Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
The Pirates have announced that they've designated pitcher Ryan Reid and outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment. The two moves make room on their 40-man roster for pitcher Edinson Volquez and shortstop Clint Barmes.
Reid came up through the Rays system before signing with the Pirates as a minor-league free agent prior to the 2013 season. He pitched well in both Triple-A and in a brief stint in the big leagues, posting a 2.73 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 59 1/3 innings the minors, but the Bucs did not make him a September callup. The Pirates acquired Sands from the Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan / Mark Melancon deal, but he never appeared in the big leagues for the Bucs and posted a disappointing .207/.311/.329 season for Triple-A Indianapolis.
FRIDAY: The Pirates have officially announced the signing.
WEDNESDAY: The Pirates have agreed to terms with right-hander Edinson Volquez on a one-year, $5MM contract, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Volquez is represented by the Wasserman Media Group.
Buying low on Volquez continues a trend for the Pirates, who have picked up A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon via trade or free agency in recent years when each was coming off a poor season. The 30-year-old Volquez was released by the Padres last season after posting a 6.01 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 142 1/3 innings. He looked better in a brief, 28 1/3 inning cameo with the Dodgers, pitching to a 4.18 ERA with a 26-to-8 K/BB ratio.
Volquez's 4.07 xFIP was significantly lower than his 5.71 ERA on the season -- a commonality that exists between he, Burnett, Liriano and Melancon at the time of their acquisition by the Pirates.
Volquez will join Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Wandy Rodriguez and the recently extended Charlie Morton in the Pirates' rotation. That seems to fill Burnett's spot in the rotation, suggesting that perhaps he's leaning toward retirement and the Pirates have moved on in favor of a cheaper option with similarly high upside. Back in 2008, Volquez finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting when he posted a 3.21 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 196 innings. Control has always been an issue for Volquez, but his fastball velocity has typically remained strong. After averaging 93.6 mph on his fastball from 2008-12, he averaged 92.5 mph in 2013.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
FRIDAY: The Pirates have officially announced the signing.
THURSDAY 11:39am: Barmes and the Pirates have agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal, Olney reports (on Twitter).
11:13am: Clint Barmes has agreed to terms with the Pirates, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. ESPN's Buster Olney was the first to report that the Meister Sports Management client was nearing a return to Pittsburgh (Twitter link).
Barmes, who turns 35 in March, batted .211/.249/.309 with five homers for the Bucs in 2013. Though his offensive numbers were lackluster, he played stellar defense at shortstop, posting a +14.2 UZR/150 and +12 Defensive Runs Saved in just over 800 innings at the position.
Barmes will split time with Jordy Mercer upon returning. Though Mercer is a superior offensive player -- he batted .285/.336/.435 -- he doesn't have much of an offensive track record to this point in his career and isn't considered a strong defensive player.
A.J. Burnett still hasn't decided whether he'll pitch in 2014, but if he wants to continue his career, the Orioles are interested, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko tweets. Kubatko also notes that the Orioles met with Frontline, which represents Burnett, at the Winter Meetings. Burnett lives in Monkton, Maryland, about a half-hour north of Baltimore.
Burnett had previously indicated that he wanted to retire as a Pirate, but since then, he has taken his time deciding whether or not to return in 2014. The Pirates did not extend a qualifying offer to Burnett, with GM Neal Huntington telling Tom Singer of MLB.com, "If he or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere." Burnett pitched 191 innings for the Pirates in 2013, posting a 3.30 ERA with 3.2 BB/9 and a league-leading 9.8 K/9. Burnett's 56.5% ground-ball percentage also led the National League.
FRIDAY: The Brewers and Mets are still talking about Davis, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However, Milwaukee is holding firm in its stance that it will not part with right-hander Tyler Thornburg. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reported earlier in the week that the Mets had asked for Thornburg in return for Davis.
Haudricourt adds (also via Twitter) that if the Brewers are still in talks for Davis, it's likely an indication that Loney is still asking for too much in terms of years and/or average annual salary.
THURSDAY, 12:46pm: The Mets and Brewers met to discuss Davis on two separate occasions at the Winter Meetings, tweets Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Rays and Pirates are also possibilities for Davis, he adds.
10:23am: According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, all indications are that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin could move quickly to address his first base need. Melvin is meeting with Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Haudricourt continues, so it's possible the two sides could work out a deal for Ike Davis. The Brewers have some interest in James Loney, but negotiations with him would be more complicated with other teams such as Pittsburgh in the mix, Haudricourt adds (Twitter links).
The Brewers missed out on a pair of their top first base targets yesterday, with each heading to the Mariners. Seattle reached an agreement with Corey Hart and swung a trade for Logan Morrison within an hour's time, leaving the Brewers with a sizable hole at first base.
Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central....
- Charlie Morton and the Pirates reached an agreement on a three-year extension yesterday, but the team has yet to discuss long-term deals with Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez this offseason, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Cardinals have discussed Brian Roberts as a potential target, but his injury history limits the team's enthusiasm, says Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The last open spot on the Brewers' 40-man roster had originally been ticketed for Corey Hart, but now that Hart is headed to Seattle instead, Milwaukee is considering using that opening to pick a player in this morning's Rule 5 draft. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the details.
- The Cubs may end up selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft, but it sounds like the team is preparing to lose more players than it adds, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (via Twitter).
The Cubs are among the clubs with interest in free agent pitcher Mitchell Boggs, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. The Phillies, Indians, Mariners, and Mets are also in on him. The Rockies non-tendered the right-hander after a subpar 2013. Here's more from the NL Central...
- According to a club source, the Pirates' deal for Edinson Volquez won't preclude them from re-signing A.J. Burnett, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- A rival exec says that the one-year, $5MM pact for Volquez makes sense, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The exec says that Volquez boasts a Francisco Liriano-type profile with his strikeout rate and ability to induce groundballs.
- Tim Dierkes of MLBTR (on Twitter) wonders if the Volquez deal could hamstring Pittsburgh somewhat financially in their effort to re-sign Burnett if he calls for a $10-12MM commitment.
- The Cardinals signed right-hander Angel Castro for bullpen depth, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Castro was added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster, so it's a major-league deal. Castro spent last season with the Dodgers' Triple- A affiliate, posting an ERA of 3.48 with 7.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 19 starts and six relief appearances.
Attention on the first base market could now shift to James Loney after the Mariners took a pair of options off the board in Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Yesterday, we heard that the Pirates were checking back in on him, while the Brewers were hesitant to meet his three-year asking price. Here's the latest:
- The Brewers have "sincere interest" in Loney but don't expect to get anything done before leaving the Winter Meetings, according to McCalvy (on Twitter).
- The Pirates and Brewers are still in on Loney, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com, with the Rays also remaining in the discussion.
- Indeed, after watching Hart leave for Seattle, the Brewers have turned their attention to Loney, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The club is probably only interested if the deal stays under three years, tweets Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
- If Milwaukee instead shifts its attention at the trade market, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter), options include Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland, and Justin Smoak. Haudricourt wonders (via Twitter) if the thin market could lead to an increased willingness to pay Loney.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted earlier today that while the Astros prefer a stopgap, they haven't ruled out Loney.
Morton, who is represented by Jet Sports Management, will earn $4MM in 2014, $8MM in 2015-16 and has a $1MM buyout on a $9.5MM club option (plus $500K of incentives) for the 2017 season. The option would become a mutual option were Morton to be traded at any point throughout the life of the deal.
Had he not signed the extension, Morton would have been eligible for free agency following the 2014 campaign. The extension is similar to the three-year, $20MM figure suggested as a fair price by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes when examining Pittsburgh's arbitration eligible players back in early November.
The 30-year-old Morton returned from 2012 Tommy John surgery this season and turned in a strong campaign. Morton pitched to a 3.26 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a whopping 62.9 percent ground-ball rate that led all Major League pitchers that threw at least 100 innings.
Originally acquired (along with lefty Jeff Locke and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez) in the 2009 trade that sent Nate McLouth to the Braves, Morton broke out with the Pirates in 2011 when he posted a solid 3.83 ERA in 171 2/3 innings. Over his past three seasons, Morton has pitched to a 3.75 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 -- numbers that have been deflated, to an extent, by his elbow issues in 2012.
MLBTR's Matt Swartz projected Morton to earn $3.9MM in 2014, so the contract essentially guarantees Morton $17MM for a pair of free agent seasons. Had he not signed the extension and had a solid season, Morton would have had a chance to earn more on the free agent market. However, players with Morton's type of injury history haven't typically done this well in contract extensions, and Morton opted for the security of guaranteed money. Morton's agent, Andrew Lowenthal, told Passan that his client never had any desire to leave Pittsburgh:
"The most important part of this deal and the reason why this deal got done is Charlie wanted to remain a Pirate and considers himself a Pirate. He loves the city. He loves the fans. The team stuck by him. This is Charlie’s way of being loyal to the organization. The contract is a win-win."
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Eight teams have expressed interest in left-hander Johan Santana, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. The Yankees, Mets, Twins, Rays, Orioles, Royals, Brewers and Pirates have all expressed varying levels of interest. Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that the Pirates have requested his medical records today and plan to meet with agent Peter Greenberg this afternoon.
According to Marchand, Santana and Greenberg are willing to accept an offer in the near future if a team is able to separate itself from the pack, but if not, Santana will throw in January in a showcase for interested teams. Shoulder problems have forced Santana to sit out two of the past three seasons.