MLB Trade Rumors » » Pittsburgh Pirates 2017-10-22T19:41:29Z 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.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates]]> 2017-10-20T02:36:31Z 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.)
  • ]]>
    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.
  • ]]>
    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.
  • ]]>
    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.
  • ]]>
    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.
  • ]]>
    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.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Francisco Cervelli Will Not Return This Year]]> 2017-09-18T20:27:40Z 2017-09-18T20:27:40Z Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli will be shut down for the rest of the year, manager Clint Hurdle tells reporters including’s Adam Berry (via Twitter). Hurdle says there simply isn’t enough time for the backstop to make it back from his quad injury.

    While the Bucs don’t need Cervelli to make a push for the postseason — that ship sailed a while back — it’s disappointing for his season to end this year. The veteran has been out since mid-August (apart from a one-game effort to return) and has missed out on a chance to work with the club’s young pitching staff down the stretch.

    Cervelli’s absence also means he won’t have a chance to bounce back from his rough finish to the year. Over his final 17 games, Cervelli posted only a .132/.220/.151 slash with twenty strikeouts. Of course, Cervelli was much better at the plate over the full course of the season. But he has produced less than the league average with the bat over the past two years and tanked recently in the framing department (after previously ranking among the game’s best).

    All said, the Pirates haven’t made out quite as well as they hoped when they inked Cervelli to a three-year, $31MM extension early in the 2016 season. While the team can still expect to get value out of the 31-year-old over the next two campaigns, he’ll need to boost his performance to warrant the $22MM he is still owed.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Huntington On Decision To Outright Hutchison]]> 2017-09-18T17:56:38Z 2017-09-18T17:52:56Z Following this weekend’s outright of Drew Hutchison, Pirates GM Neal Huntington spoke to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the decision to move on from the right-hander, who is now very likely to become a free agent at season’s end. While Hutchison was the lone return the Pirates received in exchange for dumping Francisco Liriano’s contract and sending two prospects to the Blue Jays, Huntington indicated that he’s been passed on the depth chart by other arms. “We traded for him with the idea that he was a controllable, young starter that could fill a rotation spot for years to come,” said Huntington. “We just also decided this year that the growth and development of our guys put them ahead of him.” The Pirates have relied heavily upon Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow to make starts behind Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon this season. With Hutchison eligible for arbitration this winter, the lack of room in the rotation makes his removal from the 40-man roster is essentially the same as non-tendering him several months in advance.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Huntington On Collaboration Between Statcast, Traditional Scouting]]> 2017-09-18T14:48:13Z 2017-09-18T14:24:57Z
  • Fangraphs’ Travis Sawchik spoke to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington about the growing presence of Statcast in today’s game and how technology can coexist with teams’ scouting departments. While some see the advent of Statcast as a threat to the scouting community, Huntington — a former advance scout — suggests that the technology could instead be an advantage to scouts. Rather than tracking the minutia of a game — pitch location, batted ball outcomes, etc. — scouts can instead be freed to watch more intangible elements of the game, such as player makeup, baserunning instincts, body language, etc. “It’s one thing to say, ‘The route was efficient, the jump was X, the max speed was Y,'” said Huntington. “It’s another thing to understand defensive instincts. How engaged he away from the ball? Is he a spectator or a participant?”
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Huntington Explains Hutchison Outright]]> 2017-09-18T04:36:11Z 2017-09-18T04:36:11Z
  • The Pirates’ decision to outright Drew Hutchison was simply due to a pitching surplus, GM Neal Huntington told Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other media.  “It was more things beyond Drew’s control.  We traded for him with the idea that he was a controllable, young starter that could fill a rotation spot for years to come,” Huntington said.  “We just also decided this year that the growth and development of our guys put them ahead of him….we felt like we had guys that we wanted to give the innings to at the Major League level ahead of him.  Time will tell if that was the right call.”  Huntington praised Hutchison and said that cutting ties with him now will give the young righty more time to find another team, rather than waiting until December to be non-tendered.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Outright Drew Hutchison]]> 2017-09-16T01:12:47Z 2017-09-16T00:58:18Z The Pirates have outrighted right-hander Drew Hutchison from the 40-man roster, as John Dreker of Pirates Prospects first reported. Hutchison has already cleared waivers.

    Hutchison earned $2.3MM this year and would be eligible for arbitration for two more campaigns. But he never made it up to the majors in 2017 and clearly was destined for a non-tender. Hutchison is now slated to qualify as a minor-league free agent at the end of the year, as Dreker notes.

    Though it was largely inevitable — in substance, if not in timing or process — the move isn’t likely to be terribly well-received by Pirates fans. Many of the Pittsburgh faithful have already been incensed by the team’s decision to allow reliever Juan Nicasio to depart via outright waivers, a move that ultimately saw him end up closing games for the division-rival Cardinals as they seek to make a postseason run.

    Hutchison has been a target of some ire ever since he was acquired in a controversial deal at last year’s trade deadline. That late-breaking swap sent two prospects — Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire — to the Blue Jays along with the expensive contract of Francisco Liriano. While the Bucs insisted they had real interest in adding Hutchison, there was clearly a financial motivation at play as well.

    It doesn’t help, of course, that Hutchison has not contributed since arriving in Pittsburgh. Once a highly regarded young starter, he faltered in Toronto evidently hasn’t shown enough since finding his way to an organization oft lauded for its pitching turnarounds. Hutchison appeared briefly in the majors last year but hasn’t appeared for the Pirates in 2017, despite occupying a 40-man spot and earning his arb salary all year long. He does own a 3.56 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 through 159 1/3 Triple-A frames, but clearly the Bucs were not confident that he’d carry that into the majors.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[2017 Rule 5 Roundup]]> 2017-09-14T16:14:45Z 2017-09-14T14:15:17Z With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:


    It isn’t official yet, but these

    • Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
    • Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
    • Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
    • Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
    • Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.

    Still In Limbo

    • Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
    • Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
    • Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
    • Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.

    Kept By Other Means

    • Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.

    Already Returned

    • Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
    • Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
    • Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
    • Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
    • Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
    • Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
    • Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
    • Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Searage Extension, Leathersich, Kang, Cervelli]]> 2017-09-14T01:42:48Z 2017-09-14T01:42:48Z The Pirates have agreed to a two-year extension with renowned pitching coach Ray Searage, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Searage, who is widely touted as one of the top pitching coaches in the game, was on a contract that expired at the end of the current campaign but is now locked up through the 2019 campaign. The Pirates have gained a reputation for revitalizing pitchers coming off down stretches, thanks to the resurgences of arms like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Edinson Volquez, Ivan Nova and Juan Nicasio, among others. Searage and former special assistant Jim Benedict — he’s now with the Marlins — receive a great deal of the credit for those successful reclamation projects. Biertempfel’s report also includes “educated speculation” on the fates of the rest of recently extended manager Clint Hurdle’s coaching staff, so Bucs fans will want to check it out in full.

    Here’s more out of the Steel City…

    • Left-hander Jack Leathersich spoke to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the late waiver claim that sent him from the Cubs organization to the Pirates as well as his quick return from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps predictably, given the abbreviated nature of his rehab period, the 27-year-old Leathersich struggled upon his initial return. “I was back in games in 10 months, but I just couldn’t recover,” Leathersich tells Brink.“So I’d throw and then the next two days were pretty miserable.” As Brink notes, however, Leathersich clearly got stronger as the season carried on; he didn’t allow a run and posted a 29-to-10 K/BB ratio over his final 18 innings with Triple-A Iowa before being designated for assignment and claimed by Pittsburgh.
    • Brink also writes that Jung Ho Kang has a roster spot in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, but it’s not yet clear if he’ll get approval to play there this offseason, as he’s still on the Pirates’ restricted list. Kang has still been unable to obtain a work visa to enter the United States on the heels of this past offseason’s DUI arrest — his third DUI charge in his native South Korea. Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle said he’d travel to the Dominican Republic to meet with Kang in person and watch him on the field if he is indeed cleared to play, per Brink.
    • Injured catcher Francisco Cervelli still hopes to return this season,’s Adam Berry writes. Cervelli took batting practice and ran today but has yet to be able to crouch behind the plate as he recovers from an ailing quadriceps. As Berry notes, the team’s preference would be to allow Cervelli to enter the offseason feeling healthy and confident, which is also why they’ve opted not to shut down Gregory Polanco, who recently returned from a hamstring issue. Cervelli is in the first season of a three-year, $31MM contract and has been limited to 81 games with a .249/.342/.370 slash line in 2017.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest Pirates Roster Moves]]> 2017-09-11T02:36:45Z 2017-09-11T02:36:09Z
  • The Pirates selected the contract of southpaw Dan Runzler from Triple-A Indianapolis while shifting Josh Harrison to the 60-day DL to create roster space.  Runzler appeared in 89 games (72 1/3 IP) for the Giants from 2009-12 but hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since, bouncing from the Arizona and Minnesota farm systems over the last two years before signing a minors deal with Pittsburgh last winter.  The Pirates also announced a number of minor league callups, as catcher Jacob Stallings, left-hander Jack Leathersich and right-handers Tyler Glasnow, Edgar Santana and Johnny Barbato will all join the big league roster.
  • ]]>
    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Three Needs: Pittsburgh Pirates]]> 2017-09-10T22:51:31Z 2017-09-10T22:38:54Z With less than a month remaining in the regular season, many teams still have plenty of fall drama ahead. Many clubs, though, are already looking to 2018. With that in mind, here’s the latest entry in our Three Needs series. You can track other entries in the series here.

    For a team currently in the midst of a 67-76 season in which nearly everything went wrong, the Pirates have surprisingly few pronounced holes. That isn’t to say that it will be impossible for them to find ways to improve, only that they have reasonable possibilities in place for 2018 at most key roster spots. A player like Jordy Mercer is representative of the Pirates’ situation right now — he’s in the midst of a decent .254/.328/.404 season and is clearly a capable starting shortstop, but he’s also only notched two wins above replacement once in his career. A team with the resources and/or inclination to aggressively pursue upgrades over the reasonable, established assets they already have might look to add a starting shortstop, but it doesn’t seem especially likely the Pirates will. The Bucs also already did address what might otherwise have been a key offseason priority with their in-season trade to reacquire Sean Rodriguez, which bolstered the infield depth they lost due to Jung Ho Kang’s visa issues.

    With that in mind, here are some areas the Bucs might address over the winter. A variety of somewhat dramatic approaches would seem defensible for the Pirates over the next few months, and with a number of key veterans potentially nearing the ends of their careers in Pittsburgh, the Bucs will have to at least consider some of them. If they do take dramatic action, though, they appear likely to do so by trading high-value veterans rather than adding them, although they could also pursue somewhat of a mixed strategy, dealing away some veteran salaries in order to bolster a decent base of young talent with veteran free agents.

    [Related: Pittsburgh Pirates Depth Chart and Payroll Outlook]

    1. Figure out what to do with Andrew McCutchenIn what’s become a semiannual tradition for the Pirates, they’ll attempt this offseason to chart a course for Andrew McCutchen, on whom they have a $14.5MM option or a $1M buyout in his last winter before free agency. McCutchen has posted a .583 OPS in August and .536 in September, but two very hot months this June and July should ease fears of a steep decline following a poor 2016 season. This time, of course, the Pirates can only offer suitors one season of McCutchen, but from the Bucs’ perspective, at least they can offer a McCutchen whose .273/.363/.467 line and improved defensive work look like significant upgrades on the McCutchen they had on offer last winter. The Pirates nearly traded Cutch to the Nationals then, and it seems very likely they’ll strongly consider trading McCutchen for young talent this winter, too.

    2. If McCutchen goes, figure out what happens next. The Pirates are already pretty far removed from the Bucs teams that made three straight playoff appearances from 2013 through 2015, but dealing a franchise player like McCutchen would sever ties with the past even more decisively. Actually, whether the Bucs deal McCutchen or not, they need to develop a plan (or, more likely, continue implementing a plan that understandably hasn’t completely been publicly articulated) that’s designed to get them back to the playoffs at some point in the future. Neither of their last two teams have been good enough, and it’s not yet clear that the next wave of young assets (including Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow and Felipe Rivero) form a good enough core by themselves to return the team to glory, even though all of them are clearly useful or at least have the potential to be. With all that in mind, the possibility of a McCutchen trade raises obvious questions about other veterans the Pirates might trade, including Gerrit Cole and Josh Harrison. Other names, like those of David Freese and Francisco Cervelli, could be bandied about as well.

    The Pirates can control Cole for two more years, and with his pedigree, stuff, and performance, he’d undoubtedly yield plenty of talent coming back. The Bucs might not be able to top the fine returns the Athletics and White Sox received in dealing controllable veteran starters Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana, respectively, but they’d be able to point to those trades as potential starting points.

    Harrison’s season is now over due to a broken finger, but he could be on the market this winter as well. After a solid .272/.339/.432 2017 campaign, he’s pretty clearly an asset, particularly given the structure of what remains on his contract — he’ll make a modest $10MM in 2018, and the team that controls him will also have relatively cheap options for both 2019 and 2020. That makes Harrison a very low risk for any team that might acquire him. The fact that he’s capable at both second and third could also create a variety of potential fits.

    Any big trades the Pirates do make will create other potential decisions that could shape their winter. After Meadows’ injury-plagued season, the Bucs probably won’t be comfortable with having him replace McCutchen right away, which might mean they’ll look for outfield depth if they trade McCutchen. The same could be true of the infield should Harrison be traded. The Pirates would also have to determine how much space, if any, they want to carve out for interesting but lesser-known young players like outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff. (From there, the Pirates can sort out the composition of their bench, perhaps adding a left-handed bat to replace free agent John Jaso.) If the Bucs were to trade Cole, they’d have a variety of young options to take his place, but it also wouldn’t be a shock if they looked for a veteran starter to provide stability.

    3. Look for bullpen help. The Bucs’ recent trade of Tony Watson and their bizarre loss of Juan Nicasio on waivers have left their relief corps a bit thin. (Of course, both players would have been eligible for free agency after the season anyway.) The team recently made one significant move to improve the 2018 bullpen by claiming George Kontos from the Giants, but they’ll likely make one or two more this winter to add to a group currently headed by Rivero and Daniel Hudson. Like many teams, the Bucs have young or young-ish arms that could play bigger roles in next season’s ’pen, like Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas. The Bucs’ bullpen does, however, currently appear short on both veteran stability and overall talent. A buy-low move or two like the one that landed Hudson last winter wouldn’t be a surprise.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Starling Marte Talks Career, PED Suspension]]> 2017-09-10T20:26:38Z 2017-09-10T20:26:38Z
  • Starling Marte talks to’s Marly Rivera (also, here is the link to the interview in its original Spanish) about his life, career and how he is trying to come back from the 80-game PED suspension that marred both his season and his reputation.  The Pirates outfielder said he still doesn’t know how nandrolone got into his system, though ultimately, “it was my mistake” for not being careful about everything he ingested.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Details On How Juan Nicasio Deal Came About]]> 2017-09-07T04:57:38Z 2017-09-07T04:17:19Z
  • There are a few more details available on the strange circumstances that led to the Cardinals acquiring reliever Juan Nicasio from the Phillies earlier today– but without the ability to utilize him in the postseason. A team other than the Cards won the claim for Nicasio when the Pirates put him on trade waivers in August (only to pull him back when no deal was reached), per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Rather, it may actually have been yet another NL Central rival — the Cubs — that had the highest-priority claim on Nicasio last month, per Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — which would mean the Cards bypassed a shot at adding him at that time. In any event, St. Louis did place a successful claim this time around, when the Phillies ran him through trade waivers after acquiring him via outright waivers on the last day of August, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cardinals Acquire Juan Nicasio]]> 2017-09-06T19:03:19Z 2017-09-06T18:34:24Z The Phillies announced that they have traded right-hander Juan Nicasio to the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielder Eliezer Alvarez. Philadelphia had recently claimed Nicasio off outright waivers from the Pirates. Nicasio will give the Cardinals’ bullpen a boost, though since he’s been acquired after Aug. 31, he won’t be eligible for the postseason roster if St. Louis qualifies. Nicasio is a free agent after the season.

    Juan Nicasio | Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsNicasio’s time with the Phillies will last all of a week, bringing to a close one of the more puzzling sequences in recent August trade history. The Pirates were unable to pass Nicasio through revocable trade waivers last month, ultimately pulling him back off waivers and placing him on outright waivers and instead losing him to the Phillies, who had top waiver priority, for nothing other than salary relief that amounted to roughly $600K.

    The move was confusing enough that Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington felt the need to explain the team’s rationale to the media. Per Huntington, Nicasio was claimed by a “playoff-caliber” team on trade waivers — it’s not clear if that Cardinals were that club, though it’d make sense — and the Bucs opted to place him on outright waivers in hopes of getting him to an AL contender rather than helping a “direct competitor.” (Trade waivers are league-specific, whereas outright waiver priority ignores league and is solely determined in reverse order of MLB standings.)

    Nicasio will ultimately end up with a direct competitor of the Pirates anyhow, though he won’t be able to pitch in the postseason. Moreover, the Phillies will make out extremely well in this deal, as Alvarez entered the season ranked 10th on Baseball America’s list of the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects. He currently ranks 19th among St. Louis farmhands in the eyes of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of In essence, the Phillies were able to claim a Cardinals prospect off waivers, which ultimately cost them about $138K in terms of salary (the pro-rated portion of Nicasio’s week-long tenure with the team).

    For the Cardinals, Nicasio immediately becomes one of their best relievers. Through 61 1/3 innings, Nicasio has averaged 8.95 K/9, 2.64 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate en route to an excellent 2.79 ERA. The 31-year-old has averaged a career-best 95.4 mph on his heater in 2017 and is sporting a 10.7 percent swinging-strike rate that would rank third among current St. Louis relievers (not including the injured Trevor Rosenthal, who led the team’s bullpen in that regard).

    Alvarez, 23 next month, has spent the season with St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate, hitting .247/.321/.382 with four homers and eight steals (in 11 tries). Those numbers don’t immediately stand out, though it’s worth noting that Alvarez skipped Class-A Advanced entirely and was considerably younger than the league average in Double-A.

    Callis and Mayo note in their free scouting report that Alvarez has a line-drive approach with a knack for making hard contact and could eventually grow into more power. He’s an above-average runner and could profile as a regular at second base down the line if everything breaks right for him. Alvarez was added to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so he’ll go onto the Phillies’ 40-man roster and fill the spot that was vacated by trading Nicasio.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Announce Extensions Of Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle]]> 2017-09-05T19:31:07Z 2017-09-05T18:07:33Z The Pirates have announced matching, four-year extensions for both GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle. Both are now under contract through the 2021 season; salary terms are unreported.

    Aug 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington reacts while watching batting practice before the Pirates host the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Hurdle’s deal was reported yesterday, though Huntington’s situation remained unclear. As we covered at the time, both of these key organizational figures were entering an offseason of uncertainty, with the Bucs possessing team options for the 2018 campaign.

    Rather than simply taking the one year already contemplated in their prior contracts, Pirates president Frank Coonelly decided to reward both Huntington and Hurdle with yet greater commitments, calling each “selfless leaders who have made us a far stronger organization, both on and off the field.” Both had previously worked for one or three-year terms.

    Some fans will find some cause for consternation in the timing of the move. After all, the Bucs are again failing to play to expectations after a 2013-15 run of success that reinvigorated hopes and fan interest. And the club has drawn fairly persistent accusations of being unwilling to spend when necessary. Most recently, hackles raised with the club’s curious move at the end of August to dump the salary of quality reliever Juan Nicasio. (At least as public perceptions go, it probably doesn’t help that Nicasio was claimed by the cross-state-rival Phillies, who had even less reason to pay his salary at this stage of the year.)

    Still, it’s hard not to credit the work of the Huntington-Hurdle duo. The former came over from the Indians organization in advance of the 2008 season; while it took some time, and awaited the arrival of Hurdle a few years later, the club finally broke its long-running losing streak. Utilizing creative methods worthy of a book, Huntington’s front office — with Hurdle chipping in from the clubhouse and dugout — managed to field a roster that won 280 and lost 206 games from 2013 through 2015.

    While those teams never advanced in the postseason, and things haven’t gone as well since, that doesn’t necessarily fall entirely on the shoulders of the GM and manager. The team’s exciting trio of outfielders was seen as perhaps the game’s best entering 2016; for a variety of reasons, they’ve combined to put up just 12 WAR over the last two years. Unlike some other organizations that have emerged in recent seasons, too, the Bucs have continued to carry less than $100MM in Opening Day payroll.

    While the team has just not quite gotten enough from a variety of spots on the roster, Huntington has done well in acquiring and re-signing Ivan Nova, getting Felipe Rivero for pending free agent Mark Melancon, and acquiring and then extending the solid David Freese (who has been especially important with the unexpected loss of Jung Ho Kang). Every recent move hasn’t been a winner — the signings of Daniel Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, for example — though perhaps the most strident complaints have been about opportunities that may have been missed owing mostly to payroll constraints.

    All told, the current roster still holds plenty of talented players on appealing contracts. But some of the organization’s biggest stars — McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, in particular — are nearing free-agent eligibility, posing major questions (fraught with complicated baseball and public relations elements) to the front office and ownership group. How the Bucs will navigate the potentially turbulent waters remains to be seen, but the helmsmen will remain the same — albeit now with significant contractual protection to weather any short-term disappointments.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Agree To New Contract With Clint Hurdle]]> 2017-09-05T02:10:19Z 2017-09-04T22:35:01Z The Pirates have reached agreement on a four-year extension with skipper Clint Hurdle, according to a report from Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hurdle, 60, will now be under contract through 2021.

    This represents the lengthiest commitment the club has made to Hurdle, who has been at the dugout helm since 2011. He originally signed a three-year contract, then added a year and an option, then inked a three-year extension with another option season. That last deal left the club with the right to keep Hurdle around for 2018; instead, though, the organization elected to strike a lengthier pact.

    When Pittsburgh initially hired Hurdle, who had previously managed the Rockies, the organization had yet to post a winning season since way back in 1992. That did not change right away, but Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington helped oversee a return to prominence beginning in 2013.

    The Bucs ran off an impressive 280-206 record from 2013 through 2015, though somehow the club never managed to take a division crown in a competitive NL Central. Unfortunately, too, Pittsburgh fizzled in all three trips to the postseason.

    Since that time, the Pirates have faltered. After a disappointing 2016 campaign, the team has again fallen shy of expectations — though it’s tough to find much cause to blame Hurdle for the notable roster absences the club has dealt with.

    What’s not yet known is whether Hurdle will continue to partner with GM Neal Huntington. Pittsburgh can also retain Huntington through a 2018 club option. At this time, there’s no real indication as to how that situation will play out.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Jack Leathersich]]> 2017-09-04T18:48:19Z 2017-09-04T18:48:19Z The Pirates announced that they have claimed left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich off waivers from the Cubs and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. Leathersich, 27, had been designated for assignment over the weekend as the Cubs tweaked their 40-man roster to accommodate the arrival of some September promotions.

    Leathersich debuted with the Mets back in 2015 but missed the latter portion of the season due to Tommy John surgery. He worked his way back to throw 23 1/3 innings across multiple minor league levels last year and has had a strong season with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate in 2017. Through 44 1/3 innings this year, he’s pitched to a 2.84 ERA and averaged a whopping 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Leathersich, though, has also averaged 5.7 walks per nine frames pitched, and control has long been an issue for the southpaw. He’s averaged nearly 15 K/9 over the life of his professional career but has also averaged 5.0 BB/9.

    The Pirates will have about four weeks to potentially bring Leathersich up to the Majors and get a look at him with expanded September rosters in place, if the team wishes. Leathersich does have a minor league option remaining beyond the current season, so the Bucs can take a look at him next spring and option him to Triple-A without needing to risk exposing him to waivers. Of course, that also assumes that he’ll survive the winter on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, which is far from a given.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Josh Harrison Out For Season]]> 2017-09-03T19:09:16Z 2017-09-03T19:06:56Z
  • The Pirates placed utilityman Josh Harrison on the disabled list with a broken left pinky finger and recalled fellow infielder/outfielder Chris Bostick from Triple-A on Sunday, per a team announcement. The injury, which is the result of a hit by pitch from Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle on Saturday, will end Harrison’s season, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review.  The 30-year-old Harrison currently leads the majors in HBPs (23, two more than Anthony Rizzo) and closes 2017 having produced 3.2 rWAR/2.5 fWAR and a .272/.339/.432 batting line with 16 home runs and 12 stolen bases across 542 plate appearances. Depending on whether the struggling Pirates elect to rebuild over the winter, it’s possible Harrison has played his last game as a Buc. The versatile veteran is reasonably priced through 2020, including a pair of club option years, and could be a trade candidate.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Neal Huntington On Juan Nicasio Decision]]> 2017-09-02T06:46:49Z 2017-09-02T02:34:46Z In one of the more puzzling waiver placements in recent memory, the Pirates opted to place right-hander Juan Nicasio — the team’s second-best reliever behind Felipe Rivero — on outright waivers earlier this week. The Pirates have drawn heavy criticism for the decision, which looked to be largely about saving roughly $600K through season’s end — or slightly more than the league minimum salary for one player over the course of a full season ($535K).

    Recognizing the general befuddlement over the move, Pirates GM Neal Huntington issued a statement to the media explaining his rationale with the transaction. (Via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.) Huntington revealed that a “playoff-caliber” club claimed Nicasio off revocable trade waivers earlier in the month but did so with the intention of blocking others from obtaining Nicasio rather than adding the right-hander to its own roster.

    The Pirates had the option of dumping Nicasio’s contract on the team that claimed him, but that would’ve involved aiding a “direct competitor,” per Huntington. Rather, the Bucs placed Nicasio on outright waivers in hopes of getting him to the American League, as outright waiver priority is not league-specific like revocable trade waivers.

    “We chose to take the chance to see if by placing Juan on outright waivers he would end up with a different playoff contender, preferably one in the American League,” the GM stated. The Pirates surely didn’t expect to see the Phillies, who possess MLB’s worst record, claim Nicasio. The right-hander is a free agent at season’s end, making it a surprise that any non-contending club would claim him. Huntington would go on to acknowledge the “minimal” cost savings the move created while also labeling the transaction a forward-looking move that would allow the team to evaluate longer-term pieces in high-leverage spots.

    While the Pirates likely expected that the placement on outright waivers would allow Nicasio to fall to a team such as the Royals, Mariners or Rangers — each of whom would have claiming priority over NL contenders such as the Marlins and Cardinals — the move remains difficult to understand. For a club with a perennially low payroll, the effective dumping of their second-best reliever to a team with a worse record comes with significant public relations ramifications.

    Even if the team’s intentions were primarily driven by a desire to get Nicasio onto a contending club, a frugal team such as the Pirates will be hard-pressed to sell the notion that the move was not motivated by cost-savings — especially just one year after having traded Francisco Liriano in a deal that was primarily viewed as a means of obtaining salary relief. Nicasio’s departure also seems unlikely to sit well with the remaining players in the clubhouse. Rivero, for instance, has already lamented the departure of his bullpen-mate on social media (Twitter link).

    The decision looks all the more questionable when noting that the Bucs could have moved Nicasio prior to the non-waiver deadline as well. While the team surely hoped to contend for the NL Central at that point in the season — Pittsburgh was 5.5 games out of first place on July 31 — the Pirates still traded left-hander Tony Watson to the Dodgers just before the non-waiver deadline. And, a year ago, the Bucs flipped closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals in exchange for Rivero while still aiming to contend.

    Observations such as these are always easy to make with the benefit of hindsight. It stands to reason that Pittsburgh was very likely reluctant to move two of its top three relievers at the deadline, when the postseason still seemed within reach. However, the end result of the process leaves the organization worse for the wear in more ways than one.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Phillies Claim Juan Nicasio, Designate Brock Stassi For Assignment]]> 2017-08-31T21:36:42Z 2017-08-31T18:54:50Z The Phillies announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio off waivers from the Pirates. Philadelphia designated first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

    Jun 20, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Juan Nicasio (12) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s a surprising move for the Phils: Nicasio is slated to reach free agency at season’s end; he’s owed another $600K or so through the end of the year; and Philadelphia clearly is not contending in 2017. It also seems unlikely Nicasio will be flipped via trade. (He was already claimed and pulled back from revocable trade waivers, and any deal would likely need to be struck by the end of the day — which represents the deadline for adding outside players with postseason eligibility.)

    Perhaps the Phils simply are willing to pay for Nicasio to help win some close ballgames over the final month of the season, though at this point the team is in position to earn the top 2018 draft pick (with the worst record in baseball — which also gave them the top waiver position). It also won’t hurt to have a veteran in the bullpen with so many young pitchers on the rosters.

    The cross-state rival Pirates, on the other hand, evidently saw an opportunity to save some payroll in what has turned into a lost season. GM Neal Huntington acknowledged as much, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (links to Twitter). Huntington also cited a desire not to “help a direct competitor” as well as to allow other hurlers a chance to pitch in the late innings.

    There’s little doubt that many contenders would have liked a shot at adding Nicasio down the stretch. He has thrown sixty excellent innings this year, working to a 2.85 ERA with a 60:18 K/BB ratio. Odds are, Nicasio will step into a late-inning role for the Phillies. So long as he maintains something like his current trajectory, the 30-year-old will likely be in line for a strong, multi-year contract over the winter.

    As for Stassi, the 27-year-old struggled in his first taste of the majors this year. Over 90 trips to the plate, he hit just .167/.278/.295 with a pair of long balls. He has also fallen off in the upper minors after two consecutive productive campaigns.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Place Juan Nicasio, Wade LeBlanc On Irrevocable Waivers]]> 2017-09-01T01:33:15Z 2017-08-29T23:14:50Z 6:34pm: Southpaw Wade LeBlanc is also on irrevocable waivers, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. LeBlanc is earning just $750K this year and can be controlled next year via arbitration or a $1.25MM club option (with a $50K buyout).

    The 33-year-old lefty has thrown 61 1/3 innings on the season, working to a 4.99 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. He has surrendered ten long balls in that span. As has been the case for most of his career, LeBlanc has posted reverse platoon splits, with lefty batters hammering him and righties managing only a .234/.288/.418 slash.

    6:14pm: The Pirates have placed right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio on outright waivers, according to a report from Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Unlike revocable trade waivers, outright waivers cannot be rescinded — meaning that any team can simply claim Nicasio at this point.

    That’s a surprising decision, at first glance. Nicasio, who’ll soon turn 31, has been nothing shy of outstanding this year. Over sixty frames, he owns a 2.85 ERA with sixty strikeouts against 18 walks. He’s also throwing harder than ever before, averaging 95.8 mph with his fastball while working in high-leverage spots.

    On the other hand, the Bucs have now slipped so far in the standings — eight games out of a postseason spot entering action today — that there’s just no realistic hope for the team to contend. Nicasio is still set to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $600K, as Brink notes, after avoiding arbitration for $3.65MM last fall.

    Surely, the club would prefer to get something for Nicasio via trade; MLBTR’s Steve Adams ranked him second among remaining August trade candidates a few days ago. But it could well be that Nicasio was claimed and then pulled back from revocable waivers earlier this month. In that event, it makes good sense for the club to simply hope to find a taker for the salary, though it’s somewhat curious that the team did not utilize irrevocable trade waivers (rather than outright waivers) in case he does clear.

    It seems reasonable to expect multiple teams to place claims on Nicasio. Because Nicasio is on outright waivers, rather than irrevocable trade waivers, teams can claim him in order of record (worst to first) regardless of which league they are in. (Otherwise, he’d have been available first to N.L. clubs.)

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Pirates' Triple-A Pitchers Wait For Rotation Opportunities]]> 2017-08-28T03:25:11Z 2017-08-28T03:25:11Z
  • The Pirates’ rotation hasn’t been overwhelming this season, but they have had good depth they largely haven’t needed, as Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. The Bucs have only used six starters, and one of those, Tyler Glasnow, has a 1.99 ERA with Triple-A Indianapolis and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since early June. Steven Brault (1.94 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 52.2 GB%) has also fared well at Triple-A, with Drew Hutchison, Clay Holmes and Nick Kingham all also getting fairly good results. “It’s a good lesson in humility and patience,” says Brault. “You have to realize it’s not what you’re doing that’s wrong. Sometimes there’s just not a spot.” The Pirates control the rights to everyone in their current rotation for at least two more seasons beyond this one, so an offseason move or two could be a possibility, with Gerrit Cole perhaps being on the trading block. Kingham will be out of options next season, making his name one to watch as well. Of course, rotation depth charts have a way of changing quickly.
  • ]]>
    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Pirates Hoping Jung Ho Kang Can Play Winter Ball In Dominican]]> 2017-08-28T00:56:02Z 2017-08-27T22:54:12Z Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang will almost surely miss all of the 2017 MLB campaign after failing to secure a visa following a DUI conviction, his third, last offseason. But the Pirates are hopeful that they can get Kang on the field this winter. Earlier this week, GrandesenlosDeportes in the Dominican Republic tweeted that Kang would be joining Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has confirmed the Bucs’ plans, as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes. “We know we have a club that will play him, provided we can get him into the (Dominican Republic),” Huntington says. “In our minds, this is the best level of competition we could get him in the offseason.” The Pirates still have Kang under contract for 2018, with a club option for 2019. He’s currently on the restricted list, which means he hasn’t collected any salary for the year. The Pirates recently acquired Sean Rodriguez from Atlanta as an insurance policy for next season, in case Kang is unable to return. Here’s more from the NL Central.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 8/25/17]]> 2017-08-25T13:05:32Z 2017-08-25T13:05:32Z Here are Friday’s minor moves from around the league…

    • The Pirates have inked former Brewers right-hander and Angels farmhand Johnny Hellweg to a minor league pact and assigned him to Double-A, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. Saturday will mark the four-year anniversary of the now-28-year-old Hellweg’s most recent MLB appearance, as the 6’7″ righty had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and has struggled in minor league stints with Milwaukee and San Diego since that time. Hellweg has spent most of the past two years pitching for the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am Association, where he’s posted some gaudy strikeout totals. In 38 innings of relief this year, the former starter owns a 62-to-16 K/BB ratio, and he’s only given up two homers in a total of 59 indy ball frames. It’s obviously late in the season, but the Bucs could view this as a 2018 minor league audition for Hellweg.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Mailbag: Lowrie, Bruce, Giants, Controllable Starters]]> 2017-08-19T14:50:12Z 2017-08-19T13:24:38Z Thanks as always for your questions! If yours wasn’t selected this week, you can always pose it in one of our weekly chats: Steve Adams at 2pm CST on Tuesdays, Jason Martinez at 6:30pm CST on Wednesdays, and yours truly at 2pm CST on Thursdays.

    Here are this week’s questions and answers:

    Why is it so hard for the A’s to move Jed Lowrie? — Rene H.

    Well, there has been a bit of a game of musical chairs in the second/third base market. The Red Sox went with Eduardo Nunez. The Nationals grabbed Howie Kendrick, who can also play outfield. The Brewers ended up with Neil Walker in August. Those deals filled some of the main needs out there, though there are at least a few teams that could still make a move. The Angels stand out; the Indians have looked in this area; and the Blue Jays could be a dark horse if they make a run.

    But let’s suppose a few organizations are indeed still poking around on Lowrie. Those same teams will also have other options to consider. Ian Kinsler is now off the market after his waiver claim was revoked by the Tigers. But Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart are both pending free agents who could move. Yangervis Solarte may not clear waivers, but could be claimed and pursued. And Asdrubal Cabrera also represents a possibility.

    Cabrera, like Lowrie, comes with a club option for 2018. In Lowrie’s case, it’s just a $6MM cost to keep him (against a $1MM buyout). He has surely played well enough to make that a decent asset to move over the winter. And perhaps Oakland isn’t all that anxious to press Franklin Barreto into everyday duty in the majors just yet. After all, he’s only 21, didn’t hit much in his brief debut, and has encountered a rising strikeout rate at Triple-A. Lowrie could help stabilize the infield the rest of the way or even in 2018, or he could still be flipped if a decent offer comes along.

    How do you guys see the [free-agent] market for Jay Bruce developing? I have a hard time believing that a 30/31-year-old who has six seasons where he OPSed over .800 would have trouble locking down a fourth year at a $13MM AAV. — Alex W.

    As Alex helpfully pointed out in his email, there are indeed quite a few corner outfielders that have landed free-agent contracts in that range. Recent deals that could work as comparables run from Nick Markakis (4/$44MM) and Josh Reddick (4/$52MM) up to Nick Swisher (4/$56MM) and Curtis Granderson (4/$60MM). Bruce is a plausible candidate to land in that general realm.

    I do think Bruce is flying under the radar a bit, given the obvious appeal of his quality offensive output this year — .267/.334/.541 with 32 homers. It doesn’t hurt that he has turned things on thus far since going to the Indians, has finally reversed the abysmal defensive metrics, and is regarded as a top-shelf professional. The two lost seasons of 2014 and 2015 are hard to ignore entirely, and he has never hit lefties nearly so much as righties, but he has returned to his prior trajectory since and has been average at the plate when facing southpaws this season. Plus, there won’t be any draft compensation to contend with.

    But where exactly he falls, and whether he gets a fourth year or instead takes a higher AAV over three, will depend upon market forces. J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton (if he opts out) would be the two top corner outfielders, but both are righty bats that would require very significant contracts. Granderson and Melky Cabrera will present alternatives for teams seeking lefty pop, but neither has quite Bruce’s present power and both are much older. All things considered, Bruce should be fairly well positioned.

    I’m wondering if the Giants’ plan to re-tool, rather than rebuild, has a reasonable chance of success. Does SF have only two or three spots, like one outfielder and two pitchers, that will make the difference in being competitive? Or will the re-tooling need to involve more spots on the roster, like two outfielders, maybe an infielder (third base), and three or four pitchers? And are there players available in free-agency for them to do that? — Tim D.

    Let’s start with the presumption that Johnny Cueto opts into the remainder of his deal. That would fill one of the rotation slots but also keeps a lot of cash on the books — over $150MM total already for 2018, with more than $100MM promised in each of the next two seasons. And the club will also have to consider what it’ll cost to keep Madison Bumgarner around past 2019.

    Looking over the roster — see the current depth chart here — the Giants will face questions in a variety of areas. Third base is unresolved, the team needs at least one starting outfielder (a center-field-capable player would perhaps be preferred, bumping Denard Span to left), and several bench/platoon roles are open to question. The team will likely at least look into adding a starter, though it could choose instead to go with Matt Moore along with Ty Blach or another less-established pitcher to line up behind Cueto, Bumgarner, and Jeff Samardzija. Bullpens can always be improved, though the Giants can hope for a bounceback from Mark Melancon and continued performance from reclamation hit Sam Dyson in the late innings.

    On the whole, then, perhaps a more dramatic roster overhaul isn’t really needed. Assuming the club is willing to spend up to, but not past, the $180MM-ish payroll it carried entering the current season, that leaves some room to add. But the long-term commitments and 2017 downturns certainly also speak in favor of exercising some caution. I’d expect a focus on striking shorter-term deals with veterans.

    Possibilities at third could include Pablo Sandoval, Todd Frazier, and Yunel Escobar, or the Giants could go bigger and chase the still-youthful Mike Moustakas. In the outfield, Lorenzo Cain would be the top center-field target, though he’ll be entering his age-32 season and won’t be cheap. There are some interesting alternatives, including Carlos Gomez, Jon Jay, and Jarrod Dyson. It’s also possible the Giants could chase Bruce or another corner piece while adding a player like Austin Jackson to platoon with Span in center. And as ever, there are lots of different pitchers available at different price points should they look to add there.

    Ultimately, there ought to be decent value available in the price range the Giants will be shopping. Whether that’ll work out or not … well, that’s dependent upon quite a few other factors and is tough to predict at this point.

    Which young, controllable starters (like Chris Archer, for example) will potentially be available via trade this upcoming offseason? –Matt H.

    Archer is certainly a good example of a guy who could be available and who’ll be asked about quite a lot. Depending upon how things end up for the Rays this year — currently, it’s not trending in the right direction — they may be more or less inclined to undertake a more dramatic move such as dealing the staff ace.

    Generally, though, I’d expect the pickings to be slim. Several teams that sit in the bottom of the standings and have young arms don’t seem likely to move them. For instance, I don’t really expect the Mets (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, etc.), Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez), or Phillies (Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez) to be looking to deal young starters.

    There are a few other names to watch, though. Michael Fulmer of the Tigers would figure to draw some of the most fervent interest, and Detroit has to be thinking creatively entering an offseason full of questions. The Pirates could decide that now’s the time to move Gerrit Cole, though he’ll only have two years of control remaining so may not really meet the parameters. Julio Teheran of the Braves will surely again be a topic of speculation, at least, and the Marlins will have to consider cashing in Dan Straily.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Place Francisco Cervelli On Disabled List]]> 2017-08-18T14:46:21Z 2017-08-18T14:46:21Z
  • The Pirates announced yesterday that Francisco Cervelli has been placed on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to Aug. 14) due to inflammation in his left wrist. Infielder Max Moroff is up from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Cervelli’s spot on the roster for now. Catcher Elias Diaz was already with the Pirates due to Cervelli’s lingering wrist pain, and he’ll split time with Chris Stewart behind the plate in Cervelli’s absence. It’s an ill-timed injury for the fading Bucs, who have lost five games in a row and are now 5.5 games out of the division lead.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Injury Updates: Polanco, McCutchen]]> 2017-08-13T18:34:40Z 2017-08-13T18:34:40Z
  • Gregory Polanco left Saturday’s game with another hamstring injury, and the Pirates outfielder was held out of today’s lineup after undergoing a “battery of tests,” manager Clint Hurdle told’s Adam Berry and other reporters.  The Bucs have an off-day on Monday, which could give Polanco time to recover and avoid his third hamstring-related DL placement of the season.  In better injury news for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen returned to the lineup as the DH today in Toronto, two days after leaving a game due to what appears to be a minor leg injury.
  • ]]>
    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Rangers Claim Phil Gosselin From Pirates]]> 2017-08-12T19:42:34Z 2017-08-12T19:16:20Z The Rangers have claimed utilityman Phil Gosselin from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A Round Rock. They’ve also outrighted infielder Tyler Smith to Round Rock.

    The Pirates acquired Gosselin in a minor trade this spring after the Diamondbacks designated him for assignment. Gosselin has split his time between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis this season, batting just .150/.190/.175 in limited duty in the big leagues and .266/.304/.336 at Triple-A. He can be optioned, but he doesn’t really play shortstop, giving him somewhat limited utility as a bench piece, and the Pirates likely thought he was expendable with the addition of Sean Rodriguez last week. The 28-year-old Gosselin has shown a bit of offensive ability in parts of five seasons in the big leagues, batting .272/.320/.368.

    The Rangers claimed the 26-year-old Smith from the Mariners late last month. He’s hit  .237/.326/.342 at the Triple-A level this season and has mostly played shortstop. He collected three hits in brief big-league duty with Seattle earlier this year.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle Likely Back In 2018]]> 2017-08-11T00:56:00Z 2017-08-11T00:56:00Z
  • Meanwhile, both Pirates GM Neal Huntington and skipper Clint Hurdle appear safe. As long as the two want to return in 2018, the Pirates will exercise their options.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Rangers Claim Jhan Marinez]]> 2017-08-10T18:56:23Z 2017-08-10T18:56:23Z The Rangers have claimed righty Jhan Marinez off waivers from the Pirates, per an announcement from Texas. Marinez had been designated for assignment over the weekend.

    Marinez, 28, already moved from the Brewers to the Bucs this year after a previous trip through DFA limbo. He has seen extensive action in the majors over the past two seasons after sporadic time earlier in his career. All told, through 118 1/3 innings, Marinez carries a 3.50 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Kelvin Herrera, Gregory Polanco, Alex Colome & Francisco Cervelli Move To Wasserman]]> 2017-08-08T17:32:53Z 2017-08-08T17:32:53Z Six players have elected to change their agencies, following agent Rafa Nieves in his recent move from Beverly Hills Sports Council to the Wasserman Media Group, according to’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links).

    Among the veterans making the change are a pair of closers — the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome of the Rays — as well as two Pirates players, outfielder Gregory Polanco and catcher Francisco Cervelli. Two less-experienced players — each of whom has a 40-man spot but is currently at Triple-A — will also move: Athletics righty Frankie Montas and Nationals catcher Pedro Severino.

    Of these players, it seems that Herrera’s situation is most interesting. The 27-year-old will be eligible for free agency one final time over the winter. He’s earning $5.325MM currently and will look to build upon that figure before hitting the open market.

    Herrera’s case will be an interesting one to track, as he has slipped to a 4.19 ERA this year but has also already posted 43 strikeouts and has served as Kansas City’s full-time closer. With 24 saves in the bank — double last year’s tally — Herrera should be well-positioned to argue for a hefty raise, especially if he can drive down the earned run average before the end of the season.

    Also slated for arbitration is Colome, who’ll go through the process for the first time. He, too, hasn’t been quite as dominant this year as he was last. But he’ll bring a loaded resume to the table with 37 saves in the bank from last year and a league-leading 33 added already in 2017. As things stand, Colome has a career 3.16 ERA and has also accumulated more innings than a typical closer (256 2/3) since he also has 19 MLB starts on his ledger.

    As for the two Bucs regulars, they’re playing under long-term contracts. Polanco is under team control all the way through 2023, while Cervelli is locked up through 2019 under the extension he signed last year. Both Montas and Severino have seen the majors on multiple occasions, but neither has accumulated significant service time to date. The pair of 24-year-old Dominicans are still a fair ways away from possible arbitration eligibility.

    As always, you can find the most up-to-date agency information in MLBTR’s database.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Outrighted: Ramon Flores, Danny Ortiz]]> 2017-08-08T01:40:32Z 2017-08-08T01:40:32Z The following players have been outrighted to Triple-A after clearing waivers:

    • Angels outfielder Ramon Flores is en route back to Salt Lake, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). He has been outrighted previously, during his time with the Brewers, and thus had the right to choose free agency. But he’s listed on the organization’s Triple-A roster, so it seems he has elected to remain in the organization. He’ll have the right to do so instead at the end of the year. Flores, who’s still just 25, appeared in only three games with the Halos this year and struggled in an extended run last season with Milwaukee. He is hitting a robust .311/405/.417, though, in 373 trips to the plate at Salt Lake this year.
    • The Pirates announced that outfielder Danny Ortiz is returning to Indianapolis. He had earned his first MLB call-up after sporting a .259/.291/.450 slash over 342 Triple-A plate appearances to open the year. But Ortiz saw only limited action over nine games in the bigs and lost his roster spot when the Bucs acquired old friend Sean Rodriguez over the weekend.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Kang, Meadows]]> 2017-08-06T21:43:34Z 2017-08-06T21:42:51Z
  • Back to the Pirates, who have a highly touted outfield prospect in Austin Meadows, BA’s 22nd-ranked farmhand. Huntington indicated Sunday (via Berry) that Meadows won’t receive a major league promotion this season, thanks to a strained right hamstring. Meadows hasn’t played a Triple-A game since June 21 and is currently rehabbing at the rookie level. Given the time that he has missed, the Bucs have talked to Meadows’ representatives about having him play winter ball.
    • The Pirates made a noteworthy trade of their own this weekend when they reacquired utilityman Sean Rodriguez from the Braves on Saturday. Rodriguez will provide further infield insurance in the event Jung Ho Kang never returns to the United States, writes Adam Berry of Kang has been stuck in South Korea and unable to get a visa since he was arrested and charged with his third DUI over the winter. GM Neal Huntington admitted last month that Kang probably won’t return this year. He took a more drastic step Sunday, saying: “That’s been an unfortunate reality from the outset that he may never get a visa again. We worked the process, worked the process again and have not gotten a different result. We’ll attack it in different ways again the next time through and hope there is a different outcome. We do need to begin to prepare as if he’s not coming back.” Because Kang’s on the restricted list, he hasn’t collected any of his $2.75MM salary for this season. He’s under Pirates control through 2019.
    • Back to the Pirates, who have a highly touted outfield prospect in Austin Meadows, BA’s 22nd-ranked farmhand. Huntington indicated Sunday (via Berry) that Meadows won’t receive a major league promotion this season, thanks to a strained right hamstring. Meadows hasn’t played a Triple-A game since June 21 and is currently rehabbing at the rookie level. Given the time that he has missed, the Bucs have talked to Meadows’ representatives about having him play winter ball.
    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Pirates Claim George Kontos From Giants]]> 2017-08-05T19:13:36Z 2017-08-05T18:50:23Z The Giants have announced that the Pirates have been awarded Giants reliever George Kontos on a waiver claim. The Giants evidently placed Kontos on revocable waivers, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets, then gave him up without receiving anything in return. To clear space for Kontos and the newly acquired Sean Rodriguez, the Pirates have designated reliever Jhan Marinez and outfielder Danny Ortiz for assignment.

    For the Giants, the move clears a 25-man spot for Chris Stratton, who is set to pitch against the Diamondbacks today, and a more permanent spot in the bullpen for Matt Cain. It also clears a 40-man spot for Pablo Sandoval, who the team recently promoted.

    That the Giants would essentially give Kontos away still rates as something of a surprise, since he’s been effective this season. The 32-year-old righty has posted a 3.83 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 47.9 GB%. While Kontos’ exact profile has shifted from year to year (he had a K/9 of just 5.9 last season, for example), he’s been effective since joining the Giants early in the 2012 season and has a 3.05 career ERA, albeit with peripherals that are somewhat less impressive than that.

    Kontos will help bolster a Pirates bullpen that has rated as about average this season and that effectively swapped Tony Watson for Joaquin Benoit at the trade deadline. If Kontos performs well for the Pirates, they can keep him beyond this season — he makes just $1.75MM this year, and is not eligible for free agency until after 2019.

    The 28-year-old Marinez arrived in Pittsburgh via a waiver claim from the Brewers in May. He posted a 3.18 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 34 innings in the Pirates’ bullpen and has a career 50.7 GB%. He’s struggled with walks in the past, but with his mid-90s fastball and ground-ball-heavy profile, he could attract interest on the waiver wire yet again.

    The 27-year-old Ortiz has spent the bulk of the 2017 season with Triple-A Indianapolis, hitting .259/.291/.450 over 342 plate appearances while playing all three outfield spots. The Twins product also collected his first 13 big-league plate appearances this season.

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Pirates Acquire Sean Rodriguez From Braves]]> 2017-08-05T19:03:13Z 2017-08-05T17:52:51Z The Pirates have acquired utilityman Sean Rodriguez from the Braves,’s Mark Bowman writes (Twitter links). In return, the Braves will receive minor-league 1B/OF Connor Joe, according to FanRag’s Tommy Stokke (on Twitter). The move is now official. The two sides consummated the deal after the Pirates put in a waiver claim on Rodriguez.

    Sean RodriguezRodriguez, of course, played for the Pirates in 2015 and 2016 and had his career-best season with the Bucs (.270/.349/.510 over 342 plate appearances) in 2016 before signing a two-year, $11.5MM deal with Atlanta last winter. Later that same offseason, however, Rodriguez and his family were in a serious car accident, and Rodriguez spent the first few months of the season working his way back from a shoulder injury. He finally returned in mid-July and has batted .162/.326/.351 in 47 plate appearances since.

    Now, though, the Braves don’t have the need for Rodriguez they once might have — as Bowman notes, Johan Camargo has hit well while playing the leftmost three infield positions for the Braves this year, and the team added another versatile player, Danny Santana, in a trade in May. Meanwhile, the Pirates have been left without Jung Ho Kang this season as the third baseman struggles to get a visa, and the team has gotten poor production at various points from bench players like Philip Gosselin, John Jaso and Max Moroff. Rodriguez will provide them with another option around the infield and at the corner outfield spots. In addition to the remainder of his salary this season, he will make $5MM in 2018.

    The 24-year-old Joe was the 39th overall pick out of the University of San Diego in the 2014 draft, but he’s moved through the minors slowly for an early college pick, owing in part to a 2014 back injury but also to his struggles to generate offense commensurate with the corner positions at which he’s played. This season, he’s batted .240/.338/.380 in 28 plate appearances for Double-A Altoona, demonstrating a good batting eye (with a 12.1 BB%) but modest average and power. He did not rank in’s list of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Marlins Acquire Eury Perez From Pirates]]> 2017-08-03T22:08:31Z 2017-08-03T21:41:36Z
  • The Marlins have acquired outfielder Eury Perez from the Pirates, per an announcement from the Indianapolis Indians. Perez had been playing for Indianapolis, the Bucs’ top affiliate, since joining the organization on a minors deal over  the winter. He has been productive at the plate (.336/.400/.433) continued to run wild on the bases (22 steals) in a fifty game sample. Perez has seen MLB action in four seasons, though he has just 156 total plate appearances — with a poor .254/.307/.282 batting line — at the game’s highest level.
  • ]]>
    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Dodgers Acquire Tony Watson From Pirates]]> 2017-07-31T21:40:15Z 2017-07-31T20:33:36Z The Pirates have announced that they’ve traded former closer Tony Watson to the Dodgers for infielder Oneil Cruz and righty Angel German. The Dodgers were reportedly interested in the Orioles’ Zach Britton, but appear to have settled on Watson as a backup option — though he’s certainly a talented pitcher in his own right. To clear space for him on their 40-man roster, they’ve announced that they’ve designated journeyman slugger Peter O’Brien for assignment.

    Apr 26, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Tony Watson (44) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    The 32-year-old Watson has a 3.66 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 46 2/3 innings this season. He was booted from the Pirates’ closer role in June but has had modest success since then, with a 2.79 ERA, 15 strikeouts and six walks in 19 1/3 innings since June 9.

    Watson carries a 2.68 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over parts of seven seasons with the Pirates. The hard-throwing lefty gives the Dodgers another potential late-inning option to complement closer Kenley Jansen and another lefty to pair with Luis Avilan, although there’s no official word yet on what Watson’s role will be. He’s struggled against righties this season, allowing a .294/.360/.525 line against, but he’s had success against them in the past. He makes $5.6MM this season and is eligible for free agency in the fall.

    Cruz, 18, was batting .240/.293/.342 with 110 strikeouts and 28 walks while playing shortstop and third base for Class A Great Lakes. He received a $950K bonus when the Dodgers signed him out of the Dominican Republic two summers ago. ranked him the Dodgers’ 17th-best prospect, noting that his left-handed swing could eventually produce good power and that his size — he’s 6’6″ — makes him likely to make a permanent move to third base at some point.

    The 21-year-old German had a 1.91 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 while pitching 33 innings of relief at Great Lakes. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a low-level reliever, he does not rank among’s top 30 Dodgers prospects. Various online reports indicate that he throws in the mid-90s, however.

    FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the two sides had struck a deal. Jon Heyman of FanRag tweeted a deal was close, with Rosenthal originally tweeting the two sides were discussing a trade. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted the Pirates would receive two minor leaguers. 

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.