The Pirates have taken plenty of flak since sending left-hander Francisco Liriano and a pair of prospects – outfielder Harold Ramirez and catcher Reese McGuire – to the Blue Jays on Monday for right-hander Drew Hutchison. General manager Neal Huntington explained the Bucs’ thinking Saturday, telling Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review, “Our primary motivation was to acquire Drew Hutchison. … Instead, it came out that we moved two prospects to move Liriano’s contract. Now I can’t tell you that wasn’t a part of the motivation, but the primary motivation was to acquire a quality pitcher.” The 25-year-old Hutchison has spent the vast majority of the season in the minors and owns a below-average 4.92 ERA in 406 1/3 major league innings, but he has recorded a solid 15.1 K-BB percentage and is controllable through 2018. The Pirates were particularly mindful of the latter factor upon acquiring him. “Mediocre pitching is getting paid a lot of money. As we look forward, whether it’s the trade market or free agent market, the challenge of acquiring quality, controllable, productive starting pitching … is hard to do,” said Huntington. As for Liriano, Huntington expects him to do well “where hitters are unfamiliar with him, in a new environment, with new scouting reports,” but the GM believes the opposition in the National League became too accustomed to the 32-year-old.
More from the Central divisions:
- Red-hot first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli is “not opposed to” the idea of an in-season contract extension with the Indians, he told Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. “Yeah, I love it here. From the guys in the clubhouse, the front office, the training staff, the cooks. Everything has been wonderful,” stated Napoli, who homered Saturday for the sixth time in the Indians’ past eight games. In total, the 34-year-old has clubbed 28 homers in 442 plate appearances and owns a terrific .253/.339/.515 batting line, thereby giving first-place Cleveland excellent production at a reasonable cost ($7MM). Napoli has also been a positive influence in the Indians’ clubhouse, manager Terry Francona told David Glasier of the News-Herald on Thursday. “Man, he’s been a blessing to us. This guy is what you want. He shows up to win. When he doesn’t win, he’s (expletive),” said Francona. Napoli is making an underwhelming 2015 look like a fluke, so – whether it’s with the Indians or another team – he should certainly do better on his next deal.
- Like Napoli, Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is amid a bounce-back year and could be in line for an extension. “Overall, he’s been a great fit on this club and a great teammate. We would certainly like to keep him around,” GM John Mozeliak told David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat, though Mozeliak added that he doesn’t regard now as the right time to discuss a deal with the impending free agent. Moss, whom the Cardinals acquired from Cleveland last summer, has rendered his $8.25MM salary a bargain by slashing a fantastic .266/.349/.578 with 18 long balls in 269 PAs this season. Notably, the soon-to-be 33-year-old entered Saturday first in the league in ISO (.315) among batters with at least 250 PAs.
- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny offered high praise Saturday for center fielder Randal Grichuk, whom the team has demoted to the minors twice this season. “Overall, he’s not just a big-league talent, he’s a big-league superstar talent because of what he can do — the way he runs, the way he defends, the power, the bat speed. You name it, he’s got it,” Matheny told Mark Saxon of ESPN.com. Grichuk (25 next week) lived up to that assessment in 2015, hitting .276/.329/.548 with 17 HRs in 350 PAs while providing plus base-running and defensive production, but the 24-year-old has taken noticeable steps back this year. However, Grichuk’s increase in walks, decrease in strikeouts and .257 batting average on balls in play (down from an unusually high .365 last year) seem to indicate that he has deserved better than the .216/.280/.414 line he has produced in 293 PAs with the Redbirds this season.