Willy Garcia Designated for Assignment

By Jason Shetler

According to Sean McCool of Pirates Prospects, the Pirates have designated Willy Garcia for assignment as the corresponding move for Ivan Nova being added to the 40-man roster. Nova officially signed with the Pirates on Tuesday. 

The Pirates signed Garcia out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. The 24-year-old outfielder has a tremendous throwing arm, which is considered the best in the system. He’s recorded 74 outfield assists since 2013. 

Garcia struggled offensively this past season, as he posted a career worst .659 OPS along with a high strikeout rate of 26.3% in 499 plate appearances for AAA Indianapolis. If Garcia is able to clear waivers, he’ll begin the 2017 season with Indianapolis.



Pirates Need to Deviate from their Model to Get an Ace

By Jared Lankes

The Pirates model for remaining competitive long-term has been well-liked around the league. The results haven’t lied either as the Pirates went to the playoffs three straight years and have amongst the most wins in the entire league over the last four years. These results are very good, but I think most people agree that it is time to take the next step and go for it. And not the “mortgage the whole future for a short-term asset” type of go for it. A more smart kind of go for it.

The talk is rampant around Jose Quintana in Pirates land right now because of all the rumors, and rightfully so because he’d be a fantastic add. He’s got four years of control left at a cheap rate and is one of the best the American League has to offer. Because of this, it is easy to see why he would be a great and smart get for the Pirates as he’d cost a lot, but the value coming back would be enormous. I said before that the Pirates NEED Quintana. However, now I think there is one pitcher in the league that the Pirates NEED more. It’s a bolder move but still would be an incredibly smart move for the Pirates to make.

The guy I am talking about is Chris Archer. Archer is the very electric Rays right-handed ace capable of making hitters look silly and bringing an even empty Tropicana Field to its feet at any time. He is very highly-regarded and has had sustained success in his good amount of time in the MLB. He hit a minor bump in the road in 2016 but got back to his form the second half of the season, and there is no reason to think he won’t continue to be the guy he has been in 2013-2015 and the last half of 2016, if not better.

He, like Quintana, is signed to one of the more affordable deals in the league. Some may argue his deal is better than Quintana’s, which is a valid argument. He’s controlled for five more years at a rate that would almost make any team that would have him cry tears of joy.

What makes Archer such an attractive target goes beyond his age and contract though. It’s about what he could do with the Pirates that could make anyone salivate. He’s got all the tools that Ray Searage likes. A great fastball with an array of off-speed pitches, even if the control isn’t all there just yet. Despite some issues, Archer has been downright unfair to face at times. If Searage gets a hold of him, I think we could see a transformation of Archer into one of the best of the best in the NL, capable of dueling with the likes of the Kershaw’s, Bumgarner’s, Arrieta’s, and Syndergaard’s of the National League.

It’s also important to point out that nearly every pitcher that has moved out of the AL East has gotten better. Even the Pirates have been helped by this with guys like A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. There’s reasonable expectation to think that Archer would also benefit from leaving that division.

Now, lets go over the cost. It would be higher than that of Quintana, but I believe so much more worth it. Talks would likely need to start at Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, and Kevin Newman, which I’d be okay with. Then after that, I imagine one of two more pieces would go after that, maybe even three. A hefty cost, but I think the Pirates are deep enough in the farm where they can make this trade happen without mortgaging their entire future. For a long-term asset like Archer, I think these guys that combined maybe have a full season of MLB experience under their belt would be okay to deal away in this specific trade. Yes, the sting of it might hurt for a bit, but it would definitely pay off once Chris Archer headlines one of the best rotations the NL would have to offer for quite awhile, starting in 2017.

This is certainly the kind of trade Neal Huntington should make if he wants to take it to the next level while not deviating too far away from what the organization has been doing so well. They have a ton of their core around for three years or more and Austin Meadows, who would not be in the trade, will replace Andrew McCutchen at some point or another. The team could easily recoup some prospect loss by dealing McCutchen, Josh Harrison, or others or even trade Archer in 3-4 years when his value would still be very high. In my opinion, this is a move that needs to be made by the Pirates this offseason. There is no time like the present as the core is around for awhile, the farm system is as deep as it will ever be, and it is the perfect time to strike.

Re-Assessing the Francisco Liriano Trade

By Jared Lankes

When the Pirates traded Francisco Liriano along with Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez at the trade deadline to Toronto to unload Liriano’s suddenly lofty salary, it was met with a lot of criticism. And GM Neal Huntington did not give fans a reason to cheer about it by shoving “financial flexibility” down people’s throats. You can obviously see why people were upset by this. However, a couple of new developments have come to light to make the trade not look so bad. In fact, the trade actually looks pretty good right about now.

Firstly, since the trade, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez have dropped off a lot. McGuire and  Ramirez went from high in top 10 in the Blue Jays weak farm system to outside the top 10. They have each dropped off by a ton as both have major flaws that are now starting to show up. Neither player projects to be anything special at this point. I am certain both the Blue Jays and Pirates knew this when the trade was made. The value of both those guys has plummeted and was really never as high as many originally may have thought.

Secondly, the Pirates have used that financial flexibility from the trade to vastly help the 2017 roster. This offseason, the Pirates have signed Ivan Nova and Daniel Hudson to contracts. These contracts given will combined to be about a total commitment in 2017 to what Liriano would have made (not counting performance bonuses on any of the deals). With Liriano on the books, these moves would not have been possible.

In the end, the Pirates turned two fringe prospects and a very declining pitcher in for Drew Hutchison, Daniel Hudson, and Ivan Nova, at least as far as 2017 goes. Looking back at it, I think it looks really good. Dumping one of the worst pitchers in the NL in 2016 with two prospects who don’t figure to amount to too much to get three pitchers is a good deal, in my opinion.

So, the Liriano trade was not a bad trade. In fact, it was a good trade looking back. It was a hard trade to see working at the time, but now seeing all the developments and results of it, I think it’s easy to see that this trade has actually made the Pirates much better as they head into 2017.

Two Players Pirates Cannot Give Up for Jose Quintana

By Jared Lankes

There has been a lot of talk about the Pirates and getting Jose Quintana. There has been rampant speculation over the trade and what it might look like. There has also been a lot of talk over what the Pirates should and should not give up. I would personally put any prospect on the table in this trade except two guys, those guys being Austin Meadows and Josh Bell. I will explain why they can ill-afford to trade either of those two guys.

Firstly, Austin Meadows. Everyone knows that he is likely off-limits in nearly any trade given that he isn’t only one of the very best prospects in the entire league, and not only is he so close to the MLB, and not only has he crushed it at every level of the minors and has advanced through pretty swiftly, but he is the eventual replacement to Andrew McCutchen. He might even be patrolling an outfield slot in PNC Park by June of 2017. Because of his importance to the future of the Pirates, the return a team would have to give for the Pirates to even start to consider giving Meadows away in a deal has to be very lofty, I’m sure.

Secondly, on to Josh Bell. Bell is highly regarded as one of, if not the most advanced hitter for his age the Pirates have had since Barry Bonds. There aren’t many better comps to beginning of careers than that. His lengthier stay in minors was solely based on defense alone. He burst onto the scene by hitting a grand slam in his first AB in the majors and was very good when he was up in the MLB, showing a unique combo of plate discipline, control of the bat, and power. This is very rare and giving that up would be a massive mistake. The other thing about Bell is that he is at least capable of playing 1st base. The Pirates haven’t had stability at that position in quite awhile and if Bell even pans out at close to average defensively at 1st base, he will become very serviceable. His defense at 1st base will probably end out as better than Alvarez’s while Bell’s bat also projects overall as better even if his power won’t be as big. Bell is the type of player that can give stability at 1st base, and that is just what the Pirates need right now. Just like Meadows, the need that the Pirates have for a guy like Bell would surely mean a very lofty return would need to be on their way back for Pirates to even consider it.

Jose Quintana is a great pitcher, and I would love to have him. He would make the Pirates a major threat in NL and the entire league. However, the Pirates’ need to keep Bell and Meadows is greater, in my opinion. If the White Sox want one of them in a trade for even a guy like Quintana, I think the Pirates have to walk away and look elsewhere and continue to build great depth.

Pirates Sign Jose Barraza from Independent Ball

By Jason Shetler

According to Kayla Thompson of Indy Ball Island, the Pirates have signed catcher/first baseman Jose Barraza from the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League.

Barraza was drafted by the Chicago White Sox as a seventh round selection in 2012. The 22-year-old spent the first couple seasons of his professional career playing for the White Sox rookie clubs. One of those was Bristol, which is now an affiliation of the Pirates.

Following the 2014 season, Barraza decided to go the Indy ball route, and signed on with Lake Erie, where he played at these last two seasons. In 187 games total with the Crushers, he batted .278 and posted a .743 OPS, while splitting his games between catcher and first base. As a catcher, Barraza was average in throwing out runners with a 26% caught stealing rate. He will likely play for one of the Pirates A ball affiliates as a reserve.




Pirates Claim Nefi Ogando from Marlins; Jason Rogers Designated for Assignment

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have announced that Nefi Ogando has been claimed off waivers from the Miami Marlins. To make room on the 40-man roster, Jason Rogers was designated for assignment. 

Ogando signed with the Boston Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. The 27-year-old right-hander was dealt by the Red Sox to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for former Pirate John McDonald in August of 2013. Ogando made his big league debut for the Phillies as a September call up in 2015. He was then claimed by the Marlins last offseason. In 14 appearances this year with the Marlins, he posted a 2.30 ERA along with a 1.15 WHIP. Ogando is certainly a hard-throwing righty with an average fastball velocity of 95.1 mph. He’s likely to begin 2017 in the AAA Indianapolis bullpen.

Rogers was acquired by the Pirates last offseason from the Milwaukee Brewers in a deal for outfielder Keon Broxton and minor league pitcher Trey Supak. Indianapolis is where Rogers played most of 2016, as he hit .263 and had an OPS of .709 in 105 games. He also appeared in 23 games with the Pirates, but didn’t do much, posting just a .463 OPS.