Pittsburgh Pirates – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-02-20T14:02:28Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates’ Pablo Reyes Suspended 80 Games For PED Violation]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=190911 2020-02-19T22:22:44Z 2020-02-19T22:07:39Z Pirates infielder/outfielder Pablo Reyes has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the banned substance Boldenone, Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday. Reyes was designated for assignment by the Pirates and sent outright to Triple-A Indianapolis last month.

Reyes, 26, has seen action with the Pirates in each of the past two seasons but struggled in 2019 after an intriguing debut in 2018. Overall, he’s mustered only a .229/.295/.368 slash in 220 plate appearances as a big leaguer. That said, Reyes also carries a solid .281/.341/.471 line through 589 plate appearances in his Triple-A career. Today’s PED revelation and last year’s league-wide offensive explosion in Triple-A will cause many to question the legitimacy of that production, however. Reyes missed about a month of the 2019 season due to an ankle injury.

Having been outrighted off the roster, Reyes was already facing an uphill battle to make it back to the big leagues. Now, with a half-season suspension for a performance-enhancing substance, his road to a second tour of duty in the Majors is all the longer.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Who’s The NL Central Favorite?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=190825 2020-02-19T01:00:37Z 2020-02-19T01:00:09Z With the exception of the Reds, who have made several notable moves, this hasn’t been an action-packed offseason in the National League Central. Cincinnati was a fourth-place team a season ago and is currently mired in a six-year playoff drought, but the club has made an earnest attempt to transform itself into a playoff contender since the 2019 campaign concluded. Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama have all come aboard in free agency to bolster the Reds’ position player group. Meanwhile, a rotation that was already strong in 2019 has tacked on Wade Miley to complement Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani, and the bullpen has pulled in Pedro Strop.

The Reds only won 75 games last year, but at last check, the majority of MLBTR voters expect them to amass 80-some victories this season. In the NL Central, where there doesn’t appear to be a dominant team, it may only take 80-plus wins to claim the division. The Cardinals’ 91 led the way last year, but they’ve made no truly headline-grabbing acquisitions in recent months, they’ve lost outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the Braves and now one of their most reliable starters, Miles Mikolas, is dealing with arm troubles early in the spring.

Along with the Cards, the 2019 Central boasted two other plus-.500 teams – the Brewers (89 wins) and the Cubs (84). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see either team contend for the playoffs again this year, but it’s difficult to argue that they’ve gotten better since last season. The Brewers have made quite a few changes, especially in the infield (Brock Holt’s their latest pickup), but they also lost two of their best position players in Moustakas and catcher Yasmani Grandal earlier in free agency.

The Cubs, meantime, have been stunningly quiet for a deep-pocketed team that collapsed down the stretch in 2019. Seismic changes were expected after they laid an egg last year, and maybe they’ll still come (a Kris Bryant trade seems like the most realistic way to shake things up). For now, though, their roster looks a lot like the 2019 edition. There’s still plenty of talent on hand, but there’s no more Castellanos, who emerged as one of the Cubs’ main threats at the plate after they acquired him from the Tigers prior to last July’s trade deadline.

Aside from the Pirates, who are more likely to compete for the No. 1 pick than a playoff berth this year (and whom we’ll leave out of this poll), it wouldn’t seem unrealistic to pick any of the NL Central’s teams to win the division. This year’s PECOTA projections (via Daniel Kramer of MLB.com) have the Reds grabbing the division with 86 wins and the Cubs totaling 85 en route to a wild-card spot. The system gives the Reds 66.2 percent preseason playoff odds, the Cubs 51.5 percent, the Cardinals 24.4 percent and the Brewers 20.3. We still have several weeks to go before the season opens, but as of now, which of those clubs do you think will finish on top?

(Poll link for app users)

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Ben Cherington On Pirates' Spending ]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=190752 2020-02-18T04:12:41Z 2020-02-18T04:12:41Z
  • To say this has been an offseason low on impact acquisitions for the Pirates would be an understatement. They’ve signed three major league free agents – catcher Luke Maile and a pair of outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Guillermo Heredia – all for modest prices. Thanks to its offseason decisions, including the trade of center fielder Starling Marte to Arizona, Pittsburgh’s projected to enter 2020 with a microscopic payroll of $60MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. It’s not an ideal way to build a team, but the Pirates are in a rebuild. Once (and if) the Pirates begin to turn things around, new general manager Ben Cherington expects to have more money at his disposal. “I’m confident [payroll] will increase over time as we get deeper into our team build, there’s opportunity and we get closer with those opportunities,” Cherington stated Sunday (via Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “I’m confident we’ll have the means to build a winning team and add pieces. We’re not putting any kind of date on when that could happen. We’re going to try and get there as soon as we can. That’s an every-day thing.” The Pirates have come under fire for a lack of spending, though Cherington added that he’s “really confident that the total investment in baseball operations is not just enough but really competitive within the industry,”
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Jarrod Dyson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=190142 2020-02-13T16:51:25Z 2020-02-13T16:50:01Z February 13: The Pirates have officially announced the signing via press release. To create space for Dyson on the 40-man roster, the Bucs placed righty Jameson Taillon on the 60-day injured list. Taillon is expected to miss most, if not all of the 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August.

    February 12: The Pirates have a deal in place with veteran outfielder Jarrod Dyson, per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). It’s a one-year, big-league contract, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Dyson will earn $2MM, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network. (Twitter link. Heyman also first reported the sides were close to a deal.)

    Jarrod Dyson | Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Dyson will help the Bucs cover for the departure of center fielder Starling Marte — who was dealt to Dyson’s most recent team, the Diamondbacks. It’s likely that the Pirates will utilize others up the middle as well, though we’ll know more when the club gathers up its position players in camp.

    Now 35 years of age, Dyson is no longer quite the player he once was. He remains an excellent defender and elite baserunner, so the Bucs can feel confident they’ll get value in those areas. Those attributes also make Dyson an easy player to trade to a contender in need of a mid-season roster boost in anticipation of the postseason, as Dyson is a tailor-made late-inning bench asset.

    Trouble is, the bat has lagged noticeably of late. From 2013-17, he carried a .262/.326/.361 slash line — hardly a standout mark, but within 12% or so of league-average productivity. It was easily enough to make Dyson a valuable player given his other high-grade tools. But over his two seasons with the Diamondbacks, Dyson has slumped to a meager .216/.302/.299 batting line.

    There’s really not much to love about Dyson’s profile at the plate. He has boosted his walk rate of late but has consistently failed to make hard contact — though that was true also when he was turning in better outcomes. Whether due to his approach or those of opposing pitchers, Dyson’s launch angle has also headed northward. He has not gained any pop but has seen his batting average (and batting average on balls in play) dive.

    It’s still easy to see the appeal of this move for the Bucs. There is some value to be found here and Dyson does keep the door open somewhat to competitiveness. Perhaps there is even a bit of overall upside, if the club can help him find a way to reduce the number of harmless fly balls he’s hitting while maintaining his plate-discipline improvements.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Closer Role Notes: Red Sox, Pirates, Marlins]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=190300 2020-02-13T14:04:13Z 2020-02-13T14:03:50Z The notion of a closer’s role has evolved over the years, but there’s never been any doubt of the importance of a reliable late-inning relief strategy. While some organizations prefer more flexible arrangements, quite a few still utilize dedicated ninth-inning men. Settling on a closer isn’t just important to a team and to fantasy baseball gurus. It’s also a factor in a player’s trade and free agent status and — especially — to his potential arbitration earnings.

    Here are some early notes on spring closer situations from around the game …

    • Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke made rather clear that he views Brandon Workman as the top closing option entering camp, as Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com tweets. The club isn’t making anything official just yet, but the comments from the just-minted skipper give him a strong presumption. That’s not too surprising: the 31-year-old Workman emerged as a premium pen arm last year, when he racked up 71 2/3 innings of 1.88 ERA ball with 13.1 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9. He does have some experience closing out games, having finished 16 Boston wins as part of a committee approach last year.
    • For the Pirates, there’ll be no waiting: new skipper Derek Shelton says Keone Kela will handle the ninth, as Adam Berry of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Kela’s time in Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly been smooth, but he’s undeniably talented enough to do the job and will now be challenged with added responsibility as the organization seeks to turn the page on a brutal 2019 season. There were numerous problems on and off the field for the Bucs. By far the most important was the arrest of closer Felipe Vazquez on charges so awful that it’s hard even to think of the matter from a baseball perspective. But the organization has obviously had to make decisions to account for that departure. There is plenty of incentive for Kela, who will be a free agent at season’s end. If things go better for the 26-year-old than for the remainder of the Pirates team, he could also feature as a significant mid-season trade piece.
    • The Marlins have set about compiling a new-look bullpen this winter. It seems it’ll be anchored by one of the club’s recent veteran additions. Manager Don Mattingly strongly suggested that Brandon Kintzler is the top choice to function as closer, Craig Mish of FNTSY Sports Radio tweets. The 35-year-old isn’t exactly a prototypical swing-and-miss, capital-C closer type. But he did turn in 57 frames of 2.68 ERA ball last year with a typically strong 54.7% groundball rate. And Kintzler has saved 49 games in his career.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox, Pirates Among Teams Showing Interest In Kevin Pillar]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=190073 2020-02-11T22:30:49Z 2020-02-11T22:30:48Z The market for free-agent outfielder Kevin Pillar is “heating up,” tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, and the Red Sox and Pirates are among the clubs with interest in the 31-year-old.

    Both Pittsburgh (Starling Marte) and Boston (Mookie Betts), of course, have completed trades shipping high-profile outfielders out of town. The Red Sox added an immediate option to step into Betts’ shoes, Alex Verdugo, but his acquisition gives the club three left-handed-hitting outfielders. Pairing Pillar with that trio would give the Sox an option at any of three outfield slots — and one who carries a respectable .281/.313/.453 career batting line against left-handed pitching. Notably, with Betts and David Price traded to the Dodgers, Red Sox ownership has accomplished its goal of dropping south of the luxury tax barrier; Boston is currently about $9.5MM shy of that $208MM cutoff point, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez.

    The path to regular at-bats in Pittsburgh seems more direct for Pillar. Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco are likely to roam two of the three outfield spots — likely the corners — and the Buccos’ other options are utilityman JT Riddle and reserve outfielder Guillermo Heredia. Prospect Jason Martin could eventually emerge as a spot, but he’s rehabbing from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and could be limited early in the year.

    Pillar hit a career-best 21 home runs in 2019 and notched his fifth straight season with 14 or more steals. His once-elite glovework now grades out closer to average, but he should be at least a serviceable option in center and could yet see a rebound in that regard. However, Pillar also drew a walk in only 2.8 percent of his plate appearances, leading to a .287 on-base percentage that was the fourth-worst among all qualified hitters. Overall, Pillar’s .259/.287/.432 slash was 15 percent worse than league average by measure of wRC+ and 11 percent below average per OPS+.

    Those lackluster on-base skills, the diminished defensive ratings and a projected $9.7MM salary (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) all surely played a role in the Giants’ decision to non-tender Pillar earlier in the offseason. He’s certainly in line to earn less than that projection at this point, but the veteran center fielder still seems like a candidate to land a Major League deal — be it in Boston, Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Linked To OF Prospect In 2020-21 Int'l Class]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=189575 2020-02-07T01:01:06Z 2020-02-07T00:51:59Z
  • Some of the top outfield prospects in the 2020-21 international draft class are profiled by Baseball America’s Ben Badler, who also details which teams are expected to sign these players on July 2.  The Reds, Pirates, Red Sox, and Rangers are all thought to have seven-figure bonuses lined up for four players from the Dominican Republic, though the Astros are reportedly ready to pay what may be the biggest bonus given to any player in the 2020-21 class — a deal in the neighborhood of $4MM to 21-year-old Cuban outfielder Pedro Leon.  Because of his age, Leon is already eligible to sign, though he will wait until the opening of the next July 2 window because most teams have exhausted most or all of their funds from their 2019-20 international signing pools.  The int’l market will take on added importance for the Astros over the next two years, as the club’s pipeline of top young talent will be limited after losing their top two picks in both the 2020 and 2021 amateur drafts as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[GM Ben Cherington: Pirates Planning To “Build,” Not “Rebuild”]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=189571 2020-02-06T22:40:29Z 2020-02-06T22:40:29Z There have been persistent rumblings that the Pirates could respond to their disastrous 2019 season by going into a rebuild phase, and that speculation only increased after the recent trade that sent Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for two longer-term prospects.  While changes are certainly afoot in Pittsburgh, a full-scale rebuild isn’t happening, or at least not by new general manager Ben Cherington’s definition of the term.

    If I think about the word rebuild, what comes to my mind is a team that has been doing well that you are taking apart to then rebuild it, and you’re in the process of doing that,” Cherington told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  As an example, Cherington (who most recently worked as Toronto’s senior VP of baseball operations) described the Blue Jays’ thought process following their consecutive ALCS appearances in 2015-16, as “we knew we were going to have to rebuild that roster” of increasingly aging and expensive players.

    Just over three seasons later, not a single player from the 2016 Jays remains on the team’s current 40-man roster, yet Cherington said such a drastic overhaul isn’t necessary for the Pirates.  “A good chunk of players who were on the team last year will be on the team this year, and they really do have a chance to be part of that next winning team. We’re just trying to build toward that,” the general manager said.

    In fairness, Cherington admitted that fans may not share his specific view of what constitutes a “rebuild,” and knows that Pittsburgh supporters simply want to see a winning team back on the field.  As we’ve seen in recent years from teams like the Astros, Cubs, and Phillies (or, presently, by the Orioles, Marlins, and Tigers), rebuilds have become most often defined as a strategy that involves a team deciding to overhaul its entire organization in a scorched-earth process that involves trading away all veteran talent and rebuilding around younger players, and subsequently asking fans to be patient through four or five years of losing baseball until the club is again competitive.

    This type of total remake isn’t necessary in Pittsburgh, Cherington feels, as “we’re not tearing something down to start over.  We are simply taking a team that wasn’t good enough or wasn’t as good as we wanted to be last year, but has a group of players with a chance to be much better, and we’re trying to build on thatIf we had made four or five other trades [besides the Marte deal] involving more established Major League players who were on last year’s team, then maybe I’d think about it differently.”

    These comments aren’t far removed from the recent statements from Pirates owner Bob Nutting, who said that one of the primary focuses of the new front office would be discovering how to better develop and get the best out of their current players.  While adding more talent to the roster is also a chief priority, Cherington may not feel compelled to trade such notables as Josh Bell, Chris Archer, Gregory Polanco, or others if they feel these players haven’t yet reached their ceilings.  Of course, payroll considerations will always factor into the club’s decisions, though even if more expensive players like Archer or Polanco are eventually moved, Cherington may prefer to wait and see if either can have bounce-back seasons under the new coaching staff rather than trade them now in what could turn out to be sell-low scenarios.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Indians Had Interest In Starling Marte]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=189073 2020-02-02T01:16:38Z 2020-02-01T23:57:51Z The Indians’ offseason has largely been dominated by the specter of cutting payroll (such as the Corey Kluber trade to the Rangers or the persistent trade rumors around Francisco Lindor) rather than major acquisitions, the team’s signing of Cesar Hernandez notwithstanding.  However, it seems as though the Tribe at least considered a significant addition, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that “the Indians were in on” Starling Marte before the Pirates dealt the center fielder to the Diamondbacks earlier this week.

    The nature of the Tribe’s offer to Pittsburgh isn’t known, though we can at least make a speculative comparison to what the Pirates received from the D’Backs — $250K in international bonus pool money, and two interesting but non-elite prospects (shortstop Liover Peguero and right-hander Brennan Malone) who are each at least two or three years away from reaching the majors.  Since the Bucs sent just $1.5MM in cash to Arizona as part of the deal, the D’Backs also took on almost all of the financial obligations for Marte, who is owed $11.5MM in 2020 and is controllable via a $12.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for the 2021 season.

    It could be that the Pirates simply preferred Peguero and Malone to whatever prospects were floated by the Tribe, and that money wasn’t a primary difference between Cleveland’s offer and Arizona’s offer.  Still, assuming the finances would’ve broken down in a similar fashion, adding $10MM for Marte’s salary would’ve elevated the Indians’ 2020 payroll to a little beyond $106.5MM, as per Roster Resource.  That still represents a notable step down from the $150MM+ payrolls the Indians had at the end of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, or even the $129.3MM year-end payroll from 2019.  Since Marte’s 2021 option is likely to be exercised, Cleveland could have still found payroll room considering that Carlos Santana and Brad Hand could both come off the books via club options of their own, Hernandez is a free agent, plus who knows what other payroll space could be carved out by future trades (such as a Lindor deal).

    As Hoynes notes, the Tribe’s interest in Marte indicates that the team could still be willing to spend to upgrade its 26-man roster, whether such a move happens in the offseason or perhaps closer to the trade deadline.  Marte would have been a clear boost to Cleveland’s shaky outfield picture right now, though the Indians have enough outfielders in the mix that they might prefer to see which (if any) of those players steps up to become a reliable regular performer before looking at bringing any new players onto the roster.  Oscar Mercado currently looks like the only Tribe outfielder slated for true everyday duty, as Jake Bauers, Delino DeShields, Greg Allen, Jordan Luplow, Bradley Zimmer and (when he isn’t at DH) Franmil Reyes are all vying for regular playing time.

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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[On Pirates’ Recent Moves]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=189048 2020-02-01T16:16:04Z 2020-02-01T16:01:45Z The Pirates’ GM Ben Cherington emerged from his new office this week with the first batch of transactions since he took over in Pittsburgh. The Starling Marte trade to Arizona was the headline-grabbiest of the bunch, wherein Cherington added two high-ceiling, but far-away prospects to Pittsburgh system.

    A flurry of low-key pickups followed for Cherington as the Pirates bought  in bulk: Charlie Tilson, Andrew Susac, JT Riddle, Robbie Erlin and Derek Holland signed minor league deals this week. Cherington gives Erlin a decent shot of joining the bullpen, which is otherwise without a lefty except for rotation candidate Steven Brault, per The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel.

    Holland, too, could end up in the bullpen, but like Brault, he’ll be given a shot at the rotation. Holland’s glory days as a Texas Ranger are long in the rearview, but his 2018 with the Giants at least gives the perception of a raised ceiling for Holland after otherwise forgettable stints with each Chicago team. It was just two seasons ago that Holland put up 171 1/3 innings with an impressive 3.57 ERA/3.87 FIP across 36 games for the Giants.

    Holland’s shoe game remained on-point in 2019, but he struggled on the hill, both for the Giants and then for the Cubs. He only got 7 turns through the rotation to start the season, but 26 earned runs in 34 1/3 innings earned a demotion to the bullpen, where he stayed until the deadline trade to the Cubs. The Cubs relied on him as a lefty reliever out of the pen, but he struggled there, too, marking a 10.50 ERA in September, contributing to the Cubs’ tailspin.

    Still, he’ll come into camp representing a veteran floor for the Pittsburgh rotation as Brault and Mitch Keller try to earn their spot. If the young Pirate arms aren’t ready to take the ball every five days, Holland could find himself back in a big league rotation in 2020.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Charlie Tilson, Andrew Susac]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=189020 2020-02-01T04:03:30Z 2020-02-01T04:03:30Z The Pirates announced minor league deals with outfielder Charlie Tilson and catcher Andrew Susac on Friday. Both players will be in Major League camp this spring, as will lefties Derek Holland and Robbie Erlin, whose previously reported minor league deals were confirmed by the team.

    Tilson, 27, was once a well-regarded prospect with the Cardinals and White Sox. Known primarily for his speed, he was flipped from St. Louis to Chicago several years ago in a deal that sent Zach Duke to the Cardinals. The ChiSox hoped they’d found a top-of-the-order hitter who could provide good defense and generally serve as a nuisance to other teams on the basepaths, but Tilson unfortunately tore his hamstring in his debut game with the Sox back in 2016. Other lower half injuries, namely a stress reaction in his right foot, limited him substantially the following year.

    Tilson has now appeared in 96 big league games but has never gotten back on track after that rash of injuries in 2016-17. He’s a career .246/.310/.290 hitter in the Majors, although last year’s Triple-A showing (.288/.345/.398) at least created a bit of optimism that perhaps he could still tap into some of that previous potential. Tilson swiped only eight bases between Triple-A and the Majors in 2019, however, so it appears his days as a 40-steal threat might be in the past now that those lower-half injuries have taken their toll.

    Susac, meanwhile, was not only a well-regarded prospect but was at various points considered to be among the game’s top 100 farmhands during his days with the Giants. His strong work early in his career in Triple-A has never really carried over to the Majors, though, and the now-29-year-old backstop (30 in March) has a career .221/.283/.373 slash in 300 big league plate appearances. He’s a career .247/.351/.431 hitter in Triple-A — numbers that are somewhat skewed by an awful 2017 season with Milwaukee’s top affiliate.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Sign JT Riddle]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=188983 2020-01-31T23:13:04Z 2020-01-31T23:12:44Z 5:12pm: Riddle’s deal with the Pirates will pay him $850K, MLBTR has learned.

    3:25pm: The Pirates announced Friday that they’ve signed infielder JT Riddle to a Major League contract. The addition of Riddle, a Meister Sports client, fills Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.

    JT Riddle | Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Riddle, 28, was once considered to be among the more promising farmhands in the Marlins organization but was unable to establish himself in parts of three MLB seasons in Miami. Through 718 plate appearances, Riddle managed just a .229/.269/.368 batting line, which proved tepid enough that the Marlins eventually cut ties with him earlier this offseason.

    Although he’s been unable to produce much at the MLB level, Riddle does carry a heartier .284/.321/.457 slash in 85 Triple-A contests. The former 13th-rounder and University of Kentucky product rose through Miami’s system primarily as a shortstop, but the Marlins began trying him out in center field in recent seasons as well. Riddle has played far more shortstop than any other position, but he does come to the Pirates with experience at second base, third base and in all three outfield slots.

    Miami surely felt comfortable trying Riddle out at new defensive positions due to Miguel Rojas’ presence at shortstop, but the decision to pull Riddle away from short was still somewhat curious given how well he’s graded out at the position. In 1323 Major League innings at shortstop, Riddle notched 13 Defensive Runs Saved, 10 Outs Above Average and a 3.1 Ultimate Zone Rating.

    Twenty-six-year-old Kevin Newman currently projects to be the Pirates’ everyday option at short, but Riddle can give the club some depth there while also presenting them an option to play in center field following the departure of the recently traded Starling Marte. In the days since that trade, general manager Ben Cherington has been open about his desire to add some more options in center field, and while Riddle would seemingly qualify, it’s also of some note that the team’s press release announcing the move refers to Riddle solely as an infielder.

    Riddle is out of minor league options, so today’s signing is a clear indicator that the Pirates will carry him on the big league roster to open the season. He has two years, 118 days of Major League service time, meaning he’s controllable not just for the 2020 season but all the way through the 2022 campaign. Riddle will be arbitration-eligible next winter.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Derek Holland]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=188927 2020-01-31T16:21:20Z 2020-01-31T16:03:39Z The Pirates have a minor-league deal with southpaw Derek Holland, per Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (via Twitter). Holland had hinted at the signing on social media.

    Financial details aren’t known. But Holland will compete in camp for a spot on the MLB roster and gets a chance to opt out if he isn’t added for the start of the season.

    The division-rival Cubs had declined an option over Holland at season’s end. It was a rough overall campaign — whether working from the rotation or in relief, and both before and after the Giants traded him to Chicago. Holland ended the year with 84 1/3 innings of 6.08 ERA ball. That’s now the second time in three campaigns that Holland has allowed more than six earned per nine.

    For both Holland and the Bucs, the idea will be to help him rediscover the form he showed in a successful 2018 season. He worked to a 3.87 ERA in 171 1/3 frames that year, carrying 8.9 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9.

    It remains to be seen what sort of role Holland will occupy. Even if he’s given a chance to compete for a rotation spot in camp, he may end up being tasked with entering from the pen. Notably, Holland posted extreme platoon splits last year (.997 OPS for right-handed hitters vs. .528 OPS for left-handed hitters).

    First and foremost, Holland will need to nail down an approach. He continued the ramped-up slider usage he utilized in 2018, then made a drastic mid-season fastball swap (from his four-seamer to his sinker). That did coincide with improved results for most of Holland’s time with the Cubs, but his numbers were irreparably marred when he coughed up seven earned in just two frames in his last appearance of the season.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Details On Mets’ Pursuit Of Starling Marte]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=188916 2020-01-31T12:29:41Z 2020-01-31T12:29:41Z Before shipping him to the Diamondbacks, the Pirates discussed Starling Marte in trade talks with the Mets. But it now seems the New York organization lacked especially serious interest in the veteran center fielder.

    According to a report from Andy Martino of SNY.tv, the Mets declined to pursue any of three possible trade structures proposed by the Bucs. That included separate “package” scenarios “centered around” either J.D. Davis or Brandon Nimmo as well as one based around multiple top prospects.

    It’s not especially surprising to hear that the Mets were disinterested in skimming from the top of their prospect pool. The club has recently parted with some notable young talent — most notably, in this memorable swap. The ultimate deal that did take place featured two quality, but far-off prospects from a well-stocked Arizona farm that could more readily withstand the loss.

    Perhaps it’s also understandable that the New York org was not inclined to move Nimmo. He has had a few ups and downs and missed a big chunk of 2019 due to injury. But he’s also a rare talent in the on-base department, delivers value on the bases, and can play all three outfield positions. Through over a thousand career plate appearances, Nimmo owns a sturdy .254/.387/.440 slash — good for a 130 wRC+ that tops the career mean of teammate Michael Conforto (125 wRC+).

    The most interesting news here is that the Mets were not really willing to discuss Davis in order to reel in Marte. True, he’s just 26 and has yet to reach arbitration (though he likely will next year as a Super Two). And Davis turned in a hefty .307/.369/.527 batting line with 22 long balls over 453 plate appearances last year. He rode a .355 BABIP to get there, though that was driven by exceptional contact numbers.

    Clearly, the Mets believe that Davis can keep banging. It’s hard not to like what he showed last year. And he was a consistent producer in the minors, though his earlier MLB action didn’t leave cause for optimism. There’s some risk that the offensive profile isn’t an especially sustainable one. Of perhaps greater concern is the fact that Davis isn’t much of a contributor in other areas. He graded as a very poor baserunner (-2.8 BsR). While Davis is capable of lining up at the infield or outfield corners, metrics have generally panned his glovework.

    It’s always hard to part with affordable, controllable players that have produced at the MLB level. In that regard, it’s hard to fault the Mets. But this is a season in which the team needs to win, and the roster would be in much better alignment with a true center fielder and one less corner piece. Whether there’s any realistic possibility of landing a new option in center isn’t clear. But there are likely still trade scenarios afoot involving some of the Mets’ corner players. More so than Nimmo or Davis, it’s still tough to know just what the team will do with Dominic Smith if he remains on hand.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Considering Various Center Field Additions]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=188792 2020-01-30T16:47:24Z 2020-01-30T16:47:24Z The Pirates, who earlier this week traded center fielder Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks, are “considering” several free-agent replacement options, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Among them are Kevin Pillar, Billy Hamilton and Cameron Maybin.

    That the Bucs are in the market for a new center fielder isn’t a surprise. General manager Ben Cherington revealed hours after the Marte swap that he’d likely be in the market for a new center fielder. Pittsburgh’s trade of Marte was more about selling a valuable asset at peak value (and, of course, paring back payroll) than opening playing time for in-house options. Bryan Reynolds could conceivably handle center-field duties in the short term, but it seems as though the organization’s preference is to leave him installed in left field, with a hopefully healthier Gregory Polanco patrolling right field at PNC Park.

    Of the listed options, only Pillar played a full season as a regular in 2019. Traded from Toronto to San Francisco in what amounted to an early-season salary dump, the 31-year-old displayed above-average pop and baserunning abilities while also reminding of his typical struggles to get on base. Pillar swatted a career-high 21 homers, posted a .174 isolated power mark (slugging percentage minus batting average) and swiped 14 bases this past season.

    However, Pillar also only walked in 2.8 percent of his plate appearances and recorded a .287 on-base percentage, which was the fourth-lowest among qualified MLB hitters. Defensive metrics continued to suggest that his once-elite glove has taken a step back (-3 Defensive Runs Saved; 0.3 Ultimate Zone Rating; +2 Outs Above Average). As Heyman points out, Cherington is plenty familiar with Pillar after spending more than three years in the Jays’ front office.

    The fleet-footed Hamilton, meanwhile, again rated as an elite defender and baserunner. He’s still just 29 years of age, but at this point the ship on him ever being a passable hitter has likely sailed. Hamilton’s .218/.289/.275 slash through 353 plate appearances last season was the worst in MLB among players with at least 350 plate appearances. He’s still nearly unrivaled in terms of raw speed and defensive ability, however, making him a serviceable stopgap if the Bucs simply want to keep a seat warm for someone like 2018 first-rounder Travis Swaggerty.

    Maybin, 33 in April, enjoyed a career renaissance in a limited role in 2019, hitting .285/.364/.494 with 11 homers and 17 doubles in 269 trips to the plate. He worked mostly as a corner outfielder, though, and hasn’t tallied more than 450 innings in center field in a single season since his 2016 run with the Tigers.

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