Pittsburgh Pirates: Ben Cherington’s Yearly Report Card

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PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 28: Ben Gamel #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 28, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 28: Ben Gamel #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 28, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Acquisitions

The Pittsburgh Pirates made two MLB signings during the 2020-2021 offseason. The more popular of the two was Tyler Anderson. Anderson provided solid results for a 1-year, $2.5 million free agents.

Anderson put up a 4.35 ERA, 4.27 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. Anderson went at least 5 innings and allowed 3 or fewer earned runs in just 3 of his 18 outings, providing the Bucs with a durable arm every 5th day.

The other MLB signing was fellow pitcher Trevor Cahill, who landed a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. Cahill was expected to fill a similar role to Anderson but ended up injured for most of the campaign. He pitched just 37 innings, allowing 27 earned runs. Though he did have some solid underlying numbers, Cahill never got the chance to show if he could rebound later in the season as he would pitch his last game on June 11th.

Most of the Pirate minor league signings either didn’t play with the major league team or played very little, except for Chasen Shreve who turned out to be a solid minor league signee. He gave the Pirates 56.1 innings, posting a 3.20 ERA, 4.73 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. He did allow his fair share of walks (11.9% walk rate) and struck out just 19.1% of all batters faced, but he had a workable 1.12 HR/9, and a 77 ERA- isn’t bad for a minor league signed player.

One of Cherington’s wavier claims, Ben Gamel, turned into a solid outfielder. Gamel turned in a .255/.352/.399 line through 383 plate appearances. Although Gamel provided very little power, he got on base at a fair rate with a strong 12.5% walk rate. Gamel provided about 5% better than league average production, posting a 105 wRC+.

Another player I want to bring your attention to is Yoshi Tsutsugo. Originally brought in as a depth player, Tsutsugo quickly made the best of his time in Pittsburgh. He only had 144 plate appearances but put up a strong .268/.347/.535 line, crushed 8 home runs and had a 134 wRC+.

Wilmer Difo was another positive from the low-cost/low-risk signings Cherington made. He had 240 plate appearances, batting .269/.329/.384 with a .312 wOBA, and 95 wRC+. Not terrible numbers for a super-utility guy who played all over the infield and even some outfield. Plus he had a solid 110 wRC+ with RISP and 139 wRC+ as a pinch hitter. While not the greatest signing of all time, Difo gave the Pirates a very reliable bench bat and utility man.

Now granted, some of Cherington’s low-risk acquisitions fell flat. Dustin Fowler only appeared in 18 games and had 46 plate appearances. But he limped to just a .434 OPS. Another low-risk outfield option Cherington took a gamble on was Ka’ai Tom. Tom who was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 2021 Rule 5 draft, was put on waivers and claimed by the Bucs. Tom had 117 plate appearances and a sub-70 wRC+ (64). Cherington was brought in to fill in the second catcher role. But he provided no value with the bat (38 wRC+) and was a league-average glove behind the dish at best. Anthony Banda, while having a solid ERA, gave up his fair share of walks and home runs.

Grade: C+
Most of Cherington’s pick-ups (waiver claim, free-agent signing, etc.) were low-risk deals. Some worked out, some didn’t.