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An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog

Updated: 2017-02-13T14:27:30-05:00


Reds claim Lisalverto Bonilla



The Reds have claimed RHP Lisalverto Bonilla off waivers from the Pirates. The Bucs had designated him for assignment four days ago when they acquired RHP Pat Light from the Twins. With spring training now underway, it’s probably safe to assume Bonilla won’t become another Dragmire. That’s just as well, because it’s a lot harder to say “Lisalverto’d” than “Dragmired,”

The Pirates had signed Bonilla to a major league contract as a free agent last November. He spent last season in the Dodgers’ farm system after missing all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery. Despite being essentially a two-pitch pitcher (fastball and change), Bonilla had done fairly well in limited chances as a starter with Texas prior to the surgery. Had he stayed with the Pirates, he probably would have been a depth option as a starter and reliever.

With Bonilla’s departure, the Pirates still have RHP Nefi Ogando, who was dfa’d the day after Bonilla, in DFA limbo.

Former Pirate Sean Rodriguez to miss much of upcoming season after car crash



Former Pirates utilityman Sean Rodriguez will have shoulder surgery and will be out the next three to five months following his car crash, Ken Rosenthal writes. The news precipitated the Braves’ acquisition of Brandon Phillips this week.

The back story here is that, a couple weeks ago, Rodriguez and his family were driving in Miami and were struck by a man driving a stolen police cruiser. Rodriguez was initially reported to not be seriously hurt, although it appears that wasn’t the case. The rest of his family suffered significant injuries. The driver of the police cruiser died.

Rodriguez, of course, headed to the Braves this offseason after the Pirates failed to re-sign him. The accident comes on the heels of an unexpectedly brilliant 2016 season in which he batted .270/.349/.510 while playing seven positions. Now, it appears he won’t get the chance to follow that up. At least he got paid first, but I’m sure having to wait so long to play this season is hurting him at least as much as his injury is. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

Pirates notes on the eve of spring training


With pitchers and catchers just two days away, here are a couple of (maybe unsettling) Pirates items: The Tribune Review is reporting that the Pirates’ acquisition of Phil Gosselin was indeed partially related to the possible unavailability of Jung-Ho Kang. There aren’t any specifics, beyond the fact that Kang’s February 22 trial date will keep him away during the early part of spring training. Of course, there are three issues beyond that: the possibility of jail time, the possibility/likelihood of a suspension from MLB or the Pirates, and the unknown implications for the Green Card process. GM Neal Huntington’s explanation of the Gosselin trade: “It absolutely does serve as insurance (for Kang's absence) if needed,” Huntington said. “But we also have been looking for an extra right-handed hitter, and Gosselin is a guy who can play multiple positions.” The Pirates see Gosselin as primarily a second baseman who can help at first (ugh) and third. Huntington also mentioned Gosselin’s limited experience at short and in left. The Trib article notes that Huntington (unsurprisingly) says the Pirates will extend non-roster spring training invitations to both Lisalverto Bonilla and Nefi Ogando if they clear waivers. In an interview with CBS, Huntington discussed his unwillingness to part with the necessary prospects to acquire Jose Quintana: “It’s one of those situations that we are for the mindset that as an organization, the best way to position ourselves to win a World Series is to get to the playoffs consistently and frequently, and we’re not of the mindset that the way to do that is to jeopardize your future for your present or to jeopardize your present for your future,” said Huntington. “We want to be a good team as consistently and frequently as possible and the only way to do that in a small market is to have a lot of good players, to have a lot of good players in your system and a trade of that magnitude would have been contradictory. We would have either been selling out to the next couple of years at the risk of our future. Instead, we believe we’ve got a good core in place, a core that was essentially predicted to win 88, 89 games a year ago.” I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, there is absolutely nothing that can convince me that the people saying “flags fly forever” now won’t be complaining bitterly if the team falls out of contention in 2-3 years because of the current core aging and prospects not being available to replace them. The fact is, it’s hard for teams to recover financially from periods of non-contention. To this day, the crowds in Cleveland have never returned from the end of the John Hart era. Fans of struggling teams do not say, “Oh, well, it was worth it for one flag.” And that’s assuming you get the flag. If reports about the White Sox’ asking price are accurate, the Pirates would have to give up three of their “big five” prospects: Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, Mitch Keller, Josh Bell and Kevin Newman. But they wouldn’t be trading those players for a flag. They’d be trading them for maybe a 5-10% increase in the team’s chances of winning a World Series. The myth of the “one big piece that puts a team over the top” has been disproven over and over and over again. Just ask Oakland, or the various teams that saw David Price as that one big piece. Or ask the Tigers, Nationals and Dodgers how many titles they won with Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, both better pitchers than Quintana, as is Price. On the other hand, I have significant doubts about whether a small market team can defeat the success cycle, which is essentially what Huntington is proposing. That’s a large part of what led me to write these two pieces. There’ve been some well run, small market teams in recent years, and I don’t see much evidence that they can stay in contention for all that long. As I wrote about with the Rays, they had a lot of young talent come [...]

Notes: McKechnie Field’s name changed to LECOM Park



A few quick notes for Friday:

  • After 54 years as McKechnie Field, the Pirates’ Spring Training home has been renamed LECOM Park. LECOM stands for Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, a school that evidently has campuses in Erie, Greensburg and Bradenton. This name change will go the way stadium name changes always do — we’ll shake our heads for a couple years at the absurdity and crass commercialism, and then we’ll come to accept it. For now, of course, it’s weird.
  • Jose Tabata has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays. Last season, Tabata finished out the six-year extension he signed with the Pirates back in 2011. He got released by the Dodgers in June and later turned up in Mexico. His listed age is still just 28, so maybe he’s still got something left, although I wouldn’t bet on it.
  • The Angels have designated old friend Deolis Guerra for assignment despite his having been pretty helpful in their bullpen last year. Guerra, of course, briefly pitched for the Bucs in 2015.

With trade for Phil Gosselin, the Pirates add a square peg



Some quick thoughts on the Pirates’ deal for Phil Gosselin, which Wilbur already covered here:

  • Gosselin looks like an odd fit on the Pirates’ bench — or, really, on most benches. He’s mostly a second baseman who doesn’t play shortstop, really, having only appeared there in a few games in the majors and not many more in the minors. The Pirates’ other backup infielder, Adam Frazier, also doesn’t really play shortstop, which should leave the Pirates’ bench pretty thin at the shortstop position if Gosselin makes the team.
  • Gosselin has hit passably in his career, although his overall .283/.331/.385 line as a big-leaguer has been fueled by a .331 batting average on balls in play that seems likely to come down somewhat. There’s also the fact that, unlike Alen Hanson, Gosselin has a couple of minor-league options. Maybe Gosselin’s positional versatility (he’s appeared in the big leagues at all four corner positions as well as second and short), optionability and modest offensive promise are enough to justify adding him relatively cheaply. An extra bit of insurance also can’t hurt a Pirates infield that looks like a potential area of weakness, particularly given what’s going on with Jung Ho Kang. Still, Gosselin looks like somewhat of a square peg. He also has about half a year of service time left before he becomes eligible for arbitration.
  • Not that this is a big deal, but Frank Duncan looks like a lot to give up for a player in Gosselin who had been designated for assignment by his old team. Duncan doesn’t have much velocity and probably wasn’t going to become a regular in the Pirates’ rotation, but the Brandon Cumptons of the world have value when they stay healthy, and Duncan has already had success in the high minors despite only having been drafted in 2014. At the very least, he should make the big leagues, and it’s not totally out of the question that someone with his profile could have success, either as a starter or in relief. The Pirates, of course, know Duncan as well as anyone and decided they could part with him. They did get a big-leaguer in return, so perhaps that’s where the discussion should end.

Pirates trade for IF Phil Gosselin



The Pirates have traded RHP Frank Duncan to Arizona for infielder Phil Gosselin. To make room on the 40-man roster, they designated RHP Nefi Ogando for assignment.

The 28-year-old Gosselin became available when the Diamondbacks designated him for assignment to clear space for Daniel Descalso. Gosselin has a pretty solid career 283/331/385 line in 501 plate appearances with the D’backs and Braves, spread over the 2013-16 seasons. He saw the most action in 2016, when he got into 122 games and made 240 plate appearances with Arizona. He profiles as a utility infielder and has spent most of his major league time at second and third, with brief action at first, short and in the outfield corners. In the minors he was also primarily a second baseman. He has a 317/354/432 line in 159 AAA games, mostly in the International League rather than the high-offense Pacific Coast League.

Gosselin’s acquisition doesn’t bode well for Alen Hanson, who’s out of options, or for the recently acquired Chris Bostick. With Adam Frazier seemingly set for a utility role with the Pirates, Hanson needs to win what’s probably the last bench spot, or he’ll have to go through waivers. Gosselin does, however, have two options left. He’s been outrighted once already, so if the Pirates try to get him through waivers he’ll have the option of becoming a free agent.

Duncan was arguably the biggest surprise in the Pirates’ farm system in 2016, pitching his way from a long relief role in Altoona to a strong stint as a starter at Indianapolis. He finished with a combined 1.19 WHIP and 2.34 ERA across both levels. He was stuck behind considerable depth at the upper levels of the system, though, and figured to have to continue proving himself due to borderline stuff, including a fastball that sat only in the mid-80s for much of the season.

Ogando was another off-season pickup, claimed off waivers from the Marlins. He figured all along to provide relief depth, as he has an option left. The Pirates no doubt are hoping he’ll clear waivers and can be outrighted to AAA.

Pirates trade for Pat Light, DFA Lisalverto Bonilla



The Pirates have announced that they’ve acquired righty Pat Light, who had recently been designated for assignment, from the Twins for a player to be named later or cash. (Whatever the return is, it almost certainly won’t be significant.) To clear space on their roster, they’ve designated Lisalverto Bonilla for assignment.

The 25-year-old Light made his big-league debut with the Red Sox in 2016 before heading to the Twins for Fernando Abad at the August 1 deadline. He then made 15 appearances in the Minnesota bullpen. Overall, his first year in the big leagues went poorly — he allowed 14 runs and 15 walks in 14 innings.

He did throw in the mid-90s (and had reached into triple digits before that), and for whatever it’s worth, he got a bunch of ground balls, probably thanks to a splitter that he thinks is even better than his fastball. He was also a first-round pick in 2012, so he has a solid pedigree.

Light has had significant control problems since reaching the Triple-A level, though, so he’s a project, and since he converted to relief full-time a couple years ago, the impact of that project will likely be limited. Don’t be surprised if the Pirates try to sneak him through waivers at some point, particularly if their coaching can’t immediately improve his performances. He does appear to have two options remaining, so the Bucs could stash him at Triple-A for awhile; it would be surprising if he seriously contended for a spot in the big-league bullpen in camp.

Bonilla signed with the Pirates as a big-league free agent in November after some pretty good work in the Dodgers farm system while recovering from Tommy John surgery last year. He’s never pitched for the Bucs.

Notes: Jung Ho Kang’s trial date set



A few notes for Thursday: