Bucs trim 39 from Minor League rosters

June 10th, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- Last week, general manager Ben Cherington said the Pirates expected to release some players from their Minor League system. The cuts came Wednesday.

Right-hander Luis Escobar, a 2017 Futures Game participant who made his Major League debut last year, was the most notable name -- but not the only familiar one -- among the 39 players released by the club.

The Pirates also released outfielder Juan Pie, who signed for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017; right-hander Yordi Rosario, their return for starter Iván Nova in December '18; outfielder Conner Uselton, the 72nd overall pick in the 2017 Draft; and recent Minor League free-agent signees Jake Elmore and Charlie Tilson.

In a normal season, the Pirates would have released a group of Minor Leaguers at the end of Spring Training before making another round of cuts around this time of year, when extended spring camp typically ends and the MLB Draft takes place. This year, with Spring Training suspended and the Minor League season in question, the Pirates waited until the first day of the Draft to make those moves.

Pittsburgh decided to pay its Minor League players through at least June and held off for some time before trimming its relatively large organizational roster of more than 300 players.

“We’ve wanted to be as thoughtful as we can, especially with a new GM and trying to learn as much as I can about the player group that we have,” Cherington said last week. “Our feeling, and I think the feeling of other teams, has been that if we truly cannot see opportunity next year for a Minor League player, we are not necessarily helping them by extending the relationship, if it’s that clear.”

These players will be paid and receive benefits through June. Still, there were some surprises among the group released.

The 24-year-old Escobar, once one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, briefly appeared in the Majors last season and seemed like a bullpen depth option heading into this year despite his erratic command. He was removed from the 40-man roster in November, however, and was seemingly surpassed by young relievers like Nick Burdi, Geoff Hartlieb, Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears.

The Pirates signed Pie for $500,000 in 2017, and the left-handed-hitting outfielder started his career by putting together an .803 OPS in the Dominican Summer League in 2018. He struggled last season in the Gulf Coast League, hitting just .231 with a .661 OPS, but he was only 18 years old. The Pirates also released outfielder Jean Eusebio, a similarly high-priced international signing who hit .212 over parts of three seasons in the low Minors.

While the Pirates were primarily shedding Nova’s salary when they traded him to the White Sox in December 2018, they also spoke highly of the return they received: Rosario. He put together a 2.87 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings for Rookie-level Bristol last season. Pittsburgh also released right-hander Pedro Vasquez, a 24-year-old who reached Triple-A last season and one of two pitchers it acquired from the Mariners for Arquimedes Caminero in August 2016.

Uselton, 22, hasn’t played in the Minors since slashing .225/.280/.250 over 43 games for Rookie-level Bristol in 2018. The Pirates signed the outfielder for $900,000 after selecting him in the second round of the 2017 Draft.

The Pirates brought Elmore and Tilson to Major League camp this spring to provide experienced depth in Triple-A. The versatile Elmore, 32, hit .213 in 20 games for the Pirates last season. Tilson, a 27-year-old outfielder, hit .229 in 54 games for the White Sox last year.

Here is a full list of the Minor League players released by the Pirates on Wednesday.

RHP Andres Arrieta
INF Edgar Barrios
RHP Willy Basil
RHP C.J. Dandeneau
RHP Saul De La Cruz
RHP Lizardy Dicent
RHP Matt Eardensohn
RHP Nicholas Economos
INF/OF Jake Elmore
RHP Luis Escobar
OF Jean Eusebio
1B Kaleb Foster
C Ryan Haug
1B/OF Logan Hill
1B Samuel Inoa
INF Sherman Johnson
RHP Orsen Josephina
LHP Sean Keselica
OF Brett Kinneman
OF Germin Lopez
1B Luke Mangieri
INF Tilsaimy Melfor
LHP Raul Mora
INF Kyle Mottice
RHP Jordy Ortega
OF Juan Pie
RHP Eddison Polonia
INF Brett Pope
INF Eduar Ramirez
LHP Braham Rosario
RHP Yordi Rosario
RHP Daniel Ross
RHP Enrique Santana
INF Bladimir Susana
1B/OF Lucas Tancas
OF Charlie Tilson
INF Mitchell Tolman
OF Conner Uselton
RHP Pedro Vasquez