Pirates and George Kontos Avoid Arbitration

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports

According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates have come to terms with George Kontos on a figure of $2.725 million. The projected amount by MLB Trade Rumors was almost spot on at $2.7 million. 

Prior to joining the Pirates, Kontos had spent six seasons pitching in the San Francisco Giants bullpen. The 32-year-old right-hander put up a 3.06 ERA, along with a 3.70 FIP and a 124 ERA+ during his time in San Francisco. 

In August of last year, the Giants made a baffling decision to let the Pirates have Kontos for nothing, despite having decent numbers (3.83 ERA and 110 ERA+). With the Pirates, he posted an ERA of 1.84 and had a 2.61 FIP in 15 appearances. Combined with both teams in 2017, he recorded a 9.5 K/9, which is a career best. Last offseason, he was given $1.750 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility. 






Gerrit Cole Avoids Arbitration with Pirates

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jeff Haynes – AP

Rob Biertempfel has reported that the Pirates and Gerrit Cole have reached agreement on a figure of $6.75 million, the exact same amount as Jordy Mercer will receive. MLB Trade Rumors projected Cole’s 2018 salary to be more at $7.5 million. 

Cole has probably checked his phone 24/7, given the amount of trade rumors surrounding him. Teams who reportedly have shown interest in Cole this offseason have been the Astros, Cubs, Orioles, Twins and Yankees. The Astros and Yankees specifically have been involved in talks with the Pirates about the former #1 pick. 

This past season, Cole had a 4.26 ERA, but did manage to put up a 3.1 WAR, thanks to registering 200+ innings for the second time in his career. He also posted a strong 8.7 K/9. The intrigue with Cole is having two more years of club control.





Pirates Avoid Arbitration with Jordy Mercer

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Gene J. Puskar – AP

The Pirates and Jordy Mercer have avoided arbitration for a figure of $6.75 million, this according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The amount is slightly higher than the $6.5 million projected by MLB Trade Rumors. 

Mercer entered this offseason in his final year of arbitration eligibility. The 31-year-old shortstop posted a .733 OPS, while hitting a career high 14 home runs last season, which was fifth most among National League shortstops. Going by dWAR, his defense at short was about league average in 2017. 

There had been some speculation heading into this offseason about Mercer possibly being a non-tender candidate, but the Pirates made the decision to tender him in December. With Kevin Newman not ready to join the big leagues, it made sense bringing back Mercer to serve as a reliable stopgap option.






Tigers Claim Johnny Barbato from Pirates

By Jason Shetler

According to Jason Beck, Detroit Tigers beat reporter for MLB.com, the Tigers have claimed Johnny Barbato off waivers from the Pirates. 

Barbato was acquired by the Pirates from the New York Yankees in April of last year for a player to be named, which ended up being pitcher Matt Frawley. The acquisition of Barbato at the time was nothing more than reliever depth. 

Following the trade, Barbato was sent to AAA Indianapolis. He posted a 3.06 ERA in 26 appearances with the Indians. Barbato got the opportunity to pitch for the Pirates, appearing in 24 games, putting up an ERA of 4.08 and a 5.46 FIP. Last week, the Bucs acquired pitcher Shane Carle from the Colorado Rockies. On that same day, Barbato had been designated for assignment to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Carle.




Pirates Sign Bo Schultz and Tyler Jones

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have signed pitchers Bo Schultz and Tyler Jones to minor league contracts, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. 

Schultz signed with the Oakland Athletics as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He made his big league debut in 2014 for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Prior to the 2015 season, Schultz was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. In March of last year, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2017. When Schultz pitched for Toronto in 2016, his average fastball velocity was 96.7 mph. He likely will begin 2018 on the disabled list, and should join AAA Indianapolis once he returns. 

Jones was an 11th round draft choice by the Minnesota Twins in 2011 out of LSU. The 27-year-old right-hander spent the entire 2017 season with the New York Yankees AAA club Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting a 4.38 ERA, along with a 3.16 FIP, a 2.81 xFIP, a 10.7 K/9 and a groundball rate of 55% in 44 relief appearances. The Indianapolis bullpen is where Jones should start out in 2018. 





Pirates Claim Shane Carle from Rockies; DFA Johnny Barbato

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have announced that pitcher Shane Carle was claimed off waivers from the Colorado Rockies. In a corresponding move for Carle to be added on the 40-man roster, pitcher Johnny Barbato has been designated for assignment. 

Carle was originally in the Pirates organization, this after being chosen by them in the 2013 MLB Draft as a tenth round selection. In November of 2014, he was dealt to the Rockies in exchange for pitcher Rob Scahill. Carle made three appearances with Colorado in 2017, but most of his time was spent with AAA Albuquerque, where he posted a 5.37 ERA and a 4.36 xFIP in 62 innings in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He is likely to begin 2018 with AAA Indianapolis. 

Barbato was acquired by the Pirates from the New York Yankees for pitcher Matt Frawley in April of this past year. He split his 2017 season between AAA and the bigs, posting an ERA of 3.06 in 26 appearances for Indianapolis, while putting up a 4.08 ERA and a 5.46 FIP in 24 games with the Pirates.





Cubs Reportedly Interested in Gerrit Cole

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jeff Haynes – AP

According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago, the Chicago Cubs are showing interest in Gerrit Cole.

Rumors swirled in December with the Pirates and New York Yankees discussing a trade for the 2015 All-Star. Those talks came to a halt, this after the Pirates reportedly wanted the Yankees #1 prospect Gleyber Torres in the deal. 

With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey becoming free agents, it’s not really a surprise that the Cubs would look at Cole as a trade target for their rotation. The Pirates could have interest as well, especially since the Cubs possess one of the strongest farm systems in the game. In addition to the Yankees and Cubs, the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins have been linked to Cole this offseason.