Pirates’ Winter Meetings News & Rumors: Day 4

A small bit of Pirate stuff from the fourth and final day of this year’s Winter Meetings…

– The annual Rule 5 draft basically marks the end of the meetings, and that took place this morning. As expected, the Pirates passed on everyone in the major league portion. No sense in trying to keep a marginal player on the roster the whole year.

They did lose LHP Andy Oliver to the Phillies, however. The Bucs got Oliver, 27, from the Tigers at the Winter Meetings two years ago, but he never got a chance in the bigs due to some awful command. He posted a 4.05 ERA out of Indianapolis’ bullpen in 2013 while walking 8.1 batters per nine innings; he had better results this year (2.53 ERA) but still struggled with the strike zone (6.6 BB/9). Oliver does strike a lot of guys out, but obviously the Pirates never gave him a chance and didn’t feel the need to protect him from the Rule 5. Maybe he’ll figure things out with the Phillies.

They didn’t take anyone in the minor league portion of the draft either, but lost two players: Luis Urena (a converted pitcher) to the Tampa Bay Rays and Tyler Waldron (also a RHP) to the St. Louis Cardinals.

– Things are quieting down on the rumor mill, but Pedro Alvarez might be on the Marlins’ list of first base targets. John Perrotto wrote a few days ago that Alvarez would be available in trades, add that an Alvarez for Nathan Eovaldi trade was shot down by Miami. Tom Singer tweeted today that the teams could “renew Alvarez-Eovaldi talks,” but that seemed too good to be true. Bill Brink basically said there’s no chance it happens.

Eovaldi is a 24-year-old flamethrower who tossed 199.2 innings for the Marlins in 2014. His fastball averaged 95.7 mph, fourth-best in the bigs, just ahead of Gerrit Cole‘s 95.5. Eovaldi has three years of control remaining vs. Pedro’s two.

Once again, Alvarez’s trade value is low right now after the year he just had. He’s a streaky hitter at best, strikes out a ton, can’t touch a left-handed pitcher, forgot how to throw and now has to play an unfamiliar position — who knows which Pedro will show up in 2015. Sorry, I don’t think he’s going to fetch a young, controllable pitcher like Eovaldi.

Brandon McCarthy signed with the Dodgers last night for four years, $48 million. He was a good target for the Pirates, and they were one of the teams that pursued him. I doubt they would’ve gone four years on him… all in all, they definitely did a good job of bringing back Francisco Liriano for similar money on three years.

– A couple moves out of Cincinnati: the Reds traded both Alfredo Simon (Tigers) and Mat Latos (Marlins) for prospects today, taking two arms out of their starting rotation.

– As we said yesterday, the Pirates will be unveiling a new alternate jersey on Saturday. There was an all-gold jersey floating around Twitter this morning, which was a fake. However, the guys over at SportsLogos.net have already seen the new threads — they won’t leak anything, but are saying the actual alternate is worse than the fake one on Twitter. Yikes.

The Pirates have some camo items on their promotional schedule, and SportsLogos.net sort of alluded to it… so they might be camo. Meh. For what it’s worth, the black alternate jersey and Sunday throwbacks are apparently staying in the mix. Guess we’ll find out on Saturday.

PirateFest on Saturday and Sunday.

Depth Chart & Winter Meetings Primer
Winter Meetings Day 1
Winter Meetings Day 2
Winter Meetings Day 3

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News & Notes 12/6/14

Some recent Bucco news and notes as we approach the start of the Winter Meetings…

– The Pirates signed left-hander Clayton Richard to a minor league contract earlier this week. He’s battled injuries and multiple shoulder surgeries over the past few seasons, limiting his time on the mound. His last full season in the big leagues was 2012 with the Padres, when he led the league in starts (33)… but also hits allowed (228) and home runs (31) … which seems hard to do in San Diego, no? Richard is entering his age-31 season and was decent when healthy. He strikes out next to no one but induces plenty of ground balls (career 50%). Not a ton of risk here on a minor league deal, but maybe some time with the pitching gurus can turn things around for him.

clayton richard padres0001

– Speaking of the Padres, they signed Clint Barmes to a one-year, $1.3 million contract. Barmes, who will turn 36 in March, spent three years in the Burgh… His original 2/$10.5 contract was ugly in hindsight, and he just doesn’t have the bat to make consistent starts. He’s a good bench player though, especially with his solid glove work. Barmes was a hard worker and good guy, so we wish in the best in San Diego.

clint barmes0001

As expected, the Bucs will head to the Winter Meetings with an eye on starting pitching. Also as expected, “retaining [Francisco Liriano] is Huntington’s top priority.” Something that’s written every year that doesn’t happen: “Huntington could look to make a big splash at Meetings.” Tom Singer notes that Allen Craig is a guy the Pirates could look at to play a little 1st base.

– MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration estimates are always on point, but Mark Melancon‘s $7.6 million projection was a bit high due to his rare combination of holds and saves last season. Matt Swartz, creator of the model, analyzed a more accurate estimate for Melancon and guesses around $5.6-6.1 million could make sense.

– Grantland’s Jonah Keri released his MLB trade value rankings this week (Part I & Part II)… Buccos on the list: Gregory Polanco (45th), Starling Marte (38th), Gerrit Cole (33th), and obviously Andrew McCutchen (2nd).

– MLB.com released their top 50 draft prospects. Mt. Lebanon’s Ian Happ, a junior at the University of Cincinnati, ranks 16th. The switch-hitting Happ dominated the Cape Cod League the past two summers.

– PirateFest is coming up next weekend. Admission is free this year, but autograph lines are $20 (for charity). The list of current players scheduled to appear isn’t great (highlighted by Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, A.J. Burnett) … Travis Snider is getting married next weekend, so a lot of the team will be skipping ‘Fest for it.

Hopefully we’ll have lots up on the site next week as the Winter Meetings unfold.

Go Bucs

Photo: Denis Poroy/Getty

PirateFest Interviews with Chris Stewart & Neal Huntington

Chris Stewart PirateFest Interview

The Pirates were gracious enough to invite some bloggers into the Buc Social VIP area at PirateFest today. At noon, Tom (RumBunter), Charlie (Bucs Dugout), Richard (Saber Bucs), Steelreign (Pittsburgh Sports Forum), and I had the opportunity to talk with new Bucco catcher Chris Stewart.

Stewart, a California guy, just got into town and is getting settled with his wife and two kids. It’s his first time ever in Pittsburgh, but he’s looking forward to the new setting. Stewart said, “I’m excited…There’s a community feel with Pittsburgh that my wife and I enjoy.”

Stewart said he would’ve loved to stay with the Yankees, but is excited to get going with the Pirates. He mentioned that it’s nice coming to a legit, contending team. That’s refreshing to hear from a fan’s perspective, after so many years of bad baseball here in Pittsburgh.

He’s also excited to play with Russell Martin again. In 2012, Martin started 116 game behind the plate for the Yankees, while Stewart started the other 46.

A main talking point was his ability to frame pitches, or “steal strikes.” Like Martin, Stewart is among the best defensive catchers in all of baseball. Both catchers were among the top pitch framers last season.

On the new rule banning home plate collisions, Stewart said he’s a traditionalist and doesn’t like seeing many changes to the game. At the same time, he’s all for protecting catchers, so it’s a tough call. Stewart was on the Giants in 2011 when Buster Posey suffered a season-ending injury in a collision; that play seems to be the catalyst for the rule change.

Stewart seemed like a smart, genuine guy who can be a good addition to the Pirates’ clubhouse.

Neal Huntington PirateFest Interview

Later in the afternoon, Charlie, Steelreign, Kipper (Pittsburgh Sports Forum), Drew (RumBunter), and I got the chance to talk to general manager Neal Huntington.

We talked a bit about the starting rotation – how Edinson Volquez and others fit in – and Huntington preached the importance of depth: “Every time we’ve thought we had a surplus somewhere, that surplus dissipated quickly. And in some cases, that surplus becomes a deficit overnight.” With Liriano, Cole, Morton, Locke, Rodriguez, Volquez, possibly Burnett, and others on the way, NH said that “it will work itself out.”

When I asked him about how Gregory Polanco and Andrew Lambo are progressing in winter ball, he said, “Andrew (Lambo)… getting some work at first base, just as an option there if need be. We’d like to give Andrew a shot and see what he can do – a 24-year-old who hit 30+ home runs in the minor leagues last year – not getting a lot of love and we think some people have turned the page on him too quickly… the young man has grown up, he’s made some adjustments, and he’s in a really good spot.” If the Bucs choose an internal option to platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first base, Lambo would be the guy.

Clarifying his comments from a few weeks ago, Neal said “If (top-tier free agents) are looking for top-tier dollars, they’re going to play somewhere else… We certainly paid market value for Russell Martin… so it’s not that we won’t pay market value when it’s appropriate.”

We were only supposed to talk to NH for about 15 minutes, but he kindly took more questions and stayed for about a half-hour.

Both Stewart and Huntington gave us great insight – thanks to them for taking our questions. It was nice meeting some of the bloggers and putting names with faces. Huge thanks to Terry, head of Pirates’ social media, for making this happen. This was an awesome experience and I’m glad I got to take part in it.

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News & Notes 12/8/13

All has been quiet in Bucco land, but expect that to change this week: the annual MLB Winter Meetings start up on Monday and last through Thursday. Some news and notes to get started…

Jonathan Mayo, Rob Biertempfel, and others have written primers to get you ready for the Meetings. As we wrote the other day, a first baseman, starting pitcher, and depth player(s) should be on the team’s wish list this week. Right field could be upgraded as well, but with a bunch of guys already competing for a job (Jose Tabata, Travis Snider, Jaff Decker, Andrew Lambo) and top prospect Gregory Polanco on the way, the Bucs may stay in-house at that position. I think Neal Huntington should/will most actively pursue a first baseman this week; a few names to look out for on that front: James Loney, Mark Trumbo, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison.

– A few of those in-house right field options are getting some winter ball work in right now. Polanco is still tearing it up in the Dominican (.320/.424/.500 through 33 games), though he’s currently dealing with the stomach flu. Lambo is hitting just .175 in Venezuela, but it’s interesting to see him playing first base in addition to right field.

Clint Hurdle told 93.7 The Fan on Friday “there’s still a chance” that A.J. Burnett will re-sign with Pittsburgh.

– A few former Bucs signed with new teams the last couple days. Garrett Jones is going to Miami; Nate McLouth got a nice two-year contract with the Nationals; Chad Qualls picked up a lot of cash from Houston; Jose Contreras signed a minor league deal with Texas. I’ll compile a full list of former Pirates’ new homes later in the winter.

– Grantland’s Jonah Keri broke down the best trade values in baseball. Two Buccos cracked the list: Gerrit Cole at #26 and Andrew McCutchen at #2.

[quote_simple]”McCutchen leapfrogs Harper this year, because when you’re a 27-year-old player with no weaknesses who’s coming off your first MVP award and you’re under team control for the next half-decade for basicallythe Darren Dreifort contract, you’ve earned that promotion. And more improvement could be on the way.”[/quote_simple]

Cutch ranks behind only Mike Trout on the list. Pretty nice watching the second most valuable player in baseball, huh? And considering his contract versus what some of these players are getting on the open market, we should be really, really thankful.

– Dejan Kovacevic has a nice Sunday column about Mark Melancon‘s work promoting Major League Baseball in South Africa. Here’s the Bucs’ setup man and his wife with a cheetah down there:

mark melancon wife cheetah

– Reminder that PirateFest is coming up next weekend, Saturday & Sunday at the Convention Center. Be sure to get your tickets.

113 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

PirateFest 2013: December 14th & 15th

A lot of people have been wondering when PirateFest will be held this year, and we finally have some info:

piratefest 2013 dates

What we know so far:

– It will be held in December again for the third consecutive year.

– Season ticket holders will get just three separate hours this year, rather than an entire day.

– Rather than doing the traditional three-day Friday through Sunday format, it sounds like the Bucs will only be hosting it two days this year.

We’ll have an update tomorrow when the Pirates announce the full details.

UPDATE: It’s official – PirateFest will be held on Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th. Saturday will be noon to 7:00 pm; Sunday will be noon to 5:00 pm. Tickets, which you can buy online, are $12 for adults and $6 for kids. All the usual autographs, games, etc. will be back at PirateFest; more details HERE.

Go Bucs