Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aaron Thomson and Garrett Atkins, new Pirates

The Pirates continue to amaze by claiming Aaron Thompson off of waivers. He is a pitcher that was drafted by the Marlins, traded to the Nationals, and now arrives with the Pirates. He will probably be in the AAA bullpen or perhaps the rotation of AA. To make room for him the Pirates designated for assignment Ledezma. Ledezma is the only lefty in the bullpen right now, so this is a bit of a shock. Plus it means that Chris Ledoux is still on the 40 man. Amazing. Ledezman had just re-signed earlier this year, so hopefully the Pirates will be able to keep him around.

They also made a minor trade, as in trading some minor leaguers. They get Corey Wimberly from the A's, a 27 year old utility infielder who has also played a little outfield for 23 year old Ryan Kelly. Kelly has pitched at the Low A level with a decent fastball, but with all the pitching talent coming through the system has no hope in the Pirate organization. Wimberly hit .284 at AAA with a nice 56 stolen bases. Clearly Wimberly is a possible major league back up if the Pirates decide against Ciraco. I fail to see how he fits in at a now crowded AAA infield unless the Pirates are planning on leaving at least one of their future stars (D'Arnaud or Mercer) in AA.

Garrett Atkins also signed a minor league deal with the Pirates. Atkins, a third baseman, hit well in the Rockies good year of 06 and again in 07, but has been miserable since. However he has real major league experience that the other candidates for back up third base do not have.

Now, it appears the Pirates are really planning on having some competition in camp to see who the back up in the infield are going to be. The Pirates might be leaning toward carrying a natural third base back up rather than using Neil Walker as the back up third base and going with an extra middle infielder to fill in at second. There are lots of choices for the Pirates to make this Spring, and that can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Martinez removed from 40 man

I am not sure why this took so long. The Pirates had a 41 man roster for two days.

Joe Martinez came in a trade last year, so it is a little surprising that he was the one dropped. I think he could still stay with the Pirates by clearing waivers. But more importantly it says two things.

One, the Pirates must be having trouble trading Ryan Doumit. That is bad news. His presence on the roster ruins everything. It would probably push Bowker off the team, and probably also keep Pearce in AAA. It might also cost the team Jarmillo, but the Pirates seem bent on keeping Doumit away from the catcher position, so maybe Jarmillo would be safe. Doumit has to go.

Two, the Pirates must think highly of Chris Leroux. Leroux is a bullpen guy, who I think was claimed off of waivers. Most including me thought he was the one to drop. Yet, he remains. After the purge before the Winter Meeting and now after several free agent signings, Leroux remains. I find that development rather intriguing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brewers lose their minds and some minor league signings

The Brewers today made the big headline news in trading for Zack Greinke. They Brewers also got Bettencourt, a short stop, from the Royals. The Royals made out like bandits in this deal. They got 4 guys in return.

The Brewers gave up Alcides Escobar, who is better than Bettncourt, and is the best player in this deal. They also gave up Lorenzo Cain, a center fielder who played after September call ups and hit .500 for a 2 week stretch. He is going to be an above average center fielder. In addition to these two top prospects, they got Jake Odorizzi, who projects to be a number 3 possibly a number 2 guy. And they also got for good measure Jeremy Jeffress, who pitches 95-98 without much trouble, but has already got two strikes against him for smoking weed. Jeffress may not make it as a starting pitcher, but with that kind of speed and arm he could easily be an 8th inning guy or with some work a closer. He can outright overpower you. The key is whether or not he can stay clean. His next strike is a life time ban.

In other words the Brewers mortgaged their future on this year. Add in the fact that they traded for Shaun Marcum earlier this off season, which cost them a top second base prospect, and you have the definition of insanity. There is nothing in the cupboard for the Brewers, and while they have a great pitching staff, they do not have enough to win this year. Not only do their top 3 pitchers need to stay healthy, but they are going to be trading away Prince Fielder this year. With all that has happened they would be crazy not to trade him to the Yankees (since they seem to have fallen behind the Red Sox this offseason). The Yankees will be able to sign him this next off season for no return for the Brewers. Trade him they must. The same goes for Ricky Weeks, although they might could re-sign him. But without Fielder I doubt the Brewers have what it takes to attract him back.

I live in the Kansas City region, and the dirty secret discussed in Kansas City all last season is that many believer Zack Grienke emotionally broken. His best pitching days may indeed be behind him. The Royals number 1 ranked farm system just got a lot better and their major league team did too.

In other news the Pirates have re-signed Donald Veal (great news), Tyler Yates (good news - I like him as emergency bullpen help), and signed for the first time Josh Fields (so-so news). Fields is a back up utility infielder with 3B as his normal spot. He has seen major league action and is fairly young. He is just adding that level of competition for back up spots that the Pirates have been preaching.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lyle Overbay signed

The Pirates plugged a hole with a questionable signing at first. Lyle Overbay who can put up 20 HRs, but hits about .244. Although there is some hope that this will increase. He did play for the Blue Jays so he faced the pitching of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays regularly. Maybe his average will go up as he sees the Astros and Cubs more regularly.

Still, you have to wonder what this means. Jones is now said to be in a platoon in Right with Matt Diaz. I like that, but Bowker and Pierce were probably as good as Overbay. One of those guys is in big trouble now. With Pearce recently given another option year, I think it means the Pirates will start Pearce in AAA because Bowker is out of options. Bowker will also give them a lefty off of the bench, and Diaz on the bench when lefties are starting.

I would have preferred something else, but in the end Overbay might could be traded mid-season. It is a one year deal, so if he brings something in return, then the deal has to be evaluated in light of that final news. I will hold off criticism and just trust right now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Meetings 2010 - Part 3 - The Rule 5 Draft

The Pirates selected Josh Rodriguez with their pick in the Rule 5 Draft. While, I preferred a different candidate, or no pick at all, the Pirates did well. They did not go with a pitcher, but rather used the Rule 5 to find the back up middle infielder, which is what I wanted to do (we just had different opinions on who). Rodriguez is a guy who looks to have the tools to play the Utility infielder role, and could actually be a decent hitter. He is a righty, which will help as the back up to Pedro Alvarez at third, and might could beat out Cedano, if Cedano does not show up circa Seattle in 2009.

The down side is the Pirates lost Nathan Adcock. Lots of guys think that the Royals will not be able to hide him on their roster meaning the Pirates will have a chance to get him back, but I disagree. The Royals will keep him all year. I had Adcock as the 19th best prospect in our system, but I admitted he was basically the same as Miller and Lorin who I had at 23 and 25, but got the higher slot because he pitched in the higher level. But then again, I did not have McPherson ranked in the top 50 instead giving him an honorable mention. The Pirates rightly deserve some criticism for this move. While Adcock has never even pitched at AA, the Royals bullpen is about a AA level bullpen anyway. Adcock's 49% ground ball rate make him worth hiding all year. The Royals "need a bigger boat" as their announcer put it when they had to go to the pen in an early season game this year when facing Joe Mauer. Adcock is not a significant down grade for them. His potential will keep him in the Royal's system.

That said, we can see the 25 man roster start to take shape.

C- Snyder
1B - Jones
2B - Walker
3B - Alvarez
SS - Cedano
LF - Tabata
CF - McCutchen
RF - Diaz
Back Up OF - Bowker
Back up SS - Ciraco
UI - Rodreguez
Back up C - Jarmillo
Back Up 1B - Pearce

The question there is more about whether Pearce will be ready to go on opening day. Bowker could also be the first baseman back up if that is the case and another outfielder like Presley could be added.

SP - Malholm
SP - Ohlendorf
SP - McDonald
SP - Corria
SP - Oleson
RP - Meek
RP - Hanrahan
RP - Ledezma
RP - Resop
RP - Karstens
RP - Ascino
RP - ?
Here is where some of the questions remain. A few spots in the pen are up for grabs. Jose Ascino's spot is tenuous at best. He may also still be on the DL. Hart has a shot at one, but he too will probably be on the DL to start the year. Daniel McCutchen has a good shot for one. And Charlie Morton will be lost if he does not end up on the team. Plus the Pirates are making a few offers to free agent bullpen guys, which means that perhaps the Pirates are not done tinkering in the pitching department. Rumors have Paul Malholm on the block. I assume that he would bring back prospects in return, which might open a starting position for Karstens or Morton. In turn that would open another bullpen slot.

In the end, I do think the Pirates are not done dealing yet. Expect Malholm and Doumit to be traded.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Meetings 2010 - Part 2

The Pirates have been busy just as they promised. Two major signings have taken place since the last update.

Kevin Correia signed a deal worthy about 4 million a year for two years. However, I sort of doubt that the Pirates will keep him around for two years. If he has a decent year, I think the Pirates will shop him mid year. Still this signing is excellent. Correia is a solid pitcher and a clear up grade over Zack Duke. This also takes a lot of pressure off of James McDonald as I think this bumps McDonald to the 4th slot and Correia takes the 3rd slot with Ohlendorf at 2 and Malholm at 1. I also think that this means Brad Lincoln starts off in AAA, as I am pretty sure he has some options left. Jeff Karstens is probably back in the pen, Daniel McCutchen may still have a shot at the pen, but might be in AAA himself or traded by opening day. If you are going to get J.J. Hardy someone has to go. I think it spells bad news for Charlie Morton as well because in all probability Scott Oleson is your 5th starter.

The Pirates also signed Matt Diaz to play corner outfield for the Pirates. This guy is 32 and his deal is a two year deal, but it is only about 2 million a year. Reasonable. Diaz can hit lefties, but has struggled against righties. Last year was bad for him, but his career average is about .301. Probably not going to get that high as he is aging. Some are worried that this is not any better than Milledge. Milledge had a higher OBP and AVG against lefties than Diaz, although they had the same Slugging percentage. Milledge is much younger and would have been a little cheaper. I for one and much happier with Diaz. There are three main reasons.
One, Diaz is tradable. There was a lot of interest in Diaz when he was non-tendered from many teams. Diaz has a decent year and those teams like the Yankees are going to be willing to trade for him. Milledge was not tradable because of his bad reputation.
Two, Diaz has more power. Milledge had no power. It was completely gone last year, and I think the Pirates did not see it coming back. He has always underachieved in the power department. He is about at the age where you can say that what you see is what you get. The PIrates desperately need power.
Three, Milledge just did not try and that sort of attitude eats a team away. Milledge loafed in the outfield and often on the basepaths. I can remember at least two clear instances of bad defense from Milledge costing the Pirates games. I mean basic stuff like rout running and hitting the cutoff man. Add in all the times he failed to advance when he should have, got thrown out at third costing the team a run, and other dumb stuff and Milledge had to go. Diaz is going to be a player who knows how to run the bases and play defense. It is a shot in the arm of professionalism that the Pirates can use.

This does make getting rid of Doumit in a trade and near must.

All in all the Pirates are having a good meeting. I believe they still have one spot open on the 40 Man and the Rule 5 Draft is tomorrow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Meetings 2010 - Part 1

The first updates from the Winter Meetings are in, and the big news is the signing of Scott Olsen. This fills one starting pitcher role. They really could use another unless they feel comfortable with Jeff Karstens as a number 5 guy. So, I think there is still hope for a Webb, Francis, or another like that to be signed. I am not a fan of Scott Olsen. I wish they had not signed him at all. It is like getting another Lastings Milledge. An upside, but a real bad attitude and lack of effort that will rear its head.

Of course the Pirates are still trying to trade Ryan Doumit. I have some confidence that somewhere the Pirates will get this done, but it won't be a great deal. Still just getting rid of him to make room on the 25 man roster is important.

The Pirates are also still talking to the Twins. I like J.J. Hardy, and he is better than Cedano, but I am not sure I want to part with real prospects to get him.

Apparently goal number 1 is young starting pitching which I doubt will come in trades. Olsen might fight that bill, but I think it means the Pirates are going to take a pitcher in the Rule 5 draft.

Jennifer Langosh gives us some more names that I hope don't come to the Pirates. She mentions Kenshin Kawakami as a possible trade pick up. Apparently at a cheap price without a real prospect loss. I think his best days are behind him. I guess if we got him for nothing, it would be hard to complain, but really, give me Jeff Francis. She also mentions a couple of possible short stops in addition to JJ Hardy including Jason Bartlett (numbers getting worse), and Cardinal short stop Brendan Ryan (numbers were never good in the first place). I prefer to keep our internal pieces and wait one more year for D'Arnaud and Mercer and see if we can get Cedano to just hit .250.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pirate Direction with 4 non-tenders

The Pirates had some surprises by not tendering contracts to a few guys. First, they did tender contracts to Hanrahan, Ohlendorf, Karstens, and Cedano. Those are not surprises. Karstens was a maybe, but he deserved it. He pitched well last year, was misused by coaches to lower his record, and the year before that showed he could be a good long term reliever.

The big surprise is that they did not offer anything to Milledge. I would have thought they would have done that because he was a trade, and he was not all that bad. Not what they had hoped, but not bad at the plate. I think that this shows that the Pirates are taking defense seriously. Milledge was awful in the field and on the basepaths. It is good news for Joe Bowker who has a much better chance to make the team now. It may also signal that Garrett Jones is going to return to left field. This could be a sign that the Pirates intend to sign a free agent first baseman.

Also let go were Brian Burres, which is no big surprise. He was destined to be let go to make room for some free agents. Donald Veal also was not resigned. Veal was a Rule 5 guy with some upside. Jennifer Langoshreports that they are trying to get Veal to a minor league deal, which would make that move understandable. Argenis Diaz was also released. Diaz might could come back in the minor league system. I am a little surprised at this. Ciriaco was going to be in competition with Diaz for the backup slot this year, but I guess the Pirates have seen enough to go with Ciriaco instead.

The real story is that now the Pirates have 4 holes in the 40 man roster. I expected a few, but 4 is more than I thought. It signals that the Pirates are going to be real active in the free agent market. It may also signal that they are going to try to take a Rule 5 guy. It seems from the releases that in addition to pitching, first base might be a target in the free agent game. I think that this also ends the short stop speculation because I think now the Pirates are going to have to ship Cedano out in any trade. That is probably just not going to happen.

Let us get started with the Winter Meetings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Andy Marte signing what does it mean?

The Pirates signed three guys to minor league deals.
Dusty Brown is just a catcher for AAA.

Fernando Nieve will get his chance to make the bullpen. The Pirates are going to probably sign a lot more pitchers to minor league deals. Nieve is nice organizational depth. Hopefully won't break camp with the team, but is a guy you can go to for those 15 day DL solutions in the pen.

Andy Marte is the real interesting signing. Marte is a AAAA kind of 3rd baseman. A prospect bust for the Indians. The Pirates are currently missing a back up third baseman on the major league roster, but I doubt Marte is expected to get that job. He will have his shot at it, but it is going to be a long shot. The question then becomes if Marte is not the backup third baseman for the big leagues, what is his role?

The obvious answer is the third baseman for the AAA Indians. But since Marte is a 27 year old non-prospect, why put him at third to block real prospects? The Indians were going to have a real nice infield. D'Arnaud, Mercer, and Harrison. Jordy Mercer spent time at third as did Josh Harrison. Marte is not going to be a back up at Indy. I think that this might signal a move for these two guys. Third base is blocked at the major league level. A faster track to the big leagues would be for them to play a different position. Both of them can. Mercer is a natural short stop and plays second as well. Harrison also plays second, but in the Arizona Fall League played a little of everywhere including the outfield. Could it be that the AAA Indians will have Mercer at second and Harrison in the outfield in order to make the more useful quicker at the major league level?

This makes sense no matter how you look at it. Even if you are assuming that Alvarez is going to shift to first soon. Walker is not good defensively at second, and is better at third. Mercer (or perhaps D'Arnaud) makes more sense at second. Harrison then gets to either take the third outfield slot, or more likely be the 4th outfielder who has the ability to be the back up utility infielder as well.

We have to wait and see of course, but I think the Marte signing says more about the prospects in our system now than it does for the Pirates 2011 major league roster.