The Pittsburgh Pirates have officially made their first acquisition of the offseason by claiming a 28 year old catcher. Here is what the Bucs are getting.
Last offseason, Ben Cherington made it very clear that the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to improve the quality of depth behind the dish. While the club was unable to land a notable catching prospect, he did make several moves to bring in some veteran catchers. This includes when he signed Luke Maile, John Ryan Murphy, and Andrew Susac; all three veterans who were brought in on league minimum type contracts.
Of the three catchers brought in, Luke Maile is the only one under team control for the 2020 season. With that, he does not represent a slam dunk option. While Maile is very good behind the dish, he has not provided much value with his bat so far in his career, batting just .198 over 215 total games played.
So it should come as no surprise that the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to add more catching help this offseason. The team has actually already made a move to help address the position. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs have claimed Tampa Bay Rays backup catcher Michael Perez. The Rays placed Perez on waivers, and the Bucs who own the top waiver priority in the National League, were able to grab him.
Perez is a very intriguing add, especially given that he will be expected to be the team’s backup. Entering the 2020 season, Perez ranked 30th on FanGraphs’ rankings for the Rays system. So obviously he would have ranked a bit higher in the Bucs system. The fact that the Pirates were able to add a a top 30 catching prospect is a big get for an organization that currently does not have one ranked.
Perez is 28 years of age, but has played in parts of the last three seasons, including this year’s post-season. So far he has not lived up to his potential with the bat, batting just .221/.286/.314 across 84 games. However, the key is that he has only played in 84 games over three years. He was viewed as team’s third catching option before the 2020 season. With this year shortened as well, it’s hard to be overly critical of his numbers at the big league with such limited reps spread out over such a long period of time.
He was a much better hitter throughout his minor league career, slashing a more respectable .247/.324/.405 with 61 home runs in 629 games including 13 bombs at Triple-A in 2019. Perez has some pop that he has not tapped into at the big league level yet. Also, he is a left-handed hitter which is always a plus, especially finding catcher who can hit left-handed.
Perez is considered a good defender behind the plate, with league average pitch framing abilities. This should not be a huge concern, as Jacob Stallings will handle most of the innings and is one of the best players behind the dish in baseball. Although, with Perez being a left-handed hitter, this could allow Stallings to get a little more time off going forward, especially against tough right-handers. Perez has four years left before he reaches free agency, and should provide the Pirates a quality backup catcher for the foreseeable future.
Perez is a good pickup compared to the options the Bucs have right now. He is definitely a better hitter than Luke Maile, and while he may not be as good behind the plate as Maile, he still is a very much capable defender. While he is 28 years of age, catchers often take a little longer to get established. Perez should be given more of an opportunity with the Pittsburgh Pirates to show why he was a top 30 prospect.