MLB Trade Rumors » » Pittsburgh Pirates 2017-12-13T22:33:43Z Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pitching Rumblings: Twins, Darvish, Cishek, Cole, Mariners, Liriano, Watson]]> 2017-12-13T22:14:17Z 2017-12-13T19:21:28Z While the market for starters is still fairly slow to develop, relievers have been flying off the board at the Winter Meetings. Here’s the latest chatter on some hurlers from around the game:

  • The Twins are sending signals that they’re serious about their pursuit of free agent righty Yu Darvish. As LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune writes, skipper Paul Molitor says the organization has “targeted [Darvish] as somebody we have tremendous interest in.” That follows prior public indications of interest from GM Thad Levine, who, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press examines, has a longstanding relationship with Darvish. That piece is well worth a full read, if only for Berardino’s enjoyable chat with catcher Chris Gimenez, who worked closely with Darvish with the Rangers and has played most recently with the Twins.
  • Meanwhile, the Twins are also among the teams looking into righty Steve Cishek, according to Berardino (via Twitter). The sidearmer has been left as one of the top remaining free-agent setup men after a spate of signings at the Winter Meetings. He finished the 2017 season on a strong run with the Rays.
  • The Orioles have at least checked in on Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Certainly, Baltimore isn’t the only organization that would love to add Cole, whose name has arisen in chatter a few times in recent days. Whether the Bucs are really ready to deal him isn’t entirely clear; neither is it certain just what the club would seek in return. Yesterday, though, Buster Olney of gave perhaps the clearest indication yet that Pittsburgh may be prepared to strike an agreement, tweeting that there’s a belief from some around the game that Pittsburgh would pull the trigger if the right deal came across its desk.
  • Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto says his team is in the “red zone” on a deal, likely for a reliever, in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio tweets that Juan Nicasio is a “strongly rumored possibility,” though clearly that’s not a firm connection at this point. And it’s certainly worth noting that the M’s have, in fact, struck agreement on a trade since Dipoto went on the air — though it’s not clear whether the minor acquisition was the one he was referring to. Perhaps Dipoto was giving a nod to that swap, but it’s also possible there’s a more significant move still in store. Regardless, the M’s are clearly focused on pitching, as Dipoto has made clear and TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports.
  • The Astros are weighing a reunion with lefty Francisco Liriano, according to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Long a starter, the 34-year-old was added by the ’Stros at the 2017 trade deadline and moved into a relief role. He did not exactly thrive in that job initially, allowing seven earned runs and posting an ugly 11:10 K/BB ratio in his 14 1/3 frames over twenty appearances. Liriano will presumably also draw some looks from organizations that would propose to give him a shot at rediscovering his form as a starter.
  • Another lefty, Tony Watson, is a possible target for the Athletics, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 32-year-old has plenty of late-inning experience and finished strong after a mid-season swap to the Dodgers. In twenty innings with L.A., Watson posted a 2.70 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.
Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Reds, Cardinals, Pirates]]> 2017-12-13T09:30:05Z 2017-12-13T09:30:05Z Though the Reds didn’t ultimately make Shohei Ohtani’s list of seven finalists for his services, the team put together a detailed presentation in hopes of luring the two-way star to Cincinnati. Mark Sheldon of wrote an insightful article detailing the Reds’ pursuit of Ohtani; the team shared the contents of its presentation with and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Despite the fact that they could only offer him a maximum $300K signing bonus, GM Dick Williams and the entire Reds organization believed they could come up with a pitch attractive enough to sway Ohtani in their direction. “I’d like us to think that we might have a chance. I’ve followed this kid,” Williams said at the the beginning of the process. “I think he’s wired differently. He’s clearly shown he thinks out of the box.” The baseball operations, business, creative services, and marketing departments all worked together to tailor a presentation that included a 120-page book and 12-minute video. One of Cincinnati’s selling points was having Ohtani pitch in a six-man rotation (something he was used to doing in Japan), while playing the outfield and getting at-bats as a pinch-hitter. The Reds pulled out all the stops, including the addition of testimonials from Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former MVP Joey Votto. Though they ultimately came up short, the release of the presentation’s contents to the media is generous to say the least, and provides a rare and fascinating insight into the player recruiting process.

More items from the National League’s Central Division…

  • Although he cautions that the club isn’t necessarily on the cusp of a big announcement, Cardinals GM Michael Girsch says that the club has “some sense of optimism” regarding their pursuit of a big bat (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The Redbirds seem to have a desired hitter in mind, and reportedly feel good about their chances of acquiring him. “We’re not at the goal line, but we’ve made progress,” says Girsch. While Girsch himself didn’t mention any specific names, Goold notes in the article that the Cardinals have been linked to Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna, while the Marlins have shown interest in St. Louis pitchers Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara.
  • A hitter isn’t the only thing the Cardinals are pursuing. Recently, they’ve been linked to Rays closer Alex Colome as a potential means to fill a clear need at the back end of their bullpen. Somewhat intriguingly, Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Colome began following four Cardinals-related accounts on his Instagram on Tuesday night (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Drew Silva). It could be nothing at all; social media activity certainly doesn’t have a strong correlation with transactional news. But while there are no reports of a deal in place, the flurry of follows has piqued curiosity and stirred the rumor mill. At the very least, it gives us another reason to closely monitor an interesting hypothetical.
  • Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates are exploring the idea of adding a fourth outfielder through trade or free agency, in order to allow Jordan Luplow to begin the season at the Triple-A level. GM Neal Huntington notes that Luplow “didn’t have a ton of at-bats down there a year ago.” Indeed, Luplow only has 87 career plate appearances at Triple-A, and his .205/.276/.385 major league slash line indicates that his bat could benefit from more development at the minors’ highest level. The 24-year-old Luplow was drafted out of California State University Fresno with the Pittsburgh’s third-round pick; the right-handed outfielder is 24 years old, according to Fangraphs.
Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Cole, Brewers]]> 2017-12-13T00:18:46Z 2017-12-13T00:13:56Z
  • The Orioles are another team that has expressed in interest in Cole, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets.  It still isn’t clear whether the Pirates are actually seriously considering moving Cole, though ESPN’s Buster Olney hears from industry evaluators that the Bucs are prepared to move Cole for the right offer.  Teams like the Yankees, Rangers, and Twins have all checked in to gauge Pittsburgh’s intentions.  Cole would be a sorely-needed upgrade to Baltimore’s struggling rotation, though the O’s don’t have a particularly deep minor league system from which to deal.
    • In two more tweets from Haudricourt, he mentions that the Brewers and Pirates were in talks today.  With Milwaukee looking for pitching and second base help, Haudricourt speculates that Gerrit Cole or Josh Harrison could have been topics of discussion between the two division rivals.
    • The Orioles are another team that has expressed in interest in Cole, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets.  It still isn’t clear whether the Pirates are actually seriously considering moving Cole, though ESPN’s Buster Olney hears from industry evaluators that the Bucs are prepared to move Cole for the right offer.  Teams like the Yankees, Rangers, and Twins have all checked in to gauge Pittsburgh’s intentions.  Cole would be a sorely-needed upgrade to Baltimore’s struggling rotation, though the O’s don’t have a particularly deep minor league system from which to deal.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[McCutchen "Not Viewed As A Priority" By Giants For Outfield Vacancies]]> 2017-12-12T11:00:34Z 2017-12-12T11:00:34Z
  • From that same Schulman piece, the Giants are impressed enough with prospect Steven Duggar that “it does affect how we view addressing that [center field] need this offseason,” GM Bobby Evans said.  “It does give us a mindset more short term.”  This would seem to lessen the chance that the Giants acquire names like Lorenzo Cain or Billy Hamilton, who have been both been linked to the team in rumors.  Andrew McCutchen has also been mentioned as a possibility for the Giants, yet Schulman writes that “he is not viewed as a priority,” even though the Pirates outfielder is only under contract through the 2018 season and would seem to fit as a short-term answer.  Duggar is expected to start the season in Triple-A but would seem to be on pace for a big league debut next year and potentially a regular role by 2019.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Could Use Steven Brault As Lefty Reliever]]> 2017-12-12T08:04:40Z 2017-12-12T08:03:51Z
  • While the Pirates are on the lookout for left-handed relievers, GM Neal Huntington suggested to reporters (including Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that the club could also fill that need internally in the form of Steven Brault.  The Bucs could explore using Brault or other starters that don’t win rotation jobs in the pen, with Brault perhaps capable of either a LOOGY specialist role or a multi-inning role.  While adding a southpaw reliever would be a “perfect world” result for the team, Huntington said any type of quality reliever would do: “we’d rather have a good right-hander than a mediocre left-hander.”
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rangers, Pirates Discussed Gerrit Cole]]> 2017-12-12T02:41:58Z 2017-12-12T02:35:29Z The Rangers talked to the Pirates about acquiring right-hander Gerrit Cole, but those discussions didn’t go anywhere, TR Sullivan of reports (Twitter link). Given that the Rangers are in need of starters even after signing Doug Fister and Mike Minor, the possibility of them turning back to old friend and top free agent Yu Darvish has come up. General manager Jon Daniels revealed Monday that the Rangers and Darvish still have a strong relationship even after they traded him away last July, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram tweets. For his part, Darvish is interested in a reunion, agent Joel Wolfe told Wilson and other reporters (Twitter link). The potential of Texas deploying a six-man rotation doesn’t necessarily appeal to Darvish, though, despite the fact that he spoke in favor of that setup on multiple occasions in the past. “He’s one of those guys that would rather pitch on short rest than long rest,” Wolfe said.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Trade Chatter: Machado, Phils, Yanks, Bucs, Cole, Ellsbury, Tigers, Brewers]]> 2017-12-12T21:23:43Z 2017-12-11T22:59:07Z Should the Orioles decide to trade superstar third baseman Manny Machado prior to 2018, his contract year, they could find a taker in Philadelphia. The Phillies are among “the more interested parties” in Machado, Roch Kubatko of reports. The Orioles have studied the Phillies’ farm system in the event of a deal, and they now “covet” right-hander Sixto Sanchez (Baseball America’s 61st-best prospect), per Kubatko. Second base prospect Scott Kingery and major league shortstop Freddy Galvis could also be involved in a potential trade, Kubatko writes. But a swap would require a 72-hour window for the Phillies to extend the 25-year-old Machado, according to Kubatko, and hammering out an agreement could be a tall order given that he’s so close to hitting the open market.

    More of the latest trade chatter:

    • The Yankees reportedly came away from talks with the Pirates with the impression that they won’t move righty Gerrit Cole. However, the Pirates are at least willing to listen to offers for Cole, per Buster Olney of ESPN (Twitter link). The Yankees and Bucs match up well for a potential Cole trade, sources tell Olney, who notes that Bombers general manager Brian Cashman and the Pirates’ Neal Huntington have swung plenty of deals in the past.
    • In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton acquisition, the Yankees are loaded with outfielders. Although that seems to be bad news for Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s toward the bottom of the Yankees’ current outfield depth chart, he’s still “unlikely” to waive his no-trade clause, Mark Feinsand of tweets. The belief is that the Yankees would eat roughly half of the $68MM to jettison Ellsbury, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag, but it could be a moot point if he’s unwilling to go anywhere. And Cashman said Monday that Ellsbury “has a spot on the roster” and “will compete to take his job back,” Alex Speier of the Boston Globe relays (Twitter link). On the other hand, if the Yankees make 23-year-old outfielder Clint Frazier available, the Athletics would unquestionably have interest, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (via Twitter). However, the price to acquire Frazier would likely be too high, Slusser adds.
    • The Tigers expect to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler, GM Al Avila told Evan Woodbery of and other reporters (Twitter link). Meanwhile, they’ve gotten “mild inquiries” on arguably their most valuable trade chip – righty Michael Fulmer – but they’re not actively shopping him (via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, on Twitter). “There are a handful of teams out there that have the players to do it, but we have not come close to those conversations,” Avila said of a potential Fulmer trade (Twitter link via Jason Beck of
    • While the Brewers are listening to offers for outfielder Domingo Santana, there’s not a lot of traction in trade talks, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN tweets. The Brewers want “an affordable impact starter” for Santana, Crasnick suggests. GM David Stearns told reporters Monday that “if we’re going to even consider trading someone who is such an important part of our team, we are going to expect a sizable return” (via Adam McCalvy of, on Twitter).
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Engelb Vielma]]> 2017-12-11T21:16:32Z 2017-12-11T21:04:14Z The Pirates have claimed infielder Engelb Vielma off waivers from the Phillies, Adam Berry of tweets. The addition of Vielma, who has two minor league options remaining, leaves the Pirates with two open spots on their 40-man roster. The Phillies are also at 38 players.

    The 23-year-old Vielma lasted less than a month with the Phillies, who claimed him from the Giants on Nov. 20. Vielma had spent his entire professional career with the Twins before joining the Giants via waivers in mid-September. Known for his glove, the switch-hitting Vielma has batted just .256/.316/.302 in 2,171 minor league plate appearances since debuting in 2012. He divided last season between the Twins’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates and slashed a combined .229/.273/.280 in 455 PAs.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Yankees Have Interest In Gerrit Cole]]> 2017-12-11T20:26:58Z 2017-12-11T20:21:23Z
  • The Yankees have shown interest in Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets, but have been left to believe that Cole won’t be moved. Pittsburgh’s intentions for the winter have never really been clear, with a few notable veterans nearing free agency but a core in place that might still contend in the near term. Presumably, the Bucs are still weighing their options. If a Cole deal is considered, it’s not entirely certain whether the team would prioritize long-term prospect value or prefer instead to bring back controllable assets already playing at the MLB level. While the 27-year-old was less than dominant in 2017, he was able to top two hundred frames and averaged a typical 8.7 K/9 with 2.4 BB/9. The asking price, in other words, will likely still be lofty for a pitcher with a front-line reputation. If the Yankees are serious about pursuit, they’d surely have some interesting pieces to dangle.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Blue Jays Interested In Josh Harrison]]> 2017-12-10T19:37:18Z 2017-12-10T19:17:37Z The Blue Jays join the previously reported Mets as teams with interest in Pirates utilityman Josh Harrison, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Angels would also be a logical fit for Harrison, Brink notes, though it’s unclear whether they’re actually pursuing him.

    Toronto already addressed its middle infield in a notable way when it acquired Aledmys Diaz from the Cardinals on Dec. 1, but general manager Ross Atkins revealed a week later that the club was still in the market for help there and in the outfield. The Blue Jays’ interest in Harrison makes sense, then, given that he has racked up vast experience in the infield and in the grass. The 30-year-old has logged at least 110 career appearances at second base, third base and the corner outfield.

    The majority of Harrison’s work both during his career and from 2016-17 came at the keystone, where the Jays have options in Diaz, who’s coming off a subpar season, and the oft-injured Devon Travis. Like those two, Harrison isn’t a sure bet to produce, having endured an up-and-down career, but he is fresh off one of his best seasons. The right-handed hitter batted a respectable .272/.339/.432 and totaled a personal-best 16 home runs across 542 plate appearances, and he added 12 stolen bases.

    For Toronto, picking up Harrison would seemingly give the club a front-runner to start at second and protect against further injuries to Travis and another oft-hurt middle infielder, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who now has a capable backup behind him in Diaz. Of course, it’s unclear whether the Pirates are truly open to giving up Harrison, especially considering fellow infielder Jung Ho Kang’s iffy-at-best status for 2018. However, Adam Berry of suggested earlier this week that Harrison may be Pittsburgh’s most logical trade chip, as the team would still have David Freese, Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez and Max Moroff on hand as versatile infielders even if it were to part with him. So, if the low-payroll Pirates view Harrison as a redundant piece, they could look to jettison him and his relatively lofty salary. While Harrison’s pact isn’t onerous – he’ll make $10MM in 2018 and has club options worth $10.5MM and $11.5MM over the following two seasons – he nonetheless ranks as one of the Bucs’ most expensive players.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Mets Have Talked With Indians, Tigers About Trades For Second Baseman]]> 2017-12-10T18:46:43Z 2017-12-10T01:02:55Z 7:02pm: The Tigers’ efforts to trade Kinsler have “intensified” of late, Katie Strang of The Athletic reports (subscription required and recommended). Moving Kinsler will be a key area of focus for Detroit during the upcoming week, Strang adds, given that the team has a full 40-man roster with Thursday’s Rule 5 draft approaching. The Tigers are slated to pick first in the draft, and dealing Kinsler by then would give them room to select a player with that choice.

    9:31am: According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the Mets have had talks about significant potential trades for Ian Kinsler of the Tigers and Jason Kipnis of the Indians. The Mets may also use the winter meetings to explore a deal with the Pirates for Josh Harrison, says Carig.

    At this point, Carig clarifies, it seems as though the Mets have had much more dialogue with the Tigers regarding Kinsler; however there’s “some skepticism about a deal getting done there”.

    It’s certainly no surprise to hear that a team with a need at second base has inquired on Kinsler. The last-place Tigers endured a rough first half last season that culminated in a decision to tear down and rebuild. Veterans J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander were all traded to different contending teams, and Detroit ultimately finished the season with just 64 wins. With no serious ability to contend next season, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd already pointed out that Kinsler seems like a prime trade candidate.

    While Kinsler finished 2017 with his worst full season by fWAR (2.4), he’s a solid bounceback candidate for a Mets team with plans to push for a pennant in 2018. Kinsler hit just .236/.313/.412 this past season, but was seemingly held back by some terrible luck with BABIP (.244). At 35, he’s no sure bet to return to previous form, but considering he combined for 9.8 fWAR between 2015 and 2016, acquiring Kinsler could be well worth the risk for the Mets.

    The news about talks for Kipnis are perhaps a bit more surprising. There’s been some speculation about Kipnis as a trade candidate this offseason; he’s coming off a down offensive year during which he hit just .232/.291/.414 and missed significant time due to shoulder and hamstring injuries, and he seems to have been displaced at the keystone by teammate Jose Ramirez. However, Kipnis is one of the more significant faces in the Indians franchise, and he’s been one of their best offensive players overall for the past half-decade. To this point, there’s been no indication from Cleveland’s camp that they’d be willing to trade Kipnis at all; the fact that they’ve had talks with the Mets about him seems to imply that they’re at least willing to explore trade scenarios.

    Of course, there’s no real word as to the extent of the trade talks surrounding Kipnis. The report that the Mets have had more dialogue about Kinsler and that such a deal is met with skepticism seems to imply that negotiations for Kipnis are far from advanced. It could be that the Mets were simply doing their due diligence, and that the Indians were willing to listen. Regardless, Kipnis being available to any extent would add an interesting new twist to a second base market that no longer includes Dee Gordon.

    While there’s not much word yet on the Mets’ reported interest in Harrison, he’d also be an upgrade to their current depth chart. Harrison has been a solid infielder for the Pirates over the past four seasons, and is capable of playing in the outfield and at third base as well. The Pirates haven’t yet signaled whether or not they’re making a push for contention, but if they decide to rebuild instead, Harrison would be one of the more obvious trade candidates. The 30-year-old is guaranteed $11.5MM for the remainder of his contract, which includes salary for 2018 season as well as buyouts for 2019 and 2020. Harrison hit .272/.339/.432 across 542 plate appearances for Pittsburgh last season.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Cutch, Kang, Rivero]]> 2017-12-10T16:28:59Z 2017-12-10T00:20:06Z Speaking with Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters on Saturday, the Pirates’ Neal Huntington didn’t sound like a general manager who expects center fielder Andrew McCutchen to remain in the fold for the long haul. Although Huntington said the Pirates “would love” for the 31-year-old McCutchen to be a careerlong member of the organization, he noted that keeping the five-time All-Star and trying to win championships “are contradictory goals” at times for the small-market club.

    McCutchen is set to make $14.5MM in 2018, his last year of team control, and Huntington suggested that a contract extension isn’t on the way. The Bucs’ “belief is that the fanbase would rather cheer for a championship team than one really popular player,” according to Huntington, who continued, “If you look around the game and you look at second extensions for most clubs who either, it was the face of their franchise or their best player at the current time, history is not kind to those extensions.”

    With the Winter Meetings set to begin, we’re approaching a year since the Pirates nearly traded McCutchen to the Nationals at the 2016 festivities. McCutchen ultimately stayed with the Pirates, of course, and enjoyed a bounce-back year at the plate. Since last season ended, the Giants have shown reported interest in acquiring McCutchen, who has been a member of the Pittsburgh organization since it selected him 11th overall in the 2005 draft.

    More from Pittsburgh:

    • While Huntington said that getting infielder Jung Ho Kang back in 2018 “would be huge,” the Pirates don’t expect it to happen (via Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). Kang still hasn’t secured a work visa to return to the United States since he received his third drunk driving conviction in his native South Korea last offseason, thus forcing him to sit out the 2017 campaign. During his most recent game action, Kang struggled so mightily as a member of Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominic Winter League that the club released him last month. Speculatively, Kang’s status could affect the Bucs’ offseason plans, though in-house options David Freese, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Sean Rodriguez bring plenty of experience at one or both of his positions (third base, shortstop).
    • Closer Felipe Rivero is coming off his first full year in Pittsburgh, during which he was among the premier relievers in the game. Now entering his first of four arbitration-eligible years, Rivero is already under Bucs control for the foreseeable future, but he’s open to signing an extension with the club (per Elizabeth Bloom of the Post-Gazette). “I wanna stay here for a little bit,” Rivero said. “It’s a good city to stay. Clean, very good people. So that’s the main reason. You know, I feel comfortable being here, so I want to be here a couple of years.” The 26-year-old Rivero’s agent will meet with the Pirates on Monday, Bloom reports. Interestingly, Rivero revealed that it was his sister’s advice to change representation from Scott Boras earlier this offseason. Rivero’s now a Magnus Sports client, and he had been in touch with the agency for roughly a year before its hiring.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Could Have Interest In Gerrit Cole]]> 2017-12-09T07:27:43Z 2017-12-09T06:35:16Z The Nationals are checking over the market for starters, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required). While the team’s potential targets aren’t yet clear, Rosenthal does list two interesting options, both of whom were among the names we floated as hypothetical candidates in our review of the Nats’ offseason outlook. Gerrit Cole of the Pirates could be a name to watch on the trade market, says Rosenthal. And the Nationals are “kicking around” a pursuit of free agent Jake Arrieta, per the report. Certainly, the club’s numerous dealings with Scott Boras make that possible match one to keep an eye on. It’s certainly still possible the Nationals will go in any number of different directions in filling out their rotation, though the report does suggest the team shouldn’t be ruled out for a significant addition.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Todd Cunningham, Richard Rodriguez To Minor League Deals]]> 2017-12-08T14:45:55Z 2017-12-08T14:45:55Z
  • The Pirates announced that they’ve signed outfielder Todd Cunningham and right-hander Richard Rodriguez to minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training. Cunningham, 29 in March, has just a .520 OPS in 130 MLB plate appearances but batted .284/.404/.414 in 358 Triple-A plate appearances between the Cardinals and Dodgers last season. He’s never hit for much power but has long posted quality on-base numbers in Triple-A. Rodriguez, meanwhile, made his big league debut with the Orioles last year but was rocked for nine runs in 5 2/3 innings. But, the 27-year-old comes to the Bucs with a career 2.70 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 243 Triple-A innings between the Orioles and Astros.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Mariners, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Cubs, Angels Among Teams To Meet With Shohei Ohtani]]> 2017-12-04T05:40:13Z 2017-12-04T05:40:33Z 11:40pm: The Angels are indeed one of the finalists, as per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).

    10:39pm: The Angels are thought by “multiple sources” to be one of the finalists, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets.  The Tigers are out of the running, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.

    8:59pm: The Rangers and Cubs will both meet with Ohtani, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link), and they’re also the only two non-West Coast teams who appear to still be alive in the candidate process.  The Rangers, Grant notes, have yet to comment on their status one way or the other.

    7:22pm: The Nationals won’t be receiving a meeting, the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (Twitter link).

    6:58pm: The Braves are out,’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter).

    6:50pm: The Padres will receive a meeting with Ohtani, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links).  The Dodgers are also thought to still be active in the Ohtani sweepstakes though Heyman doesn’t have confirmation; regardless, the Dodgers aren’t thought to be favorites to land Ohtani.

    6:38pm: The Rays, Cardinals and White Sox are out, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (all Twitter links).

    6:15pm: The Diamondbacks won’t receive a meeting, Ken Rosenthal tweets.

    6:12pm: The Blue Jays, Pirates, and Brewers are all out, as respectively reported by’s Shi Davidi,’s Adam Berry, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt (all Twitter links).

    5:48pm: The Mets are also out, as per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).

    5:38pm: Ohtani’s list is “heavy” on West Coast teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, though the Cubs may still be involved.  Not every west-based team is included, however, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the A’s aren’t involved.

    5:28pm: The Red Sox are also out of the running, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.  The Twins also won’t be getting a meeting with Ohtani, Heyman tweets.

    5:16pm: The Giants and Mariners are among the teams that will receive meetings with Shohei Ohtani and his representatives next week, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link).  It isn’t known who the other finalists are in the Ohtani sweepstakes, though the Yankees are one of the teams that didn’t make the cut, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including’s Brendan Kuty and’s Bryan Hoch).

    According to Cashman, Ohtani seems to be leaning towards West Coast teams in smaller markets.  This ties to a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman saying that Ohtani’s reps are informing teams that the two-way star would prefer to play in a smaller market.

    The news adds another fascinating layer to the Ohtani sweepstakes, which was already one of the more intriguing free agent pursuits in recent memory.  Given the seeming lack of immediate financial motive that inspired Ohtani’s move to Major League Baseball, it opened the door for every team in baseball (regardless of market or payroll size) to make a push for the 23-year-old.  There had been speculation that Ohtani might look to avoid playing in a larger market, so this apparent confirmation creates a realistic possibility that he will land with a team that wouldn’t normally be considered a favorite to land such a coveted free agent.

    Of course, San Francisco isn’t exactly a small market, though Ohtani wouldn’t necessarily be the center of attention on a club with such established stars as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner (and maybe even Giancarlo Stanton in the near future).  Playing for an NL team, however, would force Ohtani into a pinch-hitting or even a part-time outfield role for the at-bats he seeks in his attempt to be a two-way player in the big leagues.  The Mariners do have such a DH spot available (in a timeshare with Nelson Cruz), and were considered to be a contender for Ohtani given their long history of Japanese players.

    The Yankees also have had several significant Japanese players on their past and current rosters, and were widely seen as one of the major favorites for Ohtani’s services from a financial (in terms of available international bonus money) and positional (openings at DH and in the rotation) standpoint, not to mention their international fame and their young core of talent ready to make a World Series push.  With Ohtani now out of the picture, the Yankees could move to signing more pitching depth — a reunion with C.C. Sabathia has been widely speculated as a possibility — or a veteran bat to serve as designated hitter, if the club doesn’t just rotate its DH days to find plate appearances for everyone on the current roster.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Pirates Staff, Rivero, Iglesias]]> 2017-12-02T21:52:12Z 2017-12-02T21:52:12Z The Pirates have made a host of changes to their scouting and front office staff, Bill Brink of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports. Steve Williams, a major league scout since 1988, will be their new director of pro scouting. Junior Vizcaino, formerly of the Red Sox, will replace the recently-discharged Rene Gayo as Pittsburgh’s director of Latin America scouting. Assistant GM Greg Smith will now work under the title “Special Assistant to the GM”, though it’s not quite clear what the change in his role will actually be. Pitching coordinator Justin Meccage will now join the coaching staff as assistant pitching coach. In addition, pro scout Sean McNally has been named Special Assistant to the GM, John Birbeck and Matt Taylor have been made scouting assistants, and Joe Douglas and Justin Newman have been named quantitative analysts. While these moves seem to be mostly routine shuffling, it’s worth noting that very few first-round picks of the Pirates have lived up to their billing over the past 12 years.

    More details from around the NL Central…

    • In other Pirates news, closer Felipe Rivero has dropped agent Scott Boras. He’ll now be represented by Magnus Sports, according to Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rivero enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, posting a 1.67 ERA and 3.50 WPA across 75 1/3 innings thanks in part to a 10.51 K/9 and a 52.9% ground ball rate. Although he enjoyed a bit of BABIP and home run luck, his 3.03 xFIP is still a solid mark. The left-hander compiled 21 saves after taking over as Pittsburgh’s closer halfway through the season, and is arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason. He should be in line for a significant raise if he can perform close to his 2017 numbers. Bloom notes that Magnus Sports also represents some other closers, including Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees and Raisel Iglesias of the Reds.
    • Speaking of Iglesias, the right-hander has officially decided not to opt into arbitration, according to Mark Sheldon of It seemed highly unlikely that Iglesias would choose to do so this season, considering his contract will pay him $4.5MM next season, while MLBTR’s arbitration model projected him for a $2.8MM salary. Nevertheless, Iglesias’ statement ends any speculation that he would opt into the process during this offseason (though he’ll have another opportunity next year). For the 2017 season, Iglesias finished 15th among relievers in total innings pitched (75), 22nd in ERA (2.49), 13th in saves (28), and tied for 13th in strikeouts (92).
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Likely To Tender Jordy Mercer]]> 2017-12-01T07:33:39Z 2017-12-01T07:30:01Z
  • Some readers were surprised to see Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer tabbed as a possible non-tender on MLBTR’s list. In our view, his hefty salary (projected at $6.5MM) and the possibility of finding cheaper alternatives combine to create some vulnerability — at least, that is, from an outside examination. The expectation of’s Adam Berry, though, is that Pittsburgh will continue to rely on Mercer in his final season of arb eligibility. Berry cites Mercer’s steadiness and the fact that the team’s middle infield prospects aren’t quite ready yet to take over at short.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mariners Claim Sam Moll]]> 2017-11-30T18:49:38Z 2017-11-30T18:49:03Z The Mariners announced that they’ve claimed left-handed reliever Sam Moll off waivers from the Pirates, bringing their 40-man roster to a total of 37 players.

    Pittsburgh had only just claimed the 25-year-old Moll off waivers from the A’s on Monday, but the Bucs apparently did so with the hope of then passing Moll through waivers themselves in order to keep him in the organization without committing a 40-man roster spot.

    A former third-round pick of the Rockies, Moll made his big league debut in 2017, though he was tagged for eight earned runs in a small sample of 6 2/3 innings. His work in the minors, however, is more solid. In 54 1/3 innings between the Triple-A affiliates for the Rockies and the A’s, Moll pitched to a 3.64 ERA with 7.8 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.

    Moll has a history of missing bats and inducing grounders at an above-average rate through the Double-A level and will give Seattle a lefty with multiple minor league options remaining to compete for a bullpen spot next spring — assuming he makes it to camp with the Mariners and doesn’t land with another organization via waivers, of course.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Have Discussed Andrew McCutchen With Pirates]]> 2017-11-29T18:39:29Z 2017-11-29T18:39:29Z The Giants and Pirates have “remained in contact” regarding star outfielder Andrew McCutchen, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link). McCutchen could represent an alternative to Giancarlo Stanton for the San Francisco organization, Morosi suggests.

    This is the first time we’ve seen the 31-year-old McCutchen come up clearly in trade rumors this winter. He’s owed $14.5MM for the 2018 season and will reach free agency thereafter.

    McCutchen is no longer the superstar he once was, but did just wrap up a productive 2017 campaign. In 650 plate appearances, he slashed .279/.363/.486 and hit 28 home runs.

    Metrics are not enamored of McCutchen’s glovework in center, so he doesn’t seem like a direct replacement for Denard Span, who’s expected to move into a corner spot. But Cutch’s ability to handle some time up the middle certainly doesn’t hurt. He’s also a far less committing acquisition target than is Stanton.

    It’s not immediately clear what it might take to get the Bucs to part with their franchise icon. Moving the salary would help the organization seek some other improvements, though losing McCutchen would also mean creating an immediate hole — even if the team is comfortable relying upon Austin Meadows and/or piecing together some platoon pieces. Given McCutchen’s standing with the fan base, there’s added motivation for the Pirates to hold out for a worthwhile return. And the organization will be cognizant of the possibility of instead dealing him at the trade deadline, if the ballclub does not compete, or making him a qualifying offer at the end of the coming season.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Release Angel Sanchez To Sign With KBO’s SK Wyverns]]> 2017-11-28T02:58:51Z 2017-11-28T02:57:37Z 8:57pm: Sanchez has signed with Korea’s SK Wyverns, per a team announcement (h/t Dan Kurtz of, on Twitter). He’ll play for $1.1MM in 2018.

    6:29pm: The Pirates have released right-hander Angel Sanchez, as reflected on the team’s transactions page (h/t’s Adam Berry) and as first noted by Pirates Prospects. That leaves the team with two free 40-man spots after adding lefty Sam Moll via waiver claim earlier today.

    Sanchez, who turns 28 tomorrow, made his MLB debut in 2017 with the Bucs, allowing a dozen earned runs on five home runs over 12 1/3 innings. On the other hand, he did record ten strikeouts against just one walk while exhibiting some swing-and-miss ability and a 96 mph heater. Through 55 1/3 frames at Triple-A, Sanchez worked to a 3.74 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Sam Moll From Athletics]]> 2017-11-27T19:15:17Z 2017-11-27T19:15:17Z The Pirates have claimed left-hander Sam Moll off waivers from the Athletics, according to press releases from both teams. Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster is now at 39 players.

    Moll, 25, is a former third-round pick of the Rockies that was traded to Oakland this past August for cash considerations. The A’s designated him for assignment last week when clearing space on their 40-man roster to protect several players from the Rule 5 Draft.

    The 2017 season saw Moll make his big league debut in Oakland, though the results weren’t especially pretty. In 6 2/3 frames, the Memphis product was tagged for eight runs on 13 hits (including two homers) and three walks with seven strikeouts.

    In 54 1/3 innings between the Triple-A affiliates for the Rockies and the A’s, Moll pitched to a more respectable 3.64 ERA with 7.8 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. He also registered a promising 50.3 percent ground-ball rate in his 47 1/3 innings with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate, though that fell to 33.3 percent in admittedly tiny seven-inning sample with Oakland’s affiliate. Overall, Moll has a history of missing bats and inducing grounders at decent clips in the minors. He joins Nik Turley as the second southpaw claimed off waivers by the Bucs since the offseason began.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jung Ho Kang Released By Dominican Winter League Club]]> 2017-11-27T15:19:05Z 2017-11-27T14:50:23Z Jung Ho Kang’s stint in the Dominican Winter League has been cut short after 24 unsuccessful games, Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports. Kang was released by Aguilas Cibaenas after hitting .143/.219/.202 with one homer, two doubles and a 31-to-8 K/BB ratio in 92 plate appearances. His four errors were tied for the team lead (though the two players with whom he tied had each played at least six more games).

    The 30-year-old Kang sat out the 2017 season on the restricted list and was not paid, nor did he accrue MLB service time, after a third DUI conviction and a suspended jail sentence in his native South Korea prevented him from securing a work visa in the United States. Kang was granted an exemption from the restricted list to play in the Dominican Winter League, but his tenure there has ultimately proven to be brief in nature.

    As far as a potential return to the Majors is concerned, Kang’s release from the Dominican Winter League won’t necessarily impact that possibility. His fate is still tied to his ability (or lack thereof) to secure a work visa to return to pro ball in the U.S. For the Pirates, it’s conceivable that the poor showing could enhance the team’s desire to bring in additional infield depth this offseason. That was already a possible need — albeit not necessarily a critical one — given the uncertainty surrounding Kang and the trade of Gift Ngoepe to the Blue Jays.

    [Related: Pittsburgh Pirates Depth Chart]

    General manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink back in September that the Pirates, at a certain point, would have to “plan as if [Kang is] not going to be here,” so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pittsburgh bring in some depth pieces. That said, the club figures to utilize a trio of solid veterans in Josh Harrison (second base), Jordy Mercer (shortstop) and David Freese (third base), with veteran Sean Rodriguez (acquired from Atlanta in an August swap) and the younger Adam Frazier on hand as alternatives. Infielders Max Moroff and Chris Bostick are also coming off solid minor league seasons and fairly brief MLB cameos, so they could factor into the mix next season as well.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Twins Have Explored Trades For Gerrit Cole, Jake Odorizzi]]> 2017-11-22T02:43:43Z 2017-11-22T02:43:43Z The Twins are known to be on the hunt for rotation upgrades and have already been linked to top free agents Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, but they’re also poking around the trade market. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Minnesota has spoken to the Pirates about Gerrit Cole and also engaged the Rays in discussions on Jake Odorizzi (Twitter links). Both righties come with two remaining years of team control.

    It’s not at all clear that the Pirates intend to aggressively shop Cole this offseason, though as a low-payroll club Pittsburgh always has to willing to at least entertain offers for its top talents. Cole certainly falls into that category, though he had somewhat of a down season in 2017. The former No. 1 overall pick logged 203 innings with the Bucs, marking his second career 200-inning campaign, but he also posted a career-worst 4.26 ERA. That was largely attributable to to a massive spike in his homer-to-flyball ratio (15.9 percent), which led to a career-worst 1.37 HR/9 mark.

    However, Cole’s 2017 season also came with cause for optimism. The 27-year-old saw both his strikeout and walk rates bounce back from 2016, as he averaged 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 while maintaining a solid ground-ball rate (45.8 percent) and averaging 96 mph on his fastball. Cole’s average exit velocity of 85.4 mph ranked in the top quarter of the league (100th out of 438 pitchers, min. 100 batted-ball events). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz pegs Cole for a $7.5MM salary next season.

    As for Odorizzi, he’ll turn 28 in March and recently wrapped a season in which he tossed 143 1/3 innings with a 4.14 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a more troubling 1.88 HR/9. Odorizzi has seen his walk and home-run rates increase each year since 2015. He’s averaged 30 starts per year in the past four seasons but has also averaged just 167 innings per year in that time. He’s projected to earn 6.5MM next year. As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk noted in previewing the Rays’ offseason, Tampa Bay has a pretty notable payroll crunch, which could lead to plenty of Odorizzi chatter this season given his projected salary and relatively limited club control.

    Of course, the Twins have one of the largest figures that any team can offer Japanese star Shohei Ohtani ($3.245MM), and Berardino tweets that the team is indeed preparing its pitch for the potential ace. He also notes that Minnesota is focusing more on the rotation than the bullpen. Top-tier names like Wade Davis and Greg Holland aren’t likely to be on the Twins’ radar, he notes, though second-tier options will be in play as the offseason wears on.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Added To The 40-Man Roster]]> 2017-11-21T01:48:28Z 2017-11-21T00:47:42Z As detailed earlier this morning at MLBTR, the deadline for Major League clubs to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft is tonight. Because of that, there will be literally dozens of moves between now and 8pm ET as teams make final determinations on who to protect and who to risk losing in next month’s Rule 5 draft. This process will lead to smaller-scale trades, waiver claims and DFAs, but for some clubs the only necessary moves will simply be to select the contracts of the prospects they wish to place on the 40-man roster. We’ll track those such moves in this post…

    Click to check in on other teams that have selected players to their 40-man rosters …

    Read more

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Blue Jays Acquire Gift Ngoepe]]> 2017-11-20T22:58:11Z 2017-11-20T22:50:28Z The Blue Jays have acquired infielder Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates, per club announcements. The talented defender changes hands as the clubs go about trimming their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft. A player to be named later or cash will head to Pittsburgh in return.

    Ngoepe, 27, became the first African-born player to reach the majors when he debuted in 2017. Though he moved around in Pittsburgh, Ngoepe has spent the bulk of his minor-league time at shortstop and is regarded as a proficient middle infielder.

    Ngoepe could function as an optionable utility piece in Toronto. But he’ll need to boost his offensive production to hold down a steady job in the bigs. In his first 63 MLB plate appearances, Ngoepe slashed just .222/.323/.296. He has never shown all that much punch in the minors, either, with a .221/.295/.362 composite batting line over three seasons at Triple-A, but clearly some major-league organizations still think there’s some hope for improvement.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Part Ways With Director Of Latin American Scouting Following MLB Investigation]]> 2017-11-16T02:51:24Z 2017-11-16T02:51:24Z The Pirates announced on Wednesday that they will not renew the contract of director of Latin American scouting Rene Gayo following a league investigation into alleged rules violations against Gayo. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported that Gayo would be dismissed, noting that several years ago, he accepted kickback payments from a team in the Mexican Summer League as compensation for the sale of “at least one player to the Pirates,” per Rosenthal.

    In a press release announcing that Gayo’s contract would not be renewed, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington offered the following statement:

    “We had been apprised of Major League Baseball’s investigation into alleged Rules violations committed by Rene during his tenure with the Pirates and the fact that MLB intends to discipline Rene as a result of those violations. Other than confirming our profound disappointment in the breach of trust that was the subject of MLB’s investigation, we will have no further comment on the investigation or MLB’s intended discipline.”

    It’s not clear exactly what form of punishment the league will impose on Gayo, though Rosenthal notes that the Pirates organization will not be penalized for Gayo’s actions. The Pirates, Huntington added in the press release, will begin an “exhaustive” search for a replacement.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Free Agent Rumblings: Walker, Cobb, Chatwood, Minor, Lucroy, Bautista]]> 2017-11-15T20:19:46Z 2017-11-15T20:19:46Z As major league organizations compete to bring home the shiniest new cars in Playoffville (Copyright Scott Boras), let’s check in on the latest rumored connections:

    • The Pirates have at least “some interest” in old friend Neil Walker, Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets. Morosi cites uncertainty surrounding Jung Ho Kang as driving the possibility of a reunion, though as’s Adam Berry writes, there’s another perspective on that subject, too. GM Neal Huntington says there’s still some hope that Kang will be able to return and finish his contract. If not, though, he feels the team is in good shape in the infield without him, due in part to the acquisition of Sean Rodriguez over the summer.
    • It seems there’s some mutual interest between the Cubs and righty Alex Cobb, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. That’s not a surprising connection, given the common roots with the Rays of Cobb and several key Cubs figures. The sides have engaged in preliminary discussions, though Wittenmyer’s sources tell him that contract particulars haven’t yet been broached.
    • Another starter getting a bite is Tyler Chatwood, in whom the Orioles have shown interest, per Morosi (via Twitter). That’s a connection that comes as little surprise. Baltimore is going to have to take some chances to fill out its staff, and Chatwood looks to be one of the market’s more interesting possibilities to provide value. He won’t turn 28 until December and has posted solid results outside of Coors Field, prompting MLBTR to predict a three-year deal (albeit at a relatively modest annual value). While Camden Yards and the AL East are an intimidating prospect for many pitchers, Chatwood at least has plenty of experience dealing with similar challenges.
    • The Mets are among the teams with interest in free agent southpaw Mike Minor, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. We’ve heard recently about New York’s desire to pursue impact relief pitching, and Minor certainly fits that mold. Given his past history as a starter and dominance against southpaws last year, the 29-year-old would provide quite a bit of functionality.
    • The Astros are showing some interest in free agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Lucroy could make for an interesting fit in Houston, though adding a backstop of that quality no doubt would represent a luxury for the team that already has most everything. Presumably, the ’Stros could plan to split time between Lucroy and fellow veteran Brian McCann, with the other spending quite a lot of time at DH (if not also some first base). Signing Lucroy could mean non-tendering Evan Gattis, though he might also be retained and also utilized in the same rotation. There are certainly some intriguing possibilities here, though Lucroy should also be pursued by others that might offer him significant time as a primary catcher.
    • It seems the Rays could again be a suitor for veteran slugger Jose Bautista, per Morosi (Twitter links). Talks haven’t really progressed to this point, but that’s hardly surprising — particularly since Tampa Bay’s entire offseason approach remains largely unclear. For his part, Bautista is said to be willing to spend time at DH or the corner infield, per agent Jay Alou.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Olney: Pirates Should Shop McCutchen, Cole]]> 2017-11-12T17:44:34Z 2017-11-12T17:44:34Z
  • With their control over outfielder Andrew McCutchen and right-hander Gerrit Cole dwindling, the Pirates would be wise to listen to offseason proposals for both players, Buster Olney of ESPN opines. McCutchen, who will make $14.5MM in the final year of his contract in 2018, will “almost certainly” be in another uniform in 2019, writes Olney. Cole, meanwhile, is controllable via arbitration through ’19, and Olney argues that now may be the time to move the Scott Boras client because the Pirates probably won’t be able to extend him. Elsewhere on the Bucs’ roster, Olney points to righty Ivan Nova and lights-out closer Felipe Rivero as speculative trade pieces. Nova’s unspectacular, but he’d garner interest as a capable innings eater who’s due an affordable $9.1MM-plus per annum through next year. Rivero is only entering the first of four arb-eligible years and would likely warrant a massive return for a reliever, leading Olney to conclude that the Pirates should consider dealing him.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Shohei Otani]]> 2017-11-08T20:25:06Z 2017-11-08T19:31:12Z 2:23pm: There’s a “tentative understanding” in place simply to extend the prior posting regime for another year, Sherman reports. The MLBPA has yet to weigh in on the subject, though, and there’s still not a final deal in place.

    1:31pm: In the wake of Shohei Otani’s decision to hire a MLBPA-certified player representative, it seems that there’ll be a renewed push to figure out a way to resolve the impasse that has threatened to derail his planned move to the majors. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that there’s a sense that the move will help facilitate an agreement that all involved will approve.

    Indeed, Otani’s reps at CAA are scheduled to “meet soon” with the player’s association to attempt to get on the same page in an effort to sort things out, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets. That’s just the first step here, of course, as Otani and the MLBPA will still need to engage with Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball — the two entities that are primarily negotiating a new system governing inter-league player transfers.

    The difficulties here are tied to two factors: first, MLB’s rules capping international bonuses on certain younger international free agents; and second, the expiration of the prior posting system. There was a time when Otani’s current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, might have auctioned Otani’s negotiating rights for something approaching or even exceeding nine figures while Otani might have commanded a guarantee of as much or more. Under the just-expired transfer system, the Fighters would at least have stood to receive the maximum allowable $20MM fee. But that’s no longer how things work.

    The transfer rules currently under contemplation would do away with the (up-to) $20MM flat-fee approach in favor of one that would allow the NPB team to earn a percentage of the bonus the posted player negotiates. If Otani was free to seek his market value, that wouldn’t likely pose a problem. But his earnings are now severely limited; while he is evidently at peace with that, his would-be former team is obviously not enamored of the possibility of losing its best player for what would be relative peanuts.

    Under MLB’s current international rules, MLB clubs can’t go past their international spending pools (as supplemented via trade) to sign Otani. Those are even more limited than might be realized, though, due to teams’ preexisting commitments with young international players. (This was already known, of course, though the details remained fuzzy.)

    According to a report from the Associated Press, only six teams even have enough uncommitted pool space to offer Otani seven figures. The Rangers ($3.535MM), Yankees ($3.25MM), and Twins ($3.245MM) easily lead the way, with the Pirates ($2.2MM+), Marlins ($1.74MM), and Mariners ($1.57MM+) also have some money to spend — or, perhaps, to trade to a would-be Otani suitor. For someone who is expected to be an immediate and significant contributor at the major-league level, that’s a pittance no matter the precise amount. Of course, he’ll also have a chance to make significant income off the field and through a future extension or trip through arbitration.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Outrighted: Twins, Phillies, Rays, Cardinals, Padres, Dodgers, Pirates]]> 2017-11-07T07:21:15Z 2017-11-07T03:40:14Z A variety of teams cleared 40-man space today. Some of the moves are reflected elsewhere on the site, but we’ll round up the others right here:

    • The Twins have outrighted catcher Chris Gimenez and left Ryan O’Rourke, as’ Rhett Bollinger tweets. Gimenez could have been retained for a projected $1MM arbitration salary, but Minnesota elected not to commit that much cash (and a roster spot) despite Gimenez’s 225 plate appearances of roughly league-average hitting in 2017. He tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer that he’ll likely elect to return to the open market, but would be open to a return (links to Twitter). As for O’Rourke, he was said to be exploring ways of hastening his return from Tommy John surgery, but Minnesota isn’t willing to gamble on the lefty’s recovery at this time.
    • Infielder Pedro Florimon and righty Jesen Therrien are now free agents after being outrighted off of the Phillies 40-man, per a club announcement. The 30-year-old Florimon has made his way onto a major league roster in each of the past seven seasons, compiling a .209/.269/.308 slash in 791 plate appearances but providing enough with the glove to keep earning return trips. The 24-year-old Therrien was knocked around in 15 relief appearances for the Phils this year, but did turn in 57 1/3 frames of 1.41 ERA ball (with 10.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9) during his time in the upper minors.
    • The Rays outrighted catcher Curt Casali, outfielder Cesar Puello, and righty Shawn Tolleson, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Casali played a bigger role on the 2016 MLB outfit and posted only a .698 OPS at Triple-A. The 26-year-old Puello has bounced around of late and struggled in a brief go at the bigs, but did manage a productive .327/.377/.526 slash in 379 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors (none of which came with a Tampa Bay affiliate). Tolleson required Tommy John surgery in May, so he’ll likely be looking for an organization to rehab with.
    • Departing the Cardinals’ 40-man were infielder Alex Mejia and catcher Alberto Rosario, according to’s Jenifer Langosch (via Twitter). Mejia struggled mightily in the bigs as a 26-year-old rookie, but slashed .291/.341/.413 in his 475 plate appearances in the upper minors. As for Rosario, who is thirty years of age, there just hasn’t been much opportunity for time behind the MLB plate.
    • Backstop Hector Sanchez and righty Tim Melville took free agency from the Padres after clearing outright waivers, per AJ Cassavell of (Twitter link). Sanchez, a 28-year-old switch-hitter who has seen action in each of the past seven MLB seasons, will surely be targeted as a depth acquisition by other organizations. Melville, who’s also 28, worked to a 2.95 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 76 1/3 Triple-A innings — his best results in the minors — but was bombed in brief MLB time.
    • The Dodgers outrighted first baseman/outfielder O’Koyea Dickson, as J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group tweets. Dickson, 27, briefly touched the majors in 2017 but spent the bulk of his time at Triple-A for the third-straight season. After putting up big numbers there in 2016, Dickson managed a career-best 24 home runs over 458 plate appearances in his most recent campaign, but slipped to a .328 on-base percentage.
    • Finally, the Pirates outrighted lefty Dan Runzler,’s Adam Berry reports on Twitter. He’ll head back to free agency after refusing an assignment. Runzler, 32, made it back to the majors after a four-year absence, but only saw four innings in eight appearances. He pitched to a 3.05 ERA in 41 1/3 Triple-A innings, managing only 7.8 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9 but also generating typically strong groundball numbers.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Nik Turley From Twins]]> 2017-11-06T20:53:22Z 2017-11-06T20:53:22Z The Pirates announced on Monday that they’ve claimed left-hander Nik Turley off waivers from the Twins.

    The 28-year-old Turley made his big league debut with the Twins this past season on the heels of excellent work in Triple-A, though he didn’t fare well in Minneapolis. Turley was rocked for 22 runs on 30 hits and eight walks with 13 strikeouts in 17 2/3 frames as a big leaguer, resulting in an 11.21 ERA. However, he tore through Double-A and Triple-A, pitching to a 2.02 ERA with 12.1 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 92 innings (most of which was spent at the Triple-A level).

    Turley becomes the third player the Twins have lost to waivers in the past week. Fellow left-hander Randy Rosario was claimed by the Cubs on Friday, while outfield prospect Daniel Palka was claimed by the White Sox a couple of days later.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Exercise Club Option Over Andrew McCutchen, Decline Chris Stewart & Wade LeBlanc]]> 2017-11-03T20:37:51Z 2017-11-03T19:30:00Z The Pirates have picked up their club option over outfielder Andrew McCutchen, per a club announcement. He’ll earn $14.5MM in the final year of his contract.

    Meanwhile, the Bucs have declined their options over catcher Chris Stewart and lefty Wade LeBlanc. The team also adds that LeBlanc has been outrighted to Triple-A.

    It comes as no surprise that Pittsburgh elected to retain McCutchen rather than paying a $1MM buyout. Stewart would have earned $1.5MM but will instead receive a $250K buyout. LeBlanc will take home a $50K buyout on his $1.25MM option.

    McCutchen, 31, turned things around after a tepid start to the 2017 campaign. He ended the year with a .279/.363/.486 batting line with 28 long balls and 11 steals over 650 plate appearances. That didn’t represent a full bounce all the way to back to his prior, MVP-level output, but certainly constituted a turnaround after a worrying 2016 season.

    The question remains though, whether the Bucs will end up keeping Cutch’s contract. He’ll be pursue by other organizations over the offseason, with the Pirates weighing a potential infusion of young talent against the loss of a high-quality and still-affordable player. Perhaps there’s still some faint possibility of the sides considering a new extension, but in truth that’s difficult to see happening.

    Stewart could end up back in Pittsburgh on a minors deal, but won’t be retained as the backup catcher after turning in a woeful .183/.241/.221 slash line in 2017. The 33-year-old LeBlanc, a soft-tossing southpaw, was perhaps a bit unlucky to post a 4.50 ERA in his 68 frames, but did not show the Pirates enough for his contract to be guaranteed for another year. LeBlanc, who continued to post his typical reverse platoon splits, will have the righty to elect free agency.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Extend Coaching Staff Through 2019]]> 2017-11-04T19:00:28Z 2017-11-03T13:22:36Z
  • After recently extending general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle, the Pirates announced yesterday that their entire coaching staff has been extended through the 2019 season. Hurdle’s current contract runs through the 2021 season. Renowned pitching coach Ray Searage is the most oft-discussed member of Hurdle’s staff, which also includes bench coach Tom Prince, first base coach Kimera Bartee, third base coach Joey Cora, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, hitting coach Jeff Branson and Major League coach Dave Jauss.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Joey Cora Staying With Pirates]]> 2017-10-28T21:57:36Z 2017-10-28T21:57:36Z
  • There was speculation that Pirates third base coach Joey Cora would join younger brother Alex Cora’s staff with the Red Sox, but that won’t be the case, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). Joey Cora will return to Pittsburgh for a second season in 2018.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Elected Free Agency: Siegrist, Edgin, Hutchison, Locke, Bolsinger, Van Slyke, Maness]]> 2017-10-23T20:42:38Z 2017-10-23T20:28:21Z The indispensable Matt Eddy of Baseball America provides an overview of a vast number of players electing free agency following the 2017 season in his latest Minor Transactions roundup. Eddy largely focuses on players with big league service time (significant service time, in some cases) that were outrighted off the roster that are now hitting the open market for the first time. (Players with three-plus years of service that are not on the 40-man roster at season’s end can elect free agency, as can any player that has been outrighted on multiple occasions in his career.)

    While the vast majority of these players seem likely to sign minor league pacts this winter — they did, after all, go unclaimed by 29 other teams on waivers — a number of them are still intriguing with recent success in their past and/or multiple years of arbitration eligibility remaining. Eddy’s rundown also contains a number of re-signed minor leaguers and released minor leaguers without big league experience as well as Arizona Fall League assignments on a per-team basis, so it’s well worth a full look.

    We’ve updated our list of 2017-18 MLB free agents accordingly, and here are some of the new names now checking in on the list…

    Depth options in the rotation

    Josh Collmenter, Asher Wojciechowski, Drew Hutchison, Jeff Locke, Kyle Kendrick, Mike Bolsinger, Christian Bergman, David Holmberg

    Collmenter is just two seasons removed from being the D-backs Opening Day starter but hasn’t had much success of late. Hutchison had solid Triple-A numbers and once looked like a long-term rotation piece in Toronto before Tommy John surgery. He can be controlled for another three seasons in arbitration. Locke was injured for most of an ugly first (and likely only) season in Miami, and Kendrick made just two starts for the Red Sox.

    Wojciechowski (6.50 ERA in 62 1/3 innings with the Reds), Bolsinger (6.31 ERA in 41 1/3 innings with the Jays), Bergman (5.00 ERA in 54 innings with the Mariners) and Holmberg (4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings with the White Sox) all soaked up innings for injury-plagued pitching staffs. Bolsinger has had the most MLB experience of the bunch.

    Corner Bats

    Scott Van Slyke, Tyler Moore, Cody Asche, Conor Gillaspie, Jaff Decker

    Van Slyke has long been a solid bat against left-handed pitching but appeared in just 29 games with the Dodgers and didn’t hit well with their Triple-A affiliate or with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate. (He was included in the Tony Cingrani trade to balance out the financial side of the deal.) Moore, also a right-handed bat, showed power but struggled to get on base.

    Once one of the Phillies’ top prospects, Asche hit well in Triple-A Charlotte but flopped in a brief stint with the ChiSox. Gillaspie was unable to replicate his 2016 rebound with the Giants, while Decker showed some on-base skills in the Majors and minors but didn’t hit much overall. (He can play center but hasn’t graded well there in the Majors.)

    Utility Infielders

    Ruben Tejada, Phil Gosselin, Dusty Coleman, Chase d’Arnaud

    Each of the four can play all over the diamond, but none provided offensive value in 2017. Tejada has the most big league experience but hasn’t received much playing time since 2015 (and hasn’t performed well when he has gotten opportunities). Gosselin has a solid defensive reputation but a light bat through 551 MLB PAs. Coleman hit four homers in 71 PAs in his MLB debut this year but logged a .268 OBP. d’Arnaud saw his fair share of 2016 action with the Braves but has never produced much at the plate.

    Bullpen options

    Kevin Siegrist (L), Josh Edgin (L), Seth Maness, Kevin Quackenbush

    Siegrist and Edgin are intriguing names for clubs in need of left-handed bullpen help. Both have recent success on their track records, though Edgin wasn’t as sharp in 2017 as he was prior to 2015 Tommy John surgery. Siegrist’s control eroded in 2017 as he missed time due to a back/spinal injury and tendinitis in his left forearm, but he was one of the Cardinals’ top setup options in both 2015 and 2016. Both lefties are controllable through 2019.

    Maness drew headlines for returning from a torn UCL in roughly seven months thanks to an experimental new “primary repair” procedure, but while he stayed healthy in 2017, the results weren’t great in the Majors and especially not in Triple-A (6.13 ERA in 47 innings). Quackenbush was excellent as a rookie in 2014 and solid in 2015-16 before imploding in 2017 (7.86 ERA in 26 1/3 innings). He was better but not great in Triple-A (3.90 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9). Maness could be controlled through 2019, while Quackenbush would have three more years of control.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Encouraged By Glasnow's Improved Velocity, Spin Rate]]> 2017-10-20T16:07:25Z 2017-10-20T16:07:25Z
  • Though Tyler Glasnow’s rookie season produced disastrous numbers at the MLB level, the Pirates were heartened by improvements he made in Triple-A following a June demotion, writes’s Adam Berry. Glasnow overhauled his mechanics last winter in an effort to improve his command, but he ultimately felt the changes adversely impacted his velocity and the overall quality of his secondary offerings. Glasnow went back to his old mechanics in Triple-A and utterly dominated minor league hitters (1.93 ERA, 13.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 in 93 1/3 innings). While he didn’t generate positive results in his September return to the bigs, Berry points out that his velocity and spin rate were both much improved. Glasnow should be in the mix for a rotation spot in Pittsburgh again next season, though the Bucs have a number of young MLB-ready options, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd pointed out in yesterday’s Offseason Outlook for the Pirates.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates]]> 2017-10-24T15:15:17Z 2017-10-20T02:36:31Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here for the other entries in this series.

    The Pirates stumbled in 2017, but can bring back much the same core group of talent that was expected to support a contender.

    Guaranteed Contracts

    • Gregory Polanco, OF: $32MM through 2021 (includes buyouts on club options for 2022 & 2023)
    • Francisco Cervelli, C: $22MM through 2019
    • Starling Marte, OF: $20.5MM through 2019 (includes buyouts on club options for 2020 & 2021)
    • Ivan Nova, SP: $17MM through 2019
    • Josh Harrison, IF: $11.5MM through 2018 (includes buyouts on club options for 2019 & 2020)
    • Daniel Hudson, RP: $5.5MM through 2018
    • Sean Rodriguez, IF/OF: $5MM through 2018
    • David Freese, IF: $4.75MM through 2018 (includes buyout on 2019 club option)
    • Jung Ho Kang, IF: $3MM through 2018 (includes buyout on club option for 2019; will not earn salary unless/until reinstated from restricted list)

    Contract Options

    Arbitration-Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLBTR & Matt Swartz)

    Free Agents

    [Pirates Depth Chart; Pirates Payroll Information]

    The spending complaints constantly nagging Pirates owner Bob Nutting are unlikely ever really to go away. They reached new heights in a disappointing 2017 campaign, amidst a few eyebrow raising decisions, and will once again feature over the winter.

    That said, the Pittsburgh franchise’s well-established financial approach gives us a pretty clear idea of what it has to work with in the offseason to come. The Bucs have not yet topped $100MM in Opening Day salaries, landing just shy of that figure in each of the past two seasons. In all likelihood, that’ll be the general target for 2018.

    If that’s the case, GM Neal Huntington — who was extended along with skipper Clint Hurdle at the end of the season — is going to have to get creative to bring in any significant outside additions. With around $60MM in guaranteed money, $20MM in expected arbitration commitments, and $14.5MM to pick up Andrew McCutchen’s option, the team is already pushing last year’s Opening Day payroll without accounting for the rest of the roster.

    Of course, it may be that the Pirates won’t pursue any major changes in their roster composition. And the team surely feels it already made some allotments for 2018 and beyond with the midseason additions of Sean Rodriguez and George Kontos.

    But that’s not to say there aren’t any areas in need of improvement, or paths to changing the team’s composition. As ever, the chief question is utterly simple and endlessly complex: will this be the stage when the Pirates finally trade their franchise icon?

    Dealing McCutchen would remove a key player and major gate draw. It could well stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy. But it also represents a potential opportunity to open significant payroll space and acquire quality young talent in one fell swoop.

    Cutch only just turned 31 years of age. While he’s clearly no longer the mega-star he once was, he also just wrapped up a strong season in which he put to rest some of the worst fears after a tepid 2016. McCutchen slashed .279/.363/.486 and launched 28 long balls while playing in over 150 games for the seventh time in eight seasons. He did not exactly excel defensively after moving back to center field, but did improve in the eyes of Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Most rivals would likely consider him a target to fill a corner spot.

    Andrew McCutchen (featured)

    It’s as difficult as ever to guess at McCutchen’s value. He’s a pure rental now, so it can only be so great. But the appeal is obvious, too: he’s not that old, is a highly respected player with a huge established ceiling, and represents a short-term alternative to an always-risky foray into the long-term contracts of the open market. Huntington & Co. will need to ponder whether there’s a particular combination of cost savings and assets received that will improve the team’s long-term outlook without harming the immediate product too badly. A return centered on lower-level prospects might offer the greatest future value, but could be a difficult move to make with the Pirates having some compelling young talent already playing at the major league level.

    If the Pirates seriously consider moving McCutchen, that’d open questions about the outfield mix. Austin Meadows has yet to force his way into the MLB mix, though perhaps the club will anticipate a mid-season arrival from him. Jose Osuna will likely continue to factor, though he’ll need to improve, and the presence of versatile players such as Rodriguez and Adam Frazier will help with a hypothetical transition. Still, it stands to reason that the team would look to add another outfield piece, if not in the deal itself then through a value-seeking free-agent signing.

    Otherwise, the position-player mix could largely carry forward in its present state. There could be some excess infielders if Jung Ho Kang finds his way back, though there’s no expectation of that as of yet. Even if he doesn’t, there’s loads of upper-level depth, so the club could even entertain a deal involving Josh Harrison, though that would make for a tough sell and an unfortunate loss of versatility. Some fiddling with the bench is always possible, especially if the Pirates see an interesting name lingering on the open market as Spring Training nears. Mostly, though, the Pirates simply need to hope that Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco restore their trajectories; that Josh Bell expands upon a promising season; that Francisco Cervelli gets healthy; and that the variety of other pieces on hand combine to fill in the gaps.

    If there’s one obvious way to attempt to improve on the position-player side, though, it’s likely at short. Jordy Mercer is no longer all that cheap and has not really delivered as a regular at the position in recent years. Pittsburgh could conceivably seek to take advantage of a lack of demand at the position to land Zack Cozart, though he comes with a spotty health record and will be more expensive (and over a longer term) than is Mercer. Buy-low trade targets with future control remaining include Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, Jonathan Villar of the Brewers, and Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals, though the Pirates have their own rising talents in Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker and therefore might focus mostly on 2018. The Bucs could also conceivably serve as a landing spot for Jose Iglesias or Adeiny Hechavarria, though both figure to cost nearly as much as Mercer. Pittsburgh could instead seek greater value in free agency, which features a variety of veterans — J.J. Hardy and Alcides Escobar among them — that will likely end up settling for affordable deals.

    Less likely, but also hypothetically plausible, would be a move to reduce costs behind the dish. The catching position is thin enough leaguewide that some other teams might be willing to take on Cervelli’s contract, even though he has been a below-average offensive producer over the past two years and managed only 81 games in an injury-plagued 2017 season. The Bucs would have alternatives, including giving more time to Elias Diaz, picking up the cheap option over Chris Stewart, and signing one of the many veteran free agents that seem likely to settle for relatively marginal guarantees on short-term deals.

    Beyond the ever-present Cutch question, though, perhaps the most intriguing trade possibilities surround righty Gerrit Cole. Though the 27-year-old power pitcher stumbled to a career-worst 4.26 ERA, due largely to a big jump in homers (31), he still carries an ace’s arsenal and a history of quality results. Plus, Cole took the ball for 33 starts and 203 innings last year.

    Outside interest will be robust, and could even be strong enough to pique the Pirates’ interest, though moving Cole would arguably create an even tougher hole to patch than any such action regarding McCutchen. Pittsburgh’s rotation produced more hand-wringing than its middle-of-the-pack performance might suggest, and there’s plenty of talent in the mix, but there’s also no question that removing Cole would slice away a good bit of the staff’s upside and floor. Unless Huntington can engineer a slam-dunk deal to acquire a quality and controllable position player who’d step into everyday duties, it’s tough to see how such a transaction could make sense for the Pirates (or any hypothetical trade partners).

    Otherwise, the rotation seems likely to closely resemble its 2017 form. Ivan Nova continues to look like a strong value. Jameson Taillon will hope to line up his results with his peripherals after putting testicular cancer in the rear-view mirror. Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams were each useful through over 150 frames in 2017; while their outlooks aren’t crystal clear, both at least profile as affordable sources of innings. And there are other interesting arms pressing for longer looks. Tyler Glasnow leads a list that also includes Steven Brault and Nick Kingham. That’s quite a lot of affordable and flexible (i.e., optionable) depth, even if most of the hurlers have yet to establish themselves fully (or at all) in the majors.

    If the Pirates are to look for veteran pitching reclamation projects this winter, Tyler Chatwood has the features (velocity, groundball production) that has held appeal to the team in the past. But he will likely also draw attention from other organizations and will perhaps be more costly than the Pirates prefer given their existing slate of options. But there’s no shortage of other notable players that will be looking for an opportunity — ranging from Chris Tillman to hurlers such as Hector Santiago, Tyson Ross, and Ubaldo Jimenez — and will likely be available for quite a bit less. Should the team find an appealing target at a good price, it’s even possible that it could market one of its controllable starters to address another need.

    Generally, though, the front office’s focus could land more on finding relief arms than on bolstering the rotation. The Bucs oversaw the full emergence last year of Felipe Rivero, but otherwise face quite a few questions in the relief corps. Daniel Hudson will hope to improve in the second year of his deal. Kontos gives the team another established arm at a reasonable price. A.J. Schugel produced excellent results, though they outstripped his peripherals, while the club also worked in younger pitchers such as Johnny Barbato and Dovydas Neverauskas. Still, with late-inning stalwarts Juan Nicasio and Tony Watson now out of the picture, there’s clearly room for additions. Just how much cash the Pirates have to dole out will no doubt depend upon how the team decides to proceed in the areas discussed above.

    Fan scrutiny of the Pirates is plenty understandable. But those faithful to the Jolly Roger shouldn’t lose hope prematurely, as there’s still the makings of a quality core in place in Pittsburgh. While uncertainty still weighs on the club’s 2018 outlook, it’s also not difficult to imagine several paths to fielding a quality outfit once again.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates May Not Make Significant Roster Changes This Winter]]> 2017-10-05T16:28:38Z 2017-10-05T13:46:17Z
  • This winter holds as much or more uncertainty for the Pirates, though it’s not at all clear there’ll be much roster change. Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tackles some fan questions in an interesting read. He predicts that, so long as the team doesn’t find trades for significant players, it will likely keep the same essential form as it had this year. (Side note: best wishes to Stephen as he transitions off of the beat into a new role, as he discusses in the link.)
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Andrew McCutchen Is Key To Pirates' Offseason]]> 2017-10-04T00:44:45Z 2017-10-04T00:43:04Z
  • Andrew McCutchen is the key figure of this Pirates offseason, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, as the team faces a big decision about trading the long-time star outfielder.  Dealing McCutchen would essentially mark the end of an era for the franchise, though it would free up $14.5MM in payroll for 2018 (Brink rightly figures McCutchen’s club option is sure to be exercised by the Pirates) that could then be used to fill other roster holes.  McCutchen turns 31 next week and is coming off a solid 2017 season that revived his value following a very disappointing 2016 campaign.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[John Jaso Considering Retirement]]> 2017-10-02T02:50:07Z 2017-10-02T02:50:07Z John Jaso may have played his last big league game, he told reporters (including Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and’s Adam Berry) following the Pirates’ season-ender today.  “Honestly, this is probably it for me, as far as baseball goes,” the veteran utilityman said, though he stopped short of entirely confirming his retirement.  “We’ll see. I mean I can’t say anything for sure. I can’t really tell you what the future holds or whatever. But if I left now, it would be a really good feeling to leave right now, if I did. These last couple of years with the Pirates were good. It’s just taking that step and being brave enough to do it. For most of us, this is all we know. There’s a lot of those ’what ifs’ and ’buts’ and everything like that. That stuff kind of scares you when you have to make a decision like this. There’s a lot of excitement out there that I’m looking forward to. I feel ready to make that step.

    If this is it for Jaso, the 34-year-old will be hanging up the spikes after 2591 career PA over parts of nine seasons with the Rays, Mariners, A’s and (for the last two seasons) Pirates.  Injuries and struggles against left-handed pitching limited Jaso’s usage as an everyday player, though he was very productive in various part-time capacities.  Jaso posted good career splits against right-handed pitching and was an above-average run producer overall in six of his eight full seasons, finishing with a 115 wRC+ for his career.  If this it for Jaso, we wish him congratulations on a fine career and we tip our hats to his most immediate postseason endeavor — helping with relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Andrew McCutchen Will Stay In Center In 2018]]> 2017-10-01T21:50:01Z 2017-10-01T21:50:01Z
  • Andrew McCutchen will remain in center field if he’s still on the Pirates next year, general manager Neal Huntington told Adam Berry of and other media Sunday. From 2009-16, McCutchen lined up exclusively in center field, but after an especially poor showing in the grass last year, the Pirates shifted him to right in favor of Starling Marte. McCutchen took over again in center after Major League Baseball gave Marte an 80-game suspension in April for using performance-enhancing drugs and never relinquished the position. For the fourth year in a row, advanced metrics gave unfavorable reviews to McCutchen’s work in center (minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-4.4 Ultimate Zone Rating), but he did have a bounce-back season at the plate after a down 2016. Looking ahead to the offseason, picking up McCutchen’s $14.5MM club option for 2018, his final year of team control, should be a no-brainer for the Pirates. However, it’s possible they’ll shop him again after doing so last winter.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Williams Makes Case For No. 4 Spot In Pirates' Rotation]]> 2017-09-27T23:12:06Z 2017-09-27T23:12:06Z
  • Right-hander Trevor Williams has somewhat quietly made a strong case for a spot in the Pirates’ 2018 rotation, writes’s Adam Berry. The Bucs are banking on Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova to hold down the top three spots in the rotation, and Williams’ quality run over his past 24 outings has perhaps earned him the next spot in the starting five. In that time, he’s worked to a 3.65 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 49.9 percent ground-ball rate. He’s averaged 5 2/3 innings per start in that time, so the Pirates would probably prefer to see him work deeper into games with greater frequency, but Williams certainly looks like a viable rotation piece moving forward.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Latest On Jung Ho Kang]]> 2017-09-25T22:38:49Z 2017-09-25T22:38:49Z
  • Pirates’ infielder Jung Ho Kang has been granted an exemption to play in the Dominican Winter League despite being on the restricted list, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Kang has not earned any salary or service time during the 2017 season, because the Department of State denied his application for a visa after a third drunk driving incident in his home country of South Korea. Major League Baseball and the MLBPA reached an agreement to allow Kang to play in winter ball in the offseason in hopes that he can get a visa for 2018.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Nicasio, Kang]]> 2017-09-24T20:12:32Z 2017-09-24T20:12:32Z The Pirates controversially parted with reliever Juan Nicasio in a money-saving move last month, but the now-Cardinal and impending free agent would be open to an offseason return to the Bucs, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “Yes, I would consider it. I liked it there a lot,” said Nicasio, who joined Pittsburgh prior to the 2016 season. It’s unclear whether the Pirates will pursue Nicasio over the winter, but he has put himself in position to secure a nice deal from them or someone else with his output this year. In 69 innings divided among Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and St. Louis, the 31-year-old has posted a 2.74 ERA with 8.74 K/9, 2.35 BB/9 and a 45.9 percent groundball rate.

    More from Pittsburgh and two other NL cities:

    • The Nationals plan to activate right fielder Bryce Harper for their series opener against the Phillies on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets. Harper left the Nats’ game against San Francisco on Aug. 12 after suffering a gruesome-looking knee injury, thus derailing an MVP-caliber campaign, but he’ll have a chance to be a major factor in October for the World Series hopefuls.
    • Giants right-hander Matt Cain sounded uncertain on Saturday when discussing whether he plans to continue his career in 2018, Chris Haft of writes. What’s clear is that the Giants will buy out the former front-line starter’s $21MM club option in favor of a $7.5MM buyout in the offseason, ending a fruitful tenure in the Bay Area. While the 32-year-old Cain is in the midst of a fourth straight rough season, he has been outstanding for the majority of his career in San Francisco, where he has won three World Series and earned three All-Star nods since debuting in 2005.
    • Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang won’t need to come off the restricted list to participate in the Dominic Winter League, general manager Neal Huntington told Adam Berry of and other reporters Sunday (Twitter link). Kang is already in the Dominican Republic and working out with his winter ball team, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Their season begins Oct. 20, and playing for them will represent his first game action since the 2016 major league season. Kang hasn’t been able to secure a U.S. work visa since earning his third DUI charge in his native South Korea last winter. The Pirates will set an offseason deadline to decide whether they can count on Kang for 2018, according to Huntington. “We’ll get to a point in time where, if we still don’t know, we’ll plan as if he’s not going to be here,” he said. “If he is able to secure a visa to get into the country, we’ll have an extra really good player.”
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jung Ho Kang Discusses Hopeful Return To Majors]]> 2017-09-21T15:53:24Z 2017-09-21T15:23:13Z
  • In a piece that’s not altogether unrelated to Kang’s situation, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analyzes the thin margin of error the Pirates front office has to work with in light of the team’s still-limited payroll. GM Neal Huntington notes the need to find “significant value outside of the free-agent market” as well as the imperative to “get more than just a dollar-for-dollar value” in free agency. The piece highlights the challenges facing the just-extended executive as he seeks to position the Bucs for contention once again.
  • Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang discussed his attempt to return to the majors with Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap (here and here). Kang derailed his career when he drove under the influence of alcohol in his native Korea — the third time he has been arrested for a DUI — with a subsequent conviction leaving him unable to obtain a visa to work in the United States. Now, as he prepares to play in the Dominican Winter League, Kang says he hopes “to become a better person and a better player.” Whether or not he’ll be able to return to action in the majors — in 2018 or beyond — will ultimately depend upon the U.S. government.