Friday, October 31, 2014

Contract Decisions 2015

The Pirates have quite a few decisions to make regarding their roster construction for 2015; four guys are free agents and another 14 are eligible for arbitration. Here's a capsule of the moving pieces:

The free agents (Qualifying offers must be made by 11/3; players get a week afterward to accept):

Russ Martin, C - Martin is looking at a multi year deal and one last big payday, making it unlikely for him to return to the frugal Pirates. Charlie Wilmoth of MLB TRade Rumors suggests "For Martin, a three-year deal in the range of $12MM-13MM per season might make sense, or possibly a four-year contract worth slightly less per season." We think that may be a tad low; he's the only top gun on the market and $15M/year doesn't seem out of line. For the Pirates, the length of the deal is the sticking point because of Martin's age (he's 32). They're likely to extend a qualifying offer of $15.3M; Russ isn't looking for one year, and the Bucs will get a draft pick if he finds greener pastures.

Francisco Liriano, LHP - Frankie is an interesting guy to try to evaluate. He's been pretty consistently excellent except for a stretch when pitching through an injury, but that's the rub - he's hurt a lot. That background (he's only pitched 323-1/3 IP in two years) could hurt his quest for big free agent money, and if the Pirates make a qualifying offer, he could accept it to try to rebuild his value for another run at a big deal in 2016, although the talk is that he could land a contract for 3 years/$40-45M. We think the QO is worth the risk whether he stays or goes. It's also been reported that he and Neal Huntington are at least communicating, so perhaps there can be a middle ground found.

Edinson Volquez RHP - Eddie is another tweener. His counting stats were excellent, but his deep stats show he's the same old Volquez, with fewer walks, fewer K and a better D behind him. He signed a bargain basement $5M deal this past season. A two year deal worth $16-18M should be in his ballpark, and the FO has to decide between making that offer with its current thin staff or trying to bring in another reclamation project to replace him.

Clint Barmes, IF - Barmes inked a $2M contract last year; he'll come back if he's willing to drop that number down a bit in 2015.

Here's an alpha list of the Bucs' arb-eligible players, with their service time, Matt Schwartz's MLBTR arbitration estimates for 2015 and a brief outlook (The tender deadline is 12/2):
  • Pedro Alvarez, 1/3B (4.085): $5.5M - First? Third? Trade bait? Lotta options available for El Toro this off season, especially with two remaining years of team control.
  • John Axford, RHP - DFA'ed. Tempting because he had a couple of options remaining and back-end experience, but he also carried a $4.5M contract with him.
  • Ike Davis, 1B (4.155): $4.4M - Will he stay or will he go? His future hinges largely on what the Bucs decide to do with Pedro and the FO's view of Andrew Lambo as a platoon option.
  • Jeanmar Gomez, RHP - DFA'ed. The Bucs have several long-man candidates, and Gomez started eight games as a spot starter in '13, but none this season, dropping his value by limiting his role.
  • Josh Harrison, 3B (3.033): $2.2M - Extension candidate after breakout year.
  • Jared Hughes, RHP (2.162): $1.1M - His stat line is probably unsustainable, but his counting numbers earned him Clint Hurdle's trust and a bridge role from the pen.
  • Mark Melancon, RHP (4.098): $7.6M - The Shark is in line for a nice (and well earned) chunk of cash, and along with Tony Watson's development, that could spell a trade.
  • Brent Morel, IF, (2.001+): league minimum - A back-up third baseman who is out of options and probably a roster spot.
  • Gaby Sanchez, 1B (5.025): $2.7M - He could swing either way as far as a tender goes; the Pirates don't have a RH first baseman in the system if they continue to platoon.
  • Travis Snider, OF (4.091): $2M - Finally showed some of his stuff this year, and his ability to hit same-side pitching makes him a valuable 4th OF'er.
  • Chris Stewart, C (4.091): $1.3M - He's a lock to get tendered. Chris' offense was an outlier, but he's a good glove guy and the equivalent of anyone left on the market not named Russell Martin.
  • Neil Walker, 2B (4.166): $8.6M - Unlikely extension candidate; he'll make his money through arb and is under team control through 2016, so neither side has a real compelling reason to talk.
  • Tony Watson, LHP (3.101): $2M - Keeps getting better and is Mark Melancon's heir apparent.
  • Vance Worley, RHP (2.139): $2.9M - The Bucs are short on pitching right now, and the price is right for a guy that can supply back-of-the-rotation innings.

    10/31: Brit Bucco, Reuss Comes To Town, Leyland MoY, Bye-Bye Vets...

    Brit Bucco, Reuss Comes To Town, Leyland MoY, Bye-Bye Vets...
    • 1874 - C Harry Smith was born in Yorkshire, England. He was a reserve catcher from 1902-07, hitting just .202 as a Bucco.
    • 1973 - The Astros traded Jerry Reuss to the Pirates for Milt May. Reuss ended up 61-46 with a 3.52 ERA as a Buc and was a rotation mainstay for four seasons. The lefty worked six campaigns in Pittsburgh (1974-78, 1990) and spent his last MLB season as a Pirate. He did get around; Reuss was on the roster of eight different clubs at one time or another and won 220 games in a 22-year career.
    Jerry Reuss - October, 1990 pitching his final MLB game
    • 1990 - Jim Leyland was selected as the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He guided the Bucs to 95 wins and a division title, easily outdistancing the Cincinnati Reds’ Lou Piniella.
    • 2011 - Roster shake-up day: the Pirates lost four veterans to free agency: C Ryan Doumit, C Chris Snyder, SS Ronnie Cedeno and LHP Paul Maholm. Late season acquisitions OF Ryan Ludwick and 1B Derrek Lee had declared themselves FAs the day before.
    Ronny Cedeno 2009 Topps Update series

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

    10/30: Buy-A-Roster, Bobby Bragan, Lee Tunnell, Ian Snell...

    Buy-A-Roster, Bobby Bragan, Lee Tunnell, Ian Snell...
    • 1884 - Financially troubled despite finishing second to New York in the American Association‚ the Columbus Colts sold its players to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for $6‚000 and disbanded. The Alleghenys needed all the help they could get; they finished the 1884 season 30-78 and 45-1/2 games behind the AA champion NY Metropolitans. 
    • 1917 - Manager Bobby Bragan was born in Birmingham, Alabama. The former big league infielder managed the Bucs just before they turned the corner in 1956-57, with a record of 102-155 (.397) before Danny Murtaugh took the reins. 
    Bobby Bragan - undated photo via Pittsburgh Sports Report
    • 1960 - RHP Lee Tunnell was born in Tyler, Texas. The Baylor righty was the Bucs’ second pick in the 1981 draft. He arrived in Pittsburgh the following September and then went 11-6/3.85 in 1983, but his four year run (1982-85) produced just a 17-24/4.06 line overall. 
    • 1981 - RHP Ian Snell was born in Dover, Delaware. He spent parts of six seasons (2004-09) as a Pirate starter, showing promise but never quite getting over the hump with a line of 33-46/4.75, and was traded to Seattle. 
    Ian Snell - 2007 Upper Deck series

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    10/29: Solly, Fido and Jim Bibby...

    Solly, Fido and Jim Bibby...
    • 1882 - OF Arthur Frederick "Solly" Hofman was born in St. Louis. Hofman played for the Pirates in 1903, then returned again in 1912-13. Playing off the bench, he hit .246 for the Bucs. Solly had a long run in the show, playing 14 years in the National, American and Federation leagues. His nickname was "Circus Solly." Some attribute the moniker to a comic strip of the era, while others claim it was thanks to his spectacular play in the field according to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary.
    Circus Solly Hofman photo from the Boston Herald 1912
    • 1893 - RHP Marcus “Fido” Baldwin was born in Homestead. He only pitched two years and some change for the Pirates (1891-93) but the club got its money’s worth. Between 1891-92, Fido started 104 games, went 47-55, and worked 878 IP with a 3.14 ERA. He was known as one of, if not the fastest, thrower of his era. He also was sued by St. Louis owner Chris von der Ahe for trying to influence his players to skip leagues (which he did), and was arrested for participating in the Homestead steel strike (he was freed, claiming to be just a spectator). Fido couldn't stay out of trouble; as a minor league owner in 1896, he and his teammates were arrested and convicted of a Blue Law violation for playing the first-ever Sunday professional game in Auburn, NY and was fined $5. Baldwin later became a doctor and was affiliated with Homestead’s Municipal Hospital. He’s buried in Allegheny Cemetery.
    • 1944 - RHP Jim Bibby was born in Franklinton, NC. The big guy worked five years (1978-83; he was out all of 1982 with a shoulder injury) for Pittsburgh, and won 19 games in 1980 during his All-Star season. He was 50-32/3.53 during that span. Bibby started three games in the 1979 championship run (1 NLCS, 2 WS) and while not getting a decision in any of them, put up a 2.08 ERA. His career highlight was in 1981, when he gave up a leadoff single to Atlanta’s Terry Harper and retired the next 27 batters. A shoulder injury suffered later that season eventually led to his retirement in 1984. Oddly, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in 1978 to replace Goose Gossage as the new closer, but he started 91 of his 146 Bucco outings. Another oddity: at 6'5", you'd suspect he had some basketball genes, and he did. Jim was an older brother of Henry Bibby and the uncle of Mike Bibby, both NBA players.
    Jim Bibby Topps 1984 series

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    10/28: Canena, Bob Veale, Nate, Jimmy Leyland...

    Canena, Bob Veale, Nate, Jimmy Leyland...
    • 1925 - OF Luis Ángel "Canena" Márquez Sánchez was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. One of the first Puerto Rican players in the MLB, he played for both the Homestead Grays (1946 - 1948) and briefly for the Pirates (1954), going 1-for-9 with four walks with the Bucs.
    • 1935 - Big lefty Bob Veale was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He pitched 10-1/2 years for the Pirates (1962-72) with a line of 116-91/3.06 and 1,652 strikeouts. Veale led the league with 250 K in 1964 and had over 200 whiffs four times in his career; his 276 punchouts in 1965 are still a club record. He also led the league in walks allowed four times.
    Bob Veale 1967 Sporting News
    • 1981 - OF Nate McLouth was born in Muskegon, Michigan. Drafted in the 25th round of the 2000 draft, he spent his first five big league years (2005-’09) with the Bucs, hitting .256 and earning an All-Star spot in 2008. McLouth was traded to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke after his AS season when his value was high and Andrew McCutchen was ready to step in to play center field. 
    • 1992 - Jim Leyland was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the second time he won the award. Leyland received 20 of 24 first-place ballots to outpoll rookie manager Felipe Alou of the Expos. Pittsburgh won 96 games and the division, only to be derailed by Atlanta in a seven game NLCS. 
    Jim Leyland undated team photo

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    10/27: Ralph, Big Trade, Traveling Band, Pete Vukovich, Mike Dunne...

    Ralph, Big Trade, Traveling Band, Pete Vukovich, Mike Dunne...

    • 1922 - Ralph Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico. He led the NL in home runs for seven straight seasons as a Buc. Kiner hit 301 bombs, drove in 801 runs, had a .971 OPS in his eight Pittsburgh seasons (1946-53) and was an All-Star six times.
    • 1924 - 1B Charlie "Jolly Cholly" Grimm, LHP Wilbur Cooper and SS Rabbit Maranville were traded to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Vic Aldridge, 1B George Grantham and 1B Al Niehaus. Cooper was near the end of his career, Maranville would have two more strong seasons with Boston, and Grimm played for Chicago for the next dozen years, hitting .296 with 1,079 RBI and became their player-manager (he was later the Braves skipper). Grantham hit .300 for six seasons with Pittsburgh and Aldridge won 40 games in his three year Bucco stint.

    George Grantham - 1927 via Out Of The Park

    • 1935 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, a touring group of AL All-Stars topped the Negro League champion Pittsburgh Crawfords 7-2 in Mexico City in the final match of a three game stand. Rogers Hornsby drove in three runs against Bert Hunter‚ and he drove in three more the day before when the All-Stars won 11-7. The first game ended in a 6-6 tie. The AL squad featured Hornsby‚ Jimmie Foxx‚ Ted Lyons‚ and Vern Kennedy while the Crawfords roster included Josh Gibson‚ Judy Johnson‚ and Cool Papa Bell.
    • 1952 - P Pete Vukovich was born in Johnstown. In his 11 year MLB career, he never tossed for the Pirates, but in 1992 he was hired by Pittsburgh as a pitching instructor. Vuckovich served as the pitching coach during the 1997–2000 seasons for Gene Lamont, then worked his way through the organization to become the Special Assistant to the General Manager until joining the Seattle organization in 2012.

    Pete Vukovich via Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame

    • 1962 - RHP Mike Dunne was born in South Bend, Indiana. He came to the Pirates as part of the Tony Pena trade and paid immediate dividends, going 13-6 with a 3.03 ERA in 1987 and finishing second to Benito Santiago in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting. He couldn’t match his first-year numbers down the road, winning just eight more games before being

    Sunday, October 26, 2014

    10/26: Harry & Howie, Judy, Frankie, Diomedes...or Not?

    Harry & Howie, Judy, Diomedes...or Not?
    • 1884 - RHP Harry Camnitz was born in McKinney, Kentucky. He worked once for the Pirates in 1909, going four innings and giving up a pair of runs, but that was long enough for him to became an early brother act with sib Howie, who won 109 games with the Bucs. Harry did have a strong minor league career, once winning 27 games for the McKeesport Tubers. 
    • 1899 - 3B William Julius "Judy" Johnson was born in Snow Hill, Maryland. The Hall-of-Famer spent the twenties as a stalwart of the legendary Hilldale Darby teams, then played and managed for the Homestead Grays in 1929-30. He also was with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, serving as team captain from 1932-1936. Judy retired after 17 seasons with a career .290 BA. The New York Times wrote " a third baseman, Johnson was often compared with Pie Traynor," and the paper recalled Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack’s comment about Johnson: "If Judy were only white," Mack said, "he could name his own price." 
    Judy Johnson - undated photo from Negro Leagues Museum
    • 1983 - LHP Frankie Liriano was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. One of the Pirates most notable reclamation projects, the southpaw went 23-18 with a 3.20 ERA from 2013-14 for the Bucs and won the 2013 "Comeback Player of the Year" award.
    • 1989 - RHP Diomedes Mateo was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. John Dreker in Pirates Prospects “This Date In Pirate History” noted that the Bucs were hoodwinked by Mateo, who they signed under the false pretense that he was a 16-year old player named Yoldi Sierra, not the 20-year old Mateo. The MLB found out, suspended Mateo for two seasons, and he was out of organized ball following the 2012 season.

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    10/25: Vic Aldridge, Branch Bows Out, Garber-for-Rooker, JJ...

    Vic Aldridge, Branch Bows Out, Garber-for-Rooker, JJ...
    • 1893 - RHP Vic Aldridge was born in Crane, Indiana. He only tossed three seasons for the Bucs (1925-27), but bookended those campaigns with World Series appearances. Vic went 40-30-2/3.99 for the Pirates, starting 86 times, and went 2-1 in his four WS starts.
    • 1955 - Hall-of-Fame executive Branch Rickey stepped down as the Pirates' general manager, replaced by Joe L. Brown. During the Mahatma's five-year tenure, Pittsburgh’s “Rickey-Dinks” had three 100-loss seasons. Rickey was credited with developing a solid farm system for the Pirates and stayed with the organization as an advisor. 
    Branch Rickey via Brittanica Online
    • 1972 - The Pirates traded RHP Gene Garber to the Royals for RHP Jim Rooker. Rooker pitched eight seasons for the Pirates, winning 82 games with a 3.29 ERA before becoming a Buc announcer. Garber pitched out of various bullpens until 1988, winning 96 games and saving 218 more. Over his 19 year career, he saved 20+ games five times, with a high of 30 in 1982 for Atlanta. 
    • 1978 - OF Jerry “JJ” Davis was born in Glendora, California. A first round draft pick in 1997, Davis made very little noise in the show, playing in just 53 games from 2002-04 for the Pirates and batting .163, mostly as a pinch hitter.
    JJ Davis 2001 Bowman series

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    10/24: Bill Kuehne, The Antelope, Junior, Raffy, Maz Hangs 'Em Up...

    Bill Kuehne, The Antelope, Junior, Raffy, Maz Hangs 'Em Up...
    • 1858 - 3B Bill Kuehne was born in Leipzig, Germany. He played every position but pitcher and catcher, hitting .240 in Pittsburgh (Alleghenys 1885-89, Burghers 1890). His best years were with the Alleghenys, hitting .299 in 1887 and leading the NL with 138 games played in 1888. Kuehne was fleet afoot, averaging 15+ triples per season. 
    • 1952 - Pirate CF Omar Moreno was born in Puerto Armuelles, Panama. “The Antelope” played eight years in Pittsburgh (1975-82) and led the league in stolen bases twice, swiping 487 sacks as a Buc. He hit .333 against the Orioles in the 1979 World Series. Omar was inducted into the Latino Hall of Fame in 2014.

    Omar Moreno - 1981 Topps Coca Cola series
    • 1959 - C Adalberto “Junior” Ortiz was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Junior caught for the Bucs from 1982-83, spent a year with the Mets, and came back again between 1985-89. In seven seasons, the reserve hit .264 as a Pirate. 
    • 1961 - SS Rafael Belliard was born in Pueblo Nuevo, Dominican Republic. He played his first nine seasons (1982-90) in Pittsburgh as a good glove shortstop, hitting .218 during that time but ranking first in the NL in fielding percentage in 1988. Belliard went on to play the second half of his career in Atlanta, and was part of the ‘91-92 teams that eliminated the Bucs in the NLCS. 
    • 1972 - Bill Mazeroski retired from the Pirates after 17 seasons. He only played 34 games and hit .188 in his final campaign as a bench infielder (.260 career BA). The Hall-of-Famer left a legacy of 10 All-Star games, eight Golden Gloves and two World Series championships. His number #9 was retired in 1987 and his statue was erected at PNC Park in 2010.
    Bill Mazeroski - 1967 Associated Press

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    10/23: Jim Bunning, Danny Murtaugh, Lloyd McClendon...

    Jim Bunning, Danny Murtaugh, Lloyd McClendon...
    • 1931 - RHP Jim Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky. The Hall of Famer tossed for the Bucs in 1968 and part of 1969, compiling a 14-23 mark with a 3.84 ERA before being traded to the LA Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. 
    Jim Bunning - undated from The Sporting News Mear collection
    •  1958 - The Associated Press named Danny Murtaugh as its Major League Manager of Year. After his first full season, the team improved by 22 games and finished 14 games over .500.
    Danny Murtaugh - September 1970 Sports Illustrated cover
    • 2000 - The Pirates hired deposed manager Gene Lamont’s batting coach, Lloyd McClendon, as their the new skipper even though he had no prior experience as a manager. McClendon spent his last five MLB seasons as a player with the Buccos.
     Lloyd McClendon 1992 Donruss series