Pirates make first transactions of offseason

This could shape up to be an interesting offseason for the Pirates. Between Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez heading to free agency and some intriguing arbitration cases, they have quite a few decisions to make.

We’ll look more into the offseason storylines in the near future, but here’s a quick summary of what the Bucs did on Friday to start transitioning their roster.

First, they acquired right-handed pitcher Preston Guilmet from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for cash considerations.

Guilmet, a 27-year-old reliever, has not had any success at the big league level in a small sample size:

2013 CLE 0 0 10.13 4 5.1 8 6 6 3 1 4.36 2.063 5.1 1.7
2014 BAL 0 1 5.23 10 10.1 8 6 6 2 12 3.91 0.968 1.7 10.5
2 Yrs 0 1 6.89 14 15.2 16 12 12 5 13 4.06 1.340 2.9 7.5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2014.

His minor league numbers have been much better and much more intriguing, however:

2009 Mahoning Valley A- CLE 6 6 4.09 15 70.1 70 41 32 16 62 1.223 1.0 2.0 7.9
2010 Lake County A CLE 4 1 2.25 30 52.0 35 13 13 10 79 0.865 0.5 1.7 13.7
2011 Kinston A+ CLE 1 1 2.16 52 58.1 43 14 14 11 60 0.926 0.6 1.7 9.3
2012 Akron AA CLE 2 2 2.39 50 52.2 41 14 14 13 51 1.025 0.7 2.2 8.7
2013 Columbus AAA CLE 5 4 1.68 49 64.1 43 19 12 14 72 0.886 0.6 2.0 10.1
2014 Norfolk AAA BAL 4 2 3.91 40 48.1 42 25 21 10 54 1.076 1.1 1.9 10.1
6 Seasons 22 16 2.76 236 346.0 274 126 106 74 378 1.006 0.8 1.9 9.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2014.

Notable: pretty ridiculous run prevention (though his ERA dipped to 3.91), excellent strikeout and walk numbers, and a WHIP near 1.

Looking at those numbers, you’d think he would be an overpowering hurler. That’s not the case — his fourseam fastball averaged just 89.99 mph in his short sample of MLB action. He throws the fourseam, a sinker, and a splitter, per Pitch f/x.

In line with the organization’s philosophy, you also might make the assumption that this is a ground ball guy. That’s not really the case either — in the minors this year, he produced a 42% ground ball rate (slightly below average), per MLBfarm.

The Pirates have been active with waiver claims recently (Bobby LaFromboise, Chaz Roe, etc.). Guilmet is another example, and I’m sure the cash considerations weren’t much. We’ll see where he fits in next year.

preston guilmet0001

To make room for Guilmet on the 40-man roster, the team needed to make a cut. They designated Jose Tabata for assignment, which really shouldn’t be a shocking move.

The org. really doesn’t like losing assets; most guys they could cut would be claimed. They’re not going to lose Tabata. You’ll remember that they DFA’d him in the summer after he cleared waivers, then outrighted him to Indy. That’ll happen again — absolutely no one wants Tabata’s contract, and if they do, the Pirates should be grateful. A player can only be outrighted once without his consent, but since Tabata hasn’t accumulated five years of service time, he can’t demand to be kept on the roster or released. He’d become a free agent if he didn’t give consent, but he’s not going to walk away from this contract — no one else would give him anything like that.

He’ll make $4 million next season, and this move is even more indication that he isn’t fitting into their plans. If they can dump him on any team this offseason, they need to do it.

More minor news: Chris McGuiness and Vin Mazzaro declared free agency. Neither a surprise. McGuiness, a first baseman picked up last offseason, was a good on-base guy at Indy this year without a ton of power and no future in Pittsburgh. Mazzaro played a role for the 2013 Pirates, but appeared in just five MLB games this past season. He was DFA’d twice during the year, claimed by no one, and didn’t even get a shot as a September call-up.

More to come.

Go Bucs

Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images; Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Pirates commit $17 million to six arb. players for 2014

NeilWalker Pirate Parrot

Today was MLB’s deadline for teams to reach deals with arbitration eligible players before exchanging figures. The Pirates agreed to contracts with all six of their arb. eligibles: Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Melancon, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, and Vin Mazzaro. Their 2014 salaries are as follows:

2014 Salary
Neil Walker $5.75 million
Pedro Alvarez $4.25 million
Mark Melancon $2.595 million
Gaby Sanchez $2.3 million
Travis Snider $1.2 million
Vin Mazzaro $950K
Total $17.045 million


The team has committed just over $17 million to those six, which is a bit more than what MLB Trade Rumors predicted:

MLBTR Projected Salary
Neil Walker $4.8 million
Pedro Alvarez $4 million
Mark Melancon $3 million
Gaby Sanchez $2.3 million
Travis Snider $1.4 million
Vin Mazzaro $800K
Projected Total $16.3 million


Walker got nearly a full million more than his projected salary; Alvarez and Mazzaro will get slightly more than projected. Melancon and Snider took salaries just under their projections, while Gaby Sanchez’s was right on the money.

Matt Swartz has built a tremendously accurate model for the projections for MLBTR, which teams and agencies actually reference

After adding these numbers, the Pirates’ payroll now sits around $70 million for 2014.

Go Bucs

Who will get bumped out of the Bucco bullpen?

With PirateFest behind us, the next baseball date to look forward to is February 13th – the day pitchers & catchers will report to spring training in sunny Bradenton, Florida.

It might be a little early to start thinking about the 2014 roster, but some of the things we heard at the Convention Center this weekend got us anxious.

One area where the Pirates have tremendous depth is with their pitching staff. Pitching – especially the bullpen – led the way in 2013, and looks to be strong again next year. Here are the guys lined up for the Shark Tank…

1) Jason Grilli

2) Mark Melancon

3) Justin Wilson

4) Tony Watson

These four are locks, barring a trade. The team was listening on offers for Wilson during the Winter Meetings last week. Frank Coonelly said, “It would be very difficult for us to trade either (Watson or Wilson). But we never say never.” I wouldn’t expect them to go anywhere (unless the Bucs got a huge return).

This is where it gets tricky, as the next four guys are all out of minor league options:

5) Vin Mazzaro

6) Jeanmar Gomez

7) Bryan Morris

8) Stolmy Pimentel – At PirateFest on Saturday, Neal Huntington came out and said directly that Stolmy will be on the team next year.

There would be nowhere to put these guys, and that’s eight pitchers for seven spots.

The good thing is that you can never have enough arms, and as Neal Huntington told us on Saturday, “Every time we’ve thought we had a surplus somewhere, that surplus dissipated quickly.” There are other choices, too: Jared Hughes, recently re-acquired Duke Welker, and newly acquired Miles Mikolas all have options remaining.

The bad thing is that you can’t keep them all, and no remaining options make it difficult.

Maybe a trade is on the way? According to Travis Sawchik, one American League club executive believed the Bucs will be dealing from their surplus of bullpen arms. With the Pirates in the market for a first baseman, we could definitely see a deal involving one of these pitchers.

We’ll see what happens. Just about 15 weeks until Opening Day, and it can’t come soon enough.

Go Bucs

Credit where credit is due: Pirates Unsung Heroes of 2013

Pirates’ Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting

You know about Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, A.J. Burnett, and the other high-profile players who helped the Pirates to their first postseason appearance in two decades. But what about the role players – and even other members of the organization? They also deserve a little glory for their hard work and success this year. Here’s some recognition for those who don’t get enough credit.

Tony Watson

When you think about the 2013 “Shark Tank” bullpen, you’ll remember closer Jason Grilli and setup man Mark Melancon. While the two All-Stars led the way, there was another key arm who carved the path to victories: Tony Watson. The 28-year-old lefty struggled at the beginning of the season, but bounced back and finished ridiculously well. If you were told that Watson’s ERA was 4.61 on June 1st and he finished the year at 2.39, you definitely wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s exactly what happened.

In his last 42 appearances of the regular season, Watson posted some ridiculous stats: 1.02 ERA, 6:1 K/BB ratio, .166 opponent batting average. He finished the year with 21 consecutive scoreless outings.

Justin Wilson

Watson wasn’t the only solid southpaw in the bullpen; don’t forget about Justin Wilson. The 26-year-old lefty quietly succeeded in his first full MLB season, posting an excellent 2.08 ERA over 73.2 innings. He showed off his strength by averaging 96 mph on his fastball and ramping it up near 100 at times. Wilson can also be a starter, though his ability to be a power lefty out of the ‘pen is a tremendous asset.

Jeanmar Gomez

Acquired for minor leaguer Quincy Latimore last winter, Gomez was a huge question mark but turned into a great buy-low pickup for the Bucs. Put it this way: Gomez was a serviceable arm all season out of the bullpen, while Latimore ended up with the Washington Wild Things. Yes, those Washington Wild Things.

Vin Mazzaro

Similar to Gomez, Mazzaro was a guy with a couple questionable seasons in the American League under his belt. However, he ended up pitching very well in various roles out of the Shark Tank. Mazzaro posted a 2.81 ERA in 73.2 innings.

Brandon Cumpton

In terms of the major league team, Cumpton entered 2013 as an afterthought. Many Bucco fans had never even heard of him. But when the Bucs needed an extra arm in June, Cumpton came up and exhibited the organization’s great pitching depth. Though not considered a top prospect, the 24-year-old pitched well over multiple spot starts, including seven innings of shutout ball against St. Louis in game 2 of the July 30th doubleheader. While he only made six appearances (five starts), he never allowed more than three runs in an outing (2.05 ERA) and kept the Pirates in each ballgame. A young pitcher like Cumpton deserves credit for that.

Jeff Locke

Yes, Locke made the All-Star team, but he will likely be remembered for how he fell back to earth. But he still deserves a ton credit for giving the Pirates an excellent chance to win every fifth day in the first half. In 15 starts between April 23rd and July 8th, Locke gave up more than three earned runs just once; he gave up two runs or less in 12 of those outings.

Charlie Morton

A lot of fans didn’t seem too confident in Charlie when he first returned from Tommy John surgery. However, he kept getting better and better, becoming one of the team’s best starters down the stretch. Morton had a string of six consecutive starts between August 7th and September 2nd where he pitched at least six innings and gave up no more than two runs. Don’t forget the “Electric Stuff”:

Charlie Morton electric stuff

He might not be the pitcher you think about when remembering the Pirates’ staff, but Morton is a solid back-of-the-rotation starter.

Dan Fox

Fox is the man behind the Pirates’ analytics department, which implemented the use of defensive shifts this season. The tactic helped save plenty of runs in 2013, transforming the Bucs into one of the best defensive teams in the majors. Kudos to Fox for introducing the shifts, as well as to Clint Hurdle and his staff for embracing the technique.

Neal Huntington

Neal Huntington, the architect behind this ballclub, might deserve more credit than anyone. His offseason moves – signing Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano, trading Joel Hanrahan, etc. – were questioned by many, myself included. But man, did they pay off; NH’s plan has tremendously improved the product on the field (and it goes beyond those three aforementioned moves). For someone who was on the hot seat after 2012’s collapse, Huntington did an unbelievable job this season.

Bob Nutting

In the final years of the infamous losing streak, Nutting was one of the most mocked men in Pittsburgh – how he was too cheap, how he would never own a winning team, as well as the occasional joke about Seven Springs. But as Dejan Kovacevic brought to everyone’s attention in a great column a few weeks ago, Nutting deserves plenty of credit for the team’s success in 2013. After they collapsed at the end of last season, the Pirates’ Chairman of the Board went out looking for answers; consider these few paragraphs:


“Nutting is far more a delegator than dictator, but he knew what he had to do. As one high-ranking member of the front office described it to me a few days ago, he “blew the doors and walls off the place.”

Meaning 115 Federal.

Meaning bringing everyone to the same table.

Meaning having people who couldn’t stand each other look eye to eye and exchange meaningful ideas toward that common goal.”


Nutting was serious about turning things around, and guess what? Things ended up turning out pretty well. Kudos to Nutting for doing his part.

Go Bucs

Pirates select Vin Mazzaro from Indy

The Pirates have made another roster move this afternoon, selecting the contract of RHP Vin Mazzaro from Class AAA Indianapolis. RHP Bryan Morris has been optioned back down to the minors.

Mazzaro, 26, posted an 8.44 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10.2 spring training innings for the Bucs. He’s known for allowing 14 earned runs in 2.2 innings in a May of 2011 game vs. Cleveland.

After James McDonald struggled last night, the bullpen was heavily used. And since Jonathan Sanchez is pitching tonight, the Pirates may have to dig deep into that bullpen again. Therefore, Mazzaro’s recall is logical, in the sense that he can pitch multiple innings.

One of the relievers used last night was Bryan Morris, who had to throw 45 pitches in the 10-6 loss. Morris has a minor league option for this season, so he was the easy choice to get sent down. He should get a legitimate chance to prove himself in the bullpen real soon, however.

Bullpen Workload

Updated Pirates Depth Chart

Other moves the Bucs have made in the past few days: Morris up/Leroux DFA, Irwin up/Harrison down, Presley up/Irwin down.

Lineups for tonight’s game vs. St. Louis:

Pirates   Cardinals
Marte LF Robinson CF
Tabata RF Beltran RF
McCutchen CF Holliday LF
Jones 1B Craig 1B
Walker 2B Molina C
Alvarez 3B Freese 3B
Martin C Carpenter 2B
Barmes SS Kozma SS
Sanchez P Westbrook P

Go Bucs