Pittsburgh Pirates Contract Notes: Erik Gonzalez and Phillip Evans


The Pittsburgh Pirates have had two breakout infielders that no one was necessarily expecting.  What are their futures in the organization?

If someone would have guessed who the Pittsburgh Pirates breakout infielder would have been this season, the answers would have likely been a lot of Cole Tucker or Ke’Bryan Hayes.  Both were favorites to not only be the breakout, but establish themselves as the present and future of the left side of the infield.  Tucker has played more outfield than infield and Hayes has yet to crack the roster.

Unlike in the past, the Pittsburgh Pirates have actually been fortunate and have had other players step up.  This is part of the reason the team has not been able to Tucker time in the infield.  Phillip Evans and Erik Gonzalez have enjoyed breakout seasons that no one would have predicted.

Evans was picked up as a nonroster invite back in December.  He spent time in the Cubs system last year and previously was with the Mets.  He made his big league debut in 2017 and received a look in 2018, but never got a real chance.  Last year, he did not get a chance with the Cubs.

The Bucs brought him in just as interesting depth, but instead, they found a player who forced his way onto the diamond.  Unfortunately, Evans’ season was cut short after a scary collision with Gregory Polanco.  Evans will finish the year with a .359 batting average across 11 games.

The good news is that Evans will likely be back on the team next year.  He definitely proved he earned another look next season.  Evans is not arbitration-eligible until 2023 so he still has plenty of years of relatively cheap control.  There is no reason to think that the Bucs would move on from him after what he did this year and with his remaining control.

The same can be said for Erik Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is a player that Pittsburgh Pirates fans have longed to be DFA’d.  It’s a good thing that the team did not, as he has made up a good portion of their offense.  On the year he is batting .350 with a .900 OPS.  On top of that, he already has as many extra-base hits (six) this year as he did in all of 2019.

Did the Pittsburgh Pirates finally catch a break?  It is hard to completely say, as this has only come across 12 games.  Although he did hit .276 in September of last year as well.  The previous regime said how Gonzalez had a lot of good peripherals and the new regime looks like they have figured out how to tap into those.

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On top of his offense, Gonzalez has always been known as a plus defender.  With his glove and what he is showing with the bat, Gonzalez will likely be sticking around.  He is controlled through 2022 so the Bucs still have plenty of time to figure out what they have in him.  Both Gonzalez and Evans have really added intriguing depth to the middle infield and it will be interesting to see how the Pittsburgh Pirates operate with so much middle infield depth going forward.