MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Pick Josh Rodriguez In Rule 5 Draft

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Pirates Pick Indians' Josh Rodriguez In Rule 5 Draft

A quick roundup of the Pirates’ moves today:

-P- The Pirates picked shortstop Josh Rodriguez of the Indians in the Rule 5 draft. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington worked for the Indians when they acquired him, so this pick isn’t a big shock.

This doesn’t appear to be a high-upside pick, since Rodriguez will turn 26 in a few days, but it’s good, in the sense that the Pirates can use middle infielders who can hit a little bit. Rodriguez took a long time getting through the high minors, but he had a nice season this year, hitting .293 AVG /.372 OBP /.486 SLG at Class AAA Columbus.

Just for kicks, I went to Brian Bixler’s stats page to see how he and Rodriguez compared, because Bixler is another infielder who took his time getting through the minors but ended up doing pretty well in Class AAA. Rodriguez, fortunately, hit better than Bixler this year, and doesn’t have Bixler’s issues with the strike zone, which are what kept Bixler from topping out in Class AAA.

I don’t see any obvious reason why Rodriguez couldn’t stick – perhaps not as a starter right away, but he can play bits of second and third along with shortstop this year and probably get by just fine with the bat.

-P- The Royals picked Class A+ Bradenton starting pitcher Nathan Adcock, which is unfortunate. I thought the Pirates would be able to sneak Adcock through the draft because his stuff isn’t that great, but I wasn’t sure they needed to risk losing him, either. Here’s hoping they get him back quickly.

-P- In the minor-league portion of the draft, the Pirates picked outfielder Brad Chalk from the Padres and catcher Travis Scott from the Angels. Chalk was a second-round pick for the Padres a few years back, but he hasn’t hit much since turning pro. Scott has spent the last several years at High Desert putting up superficially nice-looking numbers, but that means exactly nothing given how easy it is to hit there. Neither of these guys are really worth worrying about.

The Pirates also received starting pitcher Cesar Valdez from the Diamondbacks to complete the Zach Duke trade. Valdez, 25, doesn’t have great stuff and struggled a bit last year at Class AAA Reno. He’ll produce plenty of ground balls, but he should be very hittable, and doesn’t have much upside. Maybe the Pirates see some future for him if they can make him a reliever

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MLB Winter Meetings: Matt Diaz, Pirates Agree To Terms

The Pirates have agreed to terms with outfielder Matt Diaz, who was recently non-tendered by the Braves, on a two-year deal. The financials haven’t yet been released, but this probably isn’t a good move. Diaz will be 33 before the season starts, and his already limited skill set (hitting lefties, not getting hit by flying foam tomahawks in the outfield) is showing signs of slipping, as he posted just a .739 OPS last year. He was significantly better in 2009, but at 33, it doesn’t seem wise to bet on a huge comeback.

In addition, the Pirates already had a much younger guy in Lastings Milledge with basically the same set of skills, and they deemed him not only unworthy of a two-year contract, but not even worthy of the $1 million or $1.5 million he would have received in arbitration. And there’s another younger and cheaper guy, Steve Pearce, who is similar but can also play good defense at first base (in the outfield, he’s not so great, but neither is Diaz), who will be blocked further because of this move. We’re not yet sure how much the Pirates are spending, but the likelihood that they get very little this year and absolutely nothing out of this deal next year is very, very high. Bad signing.

UPDATE: Diaz actually struggled mightily at the beginning of last season, then had surgery on his thumb and hit much better after that. I'm skeptical of the idea that the thumb was entirely to blame for Diaz's subpar season, but at least that's one possible explanation. Let's hope it turns out to be a critical one, and that Diaz stays healthy this year.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Interested In J.J. Putz, Kevin Gregg

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Pirates are attacking the free agent relief pitcher market now after adding starters Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen on the first day of MLB's Winter Meetings in Orlando Florida.

#Pirates showing interest - and making offers - on a number of FA relievers. Were in on Putz. Also looking at guys like Gregg. #MLBless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

 

"Putz" in the tweet refers to former White Sox pitcher J.J. Putz. In 60 appearances with Chicago in 2010, Putz was 7-5 with a 2.83 ERA and 65 strikeouts against 15 walks in 54 innings pitched. His WHIP of 1.04 is very attractive as well, and speaks well to his control when healthy. Putz saved 40 games for Seattle in 2007 before blowing eight saves in 23 chances for the Mariners in 2008. In 2009, he pitched for the Mets, but made only 29 appearances as a result of injury troubles. He bounced back in Chicago, however, and would have been a nice add for the Bucs until he signed with Arizona.

Kevin Gregg saved 37 games for Toronto last season and posted a 2-6 record with a 3.51 ERA and 58 strikeouts against 30 walks. Gregg has been a closer for most of his last four seasons with the Marlins, Cubs and Blue Jays. His control isn't nearly as impressive as Putz's and he has a tendency to blow up in dramatic fashion sometimes, but considering the state of the Pirates bullpen behind Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan, he'd be a welcomed addition as well.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Not Interested In Orlando Cabrera

Well, it looks like you can put the Orlando Cabrera rumors to bed, according to Dejan Kovacevic, who said earlier in the day today that the Pirates had made an inquiry about free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

#Pirates did make inquiry on free-agent SS Orlando Cabrera but are NOT interested. Mentioned earlier I was unsure of interest level.less than a minute ago via web

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Tied To Orlando Cabrera

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dejan Kovacevic is reporting ($$$) that the Pirates are interested in free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera, though there is no word yet on what the club's interest level is. 

This is a curious development as the Pirates are believed to be looking for a defensive upgrade on current shortstop Ronny Cedeno. Though Cabrera had a better fielding percentage last year with the Reds, Cedeno's range numbers are considerably higher than Cabrera's at this point. At best, Cabrera is probably no better in the field than Cedeno, if not worse.

That said, he probably represents a marginal upgrade at the plate and has a history of being a winner. He's played for several division champs in the last few years, including the Angels, White Sox and Reds.

As with anything in free agency, Cabrera could be a nice addition for the right price. Anything more than two or three million, though, is probably excessive. If completed, this deal would likely be pretty similar to the Bucs signings of Ramon Vasquez and Bobby Crosby in recent years. The club ended up dumping Vasquez but got catcher Chris Snyder in a trade that included Crosby, so you never know how these things can end up.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Kevin Correia Deal With Bucs Could Be Delayed

ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, the writer who broke the news of the Pirates deal with free agent starting pitcher Kevin Correia, says it could be a few days before the deal is finalized.

Kevin Correia's wife just had a baby, so it might be a few days before he has his physical and deal with Pirates becomes officialless than a minute ago via web

 

Well, I suppose congratulations are in order on a couple of levels for the new Bucco.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates, Kevin Correia Near Deal

ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports that former Padres pitcher Kevin Correia will be a Pirate next year.

Pitcher Kevin Correia has reached agreement with Pittsburgh Pirates on a 2-year, $8 million deal, pending a physical, source saysless than a minute ago via web

 

Correia will enter his age 30 season in 2011 after posting a record of 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 26 starts with San Diego in 2010, a step back from a solid 2009 season in which he went 12-11 with a 3.91 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 33 starts for the Padres.

The former Friar's biggest trouble last season was control, as his WHIP jumped from 1.30 in 2009 to 1.49 in 2010 and his BB/9 from 2.9 to 4.0. He has proven effective in getting strikeouts, however. His K/9 average in 2010 was 7.1, above his career average of 6.6.

As a Type B free agent, the Padres will receive a supplementary first round pick in this year's draft when the deal with the Pirates is complete. (The Pirates will not lose any picks.)

Correia will likely eat a lot of innings for Pittsburgh this season and bring a punch-out capability the rotation lacks beyond James McDonald. That said, if he struggles like he did last season, he won't be worth near the money the Pirates plan on paying him.

Unlike the addition of Scott Olsen earlier in the day on Monday for close to a $1 million for next season, Correia represents legitimate investment at $4 million per season for the next two years. The dollars per year will probably end up below the going rate for the average free agent starter this winter. The additional year is interesting, however, for a pitcher without a whole lot of upside at what will be age 31. Perhaps GM Neal Huntington is hoping a quick start for Correia in 2011 will make his contract attractive in trade talks come July if the Pirates are out of the race.

That's a discussion for down the road, though. Right now, it appears Huntington will leave Florida with a pair of starters in the fold at the very least, and he can now turn his attention toward improving the defense in Day Two of the meetings Tuesday.

Stay tuned to SB Nation Pittsburgh for any updates on the Correia signing or any other moves the Pirates might make in Orlando.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Want To Trade Ryan Doumit

The Pirates are interested in trading catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit, the Post-Gazette reports. This is no surprise – the Bucs acquired catcher Chris Snyder at last year’s deadline largely because Doumit can’t really catch anymore. He’s also not quite a good enough hitter to start regularly in right field, which makes him more of a problem than a solution, not just for the Pirates, but for any team. It will be hard for the Pirates to get any talent in return, especially if they want their trading partner to take on Doumit’s salary.

The Bucs are also interested in starting pitcher Kenshin Kawakami and reliever Jeremy Accardo. Kawakami would have to come via a trade, but he had a miserable season last year and would likely come very cheap. As with Scott Olsen, who the Pirates are set to acquire, Kawakami would be a potential back-of-the-rotation starter. Accardo pitched most of last year at Class AAA Las Vegas and would probably be a minor-league signee.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Scott Olsen, Pirates Come To Terms

The Pirates began their winter meetings with a thud by reaching an agreement with starting pitcher Scott Olsen, formerly of the Nationals and Marlins, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Both Lanosch and the Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic write that the deal will be for one year and will feature lots of incentives, perhaps with a base salary of around $1 million.

That’s certainly cheap enough that one can’t really argue much, since Olsen is still pretty young and had some success at the beginning of his career, but he has had ugly ERAs two years in a row, has a long track record of being a jerk, has had injury issues, and is about to join forces with one of baseball’s worst defenses. If he doesn’t pull it together, at least it won’t cost the Pirates much, but this hardly seems like a match made in heaven. He’s cheaper than Zach Duke would have been, but it it’s far from clear to me that Olsen is better.

The deal will become official if Olsen passes a physical. If he does, he’ll compete for a spot in the rotation alongside Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln and whoever else the Pirates end up bringing in.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Appear Out Of Brandon Webb Hunt

Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette writes that the Pirates appear to be out of contention for Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb:

The Pirates do remain interested in Scott Olsen, Justin Duchscherer, Jeff Francis and other starting pitchers. The chance of signing Olsen is by far the greatest of this group.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge difference between signing someone like Webb – who at least has tremendous upside if he can show he’s healthy – and someone like Olsen, who is mediocre under just about every circumstance. Signing Webb would be infinitely preferable. It’s debatable whether Olsen is an upgrade over Zach Duke, who the Pirates already let go.

In other Winter Meetings news, the Red Sox have completed their trade with the Padres for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The Orioles, meanwhile, are finishing up a trade for Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds. The Orioles are nowhere near contention, so trading a couple of young players for a veteran third baseman with big-time strikeout issues seems like a strange move.

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MLB Winter Meetings: Pirates Hunt For Starting Pitching, Shortstop

Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Here's an idea what to expect as the Pirates attempt to piece together a roster for the 2011 season.

There's nothing preventing the Pirates from not doing anything this week and waiting until later in the offseason to add players, but in practice, the Winter Meetings are where a lot of deals get done. The Bucs have already jettisoned pitcher Zach Duke, outfielder Lastings Milledge, third baseman Andy LaRoche and bench hitter Delwyn Young this offseason, and they have several roster spots open, so we might finally see some action.

In particular, the Pirates will continue to look for a starting pitcher. They made a serious offer to Jorge De La Rosa before he re-signed with the Rockies, but most of the arms with whom the Pirates have been connected have been of the lightning-in-a-bottle variety - mostly pitchers like Brandon Webb or Justin Duchscherer who stand a chance to pitch well while on incentive-based and relatively cheap deals that they'll have to sign because they were injured last year. The idea is that one of them could use a year in Pittsburgh to prove to the rest of baseball that they're healthy, then sign a multi-year deal somewhere else.

The departure of Lastings Milledge suggests that the Pirates will also be in the market for a corner outfielder or first baseman. They already asked about Lance Berkman, who ended up signing with the Cardinals, and they're also reportedly interested in lower-profile options like Jack Cust and Matt Diaz.

The Bucs could also seek a new shortstop - not only because incumbent Ronny Cedeno didn't really get it done with the bat last year, but because a defensive upgrade pretty much anywhere on the diamond could help their starting pitchers significantly. The Twins' J.J. Hardy is by far the best option available, but there's also the Rays' Jason Bartlett and the Cardinals' Brendan Ryan. All three would have to be acquired through trade rather than through free agency.

Also, don't be surprised if the Pirates are connected to a reliever or two by the time the week is out.

Finally, the Pirates have the first pick in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. The Rule 5 is mostly an excuse for hardcore fans to geek out and not necessarily a place to expect the Pirates to get great talent, because teams rarely have to leave high-profile prospects unprotected. But big-name players, such as Johan Santana and Roberto Clemente, are occasionally selected. The Pirates have repeatedly been connected to Rays starter Aneury Rodriguez, so that's one name to keep in mind, but most Rule 5-eligible players are so obscure that the draft is rarely predictable. It wouldn't be a shock if the Pirates took someone who isn't popping up on any of the lists, like this excellent one over at Bucs Dugout. The Bucs also could select two players, which doesn't happen often.

Key storylines around baseball to keep an eye on include the potential signings of Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford and the potential trades of Zach Greinke and Adrian Gonzalez.

Keep checking back for more updates from throughout the Winter Meetings.

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