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January 28, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


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How many eggs are in Polanco’s basket? And the fascinating Mr. Tarpley

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SOUTH HILLS – So the Pirates were not quite done shaking up the roster this offseason, sending projected fourth outfielder Travis Snider (a ‘superhero’ as described  by Carlos Gomez) to the Orioles last night for prospect Stephen Tarpley and a prospect to be named later.

On the surface this struck many in the public as a curious move.

The Pirates are expected to contend and compete in 2015, and they traded a valuable reserve for a pitcher who spent last season in short-season ball and is not considered a top 100 prospect in the game. Is there now a risk in expecting too much of Gregory Polanco in 2015?

Pirates GM Neal Huntington doesn’t believe so. Continue Reading →

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January 28, 2015
by Rob Biertempfel


6 comments so far - add yours!

Snider traded to Orioles for two prospects

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PTR-Bucs03-092414My friend Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun has sniffed out news that the Pirates may be close to dealing outfielder Travis Snider to the Orioles.
Talks between the teams for a straight-up Snider-for-Brian Matusz deal fizzled during the Winter Meetings. The Pirates are confident they have plenty of outfield depth — Corey Hart, Andrew Lambo and, yes, Jose Tabata — so discussions heated up again the past few days. Continue Reading →

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January 27, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


12 comments so far - add yours!

Thames and Cantu as Rosetta Stones?

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SOUTH HILLS – Humans are always in search of  translation tools.

Because the Rosetta Stone had text in three different scripts it became the key to understanding Egyptian language.

The film Imitation Game detailed how Alan Turing cracked the German enigma code, which undoubtedly hastened the end of WWII and saved countless lives.

While we’re just talking about a game in this Web space, baseball analysts are also very interested in code-breaking and translations and that’s what makes the signing of Jung Ho Kang the most interesting Pirates-related story of this upcoming spring. Continue Reading →

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January 26, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


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Monday Mop-Up Duty: The new commish said what?

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SOUTH HILLS – Rob Manfred conducted one of his first interviews as MLB  commissioner over the weekend with ESPN.

What he said was frightening.

ESPN’s Karl Ravech interviewed Manfred and the questioning got around to adjustments he would consider to improve the game.  Manfred expressed concern about declining offense in the sport, and the slowing pace of the game. These are perfectly legitimate concerns. But his proposed solutions are, I believe, misguided. Continue Reading →

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January 22, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


41 comments so far - add yours!

The Neil Walker dilemma

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Neil Walker (Philip G. Pavely  |  Trib Total Media)

Neil Walker (Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media)

SOUTH HILLS – One of the more interesting players the Pirates will soon have to make a decision on is Neil Walker.

Not only was Walker arguably the top offensive second baseman in the NL last season, he’s of course a fan favorite, a native, one of the most amiable personalities in the clubhouse, and a worker. Of course, he’s also due to make either $8 or $9 million in arbitration and is two years away from free agency. The Pirates also appear to have middle infield depth and Plan Bs with the signing of Jung Ho Kang, and Alen Hanson reaching the upper levels of the minor leagues.

So what should the Pirates do with Walker? Continue Reading →

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January 19, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


15 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: A nice offseason but …

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SOUTH HILLS – The Pirates’ ownership and front office groups put forth a much more robust offseason effort than a winter earlier when the Pirates committed only $7 million combined to free agents Edinson Volquez and Clint Barmes.(Though the Pirates also signed Charlie Morton to a $21 million contract  that bought out two years of free agency).

Assuming they are done, the Pirates guaranteed $64 million to free agents this offseason, including the club-record free agent deal handed out to Francisco Liriano and the club record international contract given to Jung Ho Kang.

It’s not big-market money to be sure but it is significant increase in the commitment. The question is this: is it enough? The Pirates were hardly the only National League team to improve itself this offseason. Continue Reading →

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January 18, 2015
by Rob Biertempfel


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A bit more background on Kang

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Now that Jung Ho Kang is on their roster, every Pirates regular season game and also a few spring training games this year will be televised in South Korea. “Because of the time difference (Korea is 14 hours ahead of Pittsburgh), most people will be watching at their desks at work,” said Daniel Kim, a baseball analyst for Spotv Korea. I chatted with Kim this morning for his Yahoo! Sports podcast and gave me some background this morning about the Pirates’ new infielder.
— Kang is the fourth MLB player to come out of Gwangju Jeil high school. The others are Jae Weong Seo (2002-07 with Mets, Dodgers and Rays), Hee Seop Choi (2002-05 with Cubs, Marlins and Dodgers) and Byung-Hyun Kim (1999-2007 with D’backs, Red Sox, Rockies and Marlins). Kang was drafted out of high school by Hyundai of the Korea Baseball Organization. A second-round pick, Kang had to choose to either turn pro or accept a full university scholarship. “His parents left the decision up to him,” Kim said. “He was very mature for his age, so they said they’d support whatever he decided to do.”
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iox5PMOBYLA&feature=youtu.be
— Kang played in a total of only 30 games with Hyundai in 2006-07. “He didn’t have a regular position,” Kim said. “It took him a while to establish himself at the top level (of the KBO).” Kang was drafted as a catcher, but he had the strongest arm on the team so the Hyundai manager moved him to shortstop.
— Kang’s breakthrough moment came in the championship of the 2010 Asian Games, when he slugged a pair of two-run homers against defending champ Taiwan. “That’s when Kang became a national star,” Kim said. Last September, Kang again homered twice against Taiwan in the Asian Games.
— Kang is close friends with Dodgers pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu — they played on the same Junior National team in 2005, are the same age and were drafted in the KBO in the same year. They also were teammates on the 2010 Asian Games team. Kang homered in Ryu’s final KBO game before joining the Dodgers. “That was his parting gift to Ryu,” Kim said with a laugh. “They still talk about it.”
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1dPm7jbdLE&feature=youtu.be
— About three years ago, Kang’s father supposedly told his son he’d play in MLB someday. Kang, however, kept quiet about wanting to play in the United States until last year. A team source told me the Pirates have had their eye on Kang the past three or four years in case he decided to enter the posting process. Not wanting to tip their hand to other clubs, the Pirates hid their interest in Kang until their winning bid was announced.
– RB

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January 17, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


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Unknowns mark opportunity with Kang … and a $90 million payroll?

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SOUTH HILLS – In some ways, there’s more unknown with Jung Ho Kang then any high-profile, international free agent before him.

After all, there has never been a KBO position player to be posted and transition to the major leagues. So while the Pirates’ analytics department also has statistical models for how Japanese and Cuban professional hitters’ numbers might translate to major league statistics, there’s no historical precedent to work off of regarding Kang and KBO translations.

And then there is this … Continue Reading →

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January 15, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


10 comments so far - add yours!

Does Alvarez’s absence matter? And Fixing Morton

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CLARK BUILDING -Much has been made about Pedro Alvarez‘s absence from the Pirates’ January minicamp in Florida this week.

While he’s not the only regular missing, other regulars not in attendance are not in the process of learning new positions and coming off dreadful seasons.

You might think Alvarez would want to put his best foot forward, look engaged and show ownership of first base and the process of learning the position –  but on the other hand baseball is a grind, it’s a long season, and the idea of January minicamp seems like a little much to some on the outside (and I’m sure to players, too). Continue Reading →

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January 14, 2015
by Rob Biertempfel


9 comments so far - add yours!

Mercer ready for Kang’s challenge

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JordyMercer2BRADENTON, Fla. — Jordy Mercer‘s Twitter feed blew up Tuesday night after free-agent infielder Jung-ho Kang fired a shot across the bow during a press conference at Incheon Airport in Seoul.
Kang is on his way to Pittsburgh to finalize a contract with the Pirates. Including the posting fee, the Pirates seem ready to commit at least $21 million for a four-year deal. For a budget-conscious club like the Pirates, that’s a lot to pay for a potential bench guy. Kang, 27, was a power-hitting shortstop for the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization. With the Pirates, he might be used at short, third base or second base. Continue Reading →

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