The Pirates Are Signing Catcher Austin Hedges

According to Jon Heyman, the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to sign catcher Austin Hedges on a one-year deal for $5M.

The 30-year-old backstop debuted in 2015 with the San Diego Padres, and remained there until getting traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 2020 season. He hit .163/.241/.248 in 105 games for Cleveland in 2022, before reaching free agency at the end of the season.

Hedges is a career .189/.247/.331 hitter in 605 games. His best season on offense came in 2018 with the Padres, when he put up a .711 OPS in 91 games. He had a .616 OPS in 406 games with San Diego, and a .502 OPS in 199 games with Cleveland.

His defense has rated above average every full season according to dWAR, improving the last two seasons to 1.4 in 2021 and 1.2 in 2022. He has thrown out 30% of runners throughout his career, while the league average during that time is 26%.

With that salary, it seems safe to assume that Hedges will be the #1 catcher for the Pirates to start the 2023 season. The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Endy Rodriguez, who will be starting the season with Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Pirates re-signed Tyler Heineman recently, and they still have Jason Delay, so they’re returning their two main catchers from the 2022 season. Both are on minor league deals.

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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Born4rf

PBC isn’t signing players, they are signing placeholders. Hedges + Velasquez + Santana = veterans willing to sign with a team that intends to replace them in June from the farm with real prospects. Endy, Burrows & Nunez will be starters while these temps with be cut or caddying by July

joesolo6181

Perhaps he will establish the hitting standard that all pirates will try to emulate?

TurnerWardHitsTheWall

This kind of signing is why we rarely go to games any more after over 25 years as a season ticket holder.

TurnerWardHitsTheWall

How can you hype a team like this?

TurnerWardHitsTheWall

Yes, I missed that video. Sounds like a Christmas fantasy from the owners!

Scam likely

I wonder what it would have taken to get Jansen in a trade. He was to get 3.5 million in arb. and you have for 2 years and he wouldn’t be a dead spot in the lineup.

postal911

That’s what’s disappointing about this offseason. Supposedly this system is so deep, why not trade for needs instead of getting washed up guys like Santana, a platoon guy like choi or a can’t hit catcher. We should be building to go forward but instead we are just doing the typical 1 year patch jobs of grabbing vets nobody wants.

Anthony

I would have also went defense-first at C, so I don’t mind the signing. Although, I find the cost a bit high. This is likely the market now, if you want to go year-to-year.

ArkyWags

He’s not defense first. He’s defense ONLY. There’s a difference between this pug and someone like Zunino who may hit under .200 but has enough power to keep pitchers somewhat honest.

1979andCounting

Uh yeah, this is the overpay that we all know has to occur to get a FA to sign with the Pirates! Career 0.0 bwar. I think Heineman wins the job in ST! Hedges paved his wave to free agency by finishing on a 1-39 tear at the plate……smh. How is this worth $5 mil?

Last edited 1 month ago by 1979andCounting
melkel

Wish they would just extend Endy, something like 2.5 mil year 1
1.25 mil year 2 and 3
Club has to pickup 1 of 2 options after year 3 or pay 3 mil for years 4, 5, and 6.
14 mil guarantee
Option 1. 5 mil for year 4 and 5
7.5 mil for year 6 and 7 player can opt out after year 6.
31.5 mil with player opt out
39 mil if it goes the full 7 years
Option 2. Years 4 through 13
AAV 12.5 mil a year
130 mil for a 13 year contract.
I think that would be fair to both sides. If Endy ends up being a bust it’s 14 million over 6 years. If he’s more average than above average option 1 is fair, the player option is there in case he’s above average by a good bit. If he’s above average within the first three years the pirates got a steal but the player got security.

Last edited 1 month ago by melkel
AdministrativeSky236

As much as i love the upside in this, the bucs cannot afford a scott kingery or evan white (IIRC?)

ArkyWags

They absolutely can afford those type of contracts. And you can’t look only at extensions that don’t work out. What about Albies?

melkel

I know what you’re saying, that’s why the club has to make a decision after year 3. With Endy’s bonus only being $10,000, even the $14 million guaranteed makes this type of contract plausible. Last year they basically threw away better than $8 million and it’s looking like they’re going to match that this year.

b mcferren

Gregory Polanco, KeBryan Hayes

skliesen

Only a fool would lump Hayes in with Polanco. There’s more to the game than hitting HR’s. If Hayes’ bat never improves, he’s worth 3 WAR. He will always have value as a player. Polanco was a negative WAR player after his shoulder injury.

melkel

For a team with such limited resources, they sure know how to throw away money.

jeffw3000

Cleveland spends 6 million and gets Mike Zunino. We spend 5 million and wind up with Austin Hedges. This off-season is not going good. First we heard they were interested in Quintana and Gibson, and wound up with Velasquez. Then we heard they were interested in Barnhart, and Perez, and now we wound up with Hedges. Seems like there is a trend here. Maybe they should quit signing Free Agents.

Cape Cod Sean

They tried that for a couple of years to. It didn’t work out either.

Wilbur Miller

And of course Mackey is celebrating. This is the guy who thought Knapp, Marisnick and VanMeter were brilliant signings. His learning curve appears to be flat as a pancake.

TNBucs

I’m sure Mackey will edit his PG column by the morning but the draft I read is pretty bad. For example, comparing counting stats for players with very different numbers of games (runs saved for Hedges vs. Perez), and saying Hedges “has really excelled” in pitch framing in noting that he finished 17th among catchers. I don’t dislike the signing, but Mackey’s “analysis” is so glowing that it’s like he’s writing for Pirates.com. Definitely not what I expect from the PG.

Last edited 1 month ago by TNBucs
Wilbur Miller

He did the same thing with Velasquez. He focused on spin rate, which is about the only non-terrible rating Velasquez has at statcast. Ignored the 1st percentile barrel rate, 1st percentile exit velocity, 10th percentile hard-hit rate, etc. He cherry picks like crazy, then gets upset when readers criticize him for being biased.

b mcferren
steve_zielinski

Thanks!

DangerWilRobnsn

With those career stats they’re almost better off letting the pitchers bat and DH’ing for Hedges.

Cape Cod Sean

A real stretch here and I’m sorry. But I looked at his spray chart he hit a lot into the shift. Maybe just maybe his above average defense and arm couple with hitting that won’t be encumbered by defensive shifts might prove to be worth something.

I mean the defense got better on the team with Santana & Hedges. The bullpen got better. 65 wins in our future. Dare to dream.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cape Cod Sean
docdon385

I hope your tongue is firmly in your cheek. I know all too well what it’s like to be a Pirate fan, but what other fan base would hope for 65 wins and view it as a good thing? If we’re going to dream, let’s at least dream bigger than that.

Cape Cod Sean

I was kidding about the dare to dream part. We are going to be bad.

MB21

At least Bob Walk without a bat was entertaining! Just when I thought Knapp, M. Perez, and Godoy were the worst examples of catchers batting… maybe I am still waiting for Godoy? Just for the sake of spring attrition, I might get on the “Sign Endy now to a long-term deal and start him” bandwagon.

Aurorus

So 20+ million dollars for Vazquez, Hedges, Santana, Garcia, and Choi. That seems like an awful use of 20 million dollars if they were trying to upgrade the team, as it is not clear that any of these guys is an upgrade over what they have already. It seems like they are just spending money to spend money and say, “see… we are trying to get better.” Actually it looks a lot like what Cherrington did with Boston…. opting for a pile of middling to poor free agents and hoping that by some alchemy lead will become gold. It worked once in Boston… maybe it will work once again.

skliesen

Each and every signing is predicated on two things:

1. Protect profits.
2. Reduce risk.

For some unknown reason, Pirates are unwilling to give a fair market multi-year deal to internal or external candidates.

Bob Nutting is the anti-Steve Cohen.

Scrappy2499

If they were going to toss 20 + million on these guys, then they should have offered a very decent starting pitcher 2 / 22 offer and ran out the same catchers from last year.

b mcferren

Danny Duffy is on the way

If that guy could pitch an entire year healthy, he´d win 15 games

b mcferren

yes but think of all the extra clout we gained with the players association

Last edited 1 month ago by b mcferren
Aurorus

That is money that could have been used to acquire a good ballplayer with some years left in the tank… maybe even 2 good ballplayers. They could have had Rodon for a few more dollars. Is the 50 point OPS upgrade that Santana provides over Chavis really worth 6.5 million dollars? Is Santana even a better defensive firstbaseman than Chavis at this point in his career? Is Vazquez a better starter than Zach Thompson? I don’t think that it is clear that he is. There just seems to be no cost-benefit analysis… no sabermetric analysis… no analysis of any kind behind these moves. It is just a foolish waste of 20 million dollars for a team that constantly cries poor.

steve_zielinski

The rationale: the recent CBA, the Union litigation, forced the Pirates to sign these vets.

Aurorus

Obviously the players’ union lawsuit and some form of collective pressure rattled Nutting since they finally started to offer contracts rather than arbitration and jumped the shark on a long-term deal for Hayes, which may very well hang around their heads like an albatross if he does not start to hit. But… this is not on Nutting.. this is on the GM. He has a budget. Obviously Nutting directed him to spend to upgrade the team, but Cherrington had discretion as to how these funds were used, and this was a terrible use of the funds.

Anthony

Obviously 🙄

docdon385

Maybe, but Nutting’s a control freak especially when it comes to his money, and I doubt he gives anyone much discretion on how to spend it without his approval.

While we’re at it, why believe Nutting wants to upgrade the team? Keeping expectations as low as possible is good for him because it allows him to keep spending down with as little resistance as possible.

Aurorus

Because his modus operandi changed suddenly last year when he stopped with the arbitration hearings and then came out with the long-term extension for Hayes. I would be willing to bet that the other owners told him quietly to have something approaching a reasonable (albeit still tiny) payroll to keep the players’ union happy and help avoid future labor-relations problems. So there is resistance, but I don’t think fans complaining has anything to do with it. It comes from the other owners. What is the famous quote from the railroad baron? “The public be damned.” Whatever the case, Nutting is not a baseball guy, and while he may get involved personally from time to time (such as the Haye’s contract, I suspect) he pays his GM to make personnel decisions within the budget he gives him. That is how businesses work, and Nutting is a business man who hires exclusively from the New-England old-boys’ club of business managers. That’s why all of his GMs have names like Littlefield, Cherrington, and Huntington. They all do things the same way. I went to school with a bunch of clones like these.

Last edited 1 month ago by Aurorus
Anthony

Keep going…this is good 🍿!

Please tell us more about the things you know absolutely nothing about

Aurorus

I suggest you audit a good business history class at your local college. The history of business since the New Deal and World War II is the story of avoiding labor strife. Do you know what happened to baseball after the 94-95 strike? Attendance plummeted… TV contracts lost… and federal judges issuing injunctions against the owners. It is not hard to figure out that the owners want to avoid that again and are not going to let skinflint Nutting drag them through that again. It is common sense, combined with a proper education in business history… things I know something about.

Anthony

So let me get this straight…your grande thesis is that this off-seasons record setting FA spend of more than $3B is in response to the New Deal, WWII, and MLBPA’s labor strike in 94-95?? Yeah, this makes TOTAL sense.

You take one business history class and go all Dunning-Kruger on my ass LOL

duckwoes

Pirates with a swift response to the Cubs signing of Swanson 🤪🤪

PirateRican21

We are crushing the off season!

PiratePrimate

Of course, the Pirates have to over pay for mediocre players. No one will sign with them.

john_fluharty

Same $ that they gave Perez last year. I forgot he was offered that much.

1979andCounting

Perez was worth the $5 mil before injury. Hedges……maybe is a backup catcher behind someone like Yadi or Realmuto who play 80% of the games.

b mcferren

The rule is the DH has to hit for the pitcher or he can hit for any position player?

piratemike

The league should allow the Pirates to just have a screen behind home plate. It would save money and it also can’t hit.

postal911

This organization is quite humerous in a bad way.

hoptown

Absolutely terrible. This guy would be lucky to get a major league contract for the minimum salary from most any other team. And he just convinced the Pirates he’s worth $5M. Who the #%*^ do they they think was bidding $4.5M?!?! Laughable. Completely laughable.

hoptown

Not done ranting yet. When you are a low revenue team you simply don’t waste resources on guys like this. I’d rather just lose with anyone else at the minimum salary and save the remaining $4M+ for some future purpose. The Worst Management Team in Sports.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Relax. They weren’t signing Wilson Contrares. What did you expect?

postal911

I’d rather have Gary Sanchez, atleast he’ll accidentally hit 20 hrs while hitting sub .200

Mblee24

Heinenman and Delay both project to have higher OPS’ than this guy. Hopefully this means Rodriguez comes up early and Davis is right behind him.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mblee24
phieralph

-__-

piratemike

I’d rather have an Austin Martin.
(seen the car ad below)

PirateRican21

That SUPER annoying car ad is a Mazda for me.

agent00

i don’t think i’ve seen a full time player get an ops in the .400s before. truly impressive.

i don’t really care how good defensively you are, that offense just isn’t going to cut it.

agent00

best case scenario he turns back the clock to 2018

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

At least STEAMER thinks he’ll do a 68 wRC+! Maybe he can rub off on Endy and Hank defensively? It’s fine; we suck anyway.

postal911

They are tanking this season again with having Velazquez in the rotation and now this stiff behind the plate. I thought maybe this will be the year that they start actually signing decent free agents, well I was wrong by a mile. Maybe next year or 2025….2028………

AdministrativeSky236

A veteran who has played on multiple winning teams and is above average defensively for a young staff? I have no qualms with this move

ArkyWags

Amazing how some fans can Stockholm syndrome themselves into any move.

steve_zielinski

This

patrick_kelly

I feel the same. Anything with the bat would be a bonus. Maybe they still bring in a bat first C to balance it out.

Wilbur Miller

Funny, actual MLB teams look for guys who can field, hit and handle a staff.

SBRO

Yeah but those guys aren’t signing one year deals. Now, you can argue whether that should be the plan – at the same time they’re ticketing Endy for Indianapolis, they’re all but planning he hits his way to Pittsburgh for good in the summer – but once you’ve made that bargain, the Vazquezes and even the Narvaezes are off the table.

I’m curious as to why Hedges and not Barnhart or Pérez. They quite literally took the worst of the three.

Wilbur Miller

Perez’ health is too big a risk. It was last year, too.
Barnhart will probably get two years. That shouldn’t be a problem because he could share the job with Endy and Davis, both of whom could play other positions and DH. And if his hitting recovers a little Barnhart would be easy to trade.
But the simple answer, with every signing they make, is that they took the cheapest guy on the board. At this late date in the Nutting disaster, it amazes me that anybody would ever think there was anything else going on.

SBRO

I’d be surprised if Barnhart got more than a year. Stranger things have happened, but he really cratered in Detroit, and the market for catchers is rapidly shrinking. Sanchez is still on the market and the Mets and Blue Jays are dangling McCann and Kirk/Jansen. Houston, St. Louis, Minnesota and Cleveland got their guys, Colorado has Drew Romo as its heir apparent, the Angels are running with O’Hoppe, the Reds are rolling with Stephenson, and for better or worse, KC signed Salvador Perez for 3 more years. The only teams I could see wanting a catcher for multiple years are the Snakes if they think Carson Kelly is too erratic, and Miami if they think Stallings turned into a pumpkin.

Wilbur Miller

The Astros were supposedly interested in Barnhart. Even if he doesn’t get two years, he’ll get more than Hedges. The Pirates ALWAYS go with the cheapest guy on the board.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Hedges has been worth more fWAR since debut than Barnhart 5.2 to 4.1. They’re both only buoyed by their defense.

Wilbur Miller

Yeah, but Barnhart’s been pretty steadily worth about one or so, except for his meltdown with Det this year. You’d obviously be gambling on a bounce back. But Hedges’ value all came in a three-year stretch that ended in 2019. His hitting went from bad to unspeakably awful starting in 2020 and he’s been very bad overall since then.
Not that I much want Barnhart. I’d prefer Perez, who’s the best of the three, but I have no way of knowing his health status. Failing that, I’d prefer sticking with Delay/Heineman to Hedges and maybe to Barnhart.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

2019 is also when he began being shifted. In 2018 he was shifted in 9% of ABs, 2019 in 30%, 2020-22 has ranged from 34%-43%.

SBRO

Agree he’ll get more than Hedges, probably the AAV Narvaez got but only for 1 year. He has a recent level to bounce back to, unlike Hedges.

Last edited 1 month ago by SBRO
john_fluharty

Endy is our future catcher. There’s no point signing someone who can block him.

Wilbur Miller

This guy is a downgrade from Delay/Heineman. Why is that the best they could do? Why is it every Pirates’ offseason has to be a long list of reasons why it doesn’t matter that they acquired this or that bad player?

The Gunner

It’s been that way for years, Wilbur. NH’s offseasons usually sucked (especially after 2015) and BC is carrying on that tradition.

Wilbur Miller

That’s why you have to blame Nutting in the end. BC is following the exact same failed patterns NH did. That’s not a coincidence.

The Gunner

Without a doubt, Wilbur

mikeschalke

I’d argue that this is not a downgrade at all. He’s superior to those two on defense and IMHO that is far more important than what he hits.

Wilbur Miller

Why is it always either/or with the Pirates? Why is being the worst-hitting team in the league always A-OK? Why do we accept the obviously false notion that they can win without scoring runs?

Aurorus

My guess as to what happened is that they needed to spend money after they failed to sign Gibson for $10 million. Nutting gave Cherrington a budget and a mandate to spend it to upgrade the team. This was the only guy he could find in position of need with the money he had left after spending on Vazquez and Garcia (instead of Gibson). So he spent the money, even if there was no real reason to do it, because it was in the budget. Businesses do this all the time. You spend to budget, even if you don’t get anything for the money.

Last edited 1 month ago by Aurorus
Wilbur Miller

+++

john_fluharty

Not sure what they see in him but it’s obviously not offense, and quality defensive catches are not this expensive. Something is his experience, attitude, ability to mentor/teach perhaps? I find it curious because Nutting is cheap and somehow they convinced him to spend this much on this guy.

postal911

That’s the weird thing about this. I didn’t have any expectations of getting a decent catcher, I’m shocked that they gave him $5 mill.

john_fluharty

He made $4M last year with Cleveland. I wonder if that was what he got through arbitration.

Danatural08

29 other MLB fan bases are applauding this one in celebration that their team isnt signing Hedges. The most popular signing yet! What a waste

TNBucs

With the pitch clock, rules about throwing over, and larger bases, having a catcher who is good at throwing out baserunners is important. However, there is nothing in Hedges’ performance with Cleveland that suggests he should be the #1 catcher. The only reassuring thing for me is that Cleveland is a smart organization and he was their #1 last year.

sewer2001

I honestly don’t see how he is better than Heinaman / Delay. At least not $5 million better. Perplexing.

Wilbur Miller

Wonderful. The Pirates had the worst-hitting catchers in MLB at 52 wRC+, so BC finds a guy who put up a 42. Seems the more failure BC produces, the more he needs.

PiratePrimate

Inflation. The price of mediocrity is alarming. But the sad truth is that the difference between bad and competitive is only about $12-$15 million. And a billion dollar organization won’t or can’t pay that?

john_fluharty

They did it just to annoy you.

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