Diving into the depths: Pittsburgh Pirates

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Paul Maholm
2. Ross Ohlendorf
3. Zach Duke
4. Charlie Morton
5. Kevin Hart
6. Daniel McCutchen
7. Brad Lincoln
8. Donnie Veal
9. Chris Jakubauskas
10. Jeff Karstens
11. Tim Alderson
12. Virgil Vasquez
13. Brian Burres
14. Brian Bass
15. Daniel Moskos
Hart will be the heavy favorite to hold off McCutchen for the last spot, but my guess is that he’ll finish the season in the pen. I see McCutchen as the superior option, and Lincoln, Veal and Alderson could all earn shots as the season progresses.
1. Octavio Dotel
2. Joel Hanrahan
3. Brendan Donnelly
4. Evan Meek
5. D.J. Carrasco
6. Javier Lopez
7. Steven Jackson
8. Jeff Karstens
9. Brian Bass
10. Donnie Veal
11. Vinnie Chulk
12. Jack Taschner
13. Chris Jakubauskas
14. Anthony Claggett
15. Daniel McCutchen
16. Wilfredo Ledezma
17. Brian Burres
18. Justin Thomas
19. Daniel Moskos
20. Ramon Aquero
Yeah, there’s going to be a lot to sort through here. Jose Ascanio, Neal Cotts, Craig Hansen and Tyler Yates will also be in camp with the Pirates, but none of them may be healthy enough to compete for a job in spring training.
Dotel, Donnelly and Carrasco should bring stability to the pen, though it still looks like a pretty weak group. I’m penciling Jackson into the last spot, even though he was recently bumped from the 40-man roster.

1. Ryan Doumit
2. Jason Jaramillo
3. Luke Carlin
4. Hector Gimenez
First base
1. Jeff Clement
2. Garrett Jones
3. Steve Pearce
4. Brian Myrow
Second base
1. Akinori Iwamura
2. Delwyn Young
3. Ramon Vazquez
4. Bobby Crosby
5. Andy LaRoche
Third base
1. Andy LaRoche
2. Ramon Vazquez
3. Bobby Crosby
4. Neil Walker
5. Pedro Alvarez
1. Ronny Cedeno
2. Bobby Crosby
3. Ramon Vazquez
4. Argenis Diaz
Barring the late addition of Hank Blalock or another first baseman, it appears as though a starting job is Clement’s to lose. If he struggles in spring training, then the Pirates could go to Jones at first base and Ryan Church in right field.
LaRoche is listed on the second base depth chart since there’s been some talk of moving him there once Alvarez is ready. I don’t think it will happen, but it’s possible the Pirates will make the switch come August.
Left field
1. Lastings Milledge
2. Ryan Church
3. Delwyn Young
4. Brandon Moss
5. John Raynor
6. Brandon Jones
7. Jonathan Van Every
Center field
1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Jonathan Van Every
3. John Raynor
4. Lastings Milledge
5. Ryan Church
Right field
1. Garrett Jones
2. Ryan Church
3. Brandon Moss
4. Delwyn Young
5. Brandon Jones
6. Jonathan Van Every
With Church, Vazquez, Crosby and Jaramillo penciled into bench spots, there are just two openings on the Pirates, one of which will go to Clement unless he throws it away this spring. The other should go to an outfielder from the group of Young, Moss, Raynor, Jones and Van Every. Van Every’s chances would be helped a bunch if the Pirates don’t look at either Milledge or Church as a legitimate backup center fielder. Still, Young is probably the favorite.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.


MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.