MLB Rumors: Pittsburgh Pirates

When the Pirates re-signed Francisco Liriano and brought back A.J. Burnett, that left little room in the rotation that already featured Gerrit Cole. Charlie Morton appears to be recovered from hip surgery, leaving one spot for grabs.

Kang's initial role in Pittsburgh 

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
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One of the key questions entering spring training for the Pittsburgh Pirates is the status of Korean shortstop Jung Ho Kang, who was signed to a four-year deal worth $11 million.

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Position battle: Pirates No. 5 SP 

February, 20, 2015
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The front of the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation appears to be all set for 2015, with Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano prepared to lead the staff. However, there isn't enough room on the mound for all the team's starters, and that may lead to an intense spring competition.

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Pirates with options for OF? 

February, 15, 2015
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When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles, the move all but assured that Gregory Polanco would be an everyday starter in the outfield, along with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen. However, it also left the doors wide open as to who might end up being the go-to guy on those days when one of the regulars needs a little breather.

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Kang's role in Pittsburgh 

January, 10, 2015
Jan 10
9:39
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The Pirates reportedly are closing in on a deal with Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, but what will his role be in Pittsburgh?

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Would Pirates deal a shortstop? 

December, 22, 2014
12/22/14
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The Pittsburgh Pirates flew under the radar in the pursuit of Jung-Ho Kang, but they were the surprise winners in the bidding bid for the power-hitting Korean shortstop.

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Could Volquez stay in Pittsburgh? 

December, 9, 2014
12/09/14
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The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to bring back a key component of their 2014 rotation, agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal with Francisco Liriano on Tuesday. Could the Bucs end up doing the same with Edinson Volquez?

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Pirates ready to pay SP? 

November, 28, 2014
11/28/14
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are not likely to be among the teams that open up the vault in order to court the higher-priced free agents still on the market, but it doesn't look like this team is going to claim poverty and sit out the offseason either.

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Could Bucs lock up youngsters? 

November, 24, 2014
11/24/14
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The Pittsburgh Pirates were unable to retain free agent catcher Russell Martin, who found $82 million of riches with the Toronto Blue Jays. If nothing else, it does give the Bucs more financial flexibility.

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Could Pirates pursue McCarthy? 

November, 23, 2014
11/23/14
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After officially losing Russell Martin when the free agent signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Pittsburgh Pirates had to change course on their offseason goals in a hurry.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates purchased an insurance policy on their starting rotation Friday, agreeing to a one-year, $8.5 million deal with right-hander A.J. Burnett.

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Pirates focus on rotation 

November, 5, 2014
11/05/14
10:43
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In 2014, the starting rotation of the Pittsburgh Pirates won 55 games for the team, but now the club faces the possibility of losing the pitchers responsible for 36 percent of those victories through free agency.

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NL Central Hot Stove preview, by team 

October, 30, 2014
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The World Series is officially over, which means all 30 major league teams are ready to look ahead to 2015 in hopes that they might be the ones holding the championship trophy next year at this time. Free agency doesn't officially kick in until five days from now, but the rumor mill is already buzzing with potential moves that might help those clubs who were watching on television this year become the center of attention next October.

Our snapshot of each of the six MLB divisions and what teams might have in the works this offseason continues today with a look at the National League Central.


Chicago Cubs

Big decisions: The biggest one -- who will manage this team? -- seems to be out of the way, as it seems the team's hiring of Joe Maddon is inevitable. As ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers notes, "It comes down to this: The Cubs can pay Maddon, have no deep ties to their current manager, who isn't a former player with the club or an up-and-comer such as Brad Ausmus or Matt Williams. The Cubs didn't finish above .500 like Seattle and even Milwaukee. In short, it's an easy decision to make, if it can get done."

Team needs: In terms of player makeup, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune notes, the Cubs are "intent to strike quickly with free-agent players … [and will] seek to add impact pitching as well as catching and a left-handed-hitting outfielder." … Once Maddon is in town, it might not be hard to imagine James Shields being willing to entertain a reunion with his former manager, and as Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, "nobody is hungrier for the kind of reliability, durability and quality that Shields brings than the Cubs."

Early buzz: With a glut of middle infielders to sift through and a ton of prospects on the verge of being ready for the major leagues, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden thinks that the Cubs "not only [have] a lethal group of position players coming to join Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Starlin Castro, but also enough top prospects to make deals for pitchers, such as Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, if they decide to go that route." … Torii Hunter could provide the Cubs with a veteran presence in the clubhouse that would be welcome for what projects to be a very young lineup.


Cincinnati Reds

Big decisions: The Reds have four starting pitchers who are scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season. They're unlikely to sign the entire quartet to extensions, so in order to maximize return, they'll have to decide if they want to deal away Cueto this winter. Picking up his 2015 option doesn't remove that possibility.

Team needs: Offense was a problem for the Reds last season, particularly in left field, which, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, "was the most-shared position on the club" in 2014, with seven players starting there. Fay correctly predicted that Ryan Ludwick's contract would be bought out, leaving the door open for a change, most likely achieved through trade.

Early buzz: Talk that the Boston Red Sox, a team that could use some pitching help, might be looking to deal away Yoenis Cespedes makes it possible that the Reds explore that possibility. … Because of his high salary and the potential to promote either Jesse Winker or Kyle Waldrop, Jay Bruce has been named as a trade possibility. ESPN.com's Mark Simon suggests the New York Mets might be willing to "[buy] low on someone who has two years (with an option) and more than $25 million left on his contract."


Milwaukee Brewers

Big decisions: When it comes to 2015 roster decisions, the most pressing decision is at third base, with Aramis Ramirez and the team holding a mutual 2015 option for $14 million. It could go either way, but the team's recent claim of Luis Jimenez from the Los Angeles Angels certainly was made in order to give the Brewers at least one alternative should things not work out.

Team needs: Assuming Ramirez does return and the Brewers don't need to explore options such as Pablo Sandoval, their primary focus likely will be in the bullpen. Tom Gorzelanny, Francisco Rodriguez and Zach Duke are all headed for free agency. While top-tier options might be in short supply, adding an arm from a tier that includes Chris Perez, Jason Motte and Jim Johnson may end up being the path this team chooses to travel. … With Lyle Overbay looking likely to retire and free agent Mark Reynolds having not quite lived up to expectations in his half of the 2014 platoon at first base, an upgrade in the form of Adam LaRoche or Michael Cuddyer is clearly in order.

Early buzz: Toward the end of the season, there was some discussion that Ryan Braun could potentially be moved to first base in 2015, which would allow Milwaukee to start Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra in the outfield on a regular basis, and also let the team devote free-agent dollars to the pitching staff. If Ramirez does end up getting a big contract to stay, there might not be enough extra cash lying around to prevent that experiment from becoming a necessity.


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Martin to be in high demand? 

October, 26, 2014
10/26/14
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When the list of Gold Glove finalists was released earlier this week, Russell Martin of the Pittsburgh Pirates was one of the three National League catchers honored with a nomination. The accolades only add to the price tag for the free agent to return to Pittsburgh next season -- a decision that has yet to be made.

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Davis on the market again? 

October, 17, 2014
10/17/14
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Last winter, when he was still with the New York Mets, Ike Davis's name came up time and again as a potential trade candidate. It wasn't until mid-April, though, that the Pittsburgh Pirates finally decided to take the first baseman for a test drive and pulled the trigger on a deal.

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