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Pirates Purchase Sellers from Indians, DFA Gomez and Axford

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Mitchell Layton

The Pirates made several moves involving the bottom end of their roster this morning, acquiring infielder Justin Sellers from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations and designating relievers Jeanmar Gomez and John Axford for assignment. They also activated starter Charlie Morton from the 60-day disabled list.

Sellers is a right-handed batter with experience at second, short, and third, and he has spent parts of the last four seasons in the major leagues - the first three with the Dodgers, and the last with the Indians. His offensive production is fairly weak, as he's hit only .198/.290/.294 in 287 ML PA. At first glance, his career AAA batting line of .276/.348/.441 looks a bit better, but it was inflated by the time he spent at Albuquerque, a strong hitters' park. As a side note, he's the son of former Red Sox pitcher Jeff Sellers, who seemed to show up in every pack of baseball cards I bought as a second-grader.

Sellers is still in his pre-arbitration years, and for that reason will be fairly cheap next year, but he's out of options, and as such he would need to make the 25-man roster out of spring training or pass through waivers. He's likely being brought to camp to compete for a role as a utility infielder, though to be honest I would prefer if the team found a stronger candidate to fill that role. Given the low cost of acquisition, it's possible that he could be cut loose if a better opportunity presents itself.

Gomez and Axford were substantial contributors to last year's bullpen, but both were due to be eligible for arbitration next season, and the higher salaries they would have received through that process can likely be spent on other players who would be of a greater benefit to the team. Charlie had predicted a few days ago that both would be non-tendered; as it happened, the Pirates decided to use their roster spots on other players before events even reached that point.

Morton is in rehab after undergoing hip surgery, and is also still recovering from the hernia that ended his season, but players on the 60-day DL need to be removed from it in advance of the Rule 5 draft, so his activation in this case is likely just a procedural move.

Edit: It looks like Sellers has one option left. He was optioned to AAA in each of 2012, 2013, and 2014, but in the first of those three years he was recalled after fewer than 20 days, and when he was sent back down later in the year it was a rehab assignment, not an optional one. Having an option left gives him a lot more value to the Pirates, since it allows the team to carry him on the 40-man roster purely as a depth player and stash him at AAA in case of an injury to a middle infielder on the 25-man roster, rather than needing to clear a 40-man roster spot for a short-term replacement.