Pittsburgh Pirates – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-05-26T03:15:26Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Designate George Kontos]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=123233 2018-05-25T19:57:13Z 2018-05-25T19:40:34Z The Pirates have designated righty George Kontos for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot was needed for the activation of fellow right-hander Joe Musgrove from the DL.

Kontos, 32, had turned in a nice showing last year upon arriving in mid-season, and has generally produced excellent earned-run averages in the majors. But his peripherals have rarely matched his bottom-line numbers and the veteran had struggled quite a bit to open the 2018 season.

Through 19 2/3 innings in the present campaign, Kontos carries a 5.03 ERA with just 4.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. He had shown a breakout ability to generate whiffs last year with a 16.4% swinging-strike rate, but he’s sitting at just 8.5% in 2018.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Release Tyler Jones]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122964 2018-05-23T01:23:33Z 2018-05-23T01:23:44Z
  • The Pirates have released right-hander Tyler Jones, according to John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com. Jones, 28, has had some promising seasons in the upper minors, but hasn’t shown as well in the last two campaigns. Homers have been an issue for Jones thus far, as he has been tagged for a 5.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 16 2/3 innings with the Bucs’ top affiliate.
    • The Nationals signed outfielder Jaff Decker to a minors contract, the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (via Twitter).  The 30-year-old has appeared in each of the last five MLB seasons, posting a .510 OPS over 191 career plate appearances with the Padres, Pirates, Rays, and A’s.  Decker signed a minor league deal with Atlanta over the winter but was released earlier this month.
    • The Pirates have released right-hander Tyler Jones, according to John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com. Jones, 28, has had some promising seasons in the upper minors, but hasn’t shown as well in the last two campaigns. Homers have been an issue for Jones thus far, as he has been tagged for a 5.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 16 2/3 innings with the Bucs’ top affiliate.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[A Look In At Felipe Vazquez's Start To The Season]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122962 2018-05-22T20:14:02Z 2018-05-22T13:41:41Z
  • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at a few interesting subjects involving the Pirates. In particular, she dives into the question of fastball velocity in regard to closer Felipe Vazquez, whose slight loss of speed does not seem to represent much cause for concern — particularly since he has actually increased the spin rate on the offering. Though Vazquez only carries a 3.86 ERA on the year, it’s worth noting too that he has been hurt by a 58.3% strand rate. That said, while Vazquez is still getting loads of swinging strikes, his walk rate has gone backwards and he isn’t getting as many grounders as he has in years past. At this point, he hasn’t shown quite the level of dominance he did in 2017, but there’s not yet any reason to believe he won’t be a quality late-inning arm for the foreseeable future.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates To Activate Josh Harrison On Sunday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122746 2018-05-20T02:34:51Z 2018-05-20T02:34:06Z
  • The Pirates plan to activate second baseman Josh Harrison from the disabled list Sunday, manager Clint Hurdle told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other reporters Saturday. Harrison has been out since mid-April with a fractured left hand, and fellow second base options Sean Rodriguez, Max Moroff and Adam Frazier haven’t been particularly productive in his absence. The club optioned Moroff to Triple-A on Saturday.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Prospect Ji-hwan Bae Accused Of Domestic Violence]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122666 2018-05-19T01:11:08Z 2018-05-19T01:11:08Z Pirates prospect Ji-hwan Bae is facing allegations of domestic violence, according to reports from Naver Sports (Korean language link) and Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (subscription link). Bae has left the organization — at the request of investigators and with the team’s permission — to appear in his native South Korea.

    At this point, it does not appear that charges have been filed. But the police are looking into a formal complaint from Bae’s former girlfriend, who also issued a comment to Biertempfel. She asserts that Bae physically and verbally abused her beginning on New Year’s Eve of 2017.

    Bae, who is only 18 years of age, originally signed with the Braves in the fall of 2017 as an international free agent. The infielder was considered one of the most talented players available in that year’s amateur market. Not long after he had formally joined the Atlanta organization, though, Bae was declare a free agent along with numerous other amateur players as part of the penalties leveled against the Atlanta organization for impermissible signing practices.

    Not long after, Bae agreed to a $1.25MM bonus with the Pirates. He had been playing in extended Spring Training thus far in 2018. Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington tells Biertempfel that the club has notified Major League Baseball as required but that Bae is presently eligible to “participate in baseball activities during this review,” though it is not clear whether there are any specific plans for whether and how he will re-join the organization.

    Needless to say, the allegations are deeply troubling. Presumably, they will be investigated fully both in South Korea and by the MLB commissioner’s office. The agreement that governs domestic violence matters at the MLB level included a provision that the commissioner’s office would promulgate rules to address players, like Bae, who are not on 40-man rosters. Those do not appear to have been made available publicly, but presumably largely reflect the standards that apply to MLB players.

    Under the MLB-MLBPA policy, players can be placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation and, ultimately, face suspension regardless of whether criminal authorities pursue charges. In one recent case involving a minor-league player, the Astros released Danry Vasquez after he was suspended indefinitely by MLB following a horrific episode of domestic violence.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Promote Austin Meadows, Place Starling Marte On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122598 2018-05-18T18:48:00Z 2018-05-18T18:45:14Z May 18: The Pirates have announced Meadows’ promotion and Marte’s placement on the DL.

    May 17: The Pirates announced tonight that they’re planning to promote top outfield prospect Austin Meadows tomorrow. Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic first reported that the Bucs were planning to call up the long time top prospect. Biertempfel adds that he’ll be stepping into the roster spot of Starling Marte, who’ll land on the disabled list with a right oblique strain.

    Austin Meadows | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Meadows, 23, has long rated as one of the game’s most promising outfield prospects. The ninth overall pick in 2013, Meadows entered the season ranked among the game’s top 50 prospects, per Baseball America (44), MLB.com (45), Fangraphs (47), Baseball Prospectus (34). After a down season at the Triple-A level in 2017, Meadows is hitting .281/.326/.380 with a homer and eight steals (in nine attempts). He’s struck out in just 20 of his 131 plate appearances but also drawn just seven walks.

    The promotion will give the Pirates their first regular-season look at Meadows against Major League pitching. Hamstring injuries throughout his minor league tenure likely delayed Meadows’ timeline, and while he still has yet to truly overpower Triple-A pitching as he did at the Double-A level, there’s plenty of reason for optimism regarding his bat. Scouting reports on Meadows credit him for having an above-average to plus hit tool with average power and plus speed. Those wheels serve him well defensively, also, as he’s capable of playing center field, though more recent scouting reports on him forecast a potential move to left field when all is said and done.

    It’s possible that this is merely a short-term promotion for Meadows, but oblique injuries tend to keep players on the disabled list for around a month, so he may also get a reasonably prolonged look in the outfield with Marte on the shelf. With Andrew McCutchen now in San Francisco and Corey Dickerson only controlled through 2019, Meadows will be fighting to show the Pirates that he deserves the long-term spot in the outfield that the organization has long hoped he’d eventually claim. For the time being, it seems likely that Meadows will man center field, with Dickerson and Gregory Polanco flanking him in the outfield corners.

    As for Marte, his loss shouldn’t be undersold. Though the 29-year-old disappointed fans and the organization alike in 2017 when he was slapped with an 80-game suspension following a failed PED test, he’s bounced back extraordinarily well in 2018, hitting at a career-best .308/.366/.503 pace with six homers, five doubles and an NL-best four triples — all while racking up 10 steals in 13 tries and walking at a career-high 8.6 percent clip. That’s quite a lot of production to subtract from the lineup and leaves Meadows with some sizable shoes to fill, though if he can simply hold his own at the plate in his first exposure to MLB pitching and play capable defense in center field, the Pirates will surely be pleased with that outcome.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Josh Harrison To Begin Rehab Assignment Monday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122246 2018-05-13T21:43:16Z 2018-05-13T21:43:57Z
  • Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison will begin a rehab assignment Monday at the Double-A level, Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror reports (Twitter link). Harrison has been on the shelf since suffering a fractured left hand on April 15. It seems he’ll make it back to the majors within the expected six-week window, though.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Central Notes: Reyes, R. Rodriguez, Taillon, Senzel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=122101 2018-05-12T14:13:17Z 2018-05-12T14:13:17Z The presence of Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes is somewhat of a strain on the Tigers’ roster. Evan Woodberry of mlive.com takes an extensive look at the topic, and notes that the speedy outfielder’s most definable job so far this season has been as a pinch runner for the aging Victor Martinez. While injuries mount for Detroit, other players have been forced to shoulder a heavier workload, including Mikie Mahtook, who had to start Wednesday’s game against the Rangers despite being jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. While Reyes certainly has a bright future, Woodberry points out that he’s clearly overmatched by big-league pitching in the present; he’s only managed to collect three soft singles so far this season and has an average exit velocity below 80 MPH. In accordance with the Rule 5 boundaries, Reyes must remain on the Tigers’ 25-man roster for the entirety of the season or be returned to his former club (the Diamondbacks). Few around baseball have any doubt that his future is bright, but rostering him for the entire season could prove a significant burden for a club that’s already going to have a hard time winning baseball games.

    Onto some items from the NL Central…

    • Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs writes that the Pirates found a winning lottery ticket in the form of recent minor-league free agent Richard Rodriguez. The 28-year-old right-hander has been just about as dominant as a pitcher can be, evidenced by his 15.53 K/9 and microscopic 0.16 FIP on the young season. He’s already been worth half a win above replacement, as Sawchik points out, which is remarkable considering we’re not even halfway through May. Sawchik has plenty of other interesting facts throughout a deep look into RichRod’s dominance, including the whiff rate on his fastball, his first-pitch strike percentage and the way he’s attacking hitters.
    • In other Pirates news, right-hander Jameson Taillon exited last night’s start with a finger laceration. According to Adam Berry of MLB.com, Taillon is frustrated at the freak accident and hopes it won’t cost him a start. “It just got worse and worse. It’s tough in the short term to come out of a game, but hopefully by coming out when I did, we’ve kind of mitigated it,” Taillon said. “Hopefully I won’t miss starts down the road.” The budding Pirates ace has had something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde season so far, allowing 15 earned runs in his three losses but permitting just three across his other five starts.
    • Nick Senzel’s vertigo is back, and the Reds prospect has landed on the 7-day DL as a result. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com notes that Senzel hasn’t played since being removed from a May 3rd game after just one plate appearance. Vertigo is a condition that brings on dizziness spells and causes the victim to lose balance. Reds president Dick Williams told reporters recently that the club is “being very cautious” with their top-ranked prospect, and at the moment there isn’t a clear timetable for when he’ll be able to resume playing. The club has been playing Senzel at both second and third base this season in hopes of increasing his versatility and finding him a spot at the big league level.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Sullivan On Corey Dickerson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121913 2018-05-09T13:37:00Z 2018-05-09T13:24:19Z
  • Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan examines the excellent work turned in thus far in 2018 by new Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson. It really has been a fascinating showing to this point, as Dickerson is not just producing good numbers — a .333/.371/.550 slash — but is doing so while making vast improvements in his contact rate. Bucs fans will certainly want to give a full read to understand why and how the 28-year-old has thus far managed to change his approach and boost his productivity so significantly.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Option Nick Kingham To Triple-A]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121803 2018-05-07T20:37:36Z 2018-05-07T20:37:36Z The Pirates announced this afternoon that they’ve optioned righty Nick Kingham back to Triple-A Indianapolis. The 26-year-old was the talk of baseball when he took a perfect game into the seventh inning in his MLB debut, though his second start (four runs in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts against one walk) offered more mixed results. Kingham’s spot in the rotation will likely go to Joe Musgrove, who is nearing a return from the DL, though more immediately, his roster spot is going to infielder Jose Osuna, who has been recalled from Triple-A. Chad Kuhl’s strong weekend outing likely bought him some additional length on his leash, but it still seems likely that Kingham will be starting games for the Pirates again at some point in 2018, whether due to injury or poor performance from one of the club’s other young starters.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Kang Reports To Pirates' Spring Facility]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121538 2018-05-04T03:58:58Z 2018-05-04T03:54:52Z
  • Jung Ho Kang has reported to the Pirates’ Spring Training facility in Bradenton, Fla., writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Manager Clint Hurdle explains that the plan for Kang is to get him into game shape over the course of the next month — he’ll remain on the restricted list and won’t be paid or accrue service time during that period — as he prepares for in-game action. “There will be no game activity until we get his arm in shape, his legs in shape, get him swinging, get our people to look at him and evaluate him and then go from there,” says Hurdle. Kang is preparing for a return to the Pirates after sitting out the 2017 season upon being convicted of a third DUI in his native South Korea and subsequently being unable to acquire a work visa.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Musgrove Pitching In Rehab Games, Will Join Rotation When Healthy]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121458 2018-05-03T04:38:52Z 2018-05-03T04:38:52Z
  • Pirates righty Joe Musgrove threw 36 pitches in a rehab outing, writes Oliver Macklin of MLB.com, 29 of which went for strikes. Manager Clint Hurdle added that Musgrove threw his cutter, slider and changeup in the outing and demonstrated “firm” velocity on his fastball. Perhaps more notable is the fact that Hurdle confirmed that Musgrove will indeed be rejoining the Pirates’ rotation when he returns from the disabled list. That could be bad news for rookie Nick Kingham, who turned in one of the best debuts in recent MLB history when he flirted with a perfect game through more than six innings this past Sunday. Kingham is slated to start Friday for the Buccos, though Hurdle said in announcing that earlier this week that there was nothing guaranteed beyond that point. Speculatively speaking, right-hander Chad Kuhl has also struggled in 2018 (5.01 ERA, seven homers in 32 1/3 innings), so perhaps he could be bumped if Kingham impresses in his second big league start.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Move Steven Brault To Bullpen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121230 2018-04-30T20:58:53Z 2018-04-30T20:58:53Z The Pirates are moving left-hander Steven Brault to the bullpen, tweets Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. For the time being, that means that righty Nick Kingham will remain in the rotation and get another start on Friday on the heels of yesterday’s historic debut, during which he took a perfect game into the seventh inning.

    Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters, however, that there are no guarantees for Kingham beyond his second start. The club has a number of off-days on the horizon, and righty Joe Musgrove is expected to return later this month. Of course, Kingham already bought himself a second start after what looked to be a spot start Sunday, and it stands to reason that another strong performance could further force the Pirates’ hand. Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl will continue to hold down the top four spots in the Pittsburgh rotation, with either of Kingham or Musgrove now looking to be the leading candidates for the final spot.

    [Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]

    Brault, meanwhile, will give the Pirates a much-needed lefty in a bullpen where closer Felipe Vazquez is the lone southpaw. Josh Smoker opened the season in the ’pen but has since been optioned to Triple-A, leaving Hurdle with a heavily right-handed relief corps.

    Even if Kingham is in the Majors to stay, he’s spent enough time in the minor leagues this season to fall shy of a full year of MLB service time. He’ll be controlled through the 2024 season at the very least, though he’s currently on track to qualify as a Super Two player, meaning he’d be eligible for arbitration four times rather than the standard three.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Huntingont: Kang On "Probably His Last Chance With" Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121161 2018-04-30T01:54:11Z 2018-04-30T01:54:11Z
  • Jung Ho Kang’s impending return to the Piratesis probably his last chance with us,” GM Neal Huntington said on his weekly radio show with Joe Block (hat tip to MLB.com’s Adam Berry).  Kang received a work visa earlier this week and is preparing to rejoin the Pirates organization after spending all of 2017 on the restricted list following a DUI conviction in South Korea.  Should the infielder face any more off-the-field issues, things “are not going to go well for” Kang with the team, Huntington said.  It isn’t any surprise that Kang is on a very short leash given his past history, and he very well could be entering his last few months with the Bucs regardless of how he might perform if and when he returns to the majors.  It doesn’t seem likely that the Pirates will exercise their $5.5MM club option on Kang’s services for 2019, barring a major turn-around.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Place Enny Romero On DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121086 2018-04-29T21:26:21Z 2018-04-29T21:08:58Z 4:08pm: Pittsburgh intended to designate Romero, but it instead placed on him on the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement, according to a team announcement (via Adam Berry of MLB.com).

    10:33am: The Pirates have designated left-hander Enny Romero for assignment, per a team announcement. Romero’s roster spot will go righty Nick Kingham, who will make his first career start Sunday.

    It may go down as a short stay in the Pittsburgh organization for Romero, who joined the team off waivers two weeks ago after the Nationals designated him. The 27-year-old Romero’s shining moment with the Pirates has actually come with the bat, as he smacked a double – his first career hit – in an appearance against the Rockies on April 18.

    Unfortunately for Romero and the Bucs, his time on the mound with the club hasn’t been as memorable. Prior to Sunday’s designation, he struggled somewhat across four innings, yielding five runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. Overall, Romero has combined for 142 MLB frames with a 4.69 ERA/4.06 FIP, 9.7 K/9 against 4.56 BB/9 and a 40.4 percent grounder rate with the Rays, Nats and Pirates.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Joe Musgrove To Begin Rehab Assignment Tuesday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121067 2018-04-29T13:37:06Z 2018-04-29T13:36:26Z
  • Pirates righty Joe Musgrove is slated to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets. Musgrove joined the Pirates over the winter as a key part of their Gerrit Cole trade with Houston, but a muscle strain in his pitching shoulder has delayed his debut with the club. Barring any setbacks, Musgrove should be four rehab starts away from returning to the majors, Berry suggests.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Notes: Bruce, Kang, Stratton, Panik, Gohara, Pennington]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=121014 2018-04-28T23:29:26Z 2018-04-28T18:30:10Z Mets outfielder Jay Bruce has been taking ground balls at first base, James Wagner of the New York Times reports. Wagner adds that the Mets may consider playing him there in order to open up room for Brandon Nimmo to receive everyday playing time again. First base incumbent Adrian Gonzalez has struggled mightily thus far, with just a .203/.300/.320 batting line on the season. It’s still only April, but in light of his struggles last year with the Dodgers, Gonzalez’s leash might be fairly short. That’s particularly true since Nimmo reached base in half of his 38 MLB plate appearances this season. It’s fair to think that the Mets are looking hard for ways to lock Nimmo into an everyday role.

    Other news out of the NL…

    • Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang won’t receive any discipline from MLB, nor will the team dole out any punishment, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on Twitter. Kang was denied a U.S. visa for all of last year due to multiple DUI-related arrests. He’s finally able to return to the Pirates as of Thursday.
    • Today, the Giants reinstated Chris Stratton from the paternity list, optioning outfielder Austin Slater to Triple-A Sacramento in a corresponding move. Within hours, however, the club reversed its reported stance on Mac Williamson’s status, placing him on the seven-day concussion DL. The move allowed the Giants to recall Slater, who’s directly replacing Williamson. Stratton sports an impressive 2.32 ERA and 2.69 FIP across five starts this season, though the fact that he hasn’t allowed any homers despite a 37.8% hard contact rate suggests he might have been a bit lucky in that regard. Stratton will take his scheduled turn through the rotation today against the Dodgers.
    • In other Giants news, second baseman Joe Panik has been placed on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb. The club correspondingly purchased the contract of second baseman/outfielder Alen Hanson, who leads the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with a .403 batting average. The club moved Mark Melancon to the 60-day DL in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Hanson.
    • The Braves have reinstated left-hander Luiz Gohara from the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Gohara suffered a sprained ankle during a spring training outing, and had exhausted the maximum amount of time allotted for rehab starts. He’ll likely make a couple more starts in the minors before returning to help the Braves at the major league level. Gohara had figured to be a prominent part of Atlanta’s rotation before the season began.
    • The Reds announced that infielder Cliff Pennington has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Louisville. Pennington, who signed a minors deal in the offseason, made the club out of spring training camp as a bench player. However, he’s struck out in nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances thus far and has yet to sock an extra-base hit.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates To Promote Nick Kingham]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120947 2018-04-27T14:47:55Z 2018-04-27T14:42:31Z The Pirates will promote right-hander Nick Kingham to make his Major League debut and start Sunday’s game, reports Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter).

    Now 26 years old, Kingham was widely regarded as one of the game’s top 100 overall prospects back in 2014-15 and looked to be on the precipice of the Major Leagues when a torn ulnar collateral ligament torpedoed his 2015-16 seasons. Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, tossing just 31 1/3 innings that season and just 46 frames late in the 2016 season upon completing his rehab.

    The 2017 season marked his first healthy season since 2014, and while he didn’t dominate, the 2010 fourth-rounder did turn in a solid 3.95 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 with a 45 percent ground-ball rate. He’s off to a torrid start to the 2018 season — as MLBTR’s Jason Martinez noted when including Kingham in the first 2018 edition of Knocking Down The Door — having logged a microscopic 1.59 ERA with a 27-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 49.1 percent grounder rate in 22 2/3 innings. He’s yet to allow a home run this year and allowed only eight in 2017.

    [Related: Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]

    It could very well prove to be a spot start for Kingham — MLB.com’s Adam Berry suggested as much, on Twitter — though it would seem as though there’s at least one possible starting job that Kingham could eventually seize. The rotation jobs of Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl all seem safe, even with Taillon’s struggles in his past two outings, though southpaw Steven Brault’s spot is less solidified. In four starts this year, Brault has posted a 5.06 ERA with a 12-to-11 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings. He did open the year with three innings of scoreless relief work, but his overall body of work has not been especially impressive to date.

    Regardless of whether Kingham arrives for a day or for the rest of the season, he’ll fall shy of a full year of Major League service time, so the Pirates will be able to control him through at least 2024. It’s worth noting that the 2018 season represents Kingham’s final option year, despite the fact that he’s never pitched in the Majors. The Buccos had to add him to the 40-man roster two offseasons ago in order to protect from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft (which he quite likely would have been). That’ll make it all the more important for Kingham to establish himself, to an extent, in the Majors this season. He’ll be out of options next spring and have to make the Opening Day roster, be exposed to waivers or traded to a team willing to carry him.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 4/26/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120928 2018-04-26T21:56:04Z 2018-04-26T21:56:04Z Here are Thursday’s minor moves from around the game…

    • The Pirates have traded minor league outfielder Todd Cunningham to the White Sox, per a club announcement. John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com first broke news of the trade (via Twitter). The Bucs will receive a player to be named later in return. The 29-year-old Cunningham spent parts of three seasons in the Majors with the Braves (2013, 2015) and Angels (2016) but struggled to a .207/.256/.264 slash through 130 plate appearances. He’s off to a rough start in Triple-A this season but turned in an excellent .284/.404/.414 batting line in 358 plate appearances between the Cardinals’ and Dodgers’ top affiliates in 2017. In all, the 2010 second-round pick is a career .274/.356/.372 hitter in nearly 2200 Triple-A plate appearances.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jung Ho Kang Receives Visa, Set To Rejoin Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120911 2018-04-26T20:11:04Z 2018-04-26T19:29:42Z Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang has received a work visa and is expected to resume his career with the team, according to a report from Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. Kang had not been able to secure a visa for quite some time after being convicted of a DUI in his native South Korea.

    Kang ended up missing the entire 2017 season. He did play briefly in the Dominican Winter League recently, but that stint was cut short when he failed to perform with his new team. The Bucs control him for the 2019 season via club option, valued at $5.5MM, and he’ll play the remainder of the 2018 season on a pro-rated $3MM salary. While there was some question as to how the Pirates would handle the situation if Kang were to receive a visa, it appears as though the team is willing to welcome him back into the fold without issuing any discipline of its own.

    “We are encouraged by the steps that Jung Ho has taken to date and are hopeful that having the game he loves taken away from him for more than a year has driven home the reality that he must make better life decisions as we move forward together,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement issued via press release. “As we have communicated to him throughout this process, we will work to provide Jung Ho with the resources and support necessary for him to meet the high expectations that we have for him as a member of our organization and our community.”

    For the time being, Kang will remain on the restricted list as he works his way toward MLB readiness with in extended Spring Training at the Pirates’ complex in Bradenton, Fla. There’s no indication from the team as to how long he’ll spend ramping up in Florida.

    A healthy and effective Kang would be an unexpected boost to the Pirates, as the former KBO superstar was quite productive in his first two big league campaigns prior to his legal troubles. In 837 MLB plate appearances, Kang has slashed .273/.355/.483 with 36 homers, 43 doubles and a pair of triples. He’ll give the Pirates an option at multiple infield positions, as he’s seen action third base and shortstop in his two seasons and can also be entrusted to handle second base duties.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Josh Harrison Out Six Weeks With Fractured Hand]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120150 2018-04-16T17:40:53Z 2018-04-16T17:29:05Z The Pirates announced on Monday that second baseman Josh Harrison sustained a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand when he was hit by a Jose Urena fastball in yesterday’s game. He’s expected to return to game action in about six weeks, per the team.

    Harrison, 30, has gotten off to a .263/.328/.351 slash with a homer, two doubles and a stolen base through his first 14 games (64 plate appearances). With the veteran infielder headed to the disabled list, the 11-4 Pirates can turn to Adam Frazier or Sean Rodriguez at second base, though the team’s depth around the infield will be a bit thinned out. Max Moroff and Christopher Bostick could conceivably come up to fill in an infield spot on the bench, though it seems likely that multiple roster moves are on the horizon; the Pirates are also still in need of a 25-man move to accommodate the claim of out-of-options lefty Enny Romero from the Nats.

    Harrison is earning $10MM this season as part of the four-year, $27.3MM deal he signed three years ago. Had the Pirates gotten off to a sluggish start, there’d likely have been trade chatter surrounding Harrison this summer, though so long as they can maintain some of the momentum they’ve built up, that no longer seems likely. Harrison’s deal contains club options for $10.5MM in 2019 and $11.5MM in 2020.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Harrison Being Evaluated After HBP]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120134 2018-04-16T16:15:54Z 2018-04-16T16:12:32Z
  • Pirates infielder Josh Harrison is undergoing further evaluations today after being hit by a pitch in Sunday’s game against the Marlins, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Harrison was hit on the forearm by a 96 mph fastball from Jose Urena and exited the game rather to stay in and run for himself. A rumored trade piece for much of the offseason, Harrison is off to a .263/.328/.351 start to the season for an 11-4 Pirates club. The Bucs would likely turn to either Adam Frazier or Sean Rodriguez if Harrison requires a trip to the disabled list.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Notes: Blackmon, Gyorko, Gregerson, Glasnow, Hellickson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120108 2018-04-16T00:28:16Z 2018-04-16T00:28:16Z Though recently-extended Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon is a star outfielder, he spent his early career trying to make it as a pitcher. Kyle Newman of the Denver Post details Blackmon’s story, beginning with his high school tenure in Atlanta. After struggling to gain any significant attention early on, Blackmon began experiencing arm troubles in his junior year at Georgia Tech. The following season, however, saw him excel as a hitter en route to being drafted by the Rockies. He’s now set to earn nine figures throughout the course of his MLB career. There are some insightful quotes and tidbits in Newman’s article, including this quote from manager Walt Weiss: “I didn’t foresee the power — he’s made some adjustments, and there’s lightning in the bat now because his power numbers are pretty amazing considering the type of player he was when he broke in.”

    More from around the National League…

    • The Cardinals have a pair of players set to return soon in Jedd Gyorko and Luke Gregerson, as Joe Trezza of MLB.com reminds us. In fact, both could come off the DL as early as this coming week. Trezza adds that Gyorko’s situation will complicate the infield alignment in St. Louis, as he could sap some playing time from either Kolten Wong or Matt Carpenter (both of whom are currently ice cold at the plate). Gregerson has thrown four scoreless rehab appearances; he began the season on the DL with a hamstring strain.
    • Tyler Glasnow’s first season in relief has yielded good results so far for the Pirates, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The fireballing righty has allowed just a run across six innings in his first three appearances, in part due to an increase in his spin rate. Brink notes that he’s averaged 2,859 revolutions per minute on his curveball, a mark that’s presently 12th in all of MLB. Glasnow’s also increased his average fastball velocity to 96 MPH. “He’s a little bit more free at ease out there on the mound and being himself,” said Ray Searage, renowned pitching coach for the Pirates. “When you have confidence in yourself and try to execute at the best of your ability, you’re going to be more free and easy.”
    • Jeremy Hellickson will officially start for the Nationals tomorrow, Dan Kolko of MASN reports on Twitter. That falls in line with earlier reports that suggested the possibility. Nats fans are surely glad to see anyone but A.J. Cole, who sports a 12.00 ERA through two starts so far this season. There’s a $2MM salary to gain for Hellickson if he sticks in the rotation, as the terms of his minors pact with the club dictate.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Enny Romero From Nationals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120007 2018-04-14T19:35:48Z 2018-04-14T18:51:55Z The Pirates have claimed left-hander Enny Romero off waivers from the Nationals, as per a Pittsburgh media release.  Romero will claim an open spot on the Bucs’ 40-man roster, and the release stated that he’ll join the Major League roster once a corresponding move is made.

    Washington designated Romero for assignment last week in the wake of a tough start to the season that saw the lefty allow three runs over two innings pitched.  Romero was something of the victim of a roster crunch, as the Nats chose to subtract from their eight-man bullpen to add extra bench depth in the form of utilityman Matt Reynolds.  In 2017, Romero posted a 3.56 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and a 2.83 K/BB rate over 55 2/3 IP for the Nationals.

    Romero will join closer Felipe Vazquez as the only other left-handed reliever on the Pirates’ 25-man roster, with Steven Brault (in the rotation) and Josh Smoker (at Triple-A) representing the only other southpaws on Pittsburgh’s 40-man.  Romero isn’t an ideal candidate, however, to provide balance to the Pirates bullpen since he has been a reverse-splits pitcher over his 138 career innings. Left-handed batters have a healthy .317/.398/.467 slash line against him while right-handed batters have hit just .232/.317/.371.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Select Contract Of Richard Rodriguez, Recall Kyle Crick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119900 2018-04-13T18:57:40Z 2018-04-13T18:57:40Z The Pirates announced today that they’ve selected the contract of right-handed reliever Richard Rodriguez and recalled fellow righty Kyle Crick. Both players were pitching for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. To make room on the big league roster, right-hander Clay Holmes and left-hander Josh Smoker were optioned to Triple-A.

    Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster was at a count of 38 players prior to Rodriguez’s selection, so there’ll be no 40-man move necessary to accommodate him, and the team can even make another addition without needing to open further space. The 28-year-old Rodriguez, a longtime Astros farmhand, broke into the Majors with the Orioles in 2017 but tallied just 4 2/3 frames with Baltimore at the big league level.

    Rodriguez, though, has carved up Triple-A hitters dating back to 2015, working to a 2.54 ERA with a 221-to-65 K/BB ratio in in 219 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate has steadily risen on a year-over-year basis, topping out at 10.2 K/9 in 2017, and he’s already whiffed nine in five shutout innings this season. Last year with the O’s, Rodriguez’s fastball sat at 93.8 mph in his brief big league audition.

    As for Crick, he was one of two pieces acquired in the trade that sent franchise icon Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates to the Giants. The former supplemental first-rounder and top prospect shifted to the bullpen with quite a bit of success in 2017, punching out 12 hitters per nine innings with a 2.76 ERA in Triple-A. That prompted a big league call-up for Crick in San Francisco, where he’d go on to log a 3.06 ERA in 32 1/3 innings — albeit with much more pedestrian marks of 7.8 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9. Crick averaged 95.5 mph on his heater, though, and was superb at limiting hard contact in his time with the Giants (20.5 percent).

    The Pirates undoubtedly hope that he can be a viable bullpen weapon in Pittsburgh, as the hard-throwing 25-year-old can be controlled through the 2023 season. He’d allowed one run with five strikeouts and no walks through four innings of relief thus far in Triple-A this year.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Prospect Bryan Reynolds Undergoes Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119808 2018-04-13T04:12:31Z 2018-04-13T03:46:15Z
  • Pirates outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds will undergo surgery to remove the fractured hook from the hamate bone in his left wrist, the team told reporters (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Adam Berry). The Pittsburgh organization didn’t provide a timeline, though prior instances of that injury in the Majors have often come with a timeline around six weeks. (Each injury, of course, comes with its own set of circumstances.) Reynolds, whom the Pirates acquired in the trade that sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco, incurred the injury on a swing early in the Double-A season.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Reliever Felipe Rivero Changes Name To Felipe Vázquez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119620 2018-04-09T23:42:52Z 2018-04-09T23:34:47Z Pirates lefty Felipe Rivero will henceforth be known as Felipe Vázquez after undergoing a legal name change, Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. That modification will be reflected on the back of his uniform in short order.

    You’ll need to read the article for the back story, but the new surname will match that of the southpaw’s sister, Prescilla Vázquez. The siblings are very close; she is said to have played a notable role in advising her brother on his agency decisions and working out the long-term deal that he signed over the winter.

    As the Bucs order up some new jerseys, they’ll hope that the newly renamed Vázquez can maintain the form he showed last year as Rivero. In 75 1/3 innings, the power lefty allowed just 14 earned runs on 47 hits while compiling an 88:20 K/BB ratio. He also racked up 21 saves after moving into the closer’s role.

    That performance led to a four-year extension in January. The deal promises Vázquez $22MM for the 2018 through 2021 seasons and also leaves the club with two option years.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Joe Musgrove Not Ready To Come Off DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119546 2018-04-09T20:17:41Z 2018-04-09T01:18:09Z
  • Pirates righty Joe Musgrove is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list Monday, but that’s not going to happen, manager Clint Hurdle told Jerry Dipaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other reporters Sunday. Musgrove, who’s dealing with a muscle strain in his right shoulder, will first need to make multiple rehab starts, per Hurdle. Right now, though, he’s in a “no-throw” period, the skipper revealed. Musgrove, 25, was arguably the headliner in the Pirates’ return for righty Gerrit Cole, whom they traded to the Astros over the winter. Cole’s thriving in Houston, yet the 7-2 Pirates have held their own without him thus far.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Kevin Siegrist]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119332 2018-04-08T19:12:57Z 2018-04-08T19:12:41Z April 8: Siegrist doesn’t want to pitch in the minors for the Pirates or anyone else, general manager Neal Huntington told Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters Sunday. Conversations between the Pirates and Siegrist’s side have been “very respectful,” per Huntington, but: “His agent was very clear: This is not about the Pirates. This is about minor league baseball. … This is about not wanting to pitch in the minor leagues, period, so I’m not sure how that solves itself without him pitching.”

    Huntington added that Siegrist could be part of the solution for the Pirates sometime this year, though that’s probably not going to happen if he doesn’t work his way back via the minors. “He’s a good pitcher, and we wanted him to go to triple-A to build up arm strength, to get back to Kevin Siegrist because that guy can help us,” Huntington said. “We would love to keep that door open and hope that there will be a change of mind at some point in time.”

    April 6: The Pirates have issued another statement clarifying Siegrist’s status (Twitter links via Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic). It seems that Siegrist is not a free agent and has instead been placed on the team’s suspended list for failing to report to Triple-A.

    As Biertempfel explains, the left-hander’s minor league contract allowed him to opt out at the end of Spring Training if another club was willing to place him on its MLB roster. If not, he’d be assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis. No club offered Siegrist a 25-man roster spot, but the left-hander subsequently chose not to report to Indianapolis and has been suspended by the team. Biertempfel notes that Siegrist does have a full opt-out on June 1, at which point he can become a free agent. It’d be a surprise to see Siegrist ultimately sit out until that point, but it’s not clear at this time if he intends on reporting to Indianapolis at all.

    April 5: Left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist, who was in camp with the Pirates on a minor league contract, has refused an assignment to Triple-A in favor of free agency, the team announced on Thursday (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Adam Berry). Siegrist’s deal came with a clause that allowed him to opt out if he did not make the Opening Day roster, and he’d reportedly been mulling over whether to take the assignment to Indianapolis or pursue other opportunities.

    The 28-year-old Siegrist posted sub-3.00 ERAs with the Cardinals in 2015-16 before struggling to a 4.81 ERA last year in season during which he logged DL time for both a forearm issue and a spinal sprain. Siegrist averaged a career-worst 5.03 walks per nine innings pitched last season, and his 92 mph average fastball was down noticeably from his peak, when his heater averaged 93.7 mph.

    That said, Siegrist has a fairly long track record of missing bats at the big league level. He’s averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings since debuting with the 2013 Cardinals and has been largely effective against both left- and right-handed hitters — albeit with somewhat curious reverse splits. Lefties have batted .233/.344/.357 in 381 plate appearances against Siegrist, while righties have been stymied to the tune of a .192/.276/.349 slash. And while the five runs he allowed in 5 2/3 spring frames with the Pirates makes for an unappealing ERA, Siegrist also posted a substantially more encouraging 9-to-1 K/BB ratio in that tiny sample of appearances.

    Siegrist finished out the 2017 season with four years, 116 days of big league service time, meaning that any club which signs him would have the option of controlling him through at least the 2019 season via arbitration. As we noted late last week, the free agent market is hardly flush with left-handed bullpen options — Antonio Bastardo and Eric O’Flaherty are currently the two most notable names available — so Siegrist should generate some interest elsewhere.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Jesus Liranzo]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119307 2018-04-05T18:40:42Z 2018-04-05T18:40:42Z The Pirates have claimed righty Jesus Liranzo off waivers from the Dodgers, per a club announcement. He has been optioned to Double-A.

    Liranzo, 23, has bounced around since being designated for assignment by the Orioles just before Opening Day. Clearly, his talent has attracted plenty of attention, though teams are wary of committing a 40-man spot to a player that isn’t ready to contribute at the MLB level.

    Though he reputedly has a big arm, Liranzo has struggled to keep the ball in the zone, averaging 5.5 walks per nine in his five minor-league seasons. Liranzo pitched to a 4.85 ERA in 65 innings at Double-A last year, with 10.4 K/9 and 6.0 BB/9.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Place Joe Musgrove On DL; Jordy Mercer Exits With Finger Injury]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119027 2018-04-03T14:55:06Z 2018-04-02T20:10:00Z Musgrove’s DL placement is retroactive three days, so he can be activated on April 9. In his place, the Pirates could turn to one of Steven Brault or Tyler Glasnow to start in Musgrove’s place on Thursday. At present, it doesn’t seem that the injury is serious. Musgrove was slowed by some shoulder troubles in Spring Training, so it seems the Bucs are just being cautious early in the season. Pittsburgh will also need to evaluate shortstop Jordy Mercer, who exited after jamming his finger into the bag when diving back to first on a pickoff attempt. The Pirates, so far, have only said that Mercer left the game with right hand/finger “discomfort.”

    The Pirates announced today that right-hander Joe Musgrove has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a muscle strain in his right shoulder. Righty Clay Holmes, who’d previously been returned to Triple-A after serving as the 26th man for yesterday’s doubleheader, has been recalled. (Holmes’ optional assignment needn’t be for the typical 10-day minimum, as he’s replacing an injured player.) As MLB.com’s Adam Berry notes, the move seemed somewhat curious at first, as Musgrove had said he felt good physically not long before the announcement. But testing ended up revealing a strain, leading to the roster move.

    Musgrove’s DL placement is retroactive three days, so he can be activated on April 9. In his place, the Pirates could turn to one of Steven Brault or Tyler Glasnow to start in Musgrove’s place on Thursday. At present, it doesn’t seem that the injury is serious. Musgrove was slowed by some shoulder troubles in Spring Training, so it seems the Bucs are just being cautious early in the season. Pittsburgh will also need to evaluate shortstop Jordy Mercer, who exited after jamming his finger into the bag when diving back to first on a pickoff attempt. The Pirates, so far, have only said that Mercer left the game with right hand/finger “discomfort.”

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Release Clark Eagan]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118926 2018-04-02T02:55:02Z 2018-04-02T02:54:29Z
  • The Tigers announced that left-hander Ryan Carpenter will be assigned back to Triple-A Toledo.  Carpenter was called up as the 26th man for today’s double-header with the Pirates, and he made his Major League debut in the nightcap, starting the game and lasting three innings.  A seventh-round pick for the Rays in the 2011 draft, Carpenter has a 4.37 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 3.36 K/BB rate over 760 1/3 innings (128 of his 115 games as a starter) in the Tampa Bay and Colorado farm systems.
  • The Pirates have parted with outfielder Clark Eagan, according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects (subscription required). Eagan, 23, had been with the Pirates since they selected him in the ninth round of the 2016 draft. He spent that year at the Low-A level before moving up to Single-A in 2017. In all, Eagan batted .265/.316/.385 across 604 trips to the plate with the organization.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Release Seven Players]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118486 2018-03-30T05:16:26Z 2018-03-29T21:26:32Z
  • The Pirates have released a group of minor-leaguers, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports (subscription link). The most prominent among them are outfielder Barrett Barnes and hurlers Cody Dickson and John Stilson. Barnes was the former 45th overall pick but did not stand out in brief action at the Triple-A level last year. Dickson is a former fourth-rounder who topped out at Triple-A last year, while Stilson has never yet received an MLB opportunity despite compiling a 2.75 ERA in 131 Triple-A innings.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Pittsburgh Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118541 2018-03-29T12:37:57Z 2018-03-29T12:37:11Z

    This piece is part of MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

    The Pirates moved two key veterans and dropped their payroll this winter, but did not embark upon a full rebuilding course.

    Major League Signings

    • None
    Trades and Claims
    Option Decisions
    • Exercised $14.5MM club option over OF Andrew McCutchen
    Extensions
    Notable Minor-League Signings
    Notable Losses

    Pirates Depth ChartPirates Payroll Information

    Needs Addressed

    Need is certainly a term that’s subject to being defined, even in the baseball context. For the Pirates, it seems, this offseason was focused on tweaking the overall roster mix to infuse some youth and draw down payroll. The Pirates’ sparse payroll has long been a source of consternation for the team’s fans. But complaints against owner Bob Nutting reached a new high this winter after a pair of trades sent away two core players.

    Spending on MLB players had ramped up steadily from 2011 to 2015 — the season in which the Bucs peaked at 98 wins but also fell for the second consecutive season in the Wild Card play-in game. In the ensuing campaign, the Pittsburgh organization moved up to just under $100MM to open the season and expanded its spending to just shy of $110MM by the end of the year. But many felt that the team missed a chance to make further investments around a strong core.

    Then, last season, the Pirates saw a reduction in their Opening Day payroll and did not expand past the $110MM line by the end of a disappointing campaign. As the 2018 season draws near, it’s clear that the Pirates will be taking a big step back in spending, with around $85MM on the books.

    Getting there meant structuring two key swaps. First, the Bucs agreed to send staff ace Gerrit Cole — the former first overall draft pick — to the Astros in exchange for a four-player package. Favoring a spread of useful MLB-ready talent over a big-name headliner, the Pirates brought in three players who’ll likely step right onto the active roster.

    Colin Moran will help account for the fact that Jung Ho Kang likely won’t ever play for the Pirates again. The former sixth overall draft pick will try to make good on his own promise after a strong 2017 campaign at Triple-A. Joe Musgrove will give the team a useful and affordable rotation piece or swingman who helps fill in for the loss of Cole. And the high-powered Michael Feliz will be inserted right into a setup role, where he’ll try to harness his big-time stuff — as is reflected in his 96.6 mph average fastball and 14.2% swinging-strike rate in 2017. Feliz could function in the high-leverage role that Juan Nicasio held for much of 2017, before a controversial September move that allowed Nicasio to land with the division-rival Cardinals.

    The Cole swap, then, helped fill quite a few openings that had been facing the team entering the winter. Moran will join Jordy Mercer on the left side of the infield, after the Pirates decided to hang onto their long-time shortstop. I had suggested in assessing the team’s outlook last fall that Mercer could be jettisoned, but the Bucs decided he was worth a $6.75MM arbitration tab.

    Moving Cole made it all but certain that long-time franchise face Andrew McCutchen would also be dealt. The eventual move brought in one MLB-ready asset in righty Kyle Crick, along with prospect Bryan Reynolds, but it was mostly about trimming salary. The Giants took on all but $2.5MM of the cash owed to McCutchen, who will be eligible for free agency following the season.

    All in all, the trade was something of an anti-climactic way for Cutch’s storied tenure in Pittsburgh to come to a close. He is, at least in part, still within his prime years, so this wasn’t just a fond goodbye to a broken-down veteran. At the same time, recent struggles (and a glut of outfielders in free agency) left McCutchen without much of a market, so there wasn’t a major haul of talent coming back in return.

    Though Crick will factor into the depth in 2018, he won’t make the Opening Day roster. One new addition will, though: lefty Josh Smoker. The former first-round pick, who has been resurgent as a reliever, is the only one of several low-cost pick-ups who stuck on the 40-man roster all winter and spring long. (Rule 5er Nick Burdi is also still around, though his fate won’t begin to be decided until he’s back from Tommy John surgery.)

    Had the offseason ended there, we might’ve seen riots at the gates of PNC Park. But the Bucs front office went on to strike a deal for outfielder Corey Dickerson — who had been designated for assignment by the Rays — that was at least a win in terms of public relations. Dickerson, after all, was an All-Star in 2017 and only required the addition of $1.45MM in salary since the Bucs shed Daniel Hudson (whom the Rays later released) in the deal. While it had seemed the team would utilize a platoon involving the lefty hitting Daniel Nava to replace McCutchen, they’ll instead plan to utilize Dickerson as the primary left fielder. He’ll need to bounce back from a dreadful second half in 2017, but there’s little denying that he gives the Pirates’ lineup a significant boost at a minimal cost.

    Questions Remaining

    In the aggregate, the offseason decisions left the Pirates with a roster mix that includes quite a few young players as well as some veteran holdovers. The Bucs will use the coming season to see whether they can make out a new slate of core performers while trying to contend in a tough NL Central. If the team can’t keep pace, some mid-season trades and promotions could well result.

    In the rotation, Ivan Nova will serve as the veteran leader of an otherwise youthful group. He could well end up as trade fodder if there’s a summer sell-off. Musgrove will join a unit that’s expected to feature Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, and Chad Kuhl to open the season. The top 40-man depth options are Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes, though it certainly seems possible that the Pirates will look into adding some veteran pieces as players come available.

    If the young guns perform as hoped, this could be a solid, cost-efficient unit. But there’s also quite a bit of uncertainty and the group isn’t exactly teeming with upside. If there’s a front-of-the-rotation breakout candidate on hand, it may be long-time top prospect Tyler Glasnow, but his near- and long-term outlooks remain unclear. Glasnow dominated last year at Triple-A but scuffled in the bigs. He got plenty of swings and misses in camp but will begin the year in the bullpen after allowing 13 earned runs in his 16 innings of Grapefruit League action.

    Otherwise, the relief unit will again be led by Felipe Rivero, who inked a long-term deal with the club over the winter (as discussed further below). The aforementioned Feliz will join veteran George Kontos in the late-inning unit. The remainder of the pen is loaded with affordable, controllable but largely unestablished pitchers, including Smoker, Edgar Santana, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Steven Brault. Depth comes in the form of Crick, minor-league signees Kevin Siegrist and Bo Schultz, and a group of others that aren’t on the 40-man roster. Not unlike the rotation, the Pirates are staking wagers on quite a few inexperienced arms in their relief corps.

    In terms of position players, the Bucs will hope that their outfield unit is able to morph back into a strength. Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are both talented players signed to affordable long-term deals. Whether or not they can turn in full and productive seasons will go a long way toward deciding the team’s immediate fate. Dickerson could be a nice addition to this unit, though the 28-year-old will need to bounce back from a .232/.273/.397 slash and 28.4 percent strikeout rate from July 1 through season’s end. With one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining, Dickerson could potentially end up as a trade candidate at some point in the relatively near future.

    Potential trade candidates also populate the infield. Backstop Francisco Cervelli is earning $10.5MM this season and $11.5MM for 2019. If he can stay healthy, he could still be a quality asset. The versatile Josh Harrison, who’s slated to be the regular second baseman, came up in talks all winter long after a strong 2017 season. Though he’s plenty useful to Pittsburgh and remains controlled for two more seasons beyond 2018, he also isn’t all that cheap with option values of $10.5MM and $11MM. Then, there’s Mercer, who’ll again command near-everyday time at short but is entering a walk year.

    It’ll surely be interesting to see how the middle-infield situation plays out over the coming season. Well-regarded prospects Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, and Kevin Kramer are pressing up from within; it’s not inconceivable that any of the bunch could warrant a first MLB promotion during the coming season.

    The first base job will be left to Josh Bell after his strong 2017 campaign, but third base offers more possibility for intrigue. Colin Moran is going to get a shot to show his swing changes can sustain a power increase in the majors, with veteran David Freese there to face tough lefties. Recent first-round pick Ke’Bryan Hayes is still a ways off, and Freese isn’t considered a regular option at this stage of his carer, so the odds are that Moran will receive a long look.

    In addition to the promising youngsters noted above, there are loads of depth pieces on hand in the event that trades, injuries, or stumbles intervene to create a need. Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez will be the Bucs’ lefty and righty Swiss Army knives, serving as substitute options in both the infield and outfield. Max Moroff and Chris Bostick are alternative 40-man utility choices, while Jose Osuna is likely the first man up in the outfield after a nice spring. Other outfield possibilities on the 40-man are Jordan Luplow and Austin Meadows, the long-time top prospect who is aiming for a bounceback campaign.

    Deal of Note

    Felipe Rivero | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    It became something of a gag that the Pirates inked Rivero not long after dealing away Cole and Cutch — as if that relatively limited financial commitment could make up for parting with the team’s most talented pitcher and long-time superstar. But the Rivero pact was a legitimately notable extension that should move the needle in the long run.

    The 26-year-old lefty, who was acquired from the Nationals for half a year of Mark Melancon, harnessed his premium stuff to become one of the game’s best relievers in 2017. He pitched to a 1.67 ERA in 75 1/3 innings with 10.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 while also accumulating 21 saves after taking over the closer’s role partway through the season.

    So long as he continues to handle the ninth, Rivero is likely keep aggregating the kinds of numbers that would lead to hefty arbitration earnings. The four seasons of arb control, beginning in 2018, quite likely would have cost a good bit more than the $22MM that Rivero will actually earn. Plus, the two years of $10MM options could be of quite some value, given the cost of premium relievers on the open market.

    This sort of agreement just won’t be as momentous as earlier Bucs extensions — McCutchen, Marte, Polanco — have been (or could be). But it’s a move that improves the value of an already high-quality, existing asset. If the organization’s payroll is going to remain as tightly controlled as it has been, then this type of deal could one day free the Pirates to make one more addition to a hopeful contending roster.

    Overview

    It’s not difficult to imagine the MLB roster looking quite a bit different by year end than it does now. There are plenty of mid-season trade possibilities, though this roster shouldn’t be counted out entirely from contention. Regardless, the number of inexperienced pitchers in the majors and upper-level position prospects who’ll open in the minors could be a recipe for turnover. It’s tough to get excited over the moves, in the aggregate, but the reasoning behind the approach becomes a bit more apparent when one considers how many potentially worthwhile, cost-efficient 40-man pieces will be tested for the future. Of course, things would probably look a lot more compelling with a few more talented players on the roster and a few more dollars on the payroll.

    What are your thoughts on Pittsburgh’s offseason? (Link for app users)

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[How The Pirates Landed Ji-Hwan Bae]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118474 2018-03-28T04:59:16Z 2018-03-28T04:55:40Z
  • The Pirates’ interest in Korean shortstop prospect Ji-Hwan Bae dates back almost two years, Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, and the team was finally able to land the 18-year-old after he was made a free agent following the Braves’ international signing scandal.  Given a second chance at the signing, Pittsburgh again made a push, and Bae said (via an interpreter) that he chose them over other suitors because the “Pirates were the most active team approaching” about a contract.  The Pirates thought enough of Bae to give him $1.25MM, the second-largest bonus the franchise has ever given to an international prospect, and GM Neal Huntington feels Bae can stick at shortstop over the long term.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians Claim Jack Leathersich, Trade Rob Refsnyder To Rays]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118416 2018-03-27T20:54:16Z 2018-03-27T20:07:31Z The Indians announced a series of moves this afternoon, including a claim of lefty Jack Leathersich from the Pirates.  (The @RedSoxStats Twitter feed was first to report the claim earlier today.)  A 40-man spot for Leathersich was opened by shipping infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder to the Rays in exchange for cash.

    In other news, Cleveland announced that righty Jordan Milbrath — who was taken in the Rule 5 draft in December — was returned by the Pirates after clearing waivers. Finally, veteran infielder Adam Rosales is joining the Indians on a minors deal.

    Refsnyder was out of options, and thus the Tribe at least managed to get some money back for him rather than simply losing the utilityman if exposed to waivers.  Refsnyder had been battling for a backup infield job in camp, though it appears Erik Gonzalez has won that role.  Cleveland looks to be carrying five outfielders, with right-handed hitters Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer (if healthy) balancing out lefty-swingers Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer, with Michael Brantley eventually joining the mix once he returns from the disabled list.

    Once a well-regarded prospect in the Yankees’ system, Refsnyder has yet to produce much over parts of three MLB seasons, with just a .233/.306/.311 slash line over 320 career plate appearances.  He can offer a versatile glove capable of playing second base, first base, and both corner outfield slots, so he gives Tampa Bay another multi-position bench option next to Daniel Robertson.  The Rays had been looking for a right-handed outfield bat, so Refsnyder fills that need, even if he has yet to display much hitting stroke as a big leaguer.

    Rosales was recently released from a minor league deal with the Phillies and it didn’t take him long to catch on elsewhere, as Cleveland will replace Refsnyder with a more experienced utility infielder.  Rosales has extensive work at all four infield spots (plus the odd appearance in left field) over his 10 seasons and 638 big league games.  This versatility has helped Rosales stick around in the Show despite a lack of hitting (.227/.292/.365 slash line over 1786 PA), though he did burst out for 13 homers and an .814 OPS over 248 PA with the Padres in 2016.

    Pittsburgh placed Leathersich on waivers yesterday, as he may have been an expendable piece in a Pirates bullpen that already includes Steven Brault and Josh Smoker tossing from the left side, plus Kevin Siegrist in camp on a minor league deal.  Leathersich joined the Bucs via a waiver claim off the Cubs’ roster last September, appearing in six games wearing the black-and-gold.  The 27-year-old southpaw has a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 Major League innings, and both his brief MLB stint and his much more expansive sample size of 278 1/3 minor league IP exhibit indicate a penchant for racking up big totals in both the strikeout and walks departments.

    Milbrath was also waived along with Leathersich yesterday, and as per the regulations of the Rule 5 Draft, the righty had to first be offered back to his original team (Cleveland) after other teams had passed on claiming the 26-year-old.  A 35th-round selection for the Tribe in the 2013 draft, Milbrath has a 4.33 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.02 K/BB rate over 405 1/3 career innings in the minors, cracking the Double-A level in each of the last two seasons.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Mets Claim Bryce Brentz From Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118318 2018-03-26T20:04:40Z 2018-03-26T19:48:00Z The Mets have claimed outfielder Bryce Brentz off waivers from the Pirates, Adam Berry of MLB.com was among those to report.

    The 29-year-old Brentz joined the Pirates via trade with the Red Sox in February, but he didn’t last long in Pittsburgh. The club placed him on waivers this past weekend. Because Brentz is out of options, he’ll have to go through waivers again if the Mets attempt to send him to the minors. If that doesn’t happen immediately, it likely will when star outfielder Michael Conforto comes off the disabled list. Assuming the other New York outfielders stay healthy early in the season, Conforto would be part of a contingent that features other well-known names in Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares.

    Although Boston chose Brentz in the first round of the 2010 draft, he has barely played in the majors thus far. He collected just 90 plate appearances with the Red Sox, in fact. The righty-swinger spent all of last season at the Triple-A level and posted a healthy .271/.334/.529 line (138 wRC+) with 31 home runs in 494 plate appearances.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Place Jordan Milbrath, Jack Leathersich On Waivers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118249 2018-03-26T16:09:25Z 2018-03-26T16:00:42Z The Pirates have placed right-hander Jordan Milbrath and lefty Jack Leathersich on waivers, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

    As a Rule 5 draft pick, the Pirates will have to offer Milbrath back to his previous organization, the Indians, if no one claims him on waivers. If a team does claim the 26-year-old Milbrath, it must commit to carrying him on its 25-man roster. Otherwise, he’d head back to the waiver wire and would have to be offered to Cleveland upon clearing.

    The side-arming Milbrath struggled in camp during his spring training stint as a member of the Pirates, with whom he allowed eight earned runs on 10 hits and eight walks (with eight strikeouts) in 8 1/3 innings. He fared much better than that last year, which he divided between the Indians’ High-A and Triple-A affiliates, with a 3.02 ERA and 10.0 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings.

    Leatherich, 27, joined the Pirates last September after they claimed him from the division-rival Cubs. He then got into six of the Pirates’ games, working 4 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts against two walks. Overall, Leathersich has tossed 16 2/3 frames of five-run ball in the bigs since debuting with the Mets in 2015. However, he hasn’t been nearly that effective over a much larger sample of work at the Triple-A level, where he has offset a sky-high strikeout rate (14.5 per nine) with an ugly walk rate (6.9) en route to a 4.68 ERA in 100 innings.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Kevin Siegrist Undecided About Opt-Out Clause]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118184 2018-03-27T18:12:36Z 2018-03-26T00:59:04Z
  • Kevin Siegrist will “probably look at other options first” before considering a Triple-A assignment if the Pirates don’t add him to their 25-man roster, the left-hander tells The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel (subscription required).  Siegrist signed a minor league deal with the Bucs in February that will pay him $1.5MM in guaranteed salary if he cracks the big leagues, and he can opt out of the deal if the Pirates don’t put him on the Opening Day roster and another club offers him an MLB job.  (The contract also contains a second opt-out clause, which Biertempfel reports is on June 1.)  A workhorse out of the Cardinals bullpen in 2015-16, Siegrist struggled with injuries last season and has yet to show much this spring, with a 7.94 ERA in 5 2/3 Grapefruit League innings.  Pittsburgh already has Steven Brault and Josh Smoker as left-handed options for the bullpen, so Siegrist could become expendable.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Place Bryce Brentz On Outright Waivers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118030 2018-03-25T01:51:07Z 2018-03-25T01:47:55Z
  • The Pirates have placed outfielder Bryce Brentz on outright waivers, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reports. Pittsburgh acquired the 29-year-old Brentz from Boston back in February, but the out-of-options slugger was then unable to earn a spot with his new organization during the spring. Brentz raked in the minors last year, where he tortured Triple-A pitchers with a .271/.334/.529 line (138 wRC+) and 31 home runs in 494 PAs. However, Brentz hasn’t been nearly that successful in the majors since the BoSox used a first-round pick on him in 2010, having hit .287/.311/.379 with just one HR in 90 trips to the plate.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Jordy Mercer On Future With Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117831 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z 2018-03-24T04:39:32Z
  • Long-time Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer acknowledges that this could be his last campaign in Pittsburgh, as Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic writes (subscription link). He also says he’s content to allow the situation to “play out” as it will. As Biertempfel explains, the 31-year-old does not appear likely to be in the team’s long-term plans with a variety of interesting middle-infield prospects moving up the ranks behind him.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Re-Sign Daniel Nava To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117817 2018-03-23T15:43:12Z 2018-03-23T15:32:42Z The Pirates have agreed to a new contract with outfielder Daniel Nava, The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel reports (Twitter link).  As expected, the pact is a minor league deal, according to Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  The Bucs released Nava earlier this week but it was widely expected that the two sides would work out another agreement.

    It will still be some time before Nava hits the field, as he underwent back surgery in late February that carried a 10-to-12 week recovery timeline.  Back and hamstring problems limited Nava to just 214 plate appearances in a part-time role for the Phillies last season, though the veteran made the most of his playing time, hitting .301/.393/.421 with four homers and displaying good plate discipline (26 walks against just 38 strikeouts).  It was a solid comeback year for Nava, who bounced around between four different organizations in 2015-16 and managed just a .574 OPS over 314 big league PA.

    The Pirates’ addition of Corey Dickerson dimmed Nava’s chances of regular playing time on the 25-man roster, though the 35-year-old Nava still carries value as a backup and pinch-hit option against right-handed pitching.  Nava will surely be placed on the 60-day DL as he continues to recover from his surgery, so the signing won’t require Pittsburgh to make any 40-man roster moves.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Ray Searage: Tyler Glasnow Making Progress]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117677 2018-03-22T01:42:23Z 2018-03-22T01:42:07Z
  • Pirates righty Tyler Glasnow, a former top prospect, had a rough time in the majors last year, but pitching coach Ray Searage has seen legitimate progress this spring, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details. “Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes,” said Searage, who added that Glasnow “has embraced” the adjustments the Pirates have suggested this year. Searage likened the 2017 version of Glasnow to a deer in the headlights, but now, even though there’s still work to be done, “he’s mature.” The 6-foot-8 Glasnow, 24, will kick off the season in the Pirates’ bullpen, though their hope is that he’ll ascend to the rotation, per Bloom. He made 13 starts in 15 appearances last year and pitched to a 7.69 ERA/6.30 FIP with 8.13 K/9 against 6.39 BB/9.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Expect To Re-Sign Daniel Nava]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117656 2018-03-22T00:15:17Z 2018-03-22T00:14:58Z
  • The Pirates expect to re-sign free agent outfielder Daniel Nava, Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Pittsburgh released Nava on Tuesday, but general manager Neal Huntington suggested at the time that the team would like to bring him back. Nava is still on the mend from February back surgery, and the Pirates want him to rehab as a member of their organization. “We anticipate him being a second-half contributor to the major league team,” said Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomcyzk, who noted that “the sooner we can get our hands on him, is the better.”
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Ji-Hwan Bae]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117658 2018-03-22T14:22:04Z 2018-03-21T22:50:08Z The Pirates have signed former Braves prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, as John Dreker and Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com recently reported (subscription link). The well-regarded young shortstop, a recent international signee from Korea, will earn a bonus worth around $1.25MM.

    The addition of Bae means the Pirates have spent roughly $5.25MM of their available $5.75MM pool space for the 2017-18 signing period, MLB.com’s Adam Berry notes. He received the second-largest bonus the organization has ever given to a prospect, trailing only right-hander Luis Heredia, whom the Bucs handed $2.6MM back in 2010. Heredia is now a free agent.

    The 18-year-old Bae had been property of the Braves from this past September until November, when Major League Baseball took him and 11 other prospects from the Atlanta organization because of international signing violations. Thanks in part to those transgressions, MLB hit ex-Braves general manager John Coppolella with a lifetime ban.

    Bae joined the Braves for $300K, but they reportedly had an under-the-table agreement to pay him an extra $600K. After Atlanta signed Bae, special assistant Chad MacDonald offered high praise for the lefty-swinger.

    “He’s very athletic. He stays at shortstop, he’s going to be a solid to plus defender there. His bat-to-ball skills are really good. There’s more power in the bat,” said MacDonald. “If everything clicks, we have a left-handed version of Trea Turner, who I signed in San Diego. Again, maybe not that much power, but certainly the impact speed and defense, with bat-to-ball skills and a left-handed hitter.”

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