Pirates Sign Catcher Sebastian Valle

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed catcher Sebastian Valle as a minor league free agent. The 24-year-old has spent the last eight seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies system, playing parts of two seasons at AAA. They also announced the signing of catcher Miguel Perez, though he was strictly a coach in 2014 and only played a total of nine games over the 2012-13 seasons, so don’t expect to see him on the field unless they need an emergency catcher at some level next year.

Valle split 2014 between AA and AAA, hitting .238/.262/.346 in 75 games. He was considered a legit prospect at one time. At age 19 in 2010, he hit 16 homers and put up a .728 OPS at Lakewood in the South Atlantic League. Two years later, he hit 17 homers and reached AAA shortly after his 22nd birthday. Over his minor league career, he has thrown out 30% of runners trying to steal. He is athletic behind the plate and has been praised for his pitch framing ability.

Valle is currently playing winter ball in Mexico, where he has a .534 OPS in 20 games.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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here’s the difference in the past few years with his hands.


A nice depth signing with a smidgen of upside


Catching is like pitching, you can never have enough of it. This is a good pickup, reminds me of the Fort only with the ability to hit 2nd base instead of the umpire.

R Edwards

Now, this is the kind of pickup that makes sense – young, still has enough time and potential to possibly turn into something. Has shown that he can be successful with the bat. And, at a premium position.


I’ve seen Sebastian play many times. The Phillies organization lowered his hands a couple years back. He went from having them above his head to below his shoulders. Since then he’s had a huge hitch in his swing. It at times looks like mid swing he would bring his hands up to where they were before the adjustment was made. I think being with this organization will benefit him.


It certainly is a lot easier to bring your hands down on load than raise them. Ike Davis and BJ Upton are two good examples of that in the negative sense. Joey Gallo also had that problem though he has eliminated some of it.


2 years ago Valle was the #14 prospect in the Phillies system according to BA. he was described as having “quick hands and explosive wrists” He has never improved his discipline at the plate and probably won’t but if he can improve his contact rate he has the strength to be a guy that hits 6-7 HR as a good backup catcher. He has 8 years in the minors despite being 24 so while he doesn’t have a ton of upside he is pretty polished and threw out 48% of base stealers last year. Few guys can do that, even in a small sample like he had last year. It was still 60+ games. His throwing numbers last year seem to suggest his fundamentals have caught up with his arm strength leading to excellent results. With a little improvement at the plate he could end up being better than Stewart. But that isn’t a giant leap anyways.


48 % isn’t anything to sneeze at in the high minors !


Since the day this new front office took over I have found it a very exciting and worth while tool , to scoop up abandoned young top prospects from the other organizations.

I am grateful that success hasnt caused that process to lag …


Nice pickup. I think I would like to see Tony Sanchez get some reps at 1B. He could be an option in a platoon with Pedro. Valle is a MLB caliber defensive catcher with some pop and that’s about it at the plate.

Brian Bernard

The more I think about it, the Pirates should make the biggest splash of the off-season. The right player to acquire is the universal top player on the market which is Max Scherzer at 25 mil per year. I’d see a six year $150 mil deal one that the team can handle and it would emphasize the quality and approach of being both effective at reclamations with Liz and yet still putting the best staff up for one of the best in baseball. I also can’t think of a better role model for Gerrit.
NH if you are listening – Go get the best player. The team needs him and puts the Pirates on the map as the favorite in the Central IMO.


I would spend the money on Cole buying out 2 free agent years. 6 years 105 million


You are out of your mind. Lol


“I’d see a six year $150 mil deal ”

Except that is probably about one year and about $35 million too low to actually get him.


Just remember, Schrezer already turned down a 6-year, $144m extension offer from the Tigers.

As I mentioned above, I think you’re looking at closer to 7 years and around $185m to get him. (Which still puts him $30m shy of Kershaw’s contract).

Amazing that he’ll be getting about a million dollars per start! Don’t think that’s really in the Bucs’ range.


Did anyone mention that he is a Boras client?


That would be great but they can’t have one guy accounting for 25% of their payroll. It would make more sense to give someone a 3 yr 3 mil deal and get a solid starter.

Lukas Sutton

Stop thinking is my advice. That signing would very much hurt this team in 3-4 years when Cutch asks for a ton of money, Cole asks for a ton of money, and Polanco is in arb years. Walker would be traded soon as well. Far too much payroll wrapped up in 1 player for a team that will need the entire roster to produce.


Ya know they’re all out lately… Keep finding myself nodding my head at what Lukas is saying…LOL


You may be nodding yours, but I am SMFH at that Scherzer mention. Wow !

Lukas Sutton

Might be time for a CAT scan if you find yourself agreeing with me too often lol dangerous territory.


It’s like election day…. Sometimes you just have to align yourself w the least scary voice.. lol


I like Brian’s suggestion of adding a “universal top” pitcher, as long as the plan is to trade the contract in two years, freeing up money for possibly extending Cutch or Cole.


That works for the Dodgers bc their market allows them to eat the money part of the deal … Ala, the Yankees flip the bill for our ace for 2 years of A.J. … Not a possible business strategy for the Bucs.


The Yankees were willing to eat salary to move AJ because basically AJ stunk up the Bronx when he was there. The Pirates’ coaching staff, and PNC Park, rejuvenated AJ. No way Lester comes to PNC and stinks it up given his history, the advantages of PNC for a LHP, the Pirates pitching coaches, and the various shifts that the Pirates employ. So your analogy to AJ doesn’t really fit. Of course a serious injury to Lester blows up my strategy, but that’s part of baseball.

Lukas Sutton

The idea that a GM should make a move with the plan being to trade him needs to stop, because it seems to assume its relatively easy to trade a player. Not only could the player get hurt and impact his value, but trading any player requires a team with a need/salary space/valuable and proper talent in return. If plan A in acquiring a great pitcher is “we will flip him when we need to” we may get stuck holding the bill with a stomach ache.


It’s also possible that the present value of the last two years of the 4 year contract would be more valuable two years from now compared to the present value today, rather than less valuable. The way that would work is if the market price for #1 starting pitching escalated at a greater than the decay in Lester’s ability as a pitcher. Neither the future market price or Lester’s decline rate is known today, hence the position is risky. But a worse position in two years is by no means assured. Every team always has a need for #1 pitching talent. The market size of teams willing to pay for it may be small, but if Lester has about the same talent level two years from now that he has today an equivalent two year. $25MM/year contract for Lester’s services might be very attractive to maybe half the teams in the league. If the Pirate’s did do a four year contract for Lester’s services they would be wise to purchase an insurance contract to help offset any injury related loss of his services. So I don’t agree with your point of view that acquiring a player with an exit strategy of a trade “needs to stop”. It’s just one tool in the toolbox.

Lukas Sutton

But if its the tool we are assuming we should use first, its a problem. If Plan A,the go to move, is assuming that the market plays out as you said, we are not operating in a way that minimizes risk. You go out and get Lester or Scherzer if you are wanting to have that man on the roster for the majority of the contract, not to flip him in just 2 years. Particularly a small market team that everyone knows cant afford to have that amount f payroll wrapped into one guy. The moment we are floating his name to other teams is the moment other teams arent dumb enough to not realize we have very little bargaining power and are wanting to get rid of his contract. If im another GM and PIT comes and says “Lester is available” i lowball all day everyday knowing they want to get rid of that contract and are likely to do it at a lower value than the man is worth.


I guess we should start by asking what risk we are trying to minimize. I am first of all interested in minimizing the risk that the Pirates could become a perennial playoff team on the strength of their offense, but are unable to win in the Playoffs due to a lack of elite pitching. The impact of elite pitching in the World Series is immense, this year’s SF Giants being the most recent example. It’s actually pathetic that the Giants won. Besides Mad Bum and Posey the Giants have essentially a mediocre team. But Mad Bum won the Series for them. It was a performance that legends are made of. The Pirates have no such horse, and they need one. Second, trading away a multi-year contract to an aging pitcher is a way of minimizing the risk of age related decline of the pitcher’s performance. Passing that risk off to a team like the Dodgers or Yankees that can better afford it is smart. In the Pirate’s case, in two years young pitchers like Cole, Taillon or Glasnow could be better pitchers than Lester or Scherzer and they would be ecstatic to let the higher priced, older pitcher go. But that’s not the situation today. The Pirates have a two year hole at the #1 pitcher position that they need to fill, because their offense will be adequate to win a World Series. Finally, yes, GM’s will act the way you describe, but so what. Say NH is on the phone to the Yankees and they respond as you suggest then NH’s reply is “no problem, thanks for your time, I’m also talking to the Red Sox and Orioles and I am close to doing a deal with them”. At the end of the day, if the pitcher is still valuable, and a major market team is in contention or wants to be, there will be a market for a #1 pitcher. The Pirates only need to “rent” one for two years until their younger pitchers mature, and the path that I have suggested is one way to accomplish that.

Lukas Sutton

Paragraphs are ones friend. All i really have to say is, if the Pirates were to make a signing for a large payroll FA and try to trade him in 2 years, there will be 2 outcomes possible.

1) They trade him, for a return much lower than they wanted due to obvious lack of leverage and the fans FREAK out that they just traded their best SP on a team that is likely to be good enough to hit the playoffs. 2) No team meets the demand NH asks for, they stick with him because they dont want to bend to the offers given and they have to cut a LOT elsewhere. Its a perfect situation to say they sign him, find a trade partner, match value, and agree. So if that is the perfect scenario it leaves a WHOLE LOT of room for negative options that arent worst case scenario. That move has a higher chance of crippling the teams ability to contend long term than it does to work as planned.


There is an old joke that the Golden Rule really is: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” #1 Starting pitchers are baseball gold. If you have one someone else will want to obtain him, and will be willing to pay a price. For the Pirate’s present situation their return from the trade is almost irrelevant as long as it isn’t negative (eat salary), because they will essentially have obtained a #1 for two years, when no worthy #1 signs a two year contract.

Lukas Sutton

Sure, its super easy to trade SP. Which is why it took TB 2-3 years to do it….Also, its pretty boneheaded FO thought to say “well, the return we get really DOESNT MATTER and as long as we give up this all star player, we’ll take really whatever we can.” If this FO signs a pitcher like Lester, flips him in two years and doesnt get adequate market value for him, we failed. 2 years of a quality pitcher is great, but not for market value in FA which is then traded for less than top value via trade.

The idea that the Pirates would have a great deal of leverage in trading a star pitcher in two years is flawed and is not what a well run small market team should do. It very easily can end in David Price territory, where they see no quality deal for 1-2 years and end up either taking a “so-so” deal or having to keep the player. Go get Francisco Liriano for 3 years, its similar stats for far better value.


Lukas you seemed determined not to get the point. Of course NH trades Lester in two years for the maximum return available. The point was that the two years use of Lester at market rates would justify the move given the Pirates’ present need, EVEN IF the return were zero. That doesn’t at all mean that NH would be satisfied with zero return. If by some massive brain fart Lester were willing to sign a two year deal with the Pirates for $25MM/yr that would be a great deal for the Pirates. Why do you refuse to acknowledge the equivalence of that obtained by a sign and trade?

I have always liked Liriano and if they end up with Liriano for 3yrs at $12.5/yr I won’t be displeased. I just think they can do better.

Lukas Sutton

Because a sign and trade is INHERENTLY more difficult than a sign. You equate the two as if they are similar things that can be compared, when in reality a sign and trade is dependent on factors that are outside of PIT control to make successful. If doing better is basing a move on the assumption that they can move Lester, its leaving a ton up to “most likely” like logic. The move is justified only if the are able to trade him for a proper return, since no fan would appreciate them saying “well, we got 2 years of Lester so the return was really insignificant”.


Could this be a precursor to Sanchez spending time at first? Valle makes 3 AAA catchers.


Christian Bale could outhit Sebastian Valle. He is AA/AAA filler strictly unless he has some epiphany with the bat. Stew-Velli will be set in the bigs at least until one of them gets hurt at which time Sanchez will probably get the call since his bat seems to translate. We shouldn’t give up on Sanchez yet, he was considered a defense first player out of college so his recent throwing yips might not be insurmountable. Valle’s hitting problems however probably are.

Lee Foo Young

Very good pickup. I live near lots of Philly phans and I remember them talking up Valle a lot. However, his hitting never came around. He is good depth/backup material.

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