Division Series - Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

Top-of-the-order struggles doom Pirates in NLDS

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It was the bats that failed the Pirates in the end. Starling Marte finished the NLDS 1-for-19 with one walk and a hit by pitch from the leadoff spot. Neil Walker, right behind him batting second, was 0-for-19 with two walks.

It’s tough to generate much offense when your top two hitters reach base a total of five times in five games.

Batting third, likely NL MVP Andrew McCutchen was 5-for-17 in the NLDS, but he never drove in a run. He hardly the chance. Justin Morneau also had five hits without an RBI. The Pirates’ fifth, sixth and seventh hitters did the damage, with Marlon Byrd, Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin combining to drive in 13 of the Pirates’ 15 runs in the series.

There’s not really a whole lot the Pirates can take from this. The top two spots in the order weren’t problem areas this year. Despite his lousy walk rate, Marte had a .336 OBP while batting first and was 39-for-51 stealing bases, helping him scored 83 runs in 124 games.

Walker, ideally, is probably more of a No. 6 hitter, but his .256/.330/.477 line batting second is still a big improvement over the NL’s .262/.318/.392 line as a whole.

The Pirates will have to decide this winter whether to re-sign Morneau, Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes or at least similar veteran facsimiles. They have Jose Tabata as a fallback right fielder, and he very quietly hit .282/.342/.429 in his 308 at-bats this year. They also have Jordy Mercer as a candidate to take over at shortstop. First base is the bigger problem area, and unless they want to shift Alvarez across the diamond (which doesn’t seem at all likely), they should add a free agent there, preferably one better than Morneau. Garrett Jones should be non-tendered.

The rest of the lineup will be back. McCutchen is under control through 2018. Walker and Alvarez are candidates for long-term deals. The Pirates should have plenty of flexibility this winter, what with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Barmes and Jones coming off the books and a likely attendance boost on the way in 2014. There’s no reason they can’t add a big free agent to their already potent mix.

Nationals acquire Adam Eaton from White Sox for three top prospects

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 02: Adam Eaton #1 of the Chicago White Sox hits an RBI double against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of the game on September 2, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The White Sox defeated the Twins 11-4. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
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Update (5:04 PM EST): The White Sox will receive pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning from the Nationals, per Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. MLB Pipeline rated them No. 1, 3, and 6 in the Nationals’ minor league system.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals are close to acquiring outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox. He notes that outfielder Victor Robles, the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not included in the deal.

Eaton, 28, is signed to a very team-friendly contract. He’ll earn $4 million in 2017, $6 million in ’18, and $8.4 million in ’19. His controlling team then has a club option worth $9.5 million in 2020 with a $1.5 million buyout and a $10.5 million club option in ’21 with a $1.5 million buyout.

This past season, Eaton was worth 3.9 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference after playing significantly above-average defense while batting .284/.362/.428 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 706 plate appearances.

If the deal goes through, the Nationals would move Trea Turner from center field to shortstop. Meanwhile, the White Sox continue their teardown after trading Chris Sale to the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Marlins sign A.J. Ellis to a one-year, $2.5 million deal

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28:  A.J. Ellis #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after the final out of a game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on August 28, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Marlins have signed veteran catcher A.J. Ellis to a one-year, $2.5 million deal.

Ellis, 35, began the 2016 season with the Dodgers but went to the Phillies in the Carlos Ruiz trade near the end of August. Overall, he hit .216/.301/.298 in 196 plate appearances.

Ellis will back up J.T. Realmuto behind the dish.