Pirates want more offense, yet shop Doumit

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The Pirates have been mention in connection with a bunch of second-tier free agents this winter, most notably Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel and Hank Blalock. They have money and they need offense, so it’s completely understandable. Yet, at the same time that they’ve keep looking for a first baseman or a right fielder, indications are that they’re trying to move catcher Ryan Doumit.
While most would favor Nate McLouth, Doumit was perhaps the team’s best player in 2008, when he batted .318/.357/.501 and drove in 71 runs in 431 at-bats The performance earned him a three-year, $11.5 million contract last December.
The relationship has soured since then, though. Doumit has always been injury-prone, and the Pirates signed him based on his one relatively healthy season as a major leaguer. He played in just 75 games because of ailments last season, and he lost 140 points off his OPS. He was also quick to express his displeasure when the Pirates traded off McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson and gave up on any chance of competing.
If the Pirates trade Doumit now, they won’t get a whole lot in return. They’ll also likely take quite a hit offensively, though they could make up for some of that by landing a better defensive catcher. What they won’t do is move Jeff Clement back behind the plate. Clement, who has struggled with knee problems, is currently penciled in as the team’s first baseman, but he could be blocked if the club picks up a veteran.
If Clement could catch, a Doumit trade, following by an Ankiel signing, would make plenty of sense. The Pirates could improve offensively and defensively at the same time in such a scenario. But as is, if they trade Doumit, it would likely be to sign someone like Rod Barajas or Ivan Rodriguez to catch. Dioner Navarro might be the best-case scenario. They’re better off taking their chances with Doumit and seeing what Clement can do at first base.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.