Lotsa of fine tuning going in the Pittsburgh today. The names on the move (and no, Jack Splat isn't one of them, not yet, anyway)...
> RHP Jason Davis and C Raul Chavez were unceremoniously dumped from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Indy. They can accept the assignment, or much more likely, refuse it, which would make them minor league free agents.
Pittsburgh could conceivably sign the pair to new contracts, for less than they would get if they had been offered arbitration. The Bucs will put them on the backburner for now; they need the 40-man openings for any Rule 5 guys that may catch their eye next week.
There are a handful of pitchers that may be keepers available via Rule 5, and a couple of decent catchers if they intend to replace Chavez with a pup and keep Diaz at Indy or carry three on the 24-man. (We're assuming Ronny Hustle won't break camp as a Pirate).
> Speaking of minor league FA's, the Pirates hauled in a pair. First is LHP Daniel Haigwood, who pitched for Boston's AA Portland Sea Dogs last year. He was 2-3 with a 3.36 ERA out of the pen.
Haigwood was thought to be a hot property a couple of years ago, and features a low-to-mid 90s heater, curve, slurve, and change-up. He was a starter until 2008, and we're not sure in which role the Pirates plan to utilize Haigwood.
The 25-year old is considered a legit prospect, but has never pitched above AA and been in four different organizations since 2005. But he was invited to camp, and is a low-risk arm to add to the Buc's depth chart at the AA or AAA level. Could be that they're looking for Phil Dumatrait lightning to strike twice.
The other pick-up is OF Maiko Loyola, who started with Pittsburgh in 2002 and was taken by Tampa Bay in the 2005 AAA Rule 5 draft. He hit .280 with 45 steals for Columbus in the A Sally League.
The 23-year old has lots of speed, a pretty good OPS, and is a sweet base-stealing threat. With all that zip, he's still thought better suited to play corner outfield rather than center. Loyola isn't considered a great prospect, but he does have some upside and should fit into the AA or AAA level nicely.
Loyola sounds very much like a player cast in the Nyjer Morgan mold, with maybe a little less pop at the plate and a little more polish as a baserunner. He is a prototypical lead-off hitter, and those players are in short supply in the organization.
All in all, a pair of good moves to help shore up the very thin upper levels of the system. Both could well end up on Indy's roster to start 2009 after the broom has swept through its 2008 roster.
> The Pirates also added three players for their VSL club, SS Ashley Ponce, SS Jorge Bishop, and LHP Julio Denis. We won't be googling them unless they make it stateside.
> 30-year-old IF Matt Kata signed a minor league contract with the Astros with an invitation to major league camp in the spring. He spent some time in 2007 with the Bucs and 2008 at Indy. Kata will try to win a utility IF spot at Houston from a crowded field of contenders.
> RHP John Van Benschoten signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. Indy will never be the same; an era has ended.
> The Reds inked RHP Mike Lincoln, who started as a Pirate but lost four years of his career to a pair of TJ surgeries. His contract is for 2 years and $4M.