The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed catcher Kevin Plawecki to a minor league deal, the team announced this morning. They also made the signing of LHP Caleb Smith official.
Plawecki is in his age 32 season this year, and is coming off a year where he caught in the majors for Boston and Texas. He’s spent parts of eight seasons in the majors, putting up backup catcher production led by his defense. He had stronger offensive years in 2020 and 2021, but wasn’t able to replicate that in 2022.
While with Boston, Plawecki caught several starts from left-handed pitcher Rich Hill, who the Pirates signed to their rotation earlier this offseason.
The Pirates have Austin Hedges as their starter. The backup spot is up in the air, and Plawecki will join Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay in that battle. Delay is the youngest of the group, turning 28 next month. Plawecki’s addition will mainly boost this immediate depth.
The Pirates also have Endy Rodriguez, Henry Davis, and Carter Bins in the minors. Of that group, Rodriguez is the most likely to make the biggest impact this year, while Bins could boost the backup depth.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
MLB – Hedges, Heineman
AAA – Plawecki, Delay, Endy
AA – H Davis, Bins, whoever
I’ve at least heard of him. Just like Caleb Smith. I will take these signings as a positive. JJ Bleday traded for Puk. I remember wondering if the Bucs would have a shot at either in their respective draft years.
Think Plawecki was the 2nd highest ZIPs projection for FA Catcher remaining at .7, behind only Gary Sanchez (why hasnt he signed yet)?
I like the fact the front office continues to try and get better in early February. Sure, big signings and spending more money would be far better, but lacking that, at least it seems like they are putting in the work of trying to improve day in and day out. Same for adding to the scouting in Puerto Rico, may come to nothing, but at least they are doing the right thing and putting in the effort.
Wonder how rigorous Smith’s physical was. Sure I’m rooting for him, but his torn ligament is far worse than Correia’s medicals. No risk though on a Milb deal.
If he can pitch thru it, he should be on the 26-man coming north. Prediction though, he won’t make it thru ST without TJ.
Austin Hedges for $5M and Plawecki on a Milb deal really illustrates Ben overpaid for Hedges. There’s not much difference between the two. Ben felt pressure in December for a catcher, that’s what the agent’s bank on. I still like Heineman as our backup…..will be a nice ST competition.
I very much doubt you use the same data to rate Catchers as BC, and other MLB GM’s, use.
The worst offensive catcher, and I believe any position player too, in MLB speaks for itself!
Considering the fact he was the worst batter in MLB last season, yet BC was willing to allocate roughly 6% of his total payroll to him, tells me he must be a significant upgrade to Heineman and Delay in the other aspects of the position.
In other words, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Also having a pitch clock may make the catching part of the catching position more important. More responsibility to work with the pitcher to pitch effectively and efficiently.
We shall see. I’ve liked the off-season Ben has had for the most part. Just didn’t like Hedges at $5M. It was a move largely out of desperation. Edit: I don’t like Hedges at any price.
I think we can agree Hedges isn’t the answer to the need for more runs.
Then again, if he does his job as expected, the team won’t have to score as many runs.
I did not like Hedges, because of his bat, but he is an excellent defensive catcher. He mad $4m last year, so if BC really wanted him, perhaps he had to give him $5m when he did. Let’s just hope he can at least get to the Mendoza line.
Pirates approaching catcher acquisitions this offseason by hoarding all my favorite mid-2010s prospects at the position.
If Jorge Alfaro is still out there nobody better take my bet…
Rich Hill had good things to say about him, for what that’s worth.
Ladies and germs….I present the Pirates’ new backup catcher. I like it!
Says a lot that a guy with a career wRC+ of 80 looks like a massive upgrade, but . . . that’s exactly what he is. This is the sort of signing they should have been trying to make the last couple years.
This is a minors signing, so I’m not making it into something more, even though it is since the team back up will come from here, but Heineman had better numbers last year on both sides…3rd string pushed to 4th once Endy is ready and he makes a great 3-4 string.
Plawecki’s been up and down with his hitting in the majors, but that’s typical for backup catchers getting irregular playing time. 2022 was a down year. He was always a good hitter in the minors.
Some bad indicators on defense. His CS #s cratered the last two years and opponents ran on him more than the other Cs on his teams. Also, WPs occurred at a much higher rate than with the other Cs. Statcast rates his framing pretty good.
With the new rule changes I believe that controlling the running games is gonna matter a whole lot more.
Finally got a catcher to say yes.
Better late than never.
So now if we combine the WAR of our catching options not name Endy we sit at -1.8 with only Heineman with a positive 0.2!
Having an offensively compromised Catcher didn’t hurt the Astros much last year. Seems I remember them passing on trading for Contreras last year at the deadline even though he would’ve been a massive upgrade offensively.
We are not the best team and one of the best offensive team in the league, they can afford to do that.
They won the WS because they stymied good offenses more than they out slugged everyone else.
Plus name me even one difference making, bat first, Catcher who signed a 1-year FA contract this winter? Unless you think blocking Endy and/or Davis is a good plan, the tactic BC employed this winter was the smart play.
Well, in eight years Plawecki has hit under .200 only once. For a Pirate catcher that’s unheard-of.