Pirates Re-Acquire Duke Welker for Kris Johnson

The Pittsburgh Pirates have re-acquired right-handed pitcher Duke Welker in exchange for left-handed pitcher Kris Johnson, per a team press release. Welker was sent to the Twins after the season as a player to be named later in the deal that brought Justin Morneau to the Pirates. Johnson joined the Pirates in August as a reliever, after putting up some impressive numbers in Triple-A.

The trade works well for both teams. Johnson might have a shot of being a number five starter, or a lefty middle reliever. He was going to be far down the depth chart as a starter, and wouldn’t beat out Tony Watson or Justin Wilson as a reliever. He might have a better shot at making the Twins rotation. Welker is a hard throwing right-hander who hits upper 90s, and could be a late inning relief option in the future, especially with the other trade that sent away Vic Black.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Good trade for Johnson. He’s got a chance of making it to the show.

I have to agree on not throwing away Morris, besides this was his first full year. Ever hear of transition….his odds of getting better with experience probably outweigh him getting worse.



Chris Hale

Why wold you trade a former 1st round power arm that has late game abilities and is a ground ball pitcher who will only get better. He had some rough outings, big deal. You look at the tools he possesses ,you don’t pursue a trade unless you get something very good in return, Morris had better numbers than most veteran relievers. Nah I’m in no hurry to trade that.

Chris Hale

Relievers are so volatile . Heis value is down and will go up when he has a better year this year. I’d trade Mazzaro,Melancon or Grilli before I’d trade Morris….. Morris,Pimentel,Wilson,Watson,Welker could be as solid as it gets. Throw in guys like Cumpton and Irwin as long men you are set


That’s hilarious that you think so highly of Bryan Morris. He struggled big time and the fact that he can’t throw a fastball for strikes is sad. Yea, his slider is nice but he can’t locate and killed the Pirates in crucial situations last year. Who cares where someone is drafted.


Minnesota’s minor league prospects is supposed to rival Pittsburgh’s. Give me a break. If Kris Johnson is going to make that team as a starter or BP guy their upper level pitching prospects can’t be good.


They certainly do rival Pittsburgh’s. They have possibly the best two prospects period (Buxton and Sano) as position players which are a better bet to succeed than pitching prospects. You’re right in that their upper level pitching prospects don’t rival anyone like Taillon, but Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson are pretty solid. Their farm system is probably top 5.

Chris Hale

Definitely top 5. They definitely rival the Pirates system ,though I think the Pirates system is the best in baseball in terms of quality . along with the Pirates the Twins,Astros,Red Sox, and Cubs are all strong farms


Buxton looks great no question. Sano has holes especially on D. I’d put Polanco & Meadows right with them because their both true 5 tool prospects. When you factor in Cole, Taillon, Glasnow & Kingham. That’s why I say they don’t rival. I agree top 5. Top 15 (25 & under) players. Not close. IMO


I love this trade. A 8th or 9th inning guy or a 8th or 9th starter. Slam dunk.


Could this part of a plan to prepare Pimental and/or Wilson for a possible move into the roation?


Sooooooo….. we actually traded Presley and Kris J for one month of Morneau and his WC clinching throw to home?

Well worth it, imho


foo: Ditto. Many are hung up on the stats with the bat and pass over the glovework contribution of Justin Morneau. I still hold out hope they will sign Justin for a year or two. There is really nothing out on the market and this is a solid defensive piece of chemistry who has a lot of upside with the bat.

Last year when Grilli was down and Melancon started throwing grapefruits up to the plate, we noticed an obvious absence and Welker, with his 20 minor league Saves is nice to have in reserve. If he can drop that walk rate, he could be a future 8 or 9.


Tim, do you think this is a move made to trade arbitration eligible Mazarro kind of like Resop last winter?

Stephen Brooks

Actually, that would be the situation with or without Welker – Pimentel has no options remaining, so they’ve got 8 arms for 7 bullpen spots as it is. Someone’s getting dealt, whether it’s Mazzaro, Pimentel, Melancon, etc.


It would make more sense if it was the worst one (Morris)

Stephen Brooks

Tim – Welker has options remaining, right?

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