Last night, the Pirates put catcher Elias Diaz, outfielder Willy Garcia, and pitchers Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.
GM Neal Huntington said Taillon is “doing really well” recovering from Tommy John surgery. Why protect a guy who is coming off such a major surgery? Huntington pointed out that Taillon’s injury would have made him more attractive to other teams if he was Rule 5 eligible because he could have been stashed on the disabled list for all but the required 90 days a player has to stay on the big league roster.
Diaz, a catcher, made great strides offensively last season. He hit a combined .312 with a .786 OPS at Indianapolis and Double-A Altoona after putting up so-so numbers in A (.214/.579) and High-A (.279/.781). Elias is not a can’t-miss kid, but the Pirates cannot afford to be caught short at catcher in light of Russ Martin‘s departure and the questions about Francisco Cerivelli (can he stay healthy?) and Tony Sanchez (is he good enough defensively?).
Don’t forget about Garcia, 22, who batted .271 with 18 homers and eight stolen bases this year at Double-A Altoona. He has a plus arm and good power, but often struggles to make contact (145 strikeouts this year). Garcia played in 126 games at Altoona last year, but management hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll begin 2015 at Indy. “Willy still has some rough edges,” Huntington said. “We’ll see how things go this winter.” In the Dominican Winter League, Garcia is batting .257/.899 in 21 games with Aguilas Cibaenas.
>>> The Pirates also claimed shortstop Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Nats. Huntington said the team’s recent acquisitions of utility infielders Florimon, Justin Sellers and Jake Elmore doesn’t necessarily mean free agent Clint Barmes cannot return. “The door is still open for Barmes,” Huntington said. Still, the three newcomers are all low-income guys; Barmes would have to take another pay cut (he played for $2 million this year) to return.
As for Florimon, Pirates scouts love his defense and the fact that he also can play second and third base. “And he’s got above-average speed,” Huntington said. “He’s not going to steal a lot of bases, but he can go first to third and second to home. He can be a defensive replacement and give Clint (Hurdle) a pinch-running option off the bench.”
>>> Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors always does a great job projecting salaries for arbitration-eligible players. He pegged Ike Davis to get $4.4 million, Gaby Sanchez to get $2.7 million and Pedro Alvarez to get $5.5 million. For the Pirates, $12.7 million is way too much to pay for a sub-par, three-headed platoon. “It was going to be a challenge to carry all three, given where each of their contract values are expected to go,” Huntington said. That’s why Davis was DFA’d last night and why Sanchez will sweat out the minutes leading up to the non-tender deadline (11:59 p.m. on Dec. 2).
>>> As of a few minutes ago (1:40 p.m.), the Pirates had not announced anything about pitcher Radhames Liz. His impending two-year deal with the club seems to be the worst-kept secret in the world. If they do it today, I hope they do it soon; I have tickets to the Penn State-Pitt wrestling match tonight.