ICYMI: A Recap of All the Pittsburgh Pirates Transactions This Week

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have had quite the holiday season so far, making moves on Thanksgiving Day and continuing until the work stoppage was made official today.  It was very difficult, even for a Twitter nut like me, to keep track of all these moves as they were being announced.  Also, teams wait several days to make transactions official, adding to the confusion. 

If you’re not a Twitter nut, and you just receive your Pirates news from the mainstream, let me catch you up.  In no particular chronological order, here is what you missed.

Yoshi Is Back

While many were celebrating Thanksgiving Eve, GM Ben Cherington (GMBC) was on the phone with free agent Yoshi Tsutsugo.  Tsutsugo became a Pittsburgh fan favorite, for those who were still watching, toward the end of the 2021 campaign.  He showed more consistent pop than any Pirate, aside from Bryan Reynolds, showed all season in just a couple months.  I had wrote about how the Pirates needed to sign him as one of a few steps to show the fan base something this offseason.

So fans woke up to the great news Thanksgiving morning that the Pirates were indeed bringing Yoshi back for 2022.  With anticipation of the universal DH, Yoshi wouldn’t even have to split time with then Pirates first baseman Colin Moran (we’ll get to him later).  At a reported one-year, $4 million, Tsutsugo was back in a Pirates uniform and may be a valuable trade piece at the 2022 trade deadline. 

Starting Pitching Added

The Pirates made another free agent signing to add to the rotation in 2022.  They signed left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana, to a one-year, $2 million deal.

Quintana is not what he used to be, when the Chicago Cubs, stupidly, traded Eloy Jimenez for him back in 2017, but I like to think of him as the next Tyler Anderson.  Anderson was not going to add much future value to the Pirates, but his above average performance to start 2021 made him a valuable trade piece at the 2021 trade deadline.  I believe that Quintana, especially as a lefty, could be of similar value when the 2022 trade deadline arrives.  If he's not, $2 million is not a big risk anyway.

Catcher Transactions

To much fan shock and dismay, the Pirates traded starting catcher Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins.  It was shocking because the club had already chosen to DFA backup catcher Michael Perez to make room on the Active Roster for Rule 5 eligible prospects.  In return, the Pirates received right-handed pitchers Zach Thompson and Kyle Nicolas, and outfielder Connor Scott.

Zach Thompson has major league experience.  With the Marlins last season he had the opportunity to start 14 games and appear in 26.  As a starter, Thompson had a 3.25 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.  He also struck out 55 batters and walked 22 in 63.2 innings pitched.  As a reliever, he pitched 11.1 innings, had an ERA of 3.18, a WHIP of 1.59, with 11 strikeouts and 6 walks.  Impressive numbers for a rookie.  However, it’s a bit concerning that it took until Thompson was 28 years old to get his first major league experience under his belt.

Kyle Nicolas is one year out of college at 22 years of age.  At AA last season, Nicolas started 8 games and completed 39.1 innings.  He had 50 strikeouts versus 25 walks, and had an ERA of just 2.52.  Nicolas won’t rank in the Pirates top prospects, but pitching depth is always valuable.

The gem of the trade is outfielder Connor Scott.  Scott was ranked as the Marlins 16th best prospect at the time of the trade and I expect him to find himself among the Pirates Top 30 when they are updated.  Scott has some pop, hitting ten homeruns in 96 games at High-A ball last season.  However, he does strikeout a lot at nearly one per game. 

To make up for the lack of catchers in the organization after the trade, the Pirates went out and signed Roberto Perez for a reported $5 million, one-year deal.  Perez is going to be 33 years old when the 2022 season starts and has just a .206 career batting average.  However, he does have two gold gloves to Stallings' one, so potentially it was a good tradeoff.

I think ultimately, GMBC did not see Stallings as having long-term value to this ballclub, nor does he see Perez as having much either.  However, if Cherington has the opportunity to continue to collect prospects and players that may add value in 2023 and beyond, he will make the move.  Many fans are not happy with the trade, but I think the fury over a 32-year old catcher whose value is at an all-time high is a little misguided.

Non-Tenders and Releases

We said we would get to Colin Moran and, surprisingly, he appears in this section of the article.  After the Pirates did not protect first-base prospect, Mason Martin, it looked like Colin Moran would surely be the opening day first baseman, assuming Tsutsugo would fill the DH role.  However, the arbitration-eligible, Moran, was not tendered a contract by the Pirates and is now a free agent.

Moran was one of the top power bats on the major league roster, but this move continues on the path of GMBC clearing house of any players that came before him.  Moran was also one of the longest tenured Pirates before the move.

The Pirates also non-tendered left-handed pitcher Steven Brault and right-handed pitcher Chad Kuhl.  Brault has shown some flashes of brilliance in his career and I was excited to see him perform last season.  Unfortunately, injuries plagued his 2021 season and the Pirates decided they had seen enough of the, going on, 30-year old.

Chad Kuhl had already fallen out of the rotation last season and was used in a bullpen role at the end of 2021.  When Kuhl expressed his disapproval of his role, it was only a matter of time before he was released.  Also approaching 30, Kuhl looked like he was trending in the opposite direction and I don’t see his major league career lasting much longer, even with a different ball club.

The Pirates also chose to release spot starter and reliever, Cody Ponce.  Ponce was coming off a terrible 2021, where he had a 7.04 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP in 38.1 innings pitched.

Ben Gamel and Kevin Newman Return

The Pirates agreed to terms with outfielder Ben Gamel and avoided arbitration.  The Pirates have a lack of depth at the major league level in the outfield heading into the 2022 season, so this move makes sense.  Gamel is not part of the long-term solution, but the outfield prospects in the Pirates organization are not ready for the big leagues just yet.

I put this next transaction last on purpose.  It is the one I like the least.  The Pirates re-signed shortstop Kevin Newman.  I am over and done with Kevin Newman.

But, but, he is a Gold Glover, I hear from Facebook comments on the weekly.  Who cares?  He has batted under .230 the last two seasons, he doesn’t hit for power, does not steal bases, and had a putrid OBP of .265 last season. 

He will never be a productive major league hitter.  Plus, I would much rather give Cole Tucker one last chance to play either shortstop or second base and have Oneil Cruz start the year in the majors at shortstop.  With the Pirates retaining Gamel, it takes away innings in the outfield for Tucker if the team wants to continue that experiment so I’d just much rather Newman be released and free up innings for others.  I hate retaining Newman.

So that’s it.  While I’m petrified by the idea of baseball being delayed by the work stoppage, it sure did make for an interesting few days.  So much so, I'm hoping I didn't miss any Pirates transactions.  At least, if I did, I'll have plenty of time to catch up with transactions being suspended for the time being.  I hope this article helped you catch up and I hope this work stoppage ends soon.