The Pittsburgh Pirates added Sean Rodriguez at a high cost this off-season. They traded promising pitching prospect Buddy Borden to the Rays, getting Rodriguez in return after the infielder was designated for assignment. Rodriguez had formerly been a strong utility player, worth about two wins per season, but has struggled the last few years, while also seeing his playing time drop in the process. He only has one year of control remaining, so the Pirates are banking on a quick turnaround in 2015.
So how do the Pirates turn Rodriguez around and get a return on their investment right away?
Clint Hurdle said that one key thing will be finding more playing time for Rodriguez. He mentioned Josh Harrison’s success last year, and how that came from having regular playing time and getting into a routine. He also said that Rodriguez will face a challenge at PNC Park, which isn’t friendly to right-handed pull hitters. I asked Rodriguez about that factor, and he mentioned that PNC should help him fix his swing, and that he has already focused on using the middle of the field more, rather than pulling the ball. Hitting coach Jeff Branson also touched on this as something Rodriguez needs to do to be successful in PNC Park.
Rodriguez is one of several players the Pirates have added this off-season who has either posted a high value in the past, and/or has the potential to post a high value in the future. In 2010 and 2011 he was a 2.0 WAR player as a utility guy. The Pirates found plenty of time for Josh Harrison last year, and they could play Rodriguez anywhere on the field, with the exception of catcher.
Last year saw an increase in power for Rodriguez, but a decrease in his walk rate. If the Pirates can somehow get both things working, then Rodriguez would be a nice utility option to have. We’ll see if they can accomplish this by giving him more playing time to get him in a routine, and by changing his approach to use the middle of the field.