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.
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.
- 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.
Yesterday, the Pirates acquired Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas in exchange for Alex Dickerson, while designating Garrett Jones and Kyle McPherson for assignment. Today, they’ve made a couple minor signings…
- Nevin Ashley, a 29-year-old catcher, inked a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. A member of Tampa Bay’s 2006 draft class, Ashley has yet to crack the major leagues. In eight minor league seasons, he’s hit .258/.352/.383 over 2758 plate appearances. Ashley spent the 2013 season with the Louisville Bats, Cincinnati’s Class AAA affiliate.
- Cody Eppley, a Dillsburg, PA native, has also been signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to camp. The 28-year-old right-handed pitcher has appeared in 71 MLB games since 2011 (Rangers and Yankees), posting a 4.61 ERA. Like many pitchers the Pirates have picked up recently, Eppley induces plenty of ground balls (60% GB rate in MLB) and can strike batters out (10.0 K/9 in MiLB).
The Pirates have made some roster moves on this final Monday of November…
- Decker’s name created some buzz last week when he was designated for assignment by the Padres. Good numbers in the minors, like his career .402 OBP and .858 OPS, made the 23-year-old outfielder an attractive option for some teams. The Pirates jumped at the opportunity, adding him to their collection of possible right fielders. Decker played just 13 games at the big league level in 2013, but he could break camp with the Bucs next spring.
- Mikolas, 25, is exactly what the Pirates have been looking for in pitchers (especially relievers) lately: a tall, hard-throwing right-hander who has the ability to generate groundballs. He’s made 27 career MLB appearances, posting a 3.44 ERA over 34 innings. In the minor leagues, Mikolas has been sharp with a 2.96 ERA, 7.6 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 over the last five seasons. It’s always good to have plenty of depth and Mikolas could be a nice arm in the bullpen.
- The Pirates gave up Alex Dickerson, a guy they drafted in the 3rd round in 2011. He did some nice things with the bat over the last few years, hitting .295 with an .827 OPS. They started him as a first baseman but he profiles more as a right fielder. With that in mind, it’d be tough for him to crack the depth chart over what the team currently has. They must feel Decker has more upside in the long term, thus shipping Dickerson off to San Diego.
At this point, Jones is one of the team’s more tenured players. Despite his declining performance, he was due for another raise in arbitration this year, making him an easy non-tender candidate for next week’s deadline. Since that was coming anyway, G.I. Jones was an obvious choice to DFA.
McPherson showed some promise at the end of 2012, which made him a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation for 2013. Injuries slowed him down and he eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in July.
More to come.
The Pirates have brought some players back to their roster on Tuesday afternoon.
Most importantly, Jason Grilli has been activated from the disabled list. The 36-year-old closer hasn’t pitched for the Bucs since July 22nd when he injured his arm at Nationals Park. Luckily he didn’t need Tommy John or any type of surgery, so he’s ready to go for the stretch run. Grilli has notched 30 saves in 2013, in addition to holding a 2.34 ERA and an excellent 14.0 K/9.
His return was evident after he tweeted this earlier:
Furthermore, the Pirates have recalled the four players they sent to Altoona last week while making room for Marlon Byrd, John Buck, Justin Morneau, and Stolmy Pimentel. Those four players are LHP Jeff Locke, RHP Jared Hughes, catcher Tony Sanchez, and outfielder Andrew Lambo.
The Pirates have recalled a few players, demoted a few players, and added to the disabled list…
1. The contract of Mike Zagurski was selected from Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s posted a 2.14 ERA and 15.9 K/9 for Indy this year. Pirates Prospects points out that Zagurski had a June 1st out-clause in his contract, which would explain his addition to the big league bullpen.
2. Bryan Morris was demoted to make room for Zagurski. Morris is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 15.2 innings with the Bucs this year.
3. Jose Tabata was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to an oblique strain. After going on a tear at the beginning of May, Tabata has cooled off as of late, hitting just .154 in his last eight games.
4. Josh Harrison was recalled to take Tabata’s place on the bench. J-Hay hit .279 with a .750 OPS at Triple-A. This move indicates that Travis Snider should be getting more playing time in right field.
Morris came into spring with a good shot to make the Bucco bullpen, since he was out of options. However, Major League Baseball granted him an extra option; thus he was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis. Here’s what GM Neal Huntington had to say:
“Yeah, options sometimes do come into play. In Bryan’s case, it allows him to get down and refine all his pitches, because when he does, he’ll be a very good Major League pitcher for a long time. There’s very little doubt he’s going to help us at some point this season.”
The minor league option status of all players on the 40-man roster can be viewed HERE.
De Jesus was acquired from Boston in December; he decided not to play for Puerto Rico in the WBC so that he could try to win a job with the Bucs. He had a nice spring at the plate, hitting .406/.424/.531, but the addition of John McDonald ended De Jesus’ chances of making the club.
Goedert has never cracked a major league roster in his career, and didn’t have much of an opportunity to make this Pirate squad. We wrote about Goedert a few weeks ago.
The Pirates battled the Boston Red Sox and the rain this afternoon at McKechnie Field. James McDonald took the mound after a weather delay, and got off to a shaky start. He allowed two runs in the first, but settled in after a few innings. J-Mac’s final line: 2 runs, 4 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s in five innings. Jason Grilli pitched a clean inning in his first appearance back from the World Baseball Classic. Mark Melancon and Chris Leroux pitched scoreless innings as well.
The Bucs relied on a few long balls to beat the Sox. Neil Walker went deep in the second off Clay Buchholz; Gaby Sanchez hit his fourth of the spring – a two-run shot – to give the Pirates the lead in the seventh; Michael McKenry provided some insurance with a dinger in the eighth. They had the bases loaded after The Fort’s home run, but Jared Goedert, Mel Rojas, and Carlos Paulino went down in order.
Boston showed signs of life in the last frame against Bryan Morris. Two quick ground outs were recorded, but Keury De La Cruz’s double and Jeremy Hazelbaker‘s single made it a 4-3 ballgame. Hazelbaker essentially turned his single into a double by stealing second base. However, Morris got Ronald Bermudez to ground out to shortstop to seal the Bucco victory.
The Pirates collected their 10th win in Grapefruit League play. They’re off tomorrow, but will be back in action Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves.
After moving eleven players to minor league camp on Wednesday, two more roster moves were made this morning.
The@pirates have optioned Tony Sanchez and Andy Oliver to Triple-A. A total of 49 players remain in big league camp.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 15, 2013
Tony Sanchez, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, will start the year in Indianapolis. There was an outside chance that he’d make the big league club, but the signing of Russell Martin ditched that option. After earning a promotion in June of 2012, Sanchez hit .233 with 8 HR in 62 Triple-A games. He ended the year on a good note, hitting .271 with an .802 OPS in August, including hits in 10 of his final 30 at-bats.
Andy Oliver, a left-handed pitcher, was acquired at the Winter Meetings in exchange for minor league catcher Ramon Cabrera. His time with the Tigers was marked by inconsistency and a lack of control. Oliver showed poor control again this spring, walking six batters in just 3.1 innings. At age 25, hopefully he can sort things out in Indy.
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.
The Pirates have optioned Vick Black, Stolmy Pimentel, Clint Robinson, Jerry Sands, Hunter Strickland & Duke Welker to AAA Indy.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 13, 2013
Also the Pirates have reassigned Erik Cordier, Darren Ford, Matt Hague, Anderson Hernandez & Jameson Taillon to minor league camp.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 13, 2013
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
According to various sources, the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to terms with free agent catcher Russell Martin. Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the news on Thursday night:
It appears that the contract will be for two years and worth $17 million. The deal should be finalized on Friday.
Here’s a look at Martin’s career offensive numbers:
|162 Game Avg.||162||145||16||73||.260||.352||.399||.751|
Bill James projects him to hit .242 with 16 home runs next season.
He’s been to the All-Star Game three times, and has also won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He brings experience and leadership to Pittsburgh as well.
While the price tag was a little high, Martin is definitely an upgrade over Barajas. We were skeptical at first, but this excited us a little bit:
This is where each of Martin’s 2012 home runs would have landed at PNC Park. The large left field would be expected to take away some of Martin’s power, but it looks like about 18 of his 21 bombs would have cleared the fences.
He also had an extremely low batting average on balls in play last season, which means that his average might climb a bit. Still, a .211 batting average is concerning and certainly not what the Pirates need.
It was refreshing to hear that Martin was intrigued by Bucs (enough so that he wanted to sign here). Neil Walker mentioned at the end of the year that they needed more veteran leadership, and Martin, who already has seven years under his belt, seems to be a good addition for the clubhouse.
This speaks volumes to the development of Tony Sanchez; is he really that far off? He’s certainly had a disappointing minor league career to date, but he was definitely a candidate to back up Michael McKenry. Plus it’s a two-year deal, so they must not have much faith in him at all. Here’s what Sanchez had to say:
Dejan Kovacevic of the Trib brings up a reasonable point: Russell Martin’s deal could easily turn out to be similar to Matt Morris‘. He says, “It’s far clearer now than it was with Littlefield in 2007 that they’re in huge trouble, hanging by a thread. And right along with it comes a monster deal — by Pittsburgh standards — for a light-hitting catcher on the decline… But let’s not pretend this transaction was anything other than what it was: A desperation move.”
Finally, Neal Huntington has been here in Pittsburgh since 2007. He’s honestly done nothing but lose; plenty of fans want him gone. Has he improved the state of the franchise a bit? Sure – flocks of people went through the turnstiles at PNC last season, season ticket sales are up, and some money is definitely flying in (we’re sure Nutting loves that). NH is fighting for his job… but he’s playing with fire. This signing could be a domino effect for the Bucs – how much more cash do they have to spend? Could Joel Hanrahan‘s career as a Pirate be over? We’ll know soon enough, as the Winter Meetings take place next week. Can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.
Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons
Neal Huntington and his staff shuffled the roster a bit today by acquiring three players.
First, they picked up RHP Zach Stewart from the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later. Stewart, 26, has a career 6.82 ERA in 33 games.
Next, the Bucs got 1B Clint Robinson and RHP Vin Mazzaro from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Luis Rico and Luis Santos (both minor league pitchers). Robinson, who will turn 28 in February, hit .292 with 13 HR last season for Triple-A Omaha. He’s been blocked in the Royals’ system, mostly by young first baseman Eric Hosmer. Robinson seems to be a decent pickup; his name was brought into discussion last spring when the Bucs lacked offense. The 26 year old Mazzaro had a 5.73 ERA in 44 innings last year for KC. He pitched against the Pirates on June 9th, lasting just three innings and surrendering four runs.
Rob Biertempfel of the Trib brought up some good points about these pickups. He writes, “Pirates today made two trades that could figure into plans for who is tendered/non-tendered Friday… Vin Mazzaro could be either back-end starter or long reliever, just like arbitration-eligible Jeff Karstens. Clint Robinson makes it 3′s a crowd at first base with arbitration-eligible Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez.” It’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs handle this. Both Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez should betendered contracts, but you never know. If Jones and Sanchez are on the Opening Day roster, Clint Robinson would most likely be replacing Matt Hague and Jeff Clement as the first baseman at Indianapolis.
In other news, it looks like the club is aggressively pursuing catcher Russell Martin. Jon Heyman wrote that the Bucs are trying to pry him away from the Yankees. Heyman says that the Pirates may be offering around 3 years/$25 million. Many of the people who have weighed in on the situation are not too excited about this deal. Martin hit just .211 last season and his power numbers will most likely decline at PNC Park. Is he an upgrade over Rod Barajas? Yes. Is he worth the money he’s asking for? Probably not.
Biertempfel had this to say - “There’s a sense among some in industry that Pirates will overpay if necessary for a FA this year. Will it be C Russell Martin? Management must show it’s serious about avoiding another second-half breakdown. And the club desperately needs a catcher.”
Ken Rosenthal with a few thoughts: