Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
Pirates pitchers combined to allow 15 walks during the Bucs' 16-6 loss to the Red Sox today in Grapefruit League action but Jameson Taillon was only responsible for one of those free passes. The right-hander started the game and allowed just the lone walk and one hit over two innings of work, recording three strikeouts. Taillon, the second overall pick of the 2010 draft, has an outside shot at a late-season callup if he continues to pitch well in the minors but probably won't see big league action until 2014 at the earliest. The 21-year-old will get a step up in competition, however, while pitching for Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Here's the latest from the Steel City...
- MLBPA head Michael Weiner tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he and the union are satisfied that the Pirates are doing all they can to compete. “There were some concerns, and we expressed them. We had some meetings with (president) Frank Coonelly and others from the administration," Weiner said. "I think over the course of the last couple years, the Pirates have made a sincere effort to compete. Their payroll has increased and it projects to continue to increase."
- Francisco Liriano's right arm injury paved the way for Jeff Karstens' return to the Pirates, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Liriano agreed to a contract with the Bucs in December but the deal wasn't finalized until February due to Liriano hurting his non-throwing arm. Amidst this uncertainty over Liriano's health, the Pirates reached out to Karstens (who they non-tendered earlier this offseason) and signed him to a one-year deal.
- Brad Hawpe talks to MLB.com's Tom Singer about trying to revive his career in Pittsburgh. Singer reports that Hawpe can ask to be released from his minor league deal with the club on March 26 if he hasn't been added to the Pirates' Major League roster.
Manager Dale Sveum is prepared for the possibility that the Cubs could be sellers again at the July 31st trade deadline, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Sveum said he hopes to be in contention but will understand if the team needs to re-focus on 2014. "If your team is out of it, to start building and getting a healthier organization, unfortunately or fortunately, that's part of the business," he said. Here are some more notes from around the National League...
- Tom Singer of MLB.com explains that the Pirates would probably like to lock up core players such as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. While Walker would presumably like to stay with the Pirates, his hometown team, retaining him will be expensive, as Singer outlines. Alvarez, a New York native, might like the idea of playing for the Yankees in Singer's view.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that Kip Wells looked good throwing for Phillies people yesterday (Twitter link). Wells, who started seven games for the Padres last year, had good off-speed pitches, Heyman writes.
- Adrian Gonzalez said that he couldn't be happier to be playing for the Dodgers, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. "I'm really really happy and excited to be here and really excited about where the team is heading and what we have an opportunity to do here," Gonzalez said. The Dodgers acquired Gonzalez from the Red Sox in a blockbuster trade last August.
Three NL Central teams had winning records in 2012, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers won't get the chance to play the Astros regularly anymore. The Pirates narrowly missed a .500 record in 2012, and the Cubs' pitching staff looks much deeper following a busy offseason for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, so it now looks like the division will be tougher in 2013. Here are some NL Central notes, starting with the Cardinals’ top starter...
- The Cardinals will be able to afford an extension for Adam Wainwright if they truly want to retain the right-hander long-term, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. With TV revenue on its way to St. Louis and a strong player development system in place, the Cardinals could likely afford Wainwright. They must now determine whether they value him at $20MM-plus per season for four or five years.
- The Cubs haven't shied away from veterans of Tommy John surgery, since pitchers like Arodys Vizcaino have considerable upside, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.
- The Pirates took a similar approach to their division rivals, signing Jose Contreras to a minor league deal even though he's still recovering from the Tommy John operation that he underwent last June. GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates' scouts have always been impressed with Contreras, Tom Singer of MLB.com reports. "We felt this was a low-risk acquisition that can help this team at some point this summer," Huntington said. Contreras threw off a mound in front of Pirates personnel before completing his deal.
After Brian Sabean traded Matt Williams to the Indians for a package that included eventual San Francisco cornerstone Jeff Kent, the public reaction against the newly minted Giants general manager was so strong that he felt compelled to declare: “I’m not an idiot.” Sixteen years later, with two World Championships under Sabean’s belt, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes that he “has proven that, emphatically.” Sabean still abides by the credo he adopted while working for George Steinbrenner: “keep your head down and do your job.” Here are some notes on teams hoping to dethrone Mr. Sabean’s Giants in 2013:
- Having agreed yesterday to a minor league contract with the Pirates, 41-year-old reliever Jose Contreras reported to camp quickly with plans to take it slow, says Tom Singer of MLB.com. Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and having just returned from his first visit to his native Cuba since defecting over a decade ago, Contreras said that the Pirates instructed him “to take my time and recover at my own rate.” Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, for whom the signing was a “low-risk” gambit to bolster the club’s bullpen, stated that Contreras would “rehab throughout Spring Training” and that the team would “be patient with him and get him back as quickly as his body allows.”
- The Indians have set up a three-way competition for the last spot in the team’s starting rotation, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom are attempting comebacks, will compete with recently-acquired prospect Trevor Bauer. All three pitchers appeared in today’s Cactus League game. While MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk maintains that Kyle Lohse could fit nicely in the Tribe's rotation, the team seems likely to utilize one of the options it already has on hand.
- With Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis likely out for more than six weeks with a fractured collarbone, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro discusses the club’s search for a new second backstop behind presumed starter Rob Brantly. In addition to considering internal options like Kyle Skipworth, “the club is combing through other rosters, exploring possible trade options and trying to figure out which teams have a surplus.”
- Other than Sabean, only one current GM has overseen multiple championship clubs: the Yankees’ Brian Cashman. Cashman revealed today that, contrary to his previously stated belief, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is in fact out of options, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. MLBTR has labeled Cervelli as out of options from the start; check out our full list of players here. Of the three primary catchers competing to break camp with the Yankees, then, only Austin Romine can still be optioned. (Chris Stewart, like Cervelli, has had his options exhausted.) When asked to comment on the catching situation, Cashman wryly reported: “We’ve got two guys out of options and one guy with an option. I think the two guys are winning.”
- Of more immediate concern to Cashman and the Yankees, of course, is the injury to outfielder Curtis Granderson. In addition to the analysis of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, other commentators have begun to weigh in. Bill Madden of The New York Daily News explores the options for replacing Granderson and worries that the club could face a power shortage. MLB.com’s Richard Justice opines that Cashman should stick to his winning strategy of “being smart and efficient” and “not overreacting to every crisis.” For FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, on the other hand, the injury “exposed the Yankees’ flawed roster construction” and leaves the club’s 2013 postseason prospects in doubt.
Jered Weaver isn't worried that he might have lost out on a bigger contract when he signed a five-year, $85MM extension with the Angels in 2011, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles times writes. "I don't give a [expletive]," says Weaver. "You can quote me on that." If not for the extension, Weaver would have been a free agent this past offseason, in which Zack Greinke received a $147MM contract from the Dodgers. Here are more notes from around the majors...
- Giants president Larry Baer is discussing long-term contract extensions with general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Sabean and Bochy are signed through 2014, but, after having won World Series in 2010 and 2012, Baer appears to be planning to keep them in San Francisco much longer, saying their extensions "won't be for one year."
- The Dodgers have discussed an extension with manager Don Mattingly, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times notes. "I think you might see something come up before the end of the year," says Dodgers chairman Mark Walter. Mattingly is in the last year of a three-year deal. Walter also says that the Dodgers, who already have a $230MM payroll in 2013, still have the financial flexibility to add substantial talent at this year's trade deadline, should the need arise. "I think in terms of who the players are, what we need and what our options are, rather than a total budget," Walter says. An extension for Clayton Kershaw could also be on the horizon.
- The Pirates and second baseman Neil Walker avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal in late January, but "it could be a matter of when, not if" the two parties reconvene talks on an extension, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Walker will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, at which point he will be 31 years old.
The Pirates have agreed to terms with Jose Contreras on a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, according to a team report. The veteran right-hander, represented by Jaime Garcia, will spend a portion of the spring rehabbing his elbow as he is expected to report to camp on Sunday.
Contreras, 41, spent the 2012 season with the Phillies where he posted a 5.27 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in just over 13 innings of work. The former All-Star will be used out of the bullpen if he makes the team's Opening Day roster.
Josh Booty has won a non-roster invitation to the Diamondbacks' Spring Training camp by emerging as the victor on The Next Knuckler, an MLB Network reality show. Booty, 37, was drafted fifth overall by the Marlins in the 1994 and accumulated just 30 Major League plate appearances with the Fish from 1996-98. Booty played third base originally but is now trying to make it back as a knuckleball pitcher.
Here's the latest from around the majors...
- Clint Hurdle is a favorite of Pirates owner Robert Nutting and has a better chance of staying with the team than GM Neal Huntington and president Frank Coonelly do if the Bucs struggle again, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Hurdle's contract was recently extended through the 2014 season.
- "It has always been hard to sustain success as a small-market team and the new CBA does not impact that very much," Andrew Friedman tells Erik Hahmann of the DRaysBay blog. "There are some interesting ideas within the new system but the overarching structure still tips the scales heavily in favor of the large markets (especially with growing revenue disparity). The key to changing that will be moving to a system that doesn't penalize small-market clubs-in the draft order, in the competitive balance lottery, in the international arena--for being successful." The Rays executive VP of baseball operations also addresses other league, management and roster topics during the interview.
- The Braves spent much more to sign B.J. Upton than the Indians did to sign Michael Bourn, but Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution feels the Braves' offseason was better served overall by moving on from their former center fielder.
- The Twins are known for their loyalty towards managers but MLB.com's Marty Noble writes that Ron Gardenhire's future with the team could be in question if Minnesota struggles again. The Twins are coming off back-to-back last place finishes in the AL Central, though these were only the second and third losing seasons of Gardenhire's 11-year tenure as skipper.
- The Royals' pitching acquisitions have left Aaron Crow with no immediate future as a starting pitcher, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes. Crow was drafted (12th overall in 2009) as a starter but has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors and performed well. Crow made the 2011 All-Star team and has posted a 3.13 ERA, a 9.2 K/9 rate and a 2.45 K/BB ratio over 126 2/3 relief innings in 2011-12.
- Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco may have limited on-field value at this stage of their careers but Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi that good chemistry is a crucial part of a winning team and that the Jays will benefit from the two veterans' clubhouse leadership.
- Baseball America's Ben Badler recaps each team's significant international signings from 2012.
It was on this day in 1986 that Rollie Fingers chose his mustache over the Reds. The veteran closer was offered a Spring Training invite by the Reds on the condition that Fingers shave his famous handlebar in order to meet with the team's facial hair policies. Fingers turned the deal down and instead retired, ending his 17-year Major League career and paving the way for his eventual induction into the Hall of Fame.
Here's the latest from around the NL Central...
- The Cardinals exchanged figures with Alex Gonzalez this offseason but couldn't come to terms, and the veteran shortstop instead signed with the Brewers, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports. The Cards' best offer was a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1MM plus another $1MM if Gonzalez made the roster, which couldn't top Gonzalez's deal with Milwaukee. A dozen teams scouted Gonzalez's offseason workout sessions, with the Red Sox and Dodgers showing particular interest in the 36-year-old.
- Steve Hammond, Adam Wainwright's agent, is out of the country for the next 10 days so there won't be any immediate extension talks between Wainwright and the Cardinals, B.J. Rains of St. Louis 1380 AM Radio reports (via Twitter). We heard on Monday that both sides were keeping the lines of communication open about a new contract for the ace right-hander.
- Dontrelle Willis talks to CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney about his career, his short-lived retirement, his controversial exit from the Orioles organization and his return to the Cubs on a minor league contract.
- The Pirates are desperate for success but ESPN's Buster Olney notes that the team must weigh the short-term benefit of a winning season against the long-term costs (both developmentally and financially) of calling up young starters Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith noted earlier today that the Pirates could prevent Cole from gaining Super Two eligibility by delaying his callup until mid-June.
The Pirates extended general manager Neal Huntington following the 2011 season and extended manager Clint Hurdle this week. Despite those moves, Huntington and Hurdle face pressure from above, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports. Owner Bob Nutting said the organization’s decision makers expect to win and that the franchise “must take a step forward."
"The idea that an extension is somehow a free pass is exactly the message I would not want to send, and not the message Clint heard,” Nutting said. “We've shown we're willing to make a change if we need to, irrespective of the contract terms."
Nutting said the Pirates aim to win the World Series, but declined to clarify what a step forward would look like in further detail. Ending the franchise’s 20-year streak of losing seasons isn’t a goal in itself and would be "an inappropriate target" in Nutting’s view.
The Pirates came close to ending their streak of losing seasons in 2012, but finished with a 79-83 record. Huntington added Russell Martin, Jeff Karstens, Jason Grilli, Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez this offseason.
Kyle Lohse talked to B.J. Rains for MLBTR yesterday about his displeasure at twice going to arbitration hearings earlier in his career. Lohse no longer has to worry about the arb process but has faced a different kind of awkwardness this offseason --- he is still looking for a new team despite entering the winter as a top-ten ranked free agent. Here's the latest on the Lohse market, with the newest updates at the top of the page...
- A baseball executive tells ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine that the 34-year-old Lohse will be fortunate to find a multiyear deal at this point given his age. Levine passed on this information during a fan chat about the Chicago teams, and he notes that Lohse isn't a fit for the Cubs since the right-hander is "more of a contending team type pitcher right now."
- The Pirates don't seem to be interested in Lohse, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports (Twitter link). Morosi feels Lohse would be "a great fit" in Pittsburgh and indeed, Lohse would arguably project as the ace of a Pirates rotation that currently has two starters (Francisco Liriano and Jeff Karstens) dealing with health concerns. A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald are the Bucs' top three starters.
- The Braves have no interest in Lohse, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Julio Teheran is slated to be the Braves' fifth starter, with Brandon Beachy on pace to rejoin the rotation at midseason after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.