If the Pirates are going to maintain their position near the top of the National League Central standings down the stretch, most would agree that they’ll probably need to make a couple of notable additions before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Well, good news. That hunt for an injection of talent has already begun in Pittsburgh.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the surprising 48-44 Pirates have contacted the Oakland front office about corner outfielder Josh Willingham.
Willingham, an eight-year major league veteran, has posted an unremarkable .247/.322/.439 batting line in 286 plate appearances this season for the A’s. But he hit 16 home runs alongside an .848 OPS in 2010 for the Nationals and slugged 24 dingers in 2009.
The 32-year-old would join a Pirates outfield rotation that’s been without Jose Tabata (quad) since late June and short on consistent production outside of All-Star Andrew McCutchen and a hot start from 25-year-old Alex Presley. Garrett Jones has a .749 OPS.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.