John Russell on the hot seat? Hell, he may have gotten a contract extension!

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I still stand by all the stuff I said yesterday about Ken Rosenthal’s Pirates report and the art of rumor-mongering in general, but this business with John Russell and the Pirates seems to quickly be turning into a bad example of an otherwise sound theory.

To review:  Ken Rosenthal reported on Tuesday night that John Russell was close to being fired by the Pirates. Team president Frank Coonelly denied it.  That’s where my little essay fits in.  But the story goes on!

Yesterday Rosenthal walked it back a bit, saying that Pirates’ officials still talked about Russell’s fate, but maybe Coonelly wasn’t part of those talks.  Possible, but it certainly means that the likelihood of Russell getting canned was way, way down once it became apparent that the guy who would pull the trigger wasn’t on board, right?

Today is the topper: Rosenthal reports that, not only is Russell not likely to be fired soon, but that it’s possible he has been given a contract extension!  Rosenthal is sticking with his report that those above and below Frank Coonelly still seem to want Russell gone, but if Coonelly is extending him, those sentiments are rather academic, aren’t they? At least for the purposes of running with a “Russell is on the hot seat” kind of report?

Look, I still think that Rosenthal is a good reporter and — for the reasons I said yesterday —  one need not get off a story just because someone in power has denied it.  But at this rate it seems like John Russell is going to own the Pirates before he gets fired by them, so maybe it’s time to excise the “but sources with the team say Russell is toast . . .” part of this article and go on to the next thing.

Reds ink Oliver Perez to a minor-league deal

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The Reds have signed free agent reliever Oliver Perez to a minor-league contract, the team announced Saturday. The deal comes with a major-league invite and could be worth $1.25 million if Perez secures a roster spot this spring, with an additional $500,000 in potential performance bonuses.

Perez, 36, is coming off of a two-year run with the Nationals. He produced a 4.64 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 an d10.6 SO/9 through 50 relief appearances and 33 innings with the club in 2017. The veteran lefty hasn’t kept an ERA under 4.00 in at least four seasons, but he continues to be undeniably solid against left-handed batters, holding them to a .227/.301/.364 batting line over 18 1/3 innings last year.

While returning southpaw Wandy Peralta appears to have locked down a bullpen spot already, Perez will still compete for another role against fellow left-handers Cody Reed and Amir Garrett, both of whom also have experience in the rotation. If Perez doesn’t break camp with the team, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon notes, he’ll be permitted to opt out of his contract. The Reds are currently looking to bounce back from a dismal performance in 2017, one in which their bullpen ranked 28th among major league teams with a collective 5.63 ERA and -1.2 fWAR.