Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

Minor Moves: Armstrong, Vitek, Keck, Arroyo, Broxton

We'll keep track of the day's minor moves here:

  • Jack Armstrong, a 2011 third-round choice of the Astros, has hung up his spikes, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). Selected as a pitcher and given a $750K signing bonus, Armstrong never even got on the hill professionally due to a series of arm injuries. He had been hoping to switch to first base. 
  • 2010 Red Sox first-rounder Kolbrin Vitek has retired, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Injuries slowed the toolsy player, who never managed to translate his raw abilities into production. As Speier notes, however, several other players taken in that draft have panned out quite nicely.
  • Reliever Jon Keck has signed on with the Rockies on a minor league pact, according to the MLB transactions page. The 25-year-old southpaw had spent his entire career in the Royals organization, and threw 52 relief innings of 3.81 ERA ball at the Double-A level last year. It would appear that he had some significant control issues, however, as he walked 6.8 batters (striking out 8.7) for every nine innings.
  • The Diamondbacks have acquired lefty Spencer Arroyo from the White Sox for cash, according to the MLB transactions page. The 25-year-old spent most of his time as a starter in Double-A last year, putting up a 3.50 ERA in 149 1/3 innings while posting 5.8 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. 
  • The Pirates have acquired outfielder Keon Broxton from the Diamondbacks in exchange for a player to be named later, Pittsburgh announced via press release. Selected 95th overall in the 2009 draft, Broxton was outrighted off of the Arizona 40-man roster back in October. Broxton has struggled to translate his athleticism -- he was the D'backs most athletic prospect last year, per Baseball America -- into consistent production. Playing at Double-A last year, Broxton was unable to follow up on a strong 2012 campaign in his repeat of the HIgh-A level, and hit just .231/.296/.359 with eight home runs and five steals in 372 plate appearances.
  • At the start of the day, two players -- Carlos Peguero of the Royals and Johnny Monell of the Orioles -- were in limbo in the MLBTR DFA Tracker. They have since been joined by Bobby LaFromboise of the Mariners and Raul Valdes of the Astros.

Pirates Extend Starling Marte

The Pirates have officially agreed to extend another outstanding young outfielder, locking up Starling Marte to a six-year, $31MM deal that includes two option years. The contract kicks in for the 2014 season, meaning that it will extend team control over the 25-year-old by three seasons.


Marte, 25, has just 1.070 years of service and was set to reach arbitration in 2016 and free agency in 2019. The Legacy Agency client had a breakout 2013 season. WIth a .280/.343/.441 triple-slash to go with 12 home runs and 41 stolen bases, along with strong baserunning and defensive marks, Marte's contributions were valued at 4.6 fWAR and 5.4 rWAR.

He fits in alongside the dynamic Andrew McCutchen to form one of the league's most exciting young outfield combinations -- all the more so when one considers that prospect Gregory Polanco could soon join the mix. With McCutchen under control through 2018 on his own early-career extension, and Polanco yet to accrue a single day of MLB service, that group should anchor the club for years to come.

Marte receives a $2MM signing bonus, but his salary will be just $500K in 2014. He will then earn the following annual salaries: $1MM (2015), $3MM (2016), $5MM (2017), $7.5MM (2018), and $10MM (2019). The options could reach $12.5MM (2020) and $13.5MM (2021) with escalators, says Heyman, and come with a $2MM buyout attached in some manner. In sum, the $31MM guarantee covers six seasons, and the tab could increase to a $57MM deal over eight years in the likely event that both options are picked up.

The extension guarantees one of Marte's free agent-eligible seasons while giving the club options over two more. In that respect, at least, it looks to be a more favorable approach for the Pirates than that adopted by the Braves in their recent deal with shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was guaranteed $58MM to sign on (like Marte) through the 2020 campaign as a player with between one and two years of service. While the value of the option years on Marte's deal will likely bring its total achievable price in line with the Simmons deal, the Bucs take on substantially less risk by structuring the last two seasons as options. And that is even before one considers that Marte could be a bigger arbitration earner than Simmons given his gaudy stolen base totals.

Of course, the Marte contract nearly doubles the value of the most recent, reasonably comparable outfielder contract (Denard Span's 2010 deal with the Twins). But that deal is surely outdated by this point, and Marte offers more pop and bigger upside than did Span at the time of his contract. In the end analysis, moreover, the precise details matter less in this situation than the overall results. By promising to pay Marte only through his age-29 season, but getting control over him through his age-31 campaign, the Bucs have ensured control over an exciting young player through (but not past) his prime years at a reasonable price.

Dominican radio commentator Orlando Mendez first reported the deal's length and value via Twitter. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the deal was finalized on TwitterKen Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported (via Twitter) that final agreement was close. MLB Network's Jim Duquette (Twitter link) reported that the deal included two option years, while Heyman tweeted that the deal would begin in 2014. The option value and annual breakdown was reported by Heyman (links to Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AL Notes: Scheppers, Rangers, Blanton, Worley

Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers has not only made his team's rotation, but he'll be Texas' Opening Day starter after Yu Darvish injured his neck. Scheppers has never started a game in the big leagues, having appeared in 115 games in the past two seasons as a reliever. As Elias notes (via FOX Sports Southwest's Anthony Andro on Twitter), that's unusual -- the last pitcher to make his MLB starting debut on Opening Day was former Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela, all the way back in 1981. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • GM Jon Daniels says he expects recently-claimed infielder Donnie Murphy to make the Rangers' Opening Day roster, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says signing Joe Blanton was his fault, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. "It’s a mistake on my part, there's no one else to blame, I made the call on signing Joe," Dipoto says. The Angels released Blanton this week after he posted a 6.08 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 132 2/3 innings last season, then continued to struggle in spring training.
  • Twins assistant GM Rob Antony says a lack of consistency was one reason his team traded pitcher Vance Worley to the Pirates, reports Quinn Roberts of MLB.com. "He didn't throw as hard as he did in the past and couldn't get the ball down. He couldn't change some of the things he knew he had to," says Antony. Worley, who struggled badly in 2013, was out of options, and the Twins outrighted him before trading him for cash considerations.

Pirates Nearing Six-Year Extension With Starling Marte

The Pirates are close to a six-year extension with young outfielder Starling Marte, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).

Pirates Acquire Vance Worley

The Pirates have acquired Vance Worley from the Twins in exchange for cash considerations, the club announced. The Twins outrighted Worley last week. Worley, 26, pitched well for the Phillies in 2011 and fairly well in 2012, but he posted a 7.21 ERA with 4.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 48 2/3 innings in 2013 after coming to Minnesota in a trade for Ben Revere.

The Bucs' rotation has depth issues heading into the season, with Francisco Liriano dealing with a groin injury and top prospect Jameson Taillon struggling with elbow pain. In addition, Edinson Volquez has struggled throughout spring training. The Pirates plan to go with a rotation of Liriano and Volquez along with Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

NL Notes: Corbin, Guerrero, Young, Francisco, Matsuzaka, Fowler

MLBTR's own Charlie Wilmoth has just released a new book. Titled "Dry Land," the volume traces the Pirates and their fans through the club's historic losing streak and recent renaissance. Be sure to check out this post for more details and how you can order a copy. On to the links:

  • In two expected moves out of the NL West, Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks underwent Tommy John surgery today, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets, while the Dodgers optioned Alex Guerrero to Triple-A, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets.
  • The Nationals have received trade interest from three or four clubs in starter Chris Young, who has an opt-out in his contract this coming Thursday, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The 33-year-old has had an impressive spring, but seems unlikely to crack the Nats' rotation. 
  • The Pirates have no interest in signing Juan Francisco if he clears waivers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. We learned earlier today that the team had chosen to go with Travis Ishikawa over Andrew Lambo as its left-handed bat at first.
  • For the Mets, giving Daisuke Matsuzaka a $100K bonus is in large part a strategic effort to protect the club in the event that Jon Niese is unable to make his first start, explains ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. This way, the team can rely on both Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia if the need arises, or can simply pick between them for the fifth starter slot.
  • The Rockies are better off without center fielder Dexter Fowler because he "isn't tough enough," opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. (Fowler, of course was dealt to the Astros. As presented in my offseason review for the club, I have a different take on the subject of Fowler's departure from Colorado.) Though Kiszla initially credited Fowler with having "the determination to grind through pain" in mid-August of last year, he apparently adjusted his analysis after the 28-year-old missed twenty games late in the season with ongoing hand and wrist injuries. Manager Walt Weiss effectively pushed Fowler out of town, says Kiszla, because the latter "was not the kind of player Weiss needs on a team that must grind out victories in the National League West." Apparently referring obliquely to Fowler, Weiss emphasized the need for players "to compete and grind and play with grit," while assistant GM Bill Geivett explained that the manager "has got to feel comfortable in the weapons he has to attack the other team." 

Added To The 40-Man Roster: Tuesday

Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:

  • After the Pirates optioned Andrew Lambo today, it appears that Travis Ishikawa will be in line for a spot on the Opening Day roster as a platoon mate for Gaby Sanchez at first base, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune (Twitter links). He would need to be added to the 40-man roster in that case, though obviously there is still some time for an outside acquisition to intervene in that outcome.
  • Outfielder Jason Kubel has made the Twins club, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported yesterday on Twitter. He will need to be added to the club's 40-man roster to make that possible. As an Article XX(B) free agent, Kubel had to either make the Opening Day roster today or receive a $100K bonus to be retained. 

Pirates Trying To Extend Starling Marte

MONDAY: At least one of the offers that Marte rejected was for six years, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That contract would have covered the 2015-2020 seasons, buying out two of Marte's free agent years.

SATURDAY: The Pirates are trying to sign outfielder Starling Marte to an extension, but he has declined at least two offers so far, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Nonetheless, Marte remains open to an extension.

Marte, who has one year and 70 days of service time, is currently eligible for arbitration following the 2015 season and eligible for free agency after 2018. He hit .280/.343/.441 while playing excellent defense in left field in his first full season in 2013. He received a bonus of just $85K upon signing as an amateur and has made salaries near the league minimum since being promoted. He is represented by the Legacy Agency.

The Pirates already have two outfielders, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, signed to long-term deals, but Tabata could be a trade candidate and may move to a bench role when the Pirates promote top prospect Gregory Polanco. According to MLBTR's Extension Tracker, Tabata is the most recent outfielder with between one and two years of service time to sign an extension, but Marte is the better player, and Tabata's six-year, $15MM contract was seen as extremely team-friendly from the day it was signed.

In a post from last May examining the possibility of an extension for Marte, we named Denard Span's five-year, $16.5MM deal as a possible precedent for a Marte extension, suggesting that a Marte extension beginning in 2014 might be a bit bigger than that. Based on changes in the extension market since then, though, a Marte extension would probably have to be bigger still. Recent contracts such as that of Julio Teheran (six years, $32.4MM), for example, have changed the market. Like Marte, Teheran had between one and two years of service at the time of his deal.

Pirates, D'Backs Have Discussed Didi Gregorius

The Pirates have had trade talks with the Diamondbacks about shortstop Didi Gregorius, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Last Wednesday, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported the D'Backs were making Gregorius available in trade, after Chris Owings won the team's starting shortstop job.  Rubin wrote that the Diamondbacks seek an MLB-ready starting pitcher to offset the loss of Patrick Corbin.

Rubin implied potential interest from the Mets, and now we have another possible suitor in the Pirates.  The Pirates enter the season with Jordy Mercer atop their shortstop depth chart, with top prospect Alen Hanson likely ticketed to return to Double-A.  Though he's not Major League ready, the Pirates have a pitching prospect who's fairly close in Nick Kingham.  Easier to acquire would be Jeff Locke, who will begin the season back at Triple-A, with, as he tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "a bit of a chip on my shoulder."

Aside from the Mets and Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists the Reds, Tigers, and Yankees as teams the D'Backs "have thought of as possibilities" for Gregorius.

Central Links: Shields, Samardzija, Pirates, Twins, Kozma

While there haven't been any extension talks (and won't be) between the Royals and James Shields, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that it's not completely out of the question for Shields to re-sign their ace this coming offseason. However, in order to do so, the team will need to make the postseason, he adds. Royals executives have said that they might take a loss this year due to the team's record payroll, but they also believe that a postseason run could push them into the black, according to Heyman. That type of turnaround could keep them in the bidding to retain Shields, who will hit free agency entering his age-33 season.

Here's more on baseball's Central divisions...

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