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.

Cubs Wrap Up

Scores:
Friday: 12-2 Loss vs. Chicago. 7 errors. Box score.
Saturday: 4-3 Loss vs. Chicago. Nothing going vs Samardzija. Box score.
Sunday: 4-2 Loss vs. Chicago. Grilli falters 2nd day in a row. Box score.

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

Notes: Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. The promise of the playoffs is slipping away even though it’s still right in front of them. Seriously, one good week and the Bucs could be tied with the Cards again. The offense had serious problems this weekend. Brock Holt and Pedro Alvarez were the only players to record more than one hit. Yet the Bucs walked 14 times, including 4 from Gaby Sanchez. Jeff Locke was effective in his second start. Jason Grilli took back to back losses; unusual since he’s been a shutdown reliever all year.

Combined Box

Pittsburgh AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG OBP
Holt, Br, 2B 13 2 5 0 0 3 3 0.385 0.385
Alvarez, 3B 12 0 4 2 1 1 9 0.333 0.385
Jones, G, RF, 1B 11 0 1 0 2 0 5 0.091 0.231
McCutchen, A, CF 9 2 1 1 2 3 6 0.111 0.333
Marte, S, LF-CF 9 0 0 1 2 4 3 0.000 0.167
Sanchez, G, 1B 6 0 0 0 4 3 3 0.000 0.400
Presley, RF 6 0 0 0 0 4 4 0.000 0.000
Harrison, SS 5 2 1 0 0 1 3 0.200 0.200
McKenry, C 5 1 1 1 1 2 2 0.200 0.333
Barajas, C 5 0 0 0 0 1 2 0.000 0.000
Barmes, SS 4 0 0 0 1 1 4 0.000 0.200
Clement, PH 2 0 1 1 1 0 1 0.500 0.667
Locke, P 2 0 1 0 0 1 1 0.500 0.500
Mercer, SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.000 0.000
McDonald, J, P 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000
Burnett, AJ, P 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000 0.000
  Totals 94 7 15 6 14 26 47 0.160 0.273

Batting

Doubles (3): Alvarez 2 (23), McKenry (13)
Triples (1): Holt (1)
Home Runs (1): McCutchen (25)

Fielding
E: Holt 3 (3), Marte 2 (2), Barajas (4), Sanchez (3), Harrison (5)
DP: (Alvarez-Holt-Sanchez), (Barmes-Jones), (Barmes-Sanchez)

Pitching

Pittsburgh IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA WHIP
Locke 6.0 7 2 2 0 6 2 3.00 1.17
McDonald, J 5.7 7 3 3 2 2 1 4.76 1.59
Burnett, AJ (L, 15-6) 5.0 8 7 3 1 4 0 5.40 1.80
McPherson, K 3.0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 0.67
Leroux 1.7 0 2 0 0 2 0 0.00 0.00
Grilli (2 L, 1-6) 1.3 5 3 3 2 2 1 20.25 5.25
Resop 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00
Hanrahan 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 2.00
Hughes, J 0.7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 0.00
Watson 0.7 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 3.00
Takahashi 0.3 2 3 3 2 0 0 81.00 12.00
Qualls 0.7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 0.00
Wilson 0.0 1 0 0 1 0 0 -.– -.–
  Totals 27.0 34 20 14 10 22 4 4.67 1.63

Transactions: Activated LF Starling Marte from the DL. Activated RHP Chad Qualls from the DL.

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