Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason: Sean Rodriguez Update
The Pittsburgh Pirates only have five free agents, Sean Rodriguez, Neftali Feliz, Ivan Nova, Matt Joyce, and Ryan Vogelsong. The Pirates have publicly expressed interest in some of those players.
Sean Rodriguez produced a very fine season in 2016 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The utility man hit .270/.349/.510 to go along with a .363 wOBA and a 129 wRC+. His 1.9 fWAR is his highest since he posted a 2.1 fWAR for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. With his increase in production in 2016, more offers and a larger contract seemed to be in store for Rodriguez, who will be in his age 32 season next year.
According to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, “Pirates are one of five suitors pursuing free agent infielder Sean Rodriguez.” After playing 279 games for the Pirates the last two seasons, it should not be surprising the Pirates are interested in bringing back the services of Rodriguez.
Neal Huntington has publicly stated he’d love to have Sean Rodriguez as a Pirates, as he told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
"We’d love to have Sean remain in a Pirate uniform. Given what he’s done this year, we would fully anticipate that there’s going to be quite a market out there for him."
The other five clubs are unknown is, but there are still questions about Sean Rodriguez. Sean posted career high’s in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. However, this came with a career, and unsustainable, high batting average on balls in play of .344, with his previous career high of .325 coming in 2015.
After posting a strikeout rate of 24.3 percent from 2008-2015, Rodriguez saw his strikeouts increase to 29.8 percent last season. On an encouraging note, however, is his walk rate of 9.7 percent in 2016 was up from the 6.5 percent he posted from 2008-2015.
What Rodriguez provides, more than anything, is a safety net for either John Jaso or Josh Bell as a late game replacement at first base. Along with Rodriguez’s ability to play other spots in the field, he provides a boost. With a current lack of backup shortstop options for the Pirates, Rodriguez also fits the bill there, and having his defensive versatility can be huge.
In 2017, Steamer projects Rodriguez to hit only .238/.299/.415 with a .307 wOBA and a wRC+ of 89. He won’t repeat his 2016 performances, but a 0.3 projected fWAR is better than the 0.2 fWAR for Adam Frazier and the 0.1 fWAR of Alen Hanson.
The Pirates being in the mix for Sean Rodriguez is not surprising, but is encouraging. He provides the team with the ability to play all over the field and to back up shortstop Jordy Mercer when needed.
*Numbers from Fangraphs