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.

Must Win to Win Me Back

I admit, I’ve checked out lately. I stayed up to watch the 14 inning loss on Monday and haven’t watched any baseball since. The way the Pirates are currently playing is too frustrating, too deflating to devote my time to. Today’s game is at 2:20 vs. the Cubs. Win that one and I might be tempted to watch again.

More Roster Additions, Meek DFA’d

AAA Indianapolis was eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday, freeing up more players to be added to the big league roster. SS Chase d’Arnaud and RHP Bryan Morris were recalled from AAA. RHP Rick van den Hurk was also called up but he was not on the 40 man roster. To create room for van den Hurk, RHP Evan Meek was designated for assignment.

Series Preview: The Reds

Current record: 72-67, 3rd place in NL Central, 11.0 games back
2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot

Up Next: Cincinnati Reds, 84-57, 1st place in NL Central, 8.5 games ahead

Season Series: 6-6 (1-2, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2)

Notes: The last time the Bucs and Reds squared off, this series looked like it would be way more important than it is now. Cincinnati is cruising to the NL Central crown while Pittsburgh has gone from 15 games over .500 to merely five. A couple wins at Great American would be huge for the confidence of this team and its fans.

Familiar Faces: Bronson Arroyo, Xavier Paul, Ryan Ludwick

Probable Pitchers
Monday: LH Wandy Rodriguez (10-13, 177.0 IP, 117 K, 3.71 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
vs. RH Mat Latos (12-4, 175.2 IP, 158 K, 3.69 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)

Tuesday: RH Kevin Correia (10-8, 141.0 IP, 65 K, 4.28 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
vs. RH Mike Leake (7-9, 160.0 IP, 109 K, 4.73 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)

Wednesday: RH A.J. Burnett (15-6, 168.2 IP, 149 K, 3.68 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
vs. RH Homer Bailey (10-9, 174.0 IP, 138 K, 4.03 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)

No lineup yet.

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