Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pirate Patter

  • The Pirates announced that they signed Met's 1B/OF Nick Evans to a minor league deal with an invite to camp. Evans' career work product is a .256 batting avg, 28 doubles, eight home runs and 46 RBI in 386 at-bats over parts of four seasons. His addition gives the Bucs a security blanket if Derrik Lee bolts town and they have to platoon; he's basically Matt Hague with a MLB track record. And he's hit .295 with 6 dingers against lefties in 176 ABs.
  • The Bucs have so far invited five minor league free agents to camp: Evans, RHP Tim Wood, C/OF Jake Fox, RHP Shairon Martis and OF Brandon Boggs. 
  • John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus tweeted that the Bucs had some interest in free agent OF David DeJesus, who signed with the Cubs. Our question would be why.
  • Jen Langosch of has an article on the Pirate game plan heading into the winter meetings.
  • Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout analyzed Clint Hurdle's platooning and bullpen tendencies. It's pretty interesting stuff and the results may be a little different than you thought. 
  • Ashley Marshall of has broken down the best of the baby Buccos by position. Her All-Prospect team has C Ramon Cabrera, 1B Matt Hague, 2B Jarek Cunningham, SS Jordy Mercer, 3b Elevys Gonzalez, UT Wes Freeman, OFs Starling Marte, Robbie Grossman and John Bowker (who is now in the Philly organization), RHP Kyle McPherson, LHP Nate Baker and reliever Tim Wood.
  • The Bradenton Marauders have just introduced a new logo. It's a grinning skull with a Pirate patch backed with crossed bats. Holy shiver me timbers!
  • Christina Kahrl posted an article on ESPN's Sweet Spot suggesting three fixes for each NL Central team. For Pittsburgh, it's take stock, get some corner OF offense, and jump-start Pedro.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bucco Bits

  • Keith Law of ESPN reported that the Pirates would at least listen to offers for Andrew McCutchen. The story is behind the ESPN Insider's subscriber wall.
  • Bill Brink of the Post Gazette wrote that the FO is kicking the tires of veteran righty Aaron Cook. The question is will Cook be the BP pitcher of 2010-11 or the solid three-four guy of 2005-09? He's another of Clint Hurdle's old charges, which we're sure is helping to get his foot in the door.
  • OF Xavier Paul wasn't claimed after being DFA'ed, so he's now a free agent. The Pirates paid lip service to signing him again, but that's unlikely. Because of when he was DFA'ed, he can't ink a deal with the Pirates until mid-May.
  • The Bucs have two weeks to decide who to offer arbitration to. There are nine players eligible: Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Resop and Jose Veras. Five are RHP from the pen, so it wouldn't be a surprise if one or two of them were non-tendered. The FO also has the option to offer a contract instead of arb, so we'll see how it ends up.
  • Primo Pirate prospect OF Starling Marte missed a month of winter ball in the Domincan League with a tight groin, but the good news is he returned to action today. He plays for Leones del Escogido.
  • Bradenton OF Robbie Grossman had a breakout year for Bradenton (.294/13/56 with a .418 OBP and 24 stolen bases). He was interviewed by's Ashley Martin in this Q&A article.
  • And on the CBA front: Jonathan Mayo of wrote that MLB has shut the door on building up draft pool value by not signing a couple of top ten picks. The league says that if you don't sign someone, that round's slot figure will be subtracted from the pot. He also has a couple more clarifications/factoids to add to the draft process.

Turkey Week Leftovers

Hey, gang, hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving. Didn't mean to take such a long holiday break, but with nothin' happening for the Buccos and the nice Turkey week weather, well...

  • The Pirates offered free agent 1B Derrik Lee arbitration. If he accepts, he'll be a Buc in 2012, and probably draw somewhere in the neighborhood of $8M. If he signs elsewhere, the Pirates get a sandwich pick in the upcoming draft. Pittsburgh already has one extra selection thanks to Ryan Doumit joining the Twins. The FO did allow Chris Snyder and Ryan Ludwick to enter the market. Those were the four Pittsburgh free agent  "B" Players. That means that they ranked statistically in the top 21-40 percentile of FAs at their position, and are worth a bonus pick if they refuse to accept arbitration with their old team.
  • C Eric Fryer cleared the waiver wires and was sent to Indy. However, new C Brian Jeroloman lasted but a weekend as a Pirate. He was DFA'ed and subsequently reclaimed by his former club, Toronto.
  • The Bucs inked minor leaguers  RHP Kyle Cofield, 24, formerly of the White Sox system, and 1B Stefan Welch, 23, from the Mets organization. Cofield spent all but two innings at AA Birmingham, where he was 1-2/2.89 and was used solely as a reliever. Welch, from Down Under, put up a line of .271/16/53 at High A St. Lucie.
  • LHP Justin Thomas, who was 8-2/3.89 at Indy, was signed to a minor league deal by the Boston Red Sox. He joins LHP Donnie Veal, who went to the White Sox, and 3B Brandon Wood, who signed with Colorado, as free agents looking for greener pastures.
  • Ramon Cabrera, 5'-7" fireplug C for the Bradenton Marauders, was named to the Topps A All-Star team. RC led the Florida State league in hitting with a .343 BA and was one of just ten players named to the team.
  • The next batch of baseball stories will pop up soon when the Baseball Meetings begin in Dallas on Sunday, December 4th. The event will be capped on December 8th with the Rule V Draft. The Pirates will be looking for a pitcher and a first baseman. Movement has been slow all around the league so far, but with the new CBA in the bag, it should be fast approaching wheelin' and dealin' time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New CBA, New World

The rule hardest for the Bucs to swallow will be the draft cash limit; you can bet that no small revenue team is willing to pay a tax on the draft. There will be start-up problems - how will teams deal with Scott Boras when he asks for the whole ten-round ball of wax for one player? - but all in all, it will just create a new set of rules to work through, and the FOs around the league will.

The changes:

* A raise in the minimum salary from $414,000 this year to $480,000 in 2012, and eventually $500,000+. It's the MLBPA version of a COLA.
* Blood testing for human growth hormone as early as next spring, with a 50-game suspension for a first failed test. So now HGH is considered a no-no along with PEDs.
* It changes the draft-pick compensation for the signing of free agents. Type A and Type B ratings are eliminated, and teams can only get draft pick compensation if they offer the player a guaranteed one-year contract with a salary equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the prior season.
* Active rosters can increase to 26 players for double-headers to allow for the call-up of a minor-league starter.
* Internationally, teams will be given caps for the amount that they can spend on prospects outside the draft, with the teams having the worst records getting the biggest budget.
* Here's the Bucco killer: A luxury tax on teams that spend above an agreed-upon figure for players signed in the amateur draft.Bud Selig hated teams like the Pirates ignoring his slot system, and the MLBPA didn't like the money being spent on prospects instead of players. So if teams go over slot (not by pick, but by total spent in the first ten rounds), MLB will place a tax worth 75-100 % of the overrun, with the potential loss of first and second-round selections.
* Other draft rules: players can only be signed to minor league contracts, and teams can trade their unspent draft or international budget to another team if they expect to come in under the MLB cap.
* New draft lottery rules: teams with the lowest revenues and worst records will participate in a lottery of forfeited picks (how ironic that the Pirates might be in a lottery for their own pick!); there's also a lottery of extra picks for small revenue and market teams.

Bud Selig wanted the draft to go purely in order of perceived talent instead of an auction, and he won with the help of the MLBPA, who not surprisingly fell on the side of their membership.Baseball will lose the high school kids to college and prep multi-athletes other sports, and prospects will enter the draft much closer to MLB ready. Colleges will truly become the minor leagues.

So Pittsburgh will have to wait and see if their internal budget and the MLB's international cap are copacetic.  More importantly, they'll have to adjust to the new draft era and reallocate monies from the amateur pool to the MLB roster. It's a change in direction, not a death sentence.

As all of us who have ever built a project know, the blueprint is nice to have, but the secret to a finished project is the inevitable work-around.

Bucs Make Minor Moves

Baseball America's Matt Eddy tweeted that the Bucs are beginning to stock the farm. He says they signed C/1B Jake Fox, 29, late of the Orioles, and RHP Shairon Martis, 24, from the Nats to minor league deals.

Fox, a RH batter who was released after the season, was one of names tossed around when the Bucs were searching for catchers after Dewey, Chris Snyder and Jason Jaramillo went down last year. He's been a monster in the minors, averaging a homer every 19.5 at-bats with a line of .275/ .351/.491. It hasn't quite translated in the show, where he's hit .237/.288/.425 over four seasons and 489 at-bats.

Martis has 20 MLB outings under his belt, 19 of them starts. He spent 2011 at AA Harrisburg, where he was 8-6/3.05 ERA and 2010 at AAA Syracuse, where he put up a 8-7/4.09 ERA line. The righty, a sinker-slider pitcher, averaged about 7 Ks and 3 BBs per 9 innings in his minor league career.

OF Brandon Boggs, 28, from the Brewers and RHP Jose Diaz, 29, of the Orioles, also inked farm deals, according to Baseball America

The right-handed hitting Boggs joined the Brew Crew from Texas. The LF put together a .209/.315/.380 MLB line in 326 at-bats, with 10 HR and 43 RBI. He's had a solid but unspectacular minor league run.

Diaz is a moose. The righty is just a Hi-Ho away from 300 pounds, although he can deliver a heater in the mid-to-upper nineties. A closer, his minor league career line is 13-16-71/2.87 with 309 K in 307 IP. He started in the LA organization, and has never pitched in the show thanks in large part to four surgeries on his arm.  

So the Bucs are restocking their upper levels with some veteran depth players who can serve as insurance in a pinch.

The Pirates have also set loose a small army of free agents, consisting of veteran minor-leaguers and guys lopped off the 40-man roster, so far losing Donnie Veal to the White Sox and Brandon Wood to the Rox.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Barmes Signed, FA Arb, Top Ten Prospects, 2015 Lineup

The Bucs announced that they got their man for short, Clint Barmes. They inked him for two years and $10.5M ($5M - 2012, $5.5M - 2013), an overpay but one that protected them from a complete meltdown at short if they risked going deep into the free agent season. Chris Cwik of Fangraphs has Barme's story and agrees that he was at the top of the second level of free agents, with a caveat or two.

So it appears Chase d'Arnaud will return to finishing school at Indy, which leaves the back-up infield competition right now between Pedro Ciriaco and Jordy Mercer, unless Josh Harrison can figure out shortstop in a hurry. And poor C Brian Jeroloman, who the Bucs just claimed, has been DFA'ed. We never could figure out why they took him, anyway.

With Rod Barajas in the fold, the Bucs have opted for a little dependability. Cedeno's inconsistencies were legendary, and Dewey couldn't snag nor frame a pitch the few times he was healthy enough to get behind the plate.

Both Barajas and Barmes are older players who hover about .300 with OBP, so the bottom of the order will be pretty problematic next season. But they keep the team at an even keel and can potentially provide some leadership to a team that's still peach-fuzzy and give the baby Bucs a little time to learn their craft.

We're hoping after the recent Aki Iwomura, Lyle Overbay and  Matt Diaz episodes that the FO did some due diligence on B & B. The baseball gods couldn't be that ornery again...could they?

Anyway, the hunt continues for at least some added pitching and maybe for first base and a RH bench outfielder. Sooner or later, they're going to have to look for offense. It's hard to see where it will come from internally, at least in the near future, even if Pedro does a 180.

A bit of upcoming housecleaning news: the Bucs have until midnight Wednesday to offer their rated free agents arbitration (which is different from the young players arb). The ranked FAs are 1B Derrek Lee, C Ryan Doumit, C Chris Snyder and OF Ryan Ludwick, all Type B players.

If the team offers arbitration and is turned down, in effect guaranteeing that they will lose the player to another club, the Pirates would get a sandwich pick in the draft. Because Doumit has already signed with another team, Pittsburgh gets a pick for him. The odds are they'll offer Lee arbitration, as they'd like him back. Probably less so for the other two, who would put the Bucs in a bind if they accepted since they're no longer part of the plan. And lastly...

Baseball America has the Top Ten Pirate prospects per John Perrotto, and there's nary a one within sniffing distance of Pittsburgh yet. The article does pick the players with the best tools, and has an interesting sidebar on the 2015 lineup. Neil Walker, McCutch and J-Mac are the only current regulars to survive the next three seasons according to BA's projections; even Hanny is gone.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bucs On Barmes?

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Bucs are the frontrunner in the Clint Barmes sweepstakes. Barmes, who played for the Rockies under Clint Hurdle and then moved on to the Astros, is considered a strong & steady infielder with a little pop in his stick. He's looking for a starting gig with a two year deal in the $8-10M range, although SI's Jon Heyman hears it will be 2 years/$11M.

Barmes is a lifetime .252 hitter and can knock a dozen or so balls out of the yard every season. His UZR/150 for 2011 was an excellent 10.8, and it's at 7.2 for his career. He had a career high 3.1 WAR in 2011, and it looks like it's about to pay off for him.

If the FO lands him, it's been a nice job for them in the early days of the hot stove season. Zeroing in on Rod Barajas and Barmes, both toward the top of second-tier free agents at their position this year, should help the team defensively and give them a couple of guys that are at least a threat to go long.

Having said that, the Pirates haven't improved noticeably. Barajas is basically a Chris Snyder clone and Barmes is a less frustrating model of Cedeno.

Both are placeholders until the Bucco farm produces an everyday player, currently hoped to be Chase d'Arnaud and Tony Sanchez. But in a year when the free agent market is thin, they did well to tread water and not lose ground, even if they overpaid (maybe to keep the Player's Association at bay, maybe just to overcome the Pirate stigma, or maybe knowing what it would take to land their man against the competition).

They are still trawling the pitching waters, and crossing their fingers that a first baseman falls into their lap without breaking the bank. But until they bring in a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and a couple of mid order bats, they're not building but just buying time.

Bucs Set Roster

The Pirates set their 40-man roster last night with only a mild surprise or two during the proceedings.

They added LHPs Rudy Owens, 23, and Justin Wilson, 23, RHPs Duke Welker, 25, and Jeremy Hefner, 25, OF Starling Marte, 23, IF Jordy Mercer, 25, 1B Matt Hague, 26, and C Brian Jeroloman, 26. Hefner and Jeroloman were plucked from the waiver wires.

To clear space, the Pirates moved Cs Matt Pagnozzi and Eric Fryer along with OF Xavier Paul off the roster. If they clear the wires, Pagnozzi and Paul will be offered a minor-league deals and Fryer will be assigned to Indy.  Paul lost his spot to Alex Presley, and Pagnozzi was a late-year waiver claim. Both are good bets to leave the organization if they clear, as they will become free agents.

Fryer was the only surprise cut, apparently the victim of upper-level catcher overload in the Pirate system and judged by the FO the likeliest catcher to sneak through waivers. The Bucs are taking a calculated risk with him. We don't really see the why of bringing in Jeroloman if it means risking Fryer, who looks like he still has some upside behind the plate.

As for the remaining players, Welker was most borderline of the additions. The Pirates have a boatload of back end starters and potential relievers stuck in the middle of the organization, and Welker was the only arm they chose to protect of the group. He's a power pitcher, but with a history of being a wild child.

Hefner is a big arm snatched from the Padres, and Jeroloman is a glove-first catcher without much power and a pretty hefty K rate. The other five players were no-brainers. Marte is the Pirates top minor-league position player, Hague had a breakout All-Star season at Indy, Jordan has the best pop of the top level Bucco farm infielders, Owens was the organization's pitcher-of-the-year in 2009-10, and Wilson is a lefty that can bring some heat.

Their 2011 numbers:

Matt Hague: .309/12/75 - Indy (AAA)
Jeremy Hefner: 9-7/4.98 - Tucson (AAA)
Brian Jeroloman: .240/2/26 - Las Vegas (AAA)
Starlin Marte: .332/12/50 - Altoona (AA)
Jordy Mercer: .255/19/69 - Altoona-Indy (AA-AAA)
Rudy Owens: 9-7/5.05 - Indy (AAA)
Duke Welker: 4-5-6/2.76 - Bradenton-Altoona (A+-AA)
Justin Wilson: 10-8-3/4.13 - Indy (AAA)

The roster is full at 40 players, so as it stands now the Bucs aren't likely to be diving into the draft pool this year. The unprotected players at greatest risk of being selected in the draft are RHPs Michael Colla, Diego Moreno and Aaron Pribanic.

And it won't be the final roster. Pittsburgh is still looking for more pitching, a shortstop and maybe a first baseman to add to the squad.

  • Because he was a Type B free agent, Ryan Doumit's signing with the Twins will net the Bucs a sandwich pick in the 2012 draft. 
  • The Colorado Rockies signed Brandon Wood to a minor league contract. The Rox hope he can provide some depth and possibly compete with Ian Stewart at the hot corner.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Nuggets

  • The Pirates claimed minor league RHP Jeremy Hefner from the Padres and C Brian Jeroloman of the Blue Jays off waivers today and outrighted C Matt Pagnozzi to Indy. Hefner has some potential (he hits 94 and has three pitches) while Jeroloman appears to be another good glove, no-hit guy added to the collection, although he at least walks a lot. His career OBP is .378; his slugging % is .347. The 40-man roster now has 36 players on it; midnight is when it has to be set for the Rule 5 draft, so some more shakin' and bakin' is sure to occur, and soon.
  • Dewey signed with the Twins for $3M and one-year. He's a nice fit in the AL, where he can DH and spot start behind the dish and in the corner OF. The length of the contract, we understand, was his decision as he tries to rebuild some value for himself.
  • The Cubbies hired Dale Sveum to lead the Chicago nine. Dale has a lot of Pittsburgh mojo in his background, first as a player (1996-97, '99) and then as the manager of Altoona from 2001-03, compiling a 213-211 (.502) record. He led the Curve to its first back-to-back winning seasons in 2002 (72- 69) and 2003 (78-63), including the club's first appearance in the Eastern League playoffs in 2003, and was named 2003's Top Managerial Prospect in the Eastern League by Baseball America
  • More NL Central news: The Astros will go to the AL West, probably in 2013, leaving two 15-team divisions. Other contract tidbits: Interleague play is likely to stay at 18 games (although the number 30 has been floated around) and will last from April through September. Also, one extra wildcard team will make the playoffs. The two wildcards will play a one game winner take all series as things now stand. Expect some sort of cap & tax on the draft to become part of the CBA.
  • The Bucs will start five games at 4:05 PM in 2012. The two on Saturday should be OK, but the three on Thursday seem like odd fits.
  • The 2012 promotional schedule was released:  There will be two Sky Blasts, two Jam Fests, a Hanny bobblehead, continued free shirt Fridays and a bundle of lesser give-aways.
  • Chris Jaffe from The Hardball Times has a couple of Pirate related items today: this is the anniversary of Pittsburgh joining the National League in 1886 and of the Brian Giles - Ricardo Rincon trade of 1998. Worked out well for the Bucs, too, as Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Ohlie and D-Mac are all Buccos descendants of that deal. It would have been even nicer if any of the Jay Bay pieces would have hung around.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And The Beat Goes On...

  • Pittsburgh, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors, may discuss a new deal with SS Ronny Cedeno, recently cut adrift after the FO rejected his $3M option for 2012. Boy, that must be one thin shortstop market. Think the braintrust isn't booting itself in the butt for not making a serious run at JJ Hardy last season?
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that talks between Neil Walker and the Bucs are on the back burner. Could be a lot of reasons in play; we think the hold up is over his value as a possible "Super Two" player, which would give him four years of arbitration and add to his asking price.
  • Jen Langosch of says that the Bucs are kicking the tires of 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff and OF Josh Willingham as bench depth. Both are looking for starting gigs probably not available in Pittsburgh, so we'd guess it's another due diligence deal by the FO.
  • This is very weird. Jen Langosch also has an article about OF'er Xavier Paul and some winter ball scamming. It seems a minor league wanna-be somehow signed him up to play Australian baseball during the off season as part of a package deal, completely without Paul's knowledge. He didn't have a clue until the Down-Under team called to find out where the heck he was!
  • The Bucs wasted no time signing C Rod Barajas, and that's probably a good thing. Bill Shaikin of the LA Times tweeted that the Angels contacted him, but after he had already agreed to his Pittsburgh deal. He who hesitates...
  • Vlad of Bucs Dugout has a piece saying that the Pirates offered 15 year old Mexican  LHP Julio César Urías a $200K deal - and he turned it down.
  • Jayson Stark of has the dope on the CBA talks; he thinks they may be concluded before Thanksgiving. There will be some changes, and not particularly to the Pirates advantage...

Monday, November 14, 2011

News And Notes

  • Friday is 40-man roster day, when the pups have to protected from the Rule 5 draft. The Bucs have a couple of dozen first-timers eligible for the draft, plus another small mob of previously eligible players from past seasons. We'd expect Starling Marte, Rudy Owen, Justin Wilson, Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer to be the ones to fill the five remaining roster spots.  But other guys like Altoona's Mike Colla and Andrew Lambo or Bradenton pitchers like Brett Lorin or one of the relievers may be in the mix, too. And they'll still need room for a shortstop, pitcher, and firstbaseman before opening day. Should be interesting.
  • We think Joel Hanrahan's ears will be burning whenever Neal Huntington has a conversation on the phone. He's Pittsburgh's most attractive - and valuable - trade lure on the roster outside of Andrew McCutchen.
  • The Los Angeles Times Steve Dilbert reported that Ryan Doumit turned down a just-under $3M offer from the Big Blue. His agent has let the word out that several teams have checked in on Dewey, from both leagues, and that he may be signed before the December 5th baseball meetings. Doumit earned $5.2M in 2011. And congrats; he got married last weekend.
  • The national media have noticed a couple of guys with local connections sniffing around the Dodgers, Pen's owner Ron Burkle and the Mavs' main man, Mt. Lebanon's Mark Cuban. The guesstimate cost for the team and some affiliated property is between $900M & $1B according to ESPN. Geez, just think what the franchise would be worth if Frank McCourt hadn't run it into the ground.
  • Old catcher Mike Matheny was picked to replace Tony LaRussa at St. Louis. Up until last week, when Matheny's candidacy started to gather steam, the frontrunner was New Brighton's Terry Francona, formerly of the BoSox.
  • Dale Sveum is still alive in the Cub and Red Sox manager derbies, and has earned a second interview with Boston's suits. He managed at Altoona and played in Pittsburgh under Jimmy Leyland and Gene LaMont, who is also being interviewed for the job.
  • The news regarding the new CBA is good and bad. It's good news that it's expected to be wrapped up by Thanksgiving, but bad news because all the scenarios we've heard involve hard draft slotting of one form or another, which will take away the small revenue clubs likeliest road to success.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pirate Movement, Players, Rumors

Some Bucco personnel notes:
  • Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports writes that the Pirates are kicking the tires of Detroit utility infielder Ramon Santiago as Ronny Cedeno's replacement. The 31 year old has been in the show for a decade, compiling a career .249 BA. He's considered a sure glove and a good head in the locker room. Santiago has averaged about 70 starts per year over the past three seasons, split between short and second.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors says the Bucs were one of the teams at Cuban CF Yoenis Cespedes workout. The defector is expected to draw up to a $30M deal, so we'd think the FO was just showing due diligence before the big money boys duke it out for his services.
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweets that Pittsburgh is one of the teams that SS Clint Barmes could be a fit for, but as a matter of sheer speculation.
  • Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that "...a low-revenue club such as the Pirates could afford RHP Gavin Floyd’s salaries in 2012 and ’13, and fit him nicely into the middle of their rotation." We do have to stress that's just out-loud thinking on Rosenthal's part. There's no smoke from that fire...yet.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post said the Pirates were talking with the Yankees about dealing for a young catcher before they signed Rod Barajas.
  • Just a thought: If the Marlins sign Albert Pujols, Gaby Sanchez suddenly becomes redundant. And there is that dark hole in Pittsburgh at first base...
  • And if you're wondering why Hanny's name pops up during trade talks, it's because his value is high now and clubs traditionally overpay for closers, as shown by Jonathon Papelbon's 4 year, $50M deal with the Phils. Add in that's he's under team control through 2013 and that the FO believes that a bullpen is easy to build, and the stars seem to be aligning if the swag is right.
  • Pittsburgh has nine guys on the 40-man roster that are out of options, notes Jen Langosch of They are pitchers Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Chris Leroux, Chris Resop and Jose Veras, along with position players Jason Jaramillo, Pedro Ciriaco, Xavier Paul and Garrett Jones. That means if they don't make the opening day roster, they have to clear waivers to be reassigned to Indy. Some will be tough calls for the FO; a lot of the players are depth guys, making their status day-to-day under the best of circumstances. 
  • Pirate OF prospect Robbie Grossman fractured his hamate bone this week and will have surgery on it next week. His recovery time is estimated at six weeks, ending his breakout season in the Arizona Fall League. He led the league in walks (20), was tied for fifth in average (.375), sixth in runs (20), tied for second in hits (39), second in home runs (7), fourth in OBP (.472) and fifth in OPS (1.097). He'll be healthy in plenty of time for next season, although hamate surgery often robs a player of his power the following season until full strength returns. 
  • Tim Williams of Pirate Prospects notes that the off-season waiver period has begun. The Pirates have selected a guy during this time for the past four years, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them add a player or two via the waiver wire again this year.
  • LHP Donnie Veal, the FO's first Rule 5 pickup, has signed with the Chicago White Sox organization.
  • RHP Chris Jakubauskas, who you may recall took a vicious Lance Berkman liner in the puss as a Bucco in 2010, signed with Arizona.
  • Remember OF/1BJamie Romak, part of the Adam LaRoche deal back in 2007? The 26 year old re-signed with KC, where he hit 23 homers for their AA club last season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bucs Get Barajas, Arbitration Decisions

The Bucs patched one hole quickly today when they announced the signing of C Rod Barajas. Barajas, 36, was with the Dodgers last season and put up a line of .230/16/ 47, pretty much within his career parameters. He's played 13 MLB seasons for six different teams and never collected more than 429 at-bats, so he's perfectly used to catching four or five times a week.

The right handed hitter's scouting report is short and sweet - strong defensively with good power. So Barajas is Chris Snyder, except a lot easier on the pocketbook.

Tim Brown of Yahoo!Sports tweeted that the Bucs inked Barajas for one year at $4M with a club option for $3.5M in 2013, thought that was not confirmed by Pittsburgh. That's a bit of an overpay - he made $3.25M last year, and LA thought that was too much - but it allowed the club to plug a gaping hole from the git-go and move on to patching some others.

That leaves Jason Jaramillo, Mike McKenry and Matt Pagnozzi in the running for the reserve spot. JJ is out of options and has more experience, and being a switch hitter should give him a leg up on the competition. McKenry is out of options, too, and the Bucs liked his work defensively last season. Pagnozzi, at this point, looks like a veteran insurance policy. The Pirates even re-signed Wyatt Toregas for depth.

Eric Fryer and Tony Sanchez aren't ready to be thrown into the major league mix yet, although the Pirates are crossing their fingers for a 2014 ETA in the show.

So the Bucs got their starting catcher, and hope to get 110-20 games out of him this season. He did start 110 games for the Blue Jays in 2009, but only 172 in the past two years. And his bat will work, too - he's hit 50 long balls in the past three years, a nice number for a guy who looks to bat toward the bottom of the order.

A plus is that Barajas is a Type B free agent, meaning the Dodgers get a compensatory pick for him, but from the league, not the Pirates.

All in all, it seems like a good play by the FO to keep the spot warm for a year or two if Barajas can escape the Pittsburgh curse on catchers' health. Now for that pitching (shortstop)(first base)opening...


Jen Langosch of reports that the Bucs may not be done paring their arbitration list yet after outrighting Steve Pearce and Brandon Wood. She writes that GM Neal Huntington says "We're going to non-tender some players that people don't want us to non-tender. We're going to tender some players that probably surprise some people. But those are the business decisions that we have to make."

There are nine Pirates remaining who are arb-eligible: Garrett Jones, Joel Hanrahan, Charlie Morton, Evan Meek, Jeff Karstens, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Ross Ohlendorf and Jason Grilli.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors says "Relievers Meek, Resop, Veras, Grilli, and Hanrahan figure to be tendered contracts. Each should fall between $800K and $1.5MM, with the exception of Hanrahan, whose saves should propel him to $3.9MM. Starters Morton ($2.2MM) and Karstens ($2.8MM) will remain affordable as well."

"If Meek, Jones, Morton, Resop, Hanrahan, Karstens, Veras, and Grilli are retained," he speculates, "the total could be around $16M." He was assuming Steve Pearce, Brandon Wood and Ohlie weren't getting tendered, and so far he's right for two out of three. We'd guess Veras and Resop are on the bubble, and others have added Jones to that category.

We'd think non-tendering Jones without shoring up first base would be a mistake by the FO. And even if they do fill the position, for the money he'd earn, Jones would be worth keeping if nothing more than a multi-positional lefty bench bat and shiny trade lure.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 18th - 40 Man Roster Due

In ten days, the Bucs will have to formalize their 40-man roster to protect their prospects from the Rule 5 draft raiders.  Right now, it consists of 34 players:

Pitchers (19): Kevin Correia, Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan, Jared Hughes, Jeff Karstens, Chris Leroux, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Daniel McCutchen, Jame McDonald, Kyle McPherson, Evan Meek, Bryan Morris, Charlie Morton, Daniel Moskos, Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Tony Watson. 

Gone: Brian Burres, Kevin Hart, Paul Maholm, Aaron Thompson.

Catchers (4): Eric Fryer, Jason Jaramillo, Mike McKenry, Matt Pagnozzi.

Gone Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder.

Infield (5): Pedro Alvarez, Pedro Ciriaco, Chase d'Arnaud, Josh Harrison, Neil Walker.

Gone: Ronnie Cedeno, Derrek Lee, Steve Pearce, Brandon Wood.

Outfield (6): Gorkys Hernandez, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Xavier Paul, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata.

Gone: Ryan Ludwick

The Pirates have already jettisoned 11 players from last year's 40-man roster (15 if you count declared minor league free agents RHP Jose Ascanio, LHP Garrett Olsen and Cs Dusty Brown & Wyatt Toregas), and we'd expect a couple more players to go. OF Starling Marte along with LHPs Rudy Owen and Justin Miller will certainly be added this season, and the Pirates have to give serious consideration to including SS Jordy Mercer and 1B Matt Hague among the fortunate forty.

The Bucs also have an assortment of farm club pitchers in the Nate Adcock mold who project to be middle-inning relievers/spot starters. That's a position of strength in the organization, and they may risk losing an arm or two if they don't protect them. But it's not, nor should be, a high priority. Their top end pitching is still too young to be draft-eligible, and that's where the action is.

Beside protecting their home grown products, the Pirates have to clear some room for players brought in via off season trade or the free-agent market. With holes in the rotation, first base, shortstop and catching to patch, we'd be surprised if the FO didn't make a push to bring in a handful of vets before trying to fill the positions internally.

They may also have an eye out for a Rule 5 prospect during the December 8th draft. Though it's less likely this season than in year's past, it remains a possibility.

So the paring probably isn't quite done yet; another player or two may be looking for a new clubhouse before the 18th.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bucco Bits

  • Four Pirate free agents - 1B Derrek Lee, OF Ryan Ludwick, C Chris Snyder and C Ryan Doumit - have been designated as "B" level, meaning that the team that signs them has to send a second round draft pick to  Pittsburgh if the Bucs offer the player arbitration and he rejects it. Look for the FO to offer Lee arbitration, for two reasons: one, they really need a first baseman, and two, they really want him. We'd expect him to turn it down. The remaining trio aren't likely to get an offer because they might accept it, and for health/financial reason, the Bucs want rid of them, at least at their current price (they may try to resign Dewey if his salary drops). The Pirates have until November 23rd to make an offer; the players have until December 7th to accept it. 
  • OF'er Matty Alou, who spent 1966-70 with the Bucs, died today at the age of 72. He played with his brothers Felipe and Jesus in SF, forming the first all-brother outfield. He won a batting title with Pittsburgh, although he will be forever associated with the Gunner's call after Alou dropped a "can of corn." Jane McCauley of the Associated Press wrote Alou's bio, and Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times has a list of his career highlights.
  • The Pirates, along with several other clubs, did their due diligence by watching Grandfather Time, 49 year old free agent lefty Jamie Moyer, go through some pitching drills, reported Fox Sports Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal. He missed last season after 2010 TJ surgery.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has posted his expected arbitration value for the eligible players around the league. The Pirates have nine guys in line for arb. Our guess is that Ross Ohlendorf won't be offered arb, Jose Veras may or may not, and Garrett Jones, along with Chris Resop, are likely to reach a deal. The other five - Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, Evan Meek & Jason Grilli - should be sure things. Two other arb eligible players, Steve Pearce and Brandon Wood, have already been outrighted to Indy and are expected to become free agents. Hanny is expected to get the highest deal at $4M.
  • RHP Gerritt Cole was selected to start Saturday's Arizona Fall League All-Star game. OF Robbie Grossman is also on the team.
  • SS Pedro Ciriaco is off to the Dominican to play winter ball for the second half of the season.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bucs Housekeeping Continues

The Pirates continued their post-season housecleaning today by outrighting Brandon Wood, Steve Pearce, Brian Burres, Aaron Thompson and Kevin Hart from the 40-man roster to Indy. All five can become free agents because of the move, and it would be a surprise if they didn't.

Wood put together a line of .220/7/31, and the Bucs have plenty of young infielders that can match those numbers. Pearce was coming off a terrible year that saw him hit .202/1/10 while visiting the DL twice more. A change of scenery for Pearce, who did show flashes of ability, is probably best for him and the team.

Burres was an insurance policy who did his job. He was 5-5 with a 4.84 ERA over the past two seasons and picked up 15 starts. Thompson was purely a depth guy. Hart never got untracked in Pittsburgh, undergoing a pair of surgeries after coming over from the Cubs as part of the deal for John Grabow & Tom Gorzelanny.

The moves also figures to open up a couple of upper level starting positions in the organization, which is facing a jam of young pitchers who need to advance.

With the four declined options of yesterday, the Pirate 40-man roster sits at 35 (four of the players moved were on the 60-day DL, and so were technically on the roster but didn't count against it). By Friday, it should sit at 34, when Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick will be gone as free agents and Kevin Correia will be added from the DL.

That's cutting it awfully close. We think that the FO will want to protect at least Starling Marte, Rudy Owen and  Justin Miller, while Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer should be on at least the short list. And the FO plans to bring in some fresh blood, so the 40 man still needs some room to stretch. And there are only a couple of weeks until it needs finalized; it has to be set on November 18th for the Rule 5 draft.

  • Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno were announced as Gold Glove finalists. 
  • RHP Chris Leroux may be making the FO rethink his chances of starting. He's 1-0 for Toros del Estes in the Dominican League after 3 starts with a 0.60 ERA. He's stretched it out an inning at a time, going 4, 5, and 6 frames in his starts. He has 13 strikeouts in 15 innings.
  • Gerritt Cole was selected as one of the Arizona Fall League's "Rising Stars." He'll get to play in a fall minor-league All-Star game Saturday.
  • RHP Tim Wood, who was sold to California late last season, has rejoined the Bucs, signing a minor league deal with an invite to camp.