Pittsburgh Pirates – MLB Trade Rumors 2021-01-21T06:17:55Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Padres Acquire Joe Musgrove In 3-Team Trade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=340680 2021-01-19T17:34:00Z 2021-01-19T17:33:25Z TODAY: The trade is official.  The Padres get Musgrove, the Mets get Lucchesi, and the Pirates receive the five prospects (Rodriguez, Head, Cruz, Fellows, and Bednar).

JANUARY 18, 5:47pm: This is a three-team trade, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray, who reports that the Mets will acquire Lucchesi. The Pirates will get catcher/outfielder Endy Rodriguez, per Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

5:40pm: Pittsburgh will get five players in return, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. Head and lefty Omar Cruz are among those going to the Pirates, per Dennis Lin of The Athletic. Southpaw Joey Lucchesi is also part of the trade, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, as are righties David Bednar and and Drake Fellows, Lin relays.

5:18pm: The Padres have agreed to acquire right-hander Joe Musgrove from the Pirates, Jeff Passan of ESPN tweets. The Pirates will receive “a large package of prospects,” potentially including outfielder Hudson Head, according to Passan.

This is the fourth significant trade for a starter in recent months for the Padres, who first acquired righty Mike Clevinger from Cleveland before last August’s deadline. Clevinger was quite effective for the Padres after the trade, but elbow issues limited him to one inning during the team’s NLDS loss to the division-rival Dodgers in October, and he won’t pitch at all in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in November.

After losing Clevinger for the upcoming season, the Padres swung trades with the Cubs for Yu Darvish, a National League Cy Young contender in 2020, as well as with the Rays for former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. They’ll presumably have Darvish, Snell, Musgrove, Dinelson Lamet (if he’s healthy after dealing with bicep troubles last year) and Chris Paddack in their season-opening rotation, though prospects MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers and Adrian Morejon could be among younger Pads pushing for starts in 2021.

In Musgrove, San Diego is getting a California native who owns a 4.33 ERA in 496 2/3 innings between the Astros and Pirates, but he entered the offseason as one of the majors’ most intriguing trade chips after a career-best campaign. The 28-year-old threw 39 2/3 innings and recorded a 3.86 ERA/3.50 SIERA, all while registering a personal-high 14.4 percent swinging-strike rate and placing 10th in the majors in strikeout percentage (33.1 percent). That production would have made it more difficult for the low-payroll Pirates to extend Musgrove, who’s due $4.45MM in 2021 and has one more year of arbitration control left after that.

Lucchesi could have been part of the Padres’ rotation next season, but he’ll instead go to New York and compete for the No. 5 spot in its starting group. The Mets’ staff looked terrific before this deal with Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson comprising their top four, but Steven Matz had been the front-runner for the fifth position after a dismal 2020. He’ll now have to go against Lucchesi, who recorded ERAs in the 4.00s in 2018 and ’19 before tossing just 5 2/3 innings in the bigs last year. Lucchesi’s not eligible to become a free agent until after 2024.

With no chance to contend in the near future, it made sense for the Pirates to move on from Musgrove in favor of a package of younger players.  For Musgrove, they’re receiving at least four well-regarded prospects in Head, Cruz, Bednar and Rodriguez, whom MLB.com ranked among the top 20 farmhands in their teams’ farm systems.

Head (No. 7) went in the third round of the 2019 draft and then signed a record bonus for $3MM. The 19-year-old possesses an “extremely high” ceiling, according to MLB.com. Cruz (17) and Bednar (20) were also solid Padres prospects, with MLB.com calling Cruz a possible back-end starter and Bednar a hard thrower with promise. Fellows did not rank among the Padres’ top 30 prospects at MLB.com, and Baseball America wrote before the club drafted him that his 93 to 94 mph fastball is “often hittable because he struggles to hit his spots.” However, BA added that Fellows’ slider could at least help make him a legitimate major league reliever.

Rodriguez, 20, was the Mets’ 14th-ranked prospect at MLB.com before the trade. MLB.com writes that Rodriguez has “an advanced approach and natural bat-to-ball skills” that will be all the more valuable if he sticks at catcher, though a future in the outfield does seem like a possibility.

The main takeaway here is that the Padres remain serious about vying for a World Series – something they have never won – in the near future. Even if it doesn’t happen in the short term, though, the Padres appear to be set up to succeed for the long haul. Their MLB roster is one of the game’s best, and as BA notes on Twitter, the Padres still lead the league with seven top 100 prospects.

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Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Pirates To Sign Wilmer Difo]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=337349 2021-01-15T18:33:08Z 2021-01-15T17:59:52Z The Pirates are in agreement on a deal with infielder Wilmer Difo, reports Robert Murray of FanSided (Twitter link). The contract is pending a physical. It is a minor league deal, worth $1MM with incentives should Difo make the Major League roster, adds Murray.

Difo had spent the past decade-plus in the Nationals’ system, with Washington originally adding him as an international amateur. He has picked up big league playing time in each of the past six years, with the bulk of that work coming from 2017-18. All told, Difo has a .247/.309/.348 career slash line across 1,060 MLB plate appearances. He’s made contact at an above-average rate and drawn a decent number of walks, but Difo has well below-average exit velocities and has never been much of a power threat.

The bigger appeal is what Difo brings to the table defensively. The 28-year-old has plenty of middle infield experience, as well as some time at third base and a few innings in the outfield. Advanced metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved have generally pegged Difo as a slightly above-average defender up the middle. Difo has three-plus years of MLB service time, so he’d be controllable through 2023 via arbitration if he emerges as a long-term piece in Pittsburgh.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Avoiding Arbitration: 1/15/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=337191 2021-01-16T03:42:52Z 2021-01-15T16:51:22Z The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is today at 1pm ET. As of this morning, there were 125 arbitration-eligible players who’d yet to agree to terms on their contract for the upcoming 2021 season. Arbitration is muddier than ever before thanks to the shortened 2020 schedule, which most believe will lead to record number of arb hearings this winter. Be that as it may, it’s still reasonable to expect dozens of contractual agreements to filter in over the next couple of hours.

We’ll highlight some of the more high-profile cases in separate posts with more in-depth breakdowns, but the majority of today’s dealings will be smaller-scale increases that don’t radically alter a team’s payroll or a player’s trade candidacy. As such, we’ll just run through most of today’s agreements in this post.

I’ve embedded MLBTR’s 2021 Arbitration Tracker in the post (those in the mobile app or viewing on mobile web will want to turn their phones sideways). Our tracker can be sorted by team, by service time and/or by Super Two status, allowing users to check the status on whichever groups of players they like. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s projected arbitration salaries for this year’s class, and we’ll do a quick sentence on each player’s agreement at the bottom of this post as well, with the most recent agreements sitting atop the list.

Today’s Agreements (chronologically, newest to oldest)

Read more

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Notable International Signings: 1/15/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=337131 2021-01-15T17:35:00Z 2021-01-15T15:43:43Z The 2020-21 international signing period is officially underway, and though this signing period is open until Dec. 15, 2021, many of the big names have already signed. Teams have long since lined up deals with newly eligible teenage players, so the news today largely represents confirmation of what was anticipated. Still, it’s a day of no small moment, particularly for the young men embarking upon professional careers.

Let’s round up some of the most notable signings of the day. Most of these agreements have been known for awhile, as both Baseball America’s Ben Badler (signings tracker; scouting links) and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (Twitter feed; rankings) have listed each club’s expected landing spot and approximate signing bonus on their rankings for months. You can find each team’s total bonus pool and other information on the process right here. Check the above links for further information and other signings. Despite today’s announcements, many of these deals won’t become official for even a couple of weeks, notes Sanchez. Here are a few key deals:

  • Yoelqui Céspedes, OF, White Sox: The half-brother of outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, the Cuban outfielder joins a strong international tradition in Chicago with the White Sox, who currently field Cuban stars such as reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu, centerfielder Luis Robert, and third baseman Yoan Moncada. MLB.com has Céspedes ranked as the top international prospect in this class thanks to being a “a five-tool player with above-average tools across the board.” Baseball America is slightly less bullish, putting him at No. 12 on their board, noting that the pandemic limited opportunities for scouting. The 23-year-old will be one of the older prospects from this class to sign, and though he has the ability to play center, Robert’s presence in Chicago means he is probably ticketed for right. The White Sox also signed Cuban hurler Norge Vera for $1.5MM. Vera came in at No. 15 on MLB.com’s rankings. Fangraphs has Cespedes as Chicago’s new No. 25 ranked prospect, and Vera at No. 14.
  • Armando Cruz, SS, Nationals: Cruz officially joined the Nationals today for the most money the Nationals have ever paid out to single player during the international signing period, with The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli (via Twitter) pegging the final number at $3.9MM. BA writes in their scouting report, “He’s a defensive wizard with phenomenal hands and a strong arm, combining the ability to make acrobatic, highlight plays along with the internal clock and game savvy well beyond his years.” The Nationals signed 11 international players in total, notes Ghiroli.
  • Pedro Leon, OF, Astros: Houston will pay $4MM to add MLB.com’s 7th-ranked international prospect to their system, per Sanchez. Baseball America has Leon as the top prospect of his class. Like Céspedes, the Cuban outfield is one of the older members of this class, but he brings plus speed, power, and the ability to stick in centerfield.
  • Manuel Beltre, SS, Blue Jays: The Blue Jays added perhaps the most advanced hitter of the class in Beltre. MLB.com has Beltre as the No. 24 ranked prospect in the class, signing for $2.6MM, though Shi Davidi of Sportnet.ca (via Twitter) pegs the final number to be closer to $2.35MM. The Dominican shortstop could ultimately end up at second base, Sanchez writes, but he has arm enough to stay at short.
  • Pedro Pineda, OF, Athletics: MLB Insider Jon Heyman (via Twitter) has Pineda signing with Oakland for less than $4MM, but the sum isn’t likely to fall far below that threshold. Baseball America has Pineda as the No. 11 ranked prospect in this class, writing, “Pineda is a strong, athletic, physical center fielder with a loud tool set and a power/speed threat. He has excellent speed, a fast bat and the power potential to hit 25-plus home runs.”

Several other well-regarded prospects also secured bonuses of $2MM or more, with the specifics provided here by Sanchez:

  • Rays, $3MM, shortstop Carlos Colmenarez
  • Cubs, $3MM, shortstop, Cristian Hernandez
  • Pirates, $2.3MM, outfielder Shalin Polanco
  • Tigers, $2.95MM, shortstop Cristian Santana
  • Twins, $2.3MM, shortstop Danny De Andrada
  • Angels, $2MM, shortstop Denzer Guzman
  • Marlins, $3.5MM, shortstop Yiddi Cappe
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Trade Nik Turley To Athletics]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=336094 2021-01-14T19:18:58Z 2021-01-14T19:18:58Z The Pirates have traded left-hander Nik Turley to the Athletics in exchange for cash, per an announcement from the A’s. Pittsburgh designated Turley for assignment earlier this week upon claiming outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. from Detroit.

Turley, 31, tossed 21 2/3 innings with the Pirates this past season but struggled to keep runs off the board and to limit free passes. Between that Pirates stint and a similarly brief look with the Twins back in 2017, the southpaw carries a career 7.78 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 19 walks in 39 1/3 frames.

Unsightly as those numbers may be, Turley has elite spin rates on his curveball and particularly on his four-seam fastball, which checked in at an average of 94.5 mph in 2020. He’s also posted strong numbers in the upper minors. His 2017 minor league output with the Twins was particularly encouraging, as he worked to a 2.05 ERA with a superlative 124-to-29 K/BB ratio in 92 innings. Turley struck out a whopping 34.5 percent of hitters he faced between Double-A and Triple-A that season while walking just 8.1 percent of his opponents.

Turley hasn’t pitched in the minors since that 2017 showing, however. An 80-game PED suspension wiped out the first half his 2018 season after the Pirates claimed him from the Twins, and he was immediately placed on the 60-day injured list upon being activated thanks to an elbow strain he sustained while ramping up toward the end of his suspension window. He ultimately required Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2019 campaign as well.

Turley is out of minor league options, so if he survives the winter on Oakland’s 40-man roster, he’ll have to break camp with the club or else again be exposed to waivers. He’ll give the A’s another lefty to pair with Jake Diekman, who could be the favorite for ninth-inning work now that Liam Hendriks has departed for the White Sox in free agency.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Corey Kluber, Steve Cishek, Anthony Swarzak Throw For Teams]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=335343 2021-01-14T20:08:26Z 2021-01-14T13:20:59Z Jan. 14: ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Kluber’s market could come together rather quickly with one throwing session for teams in the books. He’s not expected to require a second showcase to further demonstrate his health.

Jan. 13: Free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber held a showcase for interested teams today, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that relievers Anthony Swarzak and Steve Cishek both threw for teams as well. (All three are clients of Jet Sports Management, so it’s natural that they’d host the workout together.) As many as 25 teams were present, per The Atheltic’s Britt Ghiroli (Twitter link).

ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes that Kluber’s velocity topped out at 90 mph, though given where he is in the rehab process from last year’s injuries, it wasn’t expected that he’d be up to peak velocity just yet. Eric Cressey, whose strength and conditioning facility hosted the showcase, told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers yesterday that Kluber was at 87-89 mph in the prior session. Cressey suggested that Kluber is already ahead of many pitchers who’ve not yet ramped up their throwing to this point. Kluber averaged 92 mph on his heater back during his excellent 2018 campaign.

The full list of teams in attendance isn’t known, although given that this was an open look at a two-time Cy Young winner and a pair of relievers with considerable late-inning MLB experience, it’d be more notable to learn which few teams weren’t in attendance than to know which clubs were. Still, it’s at least worth noting that each of the Mets, YankeesNationals, Red Sox, Rays, Twins, Cubs, Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Indians were all reported to be attending the showcase. Obviously, it’s not an all-encompassing list.

Broadly speaking, if Kluber is indeed at a point in his rehab that inspires confidence, one would imagine the market for him will be robust. The extent to which clubs are willing to bet on a guaranteed contract on the two-time Cy Young winner will vary, but he should easily command a big league deal with plenty of incentives on top of whatever base the highest bidder will commit.

Kluber may be something of a lottery ticket at this point, but few gambles come with such pronounced upside. From 2014-18, the right-hander was one of the game’s premier pitchers, working to a combined 2.85 ERA while striking out 28.5 percent of the hitters he faced against just a 5.2 percent walk rate. Only three of the 179 qualified starting pitchers in that time period — Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer — topped Kluber’s 23.3 K-BB%.

Since that time, however, he’s been limited to 36 2/3 innings by a fractured forearm (sustained when he was hit by a line drive), an oblique strain and a teres major strain. Traded from Cleveland to Texas last winter, Kluber pitched just one inning for the Rangers in 2020.

While most of the focus is understandably on Kluber, the presence of Swarzak and Cishek is certainly notable as well. Both righties are looking for rebounds of their own. Swarzak signed with the Phillies last winter but was released at the end of summer camp and didn’t sign with another club. A two-year, $14MM deal he signed with the Mets prior to the 2018 season proved regrettable, as shoulder issues torpedoed both of those seasons. However, back in 2017 Swarzak tossed 77 1/3 frames with a 2.33 ERA with 91 punchouts against just 22 walks.

Cishek, meanwhile, rattled off four straight seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA from 2016-19, leading to a $6MM deal with the White Sox last winter. He didn’t last on Chicago’s South Side, however, as he was roughed up for a 5.40 ERA in just 20 innings. Cishek’s control has been trending in the wrong direction the past couple of seasons, but he missed bats at his typical levels and didn’t see a velocity dip in 2020.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Troy Stokes Jr., Designate Nik Turley]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=334039 2021-01-12T21:05:36Z 2021-01-12T20:47:50Z The Pirates announced that outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. has been claimed off waivers from the Tigers.  Stokes was designated for assignment by Detroit earlier this week.  To create roster space, Pittsburgh has designated left-hander Nik Turley for assignment.

The Tigers claimed Stokes off waivers from the Brewers in September 2019, and the outfielder will end his Detroit tenure without suiting up a single time for any team in the organization, thanks to the cancellation of the minor league season and a broken hamate bone in July that ended his 2020 campaign before it even began.

Stokes has yet to appear in a Major League game, but he should get some opportunity on a rebuilding Pirates team.  Stokes has hit .250/.351/.414 over 2355 plate appearances in Milwaukee’s farm system, with an impressive 129-for-159 record in stealing bases.  While he has experience at all three outfield positions, the large majority of Stokes’ playing time has come as a left fielder.

Turley tossed 21 2/3 innings for the Pirates in 2020, posting a 4.98 ERA, 21.7 K%, and 9.8 K-BB%.  Turley’s only previous MLB experience consisted of 17 2/3 innings with the 2017 Twins, but his career was interrupted by an 80-game PED suspension and then elbow problems.  Turley started 139 of 176 games during his minor league career, posting a 3.43 ERA over 787 2/3 innings mostly in the Yankees’ farm system, but also seeing time with the Red Sox, Giants, and Twins.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[David Eckstein Leaves Pirates' Front Office]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=329568 2021-01-09T16:54:13Z 2021-01-09T16:53:13Z
  • David Eckstein is leaving the Pirates after two years as a special assistant to the baseball operations department, according to Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh Sports (Twitter link).  Eckstein made the move in order to spend more time with his family.  The former 10-league MLB veteran is best remembered for his role in helping both the 2002 Angels and 2006 Cardinals win the World Series, even capturing Series MVP honors with St. Louis.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Open Market Notes: Kluber, Twins/Cruz, Nats, Odorizzi]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=326439 2021-01-07T04:56:19Z 2021-01-07T04:56:19Z Add the Pirates to the clubs planning to attend for Corey Kluber’s January 13th workout, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Athletic (via Twitter). The Nationals and Diamondbacks were previously mentioned as two among many planning to view Kluber in Florida. The Pirates don’t seem like the likeliest team to sign Kluber, though he could conceivably provide some veteran stability with the upside of becoming a mid-season trade chip. It’ll be interesting to see how Kluber shows after two mostly lost seasons. Before he ran into health troubles, the 34-year-old reeled off an exceptional five-season run.

    Here are a few other items of open-market chatter …

    • Though there’s no evidence of recent progress, there’s still cause to remain bullish on the odds of a reunion between the Twins and slugger Nelson Cruz. The match, after all, has worked out well for both sides to date. In an appearance on the Locked On Twins podcast, Darren Wolfson of KSTP 5 indicated that mutual interest remains strong. But the club and the 40-year-old DH could also be eyeing alternatives. Wolfson suggests the Padres would have interest in Cruz if it turns out that the DH will remain in the National League. Remaining uncertainty in that regard has iced the market for lumbering sluggers. Depending upon how things shake out, per Wolfson, the Twins may have interest in a slate of options that includes Michael Brantley, Kyle Schwarber, and even Marcell Ozuna.
    • Several of those players would also be of interest to the Nationalsper Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems that Ozuna is likely to require too much space on the balance sheet. But Brantley and Schwarber, along with Joc Pederson, are each seen as possibilities to take up a post in the D.C. corner outfield. The Nats have an opening after allowing Adam Eaton to depart.
    • Free agent righty Jake Odorizzi appears to be in position to land a three-year deal, an executive tells Rosenthal. The expectation from that industry source is that the veteran starter could secure a guarantee in the realm of $36MM to $42MM — just where MLBTR predicted he’d land. There’s still no clarity as to Odorizzi’s slate of suitors, but it stands to reason he’ll have fairly widespread appeal given that Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman each accepted qualifying offers, removing two primary targets from the market.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Pirates Sign Chase De Jong To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=326278 2021-01-06T18:26:50Z 2021-01-06T18:09:34Z The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 27-year-old right-hander Chase De Jong to a minor league deal, writes John Dreker of pittsburghbaseball.com. The 6’4″ De Jong has bounced around the league since the Blue Jays made him a second round pick out of high school in the 2012 draft. He never played in the Majors for Toronto, nor for his second organization, the Los Angeles Dodgers. After reaching Triple-A, the Dodgers traded De Jong to the Mariners, where he eventually made his debut during the 2017 season. He exceeded rookie requirements in 2020 with 0.110 days of service time in the Majors.

    Despite just 15 career appearances, the California native has appeared in the Majors in each of the four seasons since his debut – never making more than seven appearances in a year. Overall, De Jong owns a 7.12 ERA/6.00 FIP in 54 1/3 innings, including 10 starts. At 27-years-old, De Jong is young enough to develop into something other than what we’ve seen of him thus far, especially being as he hasn’t seen much opportunity in terms of volume while appearing for the Mariners, Twins, and Astros. De Jong was a ranked prospect by Baseball America every season from 2013 to 2018, when he was the No. 16 ranked prospect in the Mariners’ organization.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pirates, Indians Showed Past Trade Interest In Alejandro Kirk]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=323726 2021-01-03T20:09:12Z 2021-01-03T20:08:17Z Alejandro Kirk’s bat has drawn a lot of attention over his three pro seasons, including a 2020 MLB debut that saw the Blue Jays catcher post a .983 OPS over his first 25 plate appearances as a big leaguer.  As one might expect, rival teams have taken notice of Kirk, with TSN’s Scott Mitchell reporting that the Pirates and Indians have both tried to acquire the catcher within the last 14 months.

    Cleveland wanted Kirk in a potential Corey Kluber trade with the Jays last offseason, prior to the deal that saw Kluber sent to Texas for Delino DeShields Jr., Emmanuel Clase and the Rangers agreeing to absorb all of Kluber’s $17.5MM salary for the 2020 season.  The Pirates’ interest was more recent, as Mitchell notes that the Bucs “tried to pry him away” from Toronto just this past summer.

    The Blue Jays and Pirates were known to be in discussions over such pitchers as Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, and Joe Musgrove prior to the trade deadline, with a trade for Musgrove reportedly falling through at the veritable last minute.  Since Pittsburgh GM Ben Cherington came to the job after working in Toronto’s front office, it isn’t surprising that the rebuilding Pirates and the aggressive Blue Jays are often mentioned as potential trade partners.  Musgrove is still a hot commodity on the trade market, and with the Jays still looking to add pitching, a deal could certainly still come together between the two sides before the offseason is through.

    Likewise, the past Cleveland ties of Jays president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have seemingly put the Blue Jays in mind when discussing any potential Indians trade chip.  To name one prominent example, Toronto has had interest in Francisco Lindor for well over a year, and Lindor still looms as a potential acquisition given the widespread expectation that the Tribe will deal the shortstop prior to Opening Day.

    Whether Kirk could be part of a future deal to Cleveland or Pittsburgh remains in question, however.  Mitchell believes the Jays will hang onto Kirk to see if he could be a reliable regular in 2021, both catching and as a DH against left-handed pitching.  Danny Jansen is Toronto’s incumbent starter behind the plate, with Reese McGuire and prospects Gabriel Moreno and Riley Adams also on hand to give the Blue Jays quite a bit of major and minor league depth at the position — as Mitchell writes, one of the catchers “will be traded this year, it just won’t be Kirk.”  Of course, should the Jays make the big splash to sign free agent target J.T. Realmuto, it would seem likely that multiple catchers (perhaps including Kirk) would be shopped.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Checking In On 2020’s Lowest-Scoring Offenses]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=321808 2020-12-31T21:55:30Z 2020-12-31T21:55:30Z Three of the 2020 campaign’s five lowest-scoring offenses belonged to National League playoff teams, but that’s not an ideal outcome if you truly want to make noise in October. Indeed, all three of those clubs (St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee) failed to advance beyond the playoffs’ initial round during the fall. So what have they and the league’s other two bottom-feeding offenses done to improve themselves this offseason? Not much, as you’ll see below…

    Pirates (219 runs scored, 73 wRC+):

    • The Pirates look even worse on paper than they did at the end of the season, having traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Nationals last week. While Bell had a horrid season in 2020, he was a star-caliber performer during the previous year, in which he slashed .277/.367/.569 with 37 home runs. The Bell-less Pirates haven’t done anything of significance to bolster their offense this winter, but the good news is that they should get a full 2021 (however many games that consists of) from third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who ran roughshod over the league during a scintillating 95-PA debut in 2020. There’s also nowhere to go but up for holdovers such as Gregory Polanco, Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier, who each posted awful numbers last season.

    Rangers (224 runs, 67 wRC+):

    • The Rangers have a couple newcomers in outfielder David Dahl and first baseman Nate Lowe, who they hope will improve their attack in 2021. Otherwise, they’ll be counting on bounce-back efforts from the likes of Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Nick Solak, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. It’s hard to imagine things will get any worse next year for that quintet, though Andrus and Odor have been trending in the wrong direction for years. The Rangers are down enough on Andrus these days that they’re planning on using him as a backup shortstop/utilityman behind Isiah Kiner-Falefa next season.

    Cardinals (240 runs, 93 wRC+):

    • The Cardinals’ place in these rankings is deceiving because a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak cost them two full games. Their 93 wRC+ was closer to average than horrendous, but that isn’t to say they don’t have work to do offensively. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and outfielder Harrison Bader, two of their best hitters in 2020, are returning. But Brad Miller, who was second on the team in wRC+ (121), is a free agent. Going by wRC+, those three were the only above-average offensive players on last season’s roster. The Cardinals haven’t done anything thus far to better their offense, even though they’re facing questions almost everywhere. Catcher Yadier Molina is a free agent, as is second baseman Kolten Wong, while most of their outfielders underwhelmed at the plate in 2020.

    Reds (243 runs, 91 wRC+):

    • The Reds made a real effort to upgrade their offense last winter in signing Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama. Moustakas wound up having a typical season at the plate, but Castellanos and Akiyama fell short of expectations. Barring trades, no one from that group is going anywhere in 2021. Likewise, Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and Tucker Barnhart will hang around in key roles. Aside from Winker, who was fantastic in 2020, the Reds will need more from everyone listed in the previous sentence. They also need to upgrade at shortstop, where the largely untested Jose Garcia is their current starter, but it’s unclear whether the team will do so to a satisfactory extent during what has been a cost-cutting winter so far.

    Brewers (247 runs, 89 wRC+):

    • We’ll cap things off with another NL Central team, Milwaukee, which has joined its division rivals this winter in doing virtually nothing to better its chances of success in 2021. The Brewers opted against retaining infielder Jedd Gyorko, among their most productive hitters last season, instead paying him a $1MM buyout in lieu of exercising his $4.5MM option. They also declined team icon Ryan Braun’s option, but that was an easy decision because the six-time All-Star would have otherwise earned a $15MM salary in 2021. Braun, to his credit, was roughly a league-average hitter last season, which is more than you can say for most Brewers regulars. Whether or not the Brewers bring in outside help, better years from former NL MVP Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez would go a long way in helping the team tack more runs on the board in 2021.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Joe Musgrove Drawing Increased Trade Interest]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=315799 2020-12-28T20:15:50Z 2020-12-28T20:15:50Z The Pirates traded Josh Bell to the Nationals last week, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that Pittsburgh righty Joe Musgrove is drawing “keen” interest and could get a look from clubs that missed on Blake Snell (not that the two are comparable in terms of track record). Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a similar sentiment, tweeting that multiple sources have told him they believe “Musgrove is next” for Pirates as they look to continue their rebuilding effort.

    Musgrove, who turned 28 earlier this month, is among the most obvious trade candidates on the market. He could very well have been dealt this past summer had he not landed on the injured list with what proved to be a fairly minor triceps issue. Musgrove missed about three weeks with the injury and, upon returning, rattled off his best starts of the season.

    The triceps issue and the shortened slate of games in 2020 combined to limit Musgrove to 39 2/3 innings. He was solid when on the mound, however, pitching to a 3.86 ERA and 3.42 ERA with a 33.1 percent strikeout rate that shattered his previous career-high (21.9 percent). Musgrove saved the best for last in 2020, closing out the year 13 shutout innings against the Cardinals and Indians. He yielded just six hits and two walks against 21 strikeouts in that time — the best two-game stretch of his career. Musgrove upped not only the usage of his slider and his curveball in 2020 but also his spin rate on both pitches, which may help to explain the uptick in missed bats.

    Musgrove headlined the return in the trade that sent Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh to Houston back in Jan. 2018, and just under three years later, he finds himself in a similar spot. While he obviously is not the same caliber of pitcher as Cole, Musgrove is a prime-aged starter with a quality track record who is under control for two more seasons at a highly reasonable rate. He’s owed a raise on last year’s $2.8MM salary, although the injury will suppress some of his earning power in arbitration, and is controllable through the 2022 season. An extension doesn’t seem likely to come from the Pirates, though an acquiring club could have interest in trying to keep him long term.

    Musgrove was the No. 46 overall pick by the Blue Jays back in 2011 and was regarded as a Top 100 prospect prior to his Major League debut. He’s been a solid mid-rotation arm to this point in his career, though his overall 2020 results and his excellent finish might lead to some optimism that he still has another gear into which he can tap. Since being traded to Pittsburgh, Musgrove has given the Pirates 325 1/3 innings of 4.23 ERA/3.69 FIP ball, averaging 8.6. K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 1.05 HR/9  to go along with a 45.9 percent ground-ball rate.

    The Blue Jays are on the hunt for arms and nearly acquired Musgrove this past summer, so it stands to reason that they’d have interest again. Others known to be in the market for starting pitching include the Angels, Mets, Mariners, Twins, Red Sox and Giants. Given Musgrove’s affordable salary, he’d be a logical fit on any contender or hopeful contender looking to add to its rotation.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Josh Bell On Extension Talks With Pirates]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=313474 2020-12-26T23:21:47Z 2020-12-26T23:21:47Z Before the Pirates traded Josh Bell to the Nationals, the team had some cursory negotiations about an extension with the first baseman’s agent Scott Boras, Bell told reporters (including Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic).  The two sides went “back and forth” on a long-term deal, Bell said, “but in regards to numbers or anything like that, I don’t think it ever got to that point.”  Bell is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season, when he’ll be 30 years old. 

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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Gregory Polanco Fractures Wrist]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=313437 2020-12-26T22:09:00Z 2020-12-26T20:42:32Z Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco fractured his right wrist playing winter ball, per John Dreker of PittsburghBaseball.com. Robert Murray of FanSided confirms that Polanco is expected to be out for four to six weeks. Polanco should be ready in time for spring training, so this injury shouldn’t affect his 2021 season.

    Polanco had made 87 plate appearances in the Dominican winter league with a .197/.276/.342 batting line. It’s not a great showing for Polanco, nor is it an overwhelming sample size. Still, Polanco is coming off a pair of rough seasons in 2019 and 2020 in which he finished with -0.6 bWAR and -1.0 bWAR, respectively.

    Polanco posted a measly .153/.214/.325 line in 174 plate appearances across 50 games in 2020. He tested positive for coronavirus in mid-July. As if that wasn’t enough, Polanco’s 2019 had been cut short to just 42 games because of hamstring and shoulder issues. Polanco underwent shoulder surgery in September of 2019, ending his season with a .242/.301/.425 slash line.  The 29-year-old is one of Pittsburgh’s longest-tenured players, having made his Major League debut with the club back in 2014.

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