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An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog

Updated: 2016-12-08T01:22:29-05:00


Pirates touch base with free agent Tyson Ross



The Pirates have reached out to free agent righty Tyson Ross, Bill Brink writes. Ross barely pitched in 2016 and had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome that could delay the start of his season, so the Padres non-tendered Ross last week rather than paying him a projected $9.6 million.

Still, Ross might not be cheap, so there’s reason to doubt the Pirates will be able to afford him. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that Ross wants $9 million to $11 million, a very steep price for a pitcher with so many health uncertainties.

I’m all for the Pirates getting Ross, and for spending more money, but even I’m not totally sure an $11 million one-year deal for Ross would be sensible. (If you’re going to spend money on a pitcher with questionable health, spend it on a multi-year deal.) Still, he’s worth keeping in mind, because he had considerable success with the Padres from 2013-2015, and because he has good velocity and a great ground-ball rate. He seems like the sort of pitcher the Pirates can help, even as they say they’ve struggled to find reclamation projects this year.

Pirates, Nationals discussed Andrew McCutchen trade involving Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning



The Pirates and Nationals discussed a potential Andrew McCutchen trade that involved Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and a third player, Jon Heyman tweets. It's not clear who rejected who, but either way, the deal didn't happen, and the Nationals traded Giolito and Dunning to the White Sox as part of the Adam Eaton deal. (UPDATE: Hat tip to Marauding Buccos, who finds this tweet from Joel Sherman, who makes it sound like it was the Nationals who balked.)

Giolito and Dunning are both pitchers, and young pitching is risky, but I would have been awfully tempted by this offer. Giolito has legitimate ace upside, and while there are reports that the Nationals had soured on him somewhat, there isn't much in his performance record to worry about, and he still has an plus-plus fastball and an outstanding curveball. rates him as the third best prospect in all of baseball, with Victor Robles (the guy the Nationals reportedly wouldn't include in the McCutchen deal) at No. 10. Dunning was a first-round pick last season and could emerge as a future big-league starting pitcher himself.

In any case, the Nationals have now filled their hole in center field, and the Rangers, too, added a center fielder this week when they re-signed Carlos Gomez. It's now somewhat unclear where McCutchen might go, should the Pirates continue to pursue the idea of trading him. They'll now plan on keeping him, Heyman writes, and they'll talk with him about moving to a corner outfield spot. There's plenty of offseason left, so we'll see if circumstances lead the Bucs to abandon that plan, but for now, it looks like McCutchen will remain a Pirate in 2017.

Nationals discussing deal for CF Adam Eaton



When the Nationals lost out on Chris Sale yesterday despite putting in a massive offer for him, it appeared Andrew McCutchen might be their next target. Then, though, it emerged that they weren’t willing to include top prospect Victor Robles in a McCutchen deal.

Now it appears they’re negotiating a different deal for an outfielder, also with the White Sox — they’re discussing a trade that would bring Adam Eaton to Washington, as’s Scott Merkin reports. And since the two sides already discussed the Sale deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one moved quickly.

If there turns out to be a holdup, in fact, it might be on the White Sox’ end. Eaton is controllable through 2021 at very cheap prices, so the Sox don’t need to be in any rush to move him. He’s a significantly more valuable property than McCutchen, too, and not only because of the length of his deal. Eaton doesn’t have McCutchen’s history of hitting for power, but he’s a better baserunner and a much better defender than McCutchen is.

Heading into the Winter Meetings, I would have projected the odds of the Pirates dealing McCutchen this week at about 1:1. Now I bet they’re something like 3:1 or even less.

Jeff Locke to sign with Marlins



Jeff Locke has agreed to a one-year deal with the Marlins, reportedly for about $3 million. A few thoughts:

  • It’s weird to see the Ice Truck Killer return to the scene of his crimes.
  • It’s equally weird that the Marlins are reportedly willing to spend something like $90 million on a closer but they’re skimping on starting pitching to this degree.
  • $3 million seems to be about the going rate for a starter capable of pitching 150 or so very bad innings. The Pirates, you’ll remember, paid Ryan Vogelsong $2 million plus incentives last year. Of all the starting pitchers this offseason who have received guaranteed big-league deals, Locke has been by far the cheapest — the next-cheapest, Jesse Chavez, got nearly twice as much.
  • As Steve Adams at MLBTR points out, Locke is the second former Pirates pitcher to agree to terms with the Marlins this offseason, joining Edinson Volquez. Former Pirates pitching guru Jim Benedict is with Miami, of course, so perhaps both pitchers will benefit from his presence.

Pirates news: Int'l bonus pool, comp pick



A few news items:

- The Pirates will get a comp B pick (sub. req'd) in the 2017 draft.  The pick probably will be somewhere in the 70s overall.  They already have the 12th pick in the draft, as well as the 42nd pick as compensation for their failure to sign Nick Lodolo out of this year's draft.  Along with their second round pick, that will give them four in roughly the top 80.

- The team's international bonus pool, which under the new CBA is partly dependent on their comp round pick (bonus points if you feel like explaining this) will be $5.75M for the 2017-18 signing period, which starts on July 2.  The amount will be well over twice what they have to spend in the current signing period.  So far, they've made no especially noteworthy signings and they've been unable to come to terms (sub. req'd) with their top target, Jean Eusebio.

Interestingly, under the new CBA, teams that previously exceeded their spending limits will still be subject to the old penalties, meaning they can't sign any player subject to the international bonus rules for more than $300,000 for one or two years.  Quite a few teams are subject to these limits, so competition for top prospects will be artificially reduced.  The Pirates remained good little doobies throughout the previous CBA, with the result that their international scouting program has foundered in recent years.  They'll have a good opportunity to regain some ground . . . if they spend the money.

- Jeff Locke will be reunited with Jim Benedict in Miami.  He'll be getting $3M for one year.

Nationals unwilling to include Victor Robles in Andrew McCutchen trade



Now that they’ve missed out on Chris Sale, the Nationals are unwilling to include top outfield prospect Victor Robles in other trades, including for Andrew McCutchen, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes.

The context of this bit of news, by the way, is the aftermath of the Sale deal, in which the Nationals reportedly offered Robles and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, a completely bonkers offer that still couldn’t top the Red Sox’ even-more-ridiculous offer of Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and two other good prospects. The takeaway here is that both the Red Sox and the Nationals really, really liked Chris Sale, and the Nationals clearly don’t like McCutchen nearly as much. Oh, and the other takeaway is that White Sox GM Rick Hahn is either extremely lucky or a tremendous negotiator.

It’s unclear what the Robles news will mean for the Pirates’ ability to negotiate a McCutchen trade. Robles is a tremendous prospect, and if the Nationals won’t include him, my bet is that they won’t include Giolito either. Perhaps the Nats will change their minds; perhaps the two sides will be able to negotiate a deal built around someone like Lopez or Joe Ross, plus a bunch of other talent; perhaps the Pirates will trade McCutchen to someone else; or perhaps they won’t trade him at all.

Pirates interested in Daniel Hudson



The Pirates are interested in free agent righty reliever Daniel Hudson, Bill Brink tweets.

Hudson looks like a candidate to be next year's Neftali Feliz -- a reliever who's fallen on hard times but has the sort of stuff and pedigree to reemerge. Hudson was once an interesting young starter, but he missed most of the 2012 through 2014 seasons after having two Tommy John surgeries. He pitched pretty well out of the Diamondbacks bullpen in 2015, but had a 5.22 ERA last year.

Underneath that ERA, though, are some promising signs, including peripherals that are significantly better than that ERA and an average fastball velocity of 95.7 MPH. He also won't turn 30 until March. The Pirates likely don't expect Hudson to emerge as an elite reliever, but they probably do see him as a good candidate to turn in a modestly successful season at a reasonable price, sort of like Feliz did.

Could White Sox' Chris Sale deal clear a path for an Andrew McCutchen trade?



UPDATE 4:09: The Nationals are now "going for" McCutchen, Jon Heyman tweets.

*     *     *

The White Sox have reportedly dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox in a jaw-dropping trade that includes Yoan Moncada (the top overall prospect in the game) plus three other good prospects (Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz). It's hard to understate here how much talent the White Sox are getting -- no one prospect is a sure thing, but one would think Moncada alone would be worth more than Sale is.

The Nationals had also been interested in Sale, but it appears the White Sox understandably lost interest in whatever the Nats were offering when it became clear that Dave Dombrowski was willing to go nuts to acquire him. The Pirates connection, of course, is that the Pirates and Nats have also discussed Andrew McCutchen. It's possible, then, that Sale heading to Boston will clear a path for the Bucs to trade McCutchen to Washington if they want to.

It's also increasingly clear that if they do trade McCutchen, the Pirates should insist on top-of-the-line talent. McCutchen doesn't have as much trade value as Sale right now, but the haul the White Sox got for Sale is so ridiculous that it can't help but drive McCutchen's price upward.