Taillon, Sands among Bucs’ first cuts

The Pirates have finally made their first roster moves of the spring, announcing that eleven players will be headed back to minor league camp.

Jameson Taillon, Jerry Sands, Clint Robinson, Vic Black, Stolmy Pimentel, Hunter Strickland, Duke Welker, Erik Cordier, Matt Hague, Darren Ford, and Anderson Hernandez are the players departing from big league spring training.


Jameson Taillon, one of the club’s top prospects, will be headed to minor league camp. He just arrived back to Bradenton after participating in the World Baseball Classic, but he won’t be getting anymore action with the big league team this spring. Taillon will most likely start in Altoona, but a promotion to Indianapolis is likely at some point in 2013.

Two pieces from the Joel Hanrahan trade, Jerry Sands and Stolmy Pimentel, were optioned to Triple-A Indy. The other new players acquired in that deal, Mark Melancon and Ivan De Jesus, are still in camp. Melancon is expected to be part of the Bucco bullpen; De Jesus is battling for a bench job.

Another player acquired via trade this winter, Clint Robinson, was sent to Triple-A this morning. Robinson has been a classic “AAAA” player in his career, as he’s put up big numbers in the minors, but has yet to contribute in the majors.

Vic Black, Hunter Strickland, and Duke Welker are pitchers with the potential to help the Pirates down the road, but will start the year in the minors.

Matt Hague, who made the Opening Day roster in 2012 with a huge spring training, was also among today’s cuts. He’s hit .364 (8 for 22) in Grapefruit League play this year, but there simply isn’t a spot on the team for him.

Erik Cordier, Darren Ford, and Anderson Hernandez didn’t have much of a chance to make the club. They were reassigned to minor league camp as well.

Photo: Matt Burton/MiLB.com

In 35 Days…

Mark Melancon (35) days until Opening Day.

Melancon comes to Pittsburgh as part of the Joel Hanrahan trade, and looks to thrive as one of Jason Grilli‘s setup men. We named him one of our Pirates to watch in 2013.

Three questions about number 35…

1. Can he bounce back from an abysmal 2012? As you’ve probably heard by now, Melancon was terrible for the Red Sox last season. Allowing 11 runs in two April innings earned himself a demotion to Class AAA; he didn’t get along with manager Bobby Valentine, either. Melancon was impressive in September, however, surrendering just one run in 10 innings of work, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can build off that.

2. Will he settle into the eighth inning role? With Grilli filling Hanrahan’s ninth inning void, the Bucs will need someone to hold down the setup job. The club also has Tony Watson and Jared Hughes to split the duties, but Melancon could find his niche in the eighth inning. With a mid-90’s fastball and 12-6 curve among the pitches in his repertoire, he’s capable of striking men out; he’s posted a K/9 rate of 8.0 in his career. He could be a key piece to this year’s squad, and the Bucs may depend on him in the late innings.

3. Can he help justify the Hanrahan trade? Melancon will most likely be the first player from the Hanrahan deal to make an impact. Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus are fighting for a job, while Stolmy Pimentel is still in the minors. Melancon should get an opportunity right off the bat, and he’ll be able to show off what he has to offer. He comes a few years younger than the Hammer and at least $6 million cheaper, in addition to possessing multiple years of team control. He’s potentially the most intriguing piece of the Hanrahan package, so we’ll see if the Pirates got a bargain in Melancon.

[quote_box author=”Ray Searage” profession=”Pirates’ Pitching Coach”]“I said, ‘Dude, whatever you ate today, make sure you eat it the rest of the year. Because you’re on.’ … The fastball is there. It’s got good angle and carry to it. He was spotting up the cutter. The curveball was real, real good. All he’s got to do is trust his stuff … easier said than done, I know.” [/quote_box]

Go Bucs

Poll: Have the Pirates improved this offseason?

– Ali Solis (claimed off waivers)
– Felix Pie (signed as free agent)
– Zach Stewart (acquired via trade from BOS)
– Clint Robinson (acquired via trade from KC)
– Vin Mazzaro (acquired via trade from KC)
– Russell Martin (signed as free agent)
– Jason Grilli (re-signed)
– Mike Zagurski (signed as free agent)
– Andrew Oliver (acquired via trade from DET)
– Ivan De Jesus (acquired via trade from BOS)
– Stolmy Pimentel (acquired via trade from BOS)
– Mark Melancon (acquired via trade from BOS)
– Jerry Sands (acquired via trade from BOS)

– Jeff Clement (DFA; signed by Twins)
– Eric Fryer (DFA; signed by Twins)
– Daniel McCutchen (signed by Orioles)
– Hisanori Takahashi (released)
– Kevin Correia (signed by Twins)
– Chad Qualls (elected free agency)
– Rod Barajas (elected free agency)
– Chris Resop (traded to OAK)
– Yamaico Navarro (traded to BAL)
– Brock Holt (traded to BOS)
– Joel Hanrahan (traded to BOS)

*Moves that could potentially impact MLB roster. All transactions can be viewed HERE.

In your opinion, have the Pirates improved this offseason? Please cast your vote, and feel free to let us know your thoughts either in the comments section or on Twitter.

Pirates ship Hanrahan, Holt up to Boston

Over the past few weeks, numerous rumors floated around Major League Baseball regarding a possible Joel Hanrahan trade.

Those rumors slowly became a reality on Saturday afternoon, as the Boston Red Sox closed in on a deal that would bring the two-time All-Star closer to Beantown. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston was the first to report the rumblings.

Although a Hanrahan trade was inevitable heading into this offseason, this is still a tough pill to swallow for select Bucco fans. While the closer position is overrated, Hammer was a fan-favorite that saved 76 games over the last two seasons.

Neither of us are too upset that Hanrahan is gone. It was nearly guaranteed that he’d be traded this offseason. But we weren’t immediately pleased about what the Pirates got in return. We were pretty bummed to see the deal centered around former Dodgers prospect Jerry Sands. Boston beat writer Pete Abraham summed it up this way:

[tweet https://twitter.com/PeteAbe/status/282608856062889984]

Apparently the Pirates are receiving “spare parts” after demanding a signficant return earlier.

From the opposite side of the debate, Jeff Moore of The Hardball Times claims that the Pirates have made a good baseball move.

Anyway, one name that frequently popped up as a possible return was shortstop Jose Iglesias. Despite a weak bat, Iglesias provides value defensively, as he’s great with the glove. Clint Barmes’ contract expires after 2013, and Iglesias is under team control until 2018. We would’ve liked this addition, as he could’ve stepped into the starting shortstop role after splitting time season. However, he was the first name to be eliminated from discussions:

[tweet https://twitter.com/JonHeymanCBS/status/282560816467816449]

The first member of the BoSox that was confirmed to be part of the package was 1B/OF Jerry Sands. Sands, 25, was sent to Boston from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford, among others, to LA. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, he has a long, loopy swing. He is a career .289/.376/.562 hitter in the minors, but hasn’t found much success in 70 MLB games.

Sands just adds to the logjam of first basemen and corner outfielders the Pirates have. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are penciled in at first, while a bunch of underachievers, including Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider, hold down the corners. Starling Marte is unproven as well, but will most likely be the starting left fielder. With the addition of Sands, there may be another trade involving one of the players sooner than later.

The second Red Sox prospect named was pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. The 22 year old righty hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2009 when he was in A-ball. He was 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA in 2012 with the Class AA Portland Sea Dogs.

The third trade chip is 27 year old reliever Mark Melancon. He was dealt to the Red Sox from Houston last offseason for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. Melancon was solid in the closer role for the Astros in 2011, posting a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves. He struggled last season in Boston in 41 appearances. Despite a rocky 2012, he is the most intriguing player in this deal that is coming to Pittsburgh. Switching back to the NL Central should help Melancon, and he’ll likely be a key piece of the bullpen. Some insight from Peter Gammons:

[tweet https://twitter.com/pgammo/status/283994595082256384]

The fourth and final player coming from Boston is 25 year old infielder Ivan De Jesus. He went to the Sox with Sands last year in the mega-deal. De Jesus is a career .298 hitter in the minors; he’s hit just .205 in 48 big league games. He will not be included on the Pirates 40-man roster.

The other player leaving the Pirates in the deal is Brock Holt. Holt, 24, soared through the minors last season and earned a call-up after hitting .432 in 24 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. In 24 MLB games, he hit .292 (19 for 65) and potentially earned the right to battle for a backup infield job in 2013. Catching prospect Tony Sanchez is sad to see Holt go:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Tony26Montana/status/283995083211161600]

With the departure of Hanrahan, the Bucco bullpen is up in the air. As of now, Jason Grilli seems to be the only true veteran in the ‘pen. Mark Melancon has experience in the bigs. Jared Hughes and Tony Watson will be in there as well. After that? Who knows, but we expect a combination of young players, and maybe Vin Mazzaro (who is out of minor league options). The bullpen could either be solid or a total mess next year; it’s really too early to tell.

The Pirates haven’t stood pat this offseason, whether the fans like it or not. First, they gave $17 million to a decent catcher that could be a total flop. Then they gave a 36 year old reliever, who struggled down the stretch, nearly $7 million. They are taking a huge gamble of almost $13 million on inconsistent Francisco Liriano. Now they’ve dealt their closer for salary relief and a few unproven players. As we mentioned earlier, another outfielder or first baseman (maybe Jones?) could be on the way out. All of these moves are pretty risky, and could definitely put some jobs on the line in the front office. If/when Neal Huntington is fired, there could potentially be some moves to point to.

Andrew McCutchen was slightly confused when word got out on Saturday:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheCUTCH22/status/282621116630048768]

… then tweeted a cover-up:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheCUTCH22/status/282622763888410626]

… but ultimately wished Hammer well:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheCUTCH22/status/282625730871963648]

Tony Sanchez:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Tony26Montana/status/282615607013298178]

Neil Walker:

[tweet https://twitter.com/NeilWalker18/status/282888229122895872]

Best of luck to Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt in Boston.

Top Ten Pirates of the PNC Park Era: #8 Joel Hanrahan

Saves Save Ops. ERA IP SO
4 years 82 94 2.59 229.1 265

Over the past few seasons, Joel Hanrahan has anchored the Bucco bullpen.  “The Hammer,” as fans have called him, couldn’t make it as a starter with the Nationals, and was moved to the bullpen.  He came to Pittsburgh alongside Lastings Milledge in a trade that sent Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan to DC in June of 2009, and became the the Pirates’ full-time closer in 2011.  Hanrahan had a perfect save percentage for much of the year, went the All-Star Game, and finished the season with an ERA of 1.83 and 40 saves.  The team really took off in 2012, and Hammer led one of the league’s best bullpens.  Although he didn’t have quite as good of a season as 2011, he went to the ASG yet again and struck out the only batter he faced.  His 36 saves were the 5th most in the NL, and he finished with 10.1 K/9 last year.  He’s become a fan favorite at PNC Park, and the place really goes nuts when he gets within one strike of locking down a win for the Bucs.  Over the last two years, you could pretty much guarantee the Pirates would win if they held the lead after eight innings, thanks in large part to Joel.  Despite his success, many people have realized that he may be overvalued and the Pirates would be better off trading him and getting a team to overpay.  Hanny’s career as a closer in Pittsburgh might not last much longer, but he’s definitely been a top closer in his time here.

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons