Pirates Acquire Chris McGuiness

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have announced the acquisition of first baseman Chris McGuiness from the Texas Rangers in exchange for reliever Miles Mikolas.

McGuiness spent most of 2013 playing for AAA Round Rock, where he batted .246, along with a .792 OPS in 104 games, and also appeared in ten games for the Rangers big club. He got on base a lot, as he posted a .369 OBP and a solid 16% walk rate. The Rangers designated McGuiness for assignment last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Shin-Soo Choo.

Mikolas was acquired by the Pirates from the San Diego Padres as part of the Alex Dickerson deal in late November. He’s considered a groundball pitcher who can throw in the mid-90’s.

With the recent signing of Travis Ishikawa, an internal option like Andrew Lambo and now with the acquisition of McGuiness, the Pirates will probably have a first base competition in Spring Training to determine who will platoon with Gaby Sanchez.



Pirates Still Talking With Ike Davis

By Jason Shetler

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Pirates, Brewers and Orioles are still talking to the Mets about first baseman Ike Davis.

Puma mentions the Mets were trying to trade Davis to the Orioles for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, but were unsuccessful.

If the O’s aren’t going to part with a top pitching prospect for Davis, surely the Pirates won’t either. Unless the Mets accept a lesser prospect return, then the Pirates interest in Davis should become very minimal.



2013 Pirates Year in Review

By Jason Shetler


2013 was certainly a year to remember for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here are the notable happenings from the year that was. 

February 8, 2013 – After initially agreeing to a two-year contract worth $14 million in December, the Pirates signed Francisco Liriano to a one-year deal for just $1 million, which included a 2014 vesting option worth $8 million.

April 17, 2013 – A.J. Burnett recorded his 2,000 career strikeout against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 5-0 victory.

May 11, 2013 – Francisco Liriano made his Pirates debut, as he went 5.1 innings, allowing just one run and striking out nine New York Mets in an 11-2 win.

June 6, 2013 – For the first time in franchise history, the Pirates had two first round draft picks, and selected outfielder Austin Meadows (9th overall) and catcher Reese McGuire (14th overall).

June 11, 2013 – Gerrit Cole made his much anticipated Major League debut against the San Francisco Giants. His first career strikeout came against Angel Pagan on a 99 mph fastball. Cole went 6.1 innings, while giving up just two runs in an 8-2 victory.

June 13, 2013 – After having Tommy John surgery performed on June 13, 2012, Charlie Morton made his 2013 season debut exactly one year to the date of having the elbow procedure. Although the Pirates lost to the Giants by a score of 10-0, Morton pitched well in his return, going five innings and allowing just two earned runs.

June 18, 2013 – The Pirates signed Reese McGuire for a signing bonus a little over $2.3 million.

June 23, 2013 – Aside from Tony Sanchez making his big league debut, the Pirates had their best come from behind win of the season. Trailing 6-3 to the Los Angeles Angels in the 9th, they tied the game on a Starling Marte RBI single. The Bucs scored four in the 10th and held off the Angels by a final of 10-9.

June 28, 2013 – The Pirates inked Austin Meadows to a $3 million signing bonus.

July 15, 2013 – Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke and Mark Melancon took part in the 2013 All-Star Game, marking the first time since 1972 that the Pirates had five players selected as All-Stars.

August 28, 2013 – In an effort to improve their lineup, the Pirates acquired Marlon Byrd along with John Buck from the New York Mets in exchange for reliever Vic Black and minor league infielder Dilson Herrera.

August 31, 2013 – After not getting much production out of Garrett Jones, the Pirates acquired former AL MVP Justin Morneau from the Minnesota Twins to become their primary first baseman.

September 9, 2013 – Simply put, this date will forever be known as the night the Pirates recorded their first winning season in 20 years.

September 23, 2013 – The Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs in a very dramatic 2-1 victory to give themselves at least a spot in the NL Wildcard Game.

September 28, 2013 – The Pirates took on the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark in the final series of the season. After taking the first game, the Bucs took the second game of the series, and guaranteed themselves the NL Wildcard Game at PNC Park.

October 1, 2013 – The Pirates defeated the Reds in the NL Wildcard Game by a final score of 6-2. Francisco Liriano went seven innings and gave up just one run, while Russell Martin hit a pair of home runs.

November 4, 2013 – Francisco Liriano was named the 2013 National League Comeback Player of the Year.

November 12, 2013 – Clint Hurdle became the first Pirates skipper since Jim Leyland in 1992 to win the National League Manager of the Year. 

November 14, 2013 – Andrew McCutchen captured the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player Award, becoming the seventh Pirate in history to win the honor. 

Pirates Lose Ryan Reid and Jerry Sands on Waivers

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have lost Ryan Reid and Jerry Sands on waivers. Reid has been claimed by the New York Mets, while Sands has been taken by the Tampa Bay Rays. Both were designated for assignment ten days ago, as space had to be made on the 40-man roster for Edinson Volquez and Clint Barmes. Today was the final day in which teams could put a claim on them.

Reid had a good year in the Pirates system this past season, but because the Pirates have a ton of pitching depth in the bullpen now, it would have been hard for Reid to claim a bullpen spot. With the Mets trying to improve their bullpen, a reliever like Reid has a much better chance of making their Opening Day roster out of the pen.

Unlike Reid, Sands really struggled this year for Indianapolis. He had performed well in the minor leagues before being acquired from the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan deal last December, but Sands never really got it going in 2013. The Rays will use Sands as AAA depth for either the outfield or first base.




Gregory Polanco Wins DWL MVP Award


By Jason Shetler

Gregory Polanco has been named the 2013 Most Valuable Player of the Dominican Winter League.

The Bucs top outfield prospect led the league with a .922 OPS, as he was the only player in the DWL to have an OPS of at least .900. He also had a league leading 28 runs scored, and finished with the second highest batting average at .331. Polanco altogether had ten doubles, a triple, five home runs, 28 RBI and stole seven bases in 44 games.



Bucco Nation Q & A For December

By Jason Shetler

It’s the season of giving, and you guys were kind enough to give me your Pirates questions for this month’s Q & A session.

As the options for first base keep dwindling, who’s left at this point and who do you think is realistically the best choice for the Pirates?

– Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

With James Loney going back to the Tampa Bay Rays as a free agent, the Pirates will more than likely try to trade for a first baseman, since there’s really no one that intriguing on the open market. As far as trade options, they’ve been linked to Adam Lind, Ike Davis and Mitch Moreland. The Pirates realistically could get any one of the three, but it’s just a question of what they would be willing to give away to get one of them. Personally, I like Lind out of the three, as he crushed right-handed pitching this past season, and would make for a solid platoon alongside Gaby Sanchez.

Can Pedro Alvarez hit forty homeruns this year?

– Mike from Vandergrift, PA

Alvarez certainly has the power to reach that mark, but I’ll say no. Only because the Pirates don’t have a strong lineup in the middle, and I would expect teams to pitch around Alvarez quite a bit. However, I do see him putting up thirty homers again.

What do the Pirates have to do to improve offense from right field or first base?

– Josh from Ellwood City, PA

The Pirates have said that they will stay internal for right field. Jose Tabata did a very good job of hitting in August and September, while Andrew Lambo is the Pirates reigning Minor League Player of the Year, so perhaps they could use that combination until Gregory Polanco is ready to come up sometime during the summer. As I mentioned in Rob’s question, the Pirates will likely get a first baseman by trade. 

Which prospect would you be willing to give up to get Ike Davis, Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland?

– Rich from Coraopolis, PA

I wouldn’t trade a top prospect for any of them, so it would have to be a “B level” prospect. There’s been reports that the Mets would like a really good pitching prospect in return for Ike Davis. Even though he’s not considered a prospect now, I think someone like Brandon Cumpton is the best pitcher I’d offer for Davis. 

What is the future of the outfield with Polanco coming, Tabata’s contract and the possible defensive superiority of Marte over Cutch?

– James from Pittsburgh, PA 

Obviously, the plan is to have a McCutchen, Marte, Polanco outfield beyond 2014. Tabata’s contract shouldn’t be much of a factor, since it’s team friendly and he’s becoming an above average fourth outfielder. Even though I do think Marte will be the better defensive outfielder than McCutchen, I would be very surprised to see the Pirates move Cutch, who’s one of the stars of the game, away from a star position like center field to play left field. 

Starling Marte Makes Winter League Debut

By Jason Shetler

Starling Marte

Baseball fans of the Dominican will get to witness potentially two-thirds of the Pirates outfield for 2014, as Starling Marte has joined Gregory Polanco in the Dominican Winter League for Escogido.

Marte made his DWL debut last night, batting third in the lineup and serving as the designated hitter. He went 1-for-4 in his season debut, as he singled in his first at-bat, was hit by a pitch in his second at-bat, struckout his next two times up and flew out to center in his final at-bat.

I imagine the Pirates are going to be extra careful with Marte participating in Winter Ball, so I would expect him to DH most of the time to avoid a possible injury in the field.


Pirates Sign Five To Minor League Deals

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates announced the signings of pitchers Adam Wilk, Daniel Schlereth, Elvin Ramirez, Kyle McPherson and first baseman Travis Ishikawa.

Wilk spent the 2013 season pitching for the Detroit Tigers AAA affiliate Toledo, and was very impressive for them. The 26-year old left-hander posted a 2.77 ERA, along with a 1.01 WHIP and a solid 4.57 K/BB.

Schlereth pitched last season for the Baltimore Orioles AAA affiliate Norfolk. The son of  former Pro Bowl offensive lineman and current ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, was recovering from a shoulder injury and made only 12 appearances. He did have an 0.82 ERA, but his control issues continued, as he posted a 6.5 BB/9.

Ramirez was with the Los Angeles Angels organization this past season, pitching for their AA affiliate Arkansas and their AAA club Salt Lake. Combined with the two teams, Ramirez posted a 5.46 ERA, with an erratic 1.72 WHIP in 49 games pitched.

McPherson returns to the Pirates organization, after being designated for assignment in late November when the Bucs had to make room on the 40-man roster for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas, who they had gotten from San Diego in the Alex Dickerson deal. McPherson made only two starts for Indianapolis, as his season was shutdown with an elbow injury.

Ishikawa began 2013 with Norfolk (Orioles AAA affiliate) and was promoted to Baltimore in June and struggled. He was then put on waivers a month later, was claimed by the New York Yankees, and was granted free agency a week later where he signed on with the Chicago White Sox. He would spend the rest of the year playing for their AAA affiliate Charlotte. His numbers combined with Norfolk and Charlotte were good, as he hit .290 and posted an .854 OPS in 83 games. He also got on base at a .389 clip and had a very good walk rate of 12%.

Wilk, Schlereth, McPherson and Ishikawa have each be given Spring Training invites.



Jim Callis Rates Pirates 2013 Draft As the Strongest

By Jason Shetler

MLB.com’s Jim Callis has rated the Pirates 2013 MLB Draft as the strongest. Callis mentions that it takes at least five years to really know what a team gets out of a draft, but says there is a demand for instant analysis.

Callis says that no team can match the Pirates when talking about Reese McGuire and Austin Meadows as being a pair of potential All-Stars. He mentions Meadows being a four-tool center fielder with his throwing arm being below average, while he describes McGuire as being an extremely athletic catcher with a strong arm, and that he could develop as a 15 homer guy. A couple other notable position players that Callis mentioned was outfielder JaCOBY Jones and shortstop Adam Frazier. Jones was the Pirates third round selection, and was considered the best college athlete in the draft with raw power and plus speed, and could develop into a star if he shows more consistency at the plate. Frazier was taken in the sixth round, and was deemed the top college shortstop available. Callis however thinks Frazier could wind up as a second baseman or a utility player.

Callis also mentioned the two left-handed pitchers who the Pirates took in Blake Taylor (second round) and Cody Dickson (fourth round). He mentions both having mid-90’s fastballs, as well as showing promise with two other pitches (curveball and changeup). They were also able to stockpile right-handed pitching from rounds 7-10, with Buddy Borden, Neil Kozikowski, Chad Kuhl and Shane Carle. Callis said that Borden, Kuhl and Carle, who are all college pitchers, throw good sinkers, while he considers Kozikowski, who was taken out of high school, as the best out of the group, mentioning that he throws in the low 90’s. Another high school righty pitcher that Callis didn’t mention is Billy Roth (16th round pick), who like Kozikowski, throws a low 90’s fastball and a very good curve.

Callis says that the success of Meadows and McGuire will ultimately determine how the Pirates 2013 Draft is judged, but at this point, Callis thinks that no other team’s draft class looks better.






Why the Pirates Should Sign Kevin Youkilis

By Jason Shetler


It’s been a quiet offseason to this point for the Pirates, as their only major moves have been the signing of Edinson Volquez and the re-signing of Clint Barmes. Last week, I wrote about how the Pirates are a better team heading into 2014. One thing that I really didn’t address in the post was the bench. The Pirates will have some good defenders coming off the pine, with Barmes, Gaby Sanchez and Chris Stewart. With the exception of Sanchez, Barmes and Stewart provide very little with the bat. I personally think the Pirates should add an impact bat for the bench, and the one name who I would consider signing is Kevin Youkilis.

Youkilis is coming off his worst season in 2013, as he was dealing with back issues and had season-ending surgery for it. Since the injury played a big part in Youkilis’ struggles this past season, I think you can throw it out the window. Youkilis is now fully healthy, and if he remains that way, he can still be a good contributor. Here are some of his numbers to consider.

The man known as “The Greek God of Walks” certainly lives up to that nickname, as his career BB% is a solid 12%, while his career OBP sits at .382. Even if his batting average goes down some, the walk rate and on base figure is strong, and the ability to draw free passes and get on base is a skill you never lose. While some fans are still on the fence about having Pedro Alvarez platoon, Youkilis’ career numbers against left-handed pitching are impressive. His career OPS vs southpaws is at .908, thanks in large part to an outstanding .411 OBP against them.

Youkilis will have to sign for considerably less money this offseason, after signing with the New York Yankees for $12 million last year. Obviously, there will be other teams involved, notably the Tampa Bay Rays and most of the teams on the West Coast. Perhaps the Pirates could offer Youkilis a high-priced one-year offer to platoon with Alvarez. He could also serve as insurance in the event that Alvarez or Gaby Sanchez go down with an injury. Youkilis in the past has also played right field and second base, even though it’s been awhile. The Pirates could consider playing him at both positions, since right field at PNC isn’t very spacious and with the Pirates now applying extreme defensive shifting, it could benefit Youkilis if he plays some second base. Signing Youkilis would definitely be risk/reward, but I think it’s one signing the Pirates should take a chance on.