The Pittsburgh Pirates wrapped up a busy week at the Winter Meetings by taking four players in the Rule 5 draft, three from the AAA phase of the draft. During the week they added two major league free agents, made one trade, and cut ties with Ross Ohlendorf. Here is a list of the players added, dropped, traded, or just generally involved in a transaction this week.
Erik Bedard – He’s had a lot of health problems throughout his career, but when healthy he’s the best pitcher on the staff. This will be his first time pitching in the NL, and he will have an added advantage as a lefty in PNC Park. Combined that could allow him to put up some great numbers. The Pirates got him at a good value. He received $4.5 M guaranteed, plus $500 K in performance bonuses, starting at 150 innings pitched. If he gets to that point, he will already be well worth the $4.5 M.
Nate McLouth – McLouth has had a few down years since leaving Pittsburgh. In his time with the Pirates he combined for a .261/.339/.462 line, highlighted by his 2008 season, which now looks to be more of a career year than a breakout season. He’s a bench option, so his value is limited, and if he wasn’t a former Pirate with a great 2008 season, his signing would have probably brought on a lot of outrage. The move definitely doesn’t bring guaranteed production, but McLouth is left handed with some power, and has had success at PNC throughout his career. That might make this a decent gamble.
Jose Morales – The Pirates added Morales on a minor league deal. He will likely serve as catching depth out of AAA, but will be competing for the backup catcher role in Spring Training.
Derrek Lee – Lee declined arbitration, which means the Pirates will get a compensation pick after the first round of the 2012 draft if he signs elsewhere.
The Pirates made one trade during the Winter Meetings, sending Brooks Pounders and Diego Goris to Kansas City in exchange for shortstop Yamaico Navarro.
Yamaico Navarro – The Royals were looking to clear a spot for a Rule 5 pick, and made Navarro available. He was a top prospect in the Red Sox system for the last few seasons, and was sent to the Royals during the 2011 season for Mike Aviles. For the short term, Navarro makes a good utility player with some pop in his bat. He could become a starter eventually, although there are weight and self-discipline issues to overcome. He’s primarily played shortstop, but he’s probably best long term as a second or third baseman.
Brooks Pounders – He got his fastball up to 93 MPH last year pitching out of the bullpen in West Virginia, and displayed some nice off-speed pitches, which led to his 9.8 K/9 ratio. With a plus changeup and a potential plus curveball, Pounders could make a good starting pitching prospect. The problem is that his weight leads to stamina questions. Another issue is that his fastball is his worst pitch, making him more of a finesse guy if his velocity drops in a starting role. In the 2012 Prospect Guide, Pounders was ranked about 20 spots lower than where Navarro is currently ranked, so the move is definitely an upgrade for the Pirates.
Diego Goris – This isn’t much of a loss for the Pirates. Goris has strong numbers in the DSL, but he’s also played four years at the level, and just turned 21 years old. He will likely be a bench player at the lower levels.
Rule 5 Draft
Gustavo Nunez – He’s a strong defensive shortstop who should get a shot at the backup middle infield role this year. His offense has been poor, and he hasn’t had a lot of time above A-ball, making it as high as AA. He might not be hard to protect when you consider that the Pirates have held on to guys like Pedro Ciriaco (who never played) and Bobby Crosby (who had a .595 OPS) the last two years.
Aaron Poreda – I actually like the Poreda selection more than Nunez. Poreda has had some major control issues, but he’s a former top prospect with some good stuff when he’s on his game. He’s also left handed, which adds depth for the Pirates if he does fix his control. They control his rights for two seasons, assuming he doesn’t get picked in the Rule 5 draft next year. This is kind of like a non-roster invitee addition, only better because of the two years of control.
Charlie Cutler – He should serve as a backup catcher in high-A or AA.
Francisco Diaz – He should serve as a backup catcher in the lower levels.
Brett Lorin – For the second year in a row the Pirates saw a player taken out of their high-A affiliate after putting up strong numbers in the rotation. Lorin can still return to the Pirates, assuming he doesn’t stick with Arizona all year. He might have a harder time sticking with Arizona than Nathan Adcock did with Kansas City last year.
Five Home Runs Allowed Per Year – Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels, not only moving out of the NL Central, but moving out of the National League.
Ross Ohlendorf – The Pirates released Ohlendorf, which wasn’t a surprise after his 2011 season. If they would have retained him he would have cost $2.1 M at the least. They’d be better off putting that money towards someone who isn’t coming off a year full of injuries and poor performances.
Jason Jaramillo – The Pirates designated him for assignment to make room for the free agents. He was out of options, and the Pirates could keep him if he clears waivers.
Pedro Ciriaco – Same situation as Jaramillo. I’m a bit surprised by this move. It’s not completely surprising, since the Pirates barely played Ciriaco when he was up in the majors. What’s surprising is that they designated Ciriaco for assignment, then drafted a guy with a similar profile in the Rule 5 draft, with a key difference being that Ciriaco has had success above high-A.
The Pirates still need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, as their count sits at 41 right now.
The following pages have been updated with the moves from the meetings.