Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Q+A

Dejan fields a few questions involving some undeserved defense of DL, some deserved love for Gonzo, and a bit of revelation of DL's new "plan".

Littlefield's plan, as described a couple days ago in the paper, is this: Acquire a reliable pitcher that another team might not want because of his salary. That way, the Pirates get their piece without giving up a key piece in a trade and, in all likelihood, get someone who has only another year or two on his contract.
The immediate juxtaposition of the words "Littlefield's" and "plan" are impossible for my brain to comprehend: "Littlefield's plll...? Littlefield's plaaa...? Hmmm. Typo? Aha! DL had a custard dessert - Littlefield's flan."


Turns out it's Yoslan Herrera, not Yuslan, and he's expected to sign a three-year contract early next week. Yoslan is supposedly only 25, so if he can shake off the rust and is the real deal, this could turn out to be a nice acquisition for the Bucs.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Dejan reviews LaRochegate, claims Casey Kotchman could still be a possibility, and mentions Jon Lieber as a candidate for the veteran RH starter. There's also an audio link for an interview with DK about the winter meetings that begins with DK being asked how things went for the Bucs, what moves they made, or didn't make, and his assessment. To which DK chuckles and says "well, the moves that they made ... that would be zero." End of audio feed. Is this a technical glitch on the PG's mp3 link, or is this some kind of a cruel joke? (Update, Sat. 2 AM: mp3 link fixed, interview longer but just reiterates what's in the story.)

In other news, Yuslan Herrera is scheduled for his physical today, and could sign right afterwards. Does anyone know why this guy hasn't pitched in years?

223 yards!

Congratulations to Fast Willie Parker and his 223 yards, breaking Frenchy Fuqua's 1970 single-game rushing record. Perhaps Joey Porter, who shattered the single-game trash-talking record set by himself a few weeks ago, said it best: "Willie was out there running like his hair was on fire." All hail Willie!

... [Rowdy] Good things happen when you call 52 runs and 21 passes (71% run). That's how we roll.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NFL week 14: Browns at Steelers

Game on.

... it's December, it's about 15 degrees outside, and this Steeler team comes out. They run the ball twice for six yards, then attempt to pass five times in a row and punt. One of the balls, duh, is right on the money but clunks off the tight end. This is not a dome. Why are they passing the ball when it's 15 degrees and they are playing the Browns at home in December? Bad omen, I think.

If it was Coach Rowdy we'd be running the ball 70% of the time in this weather. It would be forecast: Pain for the Brownies.

... 51-yard touchdown to Nate Washington: despite what I just wrote, that play would be in the Coach Rowdy playbook. But I'd run the ball eight times in a row first.

Sometimes someone makes something up

Dejan passes along a typically informationless quote from a flustered DL:

"It's absolute fabrication," Littlefield said this morning of Atlanta's charge. "You just learn that rumors come from a variety of things. I know what we do for business. In regard to specifics of what other people do, I'm well aware from dealing with them what they do. Sometimes, things come up where people . . . someone's making something up."
Sounds to me like DL got punked.

Pirates make Rule 5 pick, trade for cash

Dejan reports:

The Pirates made a selection with the fourth pick of Major League Baseball's Rule 5 draft this morning, right-handed starter Sean White, but they immediately traded it to the Seattle Mariners for cash in an arranged deal.
DeCaster released to make room. This should pay for DL's plane ticket to the winter meetings.

Perrotto's version

The Beaver County Times' John Perrotto's version of the LaRoche non-trade seems consistent with young Travis Haney's:

However, when the Braves insisted on left-handed starting pitcher Paul Maholm as part of any deal, the Pirates balked at packaging him and second baseman Jose Castillo.
John also reports that today's proposal mentioned in the Trib (that DL is supposedly waiting on) has already been shot down:
The Braves turned down the Pirates' offer of Castillo and left-handed reliever John Grabow because it had a need for a left-handed starter after agreeing to a trade that would have sent Horacio Ramirez to Seattle for reliever Rafael Soriano.
Perrotto goes on to contradict Dejan again by saying efforts will now turn to Ryan Church, who could be had for "a young reliever who is ready to pitch in the major leagues and the Pirates have a surplus of pitchers who fit that description, including Freedom's Josh Sharpless, Jonah Bayliss, Brian Rogers and Jesse Chavez." I'd think Church would be worth more than one of those guys. The rest of Perrotto's story is not for the faint of heart, as it mentions both Trot Nixon and The Stepson.

Yet another version

The Trib's Rob Biertempfel has yet another version of what went down:

Littlefield is playing a waiting game, hoping to land slugger Adam LaRoche...

The Pirates are believed to have offered the Atlanta Braves left-handed reliever John Grabow and second baseman Jose Castillo for LaRoche, a lefty-hitting first baseman.

The Braves crave Pirates reliever Mike Gonzalez, and would deal LaRoche straight-up for him. However, Littlefield is hoping he can acquire a power bat without disrupting his starting rotation ... or losing a closer.

The PG's Dejan Kovacevic sees things differently:
There is virtually no chance of resuscitating a deal for LaRoche. For one, the Braves filled their relief need and are not interested in any other available Pirates, as evidenced by no other players having come up in the talks.
Who to believe? The Trib's story runs counter to Dejan's and Ed Eagle's accounts of the Gonzo-for-LaRoche deal having been all but finalized until the mysterious final hour collapse. Why would the two mouthpieces of the Bucs (Ed and Rob) be running completely contradictory stories? Because confusing the fanbase defuses its blind rage? Who knows, but the Trib story, being the most recent and conflicting with nearly all other previous reports, seems the most suspicious to me. Dejan is probably right in that we'll never know what really happened. Anyway, so what now? Dejan rubs salt in that wound:
... another of the Pirates' potential targets, Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Church, is no longer in their sights, a source said.
Rowdy's prediction of nothing happening is looking like a good bet.

Another version

A little of the Google suggests that Travis Haney is a twentysomething recent college grad who covers the Braves for a news service you've never heard about. So this might well be a fairy tale, but it is worth considering:

Once Soriano looked like more of a possibility, and then a virtual lock, the Braves cooled their interest for Pittsburgh closer Mike Gonzalez.

They then began to focus on Maholm, saying they wouldn’t deal LaRoche without him. Littlefield balked, though, because of his desire to maintain the young pitching nucleus of Maholm, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell.

Maholm went 8-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 30 starts this past season, his first full year in the majors.

Castillo was intriguing to Atlanta as a cheaper option at second than Marcus Giles, whose $5-plus million salary the Braves are trying to unload.

This strikes me as believable. Trading from a position of strength (relief pitching) for a position of weakness (first base) makes a ton of sense for the Pirates. I'm not so sure, however, that LaRoche would be worth Maholm and Castillo--mainly because I'd expect that Maholm might command more elsewhere.

If LaRoche is your man, however, then I think you have to agree to those terms. It would be a dirty trick to thus bait and switch the Pirates, who are under so much pressure to do something right and must want to emerge from the meetings with something accomplished. But you have to anticipate the dirty trick when you are working in this kind of competitive environment. So my sympathy is not necessarily forgiving. I will be looking to see if Dejan Kovacevic can confirm or refute young Haney's report.

He said, she said

Dejan Kovacevic provides some clues to the mystery of the dead deal.

... In the Q & A Kovacevic relates some more facts about how the deal did not go down. It sounds like the Braves screwed Littlefield. This is one of the many downsides to Littlefield having the reputation that he has ... it's always convenient to blame him. And it's not hard to be the guy who disappoints the loser. It reads to me like DL and the Pirates sincerely thought they had the deal done. It must be tough, especially on top of all that bad food they eat while they sit around in hotel rooms sixteen hours a day.

The Q & A also reports that Jason Bay's first child was just born. All hail the little kid! And all hail the mother too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rule Five draft tomorrow

Maybe a half-dozen players will be taken--how many will be Pirates?

Gonzo deal dead

I blogged too soon. Dejan Kovacevic reports that deal is dead. The Braves lost patience with Littlefield and will look elsewhere for that cheap bullpen upgrade.

No surprises.

The Braves and Mike Gonzalez

Dave O'Brien reports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Gonzo-LaRoche trade is "still very much alive." He explains that the Braves have so much payroll going to seven players, they must make trades like this to improve their bullpen--they cannot afford to sign free-agent stud relievers.

I’m told the Braves are just waiting for some information on the hard-throwing left-hander’s elbow, and if they’re satisfied a deal could go down soon after.

Gonzalez missed the last month of the season after having an arthrogram on his sore elbow in September, a procedure that involves injecting dye into the joint to get a clear view that reveals any tissue damage. The Pirates gave him a clean bill of health and Gonzalez said he’s been throwing without any soreness since the last week of the season, when he had several full-on bullpen sessions.

Again, I’ll add that something could happen at any time with this or other deals.

I'll believe it when I see it, of course.

Gonzo's health a "red flag"

Dejan Kovacevic reports the Braves are holding up a trade for our closer over concerns about his health.

Thank you, KPatrick, for the heads-up.

Gonzalez for LaRoche?

Finally, some encouraging news from the winter meetings. Dejan reports that the Adam LaRoche-for-Mike Gonzalez deal is still possible, and that rather than DL refusing to part with Gonzo as rumored, Schuerholz wants to wait and collect more offers for LaRoche.

I like Adam and hope DL can pull this off. Adam, 27, is the brother of Andy and son of Dave. Dave threw an eephus pitch called "La Lob", which he once used to strike out Gorman Thomas, who promptly returned to the dugout to smoke a cigarette. Anyway, Adam, who slugged just .447 for his minor league career, outperformed his projections last year, finishing at .285/.354/.561 with 32 jacks. In August, BP had a nice long profile on LaRoche, concluding that he could escape the Steve Cox, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Travis Lee comparisons. Adam hits RH much better than LH (.950/.797 OPS vs. R/L for 2006), which would complement Nady (.736/.969) and Bautista (.679/.944), neither of whom hit RH much.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The Pirates will make no trades or free agent signings that could be described as aggressive, bold, or daring. No rumor involving a starter or the closer will come true.

Trot Nixon = Lefty McRump?

Dejan interrupts our Loney/Kotchman dream sequence with the news that DL is pursuing Trot Nixon:

It is something of a surprise, as Nixon, 32, hardly fits the Pirates' stated goal of finding a young, left-handed power bat...

The Pirates' discussions with Nixon could be taken as a sign that they are seeking a fallback if they fail to acquire a young bat such as Atlanta Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche, the name most often linked with the Pirates in the lobby yesterday...

It is possible, too, that the Pirates' eye on Nixon is a sign that they are entertaining platoon options.

How else to explain the word circulating that they were bidding for free-agent first baseman Kevin Millar before the Baltimore Orioles signed him over the weekend for one year at $2.75 million? Millar is neither young, at age 35, nor left-handed.

Sigh. Millar is safely employed with another team now, so at the risk of cerebral hemorrhage, I'm letting that go for now.

Nixon? Ugh. Nixon made $7.5 million last year, but according to Dejan, "The view from Boston: Interest in Nixon is thin, and his salary could dip." For good reason. In 2003, Trot raked in a monster career year (.306/.396/.578). It's been downhill ever since. Over the past two years, Trot has put up lines of .268/.373/.394 in 381 ABs (2006) and .275/.357/.446 in 408 ABs (2005). Since 2004, Trot has been ravaged by injuries, going on the DL six times with serious injuries including: herniated disc, strained quad, torn quad, oblique strain, sprained groin, and strained biceps. On top of that, he had knee surgery in Oct. '05. For his career, Trot is notoriously useless against LHP. Against RHP, Trot is .292/.379/.513. Against LHP, Trot turns into Abe Nunez: .213/.309/.325 for Trot, .243/.313/.318 for Noonie. Against RHP and if healthy, Trot would likely be the second best hitter on the Bucs. But overall, is a 32 year old injury-prone platoon RF part of a "plan"? Would Trot be Lefty McThump or Lefty McRump?

Bucs (not) in Latin America

Angry Q+A today, largely over Sully's Dominican academy going to the Braves, with no interest from DL and the Bucs. Dejan blames the franchise's failure on the Latin American vacuum:

I have said it before and will repeat it here: There is no single greater factor in the franchise's downfall -- not payroll, not poor trades or signings or drafting -- than the almost total vacuum of Latin American prospects over the past eight years.
I find it hard to blame DL for a failure to commit to Latin America. If the owners aren't encouraging him to do so (which they're clearly not), why should DL give a damn about signing 16-year-old Dominicans, when he's only under contract through next year, and will very likely be long gone once any signed prospects reach the majors? DL has more pressing things to worry about than the long-term future of the Bucs, like finding another job.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Where they are at, the Pirates are not interested in acquiring one of the better players ever to play the game

Asked if Barry Bonds might return to Pittsburgh to break Hank Aaron's record, Littlefield said (and John Perrotto reports):

“There are players out there who probably fit what we’re doing better than Barry,” Littlefield said. “Certainly, he’s one of the better players ever to play the game, but with where we’re at right now there are other players out there who interest us more.”

While I know what he means - I think - Littlefield's choice of words is, as usual, unfortunate.

If Barry didn't have all this cheating stuff hanging over his head, and if Barry wasn't loathed by so many in the Pittsburgh area, and if Barry's days in town were remembered for more than that lame throw which could not beat the speedy Sid Bream -- then I'd think he'd be a good addition for whatever he commands in a one-year deal.

Winter meetings: Day One

Day one of the winter meetings is over and not much happened, Dejan reports in today's chat. Yesterday, Dejan mentioned Loney, Church, and Kotchman as possible Lefty McThumps. Church is 28, but any one of those three would obviously be a huge upgrade. The biggest rumor of the day is that the Bucs have asked about Adam LaRoche but are unwilling to part with Mike Gonzalez in return. Maybe DL wants to hold off to see if Gonzo together with a starter or two could fetch someone like Loney or Kotchman.

Pirates Roundtable #1

Cory at A New Pirates Generation has organized a new collective Pirates blogging project, the Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable. The first installment launched today, in which 14 Bucco bloggers/fans all answer the same three questions. It's long, but well worth the read (except for the next-to-last idiot), so check it out. Thanks to Cory for inviting us to contribute and for all the work to put this together. All hail the Roundtable!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

NFL week 13: Bucs at Steelers

The 4-7 Steelers battle the mighty 3-8 Tampa Bay team at four-fifteen.

$61.5 million

Dejan does the math:

"... the Pirates will make a minimum of $61.5 million this year before a single ticket is sold for PNC Park."
Ouch. His point is we could afford Suppan, and should try to sign him. Also at the PG, Gene Collier hates on Kip, mocks Walt Jocketty, and calls the pursuit of Suppan "one of the better litmus tests of ownership interest to come along in years".

Dealing with the Pirates

The Trib's Rob Biertempfel interviews's baseball analyst Keith Law, who has some not-so-nice things to say:

"You can't fix this kind of team at the winter meetings. There are teams you can really help if you're aggressive in the market, at the winter meetings. The Pirates aren't that kind of team.

I don't think this is going to be a $100 million team anytime soon. So, if they're going to succeed, they have to build from within. That involves drafting well -- not something they've done -- developing well, which they've been awful at; and acquiring younger, less expensive talent in trades where you move a veteran. And that's not something they've really done, either.

If you talk to enough executives from other clubs, you'll hear a consistent theme that dealing with the Pirates is not easy, in terms of just executing a trade," Law said. "It's tough. They ask for a lot for their players, and it's tough to get them to commit to a deal."

All stuff we knew already, but strange to read this in the Trib.