Bucs Bits: Pirates News & Notes 1/16/14

Four weeks from today, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training. Here’s some Pirates news to hold you over…

Update 7:50 pm: Joel Sherman has just reported that the Bucs avoided arbitration with Travis Snider, signing him for $1.2 million. He was projected to earn $1.4 million by MLBTR.

– Another great report on Gregory Polanco, via Peter Gammons:


“The single most significant winter ball story has been 22 year old Pirate outfielder Gregory Polanco, the Darryl Strawberry lookalike who was the MVP in the Dominican as he put up an astounding .428 on base percentage. He is close to being another huge chip in the rebirth of a franchise that had the third best record in the National League in 2013 and has Baseball America’s rating as the best farm system in the game.

Says one National League GM: “Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte will be the best outfield in the league. Their all-around games are really good.”


– Other top prospects in the system are getting recognition as well. MLB.com is currently releasing their Top 10 lists by position; LHP, RHP, C, and SS have been named so far. The Pirates have a prospect ranked in three of those four categories:

MLB’s Top 100 Prospects list will be released next Thursday, January 23rd. Expect to see quite a few Bucco farmhands on there.

– Two members of the 2013 Pirates signed minor league deals today: catcher Michael McKenry with the Rockies and infielder John McDonald with the Angels.

An all-around good guy, McKenry spent the last three years with the Bucs, hitting .226/.293/.381 in 187 games.

McDonald, 39, spent time with the Pirates, Indians, Phillies, and Red Sox in 2013. He hit just .065/.171/.097 in Pittsburgh before landing on the DL in mid-May and being traded less than a month later.

– Major League Baseball has officially expanded instant replay for 2014.

Matt Snyder posted the Pirates’ all-time single season team over at CBS’ “Eye on Baseball.” Their list is a little bit different than the one Wilbur Miller posted on Bucs Dugout last night.

Dock Ellisstory will be featured in an upcoming film, “No No: A Dockumentary”

74 days until the opener.

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News and Notes 1/3/14

Michael The Fort McKenry Pittsburgh Pirates

Some Bucco links to start the weekend…

– Jeff Sullivan has a great article at FanGraphs about the effect PNC Park has on hitting.

According to Chris Cotillo, catcher Michael McKenry is drawing interest on the free agent market. The Pirates designated the 28-year-old catcher for assignment a little over a month ago. McKenry, 28, hit just .223/.291/.376 in 187 career games with Pittsburgh, while also struggling with his defense. The Fort was a nice guy; hopefully he latches on somewhere.

Kyle Farnsworth, who pitched nine games for the Pirates this September and actually looked pretty good, is drawing interest from 6-8 clubs.

– FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes about how the Pirates “have mostly been sitting on their hands” this winter…


“During all those years of losing, perhaps the Pirates forgot the saying that staying on top is more difficult than getting to the top.

Considering how little they’ve done so far this off-season, it looks like that, anyway.”


– Tim Williams has a good list of 14 “boom or bust” Bucs who could make an impact this season.

– Buster Olney gave the Pirates some high praise on his ESPN Insider rankings this week: #10 team, #10 defense, #5 rotation, #4 bullpen.

Starling Marte needs to be less like a pinata, apparently.

– RHP Jeff Suppan, who posted a 3.57 ERA over 21 outings with the Bucs in 2003, has officially retired from baseball.

– Don’t forget to vote on our new poll.

Jordy Mercer was on MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning:

– Happy 37th birthday to A.J. Burnett

Just about 40 days until pitchers & catchers report to Bradenton.

Go Bucs

Bucco Blast from the past: McKenry’s first in the big leagues

Each week, we’ll feature a great “Bucco Blast” from the Pirates’ past… in .GIF form.

Michael McKenry was designated for assignment after Monday’s acquisition of Chris Stewart. Though this signals the end of The Fort’s time in Pittsburgh, he made quite a few fans and memories here. His first major league home run – a three-run go-ahead bomb off Carlos Marmol on July 8th, 2011 – was an unforgettable moment:

Michael  McKenry First Home Run 2011

Greg Brown’s great call on ROOT Sports: “Fly ball to left field… MICHAEL MCKENRY, The Fort! Ohhh, baby! Your Buccos lead it! Unbelievable! … His first in the big leagues! They’re gonna bring the house down!”

And the curtain call, with an unreal fist pump from Neil Walker in the background:

mckenry curtain call0001

Best of luck to McKenry in the future. A hard-nosed fan favorite with a pretty awesome nickname.

118 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

Previous Editions:
Nov. 18th – Roberto Clemente’s Game 7 HR
Nov. 25thWillie Stargell‘s Game 7 HR

Pirates Roster Moves 12/2/13


Monday night at 11:59 pm is Major League Baseball’s deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players. Therefore, plenty of decisions are to be made on that front.

But first, the Pirates made a trade: they acquired catcher Chris Stewart from the New York Yankees in exchange for a player to be named later. Mike Axisa, who writes about the Yanks at River Ave. Blues, tweets that the PTBNL will likely be a non-40-man roster minor leaguer who has to go unclaimed in next week’s Rule 5 draft before being named.

Stewart, 31, is a very light-hitting catcher (.566 OPS in 2013) but brings value defensively, especially with pitch-framing. It turns out that Stewart was the second best pitch-framer in baseball last season, ahead of exceptional defensive backstops like Yadier Molina, Jose Molina, and the Pirates own Russell Martin. He has also thrown out 33% of base stealers in his major league career, showing off what is apparently one of the best arms in the game. We’ll have more on Stewart’s role with the team and the future of Tony Sanchez in the coming days.

The acquisition of Stewart means the end of Michael McKenry‘s time in Pittsburgh. McKenry, who achieved Super 2 status to become eligible for arbitration this year, was a non-tender candidate and got designated for assignment this morning. The Fort evolved into a fan favorite over the last few years but really struggled with throwing out base runners. With the Pirates increasing their valuation of defense, Stewart represents an improvement at a similar price.

mckenry tweets

This post will be updated as soon as the Pirates release more information on their tender/non-tender moves.

UPDATE 12:15 am

Finally, 15 minutes after the deadline, the Pirates have made an announcement.

Michael McKenry, Garrett Jones, and Kyle McPherson – all designated for assignment within the last week – got non-tendered (no surprise) and become free agents.

Chris Stewart has signed a one-year deal with the team, though that was known at the time of Monday’s trade.

– All other arb. eligible players – Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Charlie Morton, Mark Melancon, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, and Vin Mazzaro – have been tendered contracts. Those are mostly no-brainers, with the exception of Snider. We wrote a bit back in June about how patient the club should be with him. With a crowded right field competition to begin with (Jose Tabata, Andrew Lambo, Jaff Decker, Jerry Sands) and Gregory Polanco on the way, it’s interesting to see them give him another shot.

The 40-man roster is full at this point. More moves surely on the way.

Go Bucs

2013 in Review: Catching

Russell Martin Pittsburgh Pirates 2013

The 2012 Pirates struggled in the catching department, as starter Rod Barajas performed poorly on both offense and defense. Things were much better in 2013, however, as Russell Martin immediately made an impact and proved to be a tremendous asset behind the plate.

Final offensive stats:

pittsburgh pirates catching offensive stats 2013

Entering his age 30 season, Martin signed a two-year, $17 million deal to join the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the first small market stop of his career, after playing five years in Los Angeles and two in New York. At 4.1 wins above replacement, Russ was the third-most valuable catcher in the National League behind Yadier Molina and Buster Posey. He was decent at the plate throughout the year, logging most of his at-bats out of the fifth spot in the lineup. Ideally he’s better suited in the sixth or seventh spot, where he fell after the acquisitions of Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd. Martin’s two home runs in the Wild Card game won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Most of his value comes on the defensive side of the plate, an area in which he was one of the best in the league. Barajas couldn’t throw out a baserunner to save his life in 2012, but Martin gunned out more would-be base stealers than anyone in Major League Baseball in 2013 (36). His 40% caught stealing rate was the best mark of his career. He’ll be back behind the dish for the Bucs in 2014.

Michael McKenry, a scrappy fan-favorite, had a disappointing year. His season came to an abrupt end on July 27th, when he injured his knee and needed surgery. Heading into that final game, The Fort was hitting just .191/.239/.318 – but he went 4-for-5 with a double, boosting his final season line to .217/.262/.348. Opposite of Martin, McKenry couldn’t get a rhythm on defense, throwing out runners at just a 15% clip. He’s eligible for arbitration this winter due to Super 2 status, so it’s unclear if the Bucs will bring him back in 2014. With Tony Sanchez likely to provide better production at a cheaper price, they’ll probably pass on McKenry.

After quite a journey through the minors, Sanchez made his MLB debut this past June. The 25-year-old backstop finally started to hit a little bit in his fifth minor league season, earning himself a call-up. When McKenry hit the shelf in July, Sanchez came up for good and appeared in 20 games down the stretch. As I mentioned, there’s a strong chance he’ll have the backup catching duties next year, which should be a good learning experience under the wing of Russell Martin.

John Buck was brought to Pittsburgh in the Marlon Byrd trade, likely just as a throw-in. If the Bucs wanted to get Byrd, Buck was coming with him. The 33-year-old veteran didn’t see much playing time and there’s about a 0% he’ll be in Pittsburgh next season.

2013 in Review: Previous Editions
Starting Pitching