Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
When the Mets took a minor league flier (lame pun intended) on Marlon Byrd, the transaction was met with little enthusiasm. Such is the case with minor league deals for veterans. Most fans enter the offseason dreaming on big names and high-upside rebound candidates, neither of which were overly applicable to Byrd. Mets fans and Pirates fans alike benefited from Byrd's rebound, and he'll carry a career-best .294/.336/.511 slash line and 24 homers into free agency.
Byrd has typically been able to hit for average and get on base at a solid clip, as evidenced by his career .280/.336/.425 batting line. Even if he can't repeat the surprising power that he showed in 2013, there's plenty of reason to expect helpful contributions in terms of batting average and OBP.
The power that he showed in 2013 is tough to completely write off, however; his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES, will be able to point out the fact that Byrd's .220 ISO ranked second among qualified free agent hitters, trailing only Mike Napoli.
Byrd was particularly deadly against left-handed pitchers, slashing .344/.376/.583 with eight homers in 178 plate appearances, but he was no slouch against same-handed pitching either. Byrd batted .268/.318/.480 against right-handers in 2013, giving him a 129 OPS+ against right-handed pitchers and a 157 mark against lefties.
In the outfield, Byrd can play center field in a pinch and graded out as an outstanding defensive right fielder. He posted a +2.6 UZR/150 in right field, but The Fielding Bible loved him at +12 runs saved in his 1168 innings.
The only truly bad season that Byrd has had in recent history was 2012. That year aside, he's posted an OPS+ of at least 96 and wRC+ of at least 94 in each season dating back to 2007. Interested parties can reasonably expect at least a league-average offensive performance out of Byrd with the upside for quite a bit more.
Because he was traded midseason, Byrd is unable to receive a qualifying offer (not that the Pirates would've extended one anyhow). He will not be tied to draft pick compensation.
With such a strong showing in 2013, it's easy for some to forget that Byrd looked like he was finished as a Major Leaguer in 2012. Prior to his age-36 renaissance, Byrd mustered just a .210/.243/.245 batting line in 153 plate appearances between the Cubs and Red Sox in a season that was also marred by a 50-game suspension. Byrd acknowledged that he made a mistake in using a banned substance to help recover from a surgical procedure. Byrd was quoted as saying that he was "mortified by [his] carelessness" and accepted his suspension without protest.
Byrd has never been one to draw many walks, and 2013 was no exception as he earned a free pass in just 5.4 percent of his trips to the plate. That mark actually represented his highest rate since 2008 with the Rangers. Unfortunately, it also came along with a career-worst 24.9 percent strikeout rate. Byrd's 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate was the seventh-highest among qualified hitters, and his 40.7 percent chase rate on pitches out of the zone ranked 10th. To sum it up in a concise manner: plate discipline isn't really Byrd's strong point.
Early in October, John Perrotto wrote that Byrd's ebullient personality made him a quick favorite in the Pirates' clubhouse. Dave Caldwell of the Wall Street Journal wrote in June that Byrd was beloved and respected in the Mets' clubhouse as well, with David Wright talking about the importance of the example that Byrd set with his work ethic.
Caldwell added that Byrd's wife, Andrea, used to send him a copy of a speech from Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of each season, but that is no longer necessary. As ESPN's Doug Padilla wrote prior to the 2012 season, Byrd has Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" tattooed on his arm, beginning with the lines: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better." (Padilla's piece has the full quote)
The Pirates have said they will try to retain Byrd, and there's mutual interest in a reunion between Byrd and the Mets. Beyond that, any team with a corner outfield hole and in need of a cheap upgrade could look to Byrd as an option.
The Phillies are one team that is known to be looking for right-handed pop to balance out their lineup, and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he doesn't view Darin Ruf as an everyday player. Byrd was dealt from the Phillies to the Nationals in a change of scenery deal back in 2005 after questioning his role with the team, but then-GM Ed Wade and manager Charlie Manuel no longer occupy those roles and it's been more than eight years, so a return could be plausible.
The Rockies could give Byrd a look and move Michael Cuddyer -- who was one of baseball's worst defenders in right field -- to first base to replace the retiring Todd Helton. The Royals are prioritizing right field and second base this offseason, and Byrd will be more affordable than Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz. The Rangers let Byrd walk in free agency once when they felt they had cheaper internal options in Julio Borbon and David Murphy. Now in need of a corner bat if Cruz isn't retained, a return would seem to make sense. Other teams that would make sense include the Orioles, Giants and Mariners, to name a few.
Right-handed pop is in short supply on the free agent market, and even with some regression, Byrd offers a plus glove in right field. Because Byrd and the Levinsons can point to the 2012 season as an abnormality, a two-year deal doesn't seem far-fetched. Byrd has always been an under-the-radar commodity, and there's little historical context for a 35-year-old outfielder posting an unexpected four-WAR season after a year in which he was below replacement level. Byrd's case is fairly unique, and as a result it leaves us with little historical context to make a prediction.
Jonny Gomes' two-year, $10MM contract with the Red Sox may seem a good comparison upon first glance, but Gomes got that contract coming off a season in which he played just 99 games, and his defense is generally not considered a positive. That contract seems like the floor for Byrd, but I think the demand for right-handed power bats and the bulk of teams looking for a corner outfield upgrade will allow Byrd to beat Gomes' deal. In recent years we've seen corner bats Melky Cabrera and Jason Kubel land two-year deals for $16MM and $15MM, respectively, and my expectation is that Byrd will match Cabrera with a two-year, $16MM deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Big changes are in store for the Cardinals' roster, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. In the bullpen, Strauss lists John Axford and Edward Mujica as two players who are unlikely to return next season, while David Freese, Pete Kozma and Carlos Beltran could be gone on the position player side. Let's run through the latest from around the NL Central:
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold provides a postmortem on the Cardinals' season in a radio interview with 101Sports.com.
- St. Louis brass have yet to decide on whether they'll try to re-up with Beltran, though parting ways with the outfielder would allow them to start Allen Craig in right field, as the club would like to do, Goold says. Such a move would also open a spot for outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, while Matt Adams could get regular time at first base.
- The Pirates must address holes at first base and right field this winter, and will probably also look to acquire a starter, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Brink profiles several options that are available in free agency, including James Loney at first and Corey Hart in right.
- MLBTR's Steve Adams examined departing Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau in an entry in our Free Agent Profile series earlier today.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times rounds up the current state of the Cubs' managerial search, reporting that the club expects to have hired a skipper sometime around the end of the week.
On July 7, 2010, Justin Morneau was hitting a ridiculous .345/.437/.618 for the first-place Twins in their inaugural season at Target Field. Morneau would leave that game early after taking a knee to the head from John McDonald while trying to break up a double play. It was later learned that Morneau suffered a severe concussion on that slide. He wouldn't play again in 2010, and three years later, the Canadian slugger is still searching for his All-Star form. A last-minute trade sent the former American League MVP from the Twins -- the only organization he'd ever known -- to the Pirates to help deepen Pittsburgh's lineup for a postseason push, and he'll hit the open market for the first time this winter.
Morneau hit .259/.323/.411 with 17 homers in 2013. His slash line is a slight improvement over that of a league-average hitter, and his .152 isolated power mark is also slightly above the league average of .146. He rediscovered his power stroke late in the season, belting nine homers in the month of August before being traded to the Pirates on Aug. 31. His final at-bat in a Twins uniform was an upper-deck, go-ahead homer against Yu Darvish in Texas.
The Fielding Bible's DRS stat has long been a fan of Morneau's work at first base (he was +8 runs in 2010 prior to his concussion), and he's done a fine job there once again in 2013. Morneau has saved five runs with his glove, per DRS. He's been roughly average, per UZR/150.
Morneau makes contact better than the average first baseman. His 17.3 strikeout percentage is a significant improvement over the league average of 22.2 percent.
Among free agent options at first base, only Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds hit more home runs than Morneau. Reynolds, however, posted a sub-.300 OBP while striking out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances. Morneau might not be an elite bat anymore, but the only available first basemen with clearly superior seasons to his in 2013 were Napoli and James Loney. Morneau offers more power than Loney, and unlike Napoli, he will not be attached to draft pick compensation.
The power just isn't there for Morneau like it was when he was an annual 30-homer threat, and there's no guarantee it will ever return now that he's turning 33 in 2014. His walk rate has also declined; Morneau walked in 11.3 percent of his plate appearances in his peak from 2007-10, but he walked in just 7.9 percent of his trips to the plate in 2013.
Part of the reason that Morneau was so lethal in his prime was his ability to hit left-handed pitching, but that too has eroded. From 2006-10, Morneau hit .282/.331/.492 against same-handed pitching, but over the past three seasons that slash line has deflated to a platoon-worthy .206/.246/.274. Just five of his 40 homers dating back to 2011 have come against southpaws.
The concussion is far from the only injury with which Morneau has dealt since 2010. He's undergone four different surgeries to fix issues ranging from bone spurs in his wrist and foot to a herniated disk in his neck. The neck issue resulted in a pinched nerve that Morneau said prevented him from feeling the pointer finger in his left hand for most of the 2011 season.
Morneau met his wife, Krista, in Minnesota. The couple and their two children make their home in the suburbs of Minneapolis. A lifelong hockey fan, Morneau grew up idolizing goalie Patrick Roy and has worn Roy's No. 33 throughout his career (he switched to 66 in Pittsburgh, as 33 is retired there in honor of Honus Wagner). No. 33 is also the number of another of his Canadian idols -- Larry Walker. Justin and Krista are active within the community, having started the Justin Morneau Foundation, which seeks to support underserved communities. He is known to have many superstitions, such as eating the same sandwich from the same restaurant in St. Paul prior to each home game.
Morneau and his agent, Mark Pieper of SFX, approached the Twins about a potential contract extension this summer but were rebuffed at the time. Minnesota has no clear replacement waiting in the wings, with Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello both posting sub-par big league numbers. The team may want to leave first base open for a potential position change for Joe Mauer, but a reunion between the two sides does make some sense.
Morneau may be better suited to play for a team in a hitter-friendly ballpark (Target Field certainly does not qualify, especially for left-handed batters). The Blue Jays have long been rumored to have interest, but there doesn't necessarily appear to be a fit with Lind and Edwin Encarnacion set to handle DH and first base.
Morneau could follow the path that Loney and many others have taken and seek to rebuild his value with the Rays, who would have no shortage of platoon options available. He could also be a first base option for the Red Sox, Brewers, Rockies or Rangers. Pirates GM Neal Huntington could also look to retain Morneau at a reduced rate.
Morneau earned $14MM this season in the final year of a six-year, $80MM extension he signed with the Twins in 2008. He won't come close to that type of money this offseason and may have difficulty securing a multiyear contract. Reynolds' line of .221/.335/.429 from 2012 isn't that dissimilar from Morneau's production in 2013, but Morneau is considered a better defender and doesn't strike out nearly as often. Reynolds signed for one year and $6MM with the Indians last offseason.
Another solid, albeit slightly dated comparison could be Derrek Lee, who signed for one year and $7.25MM with the Orioles after hitting .260/.347/.428 in 2010. Ultimately, I expect Morneau to take a one-year, $7MM contract in a hitter-friendly atmosphere to try to rebuild some free agent value for next offseason.
Phot courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here's your list of today's outright assignments and minor moves from around the league...
- The Braves have added two minor league relievers -- lefty Ryan Buchter and righty Wirfin Obispo -- to the club's 40-man roster, per the International League transactions page. The move was designed to prevent both pitchers from qualifying for minor league free agency. Buchter, 26, fanned 15 batters per nine innings last year in 62 Triple-A innings to go with a less-flattering 7.4 BB/9, and ended up with a 2.76 ERA. The 29-year-old Obispo, meanwhile, put up 9.9 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9 in Gwinnett over 63 2/3 innings of 3.53 ERA ball. Both could get a look for an MLB bullpen role in Spring Training.
- The Pirates have outrighted Felix Pie off their 40-man roster, and the outfielder has elected free agency, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune (Twitter link). The 28-year-old former top prospect hit just .138/.194/.172 in 31 plate appearances for the Pirates in 2013 and slashed .251/.321/.390 in 396 plate appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis.
- The White Sox have outrighted right-hander Simon Castro to Triple-A Charlotte, removing him from the 40-man roster, the team announced on Twitter. Castro twice appeared on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects as a Padres farmhand and found himself headed to Chicago as part of the Padres' trade for Carlos Quentin. Though he was sharp in his big league debut this season, totaling 6 2/3 innings in the Majors, Castro limped to a 5.83 ERA in 92 2/3 innings at Charlotte.
Rodriguez's decision was an expected one, as the soon-to-be 35-year-old pitched just 62 2/3 innings for the Pirates in 2013 as a result of an injury to his left (throwing) forearm. Rodriguez wouldn't have been able to approach this type of money as a free agent, so he will instead look to bounce back as a member of a Pirates rotation that will also include Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton. The Pirates want to bring A.J. Burnett back into the fold, but they have Jeff Locke as an internal replacement, should Burnett decide to retire.
Rodriguez was effective in his limited 2013 sample, posting a 3.59 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/8 and a 42.3 percent ground-ball rate. He was originally acquired by the Pirates in a 2012 trade that sent Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens and Colton Cain to the Astros.
The Pirates will try to re-sign pitcher A.J. Burnett, outfielder Marlon Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes, and they may extend Burnett a qualifying offer, MLB.com's Tom Singer reports. Burnett is still deciding between playing for the Pirates for one more year and retiring, but Singer suggests that the most likely route is that Burnett will accept their qualifying offer. Since Burnett has already said he wants to retire as a Pirate, the Bucs do not need to worry much about their five-day exclusive negotiating period, except in the sense that whether or not they re-sign Burnett will have a significant impact on the rest of their offseason plans.
Byrd, who arrived via an August trade with the Mets, would continue to serve as the Pirates' right fielder if he were to re-sign. If he does not, the bulk of the playing time will likely go to Jose Tabata, with prospects Andrew Lambo and Gregory Polanco behind him. After posting a .291/.336/.511 season in 2013, Byrd will likely be in line for a multiyear deal, even at age 36.
Barmes made $5.5MM in the second year of his two-year deal with the Bucs in 2013. He hit poorly in both seasons and lost his starting shortstop job to Jordy Mercer, but he still has value due to his strong defense. If the Pirates retain him, it would likely be on a cheap one-year deal to back up Mercer.
The Bucs will try to negotiate with Byrd and Barmes before the bidding opens to other teams, Singer reports. He also notes that the Pirates are unlikely to re-sign first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher John Buck, or pitchers Jeff Karstens or Kyle Farnsworth.
The Boston Red Sox are the 2013 World Series champions, just a season removed from a last-place finish in the AL East. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman details how the Sox focused on acquiring less-heralded free agents who could handle the pressure of playing in Boston, and almost all of those free agents delivered big contributions throughout the season and through the playoffs. While the return to good health and good form by several holdover Red Sox stars also played a huge role, several teams will be looking to replicate Boston's free agent strategy in the coming offseason.
Here are some notes from around baseball as the Hot Stove League has officially begun...
- The Red Sox were immeasurably helped by the "payroll miracle" of their August 2012 blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees could get a similar "financial reset" if all or most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary is removed from the books via suspension, allowing the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, sign other free agents and also avoid the $189MM luxury tax limit.
- Rodriguez's appeal hearing may not be decided until late December, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports, which could impact the Yankees' offseason spending plans.
- Adrian Cardenas, drafted 37th overall by the Phillies in 2006, walked away from a promising career at age 25 and with just 67 Major League PA to his name. In a fascinating piece for the New Yorker, Cardenas details the thought process that went into his decision and his gradual disillusionment with the professional side of the game.
- The Diamondbacks don't have much payroll flexibility for 2014, as The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro notes in his breakdown of the Snakes' salary obligations. Piecoro suggests that the D'Backs could sign free agents by backloading their contracts for 2015 and beyond, when the club has more money coming off the books.
- The Dominican Republic recently passed a law stating that children of undocumented Haitian immigrants would no longer be considered Dominican citizens, even if they were born in the country. Jorge Arangure of Sports On Earth investigates how this ruling could make it harder for amateur ballplayers of Haitian descent to obtain the proper visa or citizenship information to play in Major League Baseball.
- The Pirates can afford to be more patient this offseason, GM Neal Huntington tells Jenn Menendez and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A.J. Burnett's future needs to be decided first, however, since his status will determine the rest of the Buccos' moves. "If we retain A.J, that will be a significant positive, but also it's going to cost us a good chunk of the available money, and we'll have to react accordingly," Huntington said.
- The Marlins could fill a few needs by targeting the Angels' Mark Trumbo and Chris Iannetta in trades, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro opines as part of a reader mailbag.
- The Blue Jays have hired Kevin Seitzer as their new hitting coach, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports. Seitzer previously worked as the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks and Royals, and he and Jays manager John Gibbons worked together on the K.C. staff from 2009-11.
After their first winning season and playoff berth in 21 years, the Pirates find themselves in an enviable position, with a fairly sturdy roster and a strong farm system. It remains to be seen whether they will play it safe this offseason, heading into camp next year with a roster similar to last year's, or whether they'll make headlines with a splashy move or two.
- Andrew McCutchen, OF: $44.25MM through 2017
- Jose Tabata, OF: $11.75MM through 2016
- Russell Martin, C: $8.5MM through 2014
- Francisco Liriano, SP: $6MM through 2014
- Jason Grilli, RP: $4MM through 2014
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)
- Garrett Jones, OF (4.158): $5.3MM (non-tender candidate)
- Neil Walker, 2B (3.166): $4.8MM
- Pedro Alvarez, 3B (3.085): $4MM
- Charlie Morton, SP (5.010): $3.9MM
- Mark Melancon, RP (3.098): $3MM
- Gaby Sanchez, 1B (4.025): $2.3MM
- Travis Snider, OF (3.091): $1.4MM (non-tender candidate)
- Michael McKenry, C (2.136): $900K (non-tender candidate)
- Vin Mazzaro, RP (3.021): $800K
- Felix Pie, OF (4.028): $500K (non-tender candidate)
- Wandy Rodriguez, SP: $13MM player option (Astros will pay $5.5MM if Rodriguez accepts)
Whenever a small-market team follows 20 straight losing seasons with an unexpected 94-win campaign, you know what the narrative will be: They're the young, scrappy Davids who somehow managed to compete with Goliath. When it comes to the Pirates, that's true, to an extent -- their top player, Andrew McCutchen, didn't turn 27 until October, and they also got plenty of mileage from homegrown talents Starling Marte, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Gerrit Cole, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson.
For an upstart team, though, the 2013 Pirates also got a ton of help from veterans, including several who had very high profiles earlier in their careers. A.J. Burnett quietly was one of the best pitchers in the National League, leading the NL in K/9 and ground ball percentage. Russell Martin anchored the Pirates' pitching staff and was fantastic behind the plate, rating 23 runs above average on defense, according to FanGraphs. Francisco Liriano was one of the best bargain-basement signings of the 2012-13 offseason. And the top two relievers in the Pirates' bullpen, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon, were dominant.
While the Pirates may not have been that young, though, they're well-positioned to compete in the near future, even if it will be tough to repeat their 94-win 2013 performance. There's no reason to think McCutchen won't continue to be one of the best position players in baseball, and Marte should continue to post star-caliber seasons alongside him, mostly thanks to his defense. Cole looked more and more like an ace as his debut season went on, and fellow top pick Jameson Taillon will likely soon join him in the Pirates' rotation. The 2013 Pirates had a solid, ground-ball-heavy pitching staff that was aided by terrific fielding (thanks in part to very frequent defensive shifts) and an underrated offense. That probably won't change much in 2014.
The short-term problem for the Pirates, though, will be how to replicate or replace the performances they got from veterans in 2013. Martin and Liriano will be back, but they're unlikely to combine for 7.2 WAR again. Likewise, Grilli and Melancon will have a tough time again combining for 4.0 WAR. And Burnett might not be a Pirate at all -- he's still deciding whether to return for another season or to retire. The Pirates also stand to lose Marlon Byrd, who provided a boost to the their offense after an August trade with the Mets.
Offensively, the Pirates are set for 2014 at catcher (Martin), second base (Walker), third base (Alvarez) and two of the outfield positions (McCutchen and Marte). At shortstop, Clint Barmes is a free agent, but newcomer Jordy Mercer easily outhit him in 2013, while also providing credible defense. It will be tough for the Pirates to do better than Mercer this offseason, so their best bet might be to simply re-sign Barmes or acquire another defensive-minded player to serve as Mercer's backup and occasionally give Walker days off against lefties.
That leaves right field and first base. At right field, there is, again, a reasonable case for standing pat -- Jose Tabata came on strong at the end of the 2013 season, quietly producing 1.1 WAR in a part-time role. Tabata is defensively limited and offensively erratic, but given his relative youth and the possibility that top prospect Gregory Polanco will occupy the position beginning in late 2014 or early 2015, it might not make sense for the Bucs to make a multiyear commitment to a free agent outfielder, unless he's a superstar. And if Tabata flops, the Pirates could also turn to Andrew Lambo, who hit 33 home runs across three levels in 2013.
First base is where a splashy offseason acquisition would make the most sense -- Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau weren't particularly inspiring in 2013, and Gaby Sanchez is most useful as a lefty-killer. Unfortunately, there are few big names to pursue, at least on the free agent market. The Pirates apparently were never serious players for Jose Dariel Abreu, meaning Mike Napoli is the only player on the market who would clearly be a large upgrade. Players like Corey Hart and James Loney (in free agency) and Ike Davis (on the trade market) might also be possibilities, but they aren't great ones.
Any changes to the Pirates' 2014 rotation will likely hinge on whether A.J. Burnett returns. Burnett has said that, if he continues playing, he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but he's also mulling retirement. If he does stay, it might be for a one-year deal right around the qualifying offer value of $14.1MM, whether or not the Pirates actually extend a qualifying offer. If he returns, he'll join Cole and Liriano atop the Pirates' rotation. Charlie Morton should slot into one of the back two spots, and Wandy Rodriguez, who finished the 2013 season on the disabled list, will likely pick up his player option. That leaves Jeff Locke, who faded badly down the stretch last year, as an insurance policy.
The Pirates also control most of their bullpen. Grilli and Melancon are set to return, along with top lefties Watson and Wilson and, assuming the Pirates tender him, righty Vin Mazzaro. Righty Stolmy Pimentel, who arrived along with Melancon last offseason's Joel Hanrahan trade with the Red Sox, will be out of options, and he pitched well in both the minors and the big leagues last year, so he could occupy another bullpen spot, perhaps along with fellow righty Bryan Morris.
The Pirates' farm system is also well-stocked, with Taillon and Polanco leading the way. The Bucs also have a well-regarded infielder in Alen Hanson, a tall righty who posted 13.3 K/9 in Tyler Glasnow, and two 2013 first-round picks who had good debuts in Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire.
The Pirates' strong system may turn out to be important this winter. The Bucs' attendance has taken a huge leap forward in the past few years, from 1.6MM in 2010 to almost 2.3MM in 2013, and owner Bob Nutting recently spoke about significantly increasing the team's payroll next season. There are, however, few good free agent options at the Pirates' clearest positions of need, particularly first base. So it wouldn't be a huge shock if the Pirates were involved in some sort of blockbuster trade this offseason, trading away prospects in return for a star who can play one of the corner spots. Giancarlo Stanton or Chase Headley might make sense.
There ultimately isn't much point in trying to predict specifics. But it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the Pirates do something dramatic this offseason. Their first winning campaign since 1992 is now in the books. The atmosphere at PNC Park during the Pirates' 6-2 win over the Reds in their one-game playoff was unlike anything the Pirates (or, frankly, lots of baseball teams) have seen in decades. It's an important time for baseball in Pittsburgh, and the team has money to spend. GM Neal Huntington isn't the type to make a huge move just because he's expected to, but if the right one presents itself, well, now is the time.
After the Tigers were knocked out of the playoffs, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at some of the club's flaws. He starts at the top of the lineup, where Austin Jackson's .337 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases were not good enough of a contrast to the slow, power-hitting lineup that produced the best offense in baseball. Possible solutions this winter include Scott Boras clients Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury. “That’s the one team we haven’t heard Ellsbury’s name mentioned with,” said one American League GM. “We’ve heard a lot about the Mets, Mariners, Rangers, but the Tigers make perfect sense. They are a big-market team with big resources. There’s a relationship with Scott and Mr. Ilitch. They’ve done business before and there’s no reason they can’t do business again.” Here's more from today's column..
- The Giants would probably listen to anyone who had interest in Pablo Sandoval, but his weight will be an issue for clubs. However, his conditioning might not totally dissuade teams given the lack of third base options available.
- Tony La Russa is out there, but according to a Cubs source there’s been no contact with him. For his part, La Russa has told friends he’d rather be considered for a front office job than manage again.
- Two people in baseball operations with the Blue Jays indicated to Cafardo that they need two quality starting pitchers to go with Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, and R.A. Dickey. They could take care of one of those spots by extending a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson.
- It doesn't appear that Justin Morneau will return to the Pirates but the Orioles could make a play for him this winter as they go for another bat. If Carlos Beltran is too pricey, Morneau could be an alternative even though the O's may prefer a right-handed bat like Mike Morse.
- The Red Sox went pretty far in their pursuit of Jose Dariel Abreu, but ultimately they lost out to the White Sox. It was a sensitive negotiation for Boston out of respect for pending free agent Mike Napoli, who would have been affected by an Abreu signing.
- There’s some real talk about the possibility that the Rays could see Montreal as a real alternative if plans for a new stadium don’t work out in the Tampa area.
- One of the reasons why Nolan Ryan parted ways with the Rangers was because of the club's decision to let bench coach Jackie Moore go.
- The Yankees appear to be on the verge of shaking up their scouting and player development departments.
Baseball's general managers are expected to address the topic of home plate collisions at their meetings in November, Buster Olney of ESPN reports, and some sources believe a rule change could come quickly. "At this point, I don't know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be," a team official speaking with Olney said. Team sources said they expect baseball to adopt a rule that would guarantee the baserunner an avenue to the plate, but disallow him from targeting the catcher -- the same regulation that's in place at all levels of the game below the majors. Here's the latest from the AL and NL central divisions as Detroit and Boston battle for the AL pennant:
- Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer ran through queries from Indians fans in a new column, ruling out Bartolo Colon as an option for the Tribe's rotation.
- Longtime Reds writer Hal McCoy, who continues to keep a blog for the Dayton Daily News, examined where things went wrong between the Reds and Brandon Phillips. The team is reportedly shopping the second baseman, and the Braves may be interested.
- Tyler Kepner of The New York Times attempted to pin down the reasons behind the Cardinals' sustained run of success, noting the front office's knack for player development.
- Rick Renteria has become "the clear-cut favorite" among candidates for the Cubs' manager job, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets, reporting that support for the Padres bench coach is "staggering."
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review assessed the Pirates' chances of carrying their 2013 success into next season. While the club's young core and farm system are reasons for optimism, several of 2013's key contributors may be lost to free agency in the coming years, and the team could be hampered by its middling revenue streams, Sawchik writes.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski may look to inject some speed into his club's lineup this offseason, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press reports.