Category Archives: Stitched Pirates Jerseys

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The website MLB Trade Rumors put out their yearly offseason free agent predictions. The site has the Pittsburgh Pirates inking two notable ones this offseason.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to search for a new General Manager and manager, the offseason keeps moving. Teams are starting to put together their offseason agenda, who they would like to acquire, who they want/need to trade, and other personnel moves. Still, there is plenty of time before the action really starts.

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have interim General Manager Kevan Graves helping make some early offseason roster decisions, most of these decisions will not have much of an impact on the Bucs offseason. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the team has an outside firm leading the search for a new General Manager. This will likely result in a hire sooner than later, which means the new hire should have plenty of time to get their offseason agenda ready.

Even though the team does not have a General Manager, this has not stopped writers, reporters, and bloggers from trying to forecast the Bucs offseason moves. Here at Rum Bunter we have posted multiple articles about catchers the team should pursue and so on.

The website MLB Trade Rumors is one of the best baseball websites around. It is a site that has been around for years and does a great job of tracking all player movement in the league as well as rumors. Over the years, MLBTR has grown into a popular website for fans to check out, especially during the offseason with their free agent predictions. The team at MLBTR tries to look at each team’s situation and determine who they could try and sign in the offseason.

MLB Trade Rumors projects the Bucs to sign two notable free agents (top 50). Obviously, the Pittsburgh Pirates are never predicted to sign one of the big fish free agents. Even with a change in the front office, the Bucs are still going to operate like a small market team. So, MLBTR is projecting the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign corner outfielder Kole Calhoun and left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly.

Both make sense as potential targets. Smyly would give the team a potential left-handed starter in a right-handed heavy rotation. He also fits the mold of the classic bounce back starter candidate that the previous regime always looked for on the market. Smyly was expected to breakout in 2018 after an impressive World Baseball Classic, but he had to undergo Tommy-John surgery early that year. He has bounced around over the last year and has yet to regain form. Still, he could be a low-risk, high reward free agent.

Calhoun’s place on the roster would not be as clear. He is a corner outfielder who bats left-handed and the team has switch hitter Bryan Reynolds in left and left-hander Gregory Polanco in right field, so there is no spot. This is unless the team does in fact trade Starling Marte, something that will likely occur. The team then could slide Reynolds to center and allow Calhoun to man a corner spot. Calhoun was solid last year, batting .232/.325/.467 with 33 home runs, 29 doubles, and one triple. Obviously, the batting average is a little low, but with his left-handed power he could be a real threat at PNC Park.

NEXT: General Manager Hiring News
This cannot be the Pittsburgh Pirates only moves this offseason. Obviously, there is a lot that has to go on and will go on, but this would be a solid start to the team’s offseason. Both players could be very intriguing fits for the team in 2020.

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Reports are that the New York Mets are interested in trading for Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte. What could a potential trade between the two teams look like?

As new general manager Ben Cherington prepares to embark on his first offseason on the job for the Pittsburgh Pirates one of his biggest decisions this offseason will be deciding what to do with Starling Marte. The former Gold Glove winning All-Star is the team’s best player. However, he is only under team control for two more seasons.

Right now the Pirates do not appear to be a team that will be looking to win either of the next two seasons. The right move would be for Cherington to look to rebuild and the main part of that would be trading Marte.

Over the weekend, it was reported that the New York Mets are among the teams that are interested in Marte. So, what could a potential Marte trade with the Mets look like?

When looking at a potential return for Marte one name that immediately jumps out is outfielder Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo has been the team’s regular center fielder the past few seasons, but the Mets have outfield depth with Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, a healthy Yoenis Cespedes, and Jeff McNeil can move to the outfield as well. So, Nimmo could be expendable.

In four MLB seasons Nimmo owns a .254/.387/.440 slash line, .361 wOBA, 130 wRC+, and a 15.2% walk rate in 1,084 plate appearances. In his three full MLB seasons he has been worth an average of 2.3 fWAR per season. Nimmo remains under team control for three more seasons and could join Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, Josh Bell, Mitch Keller, etc. as part of the Pirates new core.

Nimmo would be a main piece in a trade. If not Nimmo, then the Pirates could potentially target Matthew Allan – the Mets’ top pitching prospect – as the main piece of a Marte trade. The 18-year-old Allan was a 3rd round pick by the Mets last summer. In six games after being drafted Allan allowed 3 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings of work to go with 14 strikeouts. He projects as a top of the rotation starting pitcher.

As for potential secondary pieces in a trade two names that jump out are catcher Francisco Alvarez and outfielder Freddy Valdez. Alvarez, an 18-year-old catcher, is the Mets’ 5th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Alvarez slashed .312/.407/.510 with a 155 wRC+ in 42 games last season.

Valdez is even younger than Alvarez. The 17-year-old outfielder is also among New York’s top 20 prospects, but after slashing .274/.367/.448 last season to go with a 6-foot-3 frame Valdez looks primed to shoot up prospect rankings.

Left-handed pitching prospects David Peterson and Kevin Smith could be intriguing trade targets as well. Peterson had a strong season at the Double-A level in 2019, where he made 24 starts. In these 24 starts he posted a 4.19 ERA, 3.19 FIP, a 7.4% walk rate, and a 24.5% strikeout rate in 116 innings.

Smith started 2019 at the High-A level where he posted a 3.05 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 6.8% walk rate, and a 29.1% strikeout rate in 85 2/3 innings pitched across 17 starts. His success at the High-A level earned him a promotion to the Double-A level where he made six starts, posting a 3.45 ERA, 3.23 FIP, an 11.8% walk rate, and a 22.1% strikeout rate in 31 1/3 innings pitched.

You can never have too much pitching in baseball. Additionally, the Pirate farm system is void of any left-handed pitching prospects.

One thing Cherington needs to do is restock the Pirate minor league system. The best way to do this is to stockpile young talent. Players such as Alvarez, Valdez, Peterson, and Smith would all help in doing this.

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Checking in at number 9 on the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects list from the 2019 season is utility man Kevin Kramer
As part of the Seinfeld Pittsburgh Pirates connection, the selected UCLA infielder Kevin Kramer in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. This came after selection University of Arizona infielder Kevin Newman in the 1st round of the draft that summer.

Like Newman, Kramer primarily played shortstop in college. This led to Kramer moving to second base early in his professional career. However, he has also played third base and the corner outfield spots, in addition to the two middle infield positions during his professional career.

Kramer made his MLB debut during the 2018 season but struggled mightily. This led to the left-handed hitting utility man starting the 2019 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. Kramer, however, did reach the MLB level once again in 2019.

With Indy, Kramer experienced some struggles in 2019. The 26-year-old slashed .260/.335/.417 with a .328 wOBA and a wRC+ of just 92. Kramer had a 10.4% extra base hit rate, .158 ISO, 9.6% walk rate, and a concerning 25.9% strikeout rate with Indy.

As he did in 2018, Kramer struggled with the Pirates in 2019 as well. In 50 MLB plate appearances Kramer slashed .167/.260/.190. While his 12.0% walk rate was healthy, his 34.0% strikeout rate was not. Additionally, he collected just one extra base hit. This is concerning as his power potential is what Kramer is best known for.

NEXT: The Pirates Pick Up Starling Marte’s Option
Through his first 90 career MLB plate appearances Kramer has struggled mightily. In these 90 PAs Kramer has slashed .152/.222/.165 with a 41.4% strikeout rate. He also had a bad season at Triple-A in 2019. He is now 26-years-old and not getting any younger. To be honest, it would not be a shocker if Kramer was removed from the 40-man roster at some point this offseason. If he is not, he is all but ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis to start the 2020 season.

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Adam Frazier had a fantastic year for the Pirates. He flashed a gold glove-caliber glove and his usual steadiness at the plate. But, with the Pirates in a rebuild, it may make sense to move him to a contender.

Rumors swirl this time of the year, as surely as my wife will bust out the Christmas tree after the last Trick-or-Treater leaves with a handful of chocolate. Dominoes will start to fall as the Pirates answer the bell on hiring their new GM, but we needn’t wait for that to identify some potential Pirates’ trade scenarios.

The Pirates have some big chips to be sure, Starling Marte, Chris Archer, and Josh Bell to name a few. Each of them are options to move in an effort to rebuild a roster so that the Pirates can compete in arguably the most competitive division in baseball, the NL Central.

I’d like to touch on one such member of the roster, Adam Frazier. Frazier transitioned last season from “super utility” player to everyday second baseman, he started the season as the penned-in leadoff hitter and played gold glove-caliber defense. For much of the season Frazier didn’t look comfortable at the plate. However, for a player like Adam, that adds up to a .278 average with 10 HR and a 2.7 WAR. Those numbers don’t reflect someone who was uncomfortable with a bat in his hands.

So why am I suggesting the Pirates trade Frazier? Simple, the Pirates must trade someone of value in order to expect value in return, and with Cole Tucker waiting in the wings, a replacement with potentially minimal drop off seems plausible. Players like Frazier can be spark plugs and that intangible is worth considering, but that role too is one Mr. Tucker can amply fill.

I wouldn’t happily give up on him. I’m a believer in what he brings to the table and I still think he has sneaky power that could emerge as he becomes more comfortable putting it on display. When he really gets a hold of one his bat speed creates arguably more raw power than anyone not named Bell or Marte.

During the preseason, I opined that Frazier would be in the conversation for batting champ and I still hold that as the level his potential has the capability of taking him. His compact, quick swing is perfect for a player who thrives on contact and his frame make his strike zone measurably harder to target.

The long and short of it is, Adam is an established big-league talent with a proven track record and under team control through 2022. That is very attractive to the GMs of the world and the perfect type of player to help a club right now. A trade would return some much-needed prospect depth for the Pirates organization.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several players the Pirates could consider moving but first they must identify when the window can feasibly open and who we’ll see when we look through it. Make no mistake, trading one of the only bright spots in an otherwise bleak defensive unit doesn’t leave much to spark optimism for 2020, but the Pirates need to be thinking more along the lines of being prepared for all the chips to fall into place near the arrival of players like Quinn Priester.

The way I see it, building toward an arbitrary date is useless unless you can identify several players you believe will be there when it arrives. Quinn is ahead of schedule in many ways as my colleague pointed out in his prospect update. Without pushing him, I believe 2022 is a reasonable landing spot for his debut. This would put the window somewhere in the 2022-2024 seasons. Decisions are shaded by this window, anyone who will be here due to team control and fills the role they play in a fashion the Pirates believe will contribute stays. Anyone who won’t be here, either extend them or move them. Its not a romantic way of looking at building a baseball team, but it is practical. Its also what turns “we want to win a championship” from empty words, to a real possibility.

In all likelihood the future is not now for the Pirates but moving Frazier to a contender for Single or Double A prospect pitcher could go a long way toward ensuring the future has a chance of shining bright, maybe this time the brightest the sport has to offer.

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Following a power surge the past two seasons, former first round pick Will Craig is now knocking on the door of the MLB level
The 2018 season was a breakout season for Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Will Craig. The former first round picked hit 20 home runs while slugging .448 to go with a .200 ISO at Double-A Altoona. As a result, he made his Triple-A debut in 2019.

Craig went on to spend the entire 2019 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. While his power numbers took a bit of a hit with Indy, Craig continued to be a power threat. Now, he is knocking on the door of the MLB level.

Catching market starting to thin out for the Brewers

With the Indians, Craig slashed .249/.326/.435 in 2019. His ISO was .186, he posted a .329 wOBA, he smashed a career high 23 home runs, and his extra base hit rate was 9.3%. However, his wRC+ was below league average at 92 and his 26.3% strikeout rate was a concern and a career high.

The Pirates selected Craig in the first round of the 2016 draft out of Wake Forrest. Craig began his professional career as a third baseman, before most playing first base the past three seasons. However, in 2019, he also started to learn to play left and right field in an effort to improve his value and positional flexibility.

While he was playing new positions, Craig grew leaps and bounds defensively at first base in 2019. He went from what looked like a future DH to being a plus a defender. Craig flashed soft hands, a strong arm and a great glove at first base this past season.

To be honest, it was a bit of surprise that Craig did not earn a September call up this past season. Especially with Josh Bell battling injuries that caused him to miss the last two weeks of the season.

NEXT: Potential Breakout Prospects For 2020
When the 2020 season begins Craig will likely be back at the Triple-A level. That said, it would not be a complete shocker to see him open the 2020 season with the Pirates as a bench bat. Regardless, Craig, barring injury or something else unforeseen, will make his MLB debut at some point during the 2020 season.

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Neal Huntington’s mistakes have been talked about at length over the last couple weeks. Let’s spend some time to review some of his best trades as Pirates’ GM.

Neal Huntington’s tenure as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates is over. In the weeks leading up to his firing, Huntington’s many head-scratching moves were thoroughly discussed. Now that he is gone, I thought it would be fun to do something different – to highlight the ten best (not worst) trades of Neal Huntington’s time in Pittsburgh.

Believe it or not, he had some pretty big wins. The losses outweighed the wins, but he had some.

I must say, researching this brought up some old wounds. Remember Jose Bautista for a PTBNL (Robinzon Diaz)? Yeesh.

These are in descending order and span almost the entirety of Huntington’s twelve-year tenure. Enjoy.

#10 – Buddy Borden to the Rays for Sean Rodriguez

At the time he was traded in 2014, Buddy Borden was a 22-year old pitcher with some promise. He never was as good as he was in 2014 – only making it as far as AA. He spent his last season, 2017, back with the Pirates organization in Altoona.

Sean Rodriguez was mister utility for the Pirates during their last playoff run in 2015. He played six different positions on the field – all except pitcher, catcher, and center field.

He also added something at the plate. His best season for the Pirates was 2016 when he hit .270 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Aside from his contributions on the field, Rodriguez was a well-liked and respected member of the clubhouse.

#9 – Travis Snider to the Orioles for Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault

At one point, Travis Snider was thought of as a high potential outfielder with some pop in his bat. That potential never materialized for Snider and the Pirates were able to unload him while there was still a feeling that it would.

Stephen Tarpley never made an impact for Pittsburgh, but he was a key piece of the trade that brought Ivan Nova to the Pirates. So, they were able to salvage some value from him.

Brault has stuck around with the Pirates and has had some ups and downs. There’s some potential in him. It will be interesting to see if his development accelerates with a new pitching coach.

Even if Brault doesn’t become anything more than a middle reliever, they essentially got him and Tarpley (and Nova) for nothing.

#8 – Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox for Ivan DeJesus, Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, and Jerry Sands

Joel Hanrahan was the key piece of this trade, but he never was the closer for Boston that he was for the Pirates.

This trade ended up being Brock Holt for Mark Melancon. Melancon, as you know, was a stopper in the bullpen for four years. During his time with the Pirates, Melancon had a WHIP under one (0.926), and an ERA under two (1.80). So giving up Hanrahan for Melancon was a net positive to the bullpen.

This trade would be higher on the list if it were not for the fact that Brock Holt has carved out a pretty good career for himself in Boston as utility player.

#7 – Richard Mitchell to the Marlins for Trevor Williams

Trevor Williams, like much of the rest of the team, regressed quite a bit in 2019. At the end of 2018, the Pirates were feeling pretty good about Williams after he posted a 3.11 ERA and a 1.178 WHIP.

Those numbers looked much worse in 2019 (5.38 ERA, 1.414 WHIP), but Williams’ 2018 gives me hope that he can be a middle of the rotation type guy.

The fact that they essentially got Williams for free helps. Richard Mitchell never made it out of the rookie league.

#6 – Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett

At the time, this looked like a trade for a washed-up former star, but A.J. Burnett became a Pittsburgh hero in just three years with the team.

He won 16 games with the Pirates in 2012, but perhaps his biggest contribution was as a player/coach for the young Pittsburgh pitching staff.

Like Trevor Williams, Burnett was received for free as neither of the two players sent to the Yankees contributed at the major league level.

#5 – Nate McClouth to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton

This trade would probably be higher if you take into account contributions made by received players for other teams. Charlie Morton is the headliner on this trade, but he didn’t become the player the Pirates hoped he would be in Pittsburgh (rather in Tampa).

Nate Mclouth looked like a star in 2008 with the Pirates – earning an all-star appearance and a Gold Glove. He quickly tailed off and was traded away to the Braves who hoped he just needed a change of scenery. That wasn’t the case as he never returned to anything close to that 2008 form.

While Morton never reached the heights that he has in Tampa while a Pirate, he had some successful years in Pittsburgh. The same goes for Jeff Locke.

#4 – Justin Wilson to the Yankees for Francisco Cervelli

Justin Wilson was up and down with the Pirates during his three years in Pittsburgh. He was lights out in 2013, but struggled in 2014 before getting traded. That up-and-down pattern has followed him the rest of his career – with the downs becoming more and more frequent.

Francisco Cervelli was the Pirate backstop and fan favorite for five years. He was a key component and an energizing force of the Pirates’ 2015 playoff team.

Cervelli struggled in his final year in Pittsburgh before being granted a release.

#3 – Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs for Josh Harrison, Jose Ascanio, and Kevin Hart.

Josh Harrison began his career as a utility player – often coming off the bench to make a rather large impact on games. The energy and production he brought to the Pirates required that he become an everyday player and he did in 2014. That year he earned his first all-star nod. Harrison was a fixture in the Pirate lineup for years and was obtained from the Cubs for almost nothing.

Tom Gorzelanny was the only other player involved in this transaction to have much of an impact after the trade, and that impact was underwhelming. Gorzelanny’s career numbers (4.40 ERA, 1.445 WHIP) made him rosterable, but that’s about it.

#2 – Andrew McCutchen to the Giants for Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick

I went back and forth on whether or not this was number one, but settled on number two because I couldn’t stomach a move to send Andrew McCutchen out of Pittsburgh as the “best” of anything – no matter how well it turned out.

McCutchen’s last year in Pittsburgh showed a sharp decline over the MVP-caliber player Pittsburgh knew and loved. When the idea of him being traded was floated, many wondered which version of McCutchen a trade suitor would get. The answer has been a lesser version of the ‘Cutch we saw even in his last season as a Pirate.

McCutchen is yet to hit better than .256 outside of Pittsburgh and has seen his numbers free-fall across the board.

On the flip side, Bryan Reynolds looks like a star. He hit .314 in his rookie year with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Kyle Crick should prove to be a solid member of the bullpen as well- though he’s provided mixed results since becoming a Pirate.

#1 – Mark Melancon to the Nationals for Felipe Vazquez and Taylor Hearn

It was tough naming this the top trade of Huntington’s tenure in Pittsburgh after the arrest of Felipe Vazquez this season, but we can’t possibly fault Neal Huntington for that.

We all know what Melancon did for the Pirates, but Vazquez was even better. So, simply flipping a 31-year old closer for a better and younger one gets this trade high on the list. When you factor in Melancon’s mediocrity since leaving Pittsburgh, it makes an even bigger steal.

But the part that puts it over the top for me is the other guy in this trade – Taylor Hearn. Hearn never made an impact in the Pirates’ organization, but he was used by Neal Huntington as the key asset used to acquire Keone Kela.

So, the arrest of Vazquez notwithstanding, the Pirates traded a declining Mark Melancon for star-level eighth and ninth inning pitchers who could have anchored a bullpen for years.

So, yes, Neal Huntington did have some wins in Pittsburgh. We remember the losses because, well…they were BIG losses, but we can still acknowledge that he did some good things while we rejoice about the possibilities of how the team will be run without him.

Feel free to comment on what I got wrong. I’m sure I missed something.

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On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates found out that they will be without one of their best relief pitchers in 2019
This season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had one of the best bullpens in the National League. A big reason for the bullpen’s success has been rookie right hander Edgar Santana.

In 69 games this season Santana posted a 3.26 ERA and a 3.58 FIP in 66 1/3 innings pitched. He owned a 4.4% walk rate, 19.9% strikeout rate, and became one of Clint Hurdle‘s most trusted high leverage relievers.

Looking ahead to the 2019 season the Pirates appear ready to have one of the best bullpens in the league once again. A big reason for this was Santana. However, it turns out the Pirates will be without Santana in 2019.

After undergoing an MRI on his right elbow on Monday, a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament has been found. For Santana, this means going under the knife for Tommy John Surgery. Like Chad Kuhl, who had this same procedure done last week, Santana will now miss the entire 2019 season.

In Santana’s final outing of the season it was clear something was wrong. Friday night against the Brewers Santana faced three batters, allowed two home runs, and was then lifted from the game. Prior to this outing, Santana had allowed just five home runs all season.

NEXT: Looking At The Success Of Trevor Williams
Despite the loss of Santana, the Pirates still figure to have a strong bullpen in 2019. Anchored by Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez, the Bucs have four reliable high leverage relievers. Nick Burdi is a promising young relief arm as well.

However, with the loss of Santana, adding relief help may become more of a priority for the team this offseason. Adding left-handed bullpen help was already going to be toward the top of Neal Huntington’s offseason plans, but adding another right-handed reliever may be now, too.

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The deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft is today. What will the Pirates do?

The deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 draft is 11/20 at 5 PM and the Pirates have some work to do. As new general manager, Ben Cherington, works out who to protect, let’s go over some options.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll first go over the basic rules of the Rule 5 draft. Players that meet the following criteria are eligible for the draft.

Signed by the team at 18 years of age and has five years of experience.
Signed by the team at 19 years of age and has four years of experience.
To protect those players from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, the team must place them on the 40-man roster. That is the deadline we’re talking about. The caveat to that is, if a player is taken, they must be put on the active roster for the entire season, or they are offered back to the original team.

With that said, I’m going to go over some players the Pirates MUST protect, and some they might want to so that they are not plucked from their system.

MUST Protect
Ke’Bryan Hayes, Will Craig, Cody Ponce, James Marvel, Oniel Cruz, Blake Cederlind

Now, when I say “must” protect, I’m not necessarily making a case that that any of the six players above are too talented to lose. I’m mostly saying that, if those six players are not on the 40-man roster by the end of the day, they will be taken in the Rule 5 draft. I also believe they should protect those six. Considering where the Pirates’ are right now, losing young talent would be quite frustrating.

Inside of that list, Hayes, Craig, and Cruz are the most obvious locks. Cederlind could be a borderline guy, but I would think a team out there would feel fine with him being in their bullpen this season, and the Pirates cannot afford to lose pitchers.

MIGHT Protect
Lolo Sanchez, Ike Schlabach, Hunter Owen

This list is could be much longer. These would be guys who probably are not ready for the majors, but an opportunistic, rebuilding team might be willing to sacrifice an active roster spot in favor of their potential.

Lolo Sanchez is the name on here that I’d hate to see go. He has elite speed and defensive skills and his bat has been coming along. He’s at least two, probably three, years away from being ready to contribute at the major league level, but his potential is real and could be enticing to a cellar-dweller.

One name to watch as someone I would be surprised to see the Pirates protect, but should be an intriguing target for teams looking to bolster their bullpen is Cam Vieaux. He’s been pretty solid through each stop in the minors.

For context, the Pirates currently have 39 of the 40 roster spots accounted for. So, in order to protect more than one of the players mentioned, corresponding moves will need to be made. I’d expect guys like Dorvydas Neverauskas, Williams Jerez, and Yacksel Rios to be among those in consideration to make room.

We will keep you updated as moves are made.

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On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates designated four players for assignment to make room on their 40-man roster. Who else could get DFA’d this offseason?
The MLB offseason is now in full swing. With that, teams had to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft by this past Wednesday. This led to the Pittsburgh Pirates adding five players – Blake Cederlind, Cody Ponce, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, and Will Craig – to their 40-man roster.

Prior to adding these five players to the roster the team’s 40-man roster was at 39. Due to this, the team needed to designate four players for assignment to make room on the roster. Dario Agrazal, Luis Escobar, Montana DuRapau, and Williams Jerez were the four players who were DFA’d by the team.

With the Pirates’ 40-man roster now full that raises the question of which players could be next to be DFA’d? In order to add anyone in free agency or via the Rule 5 Draft, the Pirates will need to designate someone for assignment. Also, if they add a player via a trade that does not send a player currently on the 40-man roster to the other team in return, they will also need to make a roster move.

So, who are other candidates to be designated for assignment by the Pirates this offseason?

Most of the obvious DFA candidates, as is often the case, are pitchers. Relievers Chris Stratton, Dovydas Neverauskas, Sam Howard, and Yacksel Rios are all candidates to be DFA’d this offseason.

Stratton is out of minor league options and will have to clear waivers if he fails to make the team out of Spring Training. Neverauskas has never been able to find consistent success at the MLB level, and Howard and Rios were both DFA’d by other organizations in the last calendar year for a reason.

NEXT: Kotsay, Shelton Remain In Managerial Mix
Two under the radar candidates to be designated for assignment are infielder Kevin Kramer and catcher Elias Diaz.

Kramer has long been a highly touted prospect in the Pirates’ system, but he owns a .152/.222/.165 slash line and a 41.1% strikeout rate in 90 MLB plate appearances across the past two seasons. While 90 PAs is just about the smallest of sample sizes, Kramer was also a poor hitter at Triple-A last season. Additionally, it is tough to find a spot for him in the Pirates’ middle infield equation with Kevin Newman having locked up a spot and the team remaining high on Cole Tucker. Adam Frazier is a factor there, too.

As for Diaz, like Stratton, he is out of minor league options. So is fellow catcher Jacob Stallings. The Pirates need to add a catcher this offseason and will likely pair Diaz or Stallings with that catcher. Stallings looks like the far superior option to Diaz at this point, making Diaz a legitimate DFA candidate.

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As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to hunt for a new catcher, could veteran Jason Castro be the answer?
General manager Ben Cherington has a lot of needs he must address for the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. One of the biggest needs he must address is the catcher position. After being among the best teams in baseball in terms of catcher production in 2018, the Pirates were one of the worst in 2019.

The Pirates primarily used three catchers in 2019 – Elias Diaz, Francisco Cervelli and Jacob Stallings. In addition, Steven Barron also played in seven games. Overall, Pirate catchers combined for a fWAR of -0.5 in 2019 and this was despite Stallings posting a 1.3 fWAR.

Catching market starting to thin out for the Brewers

Stallings did emerge in 2019. In 71 games he slashed .262/.325/.382 with a wRC+ of 82 and his aforementioned 1.3 fWAR. While Stallings proved to be a great defensive catcher and a plus framer, he struggled to hit for any power at all. Due to this, his ceiling moving forward is that of a back up catcher.

Cervelli battled injuries before being released and signing with the Atlanta Braves, Diaz was abysmal and is a DFA candidate this offseason and Barron is a career minor leaguer for a reason. Even though the Pirates may not be looking to compete in 2020, their catcher situation is not good enough and must be addressed this offseason. One way to address this situation would be to target free agent Jason Castro.

The left-handed hitting Castro is a nine-year MLB veteran who has spent the last three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Castro owns a 14.5 fWAR, 93 wRC+, .308 wOBA, and a .231/.313/.390 slash line in 825 MLB games.

While Castro is a slightly below league average hitter, he is a plus defender behind the dish. Castro’s career dWAR is 71.0. He is highly regarded for his ability to call a game, handling of a pitching staff, his ability to lead his staff, and his pitch framing.

Castro would be a great influence for a young Pirate pitching staff. The lessons that pitchers such as Edgar Santana, Joe Musgrove, Kyle Crick, Mitch Keller, and others, could learn from Castro are lessons that may prove to be invaluable.

The Pittsburgh Priates are in need of catching help in 2020. Veteran Jason Castro could provide this help to a Pirate team that features a young pitching staff. Castro’s name will be one to watch as the offseason continues.