLB is now defending multiple lawsuits filed by interns, volunteers, and, most recently, minor league ballplayers.
Here are some notes from the National League ...
- After today's trade for catcher Jose Lobaton and a pair of prospects, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo explained his reasoning, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post was among those to report. RIzzo said that Lobaton "fit the criteria we were looking for" due to his switch-hitting abilities and solid pitch-framing ratings, the latter of which Rizzo labeled "key" to the deal. "Switch hitting is certainly a bonus," said Rizzo. "Our statistical analysis people rank all the catchers in baseball, and he ranks very well in the framing." Rizzo said that he was particularly high on Felipe Rivero, indicating that he felt like he took the place of fellow 22-year-old southpaw Robbie Ray, who was shipped out in the Doug Fister deal. The Washington GM labeled Rivero a "huge-upside left-handed starter."
- The Pirates' inability to reel back A.J. Burnett is based, at root, in a decision not to allocate all of the club's free payroll space to one arm, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Though Pittsburgh ultimately made a $12MM offer to Burnett, the club went into the off-season hoping to spread approximately $17MM to $19MM among multiple acquisitions, and came close to landing both Josh Johnson and James Loney. That explains much of the team's decision not to make Burnett a qualifying offer, says Sawchik, though he opines that the offer likely would have been declined. "It's always easy to look in hindsight," said GM Neal Huntington. "If [Burnett had] accepted the offer it would have had a significant impact on what we could have done. ... It would have affected our approach on the first base market, the right field market, and bullpen market. If we had [a] crystal ball and seen this is the way it would play out maybe things are different."
- Even after inking Burnett to a $16MM deal that reportedly pushes the Phillies player contract tab right up to (if not over) the $189MM luxury tax line, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said today that the club's payroll remains flexible, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
- Philadelphia reliever Antonio Bastardo will look to return from a 50-game PED suspension last year arising out of the Biogenesis scandal. In addition to expressing contrition today, he said that he faced a 100-game ban had he appealed, tweets Nightengale.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty explained how his club came to claim Cubs righty Brett Marshall off of waivers, as MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports. "I talked to him and he sounded like a good kid," said Jocketty. "We had good reports on him. He had one of the best changeups in the Yankees organization. He's a sinkerballer with a good slider. He's got a couple of options left."
Even though most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary will be wiped out by his season-long PED suspension, the controversial slugger's contract is still ranked as the worst in baseball by Grantland's Jonah Keri. Of Keri's list of the 15 worst contracts in the sport, the Dodgers have four, the Yankees, Angels and Braves each have two and the Reds, Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays and White Sox have one each.
Here are some items from around the baseball world...
- The Reds and Homer Bailey are "still talking" about a multiyear contract, GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "There has not been a lot of progress, but good conversations anyhow," Jocketty said. Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 20 and there is a $2.9MM gap ($11.6MM to $8.7MM) between his demands and the Reds' offer for a 2014 contract. This is Bailey's last season under contract with Cincinnati and the two sides are reportedly far apart on a long-term deal. Sheldon suggests that the Reds will be watching the Indians' case with Justin Masterson, as he and Bailey have posted comparable numbers over the last three years and Masterson is also scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
- The Pirates offered A.J. Burnett a $12MM contract for 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). This obviously fell short of the $16MM Burnett received from the Phillies earlier today.
- The Twins aren't one of the teams interested in Emilio Bonifacio, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Bonifacio cleared release waivers and became a free agent earlier today. The Orioles are known to be one of at least nine teams interested in the speedy utilityman.
- Also from Wolfson, a Twins official said that the club "had extensive talks" about Erisbel Arruebarruena but he was judged to be too expensive. The Cuban shortstop agreed to a deal with the Dodgers today that could be worth as much as $25MM.
- The Cubs can afford to be patient in trading Jeff Samardzija, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan argues, as teams may be more willing to meet Chicago's large asking price once the free agent pitching market thins out and teams get more desperate once the season begins.
- Right-hander Josh Roenicke is drawing interest from a "handful of teams" and could be signed soon, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Roenicke posted a 4.35 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.25 K/BB rate in 62 relief innings with the Twins in 2013 before being outrighted off Minnesota's roster in November.
- Also from Cotillo, right-hander Blake Hawksworth has retired. Hawksworth posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.85 K/BB over 124 games (eight as a starter) with the Cardinals and Dodgers from 2009-11 before elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career. Hawksworth has taken a job with the Boras Corporation, his former agency.
- Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill discussed the club's recent signing of Carlos Marmol with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
- Luis Ayala chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals since they (as the Expos) were the franchise that originally signed him and he still has many friends in the organization, the veteran reliever tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Several teams were linked to Ayala this offseason but the bidding came down to the Nats, Tigers and Phillies.
Today's signing of free agent starter A.J. Burnett by the Phillies (one year, $16MM, plus a mutual option) brings to an end a brief-but-interesting period of a fascinating free agent signing class. Long expected either to re-sign with the Pirates or instead retire, the 37-year-old threw a wrench into an already-straggling pitching market when it was revealed that he would not only return for another year, but would be open to alternative destinations. Having re-established himself as a top-end arm, but being available on a short-term deal, Burnett further downgraded the market outlook for draft-compensation-bound starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. But by signing with the Phils, who had not figured to be in play for Jimenez or Santana, Burnett leaves the market much as he found it -- albeit further slowed, perhaps. (Indeed, with Matt Garza going to another relatively unexpected landing spot with the Brewers, those hurlers may now be in a better position, timing notwithstanding.) Ultimately, the Phillies proved to be every bit the wild card I suggested they might be at the outset of the off-season, but in some respects functioned to restore the rest of the market to expectations.
- Of course, that is not to say that Burnett's signing is of little moment. To the contrary, it has important implications -- in particular, for both of MLB's Pennsylvania-based franchises. As Ben Lindbegh of Baseball Prospectus writes, the Pirates may have learned a difficult lesson by failing to made Burnett a qualifying offer. Rejecting the hypotheses that the club did not want to sign him or was genuinely unable to do so financially, Lindbergh opines that the Pittsburgh likely mistakenly felt it would be readily able to get him back for less than the $14.1MM QO.
- Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington weighed in again on the qualifying offer decision, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter links). Huntington acknowledged that such an offer arguably made quite a bit of sense from a "value standpoint." But, he explained, "the reality is in 10-15 markets a qualifying offer, if accepted, becomes a large chunk of payroll." As Huntington has stated previously, the team did not feel that it could take a $14.1MM payroll hit for Burnett.
- According to Huntington (links to Twitter, via Sawchik), Burnett "informed us it was family-based. The player made a decision to be closer to home." Declining to disclose whether the club made a competitive offer -- he said that question was better posed to Burnett and his agent -- Huntington said that "A.J. would have had the biggest single impact of any single move we made this off-season."
- From the Phillies' perspective, the deal runs the club's payroll up to approximately $189MM, a new club record, says Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Though the final tally is somewhat unclear, that means that Philadelphia could well approach or exceed MLB's $189MM luxury cap. As WEEI.com's Alex Speier has explained, the impact of going over that mark comes not just in the tax owed on overages, but in sacrificing the ability to participate in revenue-sharing refunds. Even if the Phils remain under the $189MM level on Opening Day, moreover, the cap could play a role in how the club weighs mid-season moves.
- Burnett's substantial salary would hinder his trade value if the Phillies end up looking to move him, tweets ESPN.com's Buster Olney. The newly-reported inclusion of a limited no-trade clause, likewise, represents a barrier to such a possibility and could substantially limit Burnett's market.
- Several commentators have weighed in positively on the deal on the Phillies' end. CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman, for instance, argues that the signing makes better sense of the club's earlier moves to sign veterans like Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd, and Roberto Hernandez in a bid to make a playoff push. As Seidman notes, most of those deals have the added benefit of not adding long-term money to the books. MLB.com's Richard Justice offers that Burnett joins a cast of veterans who still have plenty of talent, and could help push the team into contention.
- On the flip side, the deal could be seen as throwing good money after bad given the club's aging roster. In the view of ESPN.com's Keith Law (Insider link), Burnett looks to represent solid value at a one-year commitment of $16MM. But, he says, Philadelphia was the wrong team to take on that big salary. Even assuming that Cole Hamels is mostly healthy -- he is reportedly dealing with shoulder and biceps discomfort and will likely not quite be ready for Opening Day -- Law argues that the club still looks like a .500 outfit. And the Phillies cannot take full advantage of Burnett's ability to induce grounders, says Law, because they field a below-average defensive infield and do not employ an analytics-based infield alignment strategy like that utilized by the Pirates.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that one reason for the Bucs' relatively quiet offseason is that they didn't want to make moves that would hurt them beyond 2014, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "We'll see if those situations come back available," says Huntington. "If not, we feel good about this club, we feel good about our core. We've got some guys that are deserving of opportunities and if they can't capitalize on those, then we begin to look elsewhere." After an extremely successful 2013 season, the Pirates' only significant moves this offseason have been signing free agent starting pitcher Edinson Volquez and trading for former Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. A.J. Burnett, one of their top starting pitchers in 2013, remains on the free agent market. Here are more notes on the Pirates.
- Earlier today, one report suggested that, if the price were low enough, the Pirates would have interest in free agent Kendrys Morales to help them at first base. MLB.com's Tom Singer lists the pros and cons of signing Morales -- Morales would help the Pirates at designated hitter in interleague series, Singer says, but his limited ability to play first base regularly is a detriment. Also, of course, there's the fact that Morales would cost the Pirates the No. 25 overall pick in the draft this June.
- The Pirates' current options at first base include Gaby Sanchez (who will almost certainly make the team as a strong option against lefties), Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness. But the Bucs will continue to search for a first baseman to start against right-handers, Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review writes. They might not acquire him until the end of spring training, when teams might be more motivated to make trades as they try to set their rosters.
We'll round up some minor moves from the day here:
- The Yankees have signed righty Cole Kimball to a minor league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Kimball, 28, had spent his entire career with the Nationals organization, making a brief big league debut in 2011 with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings (though he both struck out and walked 7.1 batters per nine). Since then, however, Kimball has struggled with shoulder issues. In 2012, he threw just 5 2/3 minor league innings. Last year, splitting time between Rookie ball and Triple-A, Kimball posted a 7.31 ERA in 28 1/3 innings with 8.9 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9.
- Catcher Omir Santos has inked a minor league pact with the Pirates, the club announced today. The 32-year-old got just one plate appearance last year with the Indians, and has only one season of substantial MLB time under his belt. In 2009 with the Mets, Santos hit .260/.296/.391 in 306 plate appearances. In 222 plate appearances at the Triple-A level last year, he slashed .248/.285/.354.
- The MLBTR DFA Tracker features four situations awaiting resolution, led by Emilio Bonifacio of the Royals, who is set to be claimed, traded, released, or outrighted by the end of the weekend. He is joined in DFA limbo by Brett Wallace (Astros), Donovan Hand (Brewers), and Jimmy Paredes (Marlins).
Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league...
- Catcher Omir Santos has signed a minor league deal (that contains an invite to Major League Spring Training) with the Pirates, the team announced via press release. The 32-year-old spent the 2013 campaign with the Indians organization, batting .248/.285/.354 with three homers in 222 plate appearances at Triple-A Columbus. Santos, who went hitless in one at-bat with the Indians' Major League club last year, is a career .248/.280/.363 hitter in 349 big league PAs.
- The White Sox announced that they've outrighted right-hander Deunte Heath to Triple-A in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mitchell Boggs, whose deal is now official. Heath, 28, has yielded 11 runs in 9 2/3 big league innings but owns a career 3.70 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 233 1/3 Triple-A innings.
- The Royals announced that left-hander Everett Teaford has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Omaha. The 29-year-old southpaw was designated for assignment when the team acquired outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Mariners in late January. Teaford has a career 4.25 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 43.8 percent ground-ball rate in 106 big league innings to go along with a solid track record at the Triple-A level.
- With Teaford's outright, there are only two players that are currently in DFA limbo: Brett Wallace of the Astros and Emilio Bonifacio of the Royals.
Joey Votto is well known not only for his massive, ten-year contract, but also for being one of the game's most dedicated and thoughtful hitters. He is also known as a reserved presence, making his lengthy interview with Lance McAlister of Cincinnati's 700 WLW well worth a listen (hat tip to the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay.) Among other things, Votto dismissed the concept of lineup protection, but says that he did see noticeably better pitches when speedster Billy Hamilton got on base in front of him last year. His favorite stat? wRC+. Touching on roster construction and player evaluation, Votto said that he values all aspects of the game, and finds it is telling that both of last year's World Series contestants featured well-rounded rosters of well-rounded players. Here's more from the NL Central:
- After missing all of 2013 due to arm injuries, Pirates prospect Rinku Singh tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom that he is working on his arm strength and still plans to reach the Major Leagues. Singh, 25, famously won a pitching reality show in India in 2008 and subsequently signed a minor league deal with the Bucs. The story of Singh (and Dinesh Patel, the reality show runner-up) will be told in the upcoming film Million Dollar Arm.
- The Cardinals lost a number of notable relief arms and could be lacking some depth, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Gordon lists several minor leaguers who could emerge in Spring Training and be in the bullpen on Opening Day.
- The Cubs are unlikely to participate in a "bidding war" for Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Though Chicago saw Yoon pitch along with multiple other teams, it sounds as if the club's interest is heavily conditioned on price.
- The Brewers are "kicking tires" on several free agent relievers, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee is waiting for the asking prices to come down. Two names that Haudricourt wouldn't be surprised to see added are ex-Brewer Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Marmol, who is a good friend of Aramis Ramirez.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post