Pittsburgh Pirates – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-10-20T01:32:13Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Joe Musgrove Undergoes Abdominal Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135039 2018-10-19T20:58:48Z 2018-10-19T20:58:48Z The Pirates announced today that righty Joe Musgrove has undergone surgery to address the abdominal issue that bothered him late in the 2018 season. He is expected to be “on or close to a regular schedule” for the coming spring.

Musgrove’s campaign came to an early close owing to a pelvic bone stress reaction and abdominal wall strain. At the time, the decision was made to allow him six weeks of rest before the situation would be reassessed.

A recent medical evaluation showed “less than the desired amount of clinical healing,” per the Bucs’ announcement. Accordingly, a surgical course was recommended.

Clearly, the hope had been to avoid this procedure, though it seems there’s still optimism that it won’t create any near or long-term problems for the 25-year-old. While his season debut was delayed due to shoulder problems, Musgrove ended up turning in 115 1/3 innings of 4.06 ERA pitching — quality results that may still have lagged his true effectiveness (3.59 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 3.93 SIERA).

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pirates Prospect Ji-hwan Bae Found Guilty Of Assaulting Former Girlfriend]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134886 2018-10-16T03:35:18Z 2018-10-16T02:59:30Z Pirates prospect Ji-hwan Bae has been found guilty by a South Korean court of assaulting his former girlfriend. Naver Sports reported the news, with Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic covering the story in further detail (subscription link).

Allegations arose earlier this year against Bae, a talented 19-year-old infielder, relating to a New Year’s Eve incident in 2017. The Pittsburgh organization reported the matter to MLB officials, who did not impose a period of administrative leave while investigating the matter. Bae proceeded to play in 35 games for the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League affiliate.

Despite the determination of guilt for his actions against former girlfriend Seul-Gi Kim, Bae will evidently not serve a prison sentence. Indeed, he’ll only be ordered to pay Kim 2 million won. That translates to less than $2K USD, a relative pittance for a player who received significant paydays when he signed with the Braves and — after he was made a free agent due to international signing improprieties, including with regard to his own situation — with the Pirates. Kim tells The Athletic that she plans to donate that and other money provided to her by Bae.

It seems that Kim has yet to be contacted by MLB investigators, though surely there’ll be some effort to bring the matter to a resolution from the league’s perspective. Though not formally covered by the MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault & Child Abuse Policy, minor-league players such as Bae are subject to a similar rules regime through policies instituted by the MLB commissioner’s office. He could theoretically face a suspension, fine, or other disciplinary measures from the league.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates Wanted Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar For Gerrit Cole]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134766 2018-10-14T03:14:59Z 2018-10-14T03:14:59Z It’s already known that the Yankees pursued a trade for right-hander Gerrit Cole last winter before the Pirates ultimately sent him to the Astros in mid-January. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post sheds more light on the talks between the Yankees and Pirates, reporting that the Bucs wanted both outfielder Clint Frazier and third baseman Miguel Andujar in exchange for Cole. The Yankees were willing to part with Frazier, as was previously reported, but weren’t on board with adding Andujar to the package. Consequently, the Pirates chose the Astros’ four-player offer, one which yielded modest returns in 2018. Cole has enjoyed an ace-caliber season in Houston, meanwhile, and concussion issues prevented Frazier from making a big league impact this year. Whether Cole would have performed similarly had he gone to New York is anyone’s guess, of course, and the Yankees can take solace in knowing they made out well by keeping Andujar. The 23-year-old’s a strong candidate for top rookie honors in the American League after slashing .298/.328/.527 (128 wRC+) with 76 extra-base hits – including 27 home runs and an AL rookie record-tying 47 doubles – en route to 2.7 fWAR.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Players Electing Free Agency]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134405 2018-10-09T00:20:27Z 2018-10-09T00:20:27Z Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.

As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:

Athletics: RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Danny Coulombe

Blue Jays: RHP Mike Hauschild, INF/OF Darnell Sweeney

Braves: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Miguel Socolovich

Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons

Indians: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Alexi Ogando

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Mike Morin, INF Zach Vincej

Marlins: OF JB Shuck

Mets: RHP Chris Beck, OF Bryce Brentz, RHP Scott Copeland, OF Matt den Dekker, INF Ty Kelly

Nationals: LHP Tommy Milone, OF Moises Sierra, RHP Carlos Torres

Orioles: RHP Jhan Marinez, INF Luis Sardinas

Padres: OF Matt Szczur

Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe

Pirates: LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP A.J. Schugel

Rangers: C Juan Centeno, LHP Anthony Gose, RHP Drew Hutchison, INF Tommy Joseph, RHP Chris Rowley

Rays: INF Brandon Snyder, RHP Ryan Weber

Reds: C Tim Federowicz, RHP Kevin Quackenbush

Tigers: INF Dixon Machado, RHP Jacob Turner

White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Outright Nik Turley]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134095 2018-10-05T01:35:56Z 2018-10-05T01:19:42Z The Pirates have outrighted left-hander Nik Turley off the 40-man roster, per John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com. He’ll presumably become a minor league free agent.

The 29-year-old Turley was claimed off waivers from the Twins last November. He enjoyed an outstanding year with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate, pitching to a 2.66 ERA (2.84 FIP) with 10.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.53 HR/9 and a 33.7 percent ground-ball rate in 67 2/3 innings. Turley was clobbered in his big league debut with the Twins, though that came in a small sample of 17 2/3 innings. Turley, though, has a history of stymieing left-handed opponents in the upper minors, and the Bucs likely viewed him as a potentially affordable bullpen option.

However, the organization never got much of a chance to see whether Turley could contribute. The left-hander was slapped with an 80-game PED suspension in late January after testing positive for Ipamorelin. Upon being reinstated from the restricted list, Turley was immediately placed on the 60-day disabled list due to an elbow strain. It’s not clear at this point whether he’s expected to be healthy enough to take the mound come Spring Training, but it’s certainly not surprising to see the Pirates jettison him from the 40-man roster after that lost season.

In further Pirates news, the team announced this afternoon that right-hander Edgar Santana underwent successful Tommy John surgery today. The organization announced late last month that Santana would require the procedure after an MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Dismiss Jeff Branson, Jeff Livesey]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133833 2018-10-01T20:58:59Z 2018-10-01T20:58:59Z The Pirates announced Monday that they will not bring hitting coach Jeff Branson and assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey back as Major League coaches for the 2019 season. No additional coaching changes are expected, per the press release.

“We appreciate all of the time, energy and effort that Jeff and Jeff put into the team,” said general manager Neal Huntington in an official statement. “Both are high-character, hard-working, good baseball men. We felt that this was the right time to take our Major League hitting program in a different direction.”

Branson, 51, appeared in parts of nine Major League seasons between the Reds, Indians and Dodgers from 1992-2001. Both Branson and Livesey had been in their roles with the Pirates since the 2014 season. Brandon spent 16 seasons with the Pirates organization, previously serving as a coach and, for five seasons, a manager in the team’s minor league system. Livesey, too, spent 16 years in the organization and has served as a minor league manager and as a minor league hitting coordinator. He’s also spent four seasons as a bench coach with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and another as the bench coach for NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Huntington, Kang, Mercer, Harrison]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133801 2018-10-01T03:37:59Z 2018-10-01T03:37:59Z
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel) that if Jung Ho Kang returns to the team next season, it will be as a third baseman only.  Forty-nine of Kang’s 187 Major League games have come at shortstop, though it doesn’t appear as though the Bucs have any interest in utilizing him even as a backup.  As to the question of Kang’s $5.5MM club option, the Pirates “have significant interest in seeing if there’s a middle ground” if the option isn’t exercised, Huntington said, though no contractual decision has yet been made.  Injuries and legal issues have kept Kang out of Major League Baseball for almost all of the last two seasons, so it isn’t surprising that the Bucs are seeing if they could bring Kang back at a lower price, given that his market as a free agent could be rather limited.
    • Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel) that if Jung Ho Kang returns to the team next season, it will be as a third baseman only.  Forty-nine of Kang’s 187 Major League games have come at shortstop, though it doesn’t appear as though the Bucs have any interest in utilizing him even as a backup.  As to the question of Kang’s $5.5MM club option, the Pirates “have significant interest in seeing if there’s a middle ground” if the option isn’t exercised, Huntington said, though no contractual decision has yet been made.  Injuries and legal issues have kept Kang out of Major League Baseball for almost all of the last two seasons, so it isn’t surprising that the Bucs are seeing if they could bring Kang back at a lower price, given that his market as a free agent could be rather limited.
    • Since Kang isn’t being considered for the backup shortstop role if he does return, Jordy Mercer could be a fit to return as a utility infielder.  Huntington said the Pirates will “keep the door open” about possibly re-signing Mercer and Josh Harrison, though Mercer seems the better bet of the duo to return, as Mercer can fill the part-time role behind Kevin Newman at short.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[NL Notes: Kang, Kennedy, Giants, Wainwright]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133647 2018-09-29T15:40:17Z 2018-09-29T13:57:59Z The Pirates will be faced with a decision on Jung Ho Kang’s 2019 option this offseason, but GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic that Kang’s performance in this weekend series won’t have an impact on the outcome (subscription required). “Truth be told, there’s not going to be a whole lot of value in the evaluation process of a one-game or a one-plus-game look,” said Huntington. Biertempfel notes, though, that the late promotion could earn a bit of good will with Kang’s camp in the event that the team elects to buy out his $5.5MM option and try to bring him back into the fold for a few million less than that. There’s been no indication one way or another as to how the Pirates plan on proceeding, though the very fact that he was brought up to the Majors at all indicates that they’re not totally closed off to the possibility of continuing the relationship in spite of Kang’s legal troubles over the past few seasons.

    Here’s more from the National League…

    • Padres right-hander Brett Kennedy underwent knee surgery that will sideline him for the first six weeks of the offseason, tweets AJ Cassavell of MLB.com. However, Kennedy is still expected to be able to have a largely normal offseason program, and the operation isn’t expected to impact his availability for the 2019 campaign. Kennedy, 24, didn’t impress in six starts with the Friars this season, working to a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. However, the 2015 11th-rounder fired off 89 1/3 innings of 2.72 ERA ball with 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 52.6 percent ground-ball rate in an extremely hitter-friendly setting with the Padres’ El Paso affiliate in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He posted solid numbers at Double-A in 2017 and at Class-A Advanced in 2016, and with multiple minor league options remaining beyond 2018, he’ll have ample opportunity to cement himself as part of the San Diego pitching staff in come capacity over the next few seasons.
    • The Giants’ search for a new general manager and/or president of baseball operations isn’t expected to be a quick one, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The process could take several weeks as Giants leadership interviews a wide range of candidates with varying backgrounds. Notably, Schulman adds that the Giants aren’t set on hiring any one specific type of executive (e.g. analytically inclined, traditional scouting background, etc.) and seem to be embarking on this process with an open-minded approach.
    • With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination, Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes the uncertain future of Adam Wainwright, who may have made his final start yesterday for the only MLB team he’s ever known. Wainwright’s a free agent at season’s end, and while he spent most of the season sidelined by elbow soreness, he’s rebounded in September to pitch admirably for St. Louis. His 4.84 ERA across his past four starts may not look pretty, but his 3.20 FIP and stunning 6.25 K/BB ratio points to a much more effective pitcher than the version of Wainwright the world had seen across the rest of the past three seasons. Teammate Yadier Molina, for what it’s worth, doesn’t seem to think it’s the last time the two will be batterymates, saying he’s “confident” about that. “It may have been,” Wainwright himself said. “It doesn’t feel like it is. For whatever reason. I haven’t had those emotions. The way I’m feeling now, if that is my last start here it would be kind of hard to walk away knowing the way I’m feeling right now.”
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    Jason Martinez <![CDATA[Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133467 2018-09-29T00:49:46Z 2018-09-28T22:40:26Z While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    POTENTIAL FREE-AGENT CLOSER OPTIONS
    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Pirates To Recall Jung Ho Kang This Weekend]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133581 2018-09-28T04:06:20Z 2018-09-27T21:53:58Z 6:07 PM: The Pirates have officially announced that Kang will return for tomorrow’s game against Cincinnati.

    4:53 PM: Pirates third baseman/shortstop Jung Ho Kang is likely set to return to the team this weekend after a near two-year hiatus, according to reports from Rob Biertempfel of the Athletic (Twitter link).

    Kang, 31, finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year balloting after a banner 2015 season with the Buccos, but has been mired in a litany of legal and injury troubles since the end of the 2016 campaign.  Following that season, the second straight in which Kang flourished offensively for the Pirates, posting a 132 wRC+ despite a BABIP drop of nearly 70 points from the season prior, he was arrested on his third DUI charge in his native Korea, which left him stranded in the country, unable to secure the work visa necessary to play in the U.S.  When he finally arrived stateside earlier this season, Kang was hampered by a nagging wrist injury that truncated his rehab and made a return to the Pirates increasingly unlikely, though he had resumed the rehabilitation process in recent weeks.

    The five-time KBO All-Star came to the U.S. with little fanfare after the 2014 season, inking a measly four-year, $11MM deal with Pittsburgh in January of 2015.  He quickly put questions to rest, slashing .287/.355/.461 across 126 games in his rookie campaign and providing loads of surplus value to a mid-market Pirate club in need of a run-producing threat.  Kang’s glove at shortstop graded out mostly average in his half-season of time there, but the team seemed to prefer him at the hot corner, where in 2016 he entrenched himself as one of the league’s top offensive performers at the position, upping his walk totals and making hard contact nearly 40% of the time.

    Kang’s future, at this point, is shrouded mostly in doubt – on the one hand, a healthy Kang – whose $5.5MM option is a certain bargain in a context-empty reality – stripped of rust would be a boon to any team’s lineup, at least in the short-term.  On the other, his age (32 in April), drunken-driving convictions (as well as an uncharged sexual assault allegation two years ago), and time away from the game will almost certainly keep most GMs at arm’s length, and the $250K buyout in his current deal may make Pittsburgh’s eventual choice an easy one.

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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Edgar Santana To Undergo Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133533 2018-09-26T23:27:22Z 2018-09-26T22:14:02Z The Pirates announced to reporters today (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel) that reliever Edgar Santana will go undergo Tommy John Surgery and miss the 2019 season.

    Santana, 26, was mostly effective for a new-look Pirate bullpen this year, posting a 3.26 ERA with a minuscule 1.63 BB/9 over 66 1/3 innings, though his peripherals (5.79 K/9 against 2.70 BB/9 after the All-Star Break) slid precipitously in the season’s second half.  Still, it’s a tough blow for a Pittsburgh bullpen in search of reliable contributors following the unit’s halcyon “Shark Tank” period, which anchored the club in its most successful run in over two decades from 2013-2015.

    Since Santana has accrued just over a season’s worth of big-league service time, the Pirates will have him under club control through at least the 2024 season, assuming he returns to the mound on schedule to begin the 2020 campaign.  The revamped pen, headlined by a dominant Felipe Vazquez and out-of-nowhere stalwart Richard Rodriguez, ranked middle of the pack by most available metrics this season, though it does boast plenty of upside in all corners.  Offseason acquisitions Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick, both beset by command issues throughout their careers, still offer tantalizing stuff with years of cheap control remaining, and Keone Kela, a midseason pickup from the Rangers, showcased much-improved command during his short stint with the Buccos and would figure to feature prominently in the corps’ back end for at least the next two seasons.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Harrison, Mercer, Injuries]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133365 2018-09-24T02:12:17Z 2018-09-24T02:12:17Z
  • The Pirates have suffered several late-season injuries that could leave those players (Gregory Polanco, Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, Joe Musgrove) sidelined for at least the first part of the 2019 season, which could impact the team’s offseason plans, Rob Biertempfel writes in a subscription-only piece for The Athletic.  The statuses of Musgrove and Santana are still to be exactly determined, while the Bucs already know Kuhl will be out until 2020 due to Tommy John surgery and Polanco will be out until mid-April at the earliest following shoulder surgery.
    • Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer were both removed from today’s game in the middle of an inning, so the two veteran Pirates infielders could receive a round of applause from the home crowd in what is likely to be their final game at PNC Park in the black-and-gold.  Mercer is a free agent, and Pittsburgh is expected to decline its $10.5MM club option on Harrison for 2019, leaving room for Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman expected to take over at second base and shortstop next year.  Harrison told reporters (including Jerry Dipaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) that he hasn’t yet considered leaving the Pirates, while Mercer said is open to re-signing with the team.
    • The Pirates have suffered several late-season injuries that could leave those players (Gregory Polanco, Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, Joe Musgrove) sidelined for at least the first part of the 2019 season, which could impact the team’s offseason plans, Rob Biertempfel writes in a subscription-only piece for The Athletic.  The statuses of Musgrove and Santana are still to be exactly determined, while the Bucs already know Kuhl will be out until 2020 due to Tommy John surgery and Polanco will be out until mid-April at the earliest following shoulder surgery.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Morton, Gregorius, Marte, Valera]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133342 2018-09-24T03:31:02Z 2018-09-23T21:32:51Z Astros hurler Charlie Morton departed from today’s contest against the Angels after pitching just one inning. As Brian McTaggart of MLB.com was among those to tweet, the cause for his exit was discomfort in his right shoulder. Shoulder inflammation was what sent Morton to the DL earlier this season, and the situation is particularly concerning considering Morton was already pitching on seven days’ rest. We’ll await further news from Houston’s camp on Morton’s situation, but needless to say, this is an unfortunate development for a team hoping to begin its title defense in under two weeks. Morton’s been a force for the Astros this season, posting a 3.15 ERA with 195 strikeouts in just 163 innings, and they can scarce stand to lose him for any stretch of the playoffs with Lance McCullers Jr.’s ability to pitch deep into games still an uncertainty.  [UPDATE: A.J. Hinch told McTaggart and other reporters that Morton was only supposed to throw three or four innings, and was removed for precautionary reasons after Morton’s velocity dropped.  The righty is still expected to make a start next weekend against the Orioles.]

    A few more unfortunate injury developments from around baseball…

    • Another AL playoff team will be white-knuckling it today, as Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his wrist on a slide home yesterday and may not return this season (h/t Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). He’s since received a cortisone injection, and while there’s no definitive word on his status for October, the news is ominous and unwelcome to a Yankees ballclub that would definitely like to be at full strength as they attempt to secure home field advantage over the A’s in a return to the one-game Wild Card playoff.
    • Add Orioles infielder Breyvic Valera to the list of players whose status for the season’s final weeks is in doubt. X-rays showed a fracture of the second metacarpal in his left index finger, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Valera was one of five players to join the Orioles as a component of the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers. He’s collected nine hits (all singles) in 38 plate appearances since coming to Baltimore, chipping in a stolen base along the way.
    • Pirates outfielder Starling Marte departed today’s game with left calf tightness. The two-time Gold Glove award winner has hit .277/.322/.452 with 19 homers and 33 steals in 576 plate appearances in 2018, and while the Pirates were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss in that game, they’ll surely be hoping the injury to Marte isn’t serious. Needless to say, he’s a vital component in their contention plans for the 2019 season, and as we await further word on the details, the Pittsburgh fan base will surely be hoping that a late-season calf issue doesn’t disrupt that.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Central Notes: Detroit Ballparks, Forsythe, Hader]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133336 2018-09-23T16:34:21Z 2018-09-23T16:34:21Z In 1895, a ballpark was built on a patch of Detroit grass on the corners of Michigan and Trumbull avenues. 17 years later, the Tigers would make it their home until the turn of the millennium. But after it sat empty and lonely for another ten years, and then, as Jared Wyllys of Sportingnews.com puts it, it was gone.

    All that remains now of former Tiger Stadium is a dark green flag pole in center field at the new Corner Ballpark that’s since been built on site. The former home of the Negro League Detroit Stars has been neglected for two decades, too. Ike Blessit, a Tiger for four MLB games back in 1972, has started his own 501(c)3 organization to try and raise money to restore it. It’s a project of considerable size, but Blessit will “tirelessly evangelize any audience” in order to get the attention he feels the endeavor deserves. There are plenty more details within the full piece, which historians and Tigers fans alike ought give a full read.

    A couple more items out of the Midwest…

    • Twins infielder Logan Forsythe heads into free agency for the first time “surrounded by unknowns,” Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets as an intro to a full piece on the subject. Forsythe has been dealing with a left knee issue, and will have only a small handful of opportunities to reverse a 44-game homer drought when he’s able to return to the lineup. Berardino describes Forsythe’s offense as being on a “downward trend”, citing a .287 slugging percentage with just ten doubles since his last homer on June 10th. While that’s somewhat of an arbitrary endpoint, Berardino brings to light more stable figures to draw from, such as a dip in homers per season and average exit velocity since his peak with the Rays in 2016. “This year going into the offseason, we’re just open ears right now,” Forsythe said on the subject. “When the offers start coming in, it’s going to be based on where our family is at and what’s best for our family. But I’ve always been a fan of Minnesota, coming here to play. It’s a sleeper city.”
    • Brewers relief ace Josh Hader broke two more records during Friday night’s contest against the Pirates, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, which further adds to the splendor of his 2018 resume. Hader’s streak of 16 consecutive outs recorded via the strikeout is the longest by a pitcher in the expansion era, and his 136 K’s on the season are now the most ever for a left-handed reliever in a single season. He’s needed just 77 innings to reach that threshold, making that feat all the more remarkable considering the former record holder needed 150 innings to set the old record of 134. Rosiak lists a slew of other accomplishments by Hader, and details his pitch selection along with some fun facts that diehard Brewers fans will surely enjoy.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pirates’ Joe Musgrove Done For Season]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133315 2018-09-23T02:39:07Z 2018-09-23T02:38:42Z 9;38pm: Musgrove tells Biertempfel that surgery hasn’t been ruled out, adding that he’ll know more after his six-week recovery period.

    8:37pm: The Pirates announced that they’ve shut down right-hander Joe Musgrove for the season on account of “right side abdominal discomfort.” To be more specific, Musgrove’s dealing with “a stress reaction on the front of his pelvic bone and an abdominal wall muscle strain,” Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic tweets. Musgrove will require six weeks of rest, but he won’t need surgery, the team said (per Biertempfel).

    Injuries bookended the season for Musgrove, who didn’t debut until May 25 because of shoulder issues. Those problems aside, it was a successful first year in Pittsburgh for Musgrove. Acquired from the Astros last offseason as part of the teams’ Gerrit Cole blockbuster, the 25-year-old Musgrove made 19 starts in 2018 and pitched to a 4.06 ERA/3.58 FIP with 7.8 K/9, 1.79 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent groundball rate in 115 1/3 innings. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, none of its other additions from that trade have been as productive as Musgrove this year, which has helped lead to the team’s third straight non-playoff season.

    As a result of his output during his first year with the Bucs, Musgrove will surely be part of their rotation plans in 2019 – his final pre-arbitration campaign. Barring trades or signings, each of Musgrove, Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams and Ivan Nova look like locks or strong bets for Pittsburgh’s starting staff heading into next season. The group’s depth did take a hit earlier this week, though, as righty Chad Kuhl underwent Tommy John surgery and may not return until 2020.

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