The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired second baseman Sean Rodriguez from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. To make room on the 40 man roster, the Pirates have designated Gaby Sanchez for assignment.
Rodriguez is coming off a year where he posted a .701 OPS. That is in line with his previous numbers, although his average and OBP both dropped from where they were in 2013, while his power went to a career high, maintaining the OPS. He can play every position, with the exception of catcher, which makes him the prime candidate to replace Josh Harrison as the super utility player.
As for Sanchez, it’s hard to tell what the Pirates will do from here at first base. Neal Huntington has said constantly that Pedro Alvarez is currently their first base option. The question now is whether Alvarez will be an everyday first baseman, or a guy in a platoon. If he’s platooning, then I think Sanchez is the best option to pair with him. The Pirates designating Sanchez doesn’t prevent this from happening. They could non-tender him tomorrow, then try to sign him to a cheaper deal as a free agent.
I don’t think Rodriguez would be an option at first base for the platoon role, even though he does hit lefties better than right-handers. For one, his value is ultimately a super utility player. He also doesn’t hit lefties as well as Sanchez, with a career .746 OPS.
The Pirates have acquired a lot of utility players this off-season, going with an approach where they seem to be throwing a ton of options at the wall and seeing which ones stick. Rodriguez is clearly the best of them, and basically has guaranteed the spot. That will make a lot of the other players expendable off the 40-man roster throughout the off-season as the Pirates add other players through trades and free agency. The guys that I think will be the safest will be guys like Pedro Florimon and Justin Sellers, who can provide strong defense at shortstop. Sean Rodriguez can play shortstop, but the Pirates tend to prefer a strong defender at short, separate from their super utility player.
Rodriguez is projected to make $2 M in arbitration, and this is his final year before free agency. Sanchez was projected to make $2.7 M. So the 2015 payroll sees a small drop with this move. As for the PTBNL, due to the timing of this move, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is someone who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Pirates have done this in previous years, and it’s a common practice for many teams in these types of deals. You wouldn’t want to announce the player until it is known that he will go undrafted. This is just pure speculation.