Pirates Showing Interest In Andrew Miller

By Jason Shetler

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Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says that the Pirates are interested in Boston Red Sox left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.

Miller, who was a first round pick in 2006, had struggled mightily as a starter for the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins. Since being moved to the bullpen by the Red Sox in 2012, Miller has pitched very well. This season, the 29-year-old lefty has been extremely effective, posting a 2.45 ERA, an 0.95 WHIP and a dominant 14.6 K/9 in 48 appearances.

Last week, the Pirates were expressing interest in couple southpaw relievers in the Phillies Antonio Bastardo and the Diamondbacks Oliver Perez. Based on the year Miller is having, and the fact he becomes a free agent after the season, it seems unlikely the Pirates would go after him since the return would have to be significant just for a rental reliever.

Gerrit Cole To Make Rehab Start On Monday

By Jason Shetler

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Angels

The Pirates have announced that Gerrit Cole will make a rehab start for Indianapolis on Monday. He’s expected to be on a pitch count of 80-85 pitches.

After being on the disabled list in early June with shoulder fatigue, Cole landed on the DL again with a sore lat muscle in his right leg, retroactive to July 4th. On Wednesday, he threw 70 pitches in a simulated game in Pittsburgh and took part in a 60 pitch bullpen session in Indianapolis on Friday. Despite the two injuries this season, Cole has a 3.78 ERA along with an 8.2 K/9 in 14 starts for the Bucs.

 

What Should the Pirates Do With Andrew Lambo?

By Jason Shetler 

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Last season, Andrew Lambo was named the Pirates Minor League Player of the Year. With Marlon Byrd anchoring right field late last year, Lambo didn’t receive much playing time as a September call up. During the offseason, the Pirates decided to move Lambo to first base in an effort to share the job with Gaby Sanchez. Unfortunately, Lambo had a very bad Spring Training, and lost out to veteran journeyman Travis Ishikawa. The Ishikawa experiment was short-lived, as the Pirates acquired Ike Davis from the New York Mets on April 18th. Davis however hasn’t shown much production to this point, posting just a .702 OPS. Meanwhile, Lambo has put up strong numbers again this season for Indianapolis, as he’s posting a 1.057 OPS despite missing time recovering from a thumb injury. The Pirates will have an interesting decision to make regarding Lambo. There’s the likelihood of them going after a starting pitcher, and perhaps Lambo would make for attractive trade bait, not just because of his numbers, but also not having to part with any of their better prospects, depending on which starter they go after. On the other hand, they could hang onto Lambo as a fallback option for the underperforming Davis. I personally would keep Lambo around for depth purposes in case Davis continues to struggle, or in the event Davis, Sanchez or Gregory Polanco go down with injury. 

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.