Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Summary From the First Two Days of Winter Meetings

Some various notes and rumors from the first two days of MLB's Winter Meetings in Nashville regarding the Bucs.

  • The main talk of Monday for the Bucs was their interest in Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland has been a rumored Pirates target for the last three offseasons and it looks like this year is the closest anything has come to getting done. Moreland, in his final year of team control, would likely serve as a platoon partner with Michael Morse. Talks, however, broke down a bit on Tuesday, as it sounds like the Rangers (managed by former Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister) expressed interest in Charlie Morton and Elias Diaz (although not necessarily in a trade directly for Moreland) to fill their needs at starting pitcher and catcher. Relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson is another name that has come up in trade talks from the Rangers, although not necessarily from the Pirates. However, don't be surprised to hear some more Bucs-Rangers trade talk for the rest of the week.
  • When it comes to Mark Melancon and Neil Walker, the two current Pirates most likely to be moved this week, there hasn't really been any new developments regarding the status of the two players. The market for closer trades could possibly heat up after the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Dodgers was backed off after a report of domestic violence from the flamethrower in October; the Astros could also be in the market for relief pitching. As for Walker, it seems like his trade status could possibly begin to heat up now that Ben Zobrist has signed with the Cubs. As the Mets were also interested in Zobrist, their surplus of young and talented pitching even outside of their major league staff could make the Amazin's an interesting possibility for the Pittsburgh Kid. It was also reported that the chance of Walker getting an extension are pretty much zero, so if Walker starts 2016 with his hometown club, it will probably be the last we see of him in Pittsburgh. 
  • Another possible option for the first base hole is former KBO and NPB player Dae Ho Lee. I'd had him pinned as a possible Pirates target from the moment I saw he was interested in a move to MLB. Lee is 33 years old and the 6'4" slugger, who hit 31 home runs and won the Japan Series MVP for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks this past season weighs in at an impressive 286 pounds. You can take a look at his impressive power in this video. The presence of fellow countryman Jung Ho Kang and the lack of a long term need at first base works in both the Pirates' and Lee's favor when it comes to length of contract and money earned, as he could bounce a successful year or two in Pittsburgh into one big contract before the end of his career, regardless of what country it may be in, and it also could prevent the Pirates from having to rush Josh Bell to the major leagues.
  • It sounds like the Pirates are very interested in bringing back first baseman/utility man Sean Rodriguez. "Serpico" didn't hit very well for Pittsburgh, but provided great defensive value at first base and around the outfield in 2015. His team leadership and value in the clubhouse also makes him well worth the modest salary it would take to bring him back. 
The Pirates have also met with representatives or shown interest in each of the following players at some point over the past two days: 

  • Justin Masterson: Masterson and the Pirates seem like a perfect fit, as he has the upside to be a number one starter, as was seen for years in Cleveland. A rough couple of years in St. Louis and Boston brought his value to this point, and while some diminished velocity in those seasons may have just been a result of injury, the 30 year old starter could simply be starting a decline. However, again, Masterson seems like the perfect candidate to become the next Ray Searage project for the starting rotation.
  • Scott Kazmir: This would be a great signing for the Pirates. Too great. His value is estimated to be more than the Francisco Liriano contract from last offseason, which, at 3 years and $39 million was the largest ever given to a free agent in Pirates history. However, if the Bucs are willing to shell out a little more cash, Kazmir fits in well as the #3 starter behind Gerrit Cole and Liriano, and would make once again an impressive looking rotation in Pittsburgh, 
  • Kyle Kendrick: Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what the Pirates see in Kendrick. He had the expected awful season for Colorado in 2015 with a 6.32 ERA, and hasn't had an ERA under 4 since 2012. I guess this does make for another interesting and cheap project for the Pirates, although this looks more like a Vance Worley type one, where you hope to get good back of the rotation depth, rather than expecting to get a surprise ace or top of the rotation depth. Regardless, the Bucs need to get at least one starter, and I guess Kendrick would fill that mold. 
  • Mark Reynolds: Somewhat of a surprise here, but I guess Reynolds could be a good fit for the Pirates. Strikingly similar to old friend Pedro Alvarez, with lots of power but lots of strikeouts, but Reynolds plays better defense, although he is older. Most likely would be a bench acquisition, although I think the Bucs could spend money more effectively elsewhere.
  • Jeff Francoeur: The outfielder has had an interesting couple of years over in Philadelphia to somewhat revitalize his career. There were some rumblings in Pittsburgh about Francoeur at the trade deadline, and it's not surprising to see them return, as the Bucs don't have a legitimate fourth outfielder option (if you don't count Josh Harrison or a possible re-signing of Rodriguez), although they have a decent amount of options to compete for a spot there, such as Keon Broxton, Danny Ortiz, and Jake Goebbert. Bringing in the veteran wouldn't be a bad move.
  • Matt Thornton: With the Pirates presumably not bringing back Antonio Bastardo, the only other left handed bullpen option to complement setup man/possible closer Tony Watson is minor league veteran Bobby LaFromboise, and as much as I personally like him, he probably couldn't be trusted very often out of the bullpen. Enter Thornton, who had a decent 2015 with the Nationals after coming over from the Yankees in 2014. Although, at 39 years old himself, it's nowhere near certain he would be any better than LaFromboise or someone else the Pirates could pull out of the scrap heap. Finding a bullpen lefty isn't a top priority right now, which is exactly how it should be. 

The Winter Meetings continue into Wednesday and end with the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning. Of course, it's no guarantee the Pirates will actually make any big moves this week, but the conversations and possibilities considered here tend to blossom at some point later in the offseason.

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