Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Catcher Austin Romine

As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their search for a new catcher, former Yankee backstop Austin Romine is a free agent target that could be a fit

The Pittsburgh Pirates biggest need this offseason is catcher. While Jacob Stallings emerged as a strong back up candidate in 2019, he still does not yet appear to be an every day catcher at the MLB level. The team’s other internal option – Elias Diaz – is coming off a terrible season and is not an option to catch on a starting basis, either.

Earlier this week we took a look at Jason Castro as a potential catching target the team could pursue in free agency. Castro could provide some left-handed pop that could play up at PNC Park, he is a plus defender, a strong framer, and worked with new manager Derek Shelton in Minnesota last season.

Another free agent catching target the Pirates could pursue is Austin Romine. For the past eight seasons Romine has spent time behind the dish for the New York Yankees. Now a free agent for the first time in his career, Romine is looking for a new home.

In 369 career games Romine has slashed .239/.281/.366 with a wRC+ of 71. This, however, does not tell the story for Romine.

The past two seasons Romine appears to have turned a corner with the Yankees. The 31-year-old caught 73 games in 2019 and 77 in 2018. During the 2018 season Romine posted a career best 1.3 fWAR, and his 0.9 fWAR in 2019 was the second best of his career.

During the past two seasons Romine has slashed .262/.302/.428 with a 94 wRC+. He has posted a 9.1% extra-base hit rate, .166 ISO and a .311 wOBA during these two seasons. He’s also posted an above league averaged 36.1% hard contact rate and 88.1 MPH exit velocity since the start of 2018.

Like Castro, Romine is a plus defender behind the dish. He is a strong pitch framer, does a good job of handling a pitching staff and calls a strong game. Romine appears to be a catcher that is just now coming into his own as a MLB player, and the Pirates could look to strike and reap the benefits.