Monday, November 29, 2010

Huntington does it again

I have to say that Neil Huntington is a genius. He is amazing. He traded away Zack Duke. Duke was not put on the 40 man roster a few days ago, so that the 10 day clock now began. It was clear that the Pirates were not going to offer Duke arbitration, so Duke was essentially a free agent, just waiting on the PIrates 10 days to pass. Yet somehow, Neil Huntington pulls off a trade. Pretty amazing. Now, I know the Diamond Backs are not going to give us anything. The dreaded player to be named later is never a good sign. But, still it is one more guy with a long shot chance than we would have had. It also sounds a little like this guy is going to be someone in AAA or AA. Rumors are that it will be a player who was left open for the Rule 5 draft, as long as the person is not taken. That means it will be someone who did not have what it takes to make it in the Diamondback system. Not so good. This trade still ranks up there with amazing feats. I am not sure yet whether or not this outdoes the trade of Brian Bixler, but it is close.

There is also some discussion about the possibility of getting J.J. Hardy. Having live near the Twins, I think the possibility of this is low. Yes, the Twins just paid 5 million to a Japanese team for the rights to an infielder that will surely replace Hardy. But that guy has not officially signed yet. They have 30 days to do that. However, the non-tender deadline will come before that. With Hardy holding some trade value, I do not see away that the Twins don't hedge their bets knowing that they can trade Hardy if they need to do so. The Twins are the best run organization in baseball, maybe all of sports. Their ownership is not going to give Hardy away for nothing. I think Hardy could help the Pirates, but I also think that his price would be too steep. The Pirates are not that far away from having D'Arnaud and Mercer ready to go. So with at least two guys nearing big league readiness, I would hate to see young prospects go away for an aging Hardy. Wait on the youth. I can endure one more ugly season before the 5 to 10 great seasons we are about to have.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rule 5 or not to Rule 5

I am not a big fan of the Rule 5 method of adding to the organization. Sure Evan Meek is a great find, but let us not forget that the farm system was really thin at that time. It is much better now. Also we have Meek because they did not want him back. He did not stay up all year. Veal did make it, but he is not a big steal. Raynor didn't make it. All we did was waste money. Doumatrait made it, but washed out soon after.

Tim at Pirate Prospects has a nice rundown of the Rule 5 available players. I still have a hope that we will not try to take a pitcher. The Pirate bullpen should already be full. Resop, Meek, Hanrahan, and Ledezma are in. Karstens, Hart, and Ascino have the other spots even if Hart may not be able to take up his spot right away. Any Rule 5 player would not be able to stand aside for Hart when he got there. Daniel McCutchen also ought to have a real shot at making the bullpen. The starting 5 also ought to be full. Ohlendorf, Malholm, and McDonald are solid. The Pirates are making a big move for at least one, and probably 2 free agents are going to make it here. Karstens could still slide in one spot as could Charlie Morton (hopefully not). So I have large hope that no one will be taken.

Still, one possibility intrigues me. Brad Emaus. Emaus plays 2B and 3B. He hit .298 in AAA and had an .395 OBP with an .890 OPS. That is not a lot of power, but a pretty decent bat. One worth taking a chance on since the Pirates released both their back up Second basemen, and Third basemen. It should be easy to hide him as the starters are firmly in place in both those positions. He would also probably be a defensive upgrade at both slots. It also would probably keep Brad in a position where he would not be the expected pinch hitter. Although, he does have the benefit of being a righty, so you would have the contrast with Alvarez, if you wanted to make sure that Alvarez got his days of rest when a lefty took the mound.

If the Pirates have to take someone. I could live with Brad Emaus.

AFL review

Here are the stats for the Arizona Fall League.

•3B Josh Harrison: 22 G, .330 BA, 19 R, 10 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 6 SB
•OF Andrew Lambo: 28 G, .274 BA, 19 R, 8 2B, 4 HR, 23 RBI
•SS Jordy Mercer: 20 G, .267 BA, 10 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 13 RBI
•C Tony Sanchez: 18 G, .206 BA, 11 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI
•RHP Brian Leach: 10 G, 0-1, 10 IP, 11 H, 0 ER, 7 BB, 7 K
•RHP Aaron Pribanic: 11 G, 18 IP, 18 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 9 K
•LHP Justin Wilson: 6 GS, 0-1, 16.1 IP, 19 H, 8 ER, 8 BB, 16 K

Whose stock went up and whose went down? Well, I think you have to say that the big winner is Brian Leach. 10 games no Earned Runs. Any time you can put up a 0.00 ERA you have done some good work. Too many walks, and too many hits, but he got around them (an error undid him once leading to his loss). The other two winners who might be just a little less are Andrew Lambo and Josh Harrison. Harrison was position-less for most of his games. He played both infield and outfield. The .330 AVG is nice, but it is the 10 2B and 2 3B that makes it special. 6 stolen bases are not to be overlooked either. Lambo showed nice power and played a lot of games meaning the coaches down there liked him too. He had 8 2B's and 4 HRs including a grand slam aiding his 23 RBIs.

Jordy Mercer did not really hurt his stock, but neither did he help it. You would want a bit higher AVG from him in the hitters league that is the AFL. Not shown above are also 8 errors which is worrisome. However, Mercer pulled out a decent AVG and showed his ability to get RBIs. He had 13. His homer was in his last appearance and maybe that shows he was on an upswing when the season ended. Aaron Pribonic did not really help or hurt himself either. He had a good start and had a rocky game or two in there leading to a lot of those runs. It is a hitters league, and Pribonic is below the competition level of most of these guys. One hit per inning is not good, but only 4 Earned Runs is not bad.

Those who hurt their stock are Justin Wilson. Wilson was the lone starter, and he got beat up a bit. 19 hits is getting pounded and 8 Earnerd runs is no good. Yet, the high strike out total is a hopeful sign.
Surprisingly the most disappointing is Tony Sanchez. He was coming off a long layoff, which means he probably had to re-find his timing, and not playing as often aas the others made that more difficult. But these are excuses. 4 HRs is a bright spot, but only 1 2B is a bad sign. It is a hitters league. Tony may have just been really tired as he was great in High A. We will see how this experience helps him develop, which overall is the important thing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

40 Man Roster set with a bevy of surprises

The Pirates finally look like they mean business. They have officially turned the team over to the young guys now. Earlier the Pirates had dumped Chan Ho Park, Justin Thomas, and a few others. That freed up a few slots. As expected Daniel Moskos and Jeff Locke were protected.

The surprises came in who was dropped. The Pirates DFA'd Zack Duke, Dwelven Young, and Andy LaRoche. Now, I have to say, I was expecting Brian Burres to get dropped and maybe Ramon Aguero. Yet, both of those guys are kept. Some were thinking Chris Leroux would get dropped, but I think the Pirates have plans. This might show that is true. Alex Pressley would have even made sense considering the crowded Bucs outfield. Burres, however, is the biggest surprise. He has no options left, which means he has to stay on the 25 man roster all year. His time might still be limited as the first guy off when the Pirates sign a pitcher.

Dropping Duke is not a big deal. They were not going to offer him anything. Young is not all that big a deal either. A little surprising that Duke was not traded, but I think this move shows how low the demand is for Duke. He may have trouble finding a position anywhere, and if he does I bet it is out of the pen. The big surprise to me is Andy LaRoche. They need a middle infielder, which Andy was learning. Plus, in close games, they need a defensive replacement for Alvarez. Andy had that covered too. His bat was awful, but this is surprising.

In addition to Moskos and Locke the Pirates added three more guys. Tony Watson, Kyle McPherson and Michael Crotta. Now, Watson looks good since they moved him to the pen, but it is a bit early. Considering his injury history and lack of consistent power, not to mention he is a lefty, that move makes sense. Crotta makes even more sense to me. He has AAA experience unlike Watson. Crotta is not a high profile prospect, but could develop as a 5 starter, and could easily be hidden all yaer in a bullpen, where I think he will play in the pros with the Pirates. Considering the Pirate trouble with the 5th slot this past year, Crotta is good insurance. Remember I thought he was going to be taken in the Rule 5. I think the Pirate might have agreed. The real surprise to me is Kyle McPhearson. A prospect yes, but has not really faced quality competition. Mostly in Low A. No one was going to take a chance on a guy who had not even faced AA. He would never have made it. Surprise move to be sure.

One note. It looks like the Pirates may not take anyone in the Rule 5 draft. I think that is a good idea. Expect the Pirates to make a few signings and see Burres fall of the 40 man to make room for it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now the offseason gets going . . .

Clint Hurdle is the new Pirates manager. Great. So what does that mean? Hurdle really only had one good season, but it was a good one. He seems like a solid on the basics coach, who has some experience with the young guys. Although it should be noted that he lost them the next season. I would have preferred Tony Pena. But, you get what you can, and Pena is not going to Pittsburgh, at least not in the condition they are now. For those of you worried about JR, don't. He is the new bench coach for Baltimore.

The impact that Hurdle can have now is in helping to lure free agents. Pitching is the biggest need and seems to be where the Pirates are concentrating. They are actively pursuing former Rockies Jeff Francis and Jorge De La Rosa. Now, I am actually against a De La Rosa signing. He is going to command big money, and I don't think he will be worth what he is going to get. It will also cost the team that signs him a 2 round draft pick, which for the Pirates is the first pick of the second round. So, I think that it is better off not signed. Jeff Francis, however, is not coming with such baggage. He has shown he can be great and produce in big games. Hurdle was there for that, and maybe he can whisper the right things in Francis's ear.

Brandon Webb is also supposedly being pursued by the Pirates. Webb was one of, if not the, best pitcher in the NL a few years ago. But injuries destoryed him, and now his fastball was last clocked topping out at 85. Clearly that will go up some, but whether or not he will be any good again is not clear. I think that this might be a mistake to sign him, but the upside is too intriguing to pass on if the price is low enough. I'd rather have Francis.

Oh yeah, Chan Ho Park is thinking about re-signing with the Pirates, a minor league deal. I guess it is hard to object to a minor league deal.

Hurdle could help some of these signings along by getting his pitching coach in order. Leo Mazzoni is available. Who he puts for the rest of his coaching staff is going to be interesting. I still hope the Pirates can find a place for Andy Van Slyke. The Cubs passed on Ryan Sandburg (which is a mistake), so despite the fact that he appears to be the head coach for the Phillies AAA club, maybe he could find a place as the bench coach for the Pirates. Who else could teach defense like Sandburg? Oh yeah, the Iowa Cubs were great last year under him.

Looking forward what comes next.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More inillegible guys

Pirate Prospects reports that Rudy Owens and Diego Moreno are NOT Rule 5 eligible. That is great news as both were sure to be protected. This exta space should ensure that Moskos is protected.

More room on the roster means more room to add guys through free agency or even taking someone in the Rule 5 Draft.

Good news for the Pirates!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Roster stuff and Rule 5 possibilities

The Pirates got some great news with Steven Pearce being given an extra year of minor league elligibility. That does open up some real possibilities for the Pirates. If Pearce had been out of options, he would have to be the first baseman or a back up for it. Now the Pirates can use Pearce how ever they want. If he needs to go down for more work in the minors, especially after his injury, he can. This opens the Pirates up a little more to try and find a first baseman on the free agent market as Pearce can start in the minors, freeing up his 25 man roster spot for a free agent.

Also, the Pirates will have to make a decision about who to protect from Rule 5 Draft in Decemeber. The only way to do that is add them to the 40 Man roster. Jennifer Langosh gives a nice run down of who is on the block. I do disagree about one thing. I think Daniel Moskos is a sure fire lock to be added. He is too talented to let his struggle at AAA stop his protection. Another team could swipe him and hide him in the bullpen for a year. I think it also makes Brian Friday assured to be unprotected as well. Langosh thinks he is up for debate. If I am not mistaken he was left unprotected last year and no one took him. He may have a higher stock a little this year, but it is so much easier to hide pitchers than it is position players. The Pirates found this out last year when they failed to keep their Rule 5 pick. But they were able to do that with the two previous Rule 5 pitchers they took (Doumatrait and Veal).

I believe I previously said Sterling Marte was up for Rule 5, but he is not as Pirate Prospects explains how the 2006 signing date has been out there. So, good news for the Pirates because Marte is a must protect, even if hand surgery takes away his power.

By the way, I think that the Pirates could lose a guy this year. It has been a while since a Pirate prospect was taken (lest we forget Jose Bautista was taken in the Rule 5, and we traded to get him back), but Michael Crotta could get snatched. He pitched at the AAA level as was not awful. A bullpen position is not out of the question on some teams. Tony Watson too could get taken. He was very good against lefties. Still, I think the best chance is for Crotta. The question is does anyone want him enough to pay 50,000 and a gamble on someone who may only be a future bullpen guy anyway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roster moves

The Pirates have started their off season moves. They began with a little 40-man roster clean up. They dropped Brandon Moss, Jeff Clement, Justin Thomas, Steven Jackson, and Sean Gallagher. They also put all their 60-Day DL guys back on the 40-man: Ohledorf, Pearce, and Ascanio. Thus, we have a net gain of 2. The Pirates need more room than that to protect their prospects. It also appears that Clement will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. I think the Pirates are going to go with Pearce, and then maybe they are hoping that Clement will get passed over because his injuries. If he is not taken, then Clement will remain under Pirate control, but the others are all minor league free agents. Although, I read a report today Thomas has already re-signed as a minor leaguer.

The Pirates have also gone after several free agents. Adrean Beltre is supposed to be one of them, but I hope the Pirates don't get him. I think the Pirates are going to be okay with out him. Supposedly the Pirates expected to sign Hiroki Kuroda. This would probably add something to the Pirate pitching staff even if it is just new blood. He is not the answer by any means, but if it helps keep Charlie Morton off the team, then I am okay with it. I have also learned that the Pirate management often signs guys they think they can deal in trades. So, if they sign him, I will be a believer.