Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors

Giants Claim Hunter Strickland

The Giants have claimed pitcher Hunter Strickland off waivers from the Pirates, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter).  Pittsburgh designated the right-hander for assignment last week.

Strickland, 24, posted a 4.46 ERA in 42 1/3 innings at the Double-A level last season, while also compiling a 2.98 ERA in 45 1/3 innings at High-A.  He has yet to advance above the Double-A level, however.

Quick Hits: Indians, Youkilis, Walker

Over the course of 48 hours last week, teams handed out nearly a half-billion dollars in long-term deals to Justin Verlander, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright and Paul Goldschmidt, Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes. But not all of those expensive contracts go well, which leads to, for example, last week trade of Vernon Wells from the Angels to the Yankees. "We're becoming like the NBA," says Brewers GM Doug Melvin. "Instead of old-fashioned baseball trades, we're trading contracts. I can see more of these in the future. And that's concerning." A sidebar to Nightengale's article lists how much each team will be paying other teams this year, much of it for contracts gone bad. The Angels are paying the most money, most of it going to the Yankees for Wells. The Pirates are receiving the most money, much of it coming from the Yankees (for A.J. Burnett) and Astros (for Wandy Rodriguez). Here are more notes from around the league.

  • Two bad months -- a bad August 2011 for the Red Sox, and a bad August 2012 for the Indians -- helped create the 2013 Indians, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Without the Red Sox's bad month, Cleveland wouldn't have been able to hire manager Terry Francona, and without the Indians' 5-24 August, the team's ownership might not have felt the need to make a splash in the offseason. That month of "zombie baseball" led to the acquisitions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Mark Reynolds, Hoynes argues.
  • The Red Sox will see former star Kevin Youkilis as he makes his regular-season debut with the Yankees on Monday, Peter Abraham of the Boston Glove notes. Youkilis signed a $12MM deal with the Yankees in the offseason. "It’ll be weird," says Boston's Jon Lester. "I wouldn’t never thought that it would happen. But he made that choice for him and his family. I’m sure he’s excited about it."
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker also says he isn't likely to discuss a long-term contract with the team during the regular season, Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter). The Bucs have not made a new offer to Walker, either, Sanserino says. Walker will make $3.3MM in 2013 in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Minor Moves: Paulino, Mets, Jeroloman

We'll keep an eye on the minor moves today right here. 

  • The Mariners have released catcher Ronny Paulino, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports (on Twitter). Paulino, who collected 63 at bats with the Orioles in 2012, was in Mariners camp on a minor-league deal. He has hit .272/.324/.376 in parts of eight seasons with the Pirates, Marlins, Mets and O's.
  • The Mets have released a host of minor leaguers, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The released players are: Brad Holt, Daniel Herrera, Craig Hansen, Mike Wilson, Corey Patterson, Pedro Zapata, and Brandon Brown. Herrera has a 3.72 ERA over 101 2/3 big league innings for his career, but has not pitched in the majors since 2011 and was working back from injury. Patterson, of course, has an extensive MLB track record but spent last year with the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate, posting a .251/.285/.410 line in 387 plate appearances. Hansen had not played at the major league level since 2009, and Wilson saw only very limited action with Seattle in 2011. None of the other players released have played above the minor league level.
  • Catcher Brian Jeroloman has been traded from the Indians to the Pirates in exchange for cash, reports Quinn Roberts of MLB.com. Jeroloman, now 27, advanced to Triple-A as a 23-year-old but has yet to see big league action. He spent last season primarily in Double-A, where he hit .195/.308/.195 in 137 plate appearances. Jeroloman was destined for Double-A with Omir Santos in Triple-A, so the Indians instead shipped him to Pittsburgh where there was an opening at the higher level, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

Offseason In Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were far from the most active team in baseball this winter, but they did make a few significant moves.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

Last season, Rod Barajas started 98 games behind the plate for the Pirates, hitting .206/.283/.343 and posting his worst OPS in nearly a decade.  His defensive play wasn't particularly strong either and one has to assume that Pittsburgh didn't spend too much time deliberating over his $3.5MM option for 2013.  Instead, the Bucs got a significant upgrade behind the plate in Russell Martin.  Martin's two-year, $17MM deal is the largest free agent contract signed during GM Neal Huntington's tenure in Pittsburgh and the Pirates expect to get their money's worth out of the three-time All-Star.  Two years ago, the Dodgers non-tendered Martin after an underwhelming couple of years and replaced him with the cheaper Barajas.  Since then, the 30-year-old has gotten back on track with the Yankees, posting a .224/.317/.405 slash line with 39 homers across two seasons.


It took a while to get everything hammered out but the Pirates ultimately inked Francisco Liriano to help fortify the rotation.  The two sides originally agreed to a two-year deal in mid-December, but the Pirates backed out after Liriano broke his non-pitching arm at his home in the Dominican Republic.  Everything finally got wrapped up in February, with language in the new deal that protects the team in case Liriano's arm puts him on the DL again.  

The Pirates are highly unlikely to get the 2006 version of the left-hander, but they'll be doing cartwheels if Liriano can give them something in the neighborhood of his 2010 campaign.  Liriano posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in that season, but it's the only year out of the last four that he's had a sub-5.00 ERA.  Thanks to the arm injury, Liriano's season won't get underway until May.

The club's other needs were taken care of with more affordable contracts.  The Pirates signed Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal in February and he's now penciled in as the club's No. 4 starter due to Gerrit Cole being in Triple-A, Liriano's aforementioned injury, and Jeff Karstens' shoulder issues.  Huntington also added some name players on non-guaranteed deals, including Brandon Inge, who will break camp with the club.  Inge, 36 in May, can provide support off the bench for Pedro Alvarez at third and overall infield depth.

Questions Remaining

If all of the Pirates starters were healthy, they'd be entering the 2013 season with a rotation of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Karstens, and Liriano.  However, the back of the rotation will instead feature Sanchez (8.07 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 7.4 BB/9 in 2012) and Kyle McPherson/Jeff Locke in the No. 5 spot.  Burnett and Rodriguez are both solid, but the rest of the rotation will be chock full of question marks until the summer when they're back at full strength.  They could use some reinforcements to help tide them over and they're keeping a close eye on the Dodgers' Chris Capuano as the season nears.

The PIrates were a lackluster defensive team in 2012 and were ranked in the lower-third of the majors.  Substituting Barajas' arm with Martin's (24% of runners caught stealing vs. 6%) should help keep everyone honest but they'll need more improvement than that to make signficant strides.

Deal of Note

The Pirates have a great deal of confidence in Jason Grilli so it only made sense for them to flip Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox in December.  The swap allowed Pittsburgh to deal from an area of strength and add first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., reliever Mark Melancon, and right-hander Stolmy Pimentel to the organization.  Sands, who was a prized prospect in the Dodgers system before being shipped to Boston in the blockbuster deal, has impressive power and the PIrates obviously believe that the 25-year-old has a high ceiling.

Over the last two years with the PIrates, Grilli has looked like a brand new pitcher, posting a 2.76 ERA with 12.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.  The 36-year-old was one of the better available relievers this winter and figures to slot in nicely as the Bucs' closer.  Unlike other closing options, Grilli didn't require a three-year pact and his two-year, $6.75MM deal amounts to less than Hanrahan will earn in 2013 alone.  However, it's worth noting that Grilli has limited experience in the role, finishing just 15 games across the last two seasons.  


The Pirates certainly have promise for the future with the likes of Cole, Jameson Taillon, Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, and Luis Heredia in the fold.  However, the 2013 Bucs don't appear to be world beaters.  However, they do have the talent to win 82 games and snap their 20 year losing streak.  After all, they came just three games shy of hitting that mark even after their late season collapse in 2012.

Manager Clint Hurdle believes that his club has improved across the board, even if most of that improvement comes in the way of the younger players having another year of experience under their belt.  It's hard to see the Pirates finding their way into the playoffs, but they can certainly crack the .500 mark.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pirates DFA Strickland, Robinson

The Pirates announced that the team has designated right-hander Hunter Strickland and first baseman Clint Robinson for assignment. (Twitter links.) In corresponding moves, the club selected the contracts of lefty Jonathan Sanchez and infielder Brandon Inge, it also announced.

Strickland, 24, has yet to appear above the Double-A level and put up a 4.46 ERA in 42 1/3 innings at that level last season, while also compiling a 2.98 ERA in 45 1/3 innings at High-A. Robinson, 27, made his first big league showing last year with Kansas City but played primarily in Triple-A, putting up a .292/.393/.452 line in 570 plate appearances. The Pirates acquired Robinson from the Royals in the offseason after he was designated for assignment.


Article XX(B) Free Agents Update: Tuesday

Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement contains a provision that allows certain free agents who are signed to minor league contracts to receive a $100K retention bonus if they are not on the team's 25-man roster or the Major League disabled list five days prior to the season.

Free agents who qualify for this distinction are those who have at least six years of Major League service time and had a Major League contract expire at the end of the previous season, but signed a minor league deal ten or more days prior to Opening Day.

MLBTR has confirmed with MLB that the deadline for teams to decide on these players is today at 11am central time. By the deadline, teams with these players in camp need to decide whether to:

  • Add the player to their 25-man roster or Major League disabled list (or agree to do so in writing).
  • Grant the player his outright release from the minor league contract so that he may pursue opportunities with other teams.
  • Pay the player a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization beyond the deadline and send him to the minors.

Here's the latest news from around the league on Article XX(B) signees and their roster statuses with their respective teams (newest updates on top).  

NL West Notes: Capuano, Garland, Nelson, Giants

Scouts from the Indians, Rangers, Mariners and Pirates were in attendance on the back fields of the Dodgers' Spring Training complex today to watch Chris Capuano in a minor league game, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. Capuano dominated, striking out 11 hitters and yielding just three hits over seven shutout innings (85 pitches). Capuano is pleased with his improved mechanics and results over his past two starts, Gurnick writes. Here's more out of the NL West...

  • Gurnick also notes that many of those same scouts (and possibly others) are likely to gather tomorrow for Aaron Harang's start. Capuano, Harang, Ted Lilly and Matt Guerrier are all trade candidates for the Dodgers.
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweets that new Rockies pitcher Jon Garland said he "strongly considered" signing with the Rox as a free agent this offseason before accepting a minor league deal from the Mariners. When that didn't work out (they released Garland on Saturday), he quickly reached an agreement with Colorado on a one-year, Major League deal.
  • Top prospect Nolan Arenado has had a great Spring Training and is still in camp with the Rockies, but MLB.com's Thomas Harding tweets that the team isn't planning a Chris Nelson trade to clear a starting spot for Arenado.
  • The Giants are in the market for a backup middle infielder, according to CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly, who opines that Nick Noonan makes for a fine internal option (Twitter link).

Multiple Teams Showing Interest In Chris Young

MONDAY: The Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, Indians, Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Brewers and Mets all have scouts on hand for Young's start against the Astros today, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). However, as he's quick to note, that doesn't necessarily mean that each team is there to scout Young specifically.

For what it's worth, Young was terrific in his outing, scattering two hits, a walk and an unearned run over four innings to go along with a pair of strikeouts.

SUNDAY, 2:10pm: The Pirates are intrigued by Young, tweets the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel. However, Biertempfel wonders whether the Pirates can assure Young he'd be on roster the whole year and, if not, whether or not Young would be interested.

11:25am: The minor league deal that Chris Young signed with the Nationals last month contains an opt-out clause that he can exercise today. However, Young is scheduled to pitch in a Grapefruit League game tomorrow. Dan Kolko of MASNsports tweets that Young is planning on making that start tomorrow and then making a decision. Young says he has received interest from other teams, and it was reported on Friday that Young likely won't make the roster.

The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore adds that the Nationals hope to retain Young and view him as the clear favorite for a rotation spot if one of their starting five were to suffer an injury. Young is interested in staying in the organization in the event that he can't find a Major League job elsewhere.

The 33-year-old Young posted a 4.15 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 innings for the Mets last season. However, teams in smaller ballparks will likely be wary of Young's alarming 58.2 percent fly-ball rate. Among pitchers with 100 innings or more, Young's fly-ball rate was far and away the highest in baseball, while his 22.3 percent ground-ball rate was far and away the lowest.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.

Pirates Release Brad Hawpe

The Pirates have granted outfielder Brad Hawpe his unconditional release, report Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter) and Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (also on Twitter). While it is unclear whether Hawpe will look to continue his attempt at a career revival with another club, he acknowledged that "the game has gotten faster and I didn't catch up," according to another Biertempfel tweet.

The left-handed-swinging Hawpe had not seen big league action since 2011. A former All-Star in Colorado, Hawpe averaged a slash line of better than .280/.380/.500 with over 20 home runs a season between 2006-2009, but never regained that form in the years that followed. Hawpe was struggling at the plate this spring, putting up just a .139/.225/.222 line over 40 plate appearances.

As MLB.com's Tom Singer reported in February, Hawpe's contract with Pittsburgh permitted him to request his release on March 26 if he had yet to be placed on the club's major league roster. 

Quick Hits: Yankees, Overbay, Rolen, Gardenhire

The Yankees are still looking for help at both corner infield spots and no shortage of veteran names have been mentioned in connection to the search.   CBS Sports' Jon Heyman (via Twitter) wonders if New York would be interested in Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who "appears to be available."  The Yankees have also been scouting Lyle Overbay, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports, and Overbay can opt out of his minor league deal with the Red Sox on Tuesday if he isn't on Boston's Major League roster.  As of now, however, Cafardo believes Overbay would "probably" make the Red Sox.

Here's some more news from around baseball as we head into the weekend...

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