Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 Hot Stove Live Handbook

The Pittsburgh Pirates are set for one of their most important off-seasons in the Neal Huntington Era. Here is your guide to the club’s 2017 Hot Stove season.

With the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, baseball fans now will enjoy a

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Hot Stove Updates

Here we will be chronicling all Hot Stove updates relevant to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ interests, both Pirates-centric and NL-Central specific as well. 

November 28

11:36 AM EST: Could Jordy Mercer become a non-tender candidate? Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors listed Mercer as a possible non-tender candidate for the Pirates. If Mercer is going to get a bump to over $6 mil through arbitration, it’s something the front office will likely have to consider.

But with Kevin Newman not quite ready yet, the likely scenario is that Mercer is tendered. But the Bucs could always look for cheap stop gaps on the open market as well.

9:07 AM EST- The Pittsburgh Pirates announced that they have released reliever Angel Sanchez. He then signed with Korea’s SK Wyverns for $1.1 mil.

Sanchez made his MLB debut last season and allowed 12 earned runs in 12.1 innings pitched.

His release gives the team two free spots on the 40-man roster after adding LHP Sam Moll yesterday.

9:00 AM ESTJung Ho Kang‘s stint in the Dominican Winter League didn’t go as planned as Kang was released after just 24 games by Aguilas Cibaenas.

Kang hit just  .143/.219/.202 with one homer, two doubles and a 31-to-8 K/BB ratio in 92 plate appearances.

The Pirates should still be active in pursuing infielders on the free agent market as they have to plan on Kang not being around until he actually is. As for the production, one would think Kang would struggle being away from live pitching for a complete year, but the struggles don’t make his situation any better in the short term.

November 27

2:30 PM EST – The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced that they have claimed LHP Sam Moll off of waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Moll is a 2013 third-round pick of the Colorado Rockies, who came to professional baseball after playing for the University of Memphis.

Moll was routinely ranked in the bottom rungs of the Rockies’ Top 30 prospect list according to MLB Pipeline, and was traded to the Athletics last season. He made his major league debut as a September callup for Oakland last season and….did not fare well. He posted a 10.8 ERA/6.31 FIP/2.4 WHIP in 11 games.

In 54.1 Triple-A innings last year, Moll posted a 3.64 FIP while striking out 7.8 hitters per nine. He actually was able to strike out 9.5 per nine in the major leagues last September, so it is possible that the Pittsburgh Pirates view Moll as a buy-low candidate to add some strikeout ability in a bullpen depth role.

9:00 AM EST – All has been quiet on the Pirates’ front, with nary a rumor gaining steam.

By far, the biggest eye-opener — and even this is not a huge surprise — is that the Twins were the first team reported to have come calling on Gerrit Cole‘s availability.

In all reality, the report amounts to nothing more than due diligence on Minnesota’s part. The report raises more questions than answers provided. Should the Pirates actively shop Cole?  Is now the right time to do so?

One thing is clear…with Cole carrying two years of control, the Pirates could drive the trade market for starting pitchers…should they choose to.



  • Of course, the biggest storyline in the National League Central is the Cardinals’ pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton. MLB Trade Rumors has a nice roundup of everything we know about their pursuit so far. If the Cardinals do land Stanton, it would drastically alter the central landscape.
  • On the north side, the Cubs have been named as one of the finalists in the Alex Cobb sweepstakes. Cobb performed well as a mid-rotation type starter last year for the Tampa Bay Rays after missing most of the previous two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Still, the payday Cobb is expected to receive — Fangraphs pegs him at a 4-year/$60 million deal — as a hurler who does not miss many bats is indicative of how highly valued starting pitching is and will always be.
  • In Beertown, all reports to date indicate that the Brewers have put starting pitching at the top of their priority list. That’s not exactly a surprise with their ace Jimmy Nelson expected to miss most of 2018. Their latest flirtation is with Jake Arrieta, who has seen his market fall precipitously from where many thought it would be after his fantastic 2015 season.
  • The Reds are still far from contending, though they are doing the right thing by keeping Joey Votto. Their primary focus right now is making smart trades with the assets they have, most notable Raisel Iglesias

Current Contracts

Below is a list of current, guaranteed contracts on the books for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017. All players listed have a high likelihood of at least spending some amount of time on the club’s 25-man roster at some point in 2018.

Pittsburgh Pirates Contracts Overview

Andrew McCutchen31$14.5MFA
Gregory Polanco26$4.1M$6.1M$8.6M$11.6M$3M [FA-*]$0 [FA-*]
Francisco Cervelli32$10.5M$11.5MFA
Starling Marte29$7.83M$10.33M$2M [FA-*]$0 [FA-*]FA
Josh Harrison30$10.25M$1M [FA-*]$0 [FA-*]FA
Ivan Nova31$9.17M$9.17MFA
Sean Rodriguez33$5.75MFA
David Freese35$4.25M$500k [FA-*]FA
Daniel Hudson31$5.5MFA
Jordy Mercer31Arb-3 (~$6.5M)FA
George Kontos33Arb-2 (~$2.7M)Arb-3FA
Gerrit Cole27Arb-2 (~$7.5M)Arb-3FA
Felipe Rivero26Arb-1 (~$3.1M)Arb-2Arb-3Arb-4FA
Jameson Taillon26Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Adam Frazier26Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
A.J. Schugel29Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Elias Diaz27Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Chad Kuhl25Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Josh Bell25Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Trevor Williams26Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Jose Osuna25Pre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3FA
Tyler Glasnow24Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3Arb-4
Max Moroff25Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Jack Leathersich27Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Johnny Barbato25Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Casey Sadler27Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Steven Brault26Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Jacob Stallings28Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Dovydas Neverauskas25Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Edgar Santana26Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Nik Turley28Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Johnny Hellweg29Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Jordan Luplow24Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Angel Sanchez28Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Gift Ngoepe28Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
Christopher Bostick25Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3
John Bormann25Pre-ArbPre-Arb-2Pre-Arb-3Arb-1Arb-2Arb-3

*Note – the minimum salary for a Major League player sometimes changes from year to year. Last year, the minimum was $507,500. 

Hat/Tip to Baseball Reference for payroll data

Arbitration-Eligible Players

As noted above, the Pittsburgh Pirates carry four notable arbitration eligible players. Here now is a quick snapshot look at each of of their cases. Note: all arb estimates as per MLB Trade Rumors’ Matt Swartz.

Gerrit Cole

Cole enters his second year of arbitration with a $7.5 million estimate. Cole was demonized by the long ball last season, but had solid marks in H/9 (8.8), K/9 (8.7), and total strikeouts (196).

Jordy Mercer

The venerable Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop might actually eclipse his arbitration estimate of $6.5 million based on career high marks in home runs and a near-career mark in OPS. This while providing his trademark steady defense.

George Kontos

Kontos will enter his second year of arbitration, projected to make $2.7 million in the process. Kontos’ primary contribution to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen is his deception.However, the club has made a point to stockpile cheap, easily discard-able high-strikeout bullpen arms in Jack Leathersich and Nik Turley. This could lead to the Pirates’ lone non-tender possibility, should they balk at the projected figure.

Felipe Rivero

Rivero will easily pin down the $3.1 million figure he is projected to earn in arbitration, and he deserves to. If the Pittsburgh Pirates want to get a litlte crazy, they can approach Rivero about a deal throughout his arbitration years to buy a little bit of cost certainty. The club normally would not even flirt with such an idea, but Rivero is a special case as a Super Two player. He will thus receive a fourth arbitration go-round.

Pirates Breakdown will have more in-depth analysis on each arbitration case in the coming weeks.

Free Agents

Here, Pirates Breakdown will link to all of our free-agent target profiles, along with snapshot analysis.

With many positions set and not much wiggle room in terms of payroll, the Pittsburgh Pirates will look to maximize value on any and all free agent signings this winter.

We recently took a look at three bargain infielder options for Pittsburgh, and there are some interesting buy-low cases to be had.

One thing we are more than sure of: Neil Walker is not an answer for Pittsburgh.

The Trade Market

As the trade market develops, Pirates Breakdown will house all of our trade target profiles here, along with snapshot analysis.


Here are the important dates to remember for the Pittsburgh Pirates and all of Major League Baseball.

December 1: Deadline to tender contracts to players on the 40-man roster who find themselves arbitration eligible or have zero to three years of service time.  As noted below, the Pittsburgh Pirates have four arbitration eligible players as well as many players with zero to three years of service time. The non-arbitration contracts are a mere formality, though it is customary for MLB clubs to offer token raises to its under-contract personnel.

December 10 through 14: The yearly Winter Meetings, held in Orlando, Florida.

December 14 – The Rule 5 Draft is held.
“Rule 5” and the Rule  Draft aims to prevent teams from stockpiling too many young players on their minor league affiliate teams when other teams would be willing to have them play in the majors. More: Wikipedia

January 12, 2018: Players and teams may begin exchanging salaries during the arbitration process

February 2018: Arbitration hearings are held throughout the month.

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.