Major League Baseball has an abbreviated offseason transaction period this week, as teams prepare for their upcoming seasons by filling up their rosters. The moves from the Pittsburgh Pirates thus far have been uninspiring, reminding us all that this is still a team that is expected to have a losing season in 2022.
The Pirates started by signing Daniel Vogelbach and Heath Hembree to major league deals. Vogelbach had 30 home run power in 2019, with a .780 OPS, and will likely factor into the 1B/DH situation with Yoshi Tsutsugo. The interesting thing about this move is the Pirates have Tsutsugo under control for one season, but have an option year on Vogelbach.
Hembree fits a similar mode of last being good in 2019. He had a 3.86 ERA in 39.2 innings of relief work that year, but has struggled with his results in each of the last two seasons. He’s likely to fill a bullpen role in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates have a lot of open spots.
Following those moves, the Pirates agreed to a deal with Austin Brice and claimed Adonis Medina off waivers from the Phillies. Brice is another guy who had a good season in 2019, with a 3.43 ERA in 44.2 innings of relief with the Marlins. A key difference here is that was his only season in the majors with an ERA under 4.96. He should also contend for the bullpen.
Medina is the most interesting of the group to me. He’s in his age-25 season, so he’s a few years younger than the rest of these guys, who are all 29 or older. Medina was Baseball America’s number 84 overall prospect prior to the 2018 season, and has remained a top prospect the last few seasons. He’s now in post-prospect mode, after having a difficult age-24 season in Triple-A last year as a starter. The Pirates could give him a chance out of Triple-A as depth for the rotation, or they could move him to the bullpen and see if his career could be revived.
As I’m writing this, the Pirates have announced the Brice deal, and that they’ve brought back Chase De Jong, who pitched 43.2 innings for them in 2021 as a starter. De Jong will be in his age-28 season, and likely has a better shot at Pittsburgh in a bullpen role this time around.
I don’t think any of these deals is going to be significant. At best, the Pirates could find a role player, or maybe an average starting DH from Vogelbach. The highest upside comes from Medina, who is in that post-prospect stage where his career isn’t over, but teams are starting to give up on him. I think that will be the best situation to watch for the long-term, to see if the Pirates have the ability to turn some of those players around and land some bonus production going forward.
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