Jose Contreras is back in the Pirates' system.
Jose Contreras is back in the Pirates’ system.

The Pittsburgh Pirates released Jose Contreras last week, but have signed him back to a minor league deal, according to an Indianapolis Indians press release. Contreras was given his outright release to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. After the release, Neal Huntington noted that he might have needed more time in Triple-A to rehab his arm after an elbow injury last year.

Contreras will serve as bullpen depth out of Triple-A, although because of the release last week, and the minor league deal this week, he won’t take up a spot on the 40-man roster. He only made four appearances with Indianapolis last time around, which was also on a minor league assignment. At the time the Pirates had to make a decision to add Contreras to the active roster, or pay a retention bonus to keep him. They opted to add him to the majors and give him a shot out of the bullpen. He gave up five earned runs on seven hits and six walks in five innings.

Even if Contreras doesn’t pitch in the majors, he should help the Indianapolis pitching staff, which is extremely depleted due to all of the injuries and promotions at the major league level.

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  1. Dfa’d and waivers are not the same thing. If JMac gets designated, the Pirates will then have 10 days to make some sort of deal with another team. After 10 days, he would have to clear waivers to be assigned to the minors. If he clears waivers, I believe he would have to accept the assignment or forfeit his salary. I’m not 100% certain on the last part, but maybe someone out there knows the specifics on time of service and reassignments.

    • Pirates will pay all of McDonald 3 million salary unless he is traded to another team. Even if he is DFA’ed. At this point, unless he shows something in the next 1-2 weeks, their best bet would be to trade him for a minor leaguer to save the 1-2 million left on his contract for this season.

  2. From….

    Pirates GM Neal Huntington says James McDonald’s future with the team could be in jeopardy, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Karen Price writes in a pair of tweets. “As the clock ticks we’ll have to make a determination as to where James best fits in this group, on this club, or does he fit,” says Huntington. “That’s a question to be answered ultimately by James McDonald.” McDonald, once viewed as a potential franchise building block after promising seasons in 2010 and 2011 and a great first half in 2012, has fallen out of favor after collapsing down the stretch last year and posting a 5.76 ERA with 20 walks in six 2013 starts. He has also struggled in his rehab starts since landing on the disabled list with shoulder discomfort.

    • In a different piece, the same quote was used to suggest McDonald may instead work out of the bullpen while he figures it out (or maybe to give the front office more time to see if he will figure it out).

      If I were GM, I’d certainly try everything I could to redeem him before cutting the cord. If he can return just to the average level he’s been at for the last 2 years, he’s useful. Keep in mind what you’ve got penciled in for 2014: Liriano, Cole, Locke. Wandy and AJ are free agents. Taillon likely starts the season in Indy. Your other options for #4 and #5 are Morton, Gomez, Oliver, Pimentel, Cumpton, McPherson, Irwin. If JMac can just get back to the pitcher he was in ’11, he at least belongs in the conversation, no?

      • Again, I agree with you if he proves himself with quality rehab starts – which is has failed t do up to now. I am not in favor of just handing him a spot on the MLB roster, at the expense of someone who has performed well, just for the sake of hanging on to him in the hope that he gets it together.

        He does not figure in their long term plans anyway – and he’s not a young pitcher anymore.

  3. Pretty much unrelated to this story, but it does remind me of the $64,000 question: what happens when all the pitchers are healthy again, presumably within the next couple weeks?

    First off, I do NOT think JMac will be DFA’d. It just plays against NH’s ethos. The Bucs have cornered the market on revitalizing other teams’ frustrating arms (Mazzaro, Oliver, Pimentel, Grilli, Gomez), and they won’t stick with one of their own who’s less than 12 months removed from dominating the league?

    Once everyone is healthy, I can see a starting rotation of Burnett, Rodriguez, Liriano, Locke and Cole; a back-of-the-bullpen of Grilli, Melancon and Wilson. The last 4 spots is where it gets really interesting. I can totally see Morton, Gomez and McDonald all in a relief role, with the only remaining question being: Mazzaro or Watson? And if Watson has an option, you know the answer already…

    • I respectively disagree and hope you are wrong.

      If a guy like MacDonald is kept over a pitcher like Morris, that will be one of worse decisions that could be made. Morris has been solid. MacDonald is a walking machine – in what situations are you going to use him, other than late inning blow outs?

      I would rather have Watson, Reid and Mazzarro – even Morton over MacDonald as well. Again, my position is based on MacDonald not showing any signs of improvement in rehab starts – which he has not done so to date.

      The other day, Huntington made statements that almost sounded like he was preparing people for the possibility that there would not be a spot on the MLB team for MacDonald.

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