Heading South

Getting ready to head down to Bradenton for spring training this weekend. If you’ll be at the following games send me a tweet or email and we can try to meet up.

Thursday Orioles @ Sarasota
Friday   Rays    @ Bradenton
Saturday Red Sox @ Ft. Myers
Sunday   Orioles @ Bradenton

Look for pictures and thoughts to be posted all weekend, assuming I can figure out why my wireless card isn’t working or the hotel has an ethernet connection available.

McKechnie Field Renovations

It will be a few weeks before I’ll be down there to see for myself, but the Pirates put together a promo video about the new renovations to McKechnie Field.

Not a big fan of the new beige exterior instead of what used to be a clean white finish, but that’s a minor detail. The big news is the new flip-down seats, which will be a godsend to anyone that spent any time in the old molded plastic ones. It will be great to walk around the entire park as well.

Pirate Presidents

Happy President’s Day everyone. Here’s some light reading for your day off – a Pirate player who’s a name match for each one of our country’s Commander-in-Chiefs. I hope you’ll forgive some stretches where there wasn’t an exact match.

George Washington – U.L. Washington (SS)
John Adams – Babe Adams (P)
Thomas Jefferson – Jesse Jefferson (P)
James Madison – Art Madison (2B)
James Monroe – Craig Monroe (OF)
John Quincy Adams – Sparky Adams (2B)
Andrew Jackson – Grant Jackson (P)
Martin Van Buren – Andy Van Slyke (OF)
William Henry Harrison – Josh Harrison (3B)
John Tyler – Tyler Yates (P)
James Polk – Kevin Polcovich (SS)
Zachary Taylor – Carl Taylor (OF)
Millard Fillmore – Len Gilmore (P)
Franklin Pierce – Steve Pearce (1B)
James Buchanan – Steve Buechele (3B)
Abraham Lincoln – Brad Lincoln (P)
Andrew Johnson – Mark Johnson (1B)
Ulysses Grant – Mudcat Grant (P)
Rutherford Hayes – Charlie Hayes (3B)
James Garfield – Bill Garfield (P)
Chester Arthur – Dixie McArthur (P)
Grover Cleveland – Elmer Cleveland (3B)
Benjamin Harrison – Joe Harris (1B)
Grover Cleveland – Elmer Cleveland (3B)
William McKinley – Michael McKenry (C)
Theodore Roosevelt – David Ross (C)
William Taft – Jack Rafter (C)
Woodrow Wilson – Jack Wilson (SS)
Warren G. Harding – Hardie Henderson (P)
Calvin Coolidge – Duff Cooley (1B)
Herbert Hoover – Rich Sauveur (P)
Franklin Roosevelt – Rosie Rosebraugh (P)
Harry Truman – Shane Youman (P)
Dwight Eisenhower – Bill Howerton (OF)
John Kennedy – Brickyard Kennedy (P)
Lyndon Johnson – Bob Johnson (P)
Richard Nixon – Brian Bixler (SS)
Gerald Ford – Chance Sanford (3B)
Jimmy Carter – Steve Carter (OF)
Ronald Reagan – Bill Regan (2B)
George H W Bush – Bullet Joe Bush (P)
Bill Clinton – Clint Barmes (SS)
George W Bush – Guy Bush (P)
Barack Obama – Ken Oberkfell (2B)

If this was a 40 man roster, you be hard pressed to make a decent everyday lineup out of it.

Joel Hanrahan Trade Tree

Three weeks ago the Pirates re-signed reliever Jason Grilli to a two year contract. Many observers expected that move to signal the impending trade of closer Joel Hanrahan. Last Tuesday, the other shoe finally fell and Hanrahan was shipped to the Red Sox with IF Brock Holt, for RP Mark Melancon, OF/1B Jerry Sands, IF Ivan De Jesus and AA pitcher Stolmy Pimentel.

Hanrahan will be missed, but Melancon should be able to step into a late inning role fairly easily. The other three pieces have their pros and cons as well: Sands has big time power but doubts as to whther he can adjust to major league pitching. Pimentel has a big fastball but major control issues. De Jesus is similar to Holt – decent bat but stretched defensively at any position but 2B.

All in all, I like this trade for the Bucs. They were able to buy low on Melancon and sell high-ish on Hanrahan. It’s almost an even trade right there; the other pieces just add the potential for this be a huge deal in the Pirates’ favor.

Joel  Hanrahan Pirates

If you’re interested in the Red Sox side of the deal, I’ve updated the trade tree of their blockbuster deal with the Dodgers from this past season, adding a Mark Melancon branch.

Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox

 

Pirates Sign Francisco Liriano

Reports out of Minnesota say the Bucs have signed LHP Francisco Liriano to a 2 year/$14M deal. Liriano is expected to join the rotation as the #4 starter, creating a competition for the final spot between Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson.

The 29 year old lefty has struck out an outstanding 9.1 batters per nine innings in his career and can be very effective when he limits his walks. Unfortunately, his control has been very erratic since tearing an elbow ligament during his fantastic rookie season.  Still, there’s some upside here and $7M a year is not bad considering what what the going rate for pitching has been this winter.

UPDATES: Multiple sources say that Liriano won’t take his physical until after the holidays, so this deal won’t be official for a while. Jon Heyman reports that the deal is actually for just under $13M, so hooray for saving a little cash.

Dominoes Are Falling

The Winter meetings start tomorrow and the Pirates made several moves, big and small, prior to arriving in Nashville.

The big moves:
Signed free agent C Russell Martin to a 2 year deal.
Non-tendered RHP Jeff Karstens, making him a free agent.

The small moves:
Traded a PTBNL to Boston for Zach Stewart.
Traded minor league RHP Luis Santos and minor league LHP Luis Rico to Kansas City for 1B Clint Robinson and RHP Vin Mazzaro.
Traded RHP Chris Resop to Oakland for minor league RHP Zach Thornton.
Traded IF/OF Yamaico Navarro to Baltimore for minor league RHP Jhondaniel Medina.
Signed free agent LHP Mike Zagurski to a minor league contract.

Looking back at my checklist of what to expect, they got the catcher and a bunch of relievers. Look for the team to acquire at least one starting pitcher and several more relievers as the off-season rolls on.

The latest rumors have the Mariners interested in Garrett Jones. The reported deal would have included catcher John Jaso coming to the Bucs, so it may be dead now that they have Martin.

The Pirates Will Do Very Little This Offseason And That’s Okay.

What will happen this off-season:

In the OF: Nothing. Andrew McCutchen is rightfully entrenched in center. Starling Marte is ready for a fulltime job. Travis Snider gets first crack at right field. Alex Presley and Jose Tabata provide depth.

In the IF: Nothing. Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are set at third, short and second. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez will platoon at first.

Behind the plate: A partner for Michael McKenry will be picked up. It won’t be Russell Martin if his price is really 4 yrs/$40M. I don’t know how much A.J. Pierzynski is looking for. Toronto (J.P. Arencibia/Travis d’Arnaud/John Buck) and Boston (Ryan Lavarnway/Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross) both have catching depth to spare. Trading with one of those teams seems like the best option.

On the mound: A.J. Burnett/Wandy Rodriguez/James McDonald will head the rotation. After that things are in flux. Jeff Karstens will be in the mix if he’s tendered a contract. Look for the team to add one starter making $8-10M/year. Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke will fill the back-end or provide depth.

In the Bullpen: This is where the most change will happen. Joel Hanrahan, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes will be there. Every other spot is up for grabs. This is OK because reliever performance can vary wildly from year to year. Bullpens are also one of the easiest pieces of the team to build on the cheap. For those same reasons, it’s also possible that Hanrahan could be traded if another team is willing to give up a solid catcher or starting pitcher.

So that’s it. The Pirates will sign or otherwise acquire a catcher, a starting pitcher and a slew of relievers.

What else was to be expected? The major moves were made in July – Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider.

There aren’t any obvious bargains to be had on the free agent market. Look closely at that list and you’ll find that each player falls into one of three categories: old, bad or prohibitively expensive. Any significant improvement will have to come via the trade route. If they could swing a trade for Giancarlo Stanton or Wil Myers or a shortstop with half a bat to go with this glove it would be beyond great, but I just can’t see a deal like that happening. This is your 2013 Pirates team. And it looks a whole lot like the 2012 team.

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