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Pirates targeting Niemann, inquire about Hammel
The Pirates continue to “kick the tires” on Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann. They are currently waiting for the asking price to drop. The Rays are asking for an infield prospect along with prospect Robbie Grossman. The Pirates have no interest in moving Grossman. The Rays are looking at Pirates prospects from the Double-A level down.
The Pirates have had significant interest in Niemann since last summer’s trade deadline when the Rays offered Niemann and a lower tier prospect for Jason Bay.
The 6-foot-9 Niemann went 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA in five games, two starts last season. Niemann, 26, was the Rays‚Äô first-round pick in the 2004, the fourth overall selection, and he is currently out of options. The Pirates had a scout in attendance for Niemann’s minor league start on Monday. Niemann tossed six scoreless innings.
The Pirates have also inquired about Rays pitcher Jason Hammel but Niemann is their primary target right now. Brewers, Padres, Indians, Rockies, are among six or seven teams in on Niemann and Hammel.
Pirates in pursuit of adding an infielder
Pittsburgh is currently eyeing three infielders as the team is hopeful to add a second right-handed hitting reserve infielder before Monday.
The Pirates are currently in talks with

the Colorado Rockies about Jeff Baker.
Baker can play first base, second base, third base and the corner outfield positions. Baker, 27, hit .268 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs in 104 games last season and is another player without options.
The Astros, Marlins, Phillies and RedSox have also been in on Baker but according to reports, the Rockies have yet to receive an enticing offer.
The second player at the top of the Pirates wishlist is Marlins infielder Robert Andino. John Perrotto reports, “Pirates first base coach Perry Hill is a big fan of Andino‚Äôs from his days coaching with the Marlins.”
Andino, 24, hit 13 home runs in 142 games at the Class AAA level in 2007 but has hit just .201 with two home runs in 12 RBIs in 79 major-league games over the last couple seasons. Andino is a strong possibility to be picked up by the Pirates if he hits the waiver wire.
A third infielder that the Pirates have had internal discussions about is Morgan Ensberg who was released from by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. Pirates GM Neil Huntington expressed an interest in Ensberg last off-season.
If Sean Burnett doesn’t make the Pirates roster, there will be interest in him with the Marlins, Tigers expected to make a play for him.
Quick Hits
The Pirates are not off to a good start with their fanbase after demoting Andrew McCutchen. The fans are not happy and the Pirates always have perfect timing. They demoted one of their top prospects after going 5-for-5 on Sunday. McCutchen is 22 and talent evaluators around the league believe he is MLB ready.
The Pirates were trying to give Brian Bixler away for nothing during the off-season. Now that isn’t the case as he has shown some improvement in spring training. There are mixed opinions on him from the new regime but he is no longer a prospect as Bixler is 26. He earned a roster spot out of camp. Sending him to the minors will do him no good.
The Jose Tabata rumors continue as there’s speculation coming out of New York that he may actually be 22 or 23. Who knows as this stuff always comes up with players from foriegn countries but the Pirates are denying it.
Tabata will begin the season in AA and will make the jump to AAA when Andrew McCutchen joins the Pirates in June or July. Tabata has the arm to play right field but for now he will start the season in center field.
You have to love the comments from veteran players like Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. This spring both have talked about how this is the best Pirates team they have been apart of. We hear the same thing every season from veterans.
Speaking of Wilson, the Pirates have no interest in working out an extension. There seems to be some interest in retaining Sanchez if he can regain his form.
Nate McLouth expects to join the 30 homerun club this season.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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