It has been a quietly busy week for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Several moves have been made to the team and several former players have signed on elsewhere. From the hustle and bustle of the New Year, a few of these moves might have fallen through the cracks and gone unnoticed so without further ado and in no particular order, here are some quick notes to what you might have missed this past week.
-Former Bucco’s southpaw, Wandy Rodriguez has signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves. Rodriquez, now 36, was once considered to be a durable innings eater before coming to the Pirates mid-season in 2012. After pitching well to close out 2012, Rodriquez was limited to just 12 starts in 2013 and questions arose regarding his toughness after a lingering “forearm strain” eventually shut down his season. In 2014, Rodriquez entered the year in the rotation before a knee injury and obvious ineffectiveness limited him to six starts and lead to his dismissal.
It is unclear what, if anything, Rodriguez has left in the tank. Last week it was reported that the Philadelphia Phillies had intended on signing Rodriguez, but a physical lead to the deal dissolving. Evidently the Braves were not concerned with the Phillies findings and if Rodriguez should earn a spot and be added to the 40-man roster, it will reportedly be a 1-year, 2 million dollar deal. This is a fine example of the premium placed on left handed pitching in baseball. If Rodriguez had been born right-handed, he would be watching games from a recliner.
-After changing their minds on Rodriguez, the Phillies went out and obtained the services of another former Pirates hurler. Jeanmar Gomez has signed a minor league deal with an invitation to the Phillies spring training. Gomez is best suited in the role he served with the Pirates as a long relief option from 2013-2014. Popular perception would suggest that Gomez did well in his two year stint with the club, but now five years into the league Gomez has shown he is consistently average. He strikes out few, he walks many and his career WHIP is a less than satisfactory 1.42. Gomez will be soon forgotten as someone like Casey Sadler, Brandon Cumpton or Stolmy Pimentel, steps into his vacated role. For more on what to expect from Pimentel, look for my feature on him tomorrow.
-The Pirates 2015 mini-camp wraps up today. Pedro Alvarez has come under heavy heat this week for his no-show at the “voluntary” work-outs. Per the players association CBA, players who are on a team’s 40-man roster are exempt from participating in the annual camp. In addition to Alvarez, seven of the eight expected position starters did not attend the camp, with the lone exception being Jordy Mercer, who is clearly trying to stay one leg ahead of Jung-Ho Kang who is expected to push Mercer for playing time.
I have long been a critic of Alvarez, but in this case, the criticism he has faced is unfair. Despite the fact that he is transitioning into a new position, he is still under no obligation to attended. And on the flip-side, why isn’t Gregory Polanco or Starling Marte receiving the same negative attention? Both players struggled at times last season and could benefit from the extra instruction. If Alvarez comes out of the gate and struggles he will have nobody to blame, but himself. If he comes out swinging (and connecting) this will be long forgotten.
-Speaking of Kang, his signing was “officially” announced today after being announced earlier this week, and late last week. The deal is for, 4-years with $11 million guaranteed and a club option for 2019 of $5.5m with a buyout of $250k per Tom Singer of MLB.com who covers the Pirates. The contract will eat up the expected prime of Kang’s career and is much lower than what was initially reported that Kang was seeking.
The easiest comparison in terms of the contract is the one the Pirates signed Jose Tabata to in 2011. Let’s just hope the results aren’t the same. Kang has started to become over-publicized this week and it is safe to speculate a lot of it has to do with it being such a historic move for the Pirates. With the lofty expectations, it will be difficult for Kang to not disappoint on some level. He is making the unprecedented leap from the KBO to MLB and has already gone on record with KBO reporter Jeeho Yoo as saying he feels he can outplay Jordy Mercer. It is still unclear how the question and answer translates, but there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness and I anticipate it will be sooner rather than later before we know which side of the line Kang steps over.
-And… speaking of Tabata, earlier this week it was announced he has been extended a non-roster invite to spring training. Not very surprising given the fact that he was out-righted in October and what seemed like a bargain at the time has now been deemed a bad contract. One can only hope that he shows up in reasonable shape and ready to work. At just 26-years-old, Tabata might still have enough raw talent to entice someone to give up a case of peanuts and a bat to be named later.