It was a busy Thursday in the offseason for the Pirates.
In the morning, the team announced it will invite Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon to spring training. And, it announced it had signed veteran 1B/OF Brad Hawpe and minor league catcher Lucas May to minor league contracts.
For Cole, it represents a second consecutive appearance at major league camp. And for Taillon, a first. Neither will make the Pirates' opening day roster. Taillon will likely be among the first players sent back to minor league spring training (the goal with him is to get the experience of a major league clubhouse). Cole was among the first cut last year, as he needed to get stretched out for the minor league season. I imagine Cole will stick around a little longer, but he, too, will need more innings and should return to minor league camp.
Next, the team made official Jeff Karstens' one-year contract (Karstens was in Pittsburgh on Thursday for a physical). The deal is worth $2.5 million, plus performance incentives.
General manager Neal Huntington said the team remains engaged with representatives of free-agent left-hander Francisco Liriano. Though it appears with Karstens on board, the Pirates have less incentive to bring Liriano in.
If healthy, Karstens is a great signing at a good price.
Later in the afternoon, we learned the Pirates have eight players, or prospects, who are part of the preliminary World Baseball Classic rosters.
Left-handed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez is on the Dominican Republic roster; pitchers Jameson Taillon and Chris Leroux and catcher Russell Martin are on Team Canada's roster; Jason Grilli will pitch for Italy; infielder Ivan De Jesus will play for Puerto Rico; infield prospect Stefan Welch is on Team Australia's roster, and catching prospect Ali Solis is on Team Mexico's roster.
Since the rosters are preliminary, there could be some changes. But it could be a good opportunity for a pitcher like Taillon to get some experience against quality hitters.
Today is the deadline for teams and arbitration eligible players to exchange figures. The Pirates have four players headed to arbitration, and Huntington said the team would like to avoid arbitration, if possible. But they are prepared to head there if they can't strike a deal.
Last year, the team had hearings with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee. It won its case against Jones and reached a deal with McGehee before an arbitrator could rule.
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