Pirates Sign Jason Stoffel

By Jason Shetler

Pitcher Jason Stoffel has signed a minor league deal with the Pirates, the team announced today. 

Stoffel was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of the University of Arizona. 

In July of 2011, Stoffel was sent from the Giants to the Houston Astros in a deal for former Pirates farmhand Jeff Keppinger. He then signed with the Baltimore Orioles in August of 2015.

Last offseason, the Orioles re-signed Stoffel to another minor league contract. He began this past season with AA Bowie where he put up a 3.14 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP and a 12.9 K/9 in 27 appearances. In June, he was sent to AAA Norfolk, and performed even better there, posting a 1.78 ERA along with a 1.09 WHIP and a K/9 of 11.0 in 28 games. Stoffel is likely to begin the 2017 season with AAA Indianapolis.

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Lisalverto Bonilla

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Getty Images

p/c: Getty Images

According to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, the Pirates have signed pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla to a minor league deal. Jeff Locke was designated for assignment to make room for Bonilla on the 40-man roster. 

Bonilla signed with the Philadelphia Phillies out of the Dominican Republic back in 2008. He represented the Phillies at the 2012 Futures Game. 

In December of 2012, Bonilla was traded to the Texas Rangers in a deal for former All-Star infielder Michael Young. The Rangers called up Bonilla as a September call up in 2014. He posted a 3.05 ERA along with a 1.21 WHIP in five games, three of which were starts.

Bonilla missed the entire 2015 season due to an elbow injury. Last offseason, he was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bonilla began 2016 with AA Tulsa where he had an ERA of 3.38 along with a 2.91 Fielding Independent Pitching and a 9.4 K/9 in seven starts. On August 1st, he joined AAA Oklahoma City, posting a 4.28 ERA, a 3.42 FIP and a K/9 of 9.7 in 24 games (six starts). The AAA numbers actually aren’t bad considering he was pitching in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has said that Bonilla will compete for a rotation or bullpen spot in Spring Training.

 

 

 

 

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Pirates Reportedly Open to Trading Josh Harrison

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Justin Berl - Icon Sportswire

p/c: Justin Berl – Icon Sportswire

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has reported that the Pirates are open to trading Josh Harrison. Rosenthal mentioned sources saying that the Pirates tried to re-sign Sean Rodriguez, with the intention of then trading Harrison and reallocating his money to other players. Rodriguez however agreed to sign with the Atlanta Braves this past week. 

Harrison enjoyed a fantastic 2014 campaign, in which he put up a 5.0 WAR and was named an All-Star for the first time. After posting an .837 OPS in 2014, he’s struggled offensively the past two seasons, with an OPS of .708. Harrison took over as the Bucs second baseman this year, and was an above average defender, as he posted a 1.1 dWAR and had eight Defensive Runs Saved. 

It’s a little tricky to determine Harrison’s trade value right now. While he’s shown he can handle playing multiple positions, including second base, which he played well at in 2016, his offensive numbers have been below league average the last two years. 

The Pirates have a pair of internal options who could replace Harrison in Adam Frazier and Alen Hanson. Frazier however is likely to take over the role of super utility, now with the departure of Sean Rodriguez. Hanson is likely to make the Opening Day roster since he will be out of options, and should the Pirates decide to deal Harrison, he could be a similar player to what Harrison is, but at a much cheaper cost.

 

 

 

Could the Pirates Trade David Freese or John Jaso?

By Jared Lankes

Despite the Pirates less-than-encouraging 2016 campaign, one bright spot for them was their bench. David Freese, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and eventually John Jaso all became strong contributors in limited roles or off the bench entirely. Since, Sean Rodriguez has left to go to the Braves and Matt Joyce figures to not return to the Pirates as well. Without these two, the Pirates will be looking to re-strengthen the bench. However, it is worth wondering if they would consider taking away from the bench in a trade instead, most notably speaking of David Freese and John Jaso.

Let’s start with David Freese. Freese signed a very affordable deal last spring with the Pirates to be a very late add-on and ended up being a massive contributor for them. The former World Series hero of 2011 for the Cardinals joined the other side and hit .270 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs while being able to play both third base and first base and doing great fill-in work for Jung Ho Kang. Then, shockingly, Freese signed a very affordable contract that keeps him under team control through 2018 with a cheap option for 2019.

So, why trade Freese when he is so affordable and still can get it done? Well, there are teams out there that would love to have a player like Freese. And when you look at the role for David Freese, it looks like he will be a role player. Bell at first base, Kang at third base, and some versatile guys on the team that can fill in too. Right now, David Freese represents more of a luxury for the Pirates than a need. While his contract is quite good, it might not be something the Pirates want to pay for a luxury option. It looks less needed now that roles are clearer than they were when the contact extension was signed. It seems that the Pirates could easily deal Freese and most every team would be willing to take on that contract. It could potentially give the Pirates more spending cash to go towards pitching or other needs, and they could probably get at least a decent return. Nothing too special but a decent piece.

Now to John Jaso. Jaso signed a two-year contract for just $8 million last offseason and was told to learn first base and did it to the point of overachieving. He eventually did get moved to a bench spot, as expected, when Josh Bell got called up and quickly surged. Despite scrutiny, John Jaso’s offensive numbers were not too bad unless you were betting on him being a Silver Slugger. He hit .268 with an on-base percentage of .353 along with 8 HRs and 42 RBIs. All mixed in the pot, he actually did not do too poorly at the plate and excelled defensively.

This type of commodity could be useful for a team that is looking for a stopgap or platoon player at 1B or need a bench player that can play that position. His affordable $4 million owed to him for next year and it only essentially being a one-year pact with him would be something many teams may be intrigued with. His overall skill set could be a good fit for some teams, maybe much more than the Pirates. Now, I do not think the Pirates would get anything of real significance for Jaso, so maybe keeping him might bring more value. But again, trading Jaso would free up some money for the Pirates to hopefully spend elsewhere.

I do not think both will be dealt, but one of them being dealt might go under a lot of consideration this winter. If Huntington gets calls on either, he would be dumb not to listen and consider a deal if the right one comes along. With the Pirates limited payroll and a bevy of options that can fill in as bench options, I believe trading one of them might actually be a good idea for the team if it gives them the needed financial means to help them fix the bigger needs that the club has.

2017 Hall of Fame Mock Ballot

By Jason Shetler

image

Former Pirates infielder Freddy Sanchez was named to the Hall of Fame ballot by the BBWAA. While Sanchez obviously isn’t a Hall of Famer, he had a productive big league career nonetheless. So here now is my 2017 Hall of Fame mock ballot.

Barry Bonds: While Barry Bonds was certainly a controversial figure, he was without a doubt one of the best all-around players to ever play the game. By the year 2000, Bonds won three MVP awards, eight Gold Glove honors and had an OPS+ of 163, so he had a Hall of Fame career even before the steroid allegations. 

Billy Wagner: One of the most dominant relievers during the Expansion Era was Billy Wagner. The hard-throwing lefty posted an 11.9 K/9 along with a 187 ERA+ in 16 seasons. Wagner also recorded 422 saves, which are fourth most all-time.

Curt Schilling: In 20 big league seasons, Curt Schilling racked up 3,116 strikeouts, and finished runner-up for the Cy Young award on three different occasions. Schilling was better known for his work in the postseason, as he put up a 2.23 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP in 19 starts, while helping guide the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox to World Series championships. 

Edgar Martinez: Although some people frown upon the designated hitter, Edgar Martinez was one of the very best in that role. The seven-time All-Star had a 147 OPS+ during his 18 year career, which is better than David Ortiz (141), and Ortiz is likely headed to Cooperstown as a DH.

Ivan Rodriguez: Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is no doubt heading to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. Rodriguez is simply one of the greatest all-around catchers in baseball history, as he captured 13 Gold Glove honors, seven Silver Slugger awards and was the 1999 AL MVP.

Jeff Bagwell: With Craig Biggio already in the Hall of Fame, his longtime Houston Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell should be there as well. Bagwell posted a .948 OPS along with a 149 OPS+ and was the recipient of the NL MVP award in 1994. There were two other seasons that he finished in the Top 3 of the NL MVP voting. Bagwell was arguably the best first baseman during the 90’s.

Jorge Posada: While Jorge Posada wasn’t as decorated as Ivan Rodriguez, he certainly had a solid career in his own right. In 17 seasons, Posada put up an .848 OPS, which is exceptional for a catcher, and won five Silver Slugger awards. He also played a vital part in the New York Yankees dynasty run during the late 90’s-early 2000’s. 

Manny Ramirez: Whether you were a fan of Manny Ramirez’s antics or not, there’s no denying that he was one of the most potent sluggers of his generation. A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez finished Top 5 of the MVP voting on four occasions, while posting an OPS over 1.000 eight different times. Although he was hit with a PED suspension, Ramirez still had Hall of Fame worthy numbers even before that.

Mike Mussina: One of the more underrated pitchers in terms of durability may have been Mike Mussina, as he compiled 3,562.2 innings. While his 3.68 ERA doesn’t seem great, he pitched in the “Steroid Era” where runs were being scored at an all-time high. Mussina had a career 82.7 WAR, which is better than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9), and finished Top 5 of the AL Cy Young voting six times.

Roger Clemens: For as much of a polarizing figure as Roger Clemens is, he’s one of the greatest pitchers of the 20th century with his seven Cy Young awards, AL MVP award from the 1986 season and a career 4,672 strikeouts. Just like Barry Bonds, Clemens amassed a Hall of Fame resume well before suspicions of PED use came about. 

Tim Raines: Tim Raines will be in his final year on the ballot, and it’s a shame that he isn’t in Cooperstown already. Over a 23-year Major League career, Raines had a very impressive .385 on base percentage, and had 808 stolen bases, which are fifth most all-time.

Trevor Hoffman: When it comes to consistent relief pitchers, Trevor Hoffman was in the category of consistently great. Hoffman had a career ERA+ of 141, and recorded 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera. He also finished runner-up for the NL Cy Young award in 1998 and 2006.

Vladimir Guerrero: Vlad Guerrero made an instant impact when he joined the Montreal Expos in the late 90’s, and that impact lasted well beyond the 2000’s. During his 16-year big league career, Guerrero put up a .931 OPS along with an OPS+ of 140 and captured the AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels in 2004. He also was the recipient of eight Silver Slugger awards, seven as a right fielder and one as a DH.

 

 

 

Bucco Nation: Week in Review 11/21-11/27

By Jason Shetler

Thanksgiving wasn’t the only thing that contained leftovers. Here are some more involving the Pirates in this week’s edition of the Bucco Nation: Week in Review. 

Monday: It was announced by the BBWAA that Freddy Sanchez was added to the Hall of Fame ballot. Sanchez played most of his career in Pittsburgh where he was a three-time All-Star and the 2006 National League batting champion. He also helped lead the San Francisco Giants to a World Series title in 2010.

Wednesday: Starling Marte will be participating in the 2017 World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic. This will mark his first time playing in the WBC. 2016 was another stellar year for Marte, as he was named to his first All-Star team, and captured his second Gold Glove award.

Thursday: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Sean Rodriguez agreed to sign with the Atlanta Braves on a two-year deal worth $11.5 million. Rodriguez spent the past two seasons with the Pirates. He had himself a career year in 2016, posting an OPS of .859 along with a 126 OPS+.