MLB Trade Rumors » » Pittsburgh Pirates Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:37:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pirates Notes: Fan Base, Rivero, Harrison, Trades, Kang Sat, 20 Jan 2018 15:20:46 +0000 There’s some unrest in the Pittsburgh fan base regarding the team’s recent trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Madasyn Czebiniak of highlights the story of lifelong Pirates fan Jason Kaufman, who started a petition to force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team. The following excerpt gives a pretty good feel for the petition’s tone: “Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better.” As of 9:00am on Saturday, the petition had over 52,000 signatures; well over the seating capacity of PNC Park. Kaufman is gaining plenty of social media attention with his movement, and has even been interviewed by local radio station WTAE. “We’re tired of the ’same-old, same-old’ saying: ’We’re in this for a championship’ when you’re really not,” Kaufman said. “Don’t tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you’re not doing anything to improve the team.”

While Kaufman acknowledges that there’s almost zero chance the petition could ever actually prompt Nutting to sell the team, the 43-year-old Kaufman believes the petition is to show the front office that there’s a collective anger towards the front office. He even goes so far as to compare the McCutchen trade to a “death in the family,” saying that the five-time All-Star’s value isn’t just about how he performs on the field, but what he does for the community.

A few other recent items out of Pittsburgh…

  • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some insightful quotes from Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in regards to his recent extension. He signed the contract at least in part for his level of comfort in the clubhouse and his interest in being relaxed for the next few years. In the reliever’s own words, “It’s not about the money.” Apparently, his sister Prescilla was heavily involved in the negotiations, reportedly even more so than his agent. And it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the McCutchen and Cole trades did not have any effect on the negotiations between he and the Bucs. Rivero came to the Pirates in July of 2016 as part of the return for Mark Melancon. Last season, the left-hander turned in a 1.67 ERA and a 3.03 xFIP. He collected 21 saves following his takeover of Pittsburgh’s closer role in June.
  • In a late response to Josh Harrison’s comments revealing a desire to be traded, Pirates GM Neal Huntington expressed that he wants the team to win “sooner than later” (via Adam Berry of “We love Josh’s passion, love the fire and what he’s done for this team and this organization,” Huntington said. “We want what’s best for this organization.” Yet although he attempts to differentiate the team’s moves from a rebuild, it’s interesting that he describes the 2018 club as “a group of players that’s going to show up every day to defy the odds.” It’s hard to imagine that these comments will ease Harrison’s mind about the Pirates’ ability to compete in the coming season. The 30-year-old infielder can be controlled through the 2020 season.
  • Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports offers a defense of the Pirates’ blockbuster trades, offering some praise for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. In discussing Moran’s value, Heyman adds that he was slated to be a key piece in a trade for Zach Britton before the Orioles cancelled the deal. However, it seems as though the Bucs could have landed a better return for McCutchen had they traded him last offseason, as they reportedly had an offer from the Nationals that included Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito.
  • Jung Ho Kang is making another push to return to MLB, Sung Min Kim of Sporting News tweets. The former Pirates infielder has allegedly arrived in the Dominican Republic in order to apply for a work visa. Kang last played in the majors in 2016, when he collected 21 homers in 370 plate appearances while posting a .255/.354/.513 slash line while playing third base for the Bucs.
Giants Acquire Engelb Vielma Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:51:11 +0000 The Giants have acquired infielder Engelb Vielma from the Pirates, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports on Twitter. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first tweeted that Vielma was on the move; he had been designated for assignment recently.

This’ll be Vielma’s second stop in San Francisco — on paper, at least. He is one of several names that has already bounced from roster to roster via minor trades and the waiver wire this winter, as typically occurs for players that are on the margins of 40-man roster viability. For Vielma, this is the fourth time he has changed hands since September.

Whether the 23-year-old will end up sticking with the Giants organization remains to be seen. The club could still expose him to waivers again in an attempt to stash him as a non-roster player. Even if he makes it into camp on the 40-man, Vielma will no doubt need to show he’s worthy of continuing to occupy a roster spot.

Known as a high-end defender who can handle shortstop, Vielma has not yet demonstrated that he’ll hit much when he ultimately reaches the game’s highest level. He was placed on the Twins’ 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in advance of the 2017 season, but went on to slash just .229/.273/.280 in 455 total plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A.

Pirates Extend Felipe Rivero Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:15:52 +0000 Jan. 18: The Pirates have formally announced the extension.

Jan. 15: The Pirates have agreed to a four-year deal with closer Felipe Rivero, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). The deal, which will buy out all of Rivero’s arbitration seasons, is believed to guarantee Rivero about $22MM in total, per Rosenthal. It also contains a pair of club options over what would have been his first two free-agent seasons. Interestingly, Rosenthal notes that it’s unclear if an agency was involved in the negotiations. Rivero had recently hired Scott Boras to represent him, though this is the type of extension to which the Boras Corp is typically averse.

Felipe Rivero | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Rivero will earn $2.5MM in 2018, $4MM in 2019, $5.25MM in 2020 and $7.25MM in 2021. The deal also comes with a $2MM signing bonus, and his contract contains a pair of $10MM options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The 2022 option comes with a $1MM buyout, and the 2023 option has a $500K buyout. In all, that totals the $22MM sum Rosenthal suggested, though the contract would top out at $41MM over six years should both options be exercised.

Certainly, the timing of the deal comes as something of a surprise. The Bucs, in the past week, have traded longtime top starter Gerrit Cole to the Astros and shipped face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for righty Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.

The Rivero deal, though, serves an indicator that the Pirates aren’t necessarily eyeing a full tear-down of the roster but are instead intent on turning some (relatively) high-priced and short-term assets into controllable pieces in an effort to manage payroll and re-establish a core of cost-effective young parts. It’s understandably not a popular approach among Pirates fans, but it’s a reality the Bucs have had to accept under current ownership and with one of the league’s worst TV contracts (which reportedly affords them only about $20MM annually — though that deal is nearing its expiration).

In some respects, the timing of these moves is reminiscent of the Pirates’ salary dump of Francisco Liriano, which was quickly followed up by an extension for veteran third baseman David Freese. The long-term deal for Rivero may ever so slightly lessen the sting of losing both McCutchen and Cole in the eyes of Pirates fans, though it’s nonetheless a difficult sequence of events for Pittsburgh faithful to stomach.

While the extension for Rivero technically does enhance his trade value, it now seems unlikely that he’ll be moved anytime in the near future. The Bucs now have cost certainty over Rivero for more than half a decade, and his salary won’t even climb higher than $6MM until the 2021 campaign. The Pirates can assuredly hang onto Rivero for the foreseeable future and be confident that he’ll retain plenty of trade value, barring a massive injury or unforeseen decline.

The latter of those two scenarios seems unlikely, as Rivero has looked legitimately dominant since being acquired in the 2016 deadline trade that sent Melancon to the Nationals. (A trade that, much like Pittsburgh’s recent trades, emphasized MLB-ready talent with extended team control.) In 102 2/3 innings with the Pirates, Rivero has worked to a pristine 2.10 ERA with 11.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a grounder rate right around 50 percent. Rivero’s swinging-strike rate jumped to an enormous 15.8 percent, and his average fastball checked in north of 98 mph.

His extension comes on the heels of a similar deal for the Padres’ Brad Hand, another southpaw closer, though Rivero’s $22MM guarantee tops the $19.75MM that Hand pulled in, and the two are in different service classes. Rivero’s deal, it seems, is a record for a pitcher in his service class and is the fourth-largest ever agreed to by a reliever at any point in the arbitration process, trailing only Craig Kimbrel, Brad Lidge and Huston Street (MLBTR Extension Tracker link). Of course, that’s largely because relievers are volatile enough that teams don’t often make them the target of long-term deals in their pre-arb and early arb years.

While the contract’s standing in historical context is among the strongest for an arb-eligible reliever, it nonetheless stands out as a strong deal for the Pirates. It’s not uncommon for upper-tier relievers to clear $10MM annually in their final years of arbitration, but Rivero will make a combined $12.5MM in his final two arb years.

Rivero figures to continue to hold down the ninth inning for the Pirates, anchoring a relief corps that features Daniel Hudson, George Kontos and A.J. Schugel. Pittsburgh’s bullpen will also very likely feature newly acquired righties Michael Feliz (picked up in the Cole trade) and Kyle Crick (McCutchen trade), and there’s room for further additions of the Pirates feel there’s value remaining on the free-agent market for relievers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Mets' Interest In Josh Harrison Thu, 18 Jan 2018 05:27:12 +0000
  • At today’s press conference to reintroduce Jay Bruce, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson suggested to reporters that his team likely has the budget to make one more notable addition (link via Ken Davidoff of the New York Post). Alderson confirmed recent reports that his preference would be to sign a free agent rather than make a trade. “If we were to try to improve in that area, I think we prefer to sign a free agent, only because it doesn’t require us to give up talent,” the GM said. Alderson acknowledged a trade as a possibility, adding that while his farm isn’t as strong as it once was, the Mets do still have players that have drawn interest from other clubs. There have been suggestions that young outfielder Brandon Nimmo could be on the table if the Mets and Pirates discuss a Josh Harrison trade, though the Post’s Mike Puma tweeted today that the Mets “aren’t particularly enthusiastic” about the idea of trading Nimmo for Harrison.
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    Pirates Notes: Meadows, Outfield, Crick, Reynolds Wed, 17 Jan 2018 23:26:03 +0000
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down some potential candidates for the Pirates’ outfield — both external and internal — in the wake of the Andrew McCutchen trade. Pittsburgh will likely be on the lookout for a right fielder, with Starling Marte headed to center field and Gregory Polanco shifting to left. Austin Meadows, according to Biertempfel, will head to Triple-A to open the year regardless of how well he plays in Spring Training. (One club source indicated to Biertempfel that Meadows could “hit .900 in Spring Training” and still be ticketed for the minors.) That’s not especially surprising when considering that Meadows posted an ugly .250/.311/.359 slash in his first exposure to Triple-A last year.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law offers his opinion (subscription required and recommended) on the Pirates’ trade for McCutchen, whom he calls a “great” pickup for the Giants, given the putrid output they received from their outfield in 2017 and the low bar that McCutchen has to clear. While neither Kyle Crick nor outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds is an elite young talent, Law opines, Crick offers a potential long-term option in the bullpen and is the type of arm that can “sometimes turn to gold via the alchemy of baseball” despite his history of below-average command (a trait that he did improve in 2017). He calls Reynolds “very interesting,” adding that he considered Reynolds’ to be San Francisco’s second-best prospect at the time of the trade.
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    Braves Acquire Shane Carle Wed, 17 Jan 2018 21:25:03 +0000 The Braves announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Shane Carle from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Pittsburgh had designated the 26-year-old Carle for assignment over the weekend in order to clear space on the roster for the players acquired from Houston in the Gerrit Cole trade.

    Carle made his Major League debut with the Rockies in 2017, tossing four innings and surrendering three runs on six hits and no walks with four strikeouts. It’s not a lengthy sample, to be sure, but Carle’s fastball averaged a healthy 93.6 mph in that short time. The 2013 10th-round pick (by the Pirates) spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A in Colorado, where he struggled to a 5.37 ERA in a hitter-friendly setting. Carle averaged 7.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 with a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in Albuquerque — his second go-around at that level.

    Though the Pirates were the team to initially draft Carle, this is the second time they’ll trade him away to another organization. Pittsburgh traded him to Colorado in exchange for righty Rob Scahill about 18 months after he was drafted, only to pluck him back off waivers earlier this winter when the Rockies cut him loose. Carle has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Braves can send him to Triple-A this spring without needing to expose him to waivers. Atlanta already had an open spot on its 40-man roster, so no corresponding move was necessary in order to accommodate Carle. The Braves’ 40-man roster is now at capacity.

    Mets Were Unwilling To Include Nimmo In McCutchen Talks Wed, 17 Jan 2018 03:04:05 +0000
  • Prior to being traded to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen was a known target of the Mets in trade talks. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic shines some more light on the matter (subscription required and strongly recommended), reporting that New York wouldn’t part with outfielder Brandon Nimmo for a one-year rental of McCutchen. New York still believes Nimmo will develop into a quality big leaguer, though Rosenthal adds that the team believes he could be part of a package in talks with the Pirates regarding Josh Harrison. The 24-year-old Nimmo, who was selected 13th overall in the 2011 draft, hit .260/.379/.418 with five homers and a pair of steals in 215 plate appearances as a rookie last season. It would seem that if the Mets are to entertain the notion of moving him, they’d prefer multiple years of control over whichever more established asset they acquire in his place.
  • Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears the same as Rosenthal, reporting that the Mets would indeed be willing to include Nimmo in a trade that would pry Harrison away from the Pirates. However, she adds that the Mets would not part with Dominic Smith in order to obtain Harrison, even with Gonzalez in the fold for 2018 and Bruce (who figures to see some time at first base) locked up through 2020. Ackert adds that the Mets were approached about Smith in multiple trade negotiations this winter but weren’t inclined to include him in any of the proposed scenarios. She also notes that Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes are among the team’s potential infield targets in free agency.
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    Josh Harrison Suggests Pirates Trade Him If “Team Does Not Expect To Contend” Tue, 16 Jan 2018 20:28:42 +0000 In the wake of the recent trades that shipped Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole out of Pittsburgh, speculation has turned to the status of veteran Josh Harrison — another player that has long been mentioned as a candidate to be dealt. The veteran utilityman issued his thoughts on the matter today to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

    After discussing his affinity for the team, city, and fans — as well as for the departing players — Harrison laid down a challenge of sorts to the Pirates front office. While he framed it as an expression of what might be “best for the organization,” Harrison seemingly conveyed a clear interest in being dealt if the club is not serious about putting a winner on the field. The full comments are available at the above link, but this seems to be the key passage:

    [T]he GM is on record as saying, ‘When we get back to postseason-caliber baseball, we would love our fans to come back out.’ If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded.

    Of course, just what “expect to contend” might really mean is open to some interpretation. The organization’s top leadership emphasized in the wake of the trades that it still sees the roster as a possible contender. While those comments are themselves worthy of skepticism, there’s room for debate as to just how the Cutch/Cole swaps will impact the team on the field — and time left for further developments to impact the overall picture. What the trades clearly do not portend, in and of themselves, is a full-blown rebuild; both players, after all, were within a year or two or free agency and the deals returned mostly MLB-level talent.

    Interestingly, at least one of the players received, infielder Colin Moran, could help the team cover in the infield if it decides to send Harrison elsewhere. Talks involving the versatile, well-rounded performer have been ongoing over the winter, so a trade wouldn’t be surprising, regardless of the comments he issued today. The Pittsburgh front office no doubt anticipated some disappointment from its remaining veterans — not to mention a more vehement push-back from the fanbase and media — when it moved these core players.

    That said, the Bucs likely don’t face a clear financial imperative to make a move, so far as is publicly known. The team currently has less than $85MM on its books for 2018 after moving most of the relatively significant salaries of McCutchen and Cole. Having opened the last two seasons within sight of $100MM in payroll obligations, there’s some breathing room to work with even with Harrison on the roster. He’s owed $10MM for the coming season and can then be controlled with successive club options ($10.5MM and $11.5MM, with a total of $1.5MM in buyouts).

    Of course, that assessment of the money situation assumes the club is not preparing to draw down its outlay. In truth, that’s not really clear yet. Cashing in players who are getting older, more expensive, and closer to free agency is a longstanding ritual for smaller-market teams that otherwise would struggle to remain competitive without suffering through lengthy rebuilding stretches. But there are several ways to go while remaining mindful of the need to always keep the future in mind.

    Just what the Bucs have in mind currently — a period of salary retrenchment and roster reloading? at least some reinvestment of free payroll on other assets? etc. — is still not entirely know. In a way, how they proceed with Harrison may be the evidence we need to understand the very intentions and expectations that his comment references.

    Notes On Pirates Plans Following McCutchen Trade Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:12:36 +0000 In an Insider post,’s Buster Olney provides some worthwhile perspective on the Pirates’ recent moves, arguing that the organization would be perceived much differently had its 2013-15 postseason appearances gone differently. Some may scoff at the idea that this excuses anything: had the team been better, perhaps, it might’ve achieved playoff glory; that it did not does not bear directly on present decisions. That’s true enough, but it’s also valid to note that a few moments in a few games drastically altered the bigger picture of Pittsburgh baseball, which in turn has impacted the way many will now view the trades of key veterans Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Olney’s juxtaposition of the Bucs with the Royals — whose own postseason successes followed lesser regular-season accomplishments than those of the Pirates, and turned on some magical moments — seems largely apt. Of course, that doesn’t really reduce the sting for the fans. (It’s also fair to note that, for better or worse, Kansas City mostly kept its best veterans around through the ends of their contracts.) It’s an interesting piece worth a read for subscribers.

    • Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
    • As Olney notes in his column and tweeted yesterday, many in the industry expect the Pirates to continue working on trades for veteran players. In particular, Josh Harrison could be on the move — a possibility that has been talked about for much of the winter. The versatile utilityman will surely hold appeal to numerous other organizations, though the full scope of his potential market is not entirely clear at this point.
    • Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
    Giants Acquire Andrew McCutchen Mon, 15 Jan 2018 23:34:37 +0000 5:34pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Pirates are covering $2.5MM of McCutchen’s $14.75MM salary.

    5:25pm: It became all the more clear on Monday that Pirates fans are looking at the end of an era, as the team announced that face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen has been traded to the Giants (along with cash considerations) in exchange for young right-hander Kyle Crick, outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds and $500K worth of international bonus pool space.

    Andrew McCutchen | MLBTR Photoshop

    Outfield help has been a priority for the Giants all offseason after last year’s collective unit combined to bat .253/.311/.374 in more than 2000 plate appearances. Inserting McCutchen into that mix should provide a significant boost on the offensive side of the equation, as the 31-year-old turned in a very strong rebound campaign at the plate in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with 28 homers (his highest total since hitting 31 back in 2012).

    Of course, questions about McCutchen’s glovework persisted in 2017 — and it should be noted that the Giants’ outfield defense was the worst in baseball last year. San Francisco outfielders combined to post an MLB-worst -45 mark in Defensive Runs Saved, and they ranked just 28th with a -11.4 Ultimate Zone Rating. The since-traded Denard Span played no small role in those shortcomings, but McCutchen’s marks of -14 and -4.5 in those respective stats  don’t exactly stand out as an indicator that an extensive amount of help is on the defensive horizon.

    If the Giants were to play McCutchen in an outfield corner, perhaps he could post more meaningful contributions in that regard. At present, he figures to line up in center field, though the Giants could yet play McCutchen in left field and acquire a cost-effective center field option with a stronger defensive reputation (someone in the mold of Jarrod Dyson, speaking from a speculative standpoint).

    However, it’s important to note that there may not be room for the Giants to make much of an addition. San Francisco will add more than $9MM to its luxury tax ledger by picking up the final year of McCutchen’s deal, which should place them roughly $7MM from the threshold. San Francisco has reportedly been aiming to remain under the tax cap in order to reset its penalty level.

    [Related: Updated San Francisco Giants depth chart & San Francisco Giants payroll]

    For the Giants, McCutchen is the second notable veteran bat the team has landed via trade this offseason. San Francisco also picked up Evan Longoria in a trade that sent Christian Arroyo, Span (plus the remaining year of his contract) and a pair of minor league pitchers to the Rays. Depending on their willingness to either shed additional payroll or pivot and exceed the luxury tax for a fifth consecutive season, those two big-name acquisitions could prove to be the Giants’ primary offseason acquisitions.

    The McCutchen agreement comes just days after the Pirates shipped right-hander Gerrit Cole to the reigning World Champion Astros, further signaling a transitional period in Pittsburgh, though the pair of trades does not necessarily indicate that a full-scale tear-down is on the horizon for the Bucs. Both Cole (controlled through 2019) and McCutchen (a free agent next winter) were short-term and relatively high-priced assets — especially for a Pirates team that operates on a notoriously thin budget.

    McCutchen is slated to earn $14.75MM in the final season of his contract, whereas Cole had settled at $6.75MM in order to avoid arbitration. The Pirates, then, will be saving a combined $21.5MM with this pair of swaps — money that could, in theory, be reinvested into the 2018 roster. The Pirates have, after all, opened each of the past three season with payrolls in excess of $90MM but now project for a payroll of roughly $82MM in 2018. The Bucs could further reduce that 2018 commitment if the team ultimately finds a trade partner for infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison; the versatile veteran is slated to earn $10MM this season and, like Cole and McCutchen before him, has been an oft-mentioned trade candidate this offseason.

    [Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart & Pittsburgh Pirates payroll]

    Kyle Crick | Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

    The 25-year-old Crick was the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft and ranked among baseball’s top 100 prospects from 2013-15, per various reports. While his rise through the minors was slowed by control issues, he had a strong year in 2017 after converting to the bullpen on a full-time basis.

    In 29 1/3 innings of relief in Triple-A, he posted a 2.76 ERA with 12.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 44.3 percent ground-ball rate. That strong run led to Crick’s big league debut with the Giants; in 32 1/3 innings in the Majors, he logged a 3.06 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and a 37.9 percent ground-ball rate. Crick’s 95.5 mph average fastball velocity and 11 percent swinging-strike rate both pointed to the potential for his big league strikeout rate to catch up to the more impressive level he flashed in Triple-A.

    Crick is controllable through the 2023 season, so he’ll join a lengthy list of controllable assets the Bucs received in the Cole trade as a potential long-term piece that can step directly onto the roster.

    “Kyle Crick is a physical, Major League-ready right-handed reliever who brings a high-velocity, live fastball complimented by a quality slider to potentially pitch in a late inning role for the Pirates,” said Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “Kyle’s power arsenal has resulted in a high strikeout rate complimented by inducing a lot of weak contact. After his first exposure to the Major League level last season, Kyle appears ready to take the next steps in what should be a productive career as a high leverage Major League relief pitcher.”

    Reynolds, 23 later this month, was the Giants’ second-round pick in 2016 and just wrapped up a strong season in Class-A Advanced, where he hit .312/.364/.462 with 10 homers, 26 doubles and nine triples in 540 trips to the plate. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of had him fourth among Giants prospects, while Baseball America ranked him fifth among San Francisco farmhands just a few weeks ago (before the Arroyo trade, meaning he’d now rank fourth on their list as well).

    “Bryan is an effective offensive player that also plays quality defense,” said Huntington. “We look forward to working with Bryan to maximize his tools and help him become a quality well-rounded Major League player who can impact a game in many ways beyond his quality bat.”

    As for the Pirates’ immediate future in the outfield, it’s not yet entirely clear how they’ll fill the void. Starling Marte seems likely to slide over from the corner outfield to center field, which should be a defensive upgrade over the life of a full season. Top prospect Austin Meadows showed in 2017 that he’s likely not yet ready for the Majors — Meadows hit just .250/.311/.359 in Triple-A — so the Bucs could turn to a platoon of 26-year-old Adam Frazier and veteran utility man Sean Rodriguez in left field for the time being.

    Alternatively, Pittsburgh could wait out the free agent market and see if any veterans become available on bargain deals. The corner outfield market has no shortage of experienced options (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), and some of those names will undoubtedly have to settle for one-year deals later this winter.

    Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported that talks between the two sides were picking up (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the two sides had reached an agreement (Twitter link). Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweeted that Crick was in the deal. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweeted that Reynolds was likely to be a part of the deal, and The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly confirmed as much.’s Jon Morosi reported that the Pirates would pay some of McCutchen’s salary.

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Latest On Giants’ Pursuit Of Outfielders Mon, 15 Jan 2018 20:13:26 +0000 The Giants and Pirates are engaged in “serious talks” regarding outfielder Andrew McCutchen, according to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter link). At the same time, San Francisco is said to have “gotten more serious” in discussions with free agent Lorenzo Cain, in the words of Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), though he also cautions the sides aren’t close to an agreement.

    It has long seemed possible that the Giants could end up landing either of these two veteran players. Certainly, the connections aren’t new. That reports have emerged on both in near proximity could be interpreted in various ways.

    Regarding McCutchen, the Pirates and Giants have reportedly discussed him in the past, though obviously nothing has come together to this point. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area looked at the connection today as well, including the fact that the San Francisco front office has hoped the Gerrit Cole trade might free up chatter on McCutchen, who is owed $14.5MM in his final season of contract control. Per Pavlovic, the Bucs’ demands to this point have been too rich for the Giants.

    It’s possible to view the offseason developments to date from both organizations as a lead-up to a deal involving McCutchen. The Giants, who’d rather not part with draft picks as compensation for signing a qualifying-offer-bound free agent, have already traded for Evan Longoria, so there’s little question they are pushing to return to contention in 2018. And the Pirates’ recent trade of Cole clearly indicates the organization is willing to move on from highly-paid stars. McCutchen has long seemed a more obvious trade piece than was Cole.

    At the same time, it’s too soon to rule out Cain. Both players could certainly fit on the same roster; at present, only Hunter Pence — himself a question mark after a shaky 2017 season — is firmly in place in the outfield. (Our sister site, Roster Resource, currently places Steven Duggar and Jarrett Parker atop the Giants depth chart in center and left.) Of course, doing so would mean ponying up significant cash as well as prospect assets. Even if the Giants were able to secure a nice price for Cain, they’d almost surely end up flying past the luxury line and he’d unquestionably require draft compensation. Getting Cutch, too, will require only a one-year commitment but will mean parting with at least some young assets.

    MLBTR Poll: Grading The Gerrit Cole Swap Mon, 15 Jan 2018 14:25:03 +0000 Gerrit Cole is a highly visible player — a former first overall pick who landed fourth in the National League Cy Young vote in 2015 — so it’s natural there will be strong opinions about the return he drew in the recent swap between the Pirates and Astros. We have already seen a variety of industry opinions pour in (see here, here, here, and here), but I thought it’d be worth taking the temperature of the MLBTR readership.

    There’s little reason to full describe the elements of the agreement. (MLBTR’s Conny Byrne discussed all relevant elements in detail in his post on the Cole trade.) But here’s a brief account for purposes of facilitating today’s poll:

    Astros receive:

    • 2 years of control over SP Gerrit Cole ($6.75MM for 2018; arbitration for 2019) — following aforementioned 2015 season, Cole was limited by injury in 2016 and pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in a healthy 2017 season

    Pirates receive:

    • 4 years of control over RP Michael Feliz — carries 5.13 ERA (allowing 1.5 HR/9) through 121 MLB innings, but has averaged 12.8 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9
    • 5 years of control over SP/RP Joe Musgrove — former first-round pick has been tagged for a .288/.339/.506 slash and 5.37 ERA over 25 MLB starts, but worked to a 1.26 ERA with 39:6 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings last year after moving to the bullpen
    • 6 years of control over 3B Colin Moran — former sixth overall draft pick slashed .308/.373/.543 with 18 home runs in 338 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, but has yet to receive significant time in the majors
    • 6 years of control over OF Jason Martin — 22-year-old reached Double-A for first time in 2017, slashing .273/.319/.483 with 11 home runs in 320 plate appearances

    Since there are two teams involved with their own set of needs, we’ll ask for grades from each organization’s perspective. For Pittsburgh, clearly, the move was designed to add multiple assets that can deliver value over a longer time frame. If even one of these players really succeeds, it could end up standing as a win. Also of note: the Bucs are said to have passed up a chance at gaining one higher-grade prospect (Clint Frazier of the Yankees) in order to add several contributors.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    On the Houston side, it’s all the more clear. The team resisted parting with its own blue-chip prospects, but gave a variety of useful pieces up to acquire just two seasons of Cole. If one views him as even a quality and durable mid-rotation starter, and does not think the assets parted with will come back to haunt the ’Stros, then this could be seen as a bargain. On the other hand, there are some questions surrounding Cole and it is not difficult to imagine one or more of the more controllable assets sent to Pittsburgh delivering greater value than will Cole’s final two arb years.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    Pirates Reportedly Liked Clint Frazier Better Than Anyone They Acquired For Gerrit Cole Mon, 15 Jan 2018 05:55:48 +0000 The Yankees were reportedly willing to part with outfield prospect Clint Frazier in a trade for then-Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole earlier this offseason, but no deal come together between the teams. Although Pittsburgh ended up trading Cole to Houston on Saturday for a four-player package, the Pirates valued Frazier over everyone they got back from the Astros, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. However, the Pirates liked the package they got from the Astros better than the offers the Yankees made, including a final pitch from the Bombers that consisted of three prospects, per Bowden (Twitter link).

    Evaluators, Joe Musgrove On Gerrit Cole Trade Mon, 15 Jan 2018 03:35:57 +0000
  • The four-player return the Pirates got from the Astros for right-hander Gerrit Cole is “brutal,” one evaluator told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The evaluator believes that righties Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz have value as relievers, but he regards third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin as “throw-in types.” Meanwhile, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke to an evaluator who sees Musgrove as a potential No. 4 starter. (Twitter link.) However, the evaluator wonders if the 25-year-old is better suited to come out of the bullpen – something he did with great success in 2017. Musgrove, for his part, expects to start in Pittsburgh. Speaking with Mark Berman of Fox 26 about Saturday’s trade, Musgrove said: “Over the past 12 hours I’ve become more clear-minded about what’s happening here. I think it’s a good move for me. It’s a chance to go to an organization and get back in the rotation and try to help them build something special. Anytime I’m traded for a guy like Gerrit Cole, they’ve got big plans for me, and I plan on filling those big shoes” (Twitter links here).
  • ]]>
    Pirates Designate Shane Carle, Engelb Vielma Sun, 14 Jan 2018 18:10:07 +0000 The Pirates have designated right-hander Shane Carle and shortstop Engelb Vielma for assignment, as per a team announcement.  The moves will create roster space for the newly-acquired players from yesterday’s Gerrit Cole trade.

    This is the second time in less than a month that Carle has been sent to DFA limbo, as the righty was previously designated by the Rockies in late December before being claimed by Pittsburgh.  Carle has a 4.10 ERA, 6.3 K/9, and 2.27 K/BB rate over 527 1/3 career innings in the minors, which includes 179 1/3 frames pitching in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.  The 26-year-old made his MLB debut last season, tossing four innings over three appearances for Colorado.

    It has already been a whirlwind of transactional activity for Vielma for the last five months, as the infielder has gone from the Twins to the Giants to the Phillies and then to the Pirates on a series of waiver claims.  Vielma has only a .256/.316/.302 slash line over 2171 minor league plate appearances (all in Minnesota’s farm system), as he has been more known for his slick glove.  Vielma has spent the bulk of his career as a shortstop, though he has also seen significant time at second and third base.

    Latest On Andrew McCutchen Sun, 14 Jan 2018 18:04:58 +0000
  • Now that Gerrit Cole has been traded, teams who have talked deals with the Pirates believe that the Bucs could now be more open to moving Andrew McCutchen, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes (Twitter links).  Pittsburgh has had “ongoing dialogue” about McCutchen with multiple teams, including the Giants.  One potential side effect of increased trade talks involving McCutchen (and the Marlins’ Christian Yelich) is that it could extend the lack of activity on the free agent outfielder front.
  • If the Pirates did deal McCutchen,’s Buster Olney (Twitter links) isn’t sure how much the Bucs could get back, based on the relatively lacking returns other teams have recently gotten in trades for players in their final year before free agency.  Olney opines that the Pirates could get more young talent back in a trade by offering to cover some of the $14.75MM owed to McCutchen in 2018.
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    More Reaction & Fallout To The Gerrit Cole Trade Sun, 14 Jan 2018 15:26:56 +0000 The Astros and Pirates swung a major trade yesterday, with the World Series champions acquiring Gerrit Cole in exchange for a package of four players (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, Jason Martin).  We’ve already published one batch of reactions to the deal, and now here are some additional details about the trade talks and further analysis about what this deal means for Houston, Pittsburgh, and other clubs…

    • The Astros were able to land Cole without giving up any of their top prospects, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Houston wasn’t willing to offer Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, or Yordan Alvarez.  Musgrove and Moran were seen as the top two pieces of the trade by the Pirates, and they pulled the trigger on the deal since Pittsburgh felt no other team was offering two top prospects of better quality in exchange for Cole.  Musgrove, Feliz, and Moran give the Bucs 15 years of controllable talent, which was also a factor in their decision.
    • Also from Crasnick, the Yankees were willing to include one of Clint Frazier or Chance Adams in a potential Cole trade, but not both.  New York was also intent on holding onto its top minor leaguers, as Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, and Estevan Florial were considered off-limits in trade talks.
    • The Yankees’ unwillingness to move its best prospects could be due to a belief that Yu Darvish could be signed for a “reasonable” price, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes.  This could be a contract in the range of five years and $80MM-90MM, which would represent a stunning discount from the six-year, $160MM deal MLBTR predicted for Darvish at the start of the offseason.  Even with the unprecedentedly slow nature of this winter’s free agent market, it’s hard to believe Darvish would settle for such a relatively small deal, especially with at least five other teams known to be vying for his services.  Harper also notes that even a five-year/$80MM pact would put the Yankees over the luxury tax limit, unless they were to move another big contract to create payroll space.
    • The Pirates’ return was “more one of quantity than of impact,”’s Keith Law writes, though Cole may only be “a soft upgrade” for the Astros rotation if he replicates his 2017 numbers.  Law feels that Cole’s 2016-17 performance curtailed some of his trade value, and while Houston is obviously hoping that Cole returns to his 2015 form, the trade also could’ve been a way of keeping him away from a chief AL rival like the Yankees.
    Reactions To The Gerrit Cole Trade Sun, 14 Jan 2018 02:16:48 +0000 The baseball world is still reeling from the big news earlier today regarding the Astros’ acquisition of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Here are a few of the early takes…

    • What better place to start the Cole reactions than with that of Cole himself? The right-hander seems to be incredibly excited to join his new organization. “I’m ecstatic. I got the phone call not too long ago and I was shocked. I couldn’t have been more happy. I’m familiar with a few people on the organization and the team,” Cole said to reporters (hat tip to’s Brian McTaggart). Cole also used the words “flat-out elated” to describe the “unbelievable opportunity” (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In addition to his giddiness over his trade to the Astros, Cole also spoke highly of the Pirates organization and expressed a fondness for his years with the team.
    • Cole isn’t the only player expressing excitement about the trade, however. Many of his new teammates have reacted strongly on social media as well. New rotation mate Justin Verlander wrote a tweet with the hashtag #backtoback, while Alex Bregman simply tweeted a gif of himself screaming.
    • Grant Brisbee of notes that although the Astros are young and unburdened by large contracts, the team may have acquired Cole in part because they need to consider their window. Brisbee argues that “there isn’t a team in baseball that knows with metaphysical certitude how they’ll look in three years,” so it was beneficial for Houston to act now in order to create a superteam for 2018. While the notion that Cole’s presence makes the Astros a superteam is debatable, he notes that he may just be one of the best pitchers in baseball if last year’s spike in homers allowed turns out to be a fluke.
    • Pirates GM Neal Huntington describes the trade as “the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term.” (hat tip to Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “We felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined,” Huntington adds.
    • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow offers a timeline of events in reference to his team’s talks with the Pirates about Cole, via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Apparently, the two teams were in discussions about the righty as early as last July, but talks were shelved after they couldn’t reach an agreement. During the winter meetings, however, discussions picked up steam again, and after that the teams talked at least once a week until a deal was ultimately agreed upon this morning.
    Astros Acquire Gerrit Cole Sun, 14 Jan 2018 00:05:47 +0000 The Astros have acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates for righties Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin, according to announcements from both teams.

    MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

    Houston and Pittsburgh nearly reached an agreement on a Cole trade earlier this week, but reports of a done deal proved premature. The two sides continued to negotiate, however, and have now come together on one of the most noteworthy trades of the offseason. Cole is the second potential front-end starter the Astros have acquired since last August, when they landed longtime Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who ultimately helped pitch them to their first-ever World Series title a couple months later.

    With Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh among their starters on hand, the Astros didn’t exactly have a desperate need for Cole heading into next season. But adding Cole should nonetheless increase their chances to finish atop the major league mountain again in 2018, and with two years of team control remaining, he figures to help their cause through 2019. Neither Keuchel nor Morton is under contract past 2018, which helps explains why the Astros have been in on Cole and other high-end starters this offseason. The Astros’ addition of Cole should affect top free agents like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, both of whom have been on their radar this winter, as it seems to remove a potential suitor for them.

    Cole, who settled on a $6.75MM salary for his penultimate year of arbitration control on Friday, is coming off a somewhat disappointing season. Although the 27-year-old racked up 203 innings and continued to serve as one of the majors’ hardest-throwing starters, a bloated home run-to-fly ball rate (15.9 percent, well above his career figure of 10.0) helped lead to a personal-worst 4.26 ERA/4.08 FIP.

    Given his down 2017, the Pirates weren’t in position to sell high on Cole. However, as a Scott Boras client nearing free agency, the low-payroll club knew its chances to extend him weren’t good. Consequently, the Bucs shopped Cole around the league – including to the Yankees, Twins and Cubs – before sending him to the Astros. Cole had been with the Pirates since they selected him first overall in the 2011 draft, and he looked like an ace with them at times after debuting in 2013. All told, Cole registered a 3.50 ERA/3.27 FIP with 8.44 K/9, 2.34 BB/9 and a 47.4 percent groundball rate across 782 1/3 innings in Pittsburgh.

    Parting with Cole could begin a rebuild for the Pirates, who finished under .500 for the second straight year in 2017. However, acquiring three major league-ready players for him in Musgrove, Moran and Feliz may also help them compete next season. The headliner is arguably the 25-year-old Musgrove, a former top 100 prospect who has worked as both a starter and reliever since debuting in 2016. While Musgrove scuffled as a starter last season, he was utterly dominant in his first big league action out of the bullpen. Moving to a relief role enabled Musgrove to ramp up his velocity, and it helped lead to a 1.44 ERA with just under nine strikeouts per nine and a paltry 1.44 BB/9 across 31 1/3 innings. It’s unclear whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever going forward, but with five years of control, the Pirates will have time to find an ideal role for him.

    Moran was a first-round pick of the Marlins in 2013 who topped out as Baseball America’s 61st-ranked prospect after that season, though he hasn’t seen much action in the majors to this point (37 plate appearances). And with the emergence of third baseman Alex Bregman, there simply wasn’t a path to playing time in Houston. The 25-year-old Moran held his own in 2017 at Triple-A – his second season at that level – with a .308/.373/.543 line in 338 PAs. Moran ranked as the Astros’ fifth-best prospect prior to the trade, according to, which lauds “his pure left-handed swing and his ability to barrel balls easily while controlling the strike zone.” Defensively, Moran has the hands and arm to handle third, though he lacks range, per

    Feliz, 24, amassed significant experience out of the Astros’ bullpen over the previous two seasons, during which he combined to make 98 appearances and throw 121 innings. While Feliz brought high-90s heat, posted a sky-high 13.14 K/9 and a passable 3.5 BB/9 along the way, he only managed a 4.94 ERA – owing in part to a low groundball percentage (37.1 percent) and a lofty home run-to-fly ball rate (16.5 percent). ERA indicators have been bullish on Feliz, who owns a career 3.67 FIP and 3.17 xFIP. He comes with four years of control, including his final pre-arbitration season in 2018.

    Martin, an eighth-round pick in 2013, brings the least fanfare of anyone in this trade, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noting on Twitter that he may end up as a reserve outfielder down the line. agrees that he won’t turn into a regular option in the corner outfield, though it rated Martin 15th in Houston’s system and suggested he has a chance to develop into a starting center fielder. The 22-year-old spent most of last season in Double-A, where he slashed .273/.319/.483 in 320 PAs.

    Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported the Astros would acquire Cole, and he added that the Pirates would receive Musgrove and Moran. Jon Heyman of FanRag reported the Pirates would get four total players. Rosenthal reported that Feliz and Martin were in the deal (Twitter links). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Unresolved 2018 Arbitration Cases Sat, 13 Jan 2018 00:02:01 +0000 We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)

    Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)

    Players Avoiding Arbitration: National League Fri, 12 Jan 2018 21:10:22 +0000 The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)

    Note that you can keep an eye on all of today’s deals using MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, which can be filtered to show only the results of the team you follow and is also sortable by service time and dollar value of the agreement. All projections that are referenced come from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s annual compilation of projected arbitration salaries.

    Onto today’s landslide of deals…

    National League West

    • The Rockies have agreed to a $2MM salary with righty Chad Bettis, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link). That’s a fair sight more than his $1.5MM projection. Bettis surely would have had an opportunity to set a bigger platform for himself, but had to battle through testicular cancer before returning to the hill in 2017. Meanwhile, second baseman DJ LeMahieu has settled for a $8.5MM payday in his final year of arbitration, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. That’s just a hair short of the $8.8MM he was pegged for in MLBTR’s projections.
    • Giants second baseman Joe Panik is slated to earn $3.45MM in his first season of arb eligibility, Devan Fink of SB Nation was first to tweet. That’s just a hair shy of the $3.5MM that MLBTR projected. Lefty Will Smith has settled at $2.5MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The club has also announced deals with its remaining arb-eligible players, right-handed relievers Sam Dyson ($4.6MM projection), Hunter Strickland ($1.7MM projection), and Cory Gearrin ($1.6MM projection). (H/t John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Twitter). Strickland earns $1.55MM, Nightengale tweets.
    • The Padres and Freddy Galvis agreed to a $6.825MM deal for his lone season of team control in San Diego, tweets Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. Galvis, who spent the first several seasons of his career in Philadelphia before being traded this winter, had been projected to make $7.4MM. Infielder Cory Spangenberg settled at $1.7MM, Heyman tweets, falling below a $2.0MM projection. San Diego has also reached agreements with righty Kirby Yates and outfielder Matt Szczur, the team announced. Yates will earn $1,062,500, Heyman tweets, which is just shy of his $1.1MM projection. Szczur, meanwhile, will get $950K, a healthy boost over his $800K projection, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link).
    • The Diamondbacks agreed to a $7.75MM deal with center fielder A.J. Pollock, Murray tweets. Pollock was projected to earn $8.4MM in his final year of eligibility before free agency. Murray also notes that Brad Boxberger is set to earn $1.85MM next year (Twitter link). Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic adds that lefty Andrew Chafin ($1.2MM projection) and the D-backs have a $1.195MM deal in place. Third baseman Jake Lamb, meanwhile, agreed to a $4.275MM deal with the Diamondbacks, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link). Lamb, eligible for arbitration for the first time, was projected to earn $4.7MM. He’s controllable through 2020. And ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that Chris Herrmann ($1.4MM projection) landed a $1.3MM deal. Righty Taijuan Walker has settled for $4.825MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which is within range but shy of the $5.0MM he projected for. Lefty Robbie Ray has settled at $3.95MM, per Nightengale (Twitter link), which falls short of his $4.2MM projection. Infielder Nick Ahmed will $1.275MM, per Heyman (via Twitter), which tops the projected figure of $1.1MM. Arizona has also announced that Chris Owings and David Peralta have agreed to terms.
    • The Dodgers are in agreement on a $6MM deal with lefty Alex Wood, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He had projected at $6.4MM. Meanwhile, righty Josh Fields agreed to a $2.2MM deal, tweets Murray. Heyman tweets that Enrique Hernandez will earn $1.6MM. Fields’ projection of $2.2MM was on the money, whereas Hernandez topped his mark by $300K. Fields is controlled through 2019, while Hernandez is controllable through 2020. Southpaw Tony Cingrani gets $2.3MM, Murray tweets, which is just a shade over his $2.2MM projection. Outfielder Joc Pederson has also settled, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (via Twitter), with Beth Harris of the Associated Press reporting a $2.6MM salary that rather handily tops the $2.0MM that MLBTR projected.

    National League Central

    • All three remaining Cardinals arb-eligibles have agreed to deals,’s Jenifer Langosch tweetsMarcell Ozuna will earn $9MM after drawin a much larger $10.9MM projection, Heyman tweets. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained that Ozuna likely wouldn’t quite reach the amount the algorithm suggested, though the actual salary still comes in a bit shy of expectations. Lefty Tyler Lyons ($1.3MM projection) receives $1.2MM, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). The Cards have also reached agreement with Michael Wacha for $5.3MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter); he was projected to earn $5.9MM.
    • The Reds agreed to a $860K salary with Anthony DeSclafani, tweets Murray. DeSclafani missed the 2017 season due to arm troubles and had been projected to earn $1.1MM. He’ll remain under Reds control through 2020. Billy Hamilton and the Reds have settled on a one-year deal worth $4.6MM, tweets Murray. A popular trade candidate this offseason, Hamilton was projected to earn $5MM and comes with another two seasons of team control. Murray also conveys that Michael Lorenzen agreed to a $1.3125MM deal, which lines up fairly well with his $1.4MM projection.
    • The Cubs have struck a deal with lefty Justin Wilson, agreeing to a one-year, $4.25MM pact, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). Wilson, who had been projected at $4.3MM, will be a free agent next winter. The Cubs alsoagreed to a $950K salary with infielder Tommy La Stella, tweets’s Carrie Muskat. La Stella was projected to make $1MM in his first offseason of arbitration eligiblity and can be controlled through 2020. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs have agreed to a $4.175MM salary, per Nightengale (on Twitter). That sum comes in a fair bit shy of his projected $4.9MM projection as a first-time eligible player. The Cubs control Hendricks through the 2020 season. Chicago also agreed with Addison Russell, per Wittenmyer (Twitter link). The shortstop will receive $3.2MM for the coming season.
    • Nightengale reports (on Twitter) that the Brewers and breakout closer Corey Knebel settled at $3.65MM. As a Super Two player, Knebel can be controlled through the 2021 season and will be arb-eligible thrice more. He was projected at $4.1MM.’s Adam McCalvy tweets that the Brewers and right-hander Jimmy Nelson settled at $3.7MM, which falls $1MM shy of his $4.7MM projection (though some of that discrepancy may be due to Nelson’s shoulder injury). Milwaukee also announced a deal for infielders Jonathan Villar (projected at $3MM) and Hernan Perez (projected at $2.2MM). McCalvy reports that Villar will earn $2.55MM, while terms of Perez’s deal are not yet available.
    • The Pirates have avoided arbitration with shortstop Jordy Mercer by settling on a $6.75MM salary for 2018, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Mercer, who’d been projected to earn $6.5MM, is entering his final year of team control and will be a free agent next winter. Biertempfel also reports that Gerrit Cole will earn that same $6.75MM salary in 2018 — a $3MM raise over last year (Twitter link). He has two years of control remaining and had been projected to earn $7.4MM. Righty George Kontos has also agreed to terms, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter). He had projected for $2.7MM and will receive a smidge more, at $2,725,000, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).

    National League East

    • The Braves reached a $3.4MM deal with righty Arodys Vizcaino, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). He’d been projected at $3.7MM. The Braves and righty Dan Winkler agreed to a $610K salary for the upcoming season, tweets Mark Bowman of Winkler tossed just 14 1/3 innings in the Majors this year as he made his way back from elbow surgery. He’d projected at $800K.
    • The Marlins and Miguel Rojas agreed to a $1.18MM deal for 2018, Heyman tweets, placing him north of his $1.1MM projection. Rojas should see additional playing time following the Marlins’ wave of trades this offseason. He’s controlled through 2020. Miami also has a deal in place with infielder Derek Dietrich for $2.9MM, Heyman tweets, after projecting at $3.2MM.
    • The Mets were able to settle perhaps their most notable arb case, agreeing to a $7.4MM deal with righty Jacob deGrom, per James Wagner of the New York Times (via Twitter). That’s well shy of his $9.2MM projection, though MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained the formula likely overestimated deGrom’s earning power by quite a wide margin. Fellow top righty Noah Syndergaard gets $2.975MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which goes a fair sight past the $1.9MM projection for the outstanding young starter, whose 2017 season was limited by injury. And reliever AJ Ramos will take home $9.225MM, according to Wagner (via Twitter). That’s just barely past the $9.2MM projection.  Wilmer Flores has also avoided arbitration with the Mets, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (on Twitter). He’ll receive a $3.4MM salary, which falls within $300K of his projected rate. The Mets control Flores through the 2019 campaign. The Mets and right-hander Matt Harvey agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.625MM, tweets Nightengale. Harvey, who is a free agent next winter, had been projected to earn $5.9MM. Meanwhile, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets that Jeurys Familia will earn $7.925MM for the upcoming year, while Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that catcher Travis d’Arnaud will earn $3.475MM in 2018 (Twitter link). Familia, a free agent next winter, was projected at $7.4MM. The Mets control d’Arnaud through 2019, and his projection was $3.4MM. Righty Hansel Robles gets $900K, Heyman tweets.
    • Also via Nightengale (Twitter link), the Nationals agreed to a $6.475MM salary for 2018 with right-hander Tanner Roark. That falls about $1MM shy of his $7.5MM projection but still represents a noted raise of $4.315MM for Roark, whom the Nats control through 2019. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post adds that Michael Taylor will earn $2.525MM next year. Taylor is controlled through 2020 and was projected at $2.3MM.
    • The Phillies and Maikel Franco settled on a $2.95MM salary for the 2018 season, reports Jim Salisbury of (Twitter link). Franco, a Super Two player who’d been projected at $3.6MM, remains under club control with the Phils through the 2021 season. Second bagger Cesar Hernandez will earn at a $5.1MM rate in 2018, per’s Todd Zolecki (via Twitter). That beats his $4.7MM projection and wraps up this year’s arb business for the Phillies.
    Giants Maintaining Interest In McCutchen Fri, 12 Jan 2018 05:02:52 +0000
  • The Giants’ top offer to Jay Bruce was at the three-year level but would have promised about $10MM less to him than the $39MM he ultimately scored from the Mets, according to reports from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). It seems that San Francisco was hoping to get some pop into the lineup at a bit of a discount, which is certainly understandable given the still-lengthy list of potential targets available in free agency and on the trade market. One additional name that has long been linked to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, remains of interest, Nightengale further notes. There’s also a case to be made that the Giants ought to take the opportunity presented by the slow market development while forgetting about the luxury tax line this year, as Andrew Baggarly writes for The Athletic. Of course, that’s also true for a few other teams, and it’s arguable that such interest will help prop things up once player movement begins in earnest.
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    Tigers Claim Johnny Barbato Thu, 11 Jan 2018 19:26:53 +0000 The Tigers have claimed righty Johnny Barbato off waivers from the Pirates, the teams announced and Robert Murray of Fan Rag first tweeted. He was designated recently by Pittsburgh when the club claimed fellow righty Shane Carle.

    Barbato, 25, saw 28 2/3 innings of action in 2017, managing a 4.08 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9. Needless to say, that walk tally will need to go down if Barbato hopes to succeed in the majors. He has never shown major control issues in the minors, though, and he did demonstrate a 94+ mph fastball and average (for a reliever) 11.3% swinging-strike rate.

    Luhnow Refutes Report That Astros Have Deal For Gerrit Cole Wed, 10 Jan 2018 20:44:53 +0000 2:44pm: The Astros are still engaged with the Pirates on Cole but are also still looking at alternatives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

    11:15am: Recent chatter of a possible trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros intensified early today, with multiple reports indicating the sides were gaining momentum. And Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter) reported that a deal was in place between the organizations that would send Cole to Houston.

    Ensuing reports, though, cast doubt and then fully refuted that agreement had been reached. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said that there was “nothing imminent” in any of the team’s trade talks, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). And Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported (Twitter links) first that the deal had not yet fully been completed and ultimately that the apparent news of an accord was simply a “false rumor.”

    All told, it seems there’s no reason at this time to believe a deal is particularly close to coming to fruition, beyond the fact that the sides have evidently engaged in serious discussion. Passan says a trade “is not happening” right now, while noting “talks could pick back up quickly.” And Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter) suggests a trade “isn’t necessarily close.” Indeed, he also hears of another suitor being involved beyond the Yankees (the organization that once seemed likely to land Cole before those talks fizzled). With the necessary proviso that the situation can always change, then, it appears we’re mostly back to the status quo ante on Cole’s trade status.

    Cole, now 27, remains a top trade candidate. He was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. He ascended quickly to become Pittsburgh’s top pitcher, though he has not exactly been at his peak of late. In 2017, he worked to a 4.26 ERA in 203 frames. While that represented a promising return to full health after some limitations in 2016, it also was hardly the output that had come to be expected.

    In 2015, after all, Cole had fully emerged as a staff ace, turning in 208 frames of 2.60 ERA ball with 8.7 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. While his velocity and key peripherals have largely held steady, Cole was tagged for 1.37 home runs per nine — over twice the rate he had maintained previously. As Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs explains, Cole’s heater surrendered quite a bit of added pop in 2017, but there’s reason to believe he can refine his offerings to regain his standing. Cole will cost a projected $7.5MM in 2018 with one more season of arbitration control thereafter.

    For the ’Stros, we’ve seen clear indication of late that the organization wishes to boost an already-strong rotation unit that was already boosted late last year with the addition of Justin Verlander. With Dallas Keuchel, youngster Lance McCullers, and the increasingly interesting Charlie Morton already on hand, along with breakout righty Brad Peacock, it seems Houston’s interest in starters is a want moreso than a need.

    On the Bucs’ side, it’s still hard to know how things will play out this winter. Even if the team deals away Cole and other veteran trade candidates (most notably Andrew McCutchen), it may still have some designs on competing in ’18. But parting with Cole would unquestionably mean delivering a major blow to the team’s expectations for the coming season.

    More broadly, questions persist about just when and how the player market will get moving in earnest. A deal involving Cole might have given some clarity to the outlook for free agent starters, while perhaps leaving the Astros free to dedicate financial resources to other needs (most notably, the bullpen). But with this prospective swap not occurring — at least at this time — we’re left with the same overall market landscape.

    Astros, Pirates Gaining Momentum Toward Gerrit Cole Swap Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:52:24 +0000 10:51am: A deal is “imminent,” Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets.

    10:29am: Whitley is likely to be considered “untouchable” by the ’Stros, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter), though it seems the two young outfielders could still be in play in discussions.

    10:17am: The Astros and Pirates appear to be “picking up steam” in talks involving Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole,’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Negotiations on Cole were reported recently, as Astros owner Jim Crane has made clear his organization is interested in adding a major starter.

    Cole, 27, has long been seen as a front-line power starter, though he has had some stumbles in the past two seasons. While he topped two hundred innings and threw as hard as ever in 2017, he only managed a 4.26 ERA.

    As always, contract rights are a key component of value. Cole is controllable for two more seasons via arbitration. MLBTR’s arbitration projections suggest he could earn $7.5MM for the 2018 season after a $3.75MM salary in 2017.

    It remains unclear just what kind of trade package would suffice to pry Cole free from the Bucs, who originally selected him with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan has suggested (Twitter link) that Pittsburgh is holding out for a headliner such as outfielder Kyle Tucker or righty Forrest Whitley, while the ’Stros are understandably hoping to hold on to their two top-rated prospects. The sides are also said to have discussed young outfielder Derek Fisher.

    Also of note is the fact that, per Sanchez, Cole “was Houston’s top target last summer” when the organization was searching to bolster its rotation. It seems the prior interests has carried into the offseason. Of course, other organizations may also still be involved. At one point, the Yankees were said to be gaining momentum toward a deal for Cole, though that chatter evidently cooled down. Other organizations surely also have interest in the righty.

    Hurdle On Journey To Becoming MLB Manager Wed, 10 Jan 2018 00:56:52 +0000
  • Patrick Mooney of The Athletic argues that the time is right for the Cubs to make a big splash on the free-agent market. Big spenders like the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers are striving to dip below the luxury tax, while several other clubs throughout the league are also operating under financial constraint. Within their division, the Pirates could be on the verge of a rebuild, as trade rumors swirl around Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. Meanwhile, the Reds don’t yet look to be ready to push back into contention. Mooney notes that the Cubs are remaining in touch with agents for Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, though the Chicago brass doesn’t seem to have Lance Lynn as high on its list of priorities, he adds.
  • Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle recently sat down for a Q&A with Tracy Ringolsby of Hurdle discusses his journey from a 10-year playing career to a minor league manager to a coach and skipper in the big leagues. Hurdle shares an anecdote from his time with the Rockies in which he thought he was on the verge of being dismissed as hitting coach when he was in reality being promoted to skipper. The two also discuss Pittsburgh’s return to postseason contention earlier this decade after a prolonged drought, as well as the recent rough patch over the past couple of seasons. It’s well worth a read — particularly for fans of the Pirates and Rockies.
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    Astros “Actively Pursuing” High-End Starters, Have Discussed Gerrit Cole With Pirates Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:27:16 +0000 12:27pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Astros have had talks with the Pirates about a trade that would send Cole to Houston. Young outfielder Derek Fisher’s name has come up in negotiations, though Passan notes that the Pirates “almost certainly would need Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley” to headline the deal.

    The 24-year-old Fisher entered the 2017 season as a well-regarded outfield prospect and elevated his status with a .318/.384/.583 batting line in 384 Triple-A plate appearances. That led to Fisher’s first MLB promotion, though he struggled to a .212/.307/.356 slash in a small sample of 166 PAs with Houston.

    Tucker and Whitley, by most accounts, two of the top prospects in Houston’s system (if not the two very best). Each is a former first-round pick, with Tucker going fifth overall in 2015 and Whitley being tabbed with the 17th selection in the 2016 draft. Both reached Double-A in 2017 despite being four to five years younger than the league average in the Texas League. Whitley displayed some of the most intriguing strikeout numbers of any starter in the minors, while Tucker posted a composite .874 OPS between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.

    11:25am: The Astros have been connected to Yu Darvish at various points throughout the offseason, and owner Jim Crane confirmed to reporters today that his club is in the market for a top-shelf pitching addition (Twitter links, with video, from’s Alyson Footer). Crane didn’t suggest that his front office is zeroed in on one particular target, instead suggesting that an upgrade could come either via free agency or trade.

    “[General manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and his team are actively pursuing a high-end starter,” said Crane. “We don’t have anything done yet, and it may not come to be, but we’re constantly looking to improve the team. … We’re always trying to upgrade the team, so it would have to be a significant upgrade. We’re happy where we’re at. I’ve been told that on paper we have the best team in baseball, but paper doesn’t win titles.”

    Darvish has been the most prominently mentioned name in connection with the Astros, though the free-agent market also features Jake Arrieta while the trade market could bear names such as Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer (among other, potentially yet unforeseen candidates).

    Houston, of course, already boasts a stacked starting rotation. Justin Verlander looked arguably better than ever following an Aug. 31 trade from Detroit to Houston, and he’ll return to front a rotation that includes 2015 AL Cy Young Winner Dallas Keuchel, high-upside young righty Lance McCullers, and 2017 breakout stars Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The ’Stros also have veteran Collin McHugh on hand as a solid back-of-the-rotation option and a number of high-end prospects waiting in the upper minors (including Francis Martes and David Paulino, each of whom has already made his MLB debut).

    However, the Astros could also be on the verge of losing Keuchel and Morton to free agency, as each has just one year of team control remaining. While the development of Martes and/or Paulino could lead to the emergence of some internal replacements, Houston could very well see Verlander depart after the 2019 season. As such, adding a top-end starter right now would not only give the Astros an even more formidable collection of starters, it’d also serve as insurance against the possibility of losing arguably their top three starters over the course of the next two years (although Cole, it should be noted, only comes with two years of team control himself).

    Taking Inventory: Pittsburgh Pirates Mon, 08 Jan 2018 04:09:51 +0000 The 2017 season was the second straight sub-.500 showing by the Pirates, who finished 75-87 and continued to distance themselves from a 2013-15 stretch in which they made the playoffs three straight times. It has now been three-plus months since the Pirates last took the field, though it’s not yet clear which direction they’ll take heading into 2018. While owner Bob Nutting would like to both buy and sell this winter, the Pirates have neither acquired any established major leaguers nor traded any away during what has been a plodding offseason across the majors. With spring training set to commence next month, action figures to pick up soon in Pittsburgh and other big league cities. If the Pirates do indeed sell players in the coming weeks, they have at least a few who would garner respectable returns, as evidenced below…

    One-Year Rentals

    Andrew McCutchen, OF ($14.5MM): Getting rid of McCutchen would be agonizing for the Pirates, who have seen the center fielder develop into a star and a beloved figure in their city since drafting him in 2005. Nevertheless, considering the Pirates have taken inquiries for him this winter a year after nearly trading him, it’s quite possible he has played his last game with the club. Given that he’s entering his last year of team control, McCutchen’s value now is likely higher than it’s going to be during the season. And the 31-year-old helped his stock in 2017 by hitting .279/.363/.486 with 28 home runs in 650 plate appearances, thus rebounding from a mediocre 2016 at the plate.


    While McCutchen isn’t any kind of a defensive asset at this point, his bat still carries plenty of value, which has led to interest from the Mets and Giants. Getting McCutchen’s money off the books would appeal to the low-payroll Pirates, but that alone wouldn’t suffice – unsurprisingly, they also want a legitimate return for their longtime franchise face.

    Jordy Mercer, SS ($6.5MM projected arbitration salary): The Pirates are reportedly content to keep the 31-year-old Mercer, who likely wouldn’t bring back much in a trade anyway. Mercer’s a lifetime .256/.316/.383 hitter who has only drawn up-and-down reviews from advanced defensive metrics since he became a regular in 2013.

    Sean Rodriguez, UTIL ($5.75MM): Rodriguez was part of an August 2017 trade with the Braves in which he returned to the Pirates for struggling first base/outfield prospect Connor Joe. If Rodriguez’s value was low then, it’s in an even worse state now, given that he closed the season by hitting .168/.255/.274 in 106 PAs in Pittsburgh. Between the Braves and Pirates, Rodriguez batted an ugly .167/.276/.295 and struck out in 37.3 percent of PAs. In fairness to Rodriguez, it’s worth noting that an offseason car crash and the shoulder surgery he underwent thereafter likely played a part in his forgettable year.

    Daniel Hudson, RHRP ($5.5MM): The hard-throwing Hudson didn’t produce to the level the Pirates hoped when they signed him as a free agent last winter, as he logged a 4.38 ERA with 9.63 K/9 and 4.82 BB/9 across 61 2/3 innings. More than half the league showed interest in Hudson in the weeks before he joined the Pirates, though, and that was off a season in Arizona that came with some rough patches. So, perhaps Hudson would be able to bring back something of a worth in a trade in the wake of last year’s unspectacular output.

    Two Years Of Control

    Francisco Cervelli, C ($22MM through 2019): Cervelli was a revelation for the Pirates in 2015, leading them to extend him the next year, but he hasn’t been nearly as effective recently. Injuries helped limit Cervelli to 182 games during the previous two seasons, including 81 in 2017. While Cervelli, 31, slashed a respectable .249/.342/.370 in 304 trips to the plate to continue a solid offensive career as a Buc, the excellent pitch framing he showed off in prior years was not on display. Now, considering Cervelli’s price tag, injury issues, 2017 defensive drop-off and the lack of contenders looking for a starting catcher, this doesn’t seem like the ideal time to move him. Interestingly, though, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggested that there were some trade rumors about Cervelli during the Winter Meetings last month.

    Ivan Nova, RHP ($17MM through 2019): The unexpected success Nova experienced as a Pirate in late 2016 after coming over in a trade with the Yankees didn’t quite transfer last year. Still, in the first season of a three-year, $26MM deal, Nova ate innings (187) and posted a playable 4.14 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 1.73 BB/9 and a 45.7 percent groundball rate. On one hand, you’d expect plenty of teams in need of a capable back-end starter to have interest in the reasonably priced 30-year-old if the Pirates shop him. On the other, we were among many around the game to overestimate his market when he was a free agent in a weak class of starters a winter ago.


    Gerrit Cole, RHP ($7.5MM projected salary): As a Scott Boras client whose team control is running out, it seems to be a matter of when – not if – the Pirates trade Cole. The 27-year-old fireballer has drawn widespread interest this offseason from teams seeking a mid-/front-of-the-rotation starter. The Yankees, Cubs and Twins are among many clubs that have inquired about Cole, who’d very likely bring back an impressive haul in a deal.

    David Freese, 3B/1B ($4.25MM in 2018 and either a $6MM club option or a $500K buyout in 2019): There hasn’t been much trade buzz this offseason regarding Freese, who may lose playing time in Pittsburgh in 2018. The soon-to-be 35-year-old offered unexciting production for the fifth straight year in 2017, when he hit .263/.368/.371 in 503 PAs, though a roughly average player on an affordable salary shouldn’t be seen as valueless.

    George Kontos, RHRP ($2.7MM projected salary): There doesn’t seem to be much value here – the Giants gave Kontos to the Pirates for nothing last August, after all – yet the 32-year-old has held his own in the majors. Kontos’ ERA ranged from 2.33 to 3.39 from 2014-17, and he has typically limited free passes in his career (2.62 BB/9). Further, while Kontos was a below-average strikeout pitcher in past seasons, he did register a career-high 9.5 K/9 and a personal-best 16.4 percent swinging-strike rate in 2017. He also recorded a .269 xwOBA against, beating out newly minted $52MM man Wade Davis (.289), among others.

    Longer-Term Assets

    Gregory Polanco, OF (controllable through 2023 for $54MM): Hamstring injuries helped limit Polanco to 108 games and just 0.5 fWAR in 411 PAs last season, when he batted a meager .251/.305/.391. While the 26-year-old has never been an offensive dynamo, his baserunning, defense and contract have combined to make him a valuable player. Barring a shocking trade, he’ll attempt to bounce back in Pittsburgh next season.

    Starling Marte, OF (controllable through 2021 for $41.5MM): Marte was among the most valuable assets in the sport from 2013-16, when he hit, ran and defended his way to 16.4 fWAR, but the shine came off to a degree last season. Not only did Marte sit 80 games on account of a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, but he wasn’t any kind of force during the 77 contests in which he did appear. The 29-year-old hit a career-low .275/.333/.379 and experienced a dramatic decline in the power department, which has never been a major strength for him anyway. Like Polanco, though, there’s nothing to suggest the Pirates are interested in moving Marte or his still-appealing contract.

    Josh Harrison, UTIL ($10MM salary in 2018 and club options totaling $22MM from 2019-20): As with McCutchen and Cole, Harrison has been a popular name in rumors this winter. Perhaps the Pirates should part with the 30-year-old Harrison now, given his recent inconsistency. Harrison broke out in 2014, but he followed that up with subpar showings from 2015-16 before rebounding to enjoy a quality season last year. The Yankees, Mets and Blue Jays are a few clubs that have pursued the infielder/outfielder this winter.

    Felipe Rivero ($3.1MM projected salary; controllable through 2021): As an elite, flamethrowing reliever who’s under wraps for the foreseeable future, the left-handed Rivero is clearly one of the most valuable players in the Pittsburgh organization. The 26-year-old is now coming off the best full season of his career, during which he tossed 75 1/3 innings of 1.67 ERA ball and notched 10.51 K/9, 2.39 BB/9 and a 52.9 percent grounder rate. Rivero also converted 21 of 23 save chances, and if he remains in the ninth inning for the Pirates, it’s only going to drive up his price in arbitration. There is a case to be made that the Pirates should shop Rivero now when his value’s at its zenith, especially if they don’t expect to compete in 2018, though it seems highly unlikely to happen.

    While Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams and Tyler Glasnow are among other Pirates with trade value, there’s no reason to expect the team to market any of those pre-arb players.

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Images.

    Latest On Pirates' Trade Talks With The Mets Sun, 07 Jan 2018 20:10:25 +0000
  • The recent talks between the Mets and Pirates about Andrew McCutchen may have actually been more focused around Josh Harrison, who has long been cited as a Mets target for their hole at second base.  According to Puma, the Mets would’ve taken on the salaries of McCutchen ($14.75MM) and Harrison ($10MM in 2018, plus club options in 2019-20), preferring to give Pittsburgh salary relief rather than to deal prospects from New York’s thin farm system.  Of course, the Mets have payroll restrictions of their own, which is why Juan Lagares (owed $15.5MM in 2018-19) would “almost certainly” have been going back to the Pirates in such a deal to help balance out the salaries.  In my view, this trade doesn’t make much sense for the Pirates unless the Mets added significant minor league talent — Harrison and McCutchen are both quality trade chips for the Bucs, not mere salary dump candidates.  A source tells Puma that a trade between the Mets and Pirates continues to remain unlikely.
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    Minor MLB Transactions: 1/5/18 Sat, 06 Jan 2018 02:53:11 +0000 Here are Friday’s minor moves from around the game…

    • The Rangers have inked a minor-league pact with right-hander Brandon Cumpton, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning news (Twitter link). Arm troubles have limited the 29-year-old of late, but he did return to professional action in 2017 after a two-year hiatus. Over 37 1/3 innings, Cumpton pitched to a 3.86 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
    • As Cumpton leaves the Pirates organization, two other right-handers are on their way in, according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. Tyler Jones and Bo Schultz have each joined the Bucs on minor-league arrangements, per the report. The former will be looking to crack the majors for the first time. He has often produced quality strikeout rates in the upper minors but only managed a 4.38 ERA in 63 2/3 innings at Triple-A last year with the Yankees organization. As for Schultz, the former Blue Jays reliever will be looking to return from Tommy John surgery. Schultz turned in a useful 2015 season but faltered in the ensuing season — he worked to a 5.51 ERA in his 16 1/3 MLB innings — before going under the knife.
    • Righty William Cuevas will join the Red Sox organization on a minor-league pact, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The 27-year-old has spent the bulk of his career in the Boston organization but played elsewhere in 2017. He worked to a 4.85 ERA in 104 Triple-A frames in 2017, with 7.0 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. Cuevas has twice cracked the majors, but only briefly.
    • Yet another right-handed hurler, Preston Guilmet, is heading to the Cardinals on a minors deal, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. He’ll get a spring invite and can earn at a $600K rate in the majors. The 30-year-old Guilmet has seen parts of three seasons in the majors but only has 23 career innings at the game’s highest level. He has put up some interesting results of late, though, posting a 2.77 ERA with 10.8 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 in 68 1/3 Triple-A frames in 2016 before heading to Japan and running a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in his 54 2/3 innings for the Yakult Swallows (over four starts and 28 relief appearances).

    Earlier Updates

    • The Tigers have agreed to a minor league deal with former Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (on Twitter). Kozma, 30 in April, split the 2017 season between the Rangers and Yankees organizations and logged 51 plate appearances in the Majors, though he batted just .111/.200/.178 in that small sample. Long considered an excellent defender with a light bat, Kozma is a career .215/.282/.285 hitter in parts of six MLB seasons but also comes with a career +11 Defensive Runs Saved mark and +9 Ultimate Zone Rating in 1450 innings at shortstop.
    • The Braves announced yesterday that right-handed reliever Luke Jackson cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Gwinnett. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Rangers system, the now-26-year-old Jackson posted an ERA north of 6.00 and walked 16 batters in 24 1/3 innings with Gwinnett last season. He actually performed better in the Majors, logging a 4.62 ERA in 50 1/3 frames, albeit with pedestrian averages of 5.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 with a 45.2 percent grounder rate. Jackson does have a history of missing bats in the upper minors and did average 94.7 mph on his heater last year while running up a 10.2 percent swinging-strike rate, so there’s some hope that he could yet figure things out.
    Yankees Have Explored Josh Harrison Deal Fri, 05 Jan 2018 18:33:42 +0000
  • The Yankees checked back in with the Orioles on Manny Machado this week, per FanRag’s Jon Heyman, but the O’s have yet to receive an offer from any team that is close to what they’d hope to receive for Machado. The Yankees remain interested in Machado, though, believing that they have a legitimate chance to sign him long-term (even without an extension window being granted). The O’s reportedly want a pair of MLB-ready pitchers for Machado, though Heyman notes that third base prospect Miguel Andujar intrigues Baltimore to some degree. For now, Andujar is viewed as the Yankees’ starter at third base, though Heyman adds that the Yanks are exploring a number of avenues in the infield; in addition to Machado, they’ve shown interest in the PiratesJosh Harrison and are keeping tabs on the free-agent market in case Todd Frazier’s asking price drops to one year.
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    Latest On Jung Ho Kang & Andrew McCutchen Fri, 05 Jan 2018 05:46:35 +0000
  • The Pirates and Mets have again engaged in some talks involving long-time Bucs star Andrew McCutchen, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). As things stand, though, it seems there’s no reason to believe the Mets are a particularly likely destination. The 31-year-old looks to be a solid value after a nice bounceback season, but at $14.75MM on a one-year commitment he’s not exactly teeming with value, either. And that’s still a big payroll hit for the Mets, who are reportedly looking to upgrade in several areas without greatly increasing their 2018 financial commitments. From the Pittsburgh perspective, of course, the team seems mostly still to be considering arrangements that will maximize resources without fully committing to win-now or future-oriented extreme. That’s the broad takeaway from the mailbag of’s Adam Berry, who nicely covers a variety of topics of interest to Bucs fans.
  • Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a long look at the path of Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang, who recently washed out of Dominican winter ball and still does not appear to have an avenue back to playing in the majors. It’s well worth reading the piece in its entirety for a glance at Kang’s hard-to-decipher rise and fall. And it’s worth noting that Nesbitt says some within Kang’s former organization, the Nexen Heroes, are hopeful that the power-hitting infielder could negotiate an exit from his contract with the Pirates to pave the way for a return to the team for which he long starred in Korea.

    Pirates, Giants Discussing Andrew McCutchen Swap Thu, 04 Jan 2018 23:43:01 +0000
  • The Giants and Pirates have had recent discussions about a trade involving Andrew McCutchen, though the two sides aren’t close to a deal, reports’s Jon Morosi. The Pirates would want the Giants to include one of the organization’s best prospects — either Heliot Ramos, Chris Shaw or Tyler Beede — in any deal for McCutchen, and San Francisco brass is reluctant to part with additional top talent in an already-thin farm system after giving up Christian Arroyo in the Evan Longoria blockbuster. The 31-year-old McCutchen will earn $14.5MM this season before becoming a free agent next winter. While he had a significant rebound at the plate in 2017 (.279/.363/.486, 28 homers), he also turned in poor defensive metrics in center field for a fourth consecutive season. Upgrading the outfield defense has been a stated priority for the Giants.
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    Pirates Claim Shane Carle, Designate Johnny Barbato Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:49:42 +0000 The Pirates announced on Thursday that they’ve claimed righty Shane Carle off waivers from the Rockies and designated right-hander Johnny Barbato for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Carle was designated for assignment last week when the Rockies signed Wade Davis.

    Carle, 26, made his Major League debut with the Rockies last year, tossing four innings and yielding three runs on six hits and no walks with four punchouts. He averaged 93.6 mph on his heater in that brief four-inning sample and spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A, where he struggled to a 5.37 ERA in an extremely hitter-friendly setting. Carle averaged 7.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 with a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in Albuquerque — his second go-around at that level.

    Carle was initially drafted by the Pirates back in 2013, though Pittsburgh traded him to Colorado in exchange for righty Rob Scahill about 18 months later. He has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Bucs can send him to Triple-A this spring without needing to expose him to waivers.

    Barbato, 25, posted a 4.08 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 5.7 BB/9 and a 37.9 percent grounder rate in 28 2/3 frames out of the Pittsburgh ’pen last season. He turned in more encouraging K/BB numbers and a solid 3.06 ERA in 35 1/3 Triple-A innings with the Pirates, but Barbato also averaged a gaudy 1.78 HR/9 while pitching in Triple-A. That, paired with his control problems in the Majors, may have made him expendable in the Pirates’ eyes.

    Barbato averages better than 94 mph on his fastball and has averaged better than a strikeout per inning over the vast majority of his career, including upper-minors stints with the Yankees and Pirates in recent seasons. He still has a minor league option remaining, so another club in need of bullpen depth could pick him up and hope to better help him harness his command with a change of scenery.

    Cubs Rumblings: Arrieta, Darvish, Cobb, Cole, Yelich Wed, 03 Jan 2018 03:07:21 +0000 The latest on the North Siders comes from Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago

    • To this point, the Cubs and Cardinals have shown the most interest in free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, according to Levine. The Cubs reportedly may be willing to offer a four-year, $110MM contract to the soon-to-be 32-year-old Arrieta, who mostly thrived with the team from 2013-17.
    • Elsewhere on the pitching market, the Cubs remain in contact with Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, per Levine, though he casts doubt on them being the favorites to sign the latter. They’re wary of Cobb’s asking price, which appears to be in the $17MM to $19MM range per annum, Levine relays.
    • Along with the previously reported Chris Archer, the Cubs are interested in swinging a trade for Pirates righty Gerrit Cole, Levine writes. This is the first reported connection of the offseason between the Cubs and Cole, who has mostly been linked to the Yankees. Talks between the Yankees and Pirates simmered last month, though, which could pave the way for another team to swoop in and land the 27-year-old. Given that Chicago and Pittsburgh are in the same division, the Cubs are obviously quite familiar with Cole. The Scott Boras client is under control for the next two seasons, and he’ll earn a projected $7.5MM in 2018.
    • Looking beyond starting pitching possibilities, Levine doesn’t rule out more additions to the Cubs’ bullpen or position player group. With Wade Davis having signed with the Rockies, the Cubs could be in the market for a closer if they don’t want to turn the ninth-inning reins to either of the just-signed Brandon MorrowSteve Cishek tandem or another in-house option. But whether the team bids on a top free agent like Greg Holland or Addison Reed could depend on how much spending room it has left after it picks up another starter, per Levine. Further, it’s possible the Cubs could try to trade for Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, who would likely cost them fellow center fielder Albert Almora Jr. in a deal, Levine contends. He also lists free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain as a name to watch for the Cubs.
    Poll: What’s Next For The Pirates? Mon, 01 Jan 2018 04:39:46 +0000 As those who paid attention to the MLB offseason a year ago remember, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was among the most popular figures in the rumor mill. At the time, the Pittsburgh icon was coming off a career-worst season both offensively and defensively, which surely hindered the team in its efforts to garner suitable offers for him. Ultimately, the Pirates retained McCutchen and enjoyed a bounce-back year from him at the plate (.279/.363/.486 with 28 home runs in 650 PAs). While McCutchen struggled again in the grass, where he posted minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-4.5 Ultimate Zone Rating, the onetime National League MVP nonetheless ranked a solid 17th among outfielders in fWAR (3.7).

    Andrew McCutchen

    This winter, on the heels of a rebound year, rumors regarding McCutchen haven’t been nearly as abundant. The Giants are the only known team with interest in the 31-year-old, yet they don’t seem to view him as a priority. Still, although nothing looks imminent on the McCutchen front, it’s possible the five-time All-Star has played his last game with the Pirates – who drafted him 11th overall in 2005.

    With McCutchen entering a contract year in 2018, in which he’ll make $14.75MM, general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged this month that the player’s time in Pittsburgh may be winding down. Trading McCutchen prior to the season wouldn’t seem to make much sense if the Pirates plan to compete next season and avoid a third straight non-playoff campaign, but a return to prominence may be a long shot.

    With McCutchen in the fold, the Pirates are projected to start 2018 with a payroll of just under $104MM. That would represent a season-opening high for owner Bob Nutting, whose rosters haven’t begun any campaign above the $100MM mark since he took the helm of the franchise in 2007. The Pirates’ low-spending ways may make an offseason McCutchen trade all the more likely, though he’s not the only notable veteran they could jettison to help cut costs. Infielder Josh Harrison, who will make $10MM in his third-last year of team control next season, has drawn widespread trade interest and might find himself in the uniform of the Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays or another club by the springtime.

    Unlike McCutchen and Harrison – two useful but not great assets –  right-hander Gerrit Cole would bring back a significant return in a trade. Not only is the flamethrowing 27-year-old a bona fide No. 2/3 starter, but he’s due a relatively modest $7.5MM in 2018. Considering Cole’s a Scott Boras client, the likelihood of him eschewing free agency in favor of a long-term extension with the Pirates seems low. That could increase their urgency to trade Cole, who’s going into his penultimate year of team control.

    No doubt cognizant of the Boras factor, Huntington was reportedly “motivated” to part with Cole earlier this month. It appeared then that Cole would join the Yankees, but talks between them and the Pirates subsequently lost momentum. Even if Pittsburgh and New York don’t eventually find common ground, though, there are plenty of other teams that would benefit from a Cole addition – and the Bucs have engaged with some of those clubs.

    At times, the 2017 portion of the offseason was a slow-moving bore, but the payoff is that there will be copious trades and signings in the New Year. With enticing trade chips in McCutchen, Harrison and Cole, the Pirates may often find themselves at the center of the action leading up to April. If you were calling the shots for the club, how would you approach the next couple months?

    (poll link for app users)

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Rockies Notes: Davis, Bridich, Holland, Arenado, Harrison Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:11:06 +0000 The signings of Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee have given the Rockies a deep and experienced relief corps, though’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required and recommended) wonders if the team needed to go to such expensive lengths to reinforce its bullpen.  Other teams who have relied on excellent pens in recent seasons, Law notes, have generally used their own homegrown arms or low-cost converted starters as relievers rather than sign several pricey free agents.  Law also isn’t a fan of the three-year, $52MM Davis contract in general, citing Davis’ injuries and dip in performance over the last two seasons from his 2014-15 dominance.

    Here’s more on the Rockies from GM Jeff Bridich’s chat with reporters (including’s Thomas Harding and the Denver Post’s Nick Groke) on Friday…

    • Despite the mutual interest between Colorado and former closer Greg Holland, the two sides weren’t able to reach agreement on a reunion, with Bridich saying two weeks ago that the team had made Holland a “strong offer” to re-sign.  It seems as if the Rockies then made a swift pivot to Davis, as while Davis and the team had been linked earlier this winter, Bridich said the deal was made just within the last week.
    • After so heavily remaking the bullpen, the Rockies are likely done with pitching additions altogether.  “I’d be very surprised if we added another reliever or a starter,” Bridich said.
    • The next step would seem to be addressing needs in the corner outfield or at first base.  In Harding’s words, Bridich was “open, but non-committal” about the idea of re-signing Carlos Gonzalez, with the GM simply noting that Gonzalez was “part of the market.”
    • While Bridich didn’t put a timetable on extension talks with Nolan Arenado, “there definitely are conversations that will happen” about locking up the star third baseman.  Teams generally wait until Spring Training or until significant offseason business has been concluded to discuss extensions with their players, and the negotiations with Arenado will no doubt be particularly in-depth given the huge money needed to keep him at Coors Field.  Arenado is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2019 season, when he’ll still just be 28 years old and in the midst of his prime.  Arenado and the Rockies agreed to a two-year, $29.5MM deal last offseason to cover two arbitration years, and Arenado has one final arb-eligible season remaining in 2019 due to his Super Two status.
    • I’m not sure where the Josh Harrison stuff comes from,” Bridich said in regards to rumors connecting the Rockies to the versatile Pirates infielder/outfielder.  It should be noted that this isn’t technically a denial of any trade interest, though Harrison is perhaps a better fit on a team that could make fuller use of his multi-positional ability.  The Rockies have Arenado and DJ LeMahieu locked in at third and second base, respectively, so Harrison would spend most of his time as a corner outfielder if he did land on Colorado’s roster.  (Then again, given that the Rox did sign Ian Desmond last winter with the intent of using him as a first baseman, maybe we shouldn’t rule out any outside-the-box ideas in regards to this team.)
    National League Notes: Rockies, Realmuto, Yelich, Taillon Sat, 30 Dec 2017 15:31:10 +0000 Dave Cameron of Fangraphs postulates that the Rockies need to upgrade more than just their bullpen if they hope to be successful in 2018. He wonders if their additions so far “haven’t improved them as much as prevented them from getting worse.” At first glance, one could say that Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw are probably improvements over Greg Holland and Pat Neshek, respectively. However, considering the low WAR contribution from relievers in comparison to other players, those upgrades seem marginal. The team still has big questions to answer at first base, and in the outfield, so although they seem to have the best bullpen in the NL as it stands right now, they need to make impactful additions in other areas or rely on significant improvements from members of their current roster. After all, projections have them significantly behind the Dodgers in the NL West, as well as St. Louis and Arizona in the Wild Card race.

    Questions continue to pop up when looking towards the future. Cameron notes that the 2017 iteration of the Rockies worked in large part because Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado provided them with over 12 fWAR at just $20MM between them. Unfortunately for Colorado, Blackmon is set to reach free agency at the end of 2018, and it would take a significant raise on his current salary to bring him back. The same is true for Arenado the year following. The bullpen contracts the team dished out this year will cost them something in the neighborhood of $35MM per season through 2020; that puts a significant constraint on their ability to retain their stars or further build through free agency. Cameron’s article raises some important questions about the Rockies’ offseason moves so far, and is worth a full read.

    More news from around the National League as we approach New Year’s Eve…

    • Speculation surrounding Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto and outfielder Christian Yelich has been heating up lately, and Joe Frisaro of reports that while the club is willing to listen on their two most valuable remaining trade assets, actually moving either player would require a “huge overpay”. Frisaro adds that the team is not looking to “water down” the return for either of them, making a potential salary dump inclusion of Martin Prado or Brad Ziegler less likely. MLBTR profiled Realmuto’s trade candidacy on Christmas Day, listing the Nationals, Rockies and Diamondbacks as good fits in theory. He’s projected for just a $4.2MM salary next season, and can be controlled through arbitration for two more years after that. As for Yelich, he’s been worth an average of 4 fWAR in each of the past four seasons and is owed just $43.25MM through 2021 thanks to a team-friendly contract extension.
    • Jameson Taillon had a tough battle with cancer last season, causing him to miss significant time during the season. But the resilient Pirates righty is feeling confident headed into the 2018 season, and Adam Berry of has the inside scoop. “You spend time in the clubhouse and know we have a lot of good guys as humans that are extremely determined to get better,” Taillon said. He’s reportedly working on new pitch grips and developing plans for how to attack hitters in the upcoming season. Taillon finished last season with a 4.44 ERA, though his 3.48 FIP paints a decidedly more attractive picture of his potential.
    Latest On Market For Josh Harrison Thu, 28 Dec 2017 02:59:44 +0000 In an update on the market for Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review writes that a “handful” of organizations have at least reached out to gauge the asking price. Indeed, there’s some indication that he’s the Bucs’ most heavily pursued trade candidate.

    Among the teams to have reached out are the Yankees, Mets, and Blue Jays. The Yanks were tied recently, albeit somewhat speculatively, to Harrison in relation to a potentially larger move involving Gerrit Cole. Interest from the latter two was reported a few weeks back (see here and here), though it’s notable to hear they’re still in pursuit.

    Though further pursuers haven’t yet been identified, it isn’t difficult to imagine quite a few other clubs having interest. Harrison, after all, can play all over the diamond and would fit quite comfortably on a number of rosters.

    His contract rights are also rather appealing. The 30-year-old will earn a reasonable $10MM in 2018 and can be controlled by successive club options. At $10.5MM and $11.5MM apiece, they won’t exactly come at a bargain rate, but the flexibility is plenty desirable in its own right.

    Harrison likely won’t replicate his excellent 2014 campaign, but was plenty productive in 2017. He ended the year with a solid .272/.339/.432 batting line and career-best 16 home runs to go with a dozen steals. As usual, Harrison rated as a quality defender and baserunner, making him an approximately 3-WAR player despite only carrying league-average production at the plate.

    At this point, it does not seem that any team has emerged as a clear favorite to acquire Harrison — or even that the Pirates are more likely than not to move him. While the organization could fill in from within should it deal Harrison, there’s also little question that he improves the team’s outlook for 2018. Just how inclined the Pirates will be to move him may hinge on whether they end up dealing Cole and/or long-time franchise face Andrew McCutchen.

    Latest on Gerrit Cole Mon, 25 Dec 2017 01:31:14 +0000 TODAY: Chance Adams and Miguel Andujar could be part of a hypothetical Yankees/Pirates trade for Cole, Kristie Ackert and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News report.  If those two prospects and Frazier are all included, that could mean the Pirates will also include Josh Harrison in the deal.  While the Yankees have also talked to the Diamondbacks about Patrick Corbin and the Tigers about Michael Fulmer, it seems as if Cole is New York’s preferred target of the three pitchers; Corbin is under control for just the 2018 season while Detroit is putting an enormous asking price on Fulmer’s services.

    SATURDAY: A trade of Gerrit Cole doesn’t appear to be imminent at this point, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter). Though it seemed at one point that talks between the Yankees and Pirates were picking up momentum, Crasnick says that multiple clubs have engaged with the Pirates since the winter meetings; the prospect of a Cole trade isn’t “Yankees or bust”.

    The Yankees don’t appear to have tunnel vision on a Cole deal, either. Though the Bronx Bombers are trying to net Pittsburgh’s prized right-hander with proposals centered around Clint FrazierBill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Bombers offered similar packages to the Rays and Tigers for Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer, respectively. From my perspective, it seems as though the Yankees may not be interested in Cole specifically, but rather could have a broader objective to move the 23-year-old Frazier in exchange for pitching help. Following the club’s acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, it appears as though Frazier is destined to be a high-ceiling depth piece for the Yankees, whose outfield picture features Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Stanton, with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury also on the roster.

    In a brilliant piece for the New York Post, Joel Sherman points out that the Yankees can afford to be patient, as they did with Stanton this winter and Sonny Gray this summer. They’re not desperate for pitching right now, as their rotation is set to feature Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. While each of those pitchers carries a question mark or two (or in Sherman’s words, “red flag possibilities”), the ballclub wouldn’t be chastised if it were to have these five in the rotation come Opening Day. Furthermore, top prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield could reach the majors before long, with Adams being the more likely of the two to contribute in 2018.

    From the Pirates’ side, they don’t necessarily need another outfielder. However, it stands to reason that a trade of Cole could set off a domino effect that prompts Pittsburgh to sell off other pieces. As Brink states in a separate article (one that deals with the “what if” scenario of a Cole trade), trading the right-hander could act as “the first tug on the rope that raises the white flag on 2018.” In that case, they’d be highly likely to shop Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP, and his hypothetical trade would mean that Frazier could suddenly become a useful piece.

    It’s unclear how serious the Pirates’ talks are with other potential suitors at this time, or even whether those clubs have made formal offers. Crasnick notes in his above tweet that a deal probably won’t come together before Christmas, but adds that trade talks could pick up again between then and New Year’s. It stands to reason that Pittsburgh could be patient for months, or even wait until the 2018 trade deadline to trade Cole (if they opt to move him at all). It will of course be far more evident how the Pirates’ playoff chances compare with those of the other NL Central clubs. However, there are plenty of reasons to move him now as well, including the high probability that clubs would be willing to pay more to have Cole for a full season, and the risk that the Yankees might acquire a different starter.

    Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting On Offseason Moves, Buying Or Selling, Extensions Mon, 25 Dec 2017 00:09:45 +0000 Pirates chairman and principal owner Bob Nutting discussed several topics as part of a wide-ranging Q&A with Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (part one, part two).  Here are some of the highlights…

    • Nutting believes his team can compete in the NL Central next year, though when asked if the Pirates will be buyers or sellers this winter, the owner said “it’s my belief we need to do both.”  Strictly focusing on either avenue “hurts our ability to make the best deal on the marketplace. The most important thing for the organization long-term is that every one of those deals we optimize every bit of advantage we have.”  Nutting said that Pirates GM Neal Huntington “has a wide-open slate” within which to operate, as “there are more paths and opportunities open right now for the Pirates than we’ve had in any particular window I can think of.”
    • Back in September, Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle both had their contracts extended through the 2021 season, a clear sign of commitment from ownership despite the Bucs’ struggles in 2017.  “I certainly have a bias towards stability,” Nutting said.  “That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes….We’re not stubborn, but I do believe we have the right people leading the organization now.”
    • Though Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Francisco Cervelli, and Josh Harrison all haven’t lived up to expectations after signing extensions with the team, Nutting “would do all of those (contracts) again,” though the Pirates will be re-evaluating their training methods to see if injuries can be avoided.  Extensions are “not a precise science. You need to make the very best decision you can with the information you have at the time,” the owner said.  “Frankly, my role then is to make sure Neal and his team know that if they make the best decision they can, we’re not going to second-guess it three months or six months or two years later based on something that was unforeseen.”
    • The Pirates didn’t make any significant in-season acquisitions to fill the voids left by Marte (suspension), Polanco (multiple DL stints) and Jung Ho Kang (restricted list), though Nutting said that the team’s lack of activity wasn’t due to a lack of financial resources.  Rather, the Bucs simply didn’t count Polanco getting hurt again, or that Marte would be so rusty in the wake of his 80-game PED suspension.  For Kang, however, Nutting admitted that “if we knew then what we know now, we would have done something different with Jung Ho. We had no idea — maybe we should have — that it would be an entire season (without him). We all live in an imperfect world with imperfect information.”  Kang was unable to obtain a work visa to return to the United States after receiving a two-year suspended sentence for a DUI offense (his third) in his native South Korea.
    • Nutting has “no interest in selling the team,” with Biertempfel noting that Nutting has previously stated that he may pass the Pirates down to his three daughters rather than explore a sale.  Reports from earlier this fall indicated that film producer and businessman Thomas Tull could be exploring a $1 billion bid to buy the Pirates, though Nutting said “no one has approached us (about selling). I haven’t heard any rumor. I haven’t had any discussion. I’m not aware of any buyer.”
    Pirates Reportedly “Motivated” To Move Gerrit Cole Fri, 22 Dec 2017 16:19:06 +0000 10:19am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (via Twitter) that the Yankees would also likely balk at including either of Justus Sheffield or Estevan Florial in a package for Cole. Sherman suspects that any package would be structured around Clint Frazier and Chance Adams.

    10:07am: Feinsand tweets that there’s been no change since this morning, reporting that the two sides aren’t close to a deal. Like Heyman and Bowden (as well as the YES Network’s Jack Curry), Feinsand adds that the Yankees have no plans to trade Torres.

    9:45am: Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM now tweets that the Pirates and Yankees are close to a deal that would send Cole to New York. Torres is not a part of those talks, according to Bowden.

    Dec. 22, 8:17am: Both Feinsand and Heyman throw some cold water on the talks with the Yankees, as Feinsand now hears that the advancement in talks last night may have been “overstated.” Heyman notes that there’s no positive momentum in talks between the two sides at this time.

    Dec. 21, 9:49pm: Passan adds more context in a full column, reporting that the Yankees are “hopeful” that they can entice the Pirates to agree to a deal that does not include Torres, who is the leading candidate to succeed Starlin Castro as the everyday second baseman in the Bronx. Passan suggests that Cole could very well be traded before Christmas and adds that the Pirates may also market McCutchen as they prepare for a rebuilding effort.

    8:59pm:’s Mark Feinsand tweets that talks between the Yankees and Pirates are “getting hot,” though he notes that it remains unclear if a deal is on the verge of completion.

    8:24pm: FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that the primary sticking point in talks has been that the Yankees want to headline a package for Cole with Frazier, while the Pirates want Torres to be the headliner.

    8:08pm: The Pirates and Yankees are again discussing a trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole to New York, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). While there’s been plenty of trade talk surrounding Cole this winter, Passan now reports that the Pirates are “motivated” to get a deal done and there’s a “very strong”likelihood that he’ll be traded.

    The Yankees, according to Passan, are the likeliest landing spot for Cole, with one source telling him that it’s a matter of “when” a trade will ultimately be agreed upon rather than a matter of “if.”

    Talks between the Bucs and Yanks have been ongoing, to some extent, since the Winter Meetings at the least, though The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that those negotiations had “cooled” to some extent. The Pirates at one point were said to have been pushing for Gleyber Torres to be included in the deal, though it’d be tough for the Yankees to part with the touted young infielder. Other names that have been mentioned in rumors include young outfielder Clint Frazier and right-hander Chance Adams, though the permutations of the current talks remain unreported.

    Cole, 27, is controlled for another two years and comes with a projected arbitration salary of $7.5MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. He’d give the Yankees another high-octane arm to add to the top end of a rotation that also includes Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery at present. Certainly, that strong group and the presence of Adams and Justus Sheffield in the upper minors presents the Yankees with an enviable stock of starters, but Cole, a former No. 1 overall pick, also comes with a Cy Young caliber season on his resume and stands out as a nice rebound candidate on the heels of a down season (by his standards).

    Cole was one of just 15 pitchers to top 200 innings in 2017, and in his 203 frames he averaged 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 with a 45.8 percent ground-ball rate and a fastball that averaged 96 mph. A huge spike in Cole’s HR/9 rate (from 0.54 in 2016 to 1.37 in 2017) led to a bloated 4.26 ERA, but he also maintained an ability to miss bats, limit walks and keep the ball on the ground. All of those trends point to the possibility of a return to form, though moving to the AL East (and, specifically, Yankee Stadium) isn’t necessarily a great recipe to cut back on one’s home run rate.

    If Cole is ultimately traded, the question then becomes just how far the Pirates will go in terms of selling off veteran assets. Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen have both been oft-mentioned trade candidates this winter — speculatively speaking, Harrison could hold appeal to the Yankees — with each becoming increasingly expensive and moving closer to free agency. McCutchen will hit the open market next offseason, while Harrison is controlled through 2020 by virtue of a pair of club options but is now commanding $10MM+ per season.

    Gerrit Cole Talk With Yankees Have Reportedly "Cooled" Thu, 21 Dec 2017 15:04:39 +0000 It seems the Yankees and Pirates have lost momentum toward a prospective deal involving righty Gerrit Cole. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, via Twitter, talks have “cooled” since the Winter Meetings wrapped up. While Cole’s talent would be a welcome addition to just about any big league rotation, the Bucs are reported to have a lofty asking price on the former No. 1 overall pick, and the Yankees don’t necessarily need to feel urgency to finalize a deal. New York has already agreed to bring CC Sabathia back on a one-year pact, and he’ll join Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery in a mix of quality rotation options (with prospects Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams looming in the upper minors).

    Yankees, Pirates Discussing Gerrit Cole Trade Sat, 16 Dec 2017 22:36:08 +0000 SATURDAY: In return for Cole, the Pirates have been pushing for infielder Gleyber Torres (’s second-ranked prospect), per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). Heyman doubts the Yankees would give up Torres, though, and he notes that it’s more likely a deal would include Frazier and at least one other piece. The two teams are continuing to negotiate.

    THURSDAY: The Pirates and Yankees are discussing a trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole to the Bronx Bombers in exchange for a trade package that includes outfielder Clint Frazier, George A. King III of the New York Post reports.  The Bucs are also reportedly looking for a young starting pitcher who is on the verge of being ready for the big leagues; righty Chance Adams may be the Yankees prospect that best fits this description, though there isn’t any indication the Pirates are specifically targeting Adams.

    Cole has been linked to the Yankees in rumors throughout the Winter Meetings, though New York was (at least at one point) under the impression that Cole wasn’t being made available.  Then again, Pittsburgh hasn’t given much indication all offseason if the team plans to start selling off pieces or if it still plans to contend in 2018.  Cole, Andrew McCutchen, and Josh Harrison have drawn the most trade buzz this winter, with the consensus being that McCutchen is the likeliest to be dealt regardless of whether the Bucs are going for it or not.  Since McCutchen is only under contract through 2018, adding a big league-ready young outfielder like Frazier would seem to fit right into the Bucs’ plans.

    Trading McCutchen or Harrison would free up more money from the Pirates’ 2018 payroll, though dealing Cole would also be the bigger indicator that Pittsburgh will explore at least a soft rebuild.  Cole is also set for a pretty healthy salary next season (projected by MLBTR to earn $7.5MM) in his second year of arbitration eligibility, though hardly a big sum for a team like the Yankees, their desire to get under the luxury tax threshold notwithstanding.  There is no shortage of teams that would be interested in two years of control over a 27-year-old who has shown ace-like stuff in the past — the Twins, Rangers, and Orioles are a few other teams known to have checked in with the Pirates on Cole this offseason.

    Cole posted a 4.26 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 3.56 K/BB rate over 203 innings for Pittsburgh last season.  It was the second time Cole has topped the 200-inning mark in his young career, as he bounced back nicely from an injury-shortened 2016 season.  One worrisome number, however, was a big spike in home runs allowed, as Cole’s 1.4 HR/9 rate was more than double his 0.6 career mark prior to last season.  He was hardly the only pitcher to run into trouble with the long ball in 2017, though it is a bit of a troubling statistic if Cole is moving from pitcher-friendly PNC Park to a hitters’ paradise like Yankee Stadium.

    Frazier has already been part of one blockbuster deal in his young career, as he and Justus Sheffield were the headliners of the prospect package the Indians sent to the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade in July 2016.  The fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Frazier has long been touted as one of the game’s best prospects, ranked as high as 16th in the sport by the Baseball Prospectus top 100 list prior to the 2017 season.

    For all of Frazier’s promise, however, he may be an expendable part in the Bronx.  Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge look to own the corner outfield slots for years to come, with Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and in reserve roles.  (This doesn’t even account for other prospects like Estevan Florial, or the possibility that the Yankees could pursue another star outfielder like Bryce Harper in free agency.)  New York’s farm system is more than deep enough to withstand the potential loss of Frazier or a pitcher like Adams for a young arm of Cole’s caliber, as he would slot right into a scary starting five that also includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery.

    Pirates, Mets Lacking Momentum On Harrison Trade Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:48:41 +0000
  • The Mets are still looking for help at second base, though they don’t appear to be close on some of the options on the trade market, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes.  Team officials “indicated there was little momentum” in talks with the Phillies on Cesar Hernandez and the Pirates about Josh Harrison, while the Twins are giving the impression that Brian Dozier is unlikely to be dealt.  The BrewersJonathan Villar is available in the wake of his down year, though Villar isn’t seen “as a serious possibility” by the Mets for now.  Looking at outside-the-box possibilities, signing shortstop Zack Cozart and switching him to second base seems like a “long shot” scenario, a source tells Newsday’s Marc Carig (Twitter link).
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