The Pittsburgh Pirates biggest hole in the lineup might be the catcher, which has also hurt them in defense as well. Rumor is that the team will try to improve this position.
At the beginning of the 2019 season, it appeared that the Pittsburgh Pirates had somewhat of a strength at the catching position. The team had veteran Francisco Cervelli, who has always done a solid job both behind and at the plate. Elias Diaz had a breakout 2018 campaign which led to some fans wondering if they would have almost an even split for playing time in 2019. Meanwhile, the team had Jacob Stalling, who filled in adequately when needed in 2018, in Triple-A/
The Pittsburgh Pirates catching position quickly went from one of the best tandems in the National League in 2018 to one of the worst situations in the National League in 2019. Cervelli only played in 34 games this year due to consistent injury/concussion issues. It got to the point were the Pittsburgh Pirates were not sure if, or when, he would return to the field. The team ended up releasing Cervelli last week and he is now in a playoff race with the Atlanta Braves.
In his absence, Elias Diaz had an opportunity to take over as the team’s catcher. The potential was there with Diaz after a strong 2018 season; he showed decent power and a very strong throwing arm. However, he has regressed big time statistically and has had many mistakes in the field throughout the year. He is only batting .247 with a .302 on-base percentage. Furthermore, his power has all but disappeared as he only has one home run this year in 84 games after hitting 10 in 82 games last season.
Because of Diaz struggles at the plate and mistakes in the field, catcher Jacob Stallings has gotten a chance to play. Stallings has been far more consistent than Diaz and has also seemed to handle the pitchers better as well. While Stallings will never be a super-star, he has very much cemented himself in for a roster spot next year, especially being he would have to clear waivers.
Apparently, the Pittsburgh Pirates are well aware of this gaping hole and will look to improve the position this offseason. General Manager Neal Huntington told Rob Biertempfel that they plan on actually prioritizing the position. Here is the quote from their recent interview which was on The Athletic (subscription):
"“catching is the hardest position to come by,” adding: “We’ll take a look at what’s available in a trade and the free agent markets this offseason. And, hopefully, we’ll continue to push the guys who are here forward.”"
They may have already tried earlier this year. One name that kept coming up in the Felipe Vazquez to the Dodgers rumors was top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz, so maybe that is something that gets revisited this offseason. Or they could look to the free agent market on other veterans who might be on the Trade Block. Free agent wise the top catcher is Yasmani Grandal, who will be out of the Bucs price range. Lower tier players that could be on the Pittsburgh Pirates list are Mike Zunino (a non-tender candidate), Travis D’Arnaud, and Jason Castro.
If this is the case then Elias Diaz could very well be on a different team come next year. The team obviously likes Stallings more at this point and they will not carry three catchers. With such a need for catching across the league, the team will likely be able to find a willing taker for Diaz.