This past week, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to not add Todd Frazier to the 26-man Opening Day roster. The club instead looks to be choosing a player with more youth to carry on the team.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a rebuilding club who needs to showcase all their young talent in hopes of finding players who will be on the next playoff team. One of those players is Phillip Evans, who hit 359/.444/.487 in 45 plate appearances last season before his injury. The utility player could continue to serve as a utility player on competitive team and represents some upside, having only 106 plate appearances over three seasons. The right-handed batter has hit .406/.487/.438 in Spring Training this season and ZiPS projects a respectable .257/.325/.394 slash line for a player off the bench who can play first, second, third, left-field and right-field.
The cost of keeping Evans was not putting Todd Frazier on the Opening Day roster, a player who opted out of his contract a few days ago to pursue other opportunities. Frazier was a minor league signing who was a non-roster invitee who hit .250/.353/.643 this Spring. However, Frazier hit .236/.302/.382 last year, not showing off the power numbers he historical has.
The corner infielder is also stuck at either first or third and is 35-years-old who is a known quantity in baseball. He has a role as a backup player but was only going to be here for one year. The upside is that he has a good first half of the season and the team is able to trade him for a lottery ticket. The downside? He doesn’t perform well and is designated for assignment early in the season like veteran players in the past (John McDonald and Brandon Inge for example).
With Evans, the club can continue to take looks at players with upside who could serve some role on future clubs, despite the odds. Will Evans be a starter for the team when they are good again? Probably not, but he could still carve out some role as a utility player on the team and there’s value in that. This Front Office appears to be targeting a certain window starting in 2023 and Evans can be on that team if he performs well. The only way to know is if he plays and they can evaluate him in the majors.
Additionally, the Pirates are now able to carry more pitchers and evaluate other options on the 40-man. If the team wanted Frazier to be on the 26-man roster, they would have had to first get rid of somebody. We know the Pirates want to carry some pitchers, and they need to carry rule five pick Luis Oviedo all year, and by adding Frazier some other player would go. Keeping Evans makes sense and shows what the Pirates are trying to do. See who makes sense for the future and not keep and play veterans because they are veterans.