MLB Trade Rumors » » Pittsburgh Pirates 2018-02-24T21:54:07Z Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Kevin Siegrist To Minor-League Deal]]> 2018-02-24T14:56:43Z 2018-02-24T14:56:43Z The Pirates have inked left-hander Kevin Siegrist to a minor-league contract, the team announced today in a press release. He’s received an invitation to spring training camp as well.

Siegrist had recently pitched before a crowd of about 20 scouts in Florida, making an attempt to show teams he’s healthy and can bounce back after an injury-marred 2017 campaign with the Cardinals and Phillies. Apparently none of those teams were willing to offer Siegrist a major-league contract, but he’ll have a good chance to make a Pirates roster that features George Kontos and Michael Feliz as the top setup options behind newly-extended closer Felipe Rivero. If he does, the Bucs will have the option to control him through the 2019 season via the arbitration process.

Prior to 2017, Siegrist had enjoyed a largely successful career with the Cardinals. Across 206 1/3 frames with the club from 2013-2016, the southpaw pitched to a 2.70 ERA while racking up 243 strikeouts. He  had a bit of a walk problem (4.10 BB/9), and ERA estimators suggested he outperformed his peripherals a bit (3.87 xFIP), but nonetheless he was solid for the Redbirds, racking up 72 holds and 9 saves during that span.

Things took a turn for the worst for Siegrist last year, as a forearm strain and spinal sprain forced two separate stints on the DL. When on the field, his velocity and strikeout rate were both down, while his walk rate ballooned to a problematic 5.24 per nine. His 4.98 ERA became an eyesore, and by the end of August, the Cardinals had seen enough; they activated him from the DL only to designate him for assignment immediately.

Siegrist was quickly claimed by the Phillies, for whom he pitched just five innings during the month of September. He allowed two earned runs and struck out seven. However, his showing apparently wasn’t enough to convince Philadelphia to pay him a minimal arbitration raise on his $1.6MM 2017 salary. The club opted to outright Siegrist off their 40-man roster, and he elected free agency shortly thereafter.

The towering 6′-5″ Siegrist is just 28 years old. He was drafted and developed by the Cardinals organization, who plucked him out of Palm Beach Community College in the 41st round of the 2008 draft. Though he was a starter in the lower minors, a shift to the bullpen late in his 2012 season at the Double-A level spurred a quick rise to the majors. Siegrist pitched just 7 2/3 innings with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate before he was deemed ready to make his major-league debut on June 6th, 2013, a day on which he struck out four of the six hitters he faced while allowing no earned runs.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Royals Sign Michael Saunders]]> 2018-02-24T00:39:20Z 2018-02-24T00:38:44Z 6:38pm: Saunders can earn $1.5MM on the MLB roster with as much as $500K in available incentives, Jeffrey Flanagan of tweets.

3:36pm: The Royals have announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal. It seems that the recent agreement between Saunders and the Pirates has been torn up.

When Saunders put pen to paper with Pittsburgh, he was slated to battle with Daniel Nava and others for a spot in the outfield mix. But the Bucs’ recent acquisition of Corey Dickerson left Saunders without much of a path to the MLB roster.

Saunders’s agent, Barry Meister, says the Pirates allowed his client to pursue other opportunities after the new development, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). Meister says the team “should be commended for their player-friendly, honest and transparent behavior.”

At the end of the day, then, Saunders will enter a different but perhaps even more promising situation in Kansas City. He’ll still need to earn his way onto the roster, but there’s a solid chance he can do so with a good performance this spring. Outside of Alex Gordon, the Royals are thin in terms of lefty outfield bats; Saunders will presumably compete with non-roster invitees Cody Asche and Tyler Collins in camp for a chance at a role in the majors.

Saunders is coming off of a miserable 2017 season and has a long history of injury troubles. But he has had some quality campaigns in the majors, including a 2016 effort with the Blue Jays in which he posted a .253/.338/.478 batting line over 558 plate appearances. At his best, he has also graded well in the field and on the bases, so it could be that the 31-year-old still has some productive seasons ahead of him.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Intend To Utilize Corey Dickerson As Regular Left Fielder]]> 2018-02-23T03:38:48Z 2018-02-23T02:42:03Z Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested today that he expects new acquisition Corey Dickerson to handle the bulk of the action in left field for he coming season, as’s Adam Berry report on Twitter. No doubt the Bucs will end up giving Dickerson some time off against lefties; while he performed well against southpaws last year, he has long carried wide platoon splits. But it seems the plan is to give him an opportunity to function as something approaching an everyday player, with the Pittsburgh organization evidently willing to stomach the less-than-stellar glovework Dickerson is reputed to deliver. Perhaps the biggest question will be whether the powerful 28-year-old can overcome an interesting problem identified by Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs in a piece today: a tendency to swing and miss at four-seam fastballs.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Corey Dickerson From Rays]]> 2018-02-22T19:20:25Z 2018-02-22T19:17:09Z 1:17pm: The Pirates are sending the Rays $1MM as part of the trade, reports Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (Twitter link). In essence, then, they’ll spend an additional $1.45MM to turn Hudson into Dickerson, while the Rays will add a reliever to their ’pen, a prospect to the lower levels of their farm system, and trim $1.45MM from their 2018 payroll.

12:24pm: The Pirates announced that they’ve acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and cash.

Corey Dickerson | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay recently designated Dickerson, 28, for assignment in a move that came as a surprise to many. Dickerson posted solid overall numbers in 2017, hitting .282/.325/.490 with 27 homers in 629 trips to the plate. Dickerson, though, faded badly after a strong start to the season.

Though Dickerson hit .326/.369/.570 with 17 homers through the season’s first three months, that production was supported by a .374 BABIP that he didn’t seem especially likely to maintain. That number came back down to earth from July through season’s end as Dickerson’s strikeout rate rose to nearly 29 percent, and he batted just .232/.273/.397 with 10 homers and an 82-to-16 K/BB ratio in the final three months of the season.

That said, Dickerson still has an overall track record as a quality bat, as evidenced by a lifetime .280/.325/.504 slash and 119 OPS+. He’ll earn $5.95MM in 2018 and is controllable for one more year via arbitration before he can reach free agency.

The Pirates desperately needed some outfield help following this offseason’s trade of former face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen, and Dickerson should slot into the organization as the team’s new everyday left fielder. Defensive metrics aren’t exactly bullish on his glovework in the outfield, though he’s graded out as generally average or slightly above-average in left field over the past two seasons after drawing poor marks early in his career with the Rockies. He’ll be joined in the outfield by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, each of whom is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 season.

[Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]

Though Dickerson isn’t likely to recreate the massive performance he rode to his first career All-Star appearance in the first half last season, he should nonetheless serve as an offensive upgrade over the Pirates’ internal options in left field. Adam Frazier and Jordan Luplow were two of the main candidates for that gig on the 40-man roster, while veterans Michael Saunders and Daniel Nava are in camp as non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Certainly, the Dickerson pickup places a significant roadblock to either veteran making the roster, and it’s fair to wonder if they’ll ultimately be allowed to seek other opportunities.

Daniel Hudson | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In Hudson, the Rays will pick up a hard-throwing veteran reliever looking for a rebound season of his own. Hudson’s contract calls for him to earn $5.5MM this season, so the two contracts nearly cancel each other out. However, the Pirates are also sending cash to the Rays in the deal, so it appears that Tampa Bay will come out ahead, financially speaking, in the swap.

Hudson, 31 early next month, posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 1.02 HR/9 and a 43.3 percent ground-ball rate while averaging 95.6 mph on his fastball through 61 2/3 innings last year. A converted starter that has twice undergone Tommy John surgery in his career, Hudson has a 4.59 ERA in the ’pen over the past three-plus seasons since making the switch, but secondary metrics have been considerably more optimistic based on his strikeout rates and, outside of last season, his control. In 192 1/3 frames as a reliever, Hudson has a 3.84 FIP and 3.78 SIERA.

Tampa Bay executives Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom recently downplayed the possibility of the Rays trading closer Alex Colome before the season begins, so it seems that Hudson will pair with recently re-signed Sergio Romo to give the Rays another experienced arm in their setup corps.

The addition of that pair of veteran arms will allow the Rays to lean less heavily on what had looked to be a largely inexperienced group of relievers outside of Colome and southpaw Dan Jennings. Andrew Kittredge, Chaz Roe, Austin Pruitt, Ryne Stanek, Jose Alvarado and Chih-Wei Hu wiill be among the names vying for the remaining bullpen spots with the Rays this spring now that Hudson is on board.

[Related: Updated Tampa Bay Rays depth chart]

Gray, meanwhile, was Pittsburgh’s 13th-round pick in last year’s draft and posted a .269/.329/.486 slash with seven homers and five steals in 53 games for the Pirates’ short-season Class-A affiliate last year. The second baseman was an honorable mention on Fangraphs’ list of the Pirates’ Top 25 prospects, with Eric Longenhagen pointing to a long track record of production as an amateur but also labeling his overall offensive profile as “middling.”

All told, it’s a fairly underwhelming return for Dickerson, though that’s largely indicative of the manner in which bat-first corner outfielders have been devalued in the current economic climate of baseball. The Rays surely tried to trade Dickerson for much of the winter but seemingly found no takers before designating him for assignment, and even in this swap it seems that Tampa Bay had to agree to take on some salary to work out a deal. Jay Bruce managed to score a three-year, $39MM pact with a similar, albeit superior overall profile at the plate, but both the trade and free-agent markets for good-not-great corner outfielders have been rather tepid over the past couple of seasons.

It seems plausible that the Rays simply felt they could utilize a full season of Mallex Smith in a corner outfield spot without losing much in the way of overall value, and elected to turn Dickerson into an alternative Major League asset. The surprising trade of Steven Souza that followed Dickerson’s DFA, as the Rays’ front office told it recently, was more or less a function of an unexpected and aggressive pursuit of Souza by the Diamondbacks, who promised a prospect package the Rays felt they could not afford to turn away. The Rays were then able to capitalize on a weak free-agent market and bring in Carlos Gomez at a bargain rate — a move that further reflects the dwindling value of above-average offensive outfielders that aren’t premium defensive assets.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Michael Saunders]]> 2018-02-21T17:50:54Z 2018-02-21T17:22:58Z The Pirates have inked a minor-league deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, per a club announcement. He has been invited to participate in the MLB side of camp.

Saunders, 31, has had something of a roller-coaster career to this point. After an injury-riddled run with the Mariners, he seemed to turn a corner in 2016 with the Blue Jays. Saunders ran up a .253/.338/.478 slash through 558 plate appearances, though the bulk of the output came in the first half of the season.

The open market was not quite as kind to Saunders as many anticipated, but he still commanded a $9MM guarantee to join the Phillies in advance of the 2017 season. Things just did not work out in Philadelphia, though, as Saunders limped to a .205/.257/.360 slash before being cut loose. He ended up back with the Toronto organization but was not overly impressive at Triple-A or in a brief, late-season return to the majors.

Those ups and downs have shown up in baserunning and fielding metrics, too, perhaps reflecting the role that injuries have played. Saunders has at times graded as a high-end threat on the bases (2012-13) and corner outfield defender (2014), but received below-average marks in both areas in 2016 before bouncing back somewhat in his 73 total MLB games in the following campaign.

Pittsburgh enters Spring Training with several options for filling the outfield vacancy created by the trade of Andrew McCutchen. It could be that Saunders will battle Daniel Nava (a switch-hitter who’s much better against righties) for a single spot. Saunders carries narrow platoon splits over his career, it’s worth noting. That represents a point of distinction from Nava, who was productive when healthy last year but has never hit a lick against southpaws.

Perhaps both players could earn jobs if they are sufficiently impressive, but that seems like a tight fit. The Bucs could utilize southpaw-swinging utilityman Adam Frazier in the outfield, after all. And the team will need to ensure that it has the other pieces needed for a platoon, with right-handed hitters Bryce Brentz and Sean Rodriguez providing options.

If he’s not able to crack the Opening Day roster, Saunders will presumably spend some time digging in against Triple-A pitching in hopes of getting back to form. (Whether and when he can opt out of his deal is not yet known.) Given the amount of uncertainty at the major-league level for the Pirates, Saunders should at a minimum represent a worthwhile depth option to have on hand.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Bryce Brentz]]> 2018-02-20T18:59:58Z 2018-02-20T18:47:29Z The Pirates have acquired outfielder Bryce Brentz from the Red Sox, according to an announcement from the Boston organization. Cash considerations will make up the return.

Brentz, 29, is a former first-round pick who has seen only minimal MLB action in his professional career. He seemed unlikely to hold down a roster spot through camp with the Red Sox working to finalize a deal with free agent J.D. Martinez. In all likelihood, Brentz’s 40-man spot will go to Martinez.

As a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder, Brentz will have to hit quite a bit to stick in the majors. He did manage just that feat last year at Triple-A, posting a .271/.334/.529 slash with 31 long balls over 494 plate appearances at Pawtucket, and showed well again in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.

Brentz, who is out of options, will presumably now get a shot at impressing the Pittsburgh brass in camp. He’ll join a group of candidates trying to claim a share of the corner outfield mix, including Daniel Nava, Jordan LuplowJason Martin, and Todd Cunningham as well as top Bucs’ prospect Austin Meadows.

Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Brewers, Reds, Pirates]]> 2018-02-19T01:45:23Z 2018-02-19T01:45:23Z Reiterating a familiar stance for the Brewers this offseason, GM David Stearns says that the club has confidence in its current group of starters, but they’re exploring upgrades (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). “We’ve explored a variety of starting pitching options out there, and have a pretty good sense of what the market is,” Stearns said Sunday. “Our stance is if we can make an acquisition that we think can meaningfully upgrade the team at a responsible investment level, that’s something we’re open to.” Stearns went on to say that he believes the Milwaukee front office has done a nice job of adding to their depth. This isn’t the first time the Brewers GM has expressed confidence in the club’s current group of starters, though that notion might be met with some skepticism considering the club’s lengthy pursuit of Yu Darvish that ultimately came up short.

Some other notes out of the NL Central…

  • Stearns expressed confidence in the club’s catching group as well when asked about the possibility of a reunion between the Brewers and Jonathan Lucroy (Twitter links from Haudricourt). The GM thinks that the team got “pretty meaningful production” last year from a position split between Manny Pina, Stephen Vogt and Jett Bandy (though there’s room for skepticism on that front too, considering the team’s catchers combined to finish 20th out of 30 MLB teams by positional fWAR). Haudricourt notes that Bandy is out of minor league options while Vogt’s deal is non-guaranteed, meaning the Brewers may have a tough decision to make during spring training camp.
  • Though Reds franchise icon Joey Votto has shown faith in the club’s rebuild in past seasons, the first baseman seems to be growing impatient, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer“I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball,” he told the press on Sunday. “I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.” Votto certainly did all he could for the Reds during their recent losing stretch. Though the team lost at least 90 games in each of the past three seasons, he managed a stunning .320/.449/.557 slash line with 94 home runs and more walks (385) than strikeouts (338) during that time.
  • In part due to player feedback, the Pirates have made changes to their training staff this offseason that they believe will lead to fewer DL stints on the whole. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the details: Bryan Housand, the team’s new head athletic trainer, and Todd Tomscyk, recently named director of sports medicine for the club, are two of the major cogs in this overhaul. GM Neal Huntington says that Tomczyk in particular will now be able to have a “bigger impact” on the club’s performance team. Notably, the club saw three of its 2017 contributors hit the DL with hamstring strains (Gregory Polanco, Adam Frazier and David Freese); perhaps this change in the club’s training approach could help to curb that issue in 2018.
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Pirates’ Josh Harrison]]> 2018-02-18T17:56:14Z 2018-02-18T17:56:14Z After the Pirates traded franchise cornerstones Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last month, utilityman Josh Harrison suggested he’d like to play elsewhere if “the team does not expect to contend this year or next.” The Pirates haven’t done anything to assuage Harrison since then, he explained to reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) when he showed up to camp on Sunday.

Regarding a conversation he had with general manager Neal Huntington, Harrison said: “At the end of the day there wasn’t anything said or done that was like, aw man, I can breathe easy. He talked to me, said he wants to win and this or that. At the end of the day I said it’s about action, not speaking.”

Harrison also knocked the Pirates for a lack of transparency – “Some of it goes with not knowing the direction. I understand the business side. Every year, there’s going to be guys coming in and going out. You just want to know where we stand as a team, where you stand as a player” – and backed up teammate David Freese’s recent comments criticizing the Bucs for an absence of “accountability.”

“I don’t care how we do it, but things need to be done,” Harrison declared. “As Freese said the other day, it’s got to be urgent and not just from a couple guys, a couple people in the office. It has to be top to bottom. You talk about Freese, he’s a World Series MVP. The guy’s been there. He knows what it takes to win. I think it will go without saying that he and I, even some of the comments he mentioned, had been conversations we’ve had during the season. It’s been brought to light.”

Although Harrison isn’t content with the state of the Pirates, it’s unclear whether they’re interested in trading him or whether there’s even a market for his services at this point. The New York teams and Toronto have shown the most reported interest in Harrison since last season ended, but both the Mets and Blue Jays have made several moves to address their infield and outfield in recent weeks. Consequently, both teams are likely out of the running for Harrison.

The Yankees still don’t have a proven second or third base solution, meanwhile, and credible free agent options are dwindling. However, the Yankees only have in the neighborhood of $10MM to $15MM in spending room as they try to stay under the $197MM luxury tax line, which could help prevent a deal from occurring even if the Pirates are open to trading Harrison.

While Harrison’s $6.825MM luxury tax number for 2018 is affordable, it still might not be palatable for the Yankees, who have recently passed on similarly valuable, similarly compensated free agent infielders (Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, for instance) and could use their remaining money to address their rotation – which is an area they’ve prioritized. Passing on expensive veteran infielders would enable the Yankees to allow promising prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar to sink or swim at second and third, respectively. Torres could start the year in the minors, in part because it would give the Yankees an extra year of control over him, but they’d only need to wait until mid-April to promote him.

If no trade materializes by Opening Day, the 30-year-old Harrison will start his eighth season in Pittsburgh. Harrison is in the last guaranteed season of the four-year, $27.3MM extension he signed with the Pirates in 2015. He’ll earn $10MM this year and could make up to $21.5MM over the following two seasons, depending on whether his employer picks up his options for 2019 and ’20.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Freese, Moran]]> 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z
  • David Freese had some frank opinions about the Pirates’ recent lack of success, telling reporters (including Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that more “urgency” and “accountability” is needed within the Bucs’ clubhouse.  “The last two years, we haven’t done as well as we could have because of our environment,” Freese said.  “That’s what I think.  I walk in every day, and it’s not in the air.  The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air.  That’s what you need.  You can say all you want about how we’re going to win, this and that, but if you don’t walk in and you don’t feel it and you don’t see it in people’s eyes, it’s just not going to work.”  The piece is well worth a full read for a different take on the Pirates’ struggles, as Bloom notes that Freese’s criticisms differed from recent comments made by Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez that indicated more frustration towards the front office.
    • David Freese had some frank opinions about the Pirates’ recent lack of success, telling reporters (including Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that more “urgency” and “accountability” is needed within the Bucs’ clubhouse.  “The last two years, we haven’t done as well as we could have because of our environment,” Freese said.  “That’s what I think.  I walk in every day, and it’s not in the air.  The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air.  That’s what you need.  You can say all you want about how we’re going to win, this and that, but if you don’t walk in and you don’t feel it and you don’t see it in people’s eyes, it’s just not going to work.”  The piece is well worth a full read for a different take on the Pirates’ struggles, as Bloom notes that Freese’s criticisms differed from recent comments made by Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez that indicated more frustration towards the front office.
    • Colin Moran suffered a concussion and a facial fracture after a fouling a ball into his left eye last July, and it is quite possible that the injury changed the course of the young infielder’s career.  Moran was dealt to the Pirates last month as part of the Gerrit Cole trade, and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Moran might still be an Astro today had he gotten a longer chance to perform last summer, rather than being sidelined just two games into a midseason call-up.  “I think he would have hit .300, I think he would have hit for power,” Luhnow said.  “We might not have traded him because we might have wanted to figure out a way to keep him on our club.”  Interestingly, it’s also possible to speculate that a healthy and productive Moran would’ve been traded from Houston much sooner, as Moran was reportedly involved in the Astros’ talks with the Orioles about Zach Britton at the July trade deadline (though an injured Houston pitching prospect was the primary reason the Britton deal was scuttled).
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Pirates' Outfield Battle]]> 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z
  • Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez, and Jordan Luplow are the top choices competing for the open spot in the Pirates’ outfield, and GM Neal Huntington tells’s Adam Berry and other reporters that the club feels good about that internal mix.  “We’re comfortable with those three, that between those three we can get a productive outfielder out of that group, one that we feel compares well to the group of free-agent outfielders that are in our scope,” Huntington said.  A new acquisition isn’t yet totally out of the question, however, as Huntington said last week that “There are still players of interest to us. If we’re able to find that common ground, then we’d be open to adding.”
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates To Sign Daniel Nava]]> 2018-02-06T20:10:20Z 2018-02-06T20:10:20Z The Pirates have reached agreement with free agent outfielder/first baseman Daniel Nava, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). It’s a minors pact that includes a MLB camp invite.

    Nava, who’ll turn 35 in a few weeks, had a nice bounceback campaign last year with the cross-state Phillies. He was limited to eighty games of action owing to injuries, which also perhaps prevented him from being dealt to a contender in the middle of the season, but turned in an undeniably productive overall effort.

    Over 214 total plate appearances, Nava slashed a robust .301/.393/.421. Though he managed only four home runs, he exhibited a command of the strike zone (just 38 strikeouts with 26 walks) of the type that led to his prior MLB success.

    Of course, teams were no doubt also wary given that Nava had struggled over the prior several campaigns. While he grades as a solid defender in the corner outfield, he isn’t exactly a prime asset with the glove. And Nava is pretty clearly a strict platoon asset: the switch-hitter has long been far more successful against right-handed than left-handed pitching.

    For the Bucs, those limitations are just fine. As middling as his production has been against southpaws, Nava dominated (.341/.423/.474) when hitting with the platoon advantage last year. He ought to have a fair shot at earning a MLB roster spot in camp. Odds are — as the Pirates’ updated depth chart suggests — he’ll end up in a time share in the corner outfield.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Josh Smoker Not Surprised He Ended Up With Pirates]]> 2018-02-04T03:42:33Z 2018-02-04T03:42:33Z Checking in on the National League…

    • The Cubs are “still looking to add depth” to their pitching staff, general manager Jed Hoyer tells Jesse Rogers of “That’s an annual thing you think about. You prepare for injuries even if some years you go unscathed,” he continued. Starting depth does appear to be an issue at the moment for the Cubs, who lack battle-tested options beyond their current projected rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery. Of the other healthy starting possibilities on their 40-man roster, only Eddie Butler brings significant experience in the majors, though he hasn’t been particularly successful. Of course, the Cubs would help their cause quite a bit by signing Yu Darvish (who remains on their radar) or bringing in another high-profile starter via free agency or trade.
    • The Mets are reportedly interested in free agent infielder Eduardo Nunez, but Mike Puma of the New York Post wonders (on Twitter) if the organization’s hitting philosophy may ultimately prevent a signing from occurring. The club “emphasizes selectivity,” Puma points out, and that’s not the case with Nunez. Among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances last year, he had the seventh-lowest walk percentage (3.7) and the 14th-highest chase rate (39.6 percent).
    • Left-hander Josh Smoker went from the Mets to the Pirates in a trade this week, and it didn’t surprise the reliever that he ended up in Pittsburgh (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “I kind of had a feeling that Pittsburgh might have some interest because in the past I had heard rumblings that Pittsburgh had always had a little bit of interest in me,” Smoker said. “I know it’s a team that needs some left-handers, too.” Indeed, Smoker became just the fourth southpaw on the Bucs’ 40-man roster. While Smoker has only managed a 5.02 ERA across 71 2/3 career innings, he’s hopeful renowned Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage will be able to help him break out with his new team. After the trade, Smoker discussed Searage with his friend, former Pirates reliever Matt Capps, who offered praise for the pitching guru.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[East Notes: Marlins, Arroyo, E-Rod, Mets]]> 2018-02-03T15:03:40Z 2018-02-03T15:03:40Z A 2008 agreement between Miami-Dade county and Jeffrey Loria (and his partners) saw the county fund most of the $515 million government-owned Marlins stadium in Little Havana. In exchange, the county was promised the right to 5 percent of any profits Loria & co. earned if they sold the team within 10 years. Yet Loria’s lawyers have released documents telling the county not to expect any money at all from last year’s $1.2 billion sale of the Marlins, Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald writes. The reasoning from Loria’s camp is that his accountants claim the sale amounted to a net loss of $141MM. The breakdown they offer begins with a $625MM agreed-to underlying value of the franchise, $280MM in debt, circa $300MM in taxes tied to the sale and a write-off of the $30MM fee paid to financial advisors. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says that the city may sue to collect the taxpayers’ fair share of that $1.2 billion. My message is that this community really allowed you to make a lot of money,” he said on Friday. “He should do the right thing. He made profits, and he made big profits. He should share that with the people who allowed him to do that.”

    Here are a few other tidbits from around the league’s Eastern teams…

    • Newly-acquired Rays infielder Christian Arroyo was working out at Tropicana Field on Friday morning, Bill Chastain of writes. MLB Pipeline’s 81st overall prospect saw his 2017 season end due to a broken hand, but surgeon Donald Sheridan cleared him for baseball activities after a visit on January 9th. “The hand is great,” Arroyo said. “Right now, it’s about getting back into baseball shape.” The 22-year-old came to Tampa Bay in this winter’s trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco. He hit .192/.244/.304 across 135 plate appearances with the Giants last year in his first taste of big-league action, and figures to be in the Rays’ infield mix for the coming season.
    • Speaking of young players returning from injury, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez could potentially miss a few starts at the beginning of the season after undergoing right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction surgery, Ian Browne of writes. “[The injury] happened, like, three times already,” Rodriguez pointed out. “I was just trying to fight to pitch with a knee like that. And I did it. Sometimes there would be ups and downs. Now it’s time to get back to the guy I was before I got the surgery.” The 24-year-old southpaw’s had his share of ups and downs across parts of three seasons with the Red Sox. Last season, he put up 137 1/3 innings for the club while striking out 9.83 batters per nine and posting a 4.19 ERA overall.
    • Eduardo Nunez and Todd Frazier are currently the Mets’ leading choices in their search for an infielder, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports via Twitter. They’re apparently leery of getting “used” by Frazier (presumably for leverage) if he prefers the Yankees as his ultimate destination. In addition, the Mets are reportedly reluctant to bring back second baseman Neil Walker, and aren’t getting any traction in their efforts to acquire Josh Harrison from the Pirates. Lastly, Rosenthal adds that the team is interested in signing Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn out of free agency if their prices dip low enough.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Interested In Melky Cabrera]]> 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z
  • Melky Cabrera has drawn some interest from the Marlins, Royals, and Pirates.  There hasn’t been much news on the veteran outfielder this winter, with only the Orioles (also mentioned here by Heyman) previously reported to have discussed Cabrera’s services.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Josh Smoker]]> 2018-01-31T19:17:07Z 2018-01-31T18:57:30Z The Pirates have acquired southpaw Josh Smoker from the Mets in exchange for left-hander Daniel Zamora and cash, the two teams announced.  Smoker was designated for assignment by the Mets earlier this week to clear roster space for the re-signed Jose Reyes.

    The hard-throwing Smoker has a 5.02 ERA, 11.7 K/9, and 2.58 K/BB rate over 71 2/3 relief innings in the big leagues, all with New York in 2016-17.  Despite that big strikeout total, Smoker had issues keeping the ball in the park, with 14 homers allowed in his brief career.  He also posted a 5.1 BB/9 rate last season and struggled with control at times over his nine minor league seasons.  Smoker isn’t exactly a young hurler (he turned 29 in November) but he still clearly has some upside in his arm given his big strikeout potential.

    He’ll have an opportunity to continue in the big leagues given the lack of left-handed options in the Pirates’ bullpen.  Closer Felipe Rivero, starter Steven Brault, and Jack Leathersich are the only other southpaws on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, though Brault could end up in the pen if he doesn’t make the starting rotation.

    Zamora was a 40th-round pick for the Pirates in the 2015 draft.  He has posted impressive numbers (2.96 ERA, 10.3 K/9, and 3.50 K/BB rate) over his first 115 2/3 pro innings, all as a reliever.  He briefly cracked the Double-A level last season, tossing three innings for Altoona.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mets, Pirates Maintaining Dialogue On Josh Harrison]]> 2018-01-29T15:40:28Z 2018-01-29T15:40:28Z
  • The Mets are maintaining a dialogue with the Pirates on infielder Josh Harrison as they look to bolster their lineup, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. A free-agent signing for the Mets at second base remains likelier than a trade, Puma adds, but the team may not make any sort of move until some of the bigger-name free agents have come off the board. Obviously, the Mets aren’t tied to any of the top-tier free agents with a somewhat modestly-priced infield addition thought likely to be their final move of the winter, but some current free agents may first prefer to see if their market changes at all once some upper-tier names are off the board. New York has been oft-linked to Harrison, and the Pirates have reportedly expressed interest in young outfielder Brandon Nimmo.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nik Turley Gets 80-Game Suspension]]> 2018-01-28T01:11:01Z 2018-01-28T01:10:31Z
  • Pirates left-hander Nik Turley received an 80-game suspension Saturday after testing positive for Ipamorelin, a performance-enhancing drug. The 28-year-old will go on the restricted list, thus opening up a spot on the Pirates’ 40-man roster (which was at capacity before his ban). Turley is in his first offseason with the Pirates, who claimed him off waivers from the Twins in November. The former Yankees prospect made his big league debut with Minnesota last season and struggled across 10 appearances (11.21 ERA, 6.62 K/9 and 4.08 BB/9 in 17 2/3 innings).
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[MLBPA Raises Revenue Sharing Concerns Regarding Marlins, Pirates]]> 2018-01-27T01:24:26Z 2018-01-27T01:23:05Z 7:23pm: MLB has seemingly thrown some cold water on the situation in issuing the following statement (hat tip to Adam Berry of

    “We do not have concerns about the Pirates’ and Marlins’ compliance with the basic agreement provisions regarding the use of revenue sharing proceeds. The Pirates have steadily increased their payroll over the years while at the same time decreasing their revenue sharing. The Marlins’ ownership purchased a team that incurred substantial financial losses the prior two seasons, and even with revenue sharing and significant expense reduction, the team is projected to lose money in 2018. The union has not informed us that it intends to file a grievance against either team.”

    5:32pm: Pirates president Frank Coonnelly issued a lengthy statement on the matter, stating that the Pirates are not under investigation (Twitter link via Adam Berry of

    “The Pirates are not being investigated by MLB and the Commissioner has no concerns whatsoever with the manner in which the Pirates are investing its revenue sharing receipts into building a winner. The Pirates have and will continue to invest its revenue sharing receipts in an effort to put a winning team on the field As required by the Basic Agreement, we share with MLB and the Union each year the detail as to how our revenue sharing receipts are used to put a winning team on the field. What the detail shows is that while our revenue sharing receipts have decreased for seven consecutive seasons, our Major league payroll has more than doubled over that same period. Indeed, our revenue sharing receipts are now just a fraction of what we spend on Major League payroll, let alone all of the other dollars that we spend on scouting, player development and other baseball investments, several areas in which we are among the League leaders in spending. Thus, the Commissioner is well-equipped to address whatever ’concerns’ the Union now has over the Pirates’ effort to win.”

    1:33pm: The Major League Baseball Player’s Association has raised concern with the commissioner’s office regarding the Marlins and Pirates, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had recently reported that the union was considering the idea of going to commissioner Rob Manfred with their concerns.

    The root of the union’s concern is whether the two teams are appropriately reinvesting the money that they receive under the league’s revenue-sharing program, both Jackson and Passan noted in their reports. The MLBPA issued the following statement to Jackson:

    “We have raised our concerns regarding both Miami and Pittsburgh with the Commissioner, as is the protocol under the collective bargaining agreement and its revenue sharing provisions. We are waiting to have further dialogue and that will dictate our next steps.”

    As Jackson notes, it wouldn’t be the first time that revenue-sharing concerns regarding the Marlins were raised. A similar scenario occurred back in 2010, at which point Miami did (briefly) increase its spending; the Marlins rolled out their first $100MM+ payroll in 2012,  the debut season of a taxpayer-funded stadium in Miami, only to conduct a massive firesale the following offseason.

    Jackson reports that the Marlins are set to receive roughly $60MM in revenue sharing profits this season and could take home as much as $160MM from the league between that sum, the $50MM BAMTech payout that all 30 clubs are receiving and the national television contract. At present, we have the Marlins projected for a $97MM payroll in 2018, though there are likely still moves on the horizon that would impact that bottom line. The Marlins could very well find an offer to their liking for star catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Jackson also reports that Starlin Castro has asked the team to be traded. (It’d already been reported that he was “hoping” for a trade out of Miami, though this is a more formal declaration of his preference.)

    Neither the Marlins or Pirates have signed a free agent to a Major League deal this offseason; instead, the teams have been largely focused on trading away big league assets. Miami has shipped out Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Yelich, shedding more than $40MM of payroll in the process. Even with all of those dealings, the Marlins still haven’t reached their target of a $90MM payroll, though moving Castro (and possibly Realmuto) would get them to said point.

    The Pirates, meanwhile, have traded Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, though their focus on acquiring MLB-level assets and the remaining presence of players like Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco seemingly indicates that they’re not embarking on an aggressive tanking endeavor in the same manner as the Marlins.

    Pittsburgh seems like a better candidate to step out into the open market and add a mid-range player or two. Beyond the aforementioned focus on MLB-ready assets is the fact that the Pirates have recently opened the season with payrolls in the $95-100MM range but currently projects to just a bit over $85MM in 2018. Obviously, no one would expect Pittsburgh to be a player for a top-tier free agent, but a modestly priced upgrade for the back of the rotation, the outfield or the bullpen nonetheless seems plausible.

    The Commissioner’s Office has not yet released any kind of statement on the matter, though the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that Manfred can impose penalties onto clubs that do not appropriately reallocate their revenue sharing profits. Per the CBA, the commissioner’s office can also:

    “…require a Club to submit a plan for its financial performance and competitive effort for the next two years. Such a plan must include a pro forma financial presentation that specifies its attendance, revenues, payroll, player development expenditures, non-player costs, and capital spending. The Commissioner, after consultation with the Players Association, may direct the Club to change aspects of its plan, including the level of competitive effort reflected in the plan, or take other actions as he considers appropriate (including escrow of a portion of a Club’s revenue sharing payments).”

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Could Pirates Keep Josh Harrison?]]> 2018-01-23T06:23:15Z 2018-01-22T23:54:26Z
  • There has been speculation all winter long that the Pirates would trade Josh Harrison, especially after the team dealt key veterans Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole and Harrison suggested he might like to be the next man out the door. But there are some contrary indications. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has indicated the Pittsburgh organization is still angling to put a winner on the field in the near term, though he hardly ruled out a swap. And a rival GM tells Gammons (see the above link) that he thinks it’s actually increasingly likely that Harrison will remain aboard the Bucs’ ship. Since the bulk of the value brought back in the McCutchen and Cole trades is at or near the MLB level, the club may prefer to keep the useful Harrison in the fold, Gammons’s source suggests.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Ryan Lavarnway To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-01-22T19:15:42Z 2018-01-22T19:11:20Z
  • The Pirates announced a slate of non-roster invitees to Spring Training today, including catcher Ryan Lavarnway, whose minor league deals had not been previously reported. Lavarnway, 30, has appeared in parts of six big league seasons with the Red Sox, Orioles, Braves and Athletics. He spent the 2017 campaign in the Oakland organization, though he appeared in just six games at the Major League level. Lavarnway is a career .201/.262/.318 hitter through 420 MLB plate appearances, but he’s logged a much more palatable .274/.365/.421 slash in parts of seven seasons at the Triple-A level. Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings are all ahead of Lavarnway on the 40-man roster, so he’ll likely head to the minors to begin the year if he sticks with the Pirates through all of Spring Training.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Pace Of Play, Prospects, Orioles, McCutchen]]> 2018-01-22T18:55:54Z 2018-01-22T15:56:26Z In his latest column for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal chats with five playersMax Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Paul Goldschmidt, Jerry Blevins and Chris Iannetta — about their concerns over the proposed 20-second pitch clock and their more general thoughts on the league’s pace of play initiatives. All of the players express a willingness to change and acknowledge that they’re in favor of speeding up the game to an extent, though none voiced support of a clock. Iannetta states that the clock “fundamentally changes the way the game is played,” while Goldschmidt shares some concerns he’s heard from Double-A and Triple-A players that have played with the clock but found it to be a headache.

    “In some cases, I heard of ways around the rule,” says Goldschmidt. “You could kind of gimmick it. You could slow down the game. You could step off. It wasn’t like it just forced guys to throw pitches a lot quicker. There was a lot of gray area guys weren’t comfortable with.” Both Scherzer and Blevins, meanwhile, expressed some frustration with the fact that they’re routinely on the mound ready to go but have to wait an additional 20-30 seconds for commercial breaks to end. It’s an interesting read for those who have strong feelings, one way or another, on the newest slate of proposed rule changes to the game.

    A few more notes from around the league…

    • It’s prospect ranking season! Baseball America rolled out their 2018 Top 100 list today, headlined by Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna in the top spot. Of course, the decision was far from easy for them, and the BA staff explained the decision process at length in a separate post for BA subscribers. As JJ Cooper, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser, Josh Norris and Matt Eddy explain in great detail, there were feelings among the BA staff that any of Acuna, Shohei Ohtani or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could have been the No. 1 overall prospect this season. Among the factors considered when trying to reach a consensus were the age-old position player vs. pitcher debate as well as Acuna’s proximity to the Majors relative to Guerrero.
    • Meanwhile, over at ESPN, Keith Law published the first half of his Top 100 prospects today. There are several notable players that have been traded in the past year on the back half of the list, including Sandy Alcantara (whom the Marlins received as the headliner in the Marcell Ozuna swap), James Kaprielian (who went to the Athletics as part of last July’s Sonny Gray trade) and Franklin Perez and Daz Cameron (who went to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander blockbuster). Angels fans will be heartened to see four entrants on the list — Jahmai Jones, Chris Rodriguez, Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell — as their once lowly farm system begins to build back up.
    • Dan Connolly of looks at the Orioles’ need for a left-handed-hitting outfielder to balance out the lineup and runs down a list of players that have “intrigued various members of the organization.” That includes Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and Nori Aoki, according to Connolly, in addition to other names that have been recently mentioned (e.g. Jarrod Dyson). Trey Mancini and Adam Jones figure to be in the outfield regularly, but the Orioles’ hope is that they can acquire a defensively superior option to Mark Trumbo to slot into right field, thus pushing Trumbo to DH.
    • In a fantastic column for the Players’ Tribune, Andrew McCutchen bids an emotional farewell to the city of Pittsburgh, which he writes “will always be home” and “will always mean everything” to him. McCutchen recounts the overwhelming experience of the standing ovation he received at the Pirates’ final home game of the season last year, as Bucs fans recognized that they may never see him in a Pirates uniform again. He also shares his experience of finding out about the trade, with credit to Neal Huntington for how he handled the process. Fans of the Pirates, Giants and baseball in general will all want to check out the column in its entirety.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Fan Base, Rivero, Harrison, Trades, Kang]]> 2018-01-20T15:20:46Z 2018-01-20T15:20:46Z There’s some unrest in the Pittsburgh fan base regarding the team’s recent trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Madasyn Czebiniak of highlights the story of lifelong Pirates fan Jason Kaufman, who started a petition to force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team. The following excerpt gives a pretty good feel for the petition’s tone: “Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better.” As of 9:00am on Saturday, the petition had over 52,000 signatures; well over the seating capacity of PNC Park. Kaufman is gaining plenty of social media attention with his movement, and has even been interviewed by local radio station WTAE. “We’re tired of the ’same-old, same-old’ saying: ’We’re in this for a championship’ when you’re really not,” Kaufman said. “Don’t tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you’re not doing anything to improve the team.”

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

    A few other recent items out of Pittsburgh…

    • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some insightful quotes from Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in regards to his recent extension. He signed the contract at least in part for his level of comfort in the clubhouse and his interest in being relaxed for the next few years. In the reliever’s own words, “It’s not about the money.” Apparently, his sister Prescilla was heavily involved in the negotiations, reportedly even more so than his agent. And it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the McCutchen and Cole trades did not have any effect on the negotiations between he and the Bucs. Rivero came to the Pirates in July of 2016 as part of the return for Mark Melancon. Last season, the left-hander turned in a 1.67 ERA and a 3.03 xFIP. He collected 21 saves following his takeover of Pittsburgh’s closer role in June.
    • In a late response to Josh Harrison’s comments revealing a desire to be traded, Pirates GM Neal Huntington expressed that he wants the team to win “sooner than later” (via Adam Berry of “We love Josh’s passion, love the fire and what he’s done for this team and this organization,” Huntington said. “We want what’s best for this organization.” Yet although he attempts to differentiate the team’s moves from a rebuild, it’s interesting that he describes the 2018 club as “a group of players that’s going to show up every day to defy the odds.” It’s hard to imagine that these comments will ease Harrison’s mind about the Pirates’ ability to compete in the coming season. The 30-year-old infielder can be controlled through the 2020 season.
    • Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports offers a defense of the Pirates’ blockbuster trades, offering some praise for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. In discussing Moran’s value, Heyman adds that he was slated to be a key piece in a trade for Zach Britton before the Orioles cancelled the deal. However, it seems as though the Bucs could have landed a better return for McCutchen had they traded him last offseason, as they reportedly had an offer from the Nationals that included Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito.
    • Jung Ho Kang is making another push to return to MLB, Sung Min Kim of Sporting News tweets. The former Pirates infielder has allegedly arrived in the Dominican Republic in order to apply for a work visa. Kang last played in the majors in 2016, when he collected 21 homers in 370 plate appearances while posting a .255/.354/.513 slash line while playing third base for the Bucs.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Acquire Engelb Vielma]]> 2018-01-18T23:51:11Z 2018-01-18T23:51:11Z The Giants have acquired infielder Engelb Vielma from the Pirates, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports on Twitter. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first tweeted that Vielma was on the move; he had been designated for assignment recently.

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

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

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

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Extend Felipe Rivero]]> 2018-01-18T17:18:00Z 2018-01-18T16:15:52Z Jan. 18: The Pirates have formally announced the extension.

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

    Felipe Rivero | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Mets' Interest In Josh Harrison]]> 2018-01-18T05:28:10Z 2018-01-18T05:27:12Z
  • At today’s press conference to reintroduce Jay Bruce, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson suggested to reporters that his team likely has the budget to make one more notable addition (link via Ken Davidoff of the New York Post). Alderson confirmed recent reports that his preference would be to sign a free agent rather than make a trade. “If we were to try to improve in that area, I think we prefer to sign a free agent, only because it doesn’t require us to give up talent,” the GM said. Alderson acknowledged a trade as a possibility, adding that while his farm isn’t as strong as it once was, the Mets do still have players that have drawn interest from other clubs. There have been suggestions that young outfielder Brandon Nimmo could be on the table if the Mets and Pirates discuss a Josh Harrison trade, though the Post’s Mike Puma tweeted today that the Mets “aren’t particularly enthusiastic” about the idea of trading Nimmo for Harrison.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Meadows, Outfield, Crick, Reynolds]]> 2018-01-17T23:26:03Z 2018-01-17T23:26:03Z
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down some potential candidates for the Pirates’ outfield — both external and internal — in the wake of the Andrew McCutchen trade. Pittsburgh will likely be on the lookout for a right fielder, with Starling Marte headed to center field and Gregory Polanco shifting to left. Austin Meadows, according to Biertempfel, will head to Triple-A to open the year regardless of how well he plays in Spring Training. (One club source indicated to Biertempfel that Meadows could “hit .900 in Spring Training” and still be ticketed for the minors.) That’s not especially surprising when considering that Meadows posted an ugly .250/.311/.359 slash in his first exposure to Triple-A last year.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law offers his opinion (subscription required and recommended) on the Pirates’ trade for McCutchen, whom he calls a “great” pickup for the Giants, given the putrid output they received from their outfield in 2017 and the low bar that McCutchen has to clear. While neither Kyle Crick nor outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds is an elite young talent, Law opines, Crick offers a potential long-term option in the bullpen and is the type of arm that can “sometimes turn to gold via the alchemy of baseball” despite his history of below-average command (a trait that he did improve in 2017). He calls Reynolds “very interesting,” adding that he considered Reynolds’ to be San Francisco’s second-best prospect at the time of the trade.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Acquire Shane Carle]]> 2018-01-17T21:25:03Z 2018-01-17T21:25:03Z The Braves announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Shane Carle from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Pittsburgh had designated the 26-year-old Carle for assignment over the weekend in order to clear space on the roster for the players acquired from Houston in the Gerrit Cole trade.

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

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

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mets Were Unwilling To Include Nimmo In McCutchen Talks]]> 2018-01-17T03:04:05Z 2018-01-17T03:04:05Z
  • Prior to being traded to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen was a known target of the Mets in trade talks. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic shines some more light on the matter (subscription required and strongly recommended), reporting that New York wouldn’t part with outfielder Brandon Nimmo for a one-year rental of McCutchen. New York still believes Nimmo will develop into a quality big leaguer, though Rosenthal adds that the team believes he could be part of a package in talks with the Pirates regarding Josh Harrison. The 24-year-old Nimmo, who was selected 13th overall in the 2011 draft, hit .260/.379/.418 with five homers and a pair of steals in 215 plate appearances as a rookie last season. It would seem that if the Mets are to entertain the notion of moving him, they’d prefer multiple years of control over whichever more established asset they acquire in his place.
  • Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears the same as Rosenthal, reporting that the Mets would indeed be willing to include Nimmo in a trade that would pry Harrison away from the Pirates. However, she adds that the Mets would not part with Dominic Smith in order to obtain Harrison, even with Gonzalez in the fold for 2018 and Bruce (who figures to see some time at first base) locked up through 2020. Ackert adds that the Mets were approached about Smith in multiple trade negotiations this winter but weren’t inclined to include him in any of the proposed scenarios. She also notes that Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes are among the team’s potential infield targets in free agency.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Josh Harrison Suggests Pirates Trade Him If “Team Does Not Expect To Contend”]]> 2018-01-16T20:45:10Z 2018-01-16T20:28:42Z In the wake of the recent trades that shipped Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole out of Pittsburgh, speculation has turned to the status of veteran Josh Harrison — another player that has long been mentioned as a candidate to be dealt. The veteran utilityman issued his thoughts on the matter today to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Notes On Pirates Plans Following McCutchen Trade]]> 2018-01-16T18:04:53Z 2018-01-16T17:12:36Z In an Insider post,’s Buster Olney provides some worthwhile perspective on the Pirates’ recent moves, arguing that the organization would be perceived much differently had its 2013-15 postseason appearances gone differently. Some may scoff at the idea that this excuses anything: had the team been better, perhaps, it might’ve achieved playoff glory; that it did not does not bear directly on present decisions. That’s true enough, but it’s also valid to note that a few moments in a few games drastically altered the bigger picture of Pittsburgh baseball, which in turn has impacted the way many will now view the trades of key veterans Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Olney’s juxtaposition of the Bucs with the Royals — whose own postseason successes followed lesser regular-season accomplishments than those of the Pirates, and turned on some magical moments — seems largely apt. Of course, that doesn’t really reduce the sting for the fans. (It’s also fair to note that, for better or worse, Kansas City mostly kept its best veterans around through the ends of their contracts.) It’s an interesting piece worth a read for subscribers.

    • Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
    • As Olney notes in his column and tweeted yesterday, many in the industry expect the Pirates to continue working on trades for veteran players. In particular, Josh Harrison could be on the move — a possibility that has been talked about for much of the winter. The versatile utilityman will surely hold appeal to numerous other organizations, though the full scope of his potential market is not entirely clear at this point.
    • Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Acquire Andrew McCutchen]]> 2018-01-16T01:09:07Z 2018-01-15T23:34:37Z 5:34pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Pirates are covering $2.5MM of McCutchen’s $14.75MM salary.

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

    Andrew McCutchen | MLBTR Photoshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kyle Crick | Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Giants’ Pursuit Of Outfielders]]> 2018-01-15T21:54:09Z 2018-01-15T20:13:26Z The Giants and Pirates are engaged in “serious talks” regarding outfielder Andrew McCutchen, according to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter link). At the same time, San Francisco is said to have “gotten more serious” in discussions with free agent Lorenzo Cain, in the words of Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), though he also cautions the sides aren’t close to an agreement.

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

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

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

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

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Grading The Gerrit Cole Swap]]> 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z 2018-01-15T14:25:03Z Gerrit Cole is a highly visible player — a former first overall pick who landed fourth in the National League Cy Young vote in 2015 — so it’s natural there will be strong opinions about the return he drew in the recent swap between the Pirates and Astros. We have already seen a variety of industry opinions pour in (see here, here, here, and here), but I thought it’d be worth taking the temperature of the MLBTR readership.

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

    Astros receive:

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

    Pirates receive:

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

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

    (Poll link for app users.)

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

    (Poll link for app users.)

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Reportedly Liked Clint Frazier Better Than Anyone They Acquired For Gerrit Cole]]> 2018-01-15T05:55:48Z 2018-01-15T05:55:48Z The Yankees were reportedly willing to part with outfield prospect Clint Frazier in a trade for then-Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole earlier this offseason, but no deal come together between the teams. Although Pittsburgh ended up trading Cole to Houston on Saturday for a four-player package, the Pirates valued Frazier over everyone they got back from the Astros, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. However, the Pirates liked the package they got from the Astros better than the offers the Yankees made, including a final pitch from the Bombers that consisted of three prospects, per Bowden (Twitter link).

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Evaluators, Joe Musgrove On Gerrit Cole Trade]]> 2018-01-15T13:45:28Z 2018-01-15T03:35:57Z
  • The four-player return the Pirates got from the Astros for right-hander Gerrit Cole is “brutal,” one evaluator told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The evaluator believes that righties Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz have value as relievers, but he regards third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin as “throw-in types.” Meanwhile, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke to an evaluator who sees Musgrove as a potential No. 4 starter. (Twitter link.) However, the evaluator wonders if the 25-year-old is better suited to come out of the bullpen – something he did with great success in 2017. Musgrove, for his part, expects to start in Pittsburgh. Speaking with Mark Berman of Fox 26 about Saturday’s trade, Musgrove said: “Over the past 12 hours I’ve become more clear-minded about what’s happening here. I think it’s a good move for me. It’s a chance to go to an organization and get back in the rotation and try to help them build something special. Anytime I’m traded for a guy like Gerrit Cole, they’ve got big plans for me, and I plan on filling those big shoes” (Twitter links here).
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Designate Shane Carle, Engelb Vielma]]> 2018-01-14T18:20:08Z 2018-01-14T18:10:07Z The Pirates have designated right-hander Shane Carle and shortstop Engelb Vielma for assignment, as per a team announcement.  The moves will create roster space for the newly-acquired players from yesterday’s Gerrit Cole trade.

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

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

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Andrew McCutchen]]> 2018-01-14T18:06:15Z 2018-01-14T18:04:58Z
  • Now that Gerrit Cole has been traded, teams who have talked deals with the Pirates believe that the Bucs could now be more open to moving Andrew McCutchen, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes (Twitter links).  Pittsburgh has had “ongoing dialogue” about McCutchen with multiple teams, including the Giants.  One potential side effect of increased trade talks involving McCutchen (and the Marlins’ Christian Yelich) is that it could extend the lack of activity on the free agent outfielder front.
  • If the Pirates did deal McCutchen,’s Buster Olney (Twitter links) isn’t sure how much the Bucs could get back, based on the relatively lacking returns other teams have recently gotten in trades for players in their final year before free agency.  Olney opines that the Pirates could get more young talent back in a trade by offering to cover some of the $14.75MM owed to McCutchen in 2018.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[More Reaction & Fallout To The Gerrit Cole Trade]]> 2018-01-14T15:26:56Z 2018-01-14T15:26:56Z The Astros and Pirates swung a major trade yesterday, with the World Series champions acquiring Gerrit Cole in exchange for a package of four players (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, Jason Martin).  We’ve already published one batch of reactions to the deal, and now here are some additional details about the trade talks and further analysis about what this deal means for Houston, Pittsburgh, and other clubs…

    • The Astros were able to land Cole without giving up any of their top prospects, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Houston wasn’t willing to offer Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, or Yordan Alvarez.  Musgrove and Moran were seen as the top two pieces of the trade by the Pirates, and they pulled the trigger on the deal since Pittsburgh felt no other team was offering two top prospects of better quality in exchange for Cole.  Musgrove, Feliz, and Moran give the Bucs 15 years of controllable talent, which was also a factor in their decision.
    • Also from Crasnick, the Yankees were willing to include one of Clint Frazier or Chance Adams in a potential Cole trade, but not both.  New York was also intent on holding onto its top minor leaguers, as Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, and Estevan Florial were considered off-limits in trade talks.
    • The Yankees’ unwillingness to move its best prospects could be due to a belief that Yu Darvish could be signed for a “reasonable” price, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes.  This could be a contract in the range of five years and $80MM-90MM, which would represent a stunning discount from the six-year, $160MM deal MLBTR predicted for Darvish at the start of the offseason.  Even with the unprecedentedly slow nature of this winter’s free agent market, it’s hard to believe Darvish would settle for such a relatively small deal, especially with at least five other teams known to be vying for his services.  Harper also notes that even a five-year/$80MM pact would put the Yankees over the luxury tax limit, unless they were to move another big contract to create payroll space.
    • The Pirates’ return was “more one of quantity than of impact,”’s Keith Law writes, though Cole may only be “a soft upgrade” for the Astros rotation if he replicates his 2017 numbers.  Law feels that Cole’s 2016-17 performance curtailed some of his trade value, and while Houston is obviously hoping that Cole returns to his 2015 form, the trade also could’ve been a way of keeping him away from a chief AL rival like the Yankees.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Reactions To The Gerrit Cole Trade]]> 2018-01-14T02:16:48Z 2018-01-14T02:16:48Z The baseball world is still reeling from the big news earlier today regarding the Astros’ acquisition of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Here are a few of the early takes…

    • What better place to start the Cole reactions than with that of Cole himself? The right-hander seems to be incredibly excited to join his new organization. “I’m ecstatic. I got the phone call not too long ago and I was shocked. I couldn’t have been more happy. I’m familiar with a few people on the organization and the team,” Cole said to reporters (hat tip to’s Brian McTaggart). Cole also used the words “flat-out elated” to describe the “unbelievable opportunity” (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In addition to his giddiness over his trade to the Astros, Cole also spoke highly of the Pirates organization and expressed a fondness for his years with the team.
    • Cole isn’t the only player expressing excitement about the trade, however. Many of his new teammates have reacted strongly on social media as well. New rotation mate Justin Verlander wrote a tweet with the hashtag #backtoback, while Alex Bregman simply tweeted a gif of himself screaming.
    • Grant Brisbee of notes that although the Astros are young and unburdened by large contracts, the team may have acquired Cole in part because they need to consider their window. Brisbee argues that “there isn’t a team in baseball that knows with metaphysical certitude how they’ll look in three years,” so it was beneficial for Houston to act now in order to create a superteam for 2018. While the notion that Cole’s presence makes the Astros a superteam is debatable, he notes that he may just be one of the best pitchers in baseball if last year’s spike in homers allowed turns out to be a fluke.
    • Pirates GM Neal Huntington describes the trade as “the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term.” (hat tip to Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “We felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined,” Huntington adds.
    • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow offers a timeline of events in reference to his team’s talks with the Pirates about Cole, via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Apparently, the two teams were in discussions about the righty as early as last July, but talks were shelved after they couldn’t reach an agreement. During the winter meetings, however, discussions picked up steam again, and after that the teams talked at least once a week until a deal was ultimately agreed upon this morning.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Astros Acquire Gerrit Cole]]> 2018-01-14T03:01:14Z 2018-01-14T00:05:47Z The Astros have acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates for righties Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin, according to announcements from both teams.

    MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Unresolved 2018 Arbitration Cases]]> 2018-01-13T03:05:53Z 2018-01-13T00:02:01Z We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)

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

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Avoiding Arbitration: National League]]> 2018-01-13T06:28:47Z 2018-01-12T21:10:22Z The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)

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

    Onto today’s landslide of deals…

    National League West

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

    National League Central

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

    National League East

    • The Braves reached a $3.4MM deal with righty Arodys Vizcaino, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). He’d been projected at $3.7MM. The Braves and righty Dan Winkler agreed to a $610K salary for the upcoming season, tweets Mark Bowman of Winkler tossed just 14 1/3 innings in the Majors this year as he made his way back from elbow surgery. He’d projected at $800K.
    • The Marlins and Miguel Rojas agreed to a $1.18MM deal for 2018, Heyman tweets, placing him north of his $1.1MM projection. Rojas should see additional playing time following the Marlins’ wave of trades this offseason. He’s controlled through 2020. Miami also has a deal in place with infielder Derek Dietrich for $2.9MM, Heyman tweets, after projecting at $3.2MM.
    • The Mets were able to settle perhaps their most notable arb case, agreeing to a $7.4MM deal with righty Jacob deGrom, per James Wagner of the New York Times (via Twitter). That’s well shy of his $9.2MM projection, though MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained the formula likely overestimated deGrom’s earning power by quite a wide margin. Fellow top righty Noah Syndergaard gets $2.975MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which goes a fair sight past the $1.9MM projection for the outstanding young starter, whose 2017 season was limited by injury. And reliever AJ Ramos will take home $9.225MM, according to Wagner (via Twitter). That’s just barely past the $9.2MM projection.  Wilmer Flores has also avoided arbitration with the Mets, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (on Twitter). He’ll receive a $3.4MM salary, which falls within $300K of his projected rate. The Mets control Flores through the 2019 campaign. The Mets and right-hander Matt Harvey agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.625MM, tweets Nightengale. Harvey, who is a free agent next winter, had been projected to earn $5.9MM. Meanwhile, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets that Jeurys Familia will earn $7.925MM for the upcoming year, while Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that catcher Travis d’Arnaud will earn $3.475MM in 2018 (Twitter link). Familia, a free agent next winter, was projected at $7.4MM. The Mets control d’Arnaud through 2019, and his projection was $3.4MM. Righty Hansel Robles gets $900K, Heyman tweets.
    • Also via Nightengale (Twitter link), the Nationals agreed to a $6.475MM salary for 2018 with right-hander Tanner Roark. That falls about $1MM shy of his $7.5MM projection but still represents a noted raise of $4.315MM for Roark, whom the Nats control through 2019. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post adds that Michael Taylor will earn $2.525MM next year. Taylor is controlled through 2020 and was projected at $2.3MM.
    • The Phillies and Maikel Franco settled on a $2.95MM salary for the 2018 season, reports Jim Salisbury of (Twitter link). Franco, a Super Two player who’d been projected at $3.6MM, remains under club control with the Phils through the 2021 season. Second bagger Cesar Hernandez will earn at a $5.1MM rate in 2018, per’s Todd Zolecki (via Twitter). That beats his $4.7MM projection and wraps up this year’s arb business for the Phillies.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Maintaining Interest In McCutchen]]> 2018-01-12T05:17:47Z 2018-01-12T05:02:52Z
  • The Giants’ top offer to Jay Bruce was at the three-year level but would have promised about $10MM less to him than the $39MM he ultimately scored from the Mets, according to reports from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). It seems that San Francisco was hoping to get some pop into the lineup at a bit of a discount, which is certainly understandable given the still-lengthy list of potential targets available in free agency and on the trade market. One additional name that has long been linked to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, remains of interest, Nightengale further notes. There’s also a case to be made that the Giants ought to take the opportunity presented by the slow market development while forgetting about the luxury tax line this year, as Andrew Baggarly writes for The Athletic. Of course, that’s also true for a few other teams, and it’s arguable that such interest will help prop things up once player movement begins in earnest.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Tigers Claim Johnny Barbato]]> 2018-01-11T19:33:03Z 2018-01-11T19:26:53Z The Tigers have claimed righty Johnny Barbato off waivers from the Pirates, the teams announced and Robert Murray of Fan Rag first tweeted. He was designated recently by Pittsburgh when the club claimed fellow righty Shane Carle.

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

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Luhnow Refutes Report That Astros Have Deal For Gerrit Cole]]> 2018-01-10T20:45:50Z 2018-01-10T20:44:53Z 2:44pm: The Astros are still engaged with the Pirates on Cole but are also still looking at alternatives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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