Could the Pirates Bring Back Oliver Perez?

By Jason Shetler 

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In their potential ongoing pursuit of trying to address the bullpen, multiple sources are saying that the Pirates have now been scouting the Arizona Diamondbacks relievers. One of the arms in their pen is former Bucco Oliver Perez. 

After a stellar year for the Pirates in 2004, Perez experienced major control problems for the next several seasons. He spent 2012 and 2013 pitching in the Seattle Mariners bullpen where he resurrected his career in the process. Last offseason, the Diamondbacks signed Perez to a two-year deal. This year for the Dbacks, he has a 1.96 ERA along with a 1.15 WHIP and a 10.1 K/9 in 41 appearances. As you would expect, he’s done well vs left-handed hitters, holding them to a .624 OPS, but against right-handed batters, Perez has been just as dominant, as their being held to a .493 OPS. 

The Pirates wouldn’t have to trade away a top tier prospect to acquire Perez since he is a lefty reliever. With the season he is having, I imagine the Pirates would have Perez face batters from either side of the plate just as Tony Watson and Justin Wilson do. The bigger question seems to be if they would want to carry three lefty relievers in the bullpen. 

 

 

Why Josh Willingham Would Make Sense For the Pirates

By Jason Shetler

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Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan has been on record to say that the Twins will be in seller mode this year. Outfielder Josh Willingham has been with Minnesota since 2012, and has been involved in trade rumors for the past two seasons. Both times, the Pirates had reported interest in the right-handed hitting outfielder. Here’s why I think the Pirates should trade for Willingham this time around.

Gregory Polanco has had some struggles recently, but the biggest misconception from Pirates fans is that he is struggling overall. That isn’t the case. Against left-handed pitching, Polanco is posting just a .405 OPS. Versus right-handers however, the OPS is very good at .803. So while Polanco isn’t doing much against lefties, this is where Willingham comes into the picture. Willingham over the course of his career has posted an .854 OPS against left-handers. This year, he’s posting an .847 OPS vs southpaws. Overall, Willingham is drawing walks at a 17% rate, which is on track to be a career best. He has a 116 wRC+, so he’s been doing a good job of creating runs, and also has a 1.0 WAR. Not only would a Polanco/Willingham platoon be intriguing, but Willingham could also get some playing time in left field on days when Starling Marte needs a break, especially with Marte being dinged up some this season.

Willingham is in the final year of his contract, and is making $7 million. Because he’s not having a really good year average and power-wise, the return for him shouldn’t be too significant considering he would only be a rental player. The Twins would be obligated to take on the majority of Willingham’s remaining salary, meaning that the Pirates could bring him in as a platoon at a very reasonable cost.

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

 

Josh Bell Promoted To Altoona

By Jason Shetler

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Pirates outfield prospect Barrett Barnes tweeted late last night that fellow outfield prospect Josh Bell will be joining the Altoona Curve.

Bell completely tore it up in the Florida State League this season for Bradenton. In 84 games played for the Marauders, Bell batted .335 and had an OPS of .886. His batting average and OPS were both second best in the FSL while his .502 slugging percentage was tops in the league.

There’s been speculation about moving Josh Bell to first base at some point with the Pirates long term outfield set with Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bell make the move to first as early as next season.

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates One of Several Teams Interested In Huston Street

By Jason Shetler 

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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Pirates are one of several teams who have asked about San Diego Padres closer Huston Street. 

The first half of the season has been stellar for Street, posting a 1.09 ERA along with an 0.76 WHIP, a .158 batting average against, a 9.3 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9 in 33 appearances. He’s also converted 24 saves in 25 chances. 

Street is making $7 million this year, and has a $7 million club option for next season. Acquiring someone like Street would be out of the norm for the Pirates, who really don’t overpay for relief pitching, mainly because of being a small market club. Prior to 2013, the Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox after re-signing Jason Grilli to a two-year deal. Hanrahan was due to make around $7 million in his final year of arbitration, so once the Pirates brought back Grilli, there was very little chance Hanrahan was going to remain in Pittsburgh. In the case of Street, the Pirates would not only have to take on some pretty big salary for a closer, but give up a significant prospect return, based on the season Street is having. 

 

 

Barrett Barnes Promoted To Bradenton

By Jason Shetler

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According to Pirates Prospects Tim Williams, outfielder Barrett Barnes has been promoted to the Bradenton Marauders and will be their center fielder. 

Barnes joined the Pirates organization as a first round supplemental selection in 2012. He performed well for State College that year, but missed the final month with a stress fracture in his leg. Last year, he was limited to just 46 games, as he dealt with a hamstring injury on two separate occasions. This season, he played just four games for West Virginia before landing on the DL with another hamstring issue. During his time in the system, Barnes has posted an .804 OPS, so the ability is certainly there, if he can somehow keep himself on the field. 

 

Potential Starting Pitching Candidates For Pirates

By Jason Shetler

With the trade deadline now three weeks away, the Pirates will look to see what issues they need to address. General Manager Neal Huntington recently said that he would consider going out and explore starting pitching. If the Pirates indeed decide to go after a starter and try to bolster their rotation, here are some names who they could consider.

A.J. Burnett – After leading the Pirates to their first postseason appearance in two decades,  A.J. Burnett decided to sign with the Phillies this past offseason rather than re-sign in Pittsburgh. Burnett’s numbers so far this season have been down compared to last year, as he’s posting a 3.92 ERA with a 1.34 WHIP. The higher WHIP is largely due to his 53 walks allowed, which currently leads the National League. His strikeout numbers are significantly down from a year ago (9.8 last season down to 7.4 this season). If Burnett does return to the Pirates, perhaps his numbers could be better since he not only would pitch on a contender, but a contender that he’s obviously familiar with.

Contract status: $16 million this season; Free agent after the season

 

Bartolo Colon – For the time Bartolo Colon has spent in the big leagues, he’s certainly no stranger to pitching for different clubs over the course of his career. The 41-year-old could be on the move, if the Mets feel like they can receive something good in return. Colon has a 4.04 ERA to go along with a 1.18 WHIP. He’s shown excellent control with a 1.3 BB/9 while his 6.5 K/9 is the highest it’s been since 2011.

Contract status: $9 million this season; $11 million next season

 

Ian Kennedy – For the fourth year in a row, the San Diego Padres will be in seller mode. The biggest name on their trade block is closer Huston Street, but perhaps another name they could move for the right deal is Ian Kennedy. Kennedy is putting up good numbers this season with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. His 2.3 BB/9 and 9.7 K/9 are both on pace to be career best for him.

Contract status: $6.1 million this season; Third time arbitration eligible next season

 

Jorge De La Rosa – The Colorado Rockies will look to unload some veterans, as they are sellers again this year. One name likely to be moved is Jorge De La Rosa, who is in the final year of his contract. De La Rosa’s numbers have been subpar this season, posting a 4.75 ERA along with a 1.31 WHIP. The 33-year-old southpaw is putting up a 53% groundball rate, despite pitching his home games at Coors Field. With PNC Park favoring left-handers, perhaps De La Rosa’s stats could improve especially if he continues to keep the ball on the ground. 

Contract status: $11 million this season; Free agent after the season 

 

Wade Miley – It’s been a rough season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, as they have the worst record in the National League this year. Wade Miley, who is essentially the Dbacks ace this year, because of the injury to Patrick Corbin, is someone who the Pirates could buy low on. Miley’s ERA this season is at 4.43, but he does have a respectable 1.25 WHIP. His 8.6 K/9 is very intriguing especially with him being a lefty, and his walk numbers have been good with a 2.6 BB/9. Chase Field is an extreme hitters park, and the homers he’s allowed there this year have contributed to a 5.64 home ERA. If you look at his xFIP, which determines how unlucky a pitcher is allowing home runs, Miley’s xFIP is at 3.25, so his ERA should be a full run lower than what it actually is overall. As would be the case with Jorge De La Rosa, Miley would benefit much better with the PNC Park dimensions. 

Contract status: $523,500 this season; First time arbitration eligible next season