The Pittsburgh Pirates announced ten minor league free agent signings. The following six players will receive an invitation to Spring Training.
RHP Collin Balester
LHP Jeremy Bleich
RHP Deolis Guerra
RHP Brad Lincoln
INF Gustavo Nunez
RHP Blake Wood
We heard about Lincoln today, and Balester has been known for a while. He spent the 2014 season rehabbing in the Pirates’ farm system. He’s had some time in the majors, putting up a 5.30 ERA in 185 innings over parts of five seasons. His best year was in 2010, when he had a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings with the Nationals.
Deolis Guerra hasn’t pitched in the majors yet, and has spent nine seasons in the minors. He has a career 5.02 ERA in 134.1 innings in Triple-A, with an 8.6 K/9 and a 3.1 BB/9. He’s most known as one of the top prospects in the Johan Santana trade that the Minnesota Twins made with the New York Mets. He’s had inconsistent velocity the last few years, with some reports putting him at 92-94 MPH in the bullpen, and other reports having him in the upper 80s. All of the reports I read on him say that he has a good changeup, with some grading it a plus offering.
Blake Wood has spent parts of four seasons in the majors, putting up a 4.39 ERA in 127 innings, with a 7.2 K/9 and a 4.5 BB/9. His best season was in 2011, when he had a 3.75 ERA in 69.2 innings with the Royals, along with an 8.0 K/9 and a 4.1 BB/9. He had Tommy John surgery the following year, and struggled a bit in 2013 after returning from his surgery. By the end of the 2013 season, he was hitting 97-98 MPH with his fastball. In his very limited time in the majors last year, he averaged 95.6 MPH with his fastball.
The lefty of the group, Jeremy Bleich, is a former first round pick by the Yankees back in 2008. That was the same year the Yankees took Gerrit Cole in the first round. Cole didn’t sign, which made Bleich their highest pick to sign that year. He hasn’t reached the majors, and has a 6.68 ERA in 31 innings in Triple-A, which all came in 2014. He spent most of the 2014 season in Double-A, putting up good results, which come with the disclaimer that he has spent plenty of time at the level before, and was 27-years-old. He’s not a hard thrower, working in the 87-91 MPH range. I wouldn’t count on him to provide a lot of help in the Pirates’ search for a second lefty.
Gustavo Nunez might be a familiar name to you, and that’s because he was selected by the Pirates in the 2011 Rule 5 draft. He’s a strong defensive shortstop, but had an ankle injury when they drafted him. He spent the entire 2012 season rehabbing his ankle, and didn’t make an appearance in the majors. The Pirates had two choices in the off-season. They could either keep him, with his Rule 5 status applying until he played in the majors for 90 days, or try to pass him through waivers, offer him back to Detroit, and try to work out a deal. They chose the latter, and he was claimed off waivers by Arizona, who eventually returned him to Detroit. Nunez might have a decent shot at the MLB roster, due to the fact that the Pirates have a need for a backup middle infielder.
The Pirates also re-signed the following players to minor league deals.
RHP Felipe Gonzalez
RHP Marek Minarik
RHP Tyler Sample
OF Junior Sosa
We’ve known about these four players, so this announcement just makes things official. None of them received invites to Major League Spring Training, and all of them profile as organizational depth.
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.