Pittsburgh Pirates: Grading the Lonnie Chisenhall Signing


The Pittsburgh Pirates signed a new player late last night.  What kind of grade should the Pittsburgh Pirates get for the signing?

Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their second significant move up the offseason.  They did something that the team did not do in the previous offseason, signed a major league free agent.  It was reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a deal with outfielder/third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.

The team is bringing him in on a one year deal that is worth a base salary of $2.75 million.  There are plenty of incentives in the deal for the 30-year-old player. He can earn more money depending on the number of plate appearances he receives.  This makes sense, as Chisenhall has struggled to stay on the field over the last two years due to injuries.

So what is Chisenhall coming to do with the Pittsburgh Pirates?  For now, he will likely be the starting right fielder until Gregory Polanco comes back.  He will likely platoon with either Jose Osuna or Pablo Reyes in right field.  Chisenhall only had eight plate appearances against lefties last season. Once Polanco comes back, Chisenhall will shift to a bench position and be the team’s fourth outfielder and a potential third base backup.

How has Chisenhall performed over the last few years with the Cleveland Indians?  Despite being hurt, he has been a very productive player when healthy.  In 2016, Chisenhall played in 126 games and produced a slash line of .286/.328/.439 with 38 extra base hits.  He followed his 2016 campaign with a half season in 2017.  The lefty only played in 82 games and hit .288/.360/.521, so although he played in fewer games, he produced a really impressive slash line.  He had 30 extra base hits including 12 home runs.  Comparing the two seasons, Chisenhall hit more home runs in fewer games in 2017, with four more than in 2016, when he hit eight.

Last year was Chisenhall’s shortest season over the last three years.  This was due to having a nagging hamstring issue the whole year.  He only ended up playing in 29 total games, where he batted .321/.394/.451 with eight extra base hits.  So while it was not a big sample size, he was still productive.

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Signing Grade: B

All in all, the signing should be given a grade of B to start. Is Chisenhall a big-time impact player? No, but he could be a really good role player for this team over the course of the year.  Chisenhall had a very productive career up to this point, and at one point was considered a key piece for the Cleveland Indians.  While injuries have slowed him down, he has proven productive when healthy.

With him making a very minimal $2.75 million, there is not a lot of risk in this signing and there is a lot of room for reward. If Chisenhall fills in for Polanco and stays healthy, then this is a great signing.  If he does not stay healthy or prove productive, then the team really does not lose anything with such a low financial commitment.