With Monday’s MLB Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, the Pittsburgh Pirates are starting the wheeling and dealing early. Wednesday, the Pirates acquired two pitchers and a third baseman and have reportedly made a substantial offer on a big-name free agent.
The Bucs acquired RHP Zach Stewart, 26, from the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later. Stewart, once a highly touted prospect, was traded in June to the Red Sox from Chicago in the Kevin Youkilis deal. Last week, he was designated for assignment to clear space on the Red Sox 40-man roster, which opened up the opportunity for the team to trade him within 10 days.
Last year with Triple-A Pawtucket, Stewart went 3-5 with 3.94 ERA in 11 starts.
The Pirates also acquired RHP Vin Mazzaro and 1B Clint Robinson from the Kansas City Royals for minor league pitchers Luis Rico and Luis Santos.
Mazzaro, 26, was 4-3 last season with a 5.73 ERA in six games started (18 appearances) with the Royals. He also spent time as a reliever. In his major league career, Mazzaro has posted a 15-21 record and a 5.22 ERA.
Robinson, 27, is the oldest player in the deal and even made his major league debut last June against the Pirates at PNC Park, striking out in his only plate appearance. On the year, Robinson only amassed four plate appearances and finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. In 131 games with Triple-A Omaha, he hit .292 with 13 home runs, 67 RBI and a .393 OBP.
Like Stewart, Mazzaro and Robinson were also designated for assignment prior to the deal.
Rico, an 18-year-old left-hander who pitched in the Dominican Summer League this summer, has compiled a 1-2 record with a 5.29 ERA in 20 appearances as a professional. Santos, a 21-year-old right hander who also pitched in the Dominican Summer League this summer, has amassed an 8-4 record with a 2.51 ERA in 24 career appearances.
To clear space on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated for assignment infielders Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro.
But scraping the bottom of the bargain bin hasn’t been the only tactic general manager Neil Huntington has practiced so far.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Pirates have also offered a three-year deal to New York Yankees free agent catcher Russell Martin, in the ballpark of $25 million.
With Michael McKenry the only legitimate option on the 40-man roster to slot into the catching position of the lineup, the Pirates do need a backstop. At a price of nearly $8 million per year, Martin would fit under the category of a major acquisition.
In 133 games as the Yankees starting catcher, Martin hit .211/.311/.403 with 21 home runs and 53 RBI. More importantly, Martin threw out runners at a 24 percent clip, just one percent behind the American League average. Compare that to Rod Barajas (six percent) and Michael McKenry (18 percent) and there is a substantial upgrade considering Martin maintained that average over a longer period of time.
In 2007, Martin did win a Gold Glove, but his defensive abilities have dropped off a bit over time.
As the Winter Meetings approach, the credibility with which the Pirates’ front office has will be seen through the transactions that are made, or not made.